The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Great Events by Famous Historians,
Volume 03, by Various

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Title: The Great Events by Famous Historians, Volume 03

Author: Various

Editor: Rossiter Johnson
        Charles Horne
        John Rudd

Release Date: June 6, 2008 [EBook #25712]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at

Famous painting of the head Jesus Christ. Famous painting of the head Jesus Christ

(By steadily gazing at the eyes in the picture they will be seen to suddenly open.)

Painting by Gabriel Max.












With a staff of specialists


The National Alumni



[Pg vii]




An Outline Narrative of the Great Events, xi

Germanicus in Germany (a.d. 13-16), 1

The Crucifixion (a.d. 30), 23

The Rise and Spread of Christianity (a.d. 33), 40

Burning of Rome under Nero (a.d. 64), 108

Persecution of the Christians under Nero (a.d. 64-68), 134

The Great Jewish Revolt
Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem (a.d. 70), 150

Destruction of Pompeii (a.d. 79), 207

The Jews' Last Struggle for Freedom
Their Final Dispersion (a.d. 132), 222

Martyrdom of Polycarp and Justin Martyr
Polycarp's Epistle to the Philippians (a.d. 155), 231

Persecution of the Christians in Gaul (a.d. 177), 246

Beginning of Rome's Decline
Commodus (a.d. 180), 263

Eventful Reign of Sapor I, King of Persia (a.d. 241), 277

Conversion of Constantine
Decline of Paganism (a.d. 300-337), 289

First Nicene Council
Rise and Decline of Arianism (a.d. 325), 299

Foundation of Constantinople (a.d. 330), 320

Julian the Apostate Becomes Emperor of Rome (a.d. 360), 333

The Huns and Their Western Migration (a.d. 374-376), 352

Final Division of Roman Empire
The Disruptive Intrigues (a.d. 395), 364

Universal Chronology (a.d. 13-409), 385

[Pg ix]




Famous painting of the head of Jesus Christ (page 23),
By Gabriel Max. Frontispiece

Queen Thusnelda, wife of Arminius, taken prisoner
by the soldiers of the Roman general Germanicus
, 4
Painting by H. Koenig.

[Pg xi]






So vast and wonderful a construction was the Roman world, so different from our own, that we are apt to imagine it as an arrangement far more deliberately planned, far more mechanically complete, than it appeared to its own inhabitants.

From a cursory glance, we may carry away wholly mistaken conceptions of its thought and purpose. Thus, for instance, the Roman Republic never assumed the definite design of conquering the world; its people had only the vaguest conception of whither the world might extend. They merely quarrelled with their neighbors, defeated and then annexed them.

At almost any time after Hannibal's death, Rome might have marched her legions, practically unopposed, over all the lands within her reach. Yet she permitted a century and a half to elapse ere Pompey asserted her sovereignty over Asia. It was left for Augustus to take the final step, and, by absorbing Egypt, make his country become in name what it had long been in fact, the ruler of the civilized world.

Thus, too, we think of Augustus as a kindly despot, supreme, and governed only by his own will. But his compatriots looked on him as simply the chief citizen of their republic. They considered that of their own free will, to escape the dangers of further civil war, they had chosen to confer upon[Pg xii] one man, eminently "safe and sane," all the high offices whose holders had previously battled against one another. So Augustus was Emperor or Imperator, which meant no more than general of the armies of the Republic; he was Consul, or chief civil administrator of the Republic; he was Pontifex Maximus, high-priest of the Republic. He could have had more titles and offices still if he would have accepted them from an obsequious senate.

But the title of "king," so obnoxious to Roman taste, Augustus never sought, nor did his successors, who were in turn appointed to all his offices. For nearly three centuries after the one-man power had become absolute, Rome continued to call itself a republic, to go through forms of election and ceremonial, which grew ever more and more meaningless and trivial.

Augustus seems to have felt the tremendous weight of his position, and to have tried honestly to divide his authority. He invested the trembling senate with both power and responsibility. In theory, it became as influential as he. But the appointment of its members, and also the supreme control of the armies, remained always with the Imperator; and thus the senate continued in reality little better than a flickering shadow. Under the reign of a well-meaning emperor, it loomed large, and often dilated into a very valuable and honorable body. In the grip of a tyrant, it sank at once to its true aspect of helpless and obsequious submission.


To the outside world the reign of the emperors was welcome. The provinces were governed by salaried officials, whose conduct was seriously investigated. The hideous extortions and cruelties of the governors sent out in the earlier days of the Republic almost disappeared. This milder rule seemed happy in the contrast. An emperor might be a brute at home, but his personal cruelties could scarce spread over an entire world. Money for even the hugest extravagances of only one man, the provinces could supply. At first they scarce felt the drain.

For two entire centuries after Augustus had assumed power, the world flourished and apparently prospered under the[Pg xiii] "Roman peace." The ruins of Pompeii, the tale of its destruction, show how well and how lazily the upper classes and even the masses lived.[1] The legions were scarce needed except for petty wars along the frontier. The defeat inflicted by the German barbarians was avenged, and the northern wilderness seems to have come very near to sharing the fate of Gaul.[2] But the long campaigns were costly and apparently valueless. No taxes flowed into the treasury from the poor half-subjugated savages; and the emperor Tiberius contemptuously declared that he would leave them to fight among themselves. Another frontier strife completed the subjugation of Spain. Another added Britain to the Empire. Another made temporary conquest over Dacia and extended the Asian boundary. There were minor revolts in Gaul.

Then the Jews, roused to sudden religious frenzy and believing themselves invincible, burst into rebellion.[3] Titus stormed their capital and burned their Temple. But the lesson was wasted on the stubborn, fanatical race, and sixty years later they flared out again. Roman relentlessness was roused to its fullest rage, and accomplished against them the destruction of prophecy. Their cities were razed to the ground, and the poor remnant of the race were scattered abroad. Yet, apparently imperishable, refusing to be merged with other men, they remained a people though without a country. They became what they are to-day, a nation of wanderers.[4]

One other tumult, more central and in that sense more serious, intruded on the Roman system. Just a century after the rise of Augustus, the tyrannies of his successor Nero became so unbearable that even his own senate turned against him; and he was slain, without having appointed a successor. The purely military character of the Empire was at once revealed. Different armies each upheld their own general as emperor. The claimants attacked one another in turn, and the strongest won. The turmoil lasted for only a year or so, just long enough for the distant legions to gather around Rome;[Pg xiv] the bloodshed was nothing as compared to former ages; the helpless senate acquiesced in each new proclamation of each successful army; and the rest of the world, scarce even jarred in its daily course, flowed on as before.

On the whole, then, these two hundred years were one long period of peace. It was Augustus who for the first time in centuries closed the gates of the war-god's temple in Rome. He encouraged literature, and we have the "Augustan" age. He boasted that he found Rome built of bricks, and left it of marble. He and his successors did far more than that. They constructed roads extending from end to end of their domains. Communication became easy; a mail post was established; people began to travel for pleasure. The nations of the world intermingled freely, and discovered, for the first time on earth, that they were much alike. The universal brotherhood of man may be not even yet fully recognized and welcomed; but the first step toward its acknowledgment was taken under imperial Rome.


This brings us to a very solemn thought. Many earnest men have believed that they see a divine Providence running through the whole course of history, and nowhere more obvious than here. They point to the careers of both Greece and Rome as being a special preparation for the coming of the Christ. The mission of Greece, they tell us, was to arouse the mind of man, to make him capable of thought and sensitive to spiritual beauty; that of Rome was to teach him the value of law and peace, and yet more, to draw all men together, that all might have opportunity to hear the lessons of the new faith.

Certain it is that at any earlier date it would have seemed practically impossible for a religion to spread beyond a single people. Not only was communication between the nations faint and intermittent, but they were so savage, so suspicious of each other, that a wanderer had to meet them weapon in hand. He must have a ship to flee to or an army at his back. Now, however, under the restraint of Roman law, strangers met and passed without a blow. Latin, the tongue of law, was everywhere partly known. Greek was almost equally widespread as the language of art and culture.[Pg xv]

The Hebrews, too, had done their share in the work of preparation. They had developed the religious sense, beyond any of the Aryan peoples. Their religion had become a part, the main part, of their daily lives. They believed it, not with the languid logic of the Romans, not with the sensuous pleasure of the Greeks, but fiercely, fervidly, with a passion that swept all reason to the winds.

Among them appeared the Christ, born in the days of Augustus, crucified in those of Tiberius.[5] His teaching was mainly the doctrine of love, which Buddha had announced five hundred years before, but which was new to the Roman world; and the promise of life beyond the grave, which many races had more or less believed in, but which never before had been made to carry a vision of such splendor and such glory. He also advocated non-resistance to enemies, a principle which the early Church obeyed, but which has found small favor among the masses of later Christians.

These teachings, then, were none of them wholly unconceived before; but they were enforced by a life so pure, a manner so earnest, as compelled respect. Converts became many; and one of these at least took literally the command of the Master, to proclaim the faith to all peoples of the earth. The apostle Paul, stepping beyond the narrow bounds of Judea, preached Christianity to mankind.[6]

Paul was the first great missionary. The earlier faiths of Greece and Rome had not sought to extend themselves, because they did not recognize the brotherhood of man. The new faith insisted upon this, insisted on our duty to our fellows; and so under Paul's leadership every Christian became a missionary, teaching, uplifting the downtrodden, giving them hope, not of this world, but of an infinitely brighter one. The faith spread faster than ever world conquest had been spread before. Scarce a generation after the Crucifixion it had permeated the Empire, and Nero, to divert from himself the suspicion of having burned Rome, accused the Christians.[7]

[Pg xvi]

This led to their first persecution. They were tortured as a punishment and to extort confession. Most of them stood nobly by their doctrine of non-resistance, and endured heroically a martyrdom which they looked on as opening the gates of heaven.[8]

Their devotion drew to them the first serious notice of the Roman authorities. Hitherto they had been regarded merely as a sect among the Jews. But now, with reluctant admiration of their courage, there came also a recognition of their rapid growth and a suspicion of their motives. The Romans could not understand such devotion to a mere religion; and they always feared lest the faith was something more, a cloak for nameless crimes, or a secret conspiracy of rebellion among their slaves, who would some day turn and rend them.

Thus while Nero's attack on the Christians was in a sense an accident, the blind rush of a half-crazed beast, the later persecutions were often directed by serious and well-intentioned emperors and magistrates. The Romans were far from being intolerant. They had interfered very little with the religions of their subject races, and had, indeed, adopted more than one foreign god into their own temples. They were quite willing that the Christ should be worshipped. What they could not understand was that reverence to one god should forbid reverence to another.

It was the new religion which was intolerant, which, in the passionate intensity of its faith, attacked the old gods, denied their existence, or declared them devils. When a man was summoned before a Roman court on the charge of being a Christian, he was not, as a rule, asked to deny Christ; only, there being a general impression that his sect was evil, he was required to prove his honest citizenship and general good character by doing reverence to the Roman gods.[9]

In spite of persecution, some writers say because of it, Christianity spread. Toward the end of the first two hundred years of the Empire, it seemed about the only prosperous institution in a world which was beginning to go badly. During the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the last of the "good" emperors[Pg xvii] (161-180), troubles, some accidental, some inherent in the Roman system, were gathering very dark.

The curse of inaction, of wealth without liberty, of intellect without a goal to strive toward, had long been corrupting the upper classes. Now, a terrible plague swept the world from end to end, so that laborers became scarce, lands went untenanted, taxes unpaid. The drain of supporting Rome's boundless extravagance, in buildings, feasts, and gladiatorial displays, began to tell upon the provinces at last. Newer and ever harsher methods had to be employed to wring money from exhausted lands. Driven by their sufferings to cling to religion as a support, men thought of it more seriously; and a cry went up that earth was being punished for its neglect and insult of the ancient gods. The Christians were persecuted anew.[10]


The reign of Commodus,[11] son of Marcus Aurelius, marks the beginning of a century which sank almost into anarchy. He was murdered, and his guards auctioned the Empire to the highest bidder. Once more the legions fought against each other and placed their generals upon the throne. During ninety-two years there were twenty-five emperors fully acknowledged, besides a far larger number of claimants who were overthrown before Rome had time to hear of and salute them. The Imperial city was no longer mistress of the world; she was only its capital, as feeble and helpless as the other cities, which these unstable emperors began at times to favor in her stead.

The barbarians also, who through all these ages were growing stronger while Rome grew weaker, became ever a more serious menace. The internal disorder of the Empire left its frontiers often unguarded. The Germans plundered Gaul in the West, the Persians ravaged Asia in the East. In fact, so comparatively strong had the Persians grown that one emperor, venturing against them, was defeated and captured, and lived out his miserable life a Persian slave. Rome could not rescue him.[12]

[Pg xviii]

In the year 284 there came to the front an emperor "of iron," Diocletian. He did what Augustus had done three centuries before, re-formed and recast the government of the world. The last empty ceremonies of the Republic were discarded. Even the pretence of Rome's leadership was brushed aside. The Empire was divided into four districts, each with a capital of its own, and Diocletian selected three other generals to share its rule with him. He and his colleagues restored the long-lost peace. They chastised the barbarians. Diocletian's reforms saved the Roman fabric from what seemed inevitable extinction, and enabled it to exist in some shape for almost another two hundred years.

His system of division did not, however, save the Empire from civil wars. No sooner was his restraining hand removed than his colleagues fought among themselves, until Constantine overthrew his antagonists and once more united the entire Empire. Constantine became a Christian.[13]

It has been repeatedly asserted that his conversion was one of policy rather than belief; and there could be no stronger evidence of the changed position of the new faith. Diocletian had ordered a persecution against it, the last and most terrible which its martyrs suffered. But all that was best and most energetic and most living in the moribund Empire seemed to have gathered round the Church. The persecution did but emphasize its worth and influence.

Constantine did not force his followers to change their beliefs with him; but he encouraged and rewarded those who did. Under him was held the first general council of the faith. The bishops gathered from all the different cities of the world to compare ideas and settle more exactly the doctrines to be taught. Christianity stepped out from its hiding-place and supplanted paganism as the state religion of the Empire.[14]

As though the unimportance of Rome were not thus sufficiently established, Constantine abandoned the decaying capital altogether, and built himself a new city, Constantinople, at the junction of Europe and Asia. This became the centre of the changing world. Built upon the site of an old Greek colony,[Pg xix] it was almost wholly Greek, not only in the nationality of the people who flocked to it, but in the manners of the court which Constantine created around him, in the art of its decorators, in the language of its streets.[15] The Empire remained Roman only in name. The might of a thousand years had made that name a magic spell, had sunk its restraining influence deep in the minds of men. It was not lightly to be thrown aside.

Julian, a nephew of Constantine, who after an interval succeeded him upon the throne, abandoned the adopted religion of his family, and tried to revive paganism.[16] Julian was a powerful and clever man; he seems also to have been an honest and an earnest one. But he could not turn back the current of the world. He could not make shallow speculation take the place of earnest faith. Altruism, the spirit of brotherhood, which was the animating force of Christianity, might and later somewhat did lose itself amid the sands of selfishness; but it could not be combated by one man with a chance preference for egotism.

Julian turned to a worthier purpose. He died fighting the barbarians. These, held back for a time by Diocletian and Constantine, were recommencing their ravages with renewed force. And now a change comes over the character of the invasions. Hitherto they had been mere raids for plunder; but now a huge, far-reaching, racial movement was in progress.

From the distant plains of Asia came the vanguard of the Huns, a race of horsemen, whose swift steeds enabled them to scatter or concentrate at will around slower-paced opponents.[17] The Huns swept over Southern Russia, then occupied by the Goths, the most civilized of the Teutonic tribes. The Goths, finding themselves helpless against the active and fierce marauders, moved onward in their turn. They crossed the Danube, not as a raiding troop, but as an entire nation, and, half begging, half demanding a place of refuge, they penetrated into the world of civilization. With them came fearful stories of the Huns; but these latter, sweeping off in another direction, failed for a while to follow up the fugitives.

[Pg xx]

As for the Goths, after they had defeated and slain one emperor, they were given lands and temporarily subdued by Theodosius the Great, the last ruler to hold the entire Roman domain. In 395 Theodosius, dying, divided his possessions, quite like a hereditary monarch, between his two sons, both mere boys.[18] To the elder he gave Constantinople and the East, to the younger Rome and the West. So instead of one kingdom there were two. Partly through its own disorganization, partly from the pressure of the barbarians, the Roman world had burst and fallen into halves. These proved two very helpless and feeble halves in the hands of their boy rulers; and the eager Teutons, finding themselves no longer withheld, began that remarkable series of plundering invasions by which they overwhelmed the ancient world.



[1] See Destruction of Pompeii, page 207.

[2] See Germanicus in Germany, page 1.

[3] See Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, page 150.

[4] See Jews' Last Struggle for Freedom, page 222.

[5] See The Crucifixion, page 23.

[6] See Rise and Spread of Christianity, page 40.

[7] See Burning of Rome under Nero, page 108.

[8] See Persecution of the Christians under Nero, page 134.

[9] See Martyrdom of Polycarp and Justin Martyr, page 231.

[10] See Persecutions of Christians in Gaul, page 246.

[11] See Beginning of Rome's Decline, page 263.

[12] See Eventful Reign of Sapor I, King of Persia, page 277.

[13] See Conversion of Constantine, page 289.

[14] See First Nicene Council, page 297.

[15] See Foundation of Constantinople, page 320.

[16] See Julian the Apostate, page 333.

[17] See The Huns and Their Western Migration, page 352.

[18] See Final Division of the Roman Empire, page 364.

[Pg 1]


A.D. 13-16


When the Germans first became known to the Romans—about b.c. 112—they showed themselves as warlike tribes along the northern borders of Italy and in various parts of Gaul, where Cæsar afterward had frequent encounters with them, driving them across the Rhine into their own country. But Cæsar's knowledge of them was confined to those tribes whose dwellings were near the Rhine, beyond which he did not pursue them.

Augustus fortified against the Germans along the Rhine, and Drusus, his step-son, took command against them, defeating them in several expeditions (b.c. 13-9). As a reward, he received for himself and his posterity the surname of Germanicus, conqueror of Germany. He died at the age of thirty.

His son, Germanicus, born b.c. 14, was sent, in a.d. 12, to command the forces on the Rhine. After quelling serious mutinies among his legions he crossed the Rhine and attacked and routed some of the German tribes who had been actively aggressive against the Romans. During the following year he defeated other tribes, and after his return across the Rhine he was persuaded by Segestes to aid him against his son-in-law Arminius (the Latin name for Herman), by whom Segestes was besieged and who, according to Tacitus, became in the end the deliverer of Germany from the power of the Romans. But before he was able to render this service to the German peoples he had many hardships to endure, and at the hands of Germanicus he met with severe reverses.

Arminius had defeated Varus, who, by reason of that disgrace, killed himself (a.d. 10), and the despatch of Germanicus to command the German legions was ordered in the first instance to revenge the overthrow of his predecessor. Although it required several campaigns, the work of Germanicus was so effectual that he withdrew in the end, at the command of Tiberius, with advantage on his side, and, returning to Rome, enjoyed a triumph (a.d. 17). His name is preserved in history, alike for his military talents and services, for his attainments in literary pursuits, and his nobleness of mind.

In the consulship of Drusus Cæsar and Caius Norbanus a triumph was decreed to Germanicus; the war continuing. He was preparing with all diligence to prosecute it in the summer, but anticipated it by a sudden irruption early in the[Pg 2] spring into the territories of the Cattians: for he had conceived a hope that the enemy was divided into opposite parties under Arminius and Segestes, both remarkable for perfidy or fidelity toward us: Arminius was the incendiary of Germany, but Segestes had given repeated warning of an intended revolt at other times and during the banquet immediately preceding the insurrection, and advised Varus "to secure him and Arminius and all the other chiefs; that the multitude, bereft of their leaders, would not dare to attempt anything; and Varus would have an opportunity to separate the guilty from the innocent." But fate decreed it, and he was slain by Arminius. Segestes, though drawn into the war by the universal agreement of the nation in it, yet continued to disapprove of it; his detestation being augmented by motives of a domestic nature, for Arminius had carried away the daughter of Segestes, already betrothed to another: the son-in-law hated, the fathers-in-law were at enmity; and those relations which are bonds of affection between friends fomented the animosities of enemies.

Germanicus therefore handed over to Cæcina four legions, five thousand auxiliaries, and some tumultuous bands of Germans who dwelt on this side the Rhine; he led, himself, as many legions, with double the number of allies, and erecting a fort in Mount Taunus, upon the site of one raised by his father, he pushed on in light marching order against the Cattians; having left Lucius Apronius to secure the roads and the rivers, for, as the roads were dry and the rivers within bounds—events in that climate of rare occurrence—he had found no check in his rapid march, but on his return apprehended the violent rains and floods. He fell upon the Cattians with such surprise that all the weak (through sex or age) were instantly taken or slaughtered. The young men swam over the Adrana and endeavored to obstruct the Romans, who commenced building a bridge; then, repulsed by engines and arrows and having in vain tried terms of peace—after some had gone over to Germanicus—the rest abandoned their cantons and villages and dispersed themselves into the woods. Mattium, the capital of the nation, he burned, ravaged the open country, and bent his march to the Rhine; nor durst the enemy harass his rear, which is their custom whenever they have fled, more from craft[Pg 3] than fear. The Cheruscans had purposed to assist the Cattians, but were deterred by Cæcina, who moved about with his forces from place to place; and the Marsians, who dared to engage him, he checked by a victory.

Soon after arrived deputies from Segestes, praying relief against the violence of his countrymen, by whom he was besieged; Arminius having more influence with them than himself, because he advised war, for with barbarians the more resolute in daring a man is the more he is trusted and preferred in times of commotion. To the deputies Segestes had added Segimund, his son; but the young man hesitated from self-conviction; for the year when Germany revolted, having been created priest at the Ubian altar, he had rent the fillets and fled to the revolters: yet, induced to rely upon Roman clemency, he undertook the execution of his father's orders, was graciously received, and conducted with a guard to the Gallic bank of the Rhine. Germanicus thought it worth while to march back, fought the besiegers, and rescued Segestes with a numerous train of his relations and followers, in which were ladies of illustrious rank, and among them the wife of Arminius—the same who was the daughter of Segestes—with a spirit more like that of her husband than her father; neither subdued to tears, nor uttering the language of supplication, but her hands folded within her bosom, and her eyes fixed upon her teeming womb. There were, likewise, carried off the spoils taken at the slaughter of Varus and his army, and given as booty to most of those who then surrendered.

At the same time appeared Segestes himself, of vast stature, and undaunted in the consciousness of his fidelity. In this manner he spoke: "This is not the first day that I have approved my faith and constancy to the Roman people: from the moment I was by the deified Augustus presented with the freedom of the city I have chosen my friends and enemies with reference to your interests, and that not from hatred of my country—for odious are traitors even to the party they prefer—but, because the interests of the Romans and Germans were the same, and because I was inclined to peace rather than war. For this reason, before Varus, the then general, I arraigned Arminius, the ravisher of my daughter and the violator of the[Pg 4] league with you. Put off, from the supineness of the general, and seeing there was little protection in the laws, I importuned him to throw into irons myself and Arminius and his accomplices: witness that night—to me I would rather it had been the last! More to be lamented than defended are the events which followed. However, I cast Arminius into irons, and was myself cast into irons by his faction: and now, on the first opportunity of conferring with you, I prefer old things to new, peace to turbulence; and at the same time I might be a fitting mediator for the German nation, with no view of reward, but to clear myself of perfidy, if they would rather repent than be destroyed. For the youth and inexperience of my son I implore pardon. I admit my daughter has been brought into this state by constraint; it will be yours to consider which should preponderate with you—that she is the wife of Arminius or the daughter of Segestes." The answer of Germanicus was gracious: he promised indemnity to his children, and kindred, and to himself, as a retreat, a place called "Vetera," in the province; then returned with his army, and by the direction of Tiberius received the title of Imperator.

Queen Thusnelda, wife of Arminius, taken prisoner by the
soldiers of the Roman general Germanicus Queen Thusnelda, wife of Arminius, taken prisoner by the soldiers of the Roman general Germanicus

Painting by H. Koenig

The account circulated of the surrender of Segestes, and his gracious reception, affected his countrymen with hope or anguish as they were severally prone or averse to the war. Acting upon a temper naturally violent, the captivity of his wife and the child in her womb subjected to bondage drove Arminius to distraction: he flew about among the Cheruscans, calling them to arms against Segestes, against Germanicus; nor did he refrain from invectives—"An excellent father! a great general; a valiant army, whose many hands had carried off one bit of a woman! That before him three legions fell, three lieutenants-general; for his method of carrying on war was not by treason nor against pregnant women, but openly, against armed hosts. That the Roman standards were still to be seen in the German groves, there suspended by him to his country's gods. Segestes might live upon the vanquished bank; he might get the priesthood restored to his son; but the Germans would ever regard the fellow as the guilty cause of their having seen between the Elbe and Rhine rods and axes and the toga. That to other nations who know not the Roman[Pg 5] domination, executions and tributes were unknown; and as they had thrown them off, and as Augustus (he who was enrolled with the gods) had retreated without accomplishing his object, and Tiberius, his chosen successor, let them not dread an inexperienced stripling and a mutinous army. If they preferred their country, their parents, and their ancient possessions, to masters and new settlements, they should follow Arminius, who led them to glory and liberty, rather than Segestes, who conducted them to infamous servitude."

By these means not the Cheruscans only were roused, but the bordering nations; and Inguiomer, paternal uncle to Arminius, a man long in high credit with the Romans, was drawn into the confederacy. Hence Germanicus became more alarmed, and to prevent the war falling upon him with unbroken force, sent Cæcina with forty Roman cohorts to the river Amisia, through the territories of the Bructerians, to effect a division in the army of the enemy. Pedo, the prefect, led the cavalry along the confines of the Frisians; he himself, embarking four legions, sailed through the lakes; and at the aforesaid river the whole body met—foot, horse, and fleet. The Chaucians, upon offering their assistance, were taken into the service; but the Bructerians, setting fire to their effects and dwellings, were routed by Lucius Stertinius, despatched against them by Germanicus with a band lightly armed. And amid the carnage and plunder he found the eagle of the Nineteenth legion lost in the overthrow of Varus. The army marched next to the farthest borders of the Bructerians, and the whole country between the rivers Amisia and Luppia was laid waste. Not far hence lay the forest of Teutoburgium, and in it the bones of Varus and the legions, by report, still unburied.

Germanicus, therefore, conceived a desire to pay the last offices to the legions and their leader; while the whole of the army present were moved to deep commiseration for their kinsmen and friends, and generally for the calamities of war and the condition of humanity. Cæcina having been sent before to explore the gloomy recesses of the forest, and to lay bridges and causeways over the watery portions of the morasses and insecure places in the plains, they enter the doleful scene, hideous in appearance and association. The first camp of Varus[Pg 6] appeared in view. The extent of ground and the measurement of the principia left no doubt that the whole was the work of three legions. After that a half-decayed rampart with a shallow foss, where their remains, now sadly reduced, were understood to have sunk down. In the intervening portion of the plain were whitening bones, either scattered or accumulated, according as they had fled or had made a stand. Near them lay fragments of javelins and limbs of horses. There were also skulls fixed upon the trunks of trees. In the adjacent groves were the savage altars, where they had immolated the tribunes and centurions of the first rank. Those who survived the slaughter, having escaped from captivity and the sword, related the sad particulars to the rest: "Here the commanders of the legions were slain; there we lost the eagles; here Varus had his first wound; there he gave himself another, and perished by his own unhappy hand. In that place, too, stood the tribunal whence Arminius harangued. How many gibbets he erected for the execution of his captives; what trenches he dug; and how, in proud scorn, he made a mock at the standards and eagles."

The Roman army which was on the spot buried the bones of the three legions six years after the slaughter: nor could anyone distinguish whether he buried the remains of a stranger or of a kinsman; but all considered the whole as friends, as relations, with heightened resentment against the foe, at once sad and revengeful. Germanicus laid the first sod used in raising a tomb, thus rendering a most acceptable service to the dead, and showing that he shared the sorrows of the living, a proceeding not liked by Tiberius; whether it were that upon every action of Germanicus he put a malignant construction, or that he believed that the impression produced by the sight of the unburied slain would dampen the ardor of the army for battle and inspire them with fear of the enemy. He also said that "A general invested with the office of augur and the most ancient religious functions ought not to have put his hand to the ceremonies of the dead."

Arminius, retiring into pathless places, was pursued by Germanicus, who, as soon as he reached him, commanded the horse to advance and dislodge the enemy from the post he had[Pg 7] possessed. Arminius, having directed his men to keep close together and draw near to the wood, wheeled suddenly about, and to those whom he had hid in the forest gave the signal to rush out. Then the Roman horse were thrown into disorder by the assault of a new army, and the cohorts sent out to support them, broken in upon by the body of troops that fled, had augmented the consternation, and were now being pushed into the morass—a place well known to the pursuers, but dangerous to those unacquainted with it—had not Germanicus drawn out the legions in order of battle. Hence the enemy became terrified, our men reanimated, and both retired without advantage on either side. Germanicus, soon after, returning with the army to the Amisia, reconducted the legions, as he had brought them, in the fleet; part of the horse were ordered to march along the sea-shore to the Rhine. Cæcina, who led his own men, was warned that, though he was to return through well-known roads, yet he should with all speed pass the causeway called the Long Bridges. It is a narrow causeway, between vast marshes, and formerly raised by Lucius Domitius. The rest of the country is of a moist nature, either tough and sticky from a heavy kind of clay or dangerous from the streams which intersect it. Round about are woods which rise gently from the plain, which at that time were filled with soldiers by Arminius, who, by short cuts and quick marching, had arrived there before our men, who were loaded with arms and baggage. Cæcina, who was perplexed how at once to repair the causeway decayed by time and to repulse the foe, resolved to encamp in the place, that while some were employed in the work, others might begin the fight.

The barbarians, having made a vigorous effort to break through the outposts and fall upon those employed in the works, harass the troops, march round them, and throw themselves in their way. A mingled shout arose from the workmen and the combatants; all things equally combined to distress the Romans—the place deep with ooze, sinking under those who stood, slippery to such as advanced; their bodies were encumbered with their coats of mail, nor could they hurl their javelins in the midst of water. The Cheruscans, on the contrary, were inured to encounters in the bogs: their persons tall; their[Pg 8] spears long, so as to wound at a distance. At last the legions, already giving way, were saved from defeat by the approach of night; the Germans not feeling fatigue on account of their success, without refreshing themselves with sleep, even then diverted all the courses of the springs which rise in the neighboring mountains into the plains; thus the ground being flooded, and the work, as far as they had carried it, overturned, the soldiers had all to do over again. Cæcina, who had served forty years, either under others or in command, was experienced in the vicissitudes of war, prosperous or disastrous, and thence undaunted. Weighing, therefore, all probabilities, he could devise no other expedient than that of restraining the enemy to the wood until he had sent forward all the wounded and baggage; for between the mountains and the marshes there stretched a plain large enough to admit a small army. To this purpose the legions selected were: The Fifth, for the right wing, and Twenty-first, for the left; the soldiers of the First legion to lead the van of the Twentieth to oppose the pursuers.

It was a restless night to both armies, but from different causes. The barbarians, with festive carousals, songs of triumph, or horrid cries, filled the vales below and echoing wood. Among the Romans were feeble fires, low broken murmurs; they leaned, drooping here and there, against the pales, or wandered about the tents, more like men wanting sleep than quite awake. The general, too, was alarmed by direful visions during his sleep; he thought he heard, and saw, Quintilius Varus, rising out of the marsh, all besmeared with blood, stretching forth his hand and calling upon him, but that he rejected the call, and pushed back his hand as he held it toward him. At break of day the legions, posted on the wings, whether from perverseness or fear, deserted their post and took sudden possession of a field beyond the bogs; neither did Arminius fall straight upon them, though they lay open to assault; but when the baggage was set fast in the mire and ditches, the soldiers about it in disorder, the order of the standards confounded, and—as usual at such a time—each man acting hastily for himself, when the ears are slow to catch the word of command, he then commanded his Germans to charge, exclaiming vehemently, "Behold! Varus and his legions again subdued by[Pg 9] the same fate!" Thus he cried, and instantly, with a select body, broke through the mass, and chiefly against the horse directed his weapons. Floundering in their own blood and the slippery soil of the marsh, they threw their riders, overturned all they met, and trampled on those that were on the ground. The greatest distress was around the eagles, which could neither be carried against a shower of darts nor be planted in the slimy ground. Cæcina, while he sustained the fight, had his horse shot and, having fallen, would have been overpowered had not the First legion come up to succor him. Our relief came from the greediness of the enemy, who ceased slaying, to seize the spoil. And the legions, as the day closed in, by great exertion got into the open and firm ground. Nor was this the end of their miseries; a palisade was to be raised, an intrenchment digged; their instruments, too, for throwing up and carrying earth, and their tools for cutting turf, were almost all lost. No tents for the soldiers; no remedies for the wounded. While dividing among them their food, defiled with mire or blood, they lamented that mournful night; they lamented the approaching day, to so many thousand men the last.

It happened that a horse which had broken his fastenings and, as he strayed about, become frightened by a noise, had run over some that were in his way. This raised such a consternation in the camp—from a persuasion that the Germans had forced an entrance—that all rushed to the gates, especially to the postern,[19] as the farthest from the foe and safer for flight. Cæcina having ascertained that there was no cause for alarm, but unable to stop them or hold them back, either by his authority or prayers or even by force, prostrated himself on the threshold of the gate; and thus at length by appealing to their humanity—for if they proceeded it must be over the body of the general—he blocked the passage, and the tribunes and centurions satisfied them the while that it was a false alarm.

[Pg 10]

Then assembling them in the court, and desiring them to hear him with silence, he warned them of their difficulties, and their duty under them: "That their sole hope of safety was in their valor, but that must be guided by counsel; that they must keep close within their camp till the enemy, in hopes of taking it by storm, came up nearer to them; then make a sudden sally on every side, that by this sally they might make good their way to the Rhine; but if they fled, more forests, deeper marshes, and the fierce attack of the foe still remained to them; but that if they conquered, honor and renown awaited them." He reminded them of all that was dear to them at home, and the rewards to be obtained in the camp, but suppressed all mention of defeat. He next distributed horses, first his own, then those of the tribunes and leaders of the legions, to all the bravest warriors, without any flattery, that these first, and afterward the infantry, might charge the enemy.

The Germans were in no less agitation from hope, eagerness, and the opposite counsels of their leaders. Arminius proposed "To let them march out, and to beset them again in their way when they got into marshes and difficult passes." Inguiomer advised measures more resolute and acceptable to barbarians—"To invest the camp; it would be quickly captured; there would be more captives, and the plunder uninjured." As soon therefore as it was light, they level the ditch, cast hurdles into it, attempt to scale the palisade, there being but few men on the rampart, and those who were, standing as if paralyzed by fear. But when they were hampered in the fortifications, the signal was given to the cohorts; the cornets and trumpets sounded at once, and instantly, shouting and charging, they poured down upon their rear, telling them tauntingly "that there were no thickets, no marshes, but equal chances in a fair field." The enemy, expecting an easy conquest, and that the Romans were few and half-armed, were overpowered with the sounds of trumpets and glitter of arms, which were then magnified in proportion as they were unexpected; and they fell like men who, as they are void of moderation in prosperity, are also destitute of conduct in distress. Arminius fled from the fight unhurt, Inguiomer severely wounded. The men were slaughtered as long as day and rage lasted. At length, at[Pg 11] night, the legions returned, and though distressed by the same want of provisions and more wounds, yet in victory they found all things—health, vigor, and abundance.

Meanwhile a report had spread that an army was cut off, and a body of Germans on full march to invade Gaul; so that, under the terror of this news, there were those whose cowardice would have emboldened them to demolish the bridge upon the Rhine, had not Agrippina forbidden the infamous attempt. This high-minded woman took upon herself all the duties of a general, and distributed to the soldiers, gratuitously, medicines and clothes, according as anyone was in want or wounded. Caius Plinius, the writer of the German wars, relates that she stood at the head of the bridge as the legions returned, and bestowed on them thanks and praises; a behavior which sunk deep into the heart of Tiberius, for these attentions he thought were not disinterested; nor was it against foreigners she sought to win the army; for nothing was now left the generals to do, when a woman paid her visits of inspection to the companies, attended the standards, and presumed to distribute largesses; as if before she had shown but small tokens of ambitious designs in carrying her child (the son of the general) in a soldier's uniform about the camp and desiring that he be styled Cæsar Caligula. Already Agrippina was in greater credit with the army than the lieutenants-general, or even the generals—a woman had suppressed a sedition which the authority of the Emperor was not able to restrain. These jealousies were inflamed and ministered to by Sejanus, who was well acquainted with the temper of Tiberius, and supplied him with materials for hatred, prospectively, that he might treasure them up in his heart and draw them out augmented in bitterness.

Germanicus handed over the Second and Fourteenth of the legions, which he had brought in ships, to Publius Vitellius to conduct them by land, that his fleet, thus lightened, might sail on the shoally sea, or run aground with safety when the tide ebbed. Vitellius at first marched without interruption while the ground was dry or the tide flowed within bounds. Presently the ocean beginning to swell by the action of the northwest wind upon it, and also by the influence of the equinoxial constellation—at which season the sea swells most—the troops[Pg 12] were miserably harassed and driven about. The lands were completely inundated; the sea, the shore, the fields, had one uniform face: no distinction of depths from shallows, of firm from treacherous footing; they were overturned by billows, absorbed by the eddies; beasts of burden, baggage, and dead bodies floated among them and came in contact with them. The several companies were mixed at random, wading now breast high, now up to their chin; sometimes, the ground failing them, they fell, some never more to rise. Their cries and mutual encouragements availed them nothing; the noise of the water drowning them; no difference between the coward and the brave, the wise and the foolish; none between circumspection and hap-hazard, but all were involved in the sweeping torrent. Vitellius at length, having by great exertion gained the higher ground, withdrew the legions thither, where they passed the night without fire and without food, many of them naked or lamed, not less miserable than men enclosed by an enemy—for even such had the resource of an honorable death, while these must perish ingloriously. Daylight restored the land, and they marched to the river Unsingis, whither Germanicus had gone with the fleet. The legions were then embarked, while rumor reported that they were sunk; nor was their escape believed until Germanicus and the army were seen to return.

Stertinius, who had been sent before to receive the submission of Sigimer, the brother of Segestes, had now brought him and his son to the city of the Ubians; both were pardoned, the father promptly, the son with more hesitation, because he was said to have insulted the corpse of Varus. For the rest, Spain, Italy, and the Gauls vied in supplying the losses of the army, offering arms, horses, money, whatever each had at hand. Germanicus, applauding their zeal, accepted only the horses and arms for the war; with his own money he assisted the soldiers; and, to soften by kindness also the memory of the late disaster, he visited the wounded, extolled the exploits of individuals, and, looking at their wounds, with hopes encouraged some, with a sense of glory animated others, and by affability and attention confirmed them all in devotion to himself and to his service. Between the Romans and the Cheruscans flowed the river Visurgis. On its bank stood Arminius, with the[Pg 13] other chiefs, inquiring whether Germanicus was come; and being answered that he was there, he prayed leave to speak with his brother. This brother of his was in the army, his name Flavius, remarkable for his fidelity, and for the loss of an eye under Tiberius. Permission was then granted. Flavius, advancing, was saluted by Arminius, who having removed his own attendants, requested that the archers ranged upon our bank might retire. When they were gone—"How came you," he asked his brother, "by that deformity in your face?" The brother having informed him where and in what fight, he desired to know "what reward he had received"? Flavius answered, "Increase of pay, the chain, the crown, and other military gifts"; which Arminius treated with derision, as the vile wages of servitude.

After that they began in different strains. Flavius urged "the Roman greatness, the power of Cæsar, the severe punishment inflicted on the vanquished; and the clemency vouchsafed to those who submitted; that neither the wife nor son of Arminius was treated as a captive." Arminius to this opposed "the claims of country, their hereditary liberty, the domestic gods of Germany; their mother, who joined in his prayer that he would not prefer the character of a deserter, and a betrayer of his kinsmen and connections, in short, of his race, to that of their general." From this they gradually proceeded to invectives; nor would the interposition of the river have restrained them from an encounter, had not Stertinius, running to him, held back Flavius, full of rage and calling for his arms and his horse. On the opposite side was seen Arminius, menacing furiously and proclaiming battle. For most of what he said in this dialogue was in Latin, having, as the general of his countrymen, served in the Roman camp.

Next day the German army stood in order of battle beyond the Visurgis. Germanicus, who thought it became not a general to endanger the legions in the passage without bridges and guards, made the horse ford over. They were led by Stertinius and Æmilius, one of the principal centurions, who entered the river at distant places to divide the attention of the foe. Cariovalda, captain of the Batavians, dashed through where the stream was most rapid, and was by the Cheruscans—who[Pg 14] feigned flight—drawn into a plain surrounded by woods. Then starting up at once, and pouring upon him on every side, they overthrew those who resisted, and pressed after those who gave way, who at length, forming themselves into a circle, were assailed by some hand-to-hand, by others were annoyed by missiles. Cariovalda, having long sustained the fury of the enemy, exhorted his men to break through the assailing bands in a solid body; he himself charged into the thickest, and fell under a shower of darts—his horse also being killed—and many nobles fell around him. The rest were saved by their own bravery, or by the cavalry under Stertinius and Æmilius, which came up to their assistance.

Germanicus, having passed the Visurgis, learned from a deserter that Arminius had marked out the place of battle; that more tribes also had joined him at a wood sacred to Hercules, and would attempt to storm our camp by night. The deserter was believed, the enemy's fires were in view, and the scouts, having advanced toward them, reported that they heard the neighing of horses and the murmur of a mighty and tumultuous host. Being thus upon the eve of a decisive battle, Germanicus thought it behooved him to learn the sentiments of the soldiers, and deliberated with himself how to get at the truth; "the reports of the tribunes and centurions were oftener agreeable than true; the freedmen had servile spirits; friends were apt to flatter; if an assembly were called, there, too, the counsel proposed by a few was carried by the clamorous plaudits of the rest. The minds of soldiers could, then, only be thoroughly known when, by themselves, free from all restraint, and over their mess, they gave unreserved utterance to their hopes and fears."

At nightfall, taking the path leading by the place of divination,[20] he went out with a single attendant, a deerskin covering his shoulders,[21] and proceeding by a secret way where there were no sentinels, entered the avenues of the camp, stationed himself near the tents, and eagerly listened to what was said of himself, while one magnified the imperial birth of his general,[Pg 15] another his graceful person, very many his firmness, condescension, and the evenness of his temper, whether seriously occupied or in moments of relaxation; and they confessed that their sense of his merits should be shown in battle, protesting at the same time that those traitors and violators of peace should be made a sacrifice to vengeance and to fame. In the mean time one of the enemy who understood Latin rode up to the palisades, and with a loud voice offered, in the name of Arminius, to every deserter a wife and land, and, as long as the war lasted, a hundred sesterces a day. This affront kindled the wrath of the legions. "Let day come," they cried, "battle should be given, the soldiers would themselves take the lands of the Germans, lead away wives by right of conquest; they, however, welcomed the omen, and considered the wealth and women of the enemy their destined prey." About the third watch[22] an attempt was made upon the camp, but not a dart was discharged, as they found the cohorts planted thick upon the works, and nothing neglected that was necessary for a vigorous defence.

Germanicus had the same night a cheering dream: he thought he sacrificed, and, in place of his own robe besmeared with the blood of the victim, received one fairer from the hands of his grandmother Augusta. Elated by the omen, and the auspices being favorable, he called an assembly, and laid before them what in his judgment seemed likely to be advantageous and suitable for the impending battle. He said "that to the Roman soldiers not only plains, but, with due circumspection, even woods and forests were convenient. The huge targets, the enormous spears of the barbarians, could never be wielded among trunks of trees and thickets of underwood shooting up from the ground like Roman swords and javelins, and armor fitting the body; that they should reiterate their blows, and aim at the face with their swords. The Germans had neither helmet nor coat of mail; their bucklers were not even strengthened with leather or iron, but mere contextures of twigs, and boards of no substance flourished over with paint; their first rank was armed with pikes, in some sort, the rest had only[Pg 16] stakes burned at the end, or short darts. And now to come to their persons, as they were terrific to sight, and vigorous enough for a brief effort, so they were utterly impatient of wounds; unaffected with shame for misconduct, and destitute of respect for their generals. They would quit their posts or run away before the enemy; cowards in adversity, in prosperity despisers of all divine, of all human laws; if weary of marches and sea voyages, they wished an end of these things, by this battle it was presented to them. The Elbe was now nearer than the Rhine; there was nothing to subdue beyond this; they had only to place him, crowned with victory, in the same country which had witnessed the triumphs of his father and uncle, in whose footsteps he was treading." The ardor of the soldiers was kindled by this speech of the general, and the signal for the onset was given.

Neither did Arminius or the other chiefs neglect solemnly to assure their several bands that "these were Romans; the most desperate fugitives of the Varian army, who, to avoid the hardships of war, had put on the character of rebels; who, without any hope of success, were again braving the angry gods, and exposing to their exasperated foes, some of them backs burdened with wounds, others limbs enfeebled with the effects of storms and tempests. Their motive for having recourse to a fleet and the pathless regions of the ocean was that no one might oppose them as they approached or pursue them when repulsed; but when they engaged hand-to-hand, vain would be the help of winds and oars after a defeat. The Germans needed only remember their rapine, cruelty, and pride; was any other course left them than to maintain their liberty, and, if they could not do that, to die before they took a yoke upon them?"

The enemy thus inflamed, and calling for battle, were led into a plain called Idistavisus. It lies between the Visurgis and the hills, and winds irregularly along, as it is encroached upon by the projecting bases of the mountains or enlarged by the receding banks of the river. At their rear rose a majestic forest, the branches of the trees shooting up into the air, but the ground clear between their trunks. The army of barbarians occupied the plain and the entrances of the forest; the Cheruscans alone sat in ambush upon the mountain, in order to pour[Pg 17] down from thence upon the Romans when engaged in the fight. Our army marched thus: the auxiliary Gauls and Germans in front, after them the foot archers, next four legions, and then Germanicus with two prætorian cohorts and the choice of the cavalry; then four legions more, and the light foot with the mounted archers, and the other cohorts of the allies; the men were on the alert and in readiness, so that the order of march might form the order of battle when they halted.

As the bands of Cheruscans who had impatiently rushed forward were now perceived, Germanicus commanded the most efficient of his horse to charge them in the flank, and Stertinius with the rest to wheel round to attack them in the rear, and promised to be ready to assist them at the proper moment. Meanwhile an omen of happiest import appeared; eight eagles, seen to fly toward the wood and to enter it, caught the eye of the general. "Advance!" he cried, "follow the Roman birds; follow the tutelar deities of the legions!"

At once the foot charged, and the cavalry sent forward attacked their flank and rear, and, strange to relate, the two divisions of their army fled opposite ways; that in the wood ran to the plain, that in the plain rushed into the wood. The Cheruscans between both were driven from the hills; among them Arminius formed a conspicuous object, while with his hand, his voice, and the exhibition of his wounds he strove to sustain the fight. He had vigorously assaulted the archers, and would have broken through them had not the cohorts of the Rhætians, the Vindelicians, and the Gauls advanced to oppose him. However, by his own personal effort and the impetus of his horse he made good his passage, his face besmeared with his own blood to avoid being known. Some have related that the Chaucians, who were among the Roman auxiliaries, knew him and let him go; the same bravery or stratagem procured Inguiomer his escape; the rest were slain on all hands; great numbers attempting to swim the Visurgis perished either by the darts showered after them or the violence of the current, or, if they escaped these, they were overwhelmed by the weight of the rushing crowd and the banks which fell upon them. Some, seeking an ignominious refuge, climbed to the tops of trees, and, concealing themselves among the branches, were shot in sport[Pg 18] by the archers, who were brought up for the purpose; others were dashed against the ground as the trees were felled. This was a great victory, and withal achieved without loss on our side.

This slaughter of the foe, from the fifth hour[23] of the day until night, filled the country for ten miles with carcasses and arms. Among the spoils, chains were found, which, sure of conquering, they had brought to bind the Roman captives. The soldiers saluted Tiberius as "Imperator"[24] upon the field of battle, and, raising a mount, placed upon it, after the manner of trophies, the German arms, with the names of all the vanquished nations inscribed below.

This sight filled the Germans with more anguish and rage than all their wounds, afflictions, and overthrows. They, who were just now prepared to abandon their dwellings and retire beyond the Elbe, meditate war and grasp their arms; people, nobles, youth, aged, all rush suddenly upon the Roman army in its march and disorder it. Lastly, they chose a position shut in by a river and a forest, the inner space being a confined and humid plain; the forest, too, surrounded with a deep marsh, except that the Angrivarii had elevated one side by erecting a broad mound to part them and the Cheruscans. Here their foot were posted; their horse were concealed among the neighboring groves, that they might be on the rear of the legions when they had entered the wood.

Nothing of all this was a secret to Germanicus. He knew their counsels, their stations, their overt movements and their concealed measures; and turned their subtlety to the destruction of themselves. To Seius Tubero, his lieutenant, he committed[Pg 19] the horse and the plain; the infantry he so formed that part might pass the level approaches into the wood, and the rest force their way up the rampart; whatever was arduous he reserved to himself, the rest he committed to his lieutenants. Those who had the even ground to traverse easily forced an entrance; but they who were to storm the rampart were battered from above, as if they had been assaulting a wall. The general perceived the inequality of this close encounter, and, drawing off the legions a small distance, ordered the slingers and engineers to discharge their missiles and dislodge the enemy. Immediately darts were poured from the engines, and the defenders of the barrier, the more conspicuous they were, with the more wounds were beaten down. Germanicus, having taken the rampart, first forced his way at the head of the prætorian cohorts into the wood, and there fought, foot-to-foot. Behind the enemy was the morass, behind the Romans the mountains or the river; no room for either to retreat, no hope but in valor, no safety but in victory.

The Germans were not inferior in courage, but in their method of fighting and the nature of their arms; as their vast numbers, hampered in narrow places, could not push forward, nor recover their immense spears, nor practise their usual assaults and rapid motions, being compelled by their crowded condition to adopt a stationary manner of fighting. On the contrary, our soldiers, with shields fitted to their breasts, and their hands firmly grasping their sword hilts, could gash the brawny limbs and naked faces of the barbarians, and open themselves a way with havoc to the enemy. Besides, the activity of Arminius now failed him, being either exhausted by a succession of disasters or disabled by his recent wound. Nay, Inguiomer, too, who flew from place to place throughout the battle, was abandoned by fortune rather than courage. Germanicus, to be the easier known, pulled off his helmet, and exhorted his men "to prosecute the slaughter; they wanted no captives," he said; "the extermination of the people alone would put an end to the war!" It was now late in the day and he drew off a legion to pitch a camp; the rest glutted themselves till night with the blood of the foe; the horse fought with doubtful success.[Pg 20]

Germanicus, having in a public harangue praised his victorious troops, raised a pile of arms with this proud inscription: "That the army of Tiberius Cæsar, having subdued the nations between the Rhine and the Elbe, had consecrated these memorials to Mars, to Jupiter, and to Augustus." Of himself he made no mention; either fearful of provoking envy or that he felt satisfied with the consciousness of his own merit. He next charged Stertinius with the war among the Angrivarians, and he would have proceeded had they not made haste to submit; approaching as supplicants, and making a full confession of their guilt, they received pardon without reserve.

The summer being now far advanced, some of the legions were sent back into winter quarters by land; the greater part Cæsar put on board the fleet and conveyed them along the Amisia to the ocean. The sea, at first serene, resounded only with the oars of a thousand ships or their impulse when under sail; but presently a shower of hail poured down from a black mass of clouds; at the same time storms raging on all sides in every variety, the billows rolling now here, now there, obstructed the view and made it impossible to manage the ships. The soldiers, too, unaccustomed to the perils of the sea, in their alarm embarrassed the mariners, or, helping them awkwardly, rendered unavailing the services of the skilful. After this, the whole expanse of air and sea was swept by a southwest wind, which, deriving strength from the mountainous regions of Germany, its deep rivers, and boundless tract of clouded atmosphere, and rendered still harsher by the rigor of the neighboring north, tore away the ships, scattered and drove them into the open ocean, or upon islands, dangerous from precipitous rocks or the hidden sand-banks which beset them. Having got a little clear of these (but with great difficulty), the tide turned, and, flowing in the same direction as that in which the wind blew, they were unable to ride at anchor or bale out the water that broke in upon them. Horses, beasts of burden, baggage, even arms, were thrown overboard to lighten the holds of the vessels, which took in water at their sides and from the waves running over them. Around them were either shores inhabited by enemies or a sea so vast and unfathomable as to be supposed to be the limit of the world and unbounded by any land. Part[Pg 21] of the fleet was swallowed up; many ships were driven upon remote islands where, without a trace of civilized humanity, the men perished through famine, or were kept alive by the carcasses of horses that were dashed upon the same shore. The galley of Germanicus alone reached the coast of the Chaucians[25] where, during the whole period of his stay, both day and night, amid the rocks and prominences of the shore, he reproached himself as being the author of such overwhelming destruction, and was hardly restrained by his friends from destroying himself in the sea. At last, with the returning tide and favoring gale, the shattered ships returned—almost all destitute of oars, or with garments spread for sails, and some towed by those which were less disabled. He repaired them hastily, and despatched them to search the islands. By this diligence the greater part were recovered; many were by the Angrivarians (our new subjects) redeemed from their more inland neighbors and restored; and some, driven into Great Britain, were sent back by the petty kings. Each according to the remoteness of the region he had returned from recounted the wonders he had witnessed: "the impetuosity of whirlwinds; strange birds; sea monsters of ambiguous form between man and beast"—things either seen or fancied from the effects of fear.

Intelligence of this wreck animated the Germans with hopes of renewing the war, which Germanicus, perceiving, resolved to check. He commanded Caius Silius, with thirty thousand foot and three thousand horse, to march into the country of the Cattians; he himself, with a greater force, invaded the Marsians, where he learned from Malovendus, their general—lately taken into our subjection—that the eagle of one of Varus' legions was hidden underground in a neighboring grove kept by a slender guard. Instantly two parties were despatched: one to face the enemy and draw him from his position, the other to march around upon the rear and open the ground. Success attended both. Hence Germanicus, advancing toward the interior with greater alacrity, laid waste the country and destroyed the effects of the late disaster. The foe, wherever they engaged, were instantly defeated; nor (as was learned from the prisoners) were they ever more dismayed. "The Romans," they exclaimed,[Pg 22] "are invincible; no calamities can subdue them; they have wrecked their fleet, their arms are lost, our shores are covered with the bodies of their horses and men; and yet they have invaded us with their usual spirit, with the same firmness, and as if their numbers were increased."

The army was thence led back into winter quarters, full of joy to have balanced, by this prosperous expedition, their misfortunes at sea; and by the bounty of Germanicus their happiness was increased; since to each sufferer he paid as much as he declared he had lost; neither was it doubted but that the enemy was tottering and concerting measures for obtaining peace, and that the next summer would terminate the war. Tiberius, by frequent letters, pressed him "to come home to the triumph decreed him." He urged also that he had experienced enough of events and casualties; he had indeed fought great and successful battles, but he must likewise remember his losses and calamities, which (however, owing to wind and waves, and no fault of the general) were yet great and grievous. He himself had been sent nine times into Germany by Augustus, and effected much more by policy than arms. It was thus he had brought the Sygambrians into subjection, thus the Suevians, thus King Maroboduus had been obliged to submit to terms. The Cheruscans, too, and the other hostile nations—now the Roman honor was vindicated—might be left to pursue their own intestine feuds. Germanicus besought one year to accomplish his conquest, but Tiberius assailed his modesty with fresh importunity, by offering him another consulship, the duties of which would require his presence; he added "that if the war were still to be prosecuted, he should leave materials for the fame of his brother, Drusus, who, as there then remained no other enemy, could acquire the title of Imperator, and earn the privilege of presenting the laurel in Germany alone." Germanicus persisted no longer; though he knew that this was all hypocrisy, and that through envy he was torn away from a ripened harvest of glory.


[19] There were four gates to a Roman camp. Livy says so in express terms: "Ad quatuor portas exercitum instruxit, ut, signo dato, ex omnibus portubus eruptionem facerent." The several gates were the prætorian; the gate opposite to it, at the extremity of the camp, called the decuman; and two others, called the right and left principals, because they stood on the right and left sides of the camp, fronting the street called Principia.

[20] In the camp a place was set apart for taking the auspices, on the right of the general's tent.

[21] He assumed this disguise in order to appear like a German soldier.

[22] The Romans divided the night into four watches. Each watch was on duty three hours, and then relieved by the next in turn. The third watch began about the modern twelve at night.

[23] It appears that the battle was fought in July or the beginning of August, adulta jam æstate. If so, the fifth hour nearly agrees with our nine in the morning.

[24] In the time of the republic, the title of Imperator was given by the soldiers in the field of battle to the commander-in-chief. The custom ceased under Augustus, who annexed the title to the imperial dignity, the prince being then generalissimo of all the armies of the empire. The name of Imperator, it is true, was afterward given to the general who gained a victory; but that was not done without the special permission of the prince. The same rule was observed under the following emperors; and accordingly we find that Tiberius was saluted Imperator; but the soldiers did not presume to do that honor to Germanicus.

[25] The mouth of the Visurgis, or the Weser.

[Pg 23]


A.D. 30[26]


The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ took place on Friday of the Passover week of the Jews, in the year a.d. 30. This day is known and now generally observed by Christians as Good Friday. Crucifixion, as a means of inflicting death in the most cruel, lingering, and shameful way, was used by many nations of antiquity. The Jews never executed their criminals in this way, but the Greeks and Romans made the cross the instrument of death to malefactors. The cross was in the shape either of the letter T or the letter X, or was in the form familiar in such paintings of the Crucifixion as the well-known representation of Rubens. It was the usual custom to compel the criminal to carry his own cross to the place of execution. The cross was then set up and the criminal was usually tied to it by the hands and feet and left to perish of hunger and thirst. Sometimes he was given a narcotic drink to stupefy him. In the case of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ the victim was fastened to the cross by nails driven through his hands and feet.

As Dr. Judson Titsworth has plainly pointed out, the men who were crucified with Jesus Christ were not thieves, but robbers (this is the term also used below by Farrar), or perhaps Jewish patriots, to the Romans political rebels and outlaws. They would then be classed with Jesus under the accusation that they were not loyal to the sovereignty of the Roman Emperor. During the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate there was a widely prevailing spirit of sedition and revolt among the Jews, and many rebels were sentenced to crucifixion. Such a rebel was the robber Barabbas, whom Pilate wished to substitute for Jesus as the victim of popular fury. The "robber" episode of the Crucifixion is treated by Farrar with a picturesque effect which heightens the vivid coloring in his account of the supreme event that marks "the central point of the world's history."

Utterly brutal and revolting as was the punishment of crucifixion, which has now for fifteen hundred years been abolished by the common pity and abhorrence of mankind, there was one custom in Judea, and one occasionally practised[Pg 24] by the Romans, which reveal some touch of passing humanity. The latter consisted in giving to the sufferer a blow under the armpit, which, without causing death, yet hastened its approach. Of this I need not speak, because, for whatever reason, it was not practised on this occasion. The former, which seems to have been due to the milder nature of Judaism, and which was derived from a happy piece of rabbinic exegesis on Prov. xxxi. 6, consisted in giving to the condemned, immediately before his execution, a draught of wine medicated with some powerful opiate. It had been the custom of wealthy ladies in Jerusalem to provide this stupefying potion at their own expense, and they did so quite irrespectively of their sympathy for any individual criminal. It was probably taken freely by the two malefactors, but when they offered it to Jesus he would not take it. The refusal was an act of sublimest heroism. The effect of the draught was to dull the nerves, to cloud the intellect, to provide an anæsthetic against some part at least of the lingering agonies of that dreadful death. But he, whom some modern sceptics have been base enough to accuse of feminine feebleness and cowardly despair, preferred rather "to look Death in the face"—to meet the king of terrors without striving to deaden the force of one agonizing anticipation, or to still the throbbing of one lacerated nerve.

The three crosses were laid on the ground—that of Jesus, which was doubtless taller than the other two, being placed in bitter scorn in the midst. Perhaps the cross-beam was now nailed to the upright, and certainly the title, which had either been borne by Jesus fastened round his neck or carried by one of the soldiers in front of him, was now nailed to the summit of his cross. Then he was stripped naked of all his clothes, and then followed the most awful moment of all. He was laid down upon the implement of torture. His arms were stretched along the cross-beams; and at the centre of the open palms the point of a huge iron nail was placed, which, by the blow of a mallet, was driven home into the wood. Then through either foot separately, or possibly through both together as they were placed one over the other, another huge nail tore its way through the quivering flesh. Whether the sufferer was also bound to the cross we do not know; but, to prevent the[Pg 25] hands and feet being torn away by the weight of the body, which could not "rest upon nothing but four great wounds," there was, about the centre of the cross, a wooden projection strong enough to support, at least in part, a human body which soon became a weight of agony.

It was probably at this moment of inconceivable horror that the voice of the Son of Man was heard uplifted, not in a scream of natural agony at that fearful torture, but calmly praying in divine compassion for his brutal and pitiless murderers—aye, and for all who in their sinful ignorance crucify him afresh forever: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

And then the accursed tree—with its living human burden hanging upon it in helpless agony, and suffering fresh tortures as every movement irritated the fresh rents in hands and feet—was slowly heaved up by strong arms, and the end of it fixed firmly in a hole dug deep in the ground for that purpose. The feet were but a little raised above the earth. The victim was in full reach of every hand that might choose to strike, in close proximity to every gesture of insult and hatred. He might hang for hours to be abused, outraged, even tortured by the ever-moving multitude who, with that desire to see what is horrible which always characterizes the coarsest hearts, had thronged to gaze upon a sight which should rather have made them weep tears of blood.

And there, in tortures which grew ever more insupportable, ever more maddening as time flowed on, the unhappy victims might linger in a living death so cruelly intolerable that often they were driven to entreat and implore the spectators or the executioners, for dear pity's sake, to put an end to anguish too awful for man to bear—conscious to the last, and often, with tears of abject misery, beseeching from their enemies the priceless boon of death.

For indeed a death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain and death can have of horrible and ghastly—dizziness, cramp, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, tetanus, publicity of shame, long continuance of torment, horror of anticipation, mortification of untended wounds—all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give to the sufferer[Pg 26] the relief of unconsciousness. The unnatural position made every movement painful; the lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anguish; the wounds, inflamed by exposure, gradually gangrened; the arteries—especially of the head and stomach—became swollen and oppressed with surcharged blood; and while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst; and all these physical complications caused an internal excitement and anxiety which made the prospect of death itself—of death, the awful unknown enemy, at whose approach man usually shudders most—bear the aspect of a delicious and exquisite release.

Such was the death to which Christ was doomed; and though for him it was happily shortened by all that he had previously endured, yet he hung from soon after noon until nearly sunset before "he gave up his soul to death."

When the cross was uplifted the leading Jews, for the first time, prominently noticed the deadly insult in which Pilate had vented his indignation. Before, in their blind rage, they had imagined that the manner of his crucifixion was an insult aimed at Jesus; but now that they saw him hanging between the two robbers, on a cross yet loftier, it suddenly flashed upon them that it was a public scorn inflicted upon them. For on the white wooden tablet smeared with gypsum, which was to be seen so conspicuously over the head of Jesus on the cross, ran, in black letters, an inscription in the three civilized languages of the ancient world—the three languages of which one at least was certain to be known by every single man in that assembled multitude—in the official Latin, in the current Greek, in the vernacular Aramaic—informing all that this Man who was thus enduring a shameful, servile death—this Man thus crucified between two sicarii in the sight of the world, was "The King of the Jews."

To him who was crucified the poor malice seemed to have in it nothing of derision. Even on his cross he reigned; even there he seemed divinely elevated above the priests who had brought about his death, and the coarse, idle, vulgar multitude who had flocked to feed their greedy eyes upon his sufferings. The malice was quite impotent against One whose spiritual and[Pg 27] moral nobleness struck awe into dying malefactors and heathen executioners, even in the lowest abyss of his physical degradation. With the passionate ill-humor of the Roman governor there probably blended a vein of seriousness. While he was delighted to revenge himself on his detested subjects by an act of public insolence, he probably meant, or half meant, to imply that this was, in one sense, the King of the Jews—the greatest, the noblest, the truest of his race, whom therefore his race had crucified. The King was not unworthy of his kingdom, but the kingdom of the King. There was something loftier even than royalty in the glazing eyes which never ceased to look with sorrow on the City of Righteousness, which had now become a city of murderers. The Jews felt the intensity of the scorn with which Pilate had treated them. It so completely poisoned their hour of triumph that they sent their chief priests in deputation, begging the governor to alter the obnoxious title. "Write not," they said, "'The King of the Jews,' but that 'He said, I am the King of the Jews.'" But Pilate's courage, which had oozed away so rapidly at the name of Cæsar, had now revived. He was glad in any and every way to browbeat and thwart the men whose seditious clamor had forced him in the morning to act against his will. Few men had the power of giving expression to a sovereign contempt more effectually than the Romans. Without deigning any justification of what he had done, Pilate summarily dismissed these solemn hierarchs with the curt and contemptuous reply, "What I have written I have written."

In order to prevent the possibility of any rescue, even at the last moment—since instances had been known of men taken from the cross and restored to life—a quaternion of soldiers with their centurion were left on the ground to guard the cross. The clothes of the victims always fell as perquisites to the men who had to perform so weary and disagreeable an office. Little dreaming how exactly they were fulfilling the mystic intimations of olden Jewish prophecy, they proceeded, therefore, to divide between them the garments of Jesus. The tallith they tore into four parts, probably ripping it down the seams; but the cetoneth, or undergarment, was formed of one continuous woven texture, and to tear would have been to spoil it; they[Pg 28] therefore contented themselves with letting it become the property of any one of the four to whom it should fall by lot. When this had been decided, they sat down and watched him till the end, beguiling the weary lingering hours by eating and drinking, and gibing, and playing dice.

It was a scene of tumult. The great body of the people seem to have stood silently at gaze; but some few of them as they passed by the cross—perhaps some of the many false witnesses and other conspirators of the previous night—mocked at Jesus with insulting noises and furious taunts, especially bidding him come down from the cross and save himself, since he could destroy the Temple and build it in three days. And the chief priests, and scribes, and elders, less awe-struck, less compassionate than the mass of the people, were not ashamed to disgrace their gray-haired dignity and lofty reputation by adding their heartless reproaches to those of the evil few. Unrestrained by the noble patience of the sufferer, unsated by the accomplishment of their wicked vengeance, unmoved by the sight of helpless anguish and the look of eyes that began to glaze in death, they congratulated one another under his cross with scornful insolence: "He saved others, himself he cannot save;" "Let this Christ, this King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe." No wonder then that the ignorant soldiers took their share of mockery with these shameless and unvenerable hierarchs: no wonder that, at their midday meal, they pledged in mock hilarity the Dying Man, cruelly holding up toward his burning lips their cups of sour wine, and echoing the Jewish taunts against the weakness of the King whose throne was a cross, whose crown was thorns. Nay, even the poor wretches who were crucified with him caught the hideous infection; comrades, perhaps, of the respited Barabbas, heirs of the rebellious fury of a Judas the Gaulonite, trained to recognize no Messiah but a Messiah of the sword, they reproachfully bade him, if his claims were true, to save himself and them. So all the voices about him rang with blasphemy and spite, and in that long slow agony his dying ear caught no accent of gratitude, of pity, or of love. Baseness, falsehood, savagery, stupidity—such were the characteristics of the world which thrust itself into hideous prominence before[Pg 29] the Saviour's last consciousness, such the muddy and miserable stream that rolled under the cross before his dying eyes.

But amid this chorus of infamy Jesus spoke not. He could have spoken. The pains of crucifixion did not confuse the intellect or paralyze the powers of speech. We read of crucified men who, for hours together upon the cross, vented their sorrow, their rage, or their despair in the manner that best accorded with their character; of some who raved and cursed, and spat at their enemies; of others who protested to the last against the iniquity of their sentence; of others who implored compassion with abject entreaties; of one even who, from the cross, as from a tribunal, harangued the multitude of his countrymen, and upbraided them with their wickedness and vice. But, except to bless and to encourage, and to add to the happiness and hope of others, Jesus spoke not. So far as the malice of the passers-by, and of priests and sanhedrists and soldiers, and of these poor robbers who suffered with him, was concerned—as before during the trial so now upon the cross—he maintained unbroken his kingly silence.

But that silence, joined to his patient majesty and the divine holiness and innocence which radiated from him like a halo, was more eloquent than any words. It told earliest on one of the crucified robbers. At first this bonus latro of the Apocryphal Gospels seems to have faintly joined in the reproaches uttered by his fellow-sinner; but when those reproaches merged into deeper blasphemy, he spoke out his inmost thought. It is probable that he had met Jesus before, and heard him, and perhaps been one of those thousands who had seen his miracles. There is indeed no authority for the legend which assigns to him the name of Dysmas, or for the beautiful story of his having saved the life of the Virgin and her Child during their flight into Egypt. But on the plains of Gennesareth, perhaps from some robber's cave in the wild ravines of the Valley of the Doves, he may well have approached his presence—he may well have been one of those publicans and sinners who drew near to him for to hear him. And the words of Jesus had found some room in the good ground of his heart; they had not all fallen upon stony places. Even at this hour of shame and death, when he was suffering the just consequence of his past[Pg 30] evil deeds, faith triumphed. As a flame sometimes leaps up among dying embers, so amid the white ashes of a sinful life which lay so thick upon his heart, the flame of love toward his God and his Saviour was not quite quenched. Under the hellish outcries which had broken loose around the cross of Jesus there had lain a deep misgiving. Half of them seem to have been instigated by doubt and fear. Even in the self-congratulations of the priests we catch an undertone of dread. Suppose that even now some imposing miracle should be wrought! Suppose that even now that martyr-form should burst indeed into messianic splendor, and the King, who seemed to be in the slow misery of death, should suddenly with a great voice summon his legions of angels, and, springing from his cross upon the rolling clouds of heaven, come in flaming fire to take vengeance upon his enemies! And the air seemed to be full of signs. There was a gloom of gathering darkness in the sky, a thrill and tremor in the solid earth, a haunting presence as of ghostly visitants who chilled the heart and hovered in awful witness above that scene. The dying robber had joined at first in the half-taunting, half-despairing appeal to a defeat and weakness which contradicted all that he had hoped; but now this defeat seemed to be greater than victory, and this weakness more irresistible than strength. As he looked, the faith in his heart dawned more and more into the perfect day. He had long ceased to utter any reproachful words; he now rebuked his comrade's blasphemies. Ought not the suffering innocence of him who hung between them to shame into silence their just punishment and flagrant guilt? And so, turning his head to Jesus, he uttered the intense appeal, "O Jesus, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom." Then he, who had been mute amid invectives, spake at once in surpassing answer to that humble prayer, "Verily, I say to thee, to-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise."

Though none spoke to comfort Jesus—though deep grief, and terror, and amazement kept them dumb—yet there were hearts amid the crowd that beat in sympathy with the awful sufferer. At a distance stood a number of women looking on, and perhaps, even at that dread hour, expecting his immediate deliverance. Many of these were women who had ministered[Pg 31] to him in Galilee, and had come from thence in the great band of Galilean pilgrims. Conspicuous among this heart-stricken group were his mother Mary, Mary of Magdala, Mary the wife of Clopas, mother of James and Joses, and Salome the wife of Zebedee. Some of them, as the hours advanced, stole nearer and nearer to the cross, and at length the filming eye of the Saviour fell on his own mother Mary, as, with the sword piercing through and through her heart, she stood with the disciple whom he loved. His mother does not seem to have been much with him during his ministry. It may be that the duties and cares of a humble home rendered it impossible. At any rate, the only occasions on which we hear of her are occasions when she is with his brethren, and is joined with them in endeavoring to influence, apart from his own purposes and authority, his messianic course. But although at the very beginning of his ministry he had gently shown her that the earthly and filial relation was now to be transcended by one far more lofty and divine, and though this end of all her high hopes must have tried her faith with an overwhelming and unspeakable sorrow, yet she was true to him in this supreme hour of his humiliation, and would have done for him all that a mother's sympathy and love can do. Nor had he for a moment forgotten her who had bent over his infant slumbers, and with whom he had shared those thirty years in the cottage at Nazareth. Tenderly and sadly he thought of the future that awaited her during the remaining years of her life on earth, troubled as they must be by the tumults and persecutions of a struggling and nascent faith. After his resurrection her lot was wholly cast among his apostles, and the apostle whom he loved the most, the apostle who was nearest to him in heart and life, seemed the fittest to take care of her. To him, therefore—to John whom he had loved more than his brethren—to John whose head had leaned upon his breast at the Last Supper, he consigned her as a sacred charge. "Woman," he said to her, in fewest words, but in words which breathed the uttermost spirit of tenderness, "behold thy son;" and then to St. John, "Behold thy mother." He could make no gesture with those pierced hands, but he could bend his head. They listened in speechless emotion, but from that hour—perhaps from that very moment—leading her[Pg 32] away from a spectacle which did but torture her soul with unavailing agony, that disciple took her to his own home.

It was now noon, and at the Holy City the sunshine should have been burning over that scene of horror with a power such as it has in the full depth of an English summer-time. But instead of this, the face of the heavens was black, and the noonday sun was "turned into darkness," on "this great and terrible day of the Lord." It could have been no darkness of any natural eclipse, for the Paschal moon was at the full; but it was one of those "signs from heaven" for which, during the ministry of Jesus, the Pharisees had so often clamored in vain. The early Fathers appealed to pagan authorities—the historian Phallus, the chronicler Phlegon—for such a darkness; but we have no means of testing the accuracy of these references, and it is quite possible that the darkness was a local gloom which hung densely over the guilty city and its immediate neighborhood. But whatever it was, it clearly filled the minds of all who beheld it with yet deeper misgiving. The taunts and jeers of the Jewish priests and the heathen soldiers were evidently confined to the earlier hours of the Crucifixion. Its later stages seem to have thrilled alike the guilty and the innocent with emotions of dread and horror. Of the incidents of those last three hours we are told nothing, and that awful obscuration of the noonday sun may well have overawed every heart into an inaction respecting which there was nothing to relate. What Jesus suffered then for us men and our salvation we cannot know, for during those three hours he hung upon his cross in silence and darkness; or, if he spoke, there was none there to record his words. But toward the close of that time his anguish culminated, and, emptied to the very uttermost of that glory which he had since the world began, drinking to the very deepest dregs the cup of humiliation and bitterness, enduring not only to have taken upon him the form of a servant, but also to suffer the last infamy which human hatred could impose on servile helplessness, he uttered that mysterious cry, of which the full significance will never be fathomed by man: Eli, Eli, lama Sabachthani? ("My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?")

In those words, quoting the psalm in which the early Fathers[Pg 33] rightly saw a far-off prophecy of the whole passion of Christ, he borrowed from David's utter agony the expression of his own. In that hour he was alone. Sinking from depth to depth of unfathomable suffering, until, at the close approach of a death which—because he was God, and yet had been made man—was more awful to him than it could ever be to any of the sons of men, it seemed as if even his divine humanity could endure no more.

Doubtless the voice of the sufferer—though uttered loudly in that paroxysm of an emotion which, in another, would almost have touched the verge of despair—was yet rendered more uncertain and indistinct from the condition of exhaustion in which he hung; and so, amid the darkness, and confused noise, and dull footsteps of the moving multitude, there were some who did not hear what he had said. They had caught only the first syllable, and said to one another that he had called on the name of Elijah. The readiness with which they seized this false impression is another proof of the wild state of excitement and terror—the involuntary dread of something great and unforeseen and terrible—to which they had been reduced from their former savage insolence. For Elijah, the great prophet of the Old Covenant, was inextricably mingled with all the Jewish expectations of a Messiah, and these expectations were full of wrath. The coming of Elijah would be the coming of a day of fire, in which the sun should be turned into blackness and the moon into blood, and the powers of heaven should be shaken. Already the noonday sun was shrouded in unnatural eclipse; might not some awful form at any moment rend the heavens and come down, touch the mountains and they should smoke? The vague anticipation of conscious guilt was unfulfilled. Not such as yet was to be the method of God's workings. His messages to man for many ages more were not to be in the thunder and earthquake, not in rushing wind or roaring flame, but in the "still small voice" speaking always amid the apparent silences of Time in whispers intelligible to man's heart, but in which there is neither speech nor language, though the voice is heard.

But now the end was very rapidly approaching, and Jesus, who had been hanging for nearly six hours upon the cross, was[Pg 34] suffering from that torment of thirst which is most difficult of all for the human frame to bear—perhaps the most unmitigated of the many separate sources of anguish which were combined in this worst form of death. No doubt this burning thirst was aggravated by seeing the Roman soldiers drinking so near the cross; and happily for mankind, Jesus had never sanctioned the unnatural affectation of stoic impassibility. And so he uttered the one sole word of physical suffering which had been wrung from him by all the hours in which he had endured the extreme of all that man can inflict. He cried aloud, "I thirst." Probably a few hours before, the cry would have only provoked a roar of frantic mockery; but now the lookers-on were reduced by awe to a readier humanity. Near the cross there lay on the ground the large earthen vessel containing the posca, which was the ordinary drink of the Roman soldiers. The mouth of it was filled with a piece of sponge, which served as a cork. Instantly some one—we know not whether he was friend or enemy, or merely one who was there out of idle curiosity—took out the sponge and dipped it in the posca to give it to Jesus. But low as was the elevation of the cross, the head of the sufferer, as it rested on the horizontal beam of the accursed tree, was just beyond the man's reach; and therefore he put the sponge at the end of a stalk of hyssop—about a foot long—and held it up to the parched and dying lips. Even this simple act of pity, which Jesus did not refuse, seemed to jar upon the condition of nervous excitement with which some of the multitude were looking on. "Let be," they said to the man, "let us see whether Elias is coming to save him." The man did not desist from his act of mercy, but when it was done he, too, seems to have echoed those uneasy words. But Elias came not, nor human comforter, nor angel deliverer. It was the will of God, it was the will of the Son of God, that he should be "perfected through sufferings"; that—for the eternal example of all his children as long as the world should last—he should "endure unto the end."

And now the end was come. Once more, in the words of the sweet Psalmist of Israel, but adding to them that title of trustful love which, through him, is permitted to the use of all mankind, "Father," he said, "into thy hands I commend my[Pg 35] spirit." Then with one more great effort he uttered the last cry—"It is finished." It may be that that great cry ruptured some of the vessels of his heart, for no sooner had it been uttered than he bowed his head upon his breast and yielded his life, "a ransom for many"—a willing sacrifice to his Heavenly Father. "Finished was his holy life; with his life his struggle, with his struggle his work, with his work the redemption, with the redemption the foundation of the new world." At that moment the veil of the Temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. An earthquake shook the earth and split the rocks, and as it rolled away from their places the great stones which closed and covered the cavern sepulchres of the Jews, so it seemed to the imaginations of many to have disimprisoned the spirits of the dead, and to have filled the air with ghostly visitants, who after Christ had risen appeared to linger in the Holy City. These circumstances of amazement, joined to all they had observed in the bearing of the Crucified, cowed even the cruel and gay indifference of the Roman soldiers. On the centurion who was in command of them the whole scene had exercised a yet deeper influence. As he stood opposite to the cross and saw the Saviour die, he glorified God and exclaimed, "This Man was in truth righteous"—nay, more, "This Man was a Son of God." Even the multitude, utterly sobered from their furious excitement and frantic rage, began to be weighed down with a guilty consciousness that the scene which they had witnessed had in it something more awful than they could have conceived, and as they returned to Jerusalem they wailed and beat upon their breasts. Well might they do so! This was the last drop in a full cup of wickedness: this was the beginning of the end of their city and name and race.

And in truth that scene was more awful than they, or even we, can know. The secular historian, be he ever so sceptical, cannot fail to see in it the central point of the world's history. Whether he be a believer in Christ or not, he cannot refuse to admit that this new religion grew from the smallest of all seeds to be a mighty tree, so that the birds of the air took refuge in its branches; that it was the little stone cut without hands which dashed into pieces the colossal image of heathen greatness, and grew till it became a great mountain and filled the[Pg 36] earth. Alike to the infidel and to the believer the Crucifixion is the boundary instant between ancient and modern days. Morally and physically, no less than spiritually, the faith of Christ was the palingenesia of the world. It came like the dawn of a new spring to nations "effete with the drunkenness of crime." The struggle was long and hard, but from the hour when Christ died began the death-knell to every satanic tyranny and every tolerated abomination. From that hour holiness became the universal ideal of all who name the name of Christ as their Lord, and the attainment of that ideal the common heritage of souls in which his spirit dwells.

The effects, then, of the work of Christ are even to the unbeliever indisputable and historical. It expelled cruelty; it curbed passion; it branded suicide; it punished and repressed an execrable infanticide; it drove the shameless impurities of heathendom into a congenial darkness. There was hardly a class whose wrongs it did not remedy. It rescued the gladiator; it freed the slave; it protected the captive; it nursed the sick; it sheltered the orphan; it elevated the woman; it shrouded as with a halo of sacred innocence the tender years of the child. In every region of life its ameliorating influence was felt. It changed pity from a vice into a virtue. It elevated poverty from a curse into a beatitude. It ennobled labor from a vulgarity into a dignity and a duty. It sanctified marriage from little more than a burdensome convention into little less than a blessed sacrament. It revealed for the first time the angelic beauty of a purity of which men had despaired and of a meekness at which they had utterly scoffed. It created the very conception of charity, and broadened the limits of its obligation from the narrow circle of a neighborhood to the widest horizons of the race. And while it thus evolved the idea of humanity as a common brotherhood, even where its tidings were not believed—all over the world, wherever its tidings were believed, it cleansed the life and elevated the soul of each individual man. And in all lands where it has moulded the characters of its true believers it has created hearts so pure and lives so peaceful and homes so sweet that it might seem as though those angels who had heralded its advent had also whispered to every depressed and despairing sufferer among the[Pg 37] sons of men: "Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove, that is covered with silver wings, and her feathers like gold."

Others, if they can and will, may see in such a work as this no divine Providence, they may think it philosophical enlightenment to hold that Christianity and Christendom are adequately accounted for by the idle dreams of a noble self-deceiver and the passionate hallucinations of a recovered demoniac. We persecute them not, we denounce them not, we judge them not; but we say that, unless all life be a hollow, there could have been no such miserable origin to the sole religion of the world which holds the perfect balance between philosophy and popularity, between religion and morals, between meek submissiveness and the pride of freedom, between the ideal and the real, between the inward and the outward, between modest stillness and heroic energy—nay, between the tenderest conservatism and the boldest plans of world-wide reformation. The witness of history to Christ is a witness which has been given with irresistible cogency; and it has been so given to none but him.

But while even the unbeliever must see what the life and death of Jesus have effected in the world, to the believer that life and death are something deeper still; to him they are nothing less than a resurrection from the dead. He sees in the cross of Christ something which far transcends its historical significance. He sees in it the fulfilment of all prophecy as well as the consummation of all history; he sees in it the explanation of the mystery of birth, and the conquest over the mystery of the grave. In that life he finds a perfect example; in that death an infinite redemption. As he contemplates the Incarnation and the Crucifixion, he no longer feels that God is far away, and that this earth is but a disregarded speck in the infinite azure, and he himself but an insignificant atom chance-thrown amid the thousand million living souls of an innumerable race, but he exclaims in faith and hope and love: "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men; yea, he will be their God, and they shall be his people." "Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them."[Pg 38]

The sun was westering as the darkness rolled away from the completed sacrifice. They who had not thought it a pollution to inaugurate their feast by the murder of their Messiah, were seriously alarmed lest the sanctity of the following day—which began at sunset—should be compromised by the hanging of the corpses on the cross. And horrible to relate, the crucified often lived for many hours—nay, even for two days—in their torture. The Jews therefore begged Pilate that their legs might be broken, and their bodies taken down. This crurifragium, as it was called, consisted in striking the legs of the sufferers with a heavy mallet, a violence which seemed always to have hastened, if it did not instantly cause, their death. Nor would the Jews be the only persons who would be anxious to hasten the end by giving the deadly blow. Until life was extinct the soldiers appointed to guard the execution dared not leave the ground. The wish, therefore, was readily granted. The soldiers broke the legs of the two malefactors first, and then, coming to Jesus, found that the great cry had been indeed his last, and that he was dead already. They did not therefore break his legs, and thus unwittingly preserved the symbolism of that Paschal lamb, of which he was the antetype, and of which it had been commanded that "a bone of it shall not be broken." And yet, as he might be only in a syncope—as instances had been known in which men apparently dead had been taken down from the cross and resuscitated—and as the lives of the soldiers would have had to answer for any irregularity, one of them, in order to make death certain, drove the broad head of his hasta into his side. The wound, as it was meant to do, pierced the region of the heart, and "forthwith," says St. John, with an emphatic appeal to the truthfulness of his eye-witness—an appeal which would be singularly and impossibly blasphemous if the narrative were the forgery which so much elaborate modern criticism has wholly failed to prove that it is—"forthwith came there out blood and water." Whether the water was due to some abnormal pathological conditions caused by the dreadful complication of the Saviour's sufferings, or whether it rather means that the pericardium had been rent by the spear point, and that those who took down the body observed some drops of its serum mingled with the[Pg 39] blood, in either case that lance thrust was sufficient to hush all the heretical assertions that Jesus had only seemed to die; and as it assured the soldiers, so should it assure all who have doubted, that he, who on the third day rose again, had in truth been crucified, dead, and buried, and that his soul had passed into the unseen world.


[26] The disputed date of the Crucifixion of Jesus—long variously placed between a.d. 29 and 33—is definitely fixed by many later authorities at the year 30.

[Pg 40]


A.D. 33


It is a favorite view of historians and critical students that Jesus was born at a time when the world seemed especially prepared for his birth. The correspondence between world conditions then and the actual process of Christianity in its rise and early spread appears to conform to evolutionary laws as regarded in the light of modern interpretation.

In its origin Christianity is most intimately connected with Judaism, the parent religion. The known world, however, in the time of Jesus was largely under Roman dominion. This was true of the land where Jesus was born. The Roman Empire was then comparatively at peace, and it was the admonition of St. Paul that the first Christians should maintain that peace. The wide sovereignty of Rome gave the apostles of Christ access to different nations, many of whom had become civilized under Roman influence. But pure monotheism existed only among the Jews. All other nations had a variety of gods and peculiar forms of worship. In most of the pagan religions there were elements of truth and beauty, but they lacked in ethical principles and in moral application to life. Most of their priestcraft was a vulgar imposition upon the ignorance and credulity of the common people. The prevailing philosophies—which, among the more enlightened, took the place of religion—were the Grecian, adopted also by the Romans, and the oriental, with numerous followers in Persia, Syria, Chaldæa, Egypt, and likewise among the Jews. But the philosophers were divided into antagonistic sects. Out of such conditions no practical religion could develop. In the doctrines of Buddhism were to be found the spirit and purpose of a devout and humanely religious people, but the intricate mythology and racial and other limitations of Buddhism forbade that, although it conquered the half of Asia, it should ever become a universal faith.

The condition of the Jews at this period was little better than that of other peoples. Among the Jews there was a lack of intellectual unity, and their moral ideals had been lowered. Oppressed by Herod, the tributary Roman King—who, although professedly a Jew, copied the open despisers of all religion—they yielded to the influences of Roman luxury and licentiousness which spread over Palestine. Although still conducted by the priests and Levites and under the eye of the Sanhedrim or senate, the Jewish religion had lost much of its earlier character. Like philosophy, it was vexed with contending sects. Strict observance of the Mosaic law[Pg 41] and the performance of prescriptive rites and duties were in the main regarded as the sum of religion.

The race of prophets appeared extinct until prophecy was revived in John the Baptist. The successors of the Maccabæan patriots were not animated by their spirit. There was widespread and passionate expectation of a national messiah, but not such a messiah as John proclaimed and Jesus proved to be; rather a powerful warrior and vindicator of Jewish liberty. Galilee, the early home of Jesus, was especially stirred with messianic fervor. In such a condition of the national mind, and at such a stage of the world's empire, it seems natural in the course of spiritual evolution that such a teacher as Jesus—a spiritual messiah—should arise to be the deliverer not of one people only, but of the world itself. Among the Jewish doctors when Jesus was a child was at least one wise and liberal rabbi, Hillel, a Pharisee, the great reformer of his time, and "the most eminent Jew of the generation before the birth of Jesus." At his feet the boy Jesus may have sat and learned lessons of wisdom and liberality. It gives us a reassurance of spiritual continuity to think that the teachings of Hillel may have "helped to inspire the humane and tender counsels of the founder of Christianity."

In grouping the glowing words of Renan, with their fine spiritual interpretations and descriptive eloquence, the judgments of an eminent contemporary Jewish scholar, and Newman's learned yet simple portrayal of the Church as it took form in its early environment, and as it was seen through the media of contemporary governments, customs, and criticisms, it is believed that readers will derive satisfaction, and will be aided in their own inquiries, through this threefold presentation. On so vast a subject, with its momentous implications, no single author, however profound his genius, can do more than contribute a partial essay toward the many-sided truth.


From the moment of the arrest of Jesus, and immediately after his death, it is probable that many of the disciples had already found their way to the northern provinces. At the time of the Resurrection a rumor was spread abroad, according to which it was in Galilee that he would be seen again. Some of the women who had been to the sepulchre came back with the report that the angel had said to them that Jesus had already preceded them into Galilee. Others said that it was Jesus himself who had ordered them to go there. Now and then some people said that they themselves remembered that he had said so during his lifetime.

What is certain is that at the end of a few days, probably after the Paschal Feast of the Passover had been quite over,[Pg 42] the disciples believed they had a command to return into their own country, and to it accordingly they returned. Perhaps the visions began to abate at Jerusalem. A species of melancholy seized them. The brief appearances of Jesus were not sufficient to compensate for the enormous void left by his absence. In a melancholy mood they thought of the lake and of the beautiful mountains where they had received a foretaste of the kingdom of God. The women especially wished, at any cost, to return to the country where they had enjoyed so much happiness. It must be observed that the order to depart came especially from them. That odious city weighed them down. They longed to see once more the ground where they had possessed Him whom they loved, well assured in advance of meeting him again there.

The majority of the disciples then departed, full of joy and hope, perhaps in the company of the caravan which took back the pilgrims from the Feast of the Passover. What they hoped to find in Galilee were not only transient visions, but Jesus himself to continue with them, as he had done before his death. An intense expectation filled their souls. Was he going to restore the kingdom of Israel, to found definitely the kingdom of God, and, as was said, "reveal his justice"? Everything was possible. They already called to mind the smiling landscapes where they had enjoyed his presence. Many believed that he had given to them a rendezvous upon a mountain, probably the same to which with them there clung so many sweet recollections. Never, it is certain, had there been a more pleasant journey. All their dreams of happiness were on the point of being realized. They were going to see him once more! And, in fact, they did see him again. Hardly restored to their harmless chimeras, they believed themselves to be in the midst of the gospel-dispensation period. It was now drawing near to the end of April. The ground is then strewn with red anemones, which were probably those "lilies of the fields" from which Jesus delighted to draw his similes. At each step his words were brought to mind, adhering, as it were, to the thousand accidental objects they met by the way. Here was the tree, the flower, the seed, from which he had taken his parables; there was the hill on which he delivered his most touching[Pg 43] discourses; here was the little ship from which he taught. It was like the recommencement of a beautiful dream—like a vanished illusion which had reappeared. The enchantment seemed to revive. The sweet Galilean "Kingdom of God" had recovered its sway. The clear atmosphere, the mornings upon the shore or upon the mountain, the nights passed on the lakes watching the nets, all these returned again to them in distinct visions. They saw him everywhere where they had lived with him. Of course it was not the joy of the first enjoyment. Sometimes the lake had to them the appearance of being very solitary. But a great love is satisfied with little. If all of us, while we are alive, could surreptitiously, once a year, and during a moment long enough to exchange but a few words, behold again those loved ones whom we have lost—death would not be death!

Such was the state of mind of this faithful band, in this short period when Christianity seemed to return for a moment to his cradle and bid to him an eternal adieu. The principal disciples, Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, the sons of Zebedee, met again on the shores of the lake, and henceforth lived together; they had taken up again their former calling of fishermen, at Bethsaida or at Capernaum. The Galilean women were no doubt with them. They had insisted more than the others on that return, which was to them a heartfelt love. This was their last act in the establishment of Christianity. From that moment they disappear. Faithful to their love, their wish was to quit no more the country in which they had tasted their greatest delight. More than five hundred persons were already devoted to the memory of Jesus. In default of the lost master they obeyed the disciples, the most authoritative—Peter—in particular.

The activity of these ardent souls had already turned in another direction. What they believed to have heard from the lips of the dear risen One was the order to go forth and preach, and to convert the world. But where should they commence? Naturally, at Jerusalem. The return to Jerusalem was then resolved upon by those who at that time had the direction of the sect. As these journeys were ordinarily made by caravan at the time of the feasts, we now suppose, with all manner of[Pg 44] likelihood, that the return in question took place at the Feast of Tabernacles at the close of the year 33, or the Paschal Feast of the year 34. Galilee was thus abandoned by Christianity, and abandoned forever. The little Church which remained there continued, no doubt, to exist; but we hear it no more spoken of. It was probably broken up, like all the rest, by the frightful disaster which then overtook the country during the war of Vespasian; the wreck of the dispersed community sought refuge beyond Jordan. After the war it was not Christianity which was brought back into Galilee; it was Judaism.

Galilee thus counted but an hour in the history of Christianity; but it was the sacred hour, par excellence; it gave to the new religion that which has made it endure—its poetry, its penetrating charms. "The Gospel," after the manner of the synoptics, was a Galilean work. But "the Gospel" thus extended has been the principal cause of the success of Christianity, and continues to be the surest guarantee of its future. It is probable that a fraction of the little school which surrounded Jesus in his last days remained at Jerusalem.

It is about this period that we can place the vision of James, mentioned by St. Paul. James was the brother, or at least a relation, of Jesus. We do not find that he had accompanied Jesus on his last sojourn to Jerusalem. He probably went there with the apostles, when the latter quitted Galilee.

It is very remarkable that the family of Jesus, some of whose members during his life had been incredulous and hostile to his mission, constituted now a part of the Church, and held in it a very exalted position. One is led to suppose that the reconciliation took place during the sojourn of the apostles in Galilee. The celebrity which had attached itself to the name of their relative, those who believed in him, and were assured of having seen him after he had arisen, served to make an impression on their minds. From the time of the definite establishment of the apostles at Jerusalem, we find with them Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the brothers of Jesus. In what concerns Mary, it appears that John, thinking in this to obey a recommendation of the Master, had adopted and taken her to his own home. He perhaps took her back to Jerusalem. This woman, whose personal history and character have remained[Pg 45] veiled in obscurity, assumed hence great importance. The words that the evangelist put into the mouth of some unknown woman, "Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked," began to be verified. It is probable that Mary survived her son a few years. As for the brothers of Jesus, their history is wrapped in obscurity. Jesus had several brothers and sisters. It seemed probable, however, that in the class of persons which were called "Brothers of the Lord" there were included relations in the second degree. The question is only of moment so far as it concerns James, whom we see playing a great part in the first thirty years of Christianity.

The apostles henceforth separated no more, except to make temporary journeys. Jerusalem became their head-quarters; they seemed to be afraid to disperse, while certain acts served to reveal in them the prepossession of being opposed to return again into Galilee, which latter had dissolved its little society. An express order of Jesus is supposed to have interdicted their quitting Jerusalem, before, at least, the great manifestations which were to take place. People's thoughts were turned with great force toward a promise which it was supposed Jesus had made. During his lifetime Jesus, it was said, had often spoken of the Holy Spirit, which was understood to mean a personification of divine wisdom. He had promised his disciples that the Spirit would nerve them in the combats that they would have to engage in, would be their inspirer in difficulties, and their advocate if they had to speak in public. Sometimes it was supposed that Jesus suddenly presented himself in the midst of his disciples assembled, and breathed on them out of his own mouth a current of vivifying air. At other times the disappearance of Jesus was regarded as a premonition of the coming of the Spirit. Many people established an intimate connection between this descent and the restoration of the kingdom of Israel.

The affection that the disciples had the one for the other, while Jesus was alive, was thus enhanced tenfold after his death. They formed a very small and very retired society, and lived exclusively by themselves. At Jerusalem they numbered about one hundred and twenty. Their piety was active, and,[Pg 46] as yet, completely restrained by the forms of Jewish piety. The Temple was then the chief place of devotion. They worked, no doubt, for a living; but at that time manual labor in Jewish society engaged very few. Everyone had a trade, but that trade by no means hindered a man from being educated and well-bred.

The dominant idea in the Christian community, at the moment at which we are now arrived, was the coming of the Holy Spirit. People were believed to receive it in the form of a mysterious breath, which passed over the assembly. Every inward consolation, every bold movement, every flush of enthusiasm, every feeling of lively and pleasant gayety, which was experienced without knowing whence it came, was the work of the Spirit. These simple consciences referred, as usual, to some exterior cause the exquisite sentiments which were being created in them. When all were assembled, and when they awaited in silence inspiration from on high, a murmur, any noise whatever, was believed to be the coming of the Spirit. In the early times, it was the apparitions of Jesus which were produced in this manner. Now the turn of ideas had changed. It was the divine breath which passed over the little Church, and filled it with a celestial effluvium. These beliefs were strengthened by notions drawn from the Old Testament. The prophetic spirit is represented in the Hebrew books as a breathing which penetrates man and inspires him. In the beautiful vision of Elijah, God passes by in the form of a gentle wind, which produces a slight rustling noise.

Among all these "descents of the Spirit," which appear to have been frequent enough, there was one which left a profound impression on the nascent Church. One day, when the brethren were assembled, a thunder-storm burst forth. A violent wind threw open the windows: the heavens were on fire. Thunder-storms, in these countries, are accompanied by prodigious sheets of lightning; the atmosphere is, as it were, everywhere furrowed with ridges of flame. Whether the electric fluid had penetrated the room itself or whether a dazzling flash of lightning had suddenly illuminated the faces of all, everyone was convinced that the Spirit had entered, and that it had alighted on the head of each in the form of tongues of fire.[Pg 47] The idea that the Spirit had alighted on them in the form of jets of flame, resembling tongues of fire, gave rise to a series of singular ideas, which took a foremost place in the thought of the period.

The tongues of fire appeared a striking symbol. People were convinced that God desired to signify in this manner that he poured out upon the apostles his most precious gifts of eloquence and of inspiration. But they did not stop there. Jerusalem was, like the majority of the large cities of the East, a city in which many languages were spoken. The diversity of tongues was one of the difficulties which one found there in the way of propagating a universal form of faith. One of the things, moreover, which alarmed the apostles, at the commencement of a ministry destined to embrace the world, was the number of languages which were spoken there: they were asking themselves incessantly how they could learn so many tongues. "The gift of tongues" became thus a marvellous privilege. It was believed that the preaching of the Gospel would clear away the obstacle which was created by the diversity of idioms. There was in this a liberal idea; they meant to imply that the Gospel should have no language of its own; that it should be translatable into every tongue; and that the translation should be of the same value as the original.

The custom of living together, holding the same faith, and indulging the same expectation, necessarily produced many common habits. All lived in common, having but one heart and one mind. No one possessed anything which was his own. On becoming a disciple of Jesus, one sold one's goods and made a gift of the proceeds to the society. The chiefs of the society then distributed the common possessions to each, according to his needs. They lived in the same quarter. They took their meals together, and continued to attach to them the mystic sense that Jesus had prescribed. They passed long hours in prayers. Their prayers were sometimes improvised aloud, but more often meditated in silence. The concord was perfect; no dogmatic quarrels, no disputes in regard to precedence. The tender recollection of Jesus effaced all dissensions. Joy, lively and deep-seated, was in every heart. Their morals were austere, but pervaded by a soft and tender sentiment.[Pg 48] They assembled in houses to pray and to devote themselves to ecstatic exercises. The recollection of these two or three first years remained and seemed to them like a terrestrial paradise, which Christianity will pursue henceforth in all its dreams and to which it will vainly endeavor to return. Such an organization could only be applicable to a very small church.

The apostles chosen by Jesus, and who were supposed to have received from him a special mandate to announce to the world the kingdom of God, had, in the little community, an incontestable superiority. One of the first cares, as soon as they saw the sect settle quietly down at Jerusalem, was to fill the vacancy that Judas of Kerioth had left in its ranks. The opinion that the latter had betrayed his master, and had been the cause of his death, became more and more general. The legend was mixed up with him, and every day one heard of some new circumstance which enhanced the black-heartedness of his deed. In order to replace him, it was resolved to have recourse to a vote of some sort. The sole condition was that the candidate should be chosen from the groups of the oldest disciples, who had been witnesses of the whole series of events, from the time of the baptism of John. This reduced considerably the number of those eligible. Two only were found in the ranks, Joseph Bar-Saba, who bore the name of Justus, and Matthias. The lot fell upon Matthias, who was accounted as one of the Twelve. But this was the sole instance of such a replacing.

The body of Twelve lived, generally, permanently at Jerusalem. Till about the year 60 the apostles did not leave the holy city except upon temporary missions. This explains the obscurity in which the majority of the members of the central council remained. Very few of them had a rôle. This council was a kind of sacred college or senate, destined only to represent tradition and a spirit of conservatism. It finished by being relieved of every active function, so that its members had nothing to do but to preach and pray; but as yet the brilliant feats of preaching had not fallen to their lot. Their names were hardly known outside Jerusalem, and about the year 70 or 80 the lists which were given of these chosen Twelve agreed only in the principal names.[Pg 49]

The "Brothers of the Lord" appear often by the side of the "apostles," although they were distinct from them. Their authority, however, was equal to that of the apostles. Here two groups constituted, in the nascent Church, a sort of aristocracy founded solely on the more or less intimate relations that their members had had with the Master. These were the men whom Paul denominated "the pillars" of the Church at Jerusalem. For the rest, we see that no distinctions in the ecclesiastical hierarchy yet existed. The title was nothing; the personal authority was everything. The principle of ecclesiastical celibacy was already established, but it required time to bring all these germs to their complete development. Peter and Philip were married and had sons and daughters.

The term used to designate the assembly of the faithful was the Hebrew Kahal, which was rendered by the essentially democratic word Ecclesia, which is the convocation of the people in the ancient Grecian cities, the summons to the Pnyx or the Agora. Commencing with the second or the third century before Jesus Christ, the words of the Athenian democracy became a sort of common law in Hellenic language; many of these terms, on account of their having been used in the Greek confraternities, entered into the Christian vocabulary. It was, in reality, the popular life, which, restrained for centuries, resumed its power under forms altogether different. The primitive Church was, in its way, a little democracy.

The power which was ascribed to the Church assembled and to its chiefs was enormous. The Church conferred every mission, and was guided solely in its choice by the signs given by the Spirit. Its authority went as far as decreeing death. It is recorded that at the voice of Peter several delinquents had fallen back and expired immediately. St. Paul, a little later, was not afraid, in excommunicating a fornicator, "to deliver him to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." Excommunication was held to be equivalent to a sentence of death. The apostles were believed to be invested with supernatural powers. In pronouncing such condemnations, they thought that their anathemas could not fail but be effectual. The terrible impression which their excommunications produced, and[Pg 50] the hatred manifested by the brethren against all the members thus cut off, were sufficient, in fact, in many cases, to bring about death, or at least to compel the culprit to expatriate himself. Accounts like those of the death of Ananias and Sapphira did not excite any scruple. The idea of the civil power was so foreign to all that world placed without the pale of the Roman law, people were so persuaded that the Church was a complete society, sufficient in itself, that no person saw, in a miracle leading to death or the mutilation of an individual, an outrage punishable by the civil law. Enthusiasm and faith covered all, excused everything. But the frightful danger which these theocratic maxims laid up in store for the future is readily perceived. The Church is armed with a sword; excommunication is a sentence of death. There was henceforth in the world a power outside that of the State, which disposed of the life of citizens.

Peter had among the apostles a certain precedence, derived directly from his zeal and his activity. In these first years he was hardly ever separate from John, son of Zebedee. They went almost always together, and their amity was doubtless the corner-stone of the new faith. James, the brother of the Lord, almost equalled them in authority, at least among a fraction of the Church.

It is needless to remark that this little group of simple people had no speculative theology. Jesus wisely kept himself far removed from all metaphysics. He had only one dogma, his own divine Sonship and the divinity of his mission. The whole symbol of the primitive Church might be embraced in one line: "Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God." This belief rested upon a peremptory argument—the fact of the resurrection, of which the disciples claimed to be witnesses. To attest the resurrection of Jesus was the task which all considered as being specially imposed upon them. It was, however, very soon put forth that the Master had predicted this event. Different sayings of his were recalled, which were represented as having not been well understood, and in which was seen, on second thoughts, an announcement of the Resurrection. The belief in the near glorious manifestation of Jesus was universal. The secret word which the brethren used among themselves, in[Pg 51] order to be recognized and confirmed, was maran-atha, "the Lord is at hand."

Jesus, with his exquisite tact in religious matters, had instituted no new ritual. The new sect had not yet any special ceremonies. The practices of piety were Jewish. The assemblies had, in a strict sense, nothing liturgic. They were the meetings of confraternities, at which prayers were offered up, devoted themselves to glossolaly or prophecy, and the reading of correspondence. There was nothing yet of sacerdotalism. There was no priest (cohen); the presbyter was the "elder," nothing more. The only priest was Jesus: in another sense, all the faithful were priests. Fasting was considered a very meritorious practice. Baptism was the token of admission to the sect. The rite was the same as administered by John, but it was administered in the name of Jesus. Baptism was, however, considered an insufficient initiation. It had to be followed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which were effected by means of a prayer, offered up by the apostles, upon the head of the new convert, accompanied by the imposition of hands.

This imposition of hands, already so familiar to Jesus, was the sacramental act par excellence. It conferred inspiration, universal illumination, the power to produce prodigies, prophesying, and the speaking of languages. It was what was called the Baptism of the Spirit. It was supposed to recall a saying of Jesus: "John baptized you with water; but as for you, you shall be baptized by the Spirit." Gradually all these ideas became amalgamated, and baptism was conferred "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." But it is not probable that this formula, in the early days in which we now are, was yet employed. We see the simplicity of this primitive Christian worship. Neither Jesus nor the apostles had invented it. Certain Jewish sects had adopted, before them, these grave and solemn ceremonies, which appeared to have come in part from Chaldæa, where they are still practised with special liturgies by the Sabeans or Mendaites. The religion of Persia embraced also many rites of the same description.

The beliefs in popular medicine, which constituted a part of the force of Jesus, were continued in his disciples. The[Pg 52] power of healing was one of the marvellous gifts conferred by the Spirit. The first Christians, like almost all the Jews of the time, looked upon diseases as the punishment of a transgression, or the work of a malignant demon. The apostles passed, just as Jesus did, for powerful exorcists. People imagined that the anointings of oil administered by the apostles, with imposition of hands and invocation of the name of Jesus, were all-powerful to wash away the sins which were the cause of disease, and to heal the afflicted one. Oil has always been in the East the medicine par excellence. For the rest, the simple imposition of the hands of the apostles was reputed to have the same effect. This imposition was made by immediate contact. Nor is it impossible that, in certain cases, the heat of the hands, being communicated suddenly to the head, insured to the sick person a little relief.

The sect being young and not numerous, the question of deaths was not taken into account until later on. The effect caused by the first demises which took place in the ranks of the brethren was strange. People were troubled by the manner of the deaths. It was asked whether they were less favored than those who were reserved to see with their eyes the advent of the Son of Man? They came generally to consider the interval between death and the resurrection as a kind of blank in the consciousness of the defunct. At the time of which we speak, belief in the resurrection almost alone prevailed. The funeral rite was undoubtedly the Jewish rite. No importance was attached to it; no inscription indicated the name of the dead. The great resurrection was near; the bodies of the faithful had only to make in the rock a very short sojourn. It did not require much persuasion to put people in accord on the question as to whether the resurrection was to be universal, that is to say, whether it would embrace the good and the bad, or whether it would apply to the elect only. One of the most remarkable phenomena of the new religion was the reappearance of prophecy. For a long time people had spoken but little of prophets in Israel. That particular species of inspiration seemed to revive in the little sect. The primitive Church had several prophets and prophetesses analogous to those of the Old Testament. The psalmists also reappeared. The model[Pg 53] of our Christian psalms is without doubt given in the canticles which Luke loved to disseminate in his gospel, and which were copied from the canticles of the Old Testament. These psalms and prophecies are, as regards form, destitute of originality, but an admirable spirit of gentleness and of piety animates and pervades them. It is like a faint echo of the last productions of the sacred lyre of Israel. The Book of Psalms was in a measure the calyx from which the Christian bee sucked its first juice. The Pentateuch, on the contrary, was, as it would seem, little read and little studied; there was substituted for it allegories after the manner of the Jewish midraschim in which all the historic sense of the books was suppressed.

The music which was sung to the new hymns was probably that species of sobbing, without distinct notes, which is still the music of the Greek Church, of the Maronites, and in general of the Christians of the East. It is less a musical modulation than a manner of forcing the voice and of emitting by the nose a sort of moaning in which all the inflections follow each other with rapidity. That odd melopœia was executed standing, with the eyes fixed, the eyebrows crumpled, the brow knit, and with an appearance of effort. The word amen, in particular, was given out in a quivering, trembling voice. That word played a great part in the liturgy. In imitation of the Jews, the new adherents employed it to mark the assent of the multitude to the words of the prophet or the precentor. People, perhaps, already attributed to it some secret virtues and pronounced it with a certain emphasis. We do not know whether that primitive ecclesiastical song was accompanied by instruments. As to the inward chant, by which the faithful "made melody in their hearts," and which was but the overflowing of those tender, ardent, pensive souls, it was doubtless executed like the catilenes of the Lollards of the Middle Ages, in medium voice. In general, it was joyousness which was poured out in these hymns.

Till now the Church of Jerusalem presents itself to the outside world as a little Galilean colony. The friends whom Jesus had made at Jerusalem and in its environs, such as Lazarus, Martha, Mary of Bethany, Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus, had disappeared from the scene. The Galilean group,[Pg 54] who pressed around the Twelve, alone remained compact and active. The proselytism of the faithful was chiefly carried on by means of struggling conversions, in which the fervor of their souls was communicated to their neighbors. Their preachings under the porticoes of Solomon were addressed to circles not at all numerous. But the effect of this was only the more profound. Their discourses consisted principally of quotations from the Old Testament, by which it was sought to prove that Jesus was the Messiah.

The real preaching was the private conversations of these good and sincere men; it was the reflection, always noticeable in their discourses, of the words of Jesus; it was, above all, their piety, their gentleness. The attraction of communistic life carried with it also a great deal of force. Their houses were a sort of hospitals, in which all the poor and the forsaken found asylum and succor.

One of the first to affiliate himself with the rising society was a Cypriote, named Joseph Hallevi, or the Levite. Like the others, he sold his land and carried the price of it to the feet of the Twelve. He was an intelligent man, with a devotion proof against everything, and a fluent speaker. The apostles attached him closely to themselves and called him Barnaba, that is to say, "the son of prophecy" or of "preaching." He was accounted, in fact, of the number of the prophets, that is to say, of the inspired preachers. Later on we shall see him play a capital part. Next to St. Paul, he was the most active missionary of the first century. A certain Mnason, his countryman, was converted about the same time. Cyprus possessed many Jews. Barnabas and Mnason were undoubtedly Jewish by race. The intimate and prolonged relations of Barnabas with the Church at Jerusalem induces the belief that Syro-Chaldaic was familiar to him.

A conquest, almost as important as that of Barnabas, was that of one John, who bore the Roman surname of Marcus. He was a cousin of Barnabas, and was circumcised. His mother, Mary, enjoyed an easy competency; she was likewise converted, and her dwelling was more than once made the rendezvous of the apostles. These two conversions appear to have been the work of Peter.[Pg 55]

The first flame was thus spread with great rapidity. The men, the most celebrated of the apostolic century, were almost all gained over to the cause in two or three years, by a sort of simultaneous attraction. It was a second Christian generation, similar to that which had been formed five or six years previously, upon the shores of Lake Tiberias. This second generation had not seen Jesus, and could not equal the first in authority. But it was destined to surpass it in activity and in its love for distant missions. One of the best known among the new converts was Stephen, who, before his conversion, appears to have been only a simple proselyte. He was a man full of ardor and of passion. His faith was of the most fervent, and he was considered to be favored with all the gifts of the Spirit. Philip, who, like Stephen, was a zealous deacon and evangelist, attached himself to the community about the same time. He was often confounded with his namesake, the apostle. Finally, there were converted at this epoch, Andronicus and Junia, probably husband and wife, who, like Aquila and Priscilla, later on, were the model of an apostolic couple, devoted to all the duties of missionary work. They were of the blood of Israel, and were in the closest relations with the apostles.

The new converts, when touched by grace, were all Jews by religion, but they belonged to two very different classes of Jews. The one class was the Hebrews; that is to say, the Jews of Palestine, speaking Hebrew or rather Armenian, reading the Bible in the Hebrew text; the other class was "Hellenists," that is to say, Jews speaking Greek, and reading the Bible in Greek. These last were further subdivided into two classes, the one being of Jewish blood, the other being proselytes, that is to say, people of non-Israelitish origin, allied in divers degrees to Judaism. These Hellenists, who almost all came from Syria, Asia Minor, Egypt, or Cyrene, lived at Jerusalem in distinct quarters. They had their separate synagogues, and formed thus little communities apart. Jerusalem contained a great number of these special synagogues. It was in these that the words of Jesus found the soil prepared to receive it and to make it fructify.

The primitive nucleus of the Church at Jerusalem had been[Pg 56] composed wholly and exclusively of Hebrews; the Aramaic dialect, which was the language of Jesus, was alone known and employed there. But we see that from the second or third year after the death of Jesus, Greek was introduced into the little community, where it soon became dominant. In consequence of their daily relations with the new brethren, Peter, John, James, Jude, and in general the Galilean disciples acquired the Greek with much more facility than if they had already known something of it. The Palestinian dialect came to be abandoned from the day in which people dreamed of a widespread propaganda. A provincial patois, which was rarely written, and which was not spoken beyond Syria, was as little adapted as could be to such an object. Greek, on the contrary, was necessarily imposed on Christianity. It was at the time the universal language, at least for the eastern basin of the Mediterranean. It was, in particular, the language of the Jews who were dispersed over the Roman Empire.

The conversions to Christianity became soon much more numerous among the "Hellenists" than among the "Hebrews." The old Jews at Jerusalem were but little drawn toward a sect of provincials, moderately advanced in the single science that a Pharisee appreciated—the science of the law. The position of the little Church in regard to Judaism was, as with Jesus himself, rather equivocal. But every religious or political party carries in itself a force that dominates it, and obliges it, despite itself, to revolve in its own orbit. The first Christians, whatever their apparent respect for Judaism was, were in reality only Jews by birth or by exterior customs. The true spirit of the sect came from another source. That which grew out of official Judaism was the Talmud; but Christianity has no affinity with the Talmudic school. This is why Christianity found special favor among the parties the least Jewish belonging to Judaism. The rigid orthodoxists took to it but little; it was the newcomers, people scarcely catechized, who had not been to any of the great schools, free from routine, and not initiated into the holy tongue, which lent an ear to the apostles and the disciples.

This family of simple and united brethren drew associates from every quarter. In return for that which these brought,[Pg 57] they obtained an assured future, the society of a congenial brotherhood, and precious hopes. The general custom, before entering the sect, was for each one to convert his fortune into specie. These fortunes ordinarily consisted of small rural, semi-barren properties, and difficult of cultivation. It had one advantage, especially for unmarried people: it enabled them to exchange these plots of land against funds sunk in an assurance society, with a view to the Kingdom of God. Even some married people came to the fore in that arrangement; and precautions were taken to insure that the associates brought all that they really possessed, and did not retain anything outside the common fund. Indeed, seeing that each one received out of the latter a share, not in proportion to what one put in, but in proportion to one's needs, every reservation of property was actually a theft made upon the community. The Christian communism had religion for a basis, while modern socialism has nothing of the kind.

Under such a social constitution, the administrative difficulties were necessarily very numerous, whatever might be the degree of fraternal feeling which prevailed. Between two factions of a community, whose language was not the same, misapprehensions were inevitable. It was difficult for well-descended Jews not to entertain some contempt for their coreligionists who were less noble. In fact, it was not long before murmurs began to be heard. The "Hellenists," who each day became more numerous, complained because their widows were not so well treated at the distributions as those of the "Hebrews." Till now, the apostles had presided over the affairs of the treasury. But in face of these protestations they felt the necessity of delegating to others this part of their powers. They proposed to the community to confide these administrative cares to seven experienced and considerate men. The proposition was accepted. The seven chosen were Stephanas, or Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas. Stephen was the most important of the seven, and, in a sense, their chief.

To the administrators thus designated were given the Syriac name of Schammaschin. They were also sometimes called "the Seven," to distinguish them from "the Twelve." Such,[Pg 58] then, was the origin of the diaconate, which is found to be the most ancient ecclesiastical function, the most ancient of sacred orders. Later, all the organized churches, in imitation of that of Jerusalem, had deacons. The growth of such an institution was marvellous. It placed the claims of the poor on an equality with religious services. It was a proclamation of the truth that social problems are the first which should occupy the attention of mankind. It was the foundation of political economy in the religious sense. The deacons were the first preachers of Christianity. As organizers, financiers, and administrators, they filled a yet more important part. These practical men, in constant contact with the poor, the sick, the women, went everywhere, observed everything, exhorted, and were most efficacious in converting people. They accomplished more than the apostles, who remained on their seats of honor at Jerusalem. They were the founders of Christianity, in respect of that which it possessed which was most solid and enduring.

At an early period women were admitted to this office. They were designated, as in our day, by the name of "sisters." At first widows were selected; later, virgins were preferred. The tact which guided the primitive Church in all this was admirable. The grand idea of consecrating by a sort of religious character and of subjecting to a regular discipline the women who were not in the bonds of marriage, is wholly Christian. The term "widow" became synonymous with religious person, consecrated to God, and, by consequence, a "deaconess." In those countries where the wife, at the age of twenty-four, is already faded, where there is no middle state between the infant and the old woman, it was a kind of new life, which was created for that portion of the human species the most capable of devotion. These women, constantly going to and fro, were admirable missionaries of the new religion.

The bishop and the priest, as we now know them, did not yet exist. Still, the pastoral ministry, that intimate familiarity of souls, not bound by ties of blood, had already been established. This latter has ever been the special gift of Jesus, and a kind of heritage from him. Jesus had often said that to everyone he was more than a father and a mother, and that in order to follow him it was necessary to forsake those the most[Pg 59] dear to us. Christianity placed some things above family; it instituted brotherhood and spiritual marriage. The ancient form of marriage, which placed the wife unreservedly in the power of the husband, was pure slavery. The moral liberty of the woman began when the Church gave to her in Jesus a guide and a confidant, who should advise and console her, listen always to her, and on occasion counsel resistance on her part. Woman needs to be governed, and is happy in so being; but it is necessary that she should love him who governs her. This is what neither ancient societies nor Judaism nor Islamism have been able to do. Woman has never had, up to the present time, a religious conscience, a moral individuality, an opinion of her own, except in Christianity.

It was now about the year 36. Tiberius, at Capreæ, has little idea of the enemy to the empire which is growing up. In two or three years the sect had made surprising progress. It numbered several thousand of the faithful. It was already easy to foresee that its conquests would be effected chiefly among the Hellenists and proselytes. The Galilean group which had listened to the Master, though preserving always its precedence, seemed as if swamped by the floods of newcomers speaking Greek. One could already perceive that the principal parts were to be played by the latter. At the time at which we are arrived no pagan, that is to say, no man without some anterior connection with Judaism, had entered into the Church. Proselytes, however, performed very important functions in it. The circle de provenance of the disciples had likewise largely extended; it is no longer a simple little college of Palestineans; we can count in it people from Cyprus, Antioch, and Cyrene, and from almost all the points of the eastern coasts of the Mediterranean, where Jewish colonies had been established. Egypt alone was wanting in the primitive Church, and for a long time continued to be so.

It was inevitable that the preachings of the new sect, although delivered with so much reserve, should revive the animosities which had accumulated against its Founder, and eventually brought about his death. The Sadducee family of Hanan, who had caused the death of Jesus, was still reigning. Joseph Caiaphas occupied, up to 36, the sovereign pontificate,[Pg 60] the effective power of which he gave over to his father-in-law Hanan, and to his relatives, John and Alexander. These arrogant and pitiless men viewed with impatience a troop of good and holy people, without official title, winning the favor of the multitude. Once or twice Peter, John, and the principal members of the apostolic college were put in prison and condemned to flagellation. This was the chastisement inflicted on heretics. The authorization of the Romans was not necessary in order to apply it. As we might indeed suppose, these brutalities only served to inflame the ardor of the apostles. They came forth from the Sanhedrim, where they had just undergone flagellation, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for Him whom they loved. Eternal puerility of penal repressions applied to things of the soul! They were regarded, no doubt, as men of order, as models of prudence and wisdom; these blunderers, who seriously believed in the year 36 to gain the upper hand of Christianity by means of a few strokes of a whip!

These outrages proceeded chiefly from the Sadducees, that is to say, from the upper clergy, who crowded the Temple and derived from it immense profits. We do not find that the Pharisees exhibited toward the sect the animosity they displayed to Jesus. The new believers were strict and pious people, somewhat resembling in their manner of life the Pharisees themselves. The rage which the latter manifested against the Founder arose from the superiority of Jesus—a superiority which he was at no pains to dissimulate. His delicate railleries, his wit, his charm, his contempt for hypocrites, had kindled a ferocious hatred. The apostles, on the contrary, were devoid of wit; they never employed irony. The Pharisees were at times favorable to them; many Pharisees had even become Christians. The terrible anathemas of Jesus against Pharisaism had not yet been written, and the accounts of the words of the Master were neither general nor uniform. These first Christians were, besides, people so inoffensive that many persons of the Jewish aristocracy, who did not exactly form part of the sect, were well disposed toward them. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who had known Jesus, remained no doubt with the Church in the bonds of brotherhood.[Pg 61]

The most celebrated Jewish doctor of the age, Rabbi Gamaliel the elder, grandson of Hillel, a man of broad and very tolerant ideas, spoke, it is said, in the Sanhedrim in favor of permitting gospel preaching. The author of the Acts credits him with some excellent reasoning, which ought to be the rule of conduct of governments on all occasions when they find themselves confronted with novelties of an intellectual or moral order. "If this work is frivolous," said he, "leave it alone—it will fall of itself; if it is serious, how dare you resist the work of God? In any case, you will not succeed in stopping it." Gamaliel's words were hardly listened to. Liberal minds in the midst of opposing fanaticisms have no chance of succeeding.

A terrible commotion was produced by the deacon Stephen. His preaching had, as it would appear, great success. Multitudes flocked around him, and these gatherings resulted in acrimonious quarrels. It was chiefly Hellenists, or proselytes, habitués of the synagogue, called Libertini, people of Cyrene, of Alexandria, of Cilicia, of Ephesus, who took an active part in these disputes. Stephen passionately maintained that Jesus was the Messiah, that the priests had committed a crime in putting him to death, that the Jews were rebels, sons of rebels, people who rejected evidence. The authorities resolved to despatch this audacious preacher. Several witnesses were suborned to seize upon some words in his discourses against Moses. Naturally they found that for which they sought. Stephen was arrested and led into the presence of the Sanhedrim. The sentence with which they reproached him was almost identical with the one which led to the condemnation of Jesus. They accused him of saying that Jesus of Nazareth would destroy the Temple and change the traditions attributed to Moses. It is quite possible, indeed, that Stephen had used such language. A Christian of that epoch could not have had the idea of speaking directly against the Law, inasmuch as all still observed it; as for traditions, however, Stephen might combat them as Jesus had himself done; nevertheless, these traditions were foolishly ascribed by the orthodox to Moses, and people attributed to them a value equal to that of the written Law.

Stephen defended himself by expounding the Christian[Pg 62] thesis, with a wealth of citations from the written Law, from the Psalms, from the Prophets, and wound up by reproaching the members of the Sanhedrim with the murder of Jesus. "Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart," said he to them, "you will then ever resist the Holy Ghost as your fathers also have done. Which of the prophets have not your fathers prosecuted? They have slain those who announced the coming of the Just One, whom you have betrayed, and of whom you have been the murderers. This law that you have received from the mouth of angels you have not kept." At these words a scream of rage interrupted him. Stephen, his excitement increasing more and more, fell into one of those transports of enthusiasm which were called the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. His eyes were fixed on high; he witnessed the glory of God, and Jesus by the side of his Father, and cried out, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of God." The whole assembly stopped their ears and threw themselves upon him, gnashing their teeth. He was dragged outside the city and stoned. The witnesses, who, according to the law, had to cast the first stones, divested themselves of their garments and laid them at the feet of a young fanatic named Saul, or Paul, who was thinking with secret joy of the renown he was acquiring in participating in the death of a blasphemer.

In that epoch the persecutors of Christianity were not Romans; they were orthodox Jews. The Romans preserved in the midst of this fanaticism a principle of tolerance and of reason. If we can reproach the imperial authority with anything it is with being too lenient, and with not having cut short with a stroke the civil consequences of a sanguinary law which visited with death religious derelictions. But as yet the Roman domination was not so complete as it became later.

As Stephen's death may have taken place at any time during the years 36, 37, 38, we cannot, therefore, affirm whether Caiaphas ought to be held responsible for it. Caiaphas was deposed by Lucius Vitellius, in the year 36, shortly after the time of Pilate; but the change was inconsiderable. He had for a successor his brother-in-law, Jonathan, son of Hanan. The latter, in turn, was succeeded by his brother Theophilus,[Pg 63] son of Hanan, who continued the pontificate in the house of Hanan till the year 42. Hanan was still alive, and, possessed of the real power, maintained in his family the principles of pride, severity, hatred against innovators, which were, so to speak, hereditary.

The death of Stephen produced a great impression. The proselytes solemnized his funeral with tears and groanings. The separation of the new sectaries from Judaism was not yet absolute. The proselytes and the Hellenists, less strict in regard to orthodoxy than the pure Jews, considered that they ought to render public homage to a man who respected their constitution, and whose peculiar beliefs did not put him without the pale of the law. Thus began the era of Christian martyrs.

The murder of Stephen was not an isolated event. Taking advantage of the weakness of the Roman functionaries, the Jews brought to bear upon the Church a real persecution. It seems that the vexations pressed chiefly on the Hellenists and the proselytes, whose free behavior exasperated the orthodox. The Church of Jerusalem, though already strongly organized, was compelled to disperse. The apostles, according to a principle which seems to have seized strong hold of their minds, did not quit the city. It was probably so, too, with the whole purely Jewish group, those who were denominated the "Hebrews." But the great community with its common table, its diaconal services, its varied exercises, ceased from that time, and was never reformed upon its first model. It had endured for three or four years. It was for nascent Christianity an unequalled good fortune that its first attempts at association, essentially communistic, were so soon broken up. Essays of this kind engender such shocking abuses that communistic establishments are condemned to crumble away in a very short time or to ignore very soon the principle upon which they are founded.

Thanks to the persecution of the year 37, the cenobitic Church of Jerusalem was saved from the test of time. It was nipped in the bud before interior difficulties had undermined it. It remained like a splendid dream, the memory of which animated in their life of trial all those who had formed part of[Pg 64] it, like an ideal to which Christianity incessantly aspires without ever succeeding in reaching its goal.

The leading part in the persecution we have just related belonged to that young Saul, whom we have above found abetting, as far as in him lay, the murder of Stephen. This hot-headed youth, furnished with a permission from the priests, entered houses suspected of harboring Christians, laid violent hold on men and women, and dragged them to prison or before the tribunals. Saul boasted that there was no one of his generation so zealous as himself for the traditions. True it is that often the gentleness and the resignation of his victims astonished him; he experienced a kind of remorse; he fancied he heard these pious women, whom, hoping for the Kingdom of God, he had cast into prison, saying during the night, in a sweet voice, "Why persecutest thou us?" The blood of Stephen, which had almost smothered him, sometimes troubled his vision. Many things that he had heard said of Jesus went to his heart. This superhuman being, in his ethereal life, whence he sometimes emerged, revealing himself in brief apparitions, haunted him like a spectre. But Saul shrunk with horror from such thoughts; he confirmed himself with a sort of frenzy in the faith of his traditions, and meditated new cruelties against those who attacked him. His name had become a terror to the faithful; they dreaded at his hands the most atrocious outrages and the most sanguinary treacheries.

The persecution of the year 37 had for its result, as is always the case, the spread of the doctrine which it was wished to arrest. Till now the Christian preaching had not extended far beyond Jerusalem; no mission had been undertaken; enclosed within its exalted but narrow communion, the mother Church had spread no halos around herself nor formed any branches. The dispersion of the little circle scattered the good seed to the four winds of heaven. The members of the Church of Jerusalem, driven violently from their quarters, spread themselves over every part of Judea and Samaria, and preached everywhere the Kingdom of God. The deacons, in particular, freed from their administrative functions by the destruction of the community, became excellent evangelists.

The scene of the first missions, which was soon to embrace[Pg 65] the whole basin of the Mediterranean, was the region about Jerusalem, within a radius of two or three days' journey. Philip the Deacon was the hero of this first holy expedition. He evangelized Samaria most successfully. Peter and John, after confirming the Church of Sebaste, departed again for Jerusalem, evangelizing on their way the villages of the country of Samaria. Philip the Deacon continued his evangelizing journeys, directing his steps toward the south, into the ancient country of the Philistines.

Azote and the Gaza route were the limits of the first evangelical preachings toward the south. Beyond were the desert and the nomadic life upon which Christianity has never taken much hold. From Azote Philip the Deacon turned toward the north and evangelized all the coast as far as Cæsarea, where he settled and founded an important church. Cæsarea was a new city and the most considerable of Judea. It was in a kind of way the port of Christianity, the point by which the Church of Jerusalem communicated with all the Mediterranean.

Many other missions, the history of which is unknown to us, were conducted simultaneously with that of Philip. The very rapidity with which this first preaching was done was the reason of its success. In the year 38, five years after the death of Jesus, and probably one year after the death of Stephen, all this side of Jordan had heard the glad tidings from the mouths of missionaries hailing from Jerusalem. Galilee, on its part, guarded the holy seed and probably scattered it around her, although we know of no missions issuing from that quarter. Perhaps the city of Damascus, from the period at which we now are, had also some Christians, who received the faith from Galilean preachers.

The year 38 is marked in the history of the nascent Church by a much more important conquest. During that year we may safely place the conversion of that Saul whom we witnessed participating in the stoning of Stephen, and as a principal agent in the persecution of 37, but who now, by a mysterious act of grace, becomes the most ardent of the disciples of Jesus.

From the year 38 to the year 44 no persecution seems to have been directed against the Church. The faithful were, no doubt, far more prudent than before the death of Stephen, and[Pg 66] avoided speaking in public. Perhaps, too, the troubles of the Jews who, during all the second part of the reign of Caligula, were at variance with that prince, contributed to favor the nascent sect.

This period of peace was fruitful in interior developments. The nascent Church was divided into three provinces, Judea, Samaria, Galilee, to which Damascus was no doubt attached. The primacy of Jerusalem was uncontested. The Church of this city, which had been dispersed after the death of Stephen, was quickly reconstituted. The apostles had never quitted the city. The brothers of the Lord continued to reside there and to wield a great authority.

Peter undertook frequent apostolical journeys in the environs of Jerusalem. He had always a great reputation as a thaumaturgist. At Lydda in particular he was reputed to have cured a paralytic named Æneas, a miracle which is said to have led to numerous conversions in the plain of Saron. From Lydda he repaired to Joppa, a city which appears to have been a centre for Christianity. Peter made a long sojourn at Joppa, at the house of a tanner named Simon, who dwelt near the sea. The organization of works of charity was soon actively entered upon.

The germ of those associations of women, which are one of the glories of Christianity, existed in the first churches of Judea. At Jaffa commenced those societies of veiled women, clothed in linen, who were destined to continue through centuries the tradition of charitable secrets. Tabitha was the mother of a family which will have no end as long as there are miseries to be relieved and feminine instincts to be gratified.

The Church of Jerusalem was still exclusively composed of Jews and of proselytes. The Holy Ghost being shed upon the uncircumcised before baptism, appeared an extraordinary fact. It is probable that there existed thenceforward a party opposed in principle to the admission of Gentiles, and that all did not accept the explanations of Peter. The author of the Acts would have us believe that the approbation was unanimous. But in a few years we shall see the question revived with much greater intensity. This matter of the good centurion was, perhaps, like that of the Ethiopian eunuch, accepted as an exceptional[Pg 67] case, justified by a revelation and an express order from God. Still the matter was far from being settled. This was the first controversy which had taken place in the bosom of the Church; the paradise of interior peace had lasted for six or seven years.

About the year 40 the great question upon which depended all the future of Christianity appears thus to have been propounded. Peter and Philip took a very just view of what was the true solution, and baptized pagans.

The new faith was spread from place to place with marvellous rapidity. The members of the Church of Jerusalem, who had been dispersed immediately after the death of Stephen, pushing their conquests along the coast of Phœnicia, reached Cyprus and Antioch. They were at first guided by the sole principle of preaching the Gospel to the Jews only.

Antioch, "the metropolis of the East," the third city of the world, was the centre of this Christian movement in Northern Syria. It was a city with a population of more than five hundred thousand souls, and the residence of the imperial legate of Syria. Suddenly advanced to a high degree of splendor by the Seleucidæ, it reaped great benefit from the Roman occupation. Antioch, from its foundation, had been wholly a Grecian city. The Macedonians of Antigone and Seleucus had brought with them into that country of the Lower Orontes their most lively recollections, their worship, and the names of their country. The Grecian mythology was there adopted as it were in a second home; they pretended to show in the country a crowd of "holy places" forming part of this mythology. The city was full of the worship of Apollo and of the nymphs. The degradation of the people was awful. The peculiarity of these centres of moral putrefaction is to reduce all the race of mankind to the same level. The depravity of certain Levantine cities, which are dominated by the spirit of intrigue and delivered up entirely to low cunning, can scarcely give us an idea of the degree of corruption reached by the human race at Antioch. It was an inconceivable medley of mountebanks, quacks, buffoons, magicians, miracle-mongers, sorcerers, false priests; a city of races, games, dances, processions, fêtes, revels, of unbridled luxury, of all the follies of the East, of the most unhealthy[Pg 68] superstitions, and of the fanaticism of the orgy. The city was very literary, but literary only in the literature of rhetoricians. The beauty of works of art and the infinite charm of nature prevented this moral degradation from sinking entirely into hideousness and vulgarity.

The Church of Antioch owed its foundation to some believers originally from Cyprus and Cyrene, who had already been much engaged in preaching. Up to this time they had only addressed themselves to the Jews. But in a city where pure Jews—Jews who were proselytes, "people fearing God"—or half-Jewish pagans and pure pagans, lived together, exclusive preaching restricted to a group of houses became impossible. That feeling of religious aristocracy on which the Jews of Jerusalem so much prided themselves did not exist in those large cities, where civilization was altogether of the profane sort, where the scope was greater, and where prejudices were less firmly rooted. The Cypriot and Cyrenian missionaries were then constrained to depart from their rule. They preached to the Jews and to the Greeks indifferently.

The success of the Christian preaching was great. A young, innovating, and ardent Church, full of the future, because it was composed of the most diverse elements, was quickly founded. All the gifts of the Holy Spirit were there poured out, and it was easy to perceive that this new Church, emancipated from the strict Mosaism which erected an insuperable barrier around Jerusalem, would become the second cradle of Christianity. Assuredly, Jerusalem must remain forever the capital of the Christian world; nevertheless, the point of departure of the Church of the Gentiles, the primordial focus of Christian missions, was, in truth, Antioch. It was there that for the first time a Christian church was established, freed from the bonds of Judaism; it was there that the great propaganda of the apostolic age was established; it was there that St. Paul assumed a definite character. Antioch marks the second halting-place of the progress of Christianity, and, in respect of Christian nobility, neither Rome nor Alexandria nor Constantinople can be at all compared with it.

The foundation of Christianity, from this point of view, is the greatest work that the men of the people have ever achieved.[Pg 69] Very quickly, without doubt, men and women of the high Roman nobility joined themselves to the Church. At the end of the first century, Flavius Clemens and Flavia Domitilla show us Christianity penetrating almost into the palace of the Cæsars.


In the rabbinical literature several successes of the apostles are noticed, especially at Capernaum and Capersamia. One of them is most remarkable, viz., the conversion of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcan by the apostle James. This rabbi, the Talmud narrates, was actually arrested by Roman officers, and, in obedience to the edict against Christianity, was accused of the crime of being a Christian, which he did not deny, although he repented it.

The most important success, however, which the apostles could boast was the conversion of Paul. The man whose colossal genius and gigantic energies grasped the pillars upon which the superstructure of Græco-Roman paganism rested, bent and broke them like rotten staves, till with a thundering noise down came the ancient fabric, with its gods, altars, temples, priests, and priestesses, depositing débris that took centuries to remove and remodel; the man whose hands were against all, and against whom were all hands; who defied the philosophy of the philosophers, the power of the priests, and the religions of the world; who was all alone all in all—this man was Paul of Tarsus, the great apostle to the Gentiles, with an original gospel of his own. He kindled a fire in the very heart of the Roman Empire, under the eyes of the authorities of Rome and of Jerusalem, which in a few centuries consumed ancient heathenism from the Tigris to the Tiber, and from the Tiber to the Thames. With a skilful hand he threw the sparks upon the accumulated combustibles of error, corruption, and slavery, and ancient society exploded, to make room and furnish the material for a new civilization. The conversion of this man was the apostles' great success. If it had not been for him the nascent Church, like other Jewish sects, would have perished in the catastrophe of Jerusalem, because the apostles did not possess that vigor and energy to resist the violent shock. In Paul,[Pg 70] however, the spirit of John and of Jesus resurrected with double vigor, and he became the actual founder of the Christianity of history.

Few and far apart are the brilliant stars in the horizon of history. Strike out a hundred names and their influence upon the fate of man, and you have no history.

Those brilliant stars, however, did not always make history from their own wealth, from the original resources of their minds. Ideas which tens of thousands have held, without an attempt to carry them into effect, and others have unsuccessfully attempted to realize, in the right time and under favorable circumstances are seized upon by an executive genius, and a new epoch in history is opened. The numerous minor spirits which contributed to the sum total of the creative idea disappear in the brilliancy of the one star which remains visible in history. The world is a machine shop. Each artificer makes the part of a machine. One master mind combines the parts, and he is known as the master machinist.

Paul was one of those master machinists, one of those brilliant stars in the horizon of history. In him the spirit of Jesus resurrected as eminently and vigorously as John had resurrected in Jesus. He was the author of Gentile Christianity. He conceived the idea of carrying into effect what all the prophets, all pious Israelites of all ages, hoped and expected—the denationalization of the Hebrew ideas, and their promulgation in the form of universal religion among the Gentiles; to conciliate and unite the human family under the great banner inscribed with the motto of "One God and one code of morals to all." All Jews of all ages hoped and expected that the kingdom of heaven should be extended to all nations and tongues; but Paul went forth to do it; this is his particular greatness.

The circumstances, of course, favored his enterprise. Græco-Roman paganism was undermined. The gods stood in disrepute, and the augurs smiled. The state religion was an organized hypocrisy. The learned believed nothing; the vulgar almost everything, if it was but preposterously absurd enough. The progress of Grecian philosophy and the inroads of Judaism in the Roman world were so considerable that royal families had embraced Judaism, and the emperor Tiberius had[Pg 71] found it necessary to drive the Jews, together with the Egyptian priests, from Rome, because their religion had its admirers in the very palace of the Cæsars, as well as among priests, nobles, and plebeians. All the devout Gentiles whom Paul met on his journeys were Judaized Greeks or Syrians; for the Pharisees traversed land and sea to make one proselyte. Therefore, when Paul preached in Asia Minor, Cicero and Cato had spoken in Rome; Seneca and Epictetus gave utterance to sentiments as nearly like those of Paul and other Jews as are the two eyes of the same head.

Again, on the other hand, Epicurism in its worst sequences, sensualism in its most outrageous form, the despotism and brutality of the Cæsars and their favorites, had so undermined the moral sentiments and religious feelings of the masses that scepticism, fraught with shocking vices and unnatural crimes, coupled with contemptible hypocrisy and ridiculous superstition, demoralized the masses and brought truth itself into ill-repute. To add to all this there came the steady decline of the Jewish state, the growing demonstration of fast-approaching ruin, and, in consequence thereof, the growth of superstition among the Hebrews, among whom a class of mystics sprang up, who professed to know what God and his angels do, speak, and think in the secret cabinet of heaven, where the throne of the Almighty stands, splendidly and minutely described by those mystics who supposed that they received superior knowledge by special impressions from on high, without study or research on their part; and expected to see the status of social and political affairs suddenly changed by miraculous interpositions of the Deity, without human exertion and coöperation. This state of affairs was highly favorable to Paul's stupendous enterprise.

But who was Paul himself? Notwithstanding all the attempts of the author of the Acts to mystify him into as mythical a character as the Gospels made of Jesus, Paul is an open book in history. We have his genuine epistles, in which he gives considerable account of himself and his exploits. We have one portion of the Acts in which, contrary to the rest of that book, the author narrates in the first person plural, "we," which appears to be taken from the notes of one of Paul's companions—Luke,[Pg 72] Timothy, Silas, or any other. Then we have the Talmud, with its numerous anecdotes about Acher, as the rabbis called Paul, which are of inestimable value to the historian. These sources enable us to form a conception of the man. A few remarks on his life will be found interesting.

Paul is not a proper name. It signifies "the little one." The author of the Acts states that his name was Saul. But, it appears, he knew no more about it than we do, and changed the P of Paul into an S, to make of it the Hebrew name Saul. In his epistles he invariably calls himself Paul, and not Saul. So the author of the "we" portion of the Acts always calls him Paul. Passing under an assumed name, the rabbis called him Acher, "another," i.e., one who passes under another or assumed name. They maintain that his name was Elisha ben Abujah. But this name must be fictitious, because it is a direct and express reference to Paul's theology. It signifies "the saving deity, son of the father god," and Paul was the author of the "Son of God" doctrine. The fact is, he was known to the world under his assumed name only.

Nothing is known of his youth, except a few spurious anecdotes recorded in the Talmud. When quite young he studied the law and some Grecian literature at the feet of Gamaliel in Jerusalem, among the thousand students who listened to the wisdom of that master. He states that he was a very zealous Pharisee, who persecuted the Christians. But all of a sudden he embraced the cause of the persecuted, and became one of its most zealous apostles. We can easily imagine the nature of that persecution, although the Stephen story, like the Damascus story and the vision on the way, as narrated in the Acts, is spurious, because Paul never alludes to it, and the Jews of Jerusalem had no jurisdiction in Damascus over anybody. But what caused his remarkable transition from one extreme to the other? First a Pharisee, with law and nothing but law, and then the author of the epistles, which reject and abrogate the entire law. Transitions of this nature require time, and are wrought by violent agencies only.

A number of stories narrated in the Talmud, together with those of the Acts, point to the fact that the youthful Paul, with his vivid imagination, witnessed many an act of barbarous violence[Pg 73] and outrageous injustice. Occurrences of this nature were not rare under the military despotism of Rome in Judea. The soil was saturated with innocent blood. The world was governed by the sword, and Rome groaned under the unnatural crimes of her Cæsars. There was universal depravity among the governing class, and endless misery among the governed. The rabbis give us to understand that this state of affairs misled Paul into the belief that there was no justice in heaven or earth, no hope for Israel, no reward and no punishment, that the balance of justice was destroyed. It is quite natural that under such circumstances such a scepticism should overpower young and sensitive reasoners.

King Saul, in a state of despair, receiving no reply from the prophets, none from the Urim and Thumim, deeply fallen as he was, went in disguise to the Witch of Endor. Goethe's Faust, in imitation thereof, receiving no answer to his questions addressed to heaven and eternity, no answer through his knowledge of nature's laws and nature's forces, no answer from the philosophy of his century and the theology of his priests, throws himself into the embrace of Mephistopheles. That is human nature. Exactly the same thing was done in the days of Paul, and exactly the same thing he himself did. There was the indescribable misery of the age, and there were the knowledge and theories of that overburdened century, and no answer, no reply to the questions addressed to heaven and eternity; and they went to the fountains of mysticism and secret knowledge to quench the thirst of the soul. There sprung up the visionary Gnostics among the Gentiles, and the Cabalistic Mystics among the Jews. History notices the same rotation continually—idealism, sensualism, scepticism, and finally mysticism.

The mystic art among the Hebrews then was of two different kinds, either to attract an evil spirit or to be transported alive into paradise or heaven. An evil spirit was attracted by fasting and remaining for days and nights alone in burial-grounds, till the brain was maddened and infatuated, when the artificial demoniac prophesied and performed sundry miracles. The transportation to heaven or paradise was more difficult. The candidate for a tour into heaven would retire to some[Pg 74] isolated spot, fast until the brain was maddened with delirium and the nerves excited to second sight by the loss of sleep. Then, in that state of trance, he would sit down on the ground, draw up his knees, bend down his head between them, and murmur magic spells, until, through the reversed circulation of the blood, the maddened brain, and the unstrung nerves, he would imagine that he saw the heaven opening to his inspection, palace after palace thrown widely open to his gaze, hosts of angels passing within view, until finally he imagined himself entirely removed from the earth, transported aloft into those diamond palaces on high, or, as Paul calls it, "caught up into paradise," where he heard "unspeakable words, which it is not possible for a man to utter," and the throne of God, with all the seraphim and cherubim, archangels and angels, became visible and their conversation intelligible to the enraptured and transported mystic, in a fit of hallucination, when the bewildered imagination sees objectively its own subjective phantasma, and hears from without, in supposed articulate sounds, its own silent thoughts. It requires no great stretch of the imagination to form a correct idea of the mystic eccentricities to which this awful practice must have led those who frequently indulged in it. Rabbinical mystics, like modern trance-speakers, gave vivid descriptions of the interior splendor and grand sceneries of heaven and of the conversations of angels. One of those descriptions is preserved in Pirke Rabbi Eliezer, and others in various fragments of the Talmud.

Among those particularly noticed in the Talmud as having been in heaven or paradise there is also Acher, or Paul, who states so himself in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians (xii.). That passage gave rise to the story of Jesus appearing in person to Paul, just as the rabbinical mystics claimed to have had frequent intercourse with the prophet Elijah, who had been transported alive to heaven.

So Paul passed the transition from the law school of the Pharisees to the new school of mystics. In this state of trance he discovered that central figure of the Cabalistic speculation, the Metathron, the co-regent of the Almighty; or, as he otherwise was called, the Synadelphos, the confrère of the Deity, or Suriel, the "Prince of the Countenance," whom the Cabalists[Pg 75] imagined to be the chief marshal or chief scribe in heaven; who was once on earth, as Enoch or as Elijah, and was advanced to that high position in heaven.

It is the Demiurge, the highest magistrate in heaven, whom the gnostic Valentine calls a godlike angel, and of whom the rabbis said, "His name is like unto the name of his Master."

This central figure, blended with the messianic speculations of that age, with the doctrines of Peter and the nascent Church, combined in Paul's mind to one mystic conception of the "Son of God," intelligible to pagan ears. So he went forth and proclaimed Jesus of Nazareth the Son of God. In substance, the expression is about the same as Metathron and Synadelphos, and the office which Paul ascribed to Jesus is precisely of the same nature with that which the Cabalists ascribed to the angel who was the Saar Haolom, the prince or ruler of this world, who stands before God, or also sits before him, as Paul's Jesus stands before God or sits at his right hand. It is precisely the same in both systems, the names only are changed; so that it is difficult to decide whether Paul was or the rabbis were the authors of the metathronic speculations, especially as these two angels only have Greek names, while all others are Hebrew or Chaldæan, and later Cabalists frequently put down Joshua or Jesus in the place of Metathron.

Those who believe that Acher's dualism of the Deity was the Persian Ormuzd and Ahriman, hence a good and an evil principle, and that Metathron never was an evil demon, are as decidedly mistaken as those who believe that Paul had more than one God. Paul's Son of God and Acher's Metathron are the same central figure before the throne of God, and the two authors are identical.

In that world of secret thoughts Paul discovered the harmonization of discordant speculations and the remedy for all existing evils. "The world must be regenerated by a new religion," was his great ideal. The ancient religions and the philosophies have produced the corruption which rages universally. They must be swept away. Society must be reconstructed on a new basis, and this basis is in the theology and ethics of Israel, separated and liberated from their climatical and national limitations, their peculiar Jewish garb. There[Pg 76] was no hope left of saving the Jewish nationality and political organization from the hands of omnipotent Rome, which swallowed and neutralized kingdoms and nations with wonderful ease; nor was there any particular necessity for it if society at large was reconstructed on the new basis. The object of Jesus was to reconstruct the kingdom of heaven in Israel, and he was crucified. All Israel had the same object in view, and stood at the brink of dissolution. If the basis and principles of the kingdom of heaven became the postulate of society at large, Jesus is resurrected in the world, and Israel is saved, was Paul's main idea.

The Pharisean rabbis hoped that this would come to pass at some future day, when, they maintained, all sacrifices and all laws would be abolished, and all the nations of the earth would be one family, with one God and one moral law. Paul seized upon the idea, and added to it the simple dogma of Peter, "The Messiah has come." That hoped-for future is now. God's promise to Abraham, "And there shall be blessed by thee, and by thy seed, all the families of the earth," is to be fulfilled at once. So he came forth from his mystical paradise an apostle of Jesus and a new redeemer of Israel. He argued exactly as the Pharisean doctors did who maintained that the Messiah would come when all mankind should be guilty or all righteous. In the estimation of Paul, at that particular time all mankind was corrupt and demoralized, and so that was the time for the Messiah to make his appearance.

He went to work at once. He began to preach his new Christianity at Damascus about the year 51, and found out that the world was not prepared for his ideas. He had a narrow escape at Damascus, where the governor and soldiers pursued him. Like the spies at Jericho, he was let down in a basket over the city walls and made his escape. So he narrates the story. The author of the Acts, true to his hostility to the Jews, of course brings them in as the persecutors. But Paul, in general, never speaks otherwise than with the highest regard and love of his kinsmen and his brothers according to the flesh.

The failure at Damascus did not discourage Paul. It only convinced him that he was too young—he could not at that[Pg 77] time have been much over twenty-one years; that he was not sufficiently prepared for the great enterprise; that it was not such an easy task to throw down the superannuated heathenism and to reorganize society on a new basis. He retired into Arabia and remained there nearly three years, to perfect a plan of operation. Nearly three years he spent in silent contemplation, to discover the proper means, to take the right hold upon the heathen world, and to unfurl a new banner of heaven upon this wicked earth. In 53 or 54 we meet him again at Antioch, with his new and original gospel—the gospel for the Gentiles—prepared for his mission and ready to embark in the great enterprise, to wage active war upon all existing systems of religion and philosophy, and to replace all of them by Paul's gospel. He had been in Jerusalem fifteen days, had conversed with Peter and nobody else, but he repeatedly tells us that he had taken advice of none, consulted none, was appointed by nobody, and learned nothing of anybody. The gospel was his gospel, and he was an apostle by the appointment of God Almighty himself, who had revealed his Son to him. In Antioch he established the first congregation of Jews and Gentiles, and called them Christians. So Paul was the actual author of Christianity among the Gentiles.

What was Paul's gospel? Paul, setting out on his journeys with the great idea of converting heathens, was obliged to paganize the Gospel. The heathens knew nothing of the Jewish Messiah, and he gave him the name popularly known among them—he called him the Son of God, which was a common name in mythology. The Son of God and Mary was a term as popular among heathens as it was foreign to the Jews, among whom Jesus was to remain the Messiah, only that he became also the Metathron. This explained to Jewish mystics the possibility of the second advent, and gave a metaphysical foundation to the resurrection doctrine. The kingdom of heaven, or the theocracy, was another unintelligible idea to the heathen. Israel's laws and form of government were as odious and decried among the pagans as the hostility to that people was fierce and implacable. Paul made thereof a theological kingdom of heaven, when all the dead shall resurrect in spiritual bodies, and the living shall be changed accordingly, together[Pg 78] with this earth and all that is thereon; and declared all the laws of Israel abrogated, so that only the spirit thereof, the precepts and not the laws, should be obligatory in the new state of society.

The sins and wickedness of the world are forgiven to all who believe in the Son, and whose flesh is crucified with him, to resurrect with him in purity; for he died a vicarious atonement for all. He was the last sacrifice, to blot out the sins of all who have faith in him.

The Crucified One did not resurrect merely in the spirit, of which the heathens could not form a satisfactory conception, because the immortality of the soul was by no means a general belief among them, and their gods were no spirits; he resurrected in his very body, and was caught up to heaven, to sit or stand there at God's right hand, to come down again in proper time. "Here, then, is your tangible proof of immortality," he said to the heathens. "Like the Crucified One, all of you will resurrect from the dead, or be changed on the day of judgment." This was plain language to heathens, who knew that but lately Cæsar had been caught up to heaven as Romulus was before him, and asked no questions as to how a human body can rise in the atmosphere and become incorruptible; none as to what means above or below, up or down, as to where God is and where he is not, where his right hand, where before and where behind him; or as to whether the world is full of his glory. No such questions were asked, and there was the ocular demonstration of immortality, tangible and intelligible to the grossest intellect.

The Jewish nationality and the Jewish law are at their end, and the world is the heir to that covenant and to the blessing of God by Abraham and his seed. With the new covenant the old one ceases. It has fulfilled its destiny. It was a state of preparation for this period of universal salvation to all who have love, hope, and faith. With Adam and the flesh came the sin, law, and death; with Jesus the flesh ceases, hence no more sin, law, or death.

These are the main features of Paul's gospel: The Son of God, the theological kingdom of heaven, the vicarious atonement, the bodily resurrection of the Crucified One, the abrogation[Pg 79] of the law, and the beginning of the new covenant. He was the first man to utter these doctrines; with him Christianity begins, and he named it.

But Paul knew well that doctrines alone would be insufficient to rouse the heathen world from its demoralized state, its dreary and stupid dreams; and he resorted to the most terrible and most shocking of all messages. He came to the heathens with the terror-striking proclamation, "The end is nigh!" The whole earth, with all the creatures thereon; the whole human family, with all its wickedness, all its atrocious crimes, will be destroyed in one moment. All of you, men, women, and children, with all your vices and crimes, will be suddenly summoned before the Eternal and All-just; you have to go, all of you, and appear before the omniscient God. The end is nigh, the destruction of the human family is certain and right before you. It will come soon. It may come any day, at any moment.

Now Paul's gospel came in. Here is your choice. There are death and damnation; here are life and happiness everlasting. God has sent his Son in advance of the approaching catastrophe to warn you, and he is appointed now to conduct the end of all flesh. Cling to him and be saved, or believe not and be condemned forever. So he came to the heathens. This was his gospel. How did he succeed? We will explain after a brief pause.

All passages in the Gospels and the Acts which have reference to the above Christology, to the end of things or against it—in which the synoptics most fatally contradict one another—are the products of writers long after Paul, when the attempts to reconcile Jewish and Gentile Christianity were made. For with Paul begins the new form of Christianity and the struggle with the representatives of the old form. Within ten years he traversed the land from Antioch to Athens, in three different journeys, and established his bishopric, the first Christian congregations among the Gentiles. He organized them fully, with deacons and deaconesses, preachers and prophets; and he was their bishop, their oracle, their revelation, and their demi-god. He let his converts believe that they could do wonderful things, in healing the sick, driving out demons, prophesying and speaking[Pg 80] with strange tongues, because it served his purposes, although he did none of these things. He gave them the Holy Ghost, i.e., he regenerated their feelings and pacified their stormy passions, suppressed their brutal lusts, and elevated their aspirations to higher ideals. He did not feel that sovereign contempt for money which the Master did whom he glorified; for he, like the other apostles, took his pay, and argued with the Corinthians, like a good Pharisean lawyer, that bishops and preachers must be paid—an argument well understood by the dignitaries of the Church to this day.

Wonderful, indeed, is the progress which Paul made among the Gentiles in ten years. Like a pillar of fire, he traversed the deserts of heathenism; like a second Elijah, he battled against the priests and prophets of Baal, and conjured down the fire from heaven to his assistance. Within ten years he laid the foundation of a new civilization, of the reorganization of society on the new basis. He did not live to see it realized, but he saw the new system take root and promise golden fruit. Wonderful, we maintain, was his success; for he was not only opposed by the entire heathen world, and by the orthodox Jews, although he proclaimed their God and their doctrines, their religion and their hopes, but was also most strenuously opposed by the apostles and the nascent congregation in Jerusalem, whose Master he glorified, and whose cause he made the cause of the world. The dissensions between Paul and the apostles were of a very serious character, and there was ample cause for them.

In the first place, he took it upon himself to be an apostle, and they had their college of Twelve, to which none could be added, especially not Paul, who had never seen Jesus of Nazareth. He maintained that God had appointed him, God had revealed his Son and his Gospel to him; but the apostles did not believe it, and never acknowledged him as an apostle. At the end of his journeys, Peter, James, and John, three out of Twelve, acknowledged him as an apostle to the Gentiles, but not to the Jews. The rest never did, which, of course, was a great trouble and drawback to Paul among his own converts.

In the second place, they could never forgive him for the idea of going to the Gentiles. Peter, who had become a pious[Pg 81] Essene and considered it unlawful to go to the house or into the company of a Gentile; James, who dreaded the idea of eating of the bread of the Gentile, and made a hypocrite in this point of Peter at Antioch—and they were the heads of the Church—could not forgive Paul's innovation in going to the Gentiles. Paul was sensible enough to silence them by begging money for them, and to appoint the Sunday for collections to be made for the saints of Jerusalem. But it was too much for them that Paul went to the Gentiles.

In the third place, he changed their whole religion into a new sort of mythology. He made of Jesus a Son of God, of which they had no knowledge. He preached vicarious atonement, bodily resurrection, the end of the old covenant and the beginning of a new, the end of all flesh, the last judgment—all of which was foreign to them; not one word of all that had their Master told them, and they knew only what he did tell them. They naturally looked upon him as an unscrupulous innovator. They had not experience and forethought enough to understand that Paul's success among the heathens depended on that means. They were pious men who prayed much, believed seriously, and had no knowledge of the world as it was.

In the fourth place, they could not possibly give their consent to Paul's abrogation of the whole law, knowing, as they did, how their Master respected every tittle, every iota of the law; that he had come to fulfil the law, and to reëstablish the theocracy; how could they possibly think of the idea of abolishing Sabbath and holidays, circumcision and ablutions, all and everything, to be guided by the phantom of hope, love, and faith, against which James argues in his epistle with all the energy of his soul? Those inexperienced saints did not know that the Pharisean doctors held similar theories, and that Paul could not possibly hope to meet with any success among the Gentiles if he had come to them with the laws of the Jews. They were Roman citizens, who contemned the laws of the barbarians. Had Paul come with the word Judaism on his lips, he would have surely failed. Had he come to enforce a foreign law, he would have been laughed at as a madman. They did not know that Paul cared not for an hundred and one laws, as long as the essence and substance could be saved and[Pg 82] preserved; that he held that laws are local, the spirit is universal; that laws are limitations, the spirit is free and the property of all men of all ages and climes; that he was determined to drop everything which could retard his progress.

In the fifth place, and this was the worst, they could not forgive him for preaching the theological kingdom of heaven. A kingdom of Israel—a throne of David, a Davidian prince, a Zion and a Jerusalem in heaven, and slavery, misery, and oppression on earth—was so new and foreign to them, so contrary to what they had heard from their Master, that they could not accept it. What should become of Peter's Messiah, of the hopes and promises connected with the second advent, if all at once the whole scheme is transported from earth to heaven? It was too much disappointment, they could not endure it. Those men did not understand that Paul had carefully to avoid every conflict with the Roman authorities. He was too prudent to be crucified. They could not comprehend that his great object was not to remove the evil at once; he intended to sow the seed, to bring forth the plant; to give to the heathens correct notions of God, duty, responsibility, purity, holiness, morality, justice, humanity, and freedom, which in proper time should necessarily break the chains, revolutionize the sentiments, and elevate the views, hopes, aspirations, and designs of the nations.

They could not comprehend that their Messiah and kingdom of heaven, together with his terrible message of the end of all flesh and the last judgment day, were means, and nothing but means, to captivate and reform the heathen. His Son of God was crucified and resurrected from the dead to forewarn all of the approaching end of all flesh; to show that in a little while all the dead should resurrect and the living should be changed to spiritual beings. He had been given all power by the Almighty to conduct the catastrophe of the world, and would be present at the last judgment day. But after all that is over, the earth and man changed to a new state of spiritual life, then the Son of God returns the kingdom to the Father, and God will be again all in all. So the Son of God was a general superintendent, the demiurge for the time being, a doctrine of which the apostles had no knowledge, and to which[Pg 83] they could not give their consent. He could not get them to understand that these were the means for the conversion of the Gentiles, and that he had quite another gospel for the enlightened portion of the community. They could not see that among heathens used to apotheosis, man-worship, and plastic gods, ideas, to become effective, must put on concrete and tangible bodies.

They could not imagine that the sensuality and corruption of the age required heroic and terror-striking means to rouse and to move the masses; and so the dissensions and troubles between Paul and the nascent Church increased with the success of Paul among the Gentiles. His epistles, one and all, are polemics, not against heathenism or against Judaism, but against his colleagues in Jerusalem, whom, together with their doctrines, he treats in a most reckless manner. They could not write to counterbalance Paul—in fact, there were no writers of any note among them. Therefore, only one side of the polemics, that of Paul, is fully represented in the New Testament; and the side of the Jewish Christians remained mostly matter of tradition.

Messengers were sent to follow Paul to undo his gospel and preach that of the apostles; to introduce the law and circumcision among the Gentile Christians. Those messengers in many cases succeeded, notwithstanding the thundering epistles of Paul. So his influence was weakened and his progress retarded among the Gentiles till finally, after ten years of hard work, he concluded upon going to Jerusalem and, if possible, effecting a compromise with the apostolic congregation. It was a dangerous time for him to go to Jerusalem, for just then the fanatic high-priest, Ananias, had convened a court of his willing tools, tried James, the brother of Jesus, and, finding him guilty, of what God only knows, had him and some of his associates executed—a bloody deed, which cost him his office, on account of the loud and emphatic protestations of the Jews before Agrippa II and the Roman governor. Therefore, Paul was cautioned by prophets and friends not to go to Jerusalem.

But he was not the man to be frightened by dangers; he was the very type of boldness and courage. He went to Jerusalem to effect a conciliation with the Church. A synod met[Pg 84] in the house of James the apostle, who had succeeded the former James as head of the Church, and Paul was told to do that against which his conscience, his honor, his manhood must have revolted: he was required to play the hypocrite in Jerusalem, in order to pacify the brethren who were angry at him. The thousands of Jews, they said, who were zealous for the law, and were informed how Paul taught the people to forsake Moses, to give up circumcision and the ancient customs, hearing of his presence in Jerusalem, "the multitude must needs come together," which points to the Jewish Christians faithful to the law. Therefore they advised him to go through the mockery of a purification at the Temple, "to be at charges," as they called it, with some who had vowed a vow, and make the prescribed sacrifices after the purification.

Poor man! After so much labor, such ardent toils, such numerous perils, dangers, anxieties, trials, reverses, and triumphs, after ten long years of such work and such dangers, he is not safe in Jerusalem among his own kinsmen and among those whose Master he glorified, whose doctrines he taught, and whose interests he protected. How small must he have appeared to himself when walking up the Temple Mount in the company of the four men, whose expenses he paid, to be purified with them: "And all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly and keepest the law." The man who had defied a world, to submit to the humbling dictation of his colleagues, who were children in comparison with him—this is mortifying to the utmost. This is the time of which it is said in the Talmud that Paul or Acher narrated, that on passing behind the sanctum sanctorum he heard the Bath-kol or Holy Ghost exclaim: "Return, all ye forward children; all return, except Paul, who has known me and rebelled against me." Paul never forgot, never forgave, this humiliation. It estranged his feelings altogether from his colleagues in Jerusalem, and he embraced the first best opportunity to rid himself entirely of his Jewish associations.

The opportunity soon offered. While near the Temple some Jews from Asia Minor recognized him. A disturbance ensued. He was arrested and locked up in the castle by the[Pg 85] Roman commander. Here the author of the Acts brings in a terrible tumult—speeches, trials, a Jewish mob, with a noble Roman stepping in in time to wind up dramatically—not one word of which is historical. Paul, standing accused as the ringleader of the new sect who expected the second advent of the Messiah, could only appear dangerous to the zealous and vigilant Roman authorities. Nothing else was necessary to put his life in jeopardy. In the night he made up his mind to appeal to Cæsar, because he was a Roman citizen. Therefore he was sent to Cæsarea, to the governor, under the protection of soldiers. Not a sound was heard in his favor among the Jewish Christians. Not an angel appeared. Not a solitary miracle was wrought; none dreamed a dream; nobody had a vision; the Holy Ghost was as silent as the grave; none of all the Christians in Palestine showed his face, when Paul, loaded with chains, was transported from Jerusalem to Cæsarea. This silence speaks volumes. They did not care much about the innovator. Therefore Paul's epistles from his prison in Cæsarea are thunder-bolts against the law, circumcision, and his colleagues in Jerusalem. It is the offended man, the wounded lion, who retaliates in his anger.

In Cæsarea another mock trial is described by the author of the Acts. There can be little doubt that Ananias, the Sadducean high-priest who had slain James, thirsted also after the blood of Paul. But it is certainly not true that Felix was governor of Judea when Ananias was high-priest. Felix and Festus had been removed from their offices before Ananias was made high-priest, as the authentic sources of history show. If tried at Cæsarea at all—which is doubtful, because Paul had appealed to Cæsar—he was tried before Albinus. His speeches recorded in the Acts contain sentences of Paul, but many more additions from the author of the Acts.

It matters little, however, whether Paul was tried before Albinus or Felix, or whether there was a trial at all. He had appealed to Cæsar, in order to estrange himself from his colleagues in Jerusalem and to come before his converts as an expatriated man, although Agrippa himself had said, "This man might have been set at liberty had he not appealed unto Cæsar."[Pg 86]

Fortunately he was detained in Cæsarea, when Nero in Rome put to death the Christians in his own gardens with exquisite cruelty, and added mockery and derision to their sufferings. Had he been brought to Rome then, no angels could have saved his life, and no power could have protected him for two years. He came to Rome in the year 65, when the cruelty of Nero's proceedings against the Christians filled every breast with compassion, and humanity relented in favor of the Christians. Then it was possible for Paul to have a hearing in Rome, where he lived in a hired house for two years.

Neither Paul nor Peter was ever bishop of Rome, nor was either of them beheaded in Rome or anywhere else. All the legends and myths concerning them are void of truth. We know that Paul, who was then about thirty-five years old, wrote from Rome epistles in defence of his gospel and against his colleagues in Jerusalem, in the same spirit as those from Cæsarea. We know, furthermore, that he went from Rome to Illyricum, where he preached his gospel. We know that he returned to Asia, and wrote the quintessence of his gospel in his epistle to the Romans. We know that many passages in his epistles were written, after the destruction of Jerusalem, when Paul was about forty years old, and his principal activity commenced still later, in opposition to Rabbi Akiba and his colleagues. We know from the Talmud that he married and left daughters. We know also numerous stories of Acher or Paul and his disciple, Rabbi Mair.

Long after the death of the apostles the Christianity of Paul and the Messiahism of Peter were Platonized by the Alexandrian eclectics in a semi-gnostic manner, which gave birth to the fourth gospel, according to John, and the two epistles of John the Elder, not the apostle, about a.d. 160, of which the Synoptics have no idea. They had only the Christianity of Paul and of Peter before them. An original Peter gospel, Paul's epistles, and the different traditions of the various congregations were their sources, which they attempted to blend into one system. All the gospel writers lived in the second century; were not acquainted with the particulars of the story; had an imperfect knowledge of the Jews, their laws and doctrines; wrote in favor of the Romans, whom they[Pg 87] wished to convert, and against the Jews, whom they could not convert.

The third century inherited four distinct systems of Christianity: that of Jesus with the pure theocracy, that of Peter with the Messiah and his second advent, that of Paul with the Son of God and the approaching end of all flesh, and that of John with the Logos and the self-aggrandizing demi-god or man-god on earth. The difficulties and dissensions arising from the attempts at uniting all these contradictory systems in one, ended with the Council of Nice, in the beginning of the fourth century, and the establishment of an orthodox creed, the excommunication of the Jewish Christians, and the establishment of the Church as a state institution. Then the sword and the pyre established doctrines.

On comparison you will find that Jesus became the Saviour of the Gentiles by the exertion of Paul; that the means which Peter and Paul adopted for momentary purposes have been turned into main dogmas; that the religion which Jesus taught and believed is partly laid aside, and the rest is unimportant in Christology, but he himself has been adopted in place of his religion; and that the entire New Testament has no knowledge of the Trinity and the orthodox creed. On comparison you will discover that, if any of our modern congregations are Christian, the apostolic congregation of Jerusalem was heretic. If the pope is a Christian, Paul was not. If the orthodox creed tells what one must believe in order to be a Christian, then Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew. If the religion and the theocracy which Jesus preached are to become the universal religion, all dogmas must fall, and God alone be all in all. Man must become his own priest, prince, and prophet. Justice must govern the nations, love must construe the law, virtue and righteousness must lead to satisfaction and happiness, and man's consciousness of God, immortality, morals, and moral responsibility must be his catechism, his guiding star, his protecting angel in life and death. No dogmas; truth, in the name of God!

I see it, although it is not now; I behold it, although it is not nigh. A star will arise from Jacob in whose soft brilliancy will shine forth all the great and redeeming truth. Freedom[Pg 88] and humanity, justice and love in the name of God, are the right religion; to strive for them is divine worship, to love them is holiness.

This was the object of Paul. The means to accomplish that object were the necessities of the age to convert that generation. He could not dream of the idea that the means would obscure the object, that the servant would occupy the master's seat. His was a fearless, powerful, and unyielding character, terribly in earnest to break down the ancient world and create a new one, and his success, though incomplete, was wonderful. Men like Jesus and Paul, whose great aim was to benefit and to elevate human nature, however widely we may differ from them, deserve the student's laborious research, the philanthropist's most profound admiration, the monuments which the human mind rears to their memory. Great works are the testimony of their authors, and great minds are the diadem and honor, the ornament and pride of human nature. The God Jesus and the supernatural Paul appear small in the focus of reason. The patriotic and enthusiastic Jesus and the brave, bold, wise, and mighty Paul are grand types of humanity among those hundred stars in the horizon of history which have made the history of the human family.


The prima-facie view of early Christianity, in the eyes of witnesses external to it, is presented to us in the brief but vivid descriptions given by Tacitus, Suetonius, and Pliny, the only heathen writers who distinctly mention it for the first hundred and fifty years.

Tacitus is led to speak of the religion, on occasion of the conflagration of Rome, which was popularly imputed to Nero. "To put an end to the report," he says, "he laid the guilt on others, and visited them with the most exquisite punishment, those, namely, who, held in abhorrence for their crimes (per flagitia invisos), were popularly called Christians. The author of that profession (nominis) was Christ, who, in the reign of Tiberius, was capitally punished by the procurator, Pontius Pilate. The deadly superstition (exitiabilis superstitio), though[Pg 89] checked for a while, broke out afresh; and that, not only throughout Judea, the original seat of the evil, but through the city also, whither all things atrocious or shocking (atrocia aut pudenda) flow together from every quarter and thrive. At first, certain were seized who avowed it; then, on their report, a vast multitude were convicted not so much of firing the city, as of hatred of mankind (odio humani generis)." After describing their tortures, he continues: "In consequence, though they were guilty, and deserved most signal punishment, they began to be pitied, as if destroyed not for any public object, but from the barbarity of one man."

Suetonius relates the same transactions thus: "Capital punishments were inflicted on the Christians, a class of men of a new and magical superstition (superstitionis novæ et maleficæ)." What gives additional character to this statement is its context, for it occurs as one out of various police or sanctuary or domestic regulations, which Nero made, such as "controlling private expenses, forbidding taverns to serve meat, repressing the contests of theatrical parties, and securing the integrity of wills."

When Pliny was governor of Pontus, he wrote his celebrated letter to the emperor Trajan, to ask advice how he was to deal with the Christians, whom he found there in great numbers. One of his points of hesitation was whether the very profession of Christianity was not by itself sufficient to justify punishment; "whether the name itself should be visited, though clear of flagitious acts (flagitia), or only when connected with them." He says he had ordered for execution such as persevered in their profession after repeated warnings, "as not doubting, whatever it was they professed, that at any rate contumacy and inflexible obstinacy ought to be punished." He required them to invoke the gods, to sacrifice wine and frankincense to the images of the Emperor, and to blaspheme Christ; "to which," he adds, "it is said no real Christian can be compelled." Renegades informed him that "the sum total of their offence or fault was meeting before light on an appointed day, and saying with one another a form of words (carmen) to Christ, as if to a god, and binding themselves by oath (not to the commission of any wickedness, but) against the commission of theft, robbery, adultery, breach of trust, denial of deposits; that, after[Pg 90] this they were accustomed to separate, and then to meet again for a meal, but eaten all together and harmless; however, that they had even left this off after his edicts enforcing the imperial prohibition of hetæriæ or associations." He proceeded to put two women to the torture, but "discovered nothing beyond a bad and excessive superstition" (superstitionem pravam et immodicam), "the contagion" of which, he continues, "had spread through villages and country, till the temples were emptied of worshippers."

In these testimonies, which will form a natural and convenient text for what is to follow, we have various characteristics brought before us of the religion to which they relate. It was a superstition, as all three writers agree; a bad and excessive superstition, according to Pliny; a magical superstition, according to Suetonius; a deadly superstition, according to Tacitus. Next, it was embodied in a society, and, moreover, a secret and unlawful society or hetæria; and it was a proselytizing society; and its very name was connected with "flagitious," "atrocious," and "shocking" acts.

Now these few points, which are not all which might be set down, contain in themselves a distinct and significant description of Christianity; but they have far greater meaning when illustrated by the history of the times, the testimony of later writers, and the acts of the Roman government toward its professors. It is impossible to mistake the judgment passed on the religion by these three writers, and still more clearly by other writers and imperial functionaries. They evidently associated Christianity with the oriental superstitions, whether propagated by individuals or embodied in a rite, which were in that day traversing the empire, and which in the event acted so remarkable a part in breaking up the national forms of worship, and so in preparing the way for Christianity. This, then, is the broad view which the educated heathen took of Christianity; and, if it had been very unlike those rites and curious arts in external appearance, they would not have confused it with them.

Changes in society are by a providential appointment commonly preceded and facilitated by the setting in of a certain current in men's thoughts and feelings in that direction toward[Pg 91] which a change is to be made. And, as lighter substances whirl about before the tempest and presage it, so words and deeds, ominous but not effective of the coming revolution, are circulated beforehand through the multitude or pass across the field of events. This was specially the case with Christianity, as became its high dignity; it came heralded and attended by a crowd of shadows, shadows of itself, impotent and monstrous as shadows are, but not at first sight distinguishable from it by common spectators. Before the mission of the apostles a movement, of which there had been earlier parallels, had begun in Egypt, Syria, and the neighboring countries, tending to the propagation of new and peculiar forms of worship throughout the empire. Prophecies were afloat that some new order of things was coming in from the East, which increased the existing unsettlement of the popular mind; pretenders made attempts to satisfy its wants, and old traditions of the truth, embodied for ages in local or in national religions, gave to these attempts a doctrinal and ritual shape, which became an additional point of resemblance to that truth which was soon visibly to appear.

The distinctive character of the rites in question lay in their appealing to the gloomy rather than to the cheerful and hopeful feelings, and in their influencing the mind through fear. The notions of guilt and expiation, of evil and good to come, and of dealings with the invisible world, were in some shape or other preëminent in them, and formed a striking contrast to the classical polytheism, which was gay and graceful, as was natural in a civilized age. The new rites, on the other hand, were secret; their doctrine was mysterious; their profession was a discipline, beginning in a formal initiation, manifested in an association, and exercised in privation and pain. They were from the nature of the case proselytizing societies, for they were rising into power; nor were they local, but vagrant, restless, intrusive, and encroaching. Their pretensions to supernatural knowledge brought them into easy connection with magic and astrology, which are as attractive to the wealthy and luxurious as the more vulgar superstitions to the populace.

The Christian, being at first accounted a kind of Jew, was[Pg 92] even on that score included in whatever odium, and whatever bad associations, attended on the Jewish name. But in a little time his independence of the rejected people was clearly understood, as even the persecutions show; and he stood upon his own ground. Still his character did not change in the eyes of the world; for favor or for reproach, he was still associated with the votaries of secret and magical rites. The emperor Hadrian, noted as he is for his inquisitive temper, and a partaker in so many mysteries, still believed that the Christians of Egypt allowed themselves in the worship of Serapis. They are brought into connection with the magic of Egypt in the history of what is commonly called the Thundering legion, so far as this, that the rain which relieved the Emperor's army in the field, and which the Church ascribed to the prayers of the Christian soldiers, is by Dio Cassius attributed to an Egyptian magician, who obtained it by invoking Mercury and other spirits. This war had been the occasion of one of the first recognitions which the State had conceded to the oriental rites, though statesmen and emperors, as private men, had long taken part in them. The emperor Marcus had been urged by his fears of the Marcomanni to resort to these foreign introductions, and is said to have employed Magi and Chaldæans in averting an unsuccessful issue of the war.

It is observable that, in the growing countenance which was extended to these rites in the third century, Christianity came in for a share. The chapel of Alexander Severus contained statues of Abraham, Orpheus, Apollonius, Pythagoras, and our Lord. Here indeed, as in the case of Zenobia's Judaism, an eclectic philosophy aided the comprehension of religions. But, immediately before Alexander, Heliogabalus, who was no philosopher, while he formally seated his Syrian idol in the Palatine, while he observed the mysteries of Cybele and Adonis, and celebrated his magic rites with human victims, intended also, according to Lampridius, to unite with his horrible superstition "the Jewish and Samaritan religions and the Christian rite, that so the priesthood of Heliogabalus might comprise the mystery of every worship." Hence, more or less, the stories which occur in ecclesiastical history of the conversion or good-will of the emperors to the Christian faith, of Hadrian, Mammæa,[Pg 93] and others, besides Heliogabalus and Alexander. Such stories might often mean little more than that they favored it among other forms of oriental superstition.

What has been said is sufficient to bring before the mind an historical fact, which indeed does not need evidence. Upon the established religions of Europe the East had renewed her encroachments, and was pouring forth a family of rites which in various ways attracted the attention of the luxurious, the political, the ignorant, the restless, and the remorseful. Armenian, Chaldee, Egyptian, Jew, Syrian, Phrygian, as the case might be, was the designation of the new hierophant; and magic, superstition, barbarism, jugglery, were the names given to his rite by the world. In this company appeared Christianity. When then three well-informed writers call Christianity a superstition and a magical superstition, they were not using words at random, or the language of abuse, but they were describing it in distinct and recognized terms as cognate to those gloomy, secret, odious, disreputable religions which were making so much disturbance up and down the empire.

The Gnostic family suitably traces its origin to a mixed race, which had commenced its national history by associating orientalism with revelation. After the captivity of the ten tribes Samaria was colonized by "men from Babylon and Cushan, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim," who were instructed at their own instance in "the manner of the God of the land," by one of the priests of the Church of Jeroboam. The consequence was that "they feared the Lord and served their own gods." Of this country was Simon, the reputed patriarch of the Gnostics; and he is introduced in the Acts of the Apostles as professing those magical powers which were so principal a characteristic of the oriental mysteries. His heresy, though broken into a multitude of sects, was poured over the world with a catholicity not inferior in its day to that of Christianity. St. Peter, who fell in with him originally in Samaria, seems to have encountered him again at Rome. At Rome St. Polycarp met Marcion of Pontus, whose followers spread through Italy, Egypt, Syria, Arabia, and Persia.

"When [the reader of Christian history] comes to the second century," says Dr. Burton, "he finds that Gnosticism,[Pg 94] under some form or other, was professed in every part of the then civilized world. He finds it divided into schools, as numerously and as zealously attended as any which Greece or Asia could boast in their happiest days. He meets with names totally unknown to him before, which excited as much sensation as those of Aristotle or Plato. He hears of volumes having been written in support of this new philosophy, not one of which has survived to our own day." Many of the founders of these sects had been Christians. Others were of Jewish parentage; others were more or less connected in fact with the pagan rites to which their own bore so great a resemblance.

Whatever might be the history of these sects, and though it may be a question whether they can be properly called "superstitions," and though many of them numbered educated men among their teachers and followers, they closely resembled—at least in ritual and profession—the vagrant pagan mysteries which have been above described. Their very name of "Gnostic" implied the possession of a secret, which was to be communicated to their disciples. Ceremonial observances were the preparation, and symbolical rites the instrument, of initiation. Tatian and Montanus, the representatives of very distinct schools, agreed in making asceticism a rule of life.

Such were the Gnostics; and to external and prejudiced spectators, whether philosophers, as Celsus and Porphyry, or the multitude, they wore an appearance sufficiently like the Church to be mistaken for her in the latter part of the ante-Nicene period, as she was confused with the pagan mysteries in the earlier.

Let us proceed in our contemplation of this reflection, as it may be called, of primitive Christianity in the mirror of the world. All three writers, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Pliny, call it a "superstition"; this is no accidental imputation, but is repeated by a variety of subsequent writers and speakers. The charge of Thyestean banquets scarcely lasts a hundred years; but, while pagan witnesses are to be found, the Church is accused of superstition. Now what is meant by the word thus attached by a consensus of heathen authorities to Christianity? At least it cannot mean a religion in which a man might think what he pleased, and was set free from all yokes, whether of[Pg 95] ignorance, fear, authority, or priestcraft. When heathen writers call the oriental rites superstitions, they evidently use the word in its modern sense. It cannot surely be doubted that they apply it in the same sense to Christianity. But Plutarch explains for us the word at length in his treatise which bears the name: "Of all kinds of fear," he says, "superstition is the most fatal to action and resource. He does not fear the sea who does not sail, nor war who does not serve, nor robbers who keeps at home, nor the sycophant who is poor, nor the envious if he is a private man, nor an earthquake if he lives in Gaul, nor thunder if he lives in Æthiopia; but he who fears the gods fears everything—earth, seas, air, sky, darkness, light, noises, silence, sleep. Slaves sleep and forget their masters; of the fettered doth sleep lighten the chain; inflamed wounds, ulcers cruel and agonizing, are not felt by the sleeping. Superstition alone has come to no terms with sleep; but in the very sleep of her victims, as though they were in the realms of the impious, she raises horrible spectres and monstrous phantoms and various pains, and whirls the miserable soul about and persecutes it. They rise, and, instead of making light of what is unreal, they fall into the hands of quacks and conjurers, who say, 'Call the crone to expiate, bathe in the sea, and sit all day on the ground.'"

Here we have a vivid picture of Plutarch's idea of the essence of superstition; it was the imagination of the existence of an unseen ever-present Master; the bondage of a rule of life, of a continual responsibility; obligation to attend to little things, the impossibility of escaping from duty, the inability to choose or change one's religion, an interference with the enjoyment of life, a melancholy view of the world, sense of sin, horror at guilt, apprehension of punishment, dread, self-abasement, depression, anxiety, and endeavor to be at peace with heaven, and error and absurdity in the methods chosen for the purpose. Such, too, had been the idea of the Epicurean Velleius, when he shrunk with horror from the "sempiternus dominus" and "curiosus Deus" of the Stoics. Such, surely, was the meaning of Tacitus, Suetonius, and Pliny. And hence, of course, the frequent reproach cast on Christians as credulous, weak-minded, and poor-spirited. The heathen objectors in Minucius[Pg 96] and Lactantius speak of their "old-woman's tales." Celsus accuses them of "assenting at random and without reason," saying, "Do not inquire, but believe." "They lay it down," he says elsewhere: "Let no educated man approach, no man of wisdom, no man of sense; but if a man be unlearned, weak in intellect, an infant, let him come with confidence. Confessing that these are worthy of their God, they evidently desire, as they are able, to convert none but fools, and vulgar, and stupid, and slavish, women and boys." They "take in the simple and lead him where they will." They address themselves to "youths, house-servants, and the weak in intellect." They "hurry away from the educated, as not fit subjects of their imposition, and inveigle the rustic." "Thou," says the heathen magistrate to the martyr Fructuosus, "who as a teacher dost disseminate a new fable, that fickle girls may desert the groves and abandon Jupiter, condemn, if thou art wise, the anile creed."

Hence the epithets of itinerant, mountebank, conjurer, cheat, sophist, and sorcerer, heaped upon the teachers of Christianity; sometimes to account for the report or apparent truth of their miracles, sometimes to explain their success. Our Lord was said to have learned his miraculous power in Egypt; "wizard, mediciner, cheat, rogue, conjurer," were the epithets applied to him by the opponents of Eusebius; they "worship that crucified sophist," says Lucian; "Paul, who surpasses all the conjurers and impostors who ever lived," is Julian's account of the apostle. "You have sent through the whole world," says St. Justin to Trypho, "to preach that a certain atheistic and lawless sect has sprung from one Jesus, a Galilean cheat." "We know," says Lucian, speaking of Chaldæans and magicians, "the Syrian from Palestine, who is the sophist in these matters, how many lunatics, with eyes distorted and mouth in foam, he raises and sends away restored, ridding them from the evil at a great price." "If any conjurer came to them, a man of skill and knowing how to manage matters," says the same writer, "he made money in no time, with a broad grin at the simple fellows." The officer who had custody of St. Perpetua feared her escape from prison "by magical incantations." When St. Tiburtius had walked barefoot on hot coals, his judge[Pg 97] cried out that Christ had taught him magic. St. Anastasia was thrown into prison as a mediciner; the populace called out against St. Agnes, "Away with the witch," Tolle magam, tolle maleficam. When St. Bonosus and St. Maximilian bore the burning pitch without shrinking, Jews and Gentiles cried out, "Isti magi et malefici." "What new delusion," says the heathen magistrate concerning St. Romanus, "has brought in these sophists to deny the worship of the gods? How doth this chief sorcerer mock us, skilled by his Thessalian charm (carmine) to laugh at punishment!"

It explains the phenomenon, which has created so much surprise to certain moderns—that a grave, well-informed historian like Tacitus should apply to Christians what sounds like abuse. Yet what is the difficulty, supposing that Christians were considered mathematici and magi, and these were the secret intriguers against established government, the allies of desperate politicians, the enemies of the established religion, the disseminators of lying rumors, the perpetrators of poisonings and other crimes? "Read this," says Paley, after quoting some of the most beautiful and subduing passages of St. Paul, "read this, and then think of exitiabilis superstitio"; and he goes on to express a wish "in contending with heathen authorities, to produce our books against theirs," as if it were a matter of books.

Public men care very little for books; the finest sentiments, the most luminous philosophy, the deepest theology, inspiration itself, moves them but little; they look at facts, and care only for facts. The question was, What was the worth, what the tendency of the Christian body in the State? What Christians said, what they thought, was little to the purpose. They might exhort to peaceableness and passive obedience as strongly as words could speak; but what did they do, what was their political position? This is what statesmen thought of then, as they do now. What had men of the world to do with abstract proofs or first principles? A statesman measures parties and sects and writers by their bearing upon him; and he has a practised eye in this sort of judgment, and is not likely to be mistaken. "'What is Truth?' said jesting Pilate." Apologies, however eloquent or true, availed nothing with the Roman[Pg 98] magistrate against the sure instinct which taught him to dread Christianity. It was a dangerous enemy to any power not built upon itself; he felt it, and the event justified his apprehension.

We must not forget the well-known character of the Roman State in its dealings with its subjects. It had had from the first an extreme jealousy of secret societies; it was prepared to grant a large toleration and a broad comprehension, but, as is the case with modern governments, it wished to have jurisdiction and the ultimate authority in every movement of the body politic and social, and its civil institutions were based, or essentially depended, on its religion. Accordingly, every innovation upon the established paganism, except it was allowed by the law, was rigidly repressed. Hence the professors of low superstitions, of mysteries, of magic, of astrology, were the outlaws of society, and were in a condition analogous, if the comparison may be allowed, to smugglers or poachers among ourselves, or perhaps to burglars and highwaymen; for the Romans had ever burnt the sorcerer and banished his consulters for life. It was an ancient custom. And at mysteries they looked with especial suspicion, because, since the established religion did not include them in its provisions, they really did supply what may be called a demand of the age.

We know what opposition had been made in Rome even to the philosophy of Greece; much greater would be the aversion of constitutional statesmen and lawyers to the ritual of barbarians. Religion was the Roman point of honor. "Spaniards might rival them in numbers," says Cicero, "Gauls in bodily strength, Carthaginians in address, Greeks in the arts, Italians and Latins in native talent, but the Romans surpassed all nations in piety and devotion." It was one of their laws, "Let no one have gods by himself, nor worship in private new gods nor adventitious, unless added on public authority." Mæcenas in Dio advises Augustus to honor the gods according to the national custom, because the contempt of the country's deities leads to civil insubordination, reception of foreign laws, conspiracies, and secret meetings. "Suffer no one," he adds, "to deny the gods or to practise sorcery." The civilian Julius Paulus lays it down as one of the leading principles of Roman[Pg 99] law, that those who introduce new or untried religions should be degraded, and if in the lower orders put to death. In like manner, it is enacted in one of Constantine's laws that the haruspices should not exercise their art in private; and there is a law of Valentinian's against nocturnal sacrifices or magic. It is more immediately to our purpose that Trajan had been so earnest in his resistance to hetæriæ or secret societies, that, when a fire had laid waste Nicomedia, and Pliny proposed to him to incorporate a body of a hundred and fifty firemen in consequence, he was afraid of the precedent and forbade it.

What has been said will suggest another point of view in which the oriental rites were obnoxious to the government—namely, as being vagrant and proselytizing religions. If it tolerated foreign superstitions, this would be on the ground that districts or countries within its jurisdiction held them; to proselytize to a rite hitherto unknown, to form a new party, and to propagate it through the empire—a religion not local, but catholic—was an offence against both order and reason. The State desired peace everywhere, and no change; "considering," according to Lactantius, "that they were rightly and deservedly punished who execrated the public religion handed down to them by their ancestors."

It is impossible, surely, to deny that, in assembling for religious purposes, the Christians were breaking a solemn law, a vital principle of the Roman constitution; and this is the light in which their conduct was regarded by the historians and philosophers of the empire. This was a very strong act on the part of the disciples of the great apostle, who had enjoined obedience to the powers that be. Time after time they resisted the authority of the magistrate; and this is a phenomenon inexplicable on the theory of private judgment or of the voluntary principle. The justification of such disobedience lies simply in the necessity of obeying the higher authority of some divine law; but if Christianity were in its essence only private and personal, as so many now think, there was no necessity of their meeting together at all. If, on the other hand, in assembling for worship and holy communion, they were fulfilling an indispensable observance, Christianity has imposed a social law on the world, and formally enters the field of politics. Gibbon[Pg 100] says that, in consequence of Pliny's edict, "the prudence of the Christians suspended their agapæ; but it was impossible for them to omit the exercise of public worship." We can draw no other conclusion.

At the end of three hundred years a more remarkable violation of law seems to have been admitted by the Christian body. It shall be given in the words of Dr. Burton; he has been speaking of Maximin's edict, which provided for the restitution of any of their lands or buildings which had been alienated from them. "It is plain," he says, "from the terms of this edict, that the Christians had for some time been in possession of property. It speaks of houses and lands which did not belong to individuals, but to the whole body. Their possession of such property could hardly have escaped the notice of the government; but it seems to have been held in direct violation of a law of Diocletian, which prohibited corporate bodies or associations which were not legally recognized, from acquiring property. The Christians were certainly not a body recognized by law at the beginning of the reign of Diocletian, and it might almost be thought that this enactment was specially directed against them. But, like other laws which are founded upon tyranny, and are at variance with the first principles of justice, it is probable that this law about corporate property was evaded. We must suppose that the Christians had purchased lands and houses before the law was passed; and their disregard of the prohibition may be taken as another proof that their religion had now taken so firm a footing that the executors of the laws were obliged to connive at their being broken by so numerous a body."

No wonder that the magistrate who presided at the martyrdom of St. Romanus calls them in Prudentius "a rebel people"; that Galerius speaks of them as "a nefarious conspiracy"; the heathen in Minucius, as "men of a desperate faction"; that others make them guilty of sacrilege and treason, and call them by those other titles which, more closely resembling the language of Tacitus, have been noticed above. Hence the violent accusations against them as the destructors of the empire, the authors of physical evils, and the cause of the anger of the gods.[Pg 101]

"Men cry out," says Tertullian, "that the State is beset, that the Christians are in their fields, in their forts, in their islands. They mourn as for a loss that every sex, condition, and now even rank is going over to this sect. And yet they do not by this very means advance their minds to the idea of some good therein hidden; they allow not themselves to conjecture more rightly, they choose not to examine more closely. The generality run upon a hatred of this name, with eyes so closed that in bearing favorable testimony to anyone they mingle with it the reproach of the name. 'A good man Caius Seius, only he is a Christian.' So another, 'I marvel that that wise man Lucius Titius hath suddenly become a Christian.' No one reflecteth whether Caius be not therefore good and Lucius wise because a Christian, or therefore a Christian because wise and good. They praise that which they know, they revile that which they know not. Virtue is not in such account as hatred of the Christians. Now, then, if the hatred be of the name, what guilt is there in names? What charge against words? Unless it be that any word which is a name have either a barbarous or ill-omened, or a scurrilous or an immodest sound. If the Tiber cometh up to the walls, if the Nile cometh not up to the fields, if the heaven hath stood still, if the earth hath been moved, if there be any famine, if any pestilence, 'The Christians to the lions' is forthwith the word."

"Men of a desperate, lawless, reckless faction," says the heathen Cæcilius, in the passage above referred to, "who collect together out of the lowest rabble the thoughtless portion, and credulous women seduced by the weakness of their sex, and form a mob of impure conspirators, of whom nocturnal assemblies and solemn fastings and unnatural food, no sacred rite but pollution, is the bond. A tribe lurking and light-hating, dumb for the public, talkative in corners, they despise our temples as if graves, spit at our gods, deride our religious forms; pitiable themselves, they pity, forsooth, our priests; half-naked themselves, they despise our honors and purple; monstrous folly and incredible impudence!... Day after day their abandoned morals wind their serpentine course; over the whole world are those most hideous rites of an impious association growing into shape;... they recognize each[Pg 102] other by marks and signs, and love each other almost before they recognize; promiscuous lust is their religion. Thus does their vain and mad superstition glory in crimes.... The writer who tells the story of a criminal capitally punished, and of the gibbet (ligna feralia) of the cross being their observance (ceremonias), assigns to them thereby an altar in keeping with the abandoned and wicked, that they may worship (colant) what they merit.... Why their mighty effort to hide and shroud whatever it is they worship (colunt), since things honest ever like the open day, and crimes are secret? Why have they no altars, no temples, no images known to us, never speak abroad, never assemble freely, were it not that what they worship and suppress is subject either of punishment or of shame?

"What monstrous, what portentous notions do they fabricate! that that God of theirs, whom they can neither show nor see, should be inquiring diligently into the characters, the acts—nay, the words and secret thoughts of all men; running to and fro, forsooth, and present everywhere, troublesome, restless—nay, impudently curious they would have him; that is, if he is close at every deed, interferes in all places, while he can neither attend to each as being distracted through the whole, nor suffice for the whole as being engaged about each. Think, too, of their threatening fire, meditating destruction to the whole earth—nay, the world itself with its stars!... Nor content with this mad opinion, they add and append their old wives' tales about a new birth after death, ashes and cinders, and by some strange confidence believe each other's lies.

"Poor creatures! consider what hangs over you after death, while you are still alive. Lo, the greater part of you, the better, as you say, are in want, cold, toil, hunger, and your God suffers it; but I omit common trials. Lo, threats are offered to you, punishments, torments; crosses to be undergone now, not worshipped (adorandæ); fires, too, which ye predict and fear; where is that God who can recover, but cannot preserve your life? The answer of Socrates, when he was asked about heavenly matters, is well known: 'What is above us does not concern us.' My opinion also is, that points which are doubtful, as are the points in question, must be left; nor, when so many and such great men are in controversy on the subject,[Pg 103] must judgment be rashly and audaciously given on either side, lest the consequence be either anile superstition or the overthrow of all religion."

Such was Christianity in the eyes of those who witnessed its rise and propagation—one of a number of wild and barbarous rites which were pouring in upon the empire from the ancient realms of superstition, and the mother of a progeny of sects which were faithful to the original they had derived from Egypt or Syria; a religion unworthy of an educated person, as appealing, not to the intellect, but to the fears and weaknesses of human nature, and consisting, not in the rational and cheerful enjoyment, but in a morose rejection of the gifts of Providence; a horrible religion, as inflicting or enjoining cruel sufferings, and monstrous and loathsome in its very indulgence of the passions; a religion leading by reaction to infidelity; a religion of magic, and of the vulgar arts, real and pretended, with which magic was accompanied; a secret religion which dared not face the day; an itinerant, busy, proselytizing religion, forming an extended confederacy against the State, resisting its authority and breaking its laws. There may be some exceptions to this general impression, such as Pliny's discovery of the innocent and virtuous rule of life adopted by the Christians of Pontus; but this only proves that Christianity was not in fact the infamous religion which the heathen thought it; it did not reverse their general belief to that effect.

Now it must be granted that, in some respects, this view of Christianity depended on the times, and would alter with their alteration. When there was no persecution, martyrs could not be obstinate; and when the Church was raised aloft in high places, it was no longer in caves. Still, I believe, it continued substantially the same in the judgment of the world external to it while there was an external world to judge of it. "They thought it enough," says Julian in the fourth century, of our Lord and his apostles, "to deceive women, servants, and slaves, and by their means wives and husbands." "A human fabrication," says he elsewhere, "put together by wickedness, having nothing divine in it, but making a perverted use of the fable-loving, childish, irrational part of the soul, and offering a set of wonders to create belief."[Pg 104]

"Miserable men," he says elsewhere, "you refuse to worship the ancile, yet you worship the wood of the cross, and sign it on your foreheads, and fix it on your doors. Shall one for this hate the intelligent among you, or pity the less understanding, who in following you have gone to such an excess of perdition as to leave the everlasting gods and go over to a dead Jew?" He speaks of their adding other dead men to him who died so long ago. "You have filled all places with sepulchres and monuments, though it is nowhere told you in your religion to haunt the tombs and to attend upon them." Elsewhere he speaks of their "leaving the gods for corpses and relics." On the other hand, he attributes the growth of Christianity to its humanity toward strangers, care in burying the dead, and pretended religiousness of life. In another place he speaks of their care of the poor.

Libanius, Julian's preceptor in rhetoric, delivers the same testimony, as far as it goes. He addressed his Oration for the Temples to a Christian emperor, and would in consequence be guarded in his language; however it runs in one direction. He speaks of "those black-habited men," meaning the monks, "who eat more than elephants, and by the number of their potations trouble those who send them drink in their chantings, and conceal this by paleness artificially acquired." They "are in good condition out of the misfortunes of others, while they pretend to serve God by hunger." Those whom they attack "are like bees, they like drones." I do not quote this passage to prove that there were monks in Libanius' days, which no one doubts, but to show his impression of Christianity, as far as his works betray it.

Numantian in the same century describes in verse his voyage from Rome to Gaul: one book of the poem is extant; he falls in with Christianity on two of the islands which lie in his course. He thus describes them as found on one of these: "The island is in a squalid state, being full of light-haters. They call themselves monks, because they wish to live alone without witness. They dread the gifts, from fearing the reverses, of fortune." He meets on the other island a Christian, whom he had known, of good family and fortune, and happy in his marriage, who "impelled by the Furies had left men and[Pg 105] gods, and, credulous exile, was living in base concealment. Is not this herd," he continues, "worse than Circean poison? then bodies were changed, now minds."

In the Philopatris, which is the work of an author of the fourth century, Critias is introduced pale and wild. His friend asks him if he has seen Cerberus or Hecate; and he answers that he has heard a rigmarole from certain "thrice-cursed sophists"; which he thinks would drive him mad if he heard it again, and was nearly sending him headlong over some cliff as it was. He retires for relief with his inquirer to a pleasant place, shadowed by planes, where swallows and nightingales are singing, and a quiet brook is purling. Triephon, his friend, expresses a fear lest he has heard some incantation, and is led by the course of the dialogue, before his friend tells his tale, to give some account of Christianity, being himself a Christian. After speaking of the creation, as described by Moses, he falls at once upon that doctrine of a particular providence which is so distasteful to Plutarch, Velleius in Cicero, and Cæcilius, and generally to unbelievers. "He is in heaven," he says, "looking at just and unjust, and causing actions to be entered in books; and he will recompense all on a day which he has appointed." Critias objects that he cannot make this consistent with the received doctrine about the Fates, "even though he has perhaps been carried aloft with his master, and initiated in unspeakable mysteries." He also asks if the deeds of the Scythians are written in heaven for if so there must be many scribes there.

Such was the language of paganism after Christianity had for fifty years been exposed to the public gaze; after it had been before the world for fifty more, St. Augustine had still to defend it against the charge of being the cause of the calamities of the empire. And for the charge of magic, when the Arian bishops were in formal disputations with the Catholic, before Gungebald, Burgundian king of France, at the end of the fifth century, we find still that they charged the Catholics with being "præstigiatores," and worshipping a number of gods; and when the Catholics proposed that the King should repair to the shrine of St. Justus, where both parties might ask him concerning their respective faiths, the Arians cried out that[Pg 106] "they would not seek enchantments like Saul, for Scripture was enough for them, which was more powerful than all bewitchments." This was said, not against strangers of whom they knew nothing, as Ethelbert might be suspicious of St. Augustine and his brother missionaries, but against a body of men who lived among them.

I do not think it can be doubted then that, had Tacitus, Suetonius, and Pliny, Celsus, Porphyry, and the other opponents of Christianity lived in the fourth century, their evidence concerning Christianity would be very much the same as it has come down to us from the centuries before it. In either case, a man of the world and a philosopher would have been disgusted at the gloom and sadness of its profession, its mysteriousness, its claim of miracles, the want of good sense imputable to its rule of life, and the unsettlement and discord it was introducing into the social and political world.

On the whole then I conclude as follows: If there is a form of Christianity now in the world which is accused of gross superstition, of borrowing its rites and customs from the heathen, and of ascribing to forms and ceremonies an occult virtue; a religion which is considered to burden and enslave the mind by its requisitions, to address itself to the weak-minded and ignorant, to be supported by sophistry and imposture, and to contradict reason and exalt mere irrational faith; a religion which impresses on the serious mind very distressing views of the guilt and consequences of sin, sets upon the minute acts of the day, one by one, their definite value for praise or blame, and thus casts a grave shadow over the future; a religion which holds up to admiration the surrender of wealth, and disables serious persons from enjoying it if they would; a religion, the doctrines of which, be they good or bad, are to the generality of men unknown; which is considered to bear on its very surface signs of folly and falsehood so distinct that a glance suffices to judge of it, and that careful examination is preposterous; which is felt to be so simply bad that it may be calumniated at hazard and at pleasure, it being nothing but absurdity to stand upon the accurate distribution of its guilt among its particular acts, or painfully to determine how far this or that story concerning it is literally true, or what has to be allowed in candor, or what[Pg 107] is improbable, or what cuts two ways, or what is not proved, or what may be plausibly defended; a religion such that men look at a convert to it with a feeling which no other denomination raises except Judaism, socialism, or Mormonism—namely, with curiosity, suspicion, fear, disgust, as the case may be, as if something strange had befallen him, as if he had had an initiation into a mystery, and had come into communion with dreadful influences, as if he were now one of a confederacy which claimed him, absorbed him, stripped him of his personality, reduced him to a mere organ or instrument of a whole; a religion which men hate as proselytizing, anti-social, revolutionary, as dividing families, separating chief friends, corrupting the maxims of government, making a mock at law, dissolving the empire, the enemy of human nature, and a "conspirator against its rights and privileges"; a religion which they consider the champion and instrument of darkness, and a pollution calling down upon the land the anger of heaven; a religion which they associate with intrigue and conspiracy, which they speak about in whispers, which they detect by anticipation in whatever goes wrong, and to which they impute whatever is unaccountable; a religion, the very name of which they cast out as evil, and use simply as a bad epithet, and which from the impulse of self-preservation they would persecute if they could—if there be such a religion now in the world, it is not unlike Christianity as that same world viewed it when first it came forth from its divine Author.

[Pg 108]


A.D. 64


Nero when a youth was placed under charge of the philosopher Seneca, who carefully attended to his education. During Nero's nonage he was persevering in his studies and made great progress in Greek. By a subterfuge of his mother's he was proclaimed emperor in the place of Britannicus, the real heir to the throne. In the early part of his reign public affairs were wisely conducted, but the private life of Nero was given up to vice and profligacy. His love for Poppæa led him into the crime of matricide, for she, wishing to share the imperial throne, and knowing it was impossible while his mother, Agrippina, lived, induced him to authorize her assassination. Strange that Seneca and Burrhus should have approved of this, yet Tacitus admits that such was the case. In the eighth year of his reign Nero divorced his wife, Octavia, and married Poppæa.

Nero was an accomplished musician and sang verses composed by himself. He eagerly sought the plaudits of the multitude by reciting his compositions in public. Historians are divided in opinion as to whether Nero was the cause of the burning of Rome. During the conflagration, to court popularity he ordered temporary shelters to be provided for the houseless; yet the people did not acclaim this deed, as it was reported that Nero, at "the very time Rome was in flames," sang the destruction of Troy in his private theatre, likening the present disaster to that ancient catastrophe. In order to divert the masses from what they believed the true origin of the fire, Nero charged it upon the Christians, many hundreds of whom were sacrificed to his fury. He was the last of the Cæsars, and died by his own hand amid universal execrations, in June, a.d. 68, four years after the destruction of Rome.


The fire began at the Circus Maximus, in that section which touches the Palatine and Cælian hill; it rushed on with inconceivable rapidity and fastened upon the whole centre of Rome. Since the time of Brennus never had the city witnessed such an awful catastrophe.[Pg 109]

A freedman of Cæsar's, Phaon by name, ran panting into Nero's presence, shrieking: "Rome is in flames! the conflagration is great."

All Cæsar's guests arose from their recumbent attitude. "Ye gods! I shall see a burning city; now can I finish the Troyade," exclaimed Nero, placing his lute aside. "If I go at once, can I view the fire?"

"My lord, the whole city is as a sea of flame; the smoke is suffocatingly heavy and is destroying the people. The inhabitants faint away or rashly cast themselves into the fire, maddened with terror. All Rome perishes." And Nero raised his hands and cried, "Woe, woe to thee, thou sacred city of Priam!"

Fires were frequent enough in Rome; during these conflagrations violence and robbery were rampant, particularly so in those sections of the city inhabited by needy half-barbarian peoples, a folk comprising rabble from every part of the world. The fear of servile rebellion was like a nightmare, which had stifled Rome for many years. It was believed that hundreds of thousands of those people were thinking of the times of Spartacus, and merely waiting for a favorable moment to seize arms against their oppressors and Rome. Now the moment had come! Perhaps war and slaughter were raging in the city together with fire.

It was possible even that the prætorians had hurled themselves on the city and were slaughtering at command of Cæsar. And that moment the hair rose on Vinicius' head from terror. He recalled all the conversations about burning cities which for some time had been repeated at Cæsar's court with wonderful persistence; well he recalled Cæsar's complaints that he was forced to describe a burning city without having seen an actual fire; his contemptuous answer to Tigellinus, who offered to burn Antium or an artificial wooden city; finally, his complaints against Rome, and the pestilential alleys of the Subura.

Yes; truly Cæsar has commanded the burning of the city! Only he could give such a command, as Tigellinus alone could accomplish it. But if Rome is burning at command of Cæsar, who can be sure that the population will not be slaughtered at his command? The monster is capable of just such a deed.[Pg 110] Conflagration, a servile revolt, and slaughter! What a horrible chaos, what a letting loose of destructive elements and horrid, universal frenzy!

The night had paled long since, the dawn had passed into light, and on all the nearer summits golden, rosy gleams were shining, which might come either from burning Rome or the rising daylight. Vinicius ran to the hill, the summit was reached, and then a terrible sight struck his eyes.

All the lower region was covered with smoke, forming, as it were, one gigantic cloud lying close to the earth. In this cloud towns, aqueducts, villas, trees, disappeared; but farther beyond this gray, ghastly plain the city was burning on the hills. The conflagration had not the form of a pillar of fire, as happens when a single building is burning, even when of the greatest size. That was a long belt, rather, shaped like the belt of dawn. Above this belt rose a wave of smoke, in places entirely black, in places looking rose-colored, in places like blood, in places turning in on itself, in some places inflated, in others squeezed and squirming, like a serpent which is unwinding and extending.

That monstrous wave seemed at times to cover even the belt of fire, which became then as narrow as a ribbon; but later this ribbon illuminated the smoke from beneath, changing its lower rolls into waves of flame. The two extended from one side of the sky to the other, hiding its lower part, as at times a stretch of forest hides the horizon. The Sabine hills were not visible in the least.

It seemed at the first glance of the eye that not only the city was burning, but the whole world, and that no living being could save itself from that ocean of flame and smoke. The wind blew with increasing strength from the region of the fire, bringing the smell of burnt things and of smoke, which began to hide even nearer objects. Clear daylight had come, and the sun lighted up the summits surrounding the Alban Lake.

But the bright golden rays of the morning appeared reddish and sickly through the haze. Vinicius, while descending toward Albanum, entered smoke which was denser, less and less transparent. The town itself was buried in it thoroughly. The alarmed citizens had moved out to the street. It was a[Pg 111] terror to think of what might be in Rome, when it was difficult to breathe in Albanum.

He met increasing numbers of people, who had deserted the city and were going to the Alban hills; they had escaped the fire and wished to go beyond the line of smoke. Before he had reached Ustrinum he had to slacken his pace because of the throng. Besides pedestrians with bundles on their backs he met horses with packs, mules and vehicles laden with effects, and finally litters in which slaves were bearing the wealthier citizens. The town of Ustrinum was so thronged with fugitives from Rome that it was difficult to push through the crowd. On the market square, under temple porticos, and on the streets were swarms of fugitives.

Here and there people were erecting tents under which whole families were to find shelter. Others settled down under the naked sky, shouting, calling on the gods, or cursing the Fates. In the general terror it was difficult to inquire about anything. New crowds of men, women, and children arrived from the direction of Rome every moment; these increased the disorder and outcry. Some, gone astray in the throng, sought desperately those whom they had lost; others fought for a camping place.

Half-crazy shepherds from the Campania crowded to the town to hear news, or find profit in plunder made easy by the uproar. Here and there crowds of slaves of every nationality and gladiators fell to robbing houses and villas in the town, and to fighting with the soldiers who appeared in defence of the citizens.

Junius, a friend of Vinicius, said, after a moment's hesitation, in a low voice: "I know that thou wilt not betray me, so I will tell thee that this is no common fire. People were not permitted to save the Circus. When houses began to burn in every direction, I myself heard thousands of voices exclaiming, 'Death to those who save!' Certain people ran through the city and hurled burning torches into buildings.

"On the other hand, people are revolting and crying that the city is burning at command. I can say nothing more. Woe to the city, woe to us all and to me! The tongue of man cannot tell what is happening there. People are perishing in[Pg 112] flames or slaying one another in the throng. This is the end of Rome!"

Vinicius, nearing the walls, found it easier to reach Rome than penetrate to the middle of the city. It was difficult to push along the Appian Way, because of the throng of people. Houses, cemeteries, fields, gardens, and temples, lying on both sides of it, were turned into camping places. In the temple of Mars, which stood near the Porta Appia, the crowd had thrown down the doors, so as to find a refuge within during night hours. In the cemeteries the larger monuments were seized, and battles fought in defence of them, which were carried to bloodshed. Ustrinum with its disorder gave barely a slight foretaste of that which was happening beneath the walls of the capital.

All regard for the dignity of law, for family ties, for difference of position, had ceased. Gladiators drunk with wine seized in the Emporium, gathered in crowds and ran with wild shouts through the neighboring squares, trampling, scattering, and robbing the people. A multitude of barbarian slaves, exposed for sale in the city, escaped from the booths. For them the burning and ruin of Rome were at once the end of slavery and the hour of revenge; so that when the permanent inhabitants, who had lost all they owned in the fire, stretched their hands to the gods in despair, calling for rescue, these slaves with howls of delight scattered the crowds, dragged clothing from people's backs, and bore away the younger women. They were joined by other slaves serving in the city from of old, wretches who had nothing on their bodies save woollen girdles around their hips, dreadful figures from the alleys, who were hardly ever seen on the streets in the daytime, and whose existence in Rome it was difficult to suspect.

Men of this wild and unrestrained crowd—Asiatics, Africans, Greeks, Thracians, Germans, Britons—howling in every language of the earth, raged, thinking that the hour had come in which they were free to reward themselves for years of misery and suffering. In the midst of that surging throng of humanity, in the glitter of day and of fire, shone the helmets of prætorians, under whose protection the more peaceable population had taken refuge, and who in hand-to-hand battle had to meet the raging multitude in many places. Vinicius had seen[Pg 113] captured cities, but never had his eyes beheld a spectacle in which despair, tears, pain, groans, wild delight, madness, rage, and license were mingled together in such immeasurable chaos. Above this heaving, mad human multitude roared the fire, surging up to the hill-tops of the greatest city on earth, sending into the whirling throng its fiery breath, and covering it with smoke, through which it was impossible to see the blue sky.

The young tribune with supreme effort, and exposing his life every moment, forced his way at last to the Appian Gate; but there he saw that he could not reach the city through the division of the Porta Capena, not merely because of the throng, but also because of the terrible heat from which the whole atmosphere was quivering inside the gate. Besides, the bridge at the Porta Trigenia, opposite the temple of the Bona Dea, did not exist yet, hence those who wished to go beyond the Tiber had to pass through to the Pons Sublicius—that is, to pass around the Aventine through a part of the city covered now with one sea of flame. That was an impossibility. Vinicius understood that he must return toward Ustrinum, turn from the Appian Way, cross the river below the city, and go to the Via Portuensis, which led straight to the Trans-Tiber.

That was not easy because of the increasing disorder on the Appian Way. At the fountain of Mercury, however, he saw a centurion who was known to him. This man, at the head of a few tens of soldiers, was defending the precinct of the temple; he commanded him to follow. Recognizing a tribune and an Augustian, the centurion did not dare to disobey the order.

He and his men were followed by curses and a shower of stones; but to these he gave no heed, caring only to reach freer spaces at the earliest. Still he advanced with the greatest effort. People who had encamped would not move, and heaped loud curses on Cæsar and the prætorians. The throng assumed in places a threatening aspect. Thousands of voices accused Nero of burning the city. He and Poppæa were threatened with death. Shouts of "Buffoon, actor, matricide!" were heard round about. Some shouted to drag him to the Tiber; others that Rome had shown patience enough. It was clear that were a leader found these threats could be changed into open rebellion which might break out any moment.[Pg 114]

Meanwhile the rage and despair of the crowd turned against the prætorians, who for another reason could not make their way out of the crowd: the road was blocked by piles of goods, borne from the fire previously, boxes, barrels of provisions, furniture the most costly, vessels, infants' cradles, beds, carts, hand-packs. Here and there they fought hand-to-hand; but the prætorians conquered the weaponless multitude easily. After they had ridden with difficulty across the Viæ Latina, Numitia, Ardea, Lavinia, and Ostia, and passed around villas, gardens, cemeteries, and temples, Vinicius reached at last a village called Vicus Alexandri, beyond which he crossed the Tiber. There was more open space at this spot and less smoke. From fugitives, of whom there was no lack even there, he learned that only certain alleys of the Trans-Tiber were burning, but that surely nothing could resist the fury of the conflagration, since people were spreading the fire purposely, and permitted no one to quench it, declaring that they acted at command.

The young tribune had not the least doubt then that Cæsar had given command to burn Rome; and the vengeance which people demanded seemed to him just and proper. What more could Mithradates or any of Rome's most inveterate enemies have done? The measure had been exceeded; his madness had grown to be too enormous, and the existence of people too difficult because of him. All believed that Nero's hour had struck, that those ruins into which the city was falling should and must overwhelm the monstrous buffoon together with all those crimes of his. Should a man be found of courage sufficient to stand at the head of the despairing people, that might happen in a few hours. Here vengeful and daring thoughts began to fly through his head. But if he should do that?

The family of Vinicius, which till recent times counted a whole series of consuls, was known throughout Rome. The crowds needed only a name. Once, when four hundred slaves of the prefect Pedanius Secundus were sentenced, Rome reached the verge of rebellion and civil war. What would happen to-day in view of a dreadful calamity surpassing almost everything which Rome had undergone in the course of eight centuries? Whoever calls the quirites to arms, thought Vinicius,[Pg 115] will overthrow Nero undoubtedly, and clothe himself in purple.

The Trans-Tiber was full of smoke, and crowds of fugitives made it more difficult to reach the interior of the place, since people, having more time there, had saved greater quantities of goods. The main street itself was in many parts filled completely, and around the Naumachia Augusta great heaps were piled up. Narrow alleys, in which smoke had collected more densely, were simply impassable. The inhabitants were fleeing in thousands. On the way Vinicius saw wonderful sights. More than once two rivers of people, flowing in opposite directions, met in a narrow passage, stopped each other, men fought hand-to-hand, struck and trampled one another. Families lost one another in the uproar; mothers called on their children despairingly. The young tribune's hair stood on end at thought of what must happen nearer the fire.

Amid shouts and howls it was difficult to inquire about anything or understand what was said. At times new columns of smoke from beyond the river rolled toward them, smoke black and so heavy that it moved near the ground, hiding houses, people, and every object, just as night does. The fervor of a July day, increased by the heat of the burning parts of the city, became unendurable. Smoke pained the eyes; breath failed in men's breasts. Even the inhabitants who, hoping that the fire would not cross the river, had remained in their houses so far, began to leave them, and the throng increased hourly. The prætorians accompanying Vinicius were in the rear. In the crush some one wounded his horse with a hammer; the beast threw up its bloody head, reared, and refused obedience. The crowd recognized in Vinicius an Augustian by his rich tunic, and at once cries were raised round about, "Death to Nero and his incendiaries!" This was a moment of terrible danger; hundreds of hands were stretched toward Vinicius; but his frightened horse bore him away, trampling people as he went, and the next moment a new wave of black smoke rolled in and filled the street with darkness. Vinicius, seeing that he could not ride past, sprang to the earth and rushed forward on foot, slipping along walls, and at times waiting till the fleeing multitude passed him. He said to himself in spirit that these were vain efforts.[Pg 116]

At times he stopped and rubbed his eyes. Tearing off the edge of his tunic, he covered his nose and mouth with it and ran on. As he approached the river the heat increased terribly. Vinicius, knowing that the fire had begun at the Circus Maximus, thought at first that that heat came from its cinders and from the Forum Boarium and the Velabrum, which, situated near by, must be also in flames. But the heat was growing unendurable. One old man on crutches and fleeing, the last whom Vinicius noticed, cried: "Go not near the bridge of Cestius! The whole island is on fire!" It was, indeed, impossible to be deceived any longer. At the turn toward the Vicus Judæorum the young tribune saw flames amid clouds of smoke. Not only the island was burning, but the Trans-Tiber and the other end of the street on which he ran.

The thunder of the flames was more terrible than the roar of wild beasts, and the hour had come now in which he must think of his own safety, for the river of fire was flowing nearer and nearer from the direction of the island, and rolls of smoke covered the alley almost completely. The taper which he carried was quenched from the current of air. Vinicius rushed to the street, and ran at full speed toward the Via Portuensis, whence he had come; the fire seemed to pursue him with burning breath, now surrounding him with fresh clouds of smoke, now covering him with sparks, which fell on his hair, neck, and clothing. The tunic began to smoulder on him in places; he cared not, but ran forward lest he might be stifled from smoke. He had the taste of soot and burning in his mouth; his throat and lungs were as if on fire. The blood rushed to his head, and at moments all things, even the smoke itself, seemed red to him.

Then he thought: "This is living fire! Better throw myself upon the ground and quickly perish." The running tortured him more and more. His head, neck, and shoulders were streaming with sweat, which scalded like boiling water.

But he ran on as if drunk, staggering from one side of the street to the other. Meanwhile something changed in that monstrous conflagration which had embraced the giant city. Everything which till then had only glimmered, burst forth visibly into one sea of flame; the wind had ceased to bring[Pg 117] smoke. That smoke which had collected in the streets was borne away by a mad whirl of heated air. That whirl drove with it millions of sparks, so that Vinicius was running in a fiery cloud, as it were. But he was able to see before him all the better, and in a moment, almost when he was ready to fall, he saw the end of the street. That sight gave him fresh strength. Passing the corner, he found himself in a street which led to the Via Portuensis and the Codetan Field. The sparks ceased to drive him. He understood that if he could run to the Via Portuensis he was safe, even were he to faint on it.

At the end of the street he saw again a cloud, as it seemed, which stopped the exit. "If that is smoke," thought he, "I cannot pass." He ran with the remnant of his strength. On the way he threw off his tunic, which, on fire from the sparks, was burning him like the shirt of Nessus, having only a capitium around his head and before his mouth. When he had run farther, he saw that what he had taken for smoke was dust, from which rose a multitude of cries and voices.

"The rabble are plundering houses," thought Vinicius. But he ran toward the voices. In any case people were there; they might assist him. In this hope he shouted for aid with all his might before he reached them. But this was his last effort. It grew redder still in his eyes, breath failed his lungs, strength failed his bones; he fell.

They heard him, however, or rather saw him. Two men ran with gourds full of water. Vinicius, who had fallen from exhaustion, but had not lost consciousness, seized a gourd with both hands and emptied one-half of it.

"Thanks," said he; "place me on my feet; I can walk on alone."

The other laborer poured water on his head; the two not only placed him on his feet, but raised him from the ground and carried him to the others, who surrounded him and asked if he had suffered seriously. This tenderness astonished Vinicius.

"People, who are ye?" asked he.

"We are breaking down houses, so that the fire may not reach the Via Portuensis," answered one of the laborers.[Pg 118]

"Ye came to my aid when I had fallen. Thanks to you."

"We are not permitted to refuse aid," answered a number of voices.

Vinicius, who from early morning had seen brutal crowds slaying and robbing, looked with more attention on the faces around him and said:

"May Christ reward you."

"Praise to his name!" exclaimed a whole chorus of voices.

It was evening, but one could see as in daylight, for the conflagration had increased. It seemed that not single parts of the city were burning, but the whole city through the length and the breadth of it. The sky was red as far as the eye could see it, and that night in the world was a red night.

The light from the burning city filled the sky as far as human eye could reach. The moon rose large and full from behind the mountains, and, inflamed at once by the glare, took on the color of heated brass. It seemed to look with amazement on the world-ruling city which was perishing. In the rose-colored abysses of heaven rose-colored stars were glittering; but in distinction from usual nights the earth was brighter than the heavens. Rome, like a giant pile, illuminated the whole Campania.

In the bloody light were seen distant mountains, towns, villas, temples, monuments, and the aqueducts stretching toward the city from all the adjacent hills; on the aqueducts were swarms of people who had gathered there for safety or to gaze at the burning. Meanwhile the dreadful element was embracing new divisions of the city. It was impossible to doubt that criminal hands were spreading the fire, since new conflagrations were breaking out all the time in places remote from the principal fire.

From the heights on which Rome was founded the flames flowed like waves of the sea into the valleys densely occupied by houses—houses of five and six stories, full of shops, booths, movable wooden amphitheatres, built to accommodate various spectacles; and finally storehouses of wood, olives, grain, nuts, pine cones, the kernels of which nourished the more needy population, and clothing, which through Cæsar's favor was distributed from time to time among the rabble huddled into[Pg 119] narrow alleys. In those places the fire, finding abundance of inflammable materials, became almost a series of explosions, and took possession of whole streets with unheard-of rapidity. People encamping outside the city or standing on the aqueducts knew from the color of the flame what was burning. The furious power of the wind carried forth from the fiery gulf thousands and millions of burning shells of walnuts and almonds, which, shooting suddenly into the sky, like countless flocks of bright butterflies, burst with a crackling, or, driven by the wind, fell in other parts of the city, on aqueducts and fields beyond Rome.

All thought of rescue seemed out of place; confusion increased every moment, for on one side the population of the city was fleeing through every gate to places outside; on the other the fire had lured in thousands of people from the neighborhood, such as dwellers in small towns, peasants, and half-wild shepherds of the Campania brought in by hope of plunder. The shout, "Rome is perishing!" did not leave the lips of the crowd; the ruin of the city seemed at that time to end every rule and loosen all bonds which hitherto had joined people in a single integrity. The mob, in which slaves were more numerous, cared nothing for the lordship of Rome. Destruction of the city could only free them; hence here and there they assumed a threatening attitude.

Violence and robbery were extending. It seemed that only the spectacle of the perishing city arrested attention, and restrained for the moment an outburst of slaughter, which would begin as soon as the city was turned into ruins. Hundreds of thousands of slaves, forgetting that Rome, besides temples and walls, possessed some tens of legions in all parts of the world, appeared merely waiting for a watchword and a leader. People began to mention the name of Spartacus; but Spartacus was not alive. Meanwhile citizens assembled and armed themselves each with what he could. The most monstrous reports were current at all the gates. Some declared that Vulcan, commanded by Jupiter, was destroying the city with fire from beneath the earth; others that Vesta was taking vengeance for Rubria. People with these convictions did not care to save anything, but, besieging the temples, implored mercy of the[Pg 120] gods. It was repeated most generally, however, that Cæsar had given command to burn Rome, so as to free himself from odors which rose from the Subura, and build a new city under the name of Neronia. Rage seized the populace at thought of this; and if, as Vinicius believed, a leader had taken advantage of that outburst of hatred, Nero's hour would have struck whole years before it did.

It was said also that Cæsar had gone mad, that he would command prætorians and gladiators to fall upon the people and make a general slaughter. Others swore by the gods that wild beasts had been let out of all the vivaria at Bronze-beard's command. Men had seen on the streets lions with burning manes, and mad elephants and bisons, trampling down people in crowds. There was even some truth in this; for in certain places elephants, at sight of the approaching fire, had burst the vivaria, and, gaining their freedom, rushed away from the fire in wild fright, destroying everything before them like a tempest. Public report estimated at tens of thousands the number of persons who had perished in the conflagration. In truth a great number had perished. There were people who, losing all their property, or those dearest their hearts, threw themselves willingly into the flames from despair. Others were suffocated by smoke. In the middle of the city, between the Capitol on one side, and the Quirinal, the Viminal, and the Esquiline on the other, as also between the Palatine and the Cælian hill, where the streets were most densely occupied, the fire began in so many places at once that whole crowds of people, while fleeing in one direction, struck unexpectedly on a new wall of fire in front of them, and died a dreadful death in a deluge of flame.

In terror, in distraction and bewilderment, people knew not where to flee. The streets were obstructed with goods and in many narrow places were simply closed. Those who took refuge in those markets and squares of the city where the Flavian Amphitheatre stood afterward, near the temple of the Earth, near the Portico of Silvia, and higher up, at the temples of Juno and Lucinia, between the Clivus Virbius and the old Esquiline gate, perished from heat, surrounded by a sea of fire. In places not reached by the flames were found afterward[Pg 121] hundreds of bodies burned to a crisp, though here and there unfortunates tore up flat stones and half buried themselves in defence against the heat. Hardly a family inhabiting the centre of the city survived in full; hence along the walls, at the gates, on all roads were heard howls of despairing women, calling on the dear names of those who had perished in the throng or the fire.

And so, while some were imploring the gods, others blasphemed them because of this awful catastrophe. Old men were seen coming from the temple of Jupiter Liberator, stretching forth their hands and crying, "If thou be a liberator, save thy altars and the city!" But despair turned mainly against the old Roman gods, who, in the minds of the populace, were bound to watch over the city more carefully than others. They had proved themselves powerless; hence were insulted. On the other hand, it happened on the Via Asinaria that when a company of Egyptian priests appeared conducting a statue of Isis, which they had saved from the temple near the Porta Cælimontana, a crowd of people rushed among the priests, attached themselves to the chariot, which they drew to the Appian gate, and seizing the statue placed it in the temple of Mars, overwhelming the priests of that deity who dared to resist them.

In other places people invoked Serapis, Baal, or Jehovah, whose adherents, swarming out of the alleys in the neighborhood of the Subura and the Trans-Tiber, filled with shouts and uproar the fields near the walls. In their cries were heard tones as if of triumph; when, therefore, some of the citizens joined the chorus and glorified "the Lord of the World," others, indignant at this glad shouting, strove to repress it by violence. Here and there hymns were heard, sung by men in the bloom of life, by old men, by women and children—hymns wonderful and solemn, whose meaning they understood not, but in which were repeated from moment to moment the words "Behold the Judge cometh in the day of wrath and disaster." Thus this deluge of restless and sleepless people encircled the burning city, like a tempest-driven sea. But neither despair nor blasphemy nor hymn helped in any way.

The destruction seemed as irresistible, perfect, and pitiless[Pg 122] as Predestination itself. Around Pompey's Amphitheatre stores of hemp caught fire, and ropes used in circuses, arenas, and every kind of machine at the games, and with them the adjoining buildings containing barrels of pitch with which ropes were smeared. In a few hours all that part of the city beyond which lay the Campus Martius was so lighted by bright yellow flames that for a time it seemed to the spectators, only half conscious from terror, that in the general ruin the order of night and day had been lost, and that they were looking at sunshine. But later a monstrous bloody gleam extinguished all other colors of flame. From the sea of fire shot up to the heated sky gigantic fountains, and pillars of flame spreading at their summits into fiery branches and feathers; then the wind bore them away, turned them into golden threads, into hair, into sparks, and swept them on over the Campania toward the Alban hills. The night became brighter; the air itself seemed penetrated, not only with light, but with flame. The Tiber flowed on as living fire. The hapless city was turned into one pandemonium. The conflagration seized more and more space, took hills by storm, flooded level places, drowned valleys, raged, roared, and thundered.

The city burned on. The Circus Maximus had fallen in ruins. Entire streets and alleys in parts which began to burn first were falling in turn. After every fall pillars of flame rose for a time to the very sky. The wind had changed, and blew now with mighty force from the sea, bearing toward the Cælian, the Esquiline, and the Viminal rivers of flame, brands, and cinders. Still the authorities provided for rescue. At command of Tigellinus, who had hastened from Antium the third day before, houses on the Esquiline were torn down so that the fire, reaching empty spaces, died of itself. That was, however, undertaken solely to save a remnant of the city; to save that which was burning was not to be thought of. There was need also to guard against further results of the ruin. Incalculable wealth had perished in Rome; all the property of its citizens had vanished; hundreds of thousands of people were wandering in utter want outside the walls. Hunger had begun to pinch this throng the second day, for the immense stores of provisions in the city had burned with it. In the universal disorder and[Pg 123] in the destruction of authority no one had thought of furnishing new supplies. Only after the arrival of Tigellinus were proper orders sent to Ostia; but meanwhile the people had grown more threatening.

Besides flour, as much baked bread as possible was brought at his command, not only from Ostia, but from all towns and neighboring villages. When the first instalment came at night to the Emporium, the people broke the chief gate toward the Aventine, seized all supplies in the twinkle of an eye, and caused terrible disturbance. In the light of the conflagration they fought for loaves, and trampled many of them into the earth. Flour from torn bags whitened like snow the whole space from the granary to the arches of Drusus and Germanicus. The uproar continued till soldiers seized the building and dispersed the crowd with arrows and missiles.

Never since the invasion by the Gauls under Brennus had Rome beheld such disaster. People in despair compared the two conflagrations. But in the time of Brennus the Capitol remained. Now the Capitol was encircled by a dreadful wreath of flame. The marbles, it is true, were not blazing; but at night, when the wind swept the flames aside for a moment, rows of columns in the lofty sanctuary of Jove were visible, red as glowing coals. In the days of Brennus, moreover, Rome had a disciplined integral people, attached to the city and its altars; but now crowds of a many-tongued populace roamed nomad-like around the walls of burning Rome, people composed for the greater part of slaves and freedmen, excited, disorderly, and ready, under the pressure of want, to turn against authority and the city.

But the very immensity of the fire which terrified every heart disarmed the crowd in a certain measure. After fire might come famine and disease; and to complete the misfortune the terrible heat of July had appeared. It was impossible to breathe air inflamed both by fire and the sun. Night brought no relief; on the contrary, it presented a hell. During daylight an awful and ominous spectacle met the eye. In the centre a giant city on heights was turned into a roaring volcano; round about as far as the Alban hills was one boundless camp, formed of sheds, tents, huts, vehicles, bales, packs, stands, fires, and all[Pg 124] covered with smoke and dust, lighted by sun rays reddened by passing through smoke—everything filled with roars, shouts, threats, hatred, and terror, a monstrous swarm of men, women, and children. Mingled with quirites were Greeks, shaggy men from the North with blue eyes, Africans, and Asiatics; among citizens were slaves, freedmen, gladiators, merchants, mechanics, servants, and soldiers—a real sea of people, flowing around the island of fire.

Various reports moved this sea as wind does a real one. These reports were favorable and unfavorable. People told of immense supplies of wheat and clothing to be brought to the Emporium and distributed gratis. It was said, too, that provinces in Asia and Africa would be stripped of their wealth at Cæsar's command, and the treasures thus gained be given to the inhabitants of Rome, so that each man might build his own dwelling.

But it was noised about also that water in the aqueducts had been poisoned; that Nero intended to annihilate the city, destroy the inhabitants to the last person, then move to Greece or to Egypt, and rule the world from a new place. Each report ran with lightning speed, and each found belief among the rabble, causing outbursts of hope, anger, terror, or rage. Finally a kind of fever mastered those nomadic thousands. The belief of Christians that the end of the world by fire was at hand spread even among adherents of the gods and extended daily. People fell into torpor or madness. In clouds lighted by the burning, gods were seen gazing down on the ruin; hands were stretched toward those gods then to implore pity or send them curses.

Meanwhile soldiers, aided by a certain number of inhabitants, continued to tear down houses on the Esquiline and the Cælian, as also in the Trans-Tiber; these divisions were saved therefore in considerable part. But in the city itself were destroyed incalculable treasures accumulated through centuries of conquest—priceless works of art, splendid temples, the most precious monuments of Rome's past and Rome's glory. They foresaw that of all Rome there would remain barely a few parts on the edges, and that hundreds of thousands of people would be without a roof. Some spread reports that the soldiers were[Pg 125] tearing down houses, not to stop the fire, but to prevent any part of the city from being saved. Tigellinus sent courier after courier to Antium, imploring Cæsar in each letter to come and calm the despairing people with his presence. But Nero moved only when fire had seized the domus transitoria and he hurried so as not to miss the moment in which the conflagration should be at its highest.

Meanwhile fire had reached the Via Nomentana, but turned from it at once with a change of wind toward the Via Lata and the Tiber. It surrounded the Capitol, spread along the Forum Boarium, destroyed everything which it had spared before, and approached the Palatine a second time.

Tigellinus, assembling all the prætorian forces, despatched courier after courier to Cæsar with an announcement that he would lose nothing of the grandeur of the spectacle, for the fire had increased.

But Nero, who was on the road, wished to come at night, so as to sate himself all the better with a view of the perishing capital. Therefore he halted, in the neighborhood of Aqua Albana, and, summoning to his tent the tragedian Aliturus, decided with his aid on posture, look, and expression; learned fitting gestures, disputing with the actor stubbornly whether at the words, "O sacred city, which seemed more enduring than Ida," he was to raise both hands, or, holding in one the forminga, drop it by his side, and raise only the other. This question seemed to him then more important than all others. Starting at last about nightfall, he took counsel of Petronius also whether to the lines describing the catastrophe he might add a few magnificent blasphemies against the gods, and whether, considered from the standpoint of art, they would not have rushed spontaneously from the mouth of a man in such a position, a man who was losing his birthplace.

At length he approached the walls about midnight with his numerous court, composed of whole detachments of nobles, senators, knights, freedmen, slaves, women, and children. Sixteen thousand prætorians, arranged in line of battle along the road, guarded the peace and safety of his entrance, and held the excited populace at a proper distance. The people cursed, shouted, and hissed on seeing the retinue, but dared not attack[Pg 126] it. In many places, however, applause was given by the rabble, which, owning nothing, had lost nothing in the fire, and which hoped for a more bountiful distribution than usual of wheat, olives, clothing, and money. Finally, shouts, hissing, and applause were drowned in the blare of horns and trumpets, which Tigellinus had caused to be sounded.

Nero, on arriving at the Ostian gate, halted, and said: "Houseless ruler of a houseless people, where shall I lay my unfortunate head for the night?"

After he had passed the Clivus Delphini, he ascended the Appian aqueduct on steps prepared purposely. After him followed the Augustians and a choir of singers, bearing citharæ, lutes, and other musical instruments.

And all held the breath in their breasts, waiting to learn if he would say some great words, which for their own safety they ought to remember. But he stood solemn, silent, in a purple mantle and a wreath of golden laurels, gazing at the raging might of the flames.

When Terpnos gave him a golden lute, he raised his eyes to the sky, filled with the conflagration, as if he were waiting for inspiration. The people pointed at him from afar as he stood in the bloody gleam. In the distance fiery serpents were hissing. The ancient and most sacred edifices were in flames; the temple of Hercules, reared by Evander, was burning; the temple of Jupiter Stator was burning, the temple of Luna, built by Servius Tullius, the house of Numa Pompilius, the sanctuary of Vesta with the penates of the Roman people; through waving flames the Capitol appeared at intervals; the past and the spirit of Rome were burning. But Cæsar was there with a lute in his hand and a theatrical expression on his face, not thinking of his perishing country, but of his posture and the prophetic words with which he might describe best the greatness of the catastrophe, rouse most admiration, and receive the warmest plaudits.

He detested that city, he detested its inhabitants, he loved only his own songs and verses; hence he rejoiced in heart that at last he saw a tragedy like that which he was writing. The poet was happy, the declaimer felt inspired, the seeker for emotions was delighted at the awful sight, and thought with rapture[Pg 127] that even the destruction of Troy was as nothing if compared with the destruction of that giant city. What more could he desire? There was world-ruling Rome in flames, and he, standing on the arches of the aqueduct with a golden lute, conspicuous, purple, admired, magnificent, and poetic. Down below, somewhere in the darkness, the people are muttering and storming; let them mutter! Ages will elapse, thousands of years will pass, but mankind will remember and glorify the poet who that night sang the fall and the burning of Troy. What was Homer compared with him? What Apollo himself with his hollowed-out lute?

Here he raised his hands, and, striking the strings, with an exaggerated theatrical gesture pronounced the words of Priam:

"O nest of my fathers, O dear cradle!" His voice in the open air, with the roar of the conflagration, and the distant murmur of crowding thousands, seemed marvellously weak, uncertain, and low, and the sound of the accompaniment like the buzzing of insects. But senators, dignitaries, and Augustians, assembled on the aqueduct, bowed their heads and listened in silent rapture. He sang long, and his motive was ever sadder. At moments, when he stopped to catch breath, the chorus of singers repeated the last verse; then Nero cast the tragic syrma from his shoulder with a gesture learned from Aliturus, struck the lute, and sang on. When he had finished the lines composed, he improvised, using grandiose comparisons in the spectacle unfolded before him. His face began to change. He was not moved, it is true, by the destruction of his country's capital; but he was delighted and moved with the pathos of his own words to such a degree that his eyes filled with tears on a sudden.

At last he dropped the lute to his feet with a clatter, and, wrapping himself in the syrma, stood as if petrified, like one of those statues of Niobe which ornamented the courtyard of the Palatine. Soon a storm of applause broke the silence. But in the distance this was answered by the howling of multitudes. No one doubted then that Cæsar had given command to burn the city, so as to afford himself a spectacle and sing a song at it.[Pg 128]


There followed a dreadful disaster, whether fortuitously or by the wicked contrivance of the prince is not determined, for both are asserted by historians; but of all the calamities which ever befell this city from the rage of fire, this was the most terrible and severe. It broke out in that part of the Circus which is contiguous to mounts Palatine and Cælius, where, by reason of shops in which were kept such goods as minister aliment to fire, the moment it commenced it acquired strength, and, being accelerated by the wind, it spread at once through the whole extent of the Circus: for neither were the houses secured by enclosures nor the temples environed with walls, nor was there any other obstacle to intercept its progress; but the flame, spreading every way impetuously, invaded first the lower regions of the city, then mounted to the higher; then again ravaging the lower, it baffled every effort to extinguish it, by the rapidity of its destructive course, and from the liability of the city to conflagration, in consequence of the narrow and intricate alleys, and the irregularity of the streets in ancient Rome.

Add to this the wailings of terrified women, the infirm condition of the aged, and the helplessness of childhood; such as strove to provide for themselves and those who labored to assist others; these dragging the feeble, those waiting for them; some hurrying, others lingering; altogether created a scene of universal confusion and embarrassment: and while they looked back upon the danger in their rear, they often found themselves beset before and on their sides; or, if they had escaped into the quarters adjoining, these, too, were already seized by the devouring flames; even the parts which they believed remote and exempt were found to be in the same distress. At last, not knowing what to shun or where to seek sanctuary, they crowded the streets and lay along in the open fields. Some, from the loss of their whole substance, even the means of their daily sustenance, others, from affection for their relations whom they had not been able to snatch from the flames, suffered themselves to perish in them, though they had opportunity to escape. Neither dared any man offer to check the fire, so repeated were the menaces of many who forbade to extinguish it;[Pg 129] and because others openly threw firebrands, with loud declarations "that they had one who authorized them"; whether they did it that they might plunder with the less restraint or in consequence of orders given.

Nero, who was at that juncture sojourning at Antium, did not return to the city till the fire approached that quarter of his house which connected the palace with the gardens of Mæcenas; nor could it, however, be prevented from devouring the house and palace and everything around. But for the relief of the people, thus destitute and driven from their dwellings, he opened the field of Mars and the monumental edifices erected by Agrippa, and even his own gardens. He likewise reared temporary houses for the reception of the forlorn multitude, and from Ostia and the neighboring cities were brought, up the river, household necessaries, and the price of grain was reduced to three sesterces the measure. All which proceedings, though of a popular character, were thrown away, because a rumor had become universally current "that at the very time when the city was in flames, Nero, going on the stage of his private theatre, sang The Destruction of Troy, assimilating the present disaster to that catastrophe of ancient times."

At length, on the sixth day, the conflagration was stayed at the foot of Esquiliæ, by pulling down an immense quantity of buildings, so that an open space, and, as it were, void air, might check the raging element by breaking the continuity. But ere the consternation had subsided the fire broke out afresh, with no little violence, but in regions more spacious, and therefore with less destruction of human life; but more extensive havoc was made of the temples and the porticoes dedicated to amusement. This conflagration, too, was the subject of more censorious remark, as it arose in the Æmilian possessions of Tigellinus, and Nero seemed to aim at the glory of building a new city and calling it by his own name; for, of the fourteen sections into which Rome is divided, four were still standing entire, three were levelled with the ground, and in the seven others there remained only here and there a few remnants of houses, shattered and half consumed.

It were no very easy task to recount the number of tenements and temples which were lost; but the following, most[Pg 130] venerable for antiquity and sanctity, were consumed: that dedicated by Servius Tullius to the Moon; the temple and great altar consecrated by Evander the Arcadian to Hercules while present; the chapel vowed by Romulus to Jupiter Stator; the palace of Numa with the temple of Vesta, and in it the tutelar gods of Rome. Moreover, the treasures accumulated by so many victories, the beautiful productions of Greek artists, ancient writings of authors celebrated for genius, and till then preserved entire, were consumed; and though great was the beauty of the city, in its renovated form, the older inhabitants remembered many decorations of the ancient which could not be replaced in the modern city. There were some who remarked that the commencement of this fire showed itself on the fourteenth before the calends of July, the day on which the Senones set fire to the captured city. Others carried their investigation so far as to determine that an equal number of years, months, and days intervened between the two fires.

To proceed: Nero appropriated to his own purposes the ruins of his country,[27] and founded upon them a palace; in which the old-fashioned, and, in those luxurious times, common ornaments of gold and precious stones, were not so much the objects of attraction as lands and lakes; in one part, woods like vast deserts; in another part, open spaces and expansive prospects. The projectors and superintendents of this plan were Severus and Celer, men of such ingenuity and daring enterprise as to attempt to conquer by art the obstacles of nature and fool away the treasures of the prince. They had even undertaken to sink a navigable canal from the lake Avernus to the mouth of the Tiber, over an arid shore or through opposing mountains; nor indeed does there occur anything of a humid nature for supplying water except the Pomptine marshes; the rest is either craggy rock or a parched soil; and had it even been possible to break through these obstructions, the toil had[Pg 131] been intolerable and disproportioned to the object. Nero, however, who longed to achieve things that exceeded credibility, exerted all his might to perforate the mountains adjoining to Avernus, and to this day there remain traces of his abortive project.

But the rest of the old site not occupied by his palace was laid out, not as after the Gallic fire without discrimination and regularity, but with the lines of streets measured out, broad spaces left for transit, the height of the buildings limited, open areas left, and porticoes added to protect the front of the clustered dwellings: these porticoes Nero engaged to rear at his own expense, and then to deliver to each proprietor the areas about them cleared. He, moreover, proposed rewards proportioned to every man's rank and private substance, and fixed a day within which, if their houses, single and clustered, were finished, they should receive them. He appointed the marshes of Ostia for a receptacle of the rubbish, and that the vessels which had conveyed grain up the Tiber should return laden with rubbish; that the buildings themselves should be raised a certain portion of their height without beams, and arched with stone from the quarries of Gabii or Alba, that stone being proof against fire; that over the water springs, which had been improperly intercepted by private individuals, overseers should be placed, to provide for their flowing in greater abundance, and in a greater number of places, for the supply of the public; that every housekeeper should have in his yard means for extinguishing fire, neither should there be party walls, but every house should be enclosed by its own walls.[28]

These regulations, which were favorably received, in consideration of their utility, were also a source of beauty to the new city; yet some there were who believed that the ancient form was more conducive to health, as from the narrowness of the streets and the height of the buildings the rays of the sun were more excluded; whereas now, the spacious breadth of the streets, without any shade to protect it, was more intensely heated in warm weather.

Such were the provisions made by human counsels. The[Pg 132] gods were next addressed with expiations, and recourse had to the sibyl's books. By admonition from them to Vulcan, Ceres, and Proserpina, supplicatory sacrifices were made, and Juno propitiated by the matrons, first in the Capitol, then upon the nearest shore, where, by water drawn from the sea, the temple and image of the goddess were besprinkled; the ceremony of placing the goddess in her sacred chair, and her vigil, were celebrated by ladies who had husbands. But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration. Hence, to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt and punished with the most exquisite tortures the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities.

Christus, the founder of that name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius; but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, whither all things horrible and disgraceful flow from all quarters as to a common receptacle and where they are encouraged. Accordingly first those were seized who confessed they were Christians; next on their information a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city as of hating the human race. And in their deaths they were also made the subjects of sport, for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when day declined, burned to serve for nocturnal lights. Nero offered his own gardens for that spectacle, and exhibited a Circensian game, indiscriminately mingling with the common people in the habit of a charioteer, or else standing in his chariot. Whence a feeling of compassion arose toward the sufferers, though guilty and deserving to be made examples of by capital punishment, because they seemed not to be cut off for the public good, but victims to the ferocity of one man.

In the mean time, in order to supply money all Italy was pillaged, the provinces ruined, both the people in alliance with[Pg 133] us and the states which are called free. Even the gods were not exempt from plunder on this occasion, their temples in the city being despoiled, and all the gold conveyed away which the Roman people, in every age, either in gratitude for triumphs or in fulfilment of vows, had consecrated, in times of prosperity, or in seasons of dismay. Through Greece and Asia, indeed, the gifts and oblations and even the statues of the deities were carried off.


[27] According to Suetonius, Nero turned the public calamity to his own private advantage. He promised to remove the bodies that lay amid the ruins, and to clear the ground at his own expense. By that artifice he secured all the remaining property of the unhappy sufferers for his own use. To add to his ill-gotten store, he levied contributions in the provinces, and by those means collected an immense sum.

[28] By a law of the Twelve Tables, it was provided that a space of something more than two feet was to be left between all new-built houses.

[Pg 134]


A.D. 64-68


Down to the reign of Nero Christians in the Roman Empire were regarded by the ruling powers merely as a Jewish sect, harmless and guilty of nothing which could call for the interference of the State with their ways of life or of worship. They were therefore unmolested. But during the reign of the infamous Emperor in whom they saw antichrist and the actual embodiment of the symbolic monstrosities of the Apocalypse, the Christians began to be recognized as a separate people, and from milder persecutions at first, under cover of legal procedure, they were soon subjected to outrages, tortures, and deaths than which history has none more revolting and pitiful to record. In Kaulbach's great painting of Nero's persecution there is enough of portrayal and suggestion to add a terrible vividness to the ordinary historian's word-pictures. The Emperor, surrounded by his boon companions, stands on his garden terrace to receive divine honors, while a group of suffering Christians—among them St. Peter, crucified head down, and St. Paul, passionately protesting against the diabolical work—move to compassion a company of elderly men and a body of German soldiers who look upon the horrible spectacle of martyrdom.

This, the first persecution of the Christians, reached its culminating point of ferocity in a.d. 64, after Nero had been accused of kindling, or conniving at the work of those who did kindle, the great fire in Rome. In order to divert attention, even if he could not turn suspicion, from himself, having charged the Christians with causing the conflagration, he ordered the atrocities which added a still darker stain to his personal and imperial record of shameless crime and savage inhumanity. First such as confessed themselves to be Christians were dealt with, and from these information was extorted on which vast numbers were convicted, "not so much on the charge of burning the city as of hating the human race."

Nero's character and acts have been depicted by many writers and in famous works of art, but not even the pencil of Kaulbach can make more keen the realization of those scenes enacted in this persecution[Pg 135] than the thrilling narration of Farrar, which for picturesque eloquence, fired with dramatic intensity, has seldom been surpassed in English literature.

Nero was so secure in his absolutism, he had hitherto found it so impossible to shock the feelings of the people or to exhaust the terrified adulation of the senate, that he was usually indifferent to the pasquinades which were constantly holding up his name to execration and contempt. But now[29] he felt that he had gone too far, and that his power would be seriously imperilled if he did not succeed in diverting the suspicions of the populace. He was perfectly aware that when the people in the streets cursed those who set fire to the city they meant to curse him. If he did not take some immediate step, he felt that he might perish, as Gaius had perished before him, by the dagger of the assassin.

It is at this point of his career that Nero becomes a prominent figure in the history of the Church. It was this phase of cruelty which seemed to throw a blood-red light over his whole character and led men to look on him as the very incarnation of the world-power in its most demoniac aspect, as worse than the Antiochus Epiphanes of Daniel's Apocalypse, as the Man of Sin whom—in language figurative indeed, yet awfully true—the Lord should slay with the breath of his mouth and destroy with the brightness of his coming, for Nero endeavored to fix the odious crime of having destroyed the capital of the world upon the most innocent and faithful of his subjects—upon the only subjects who offered heartfelt prayers on his behalf—the Roman Christians. They were the defenceless victims of this horrible charge, for though they were the most harmless, they were also the most hated and the most slandered of living men.

Why he should have thought of singling out the Christians has always been a curious problem, for at this point St. Luke ends the Acts of the Apostles, perhaps purposely dropping the curtain, because it would have been perilous and useless to narrate the horrors in which the hitherto neutral or friendly Roman government began to play so disgraceful a part. Neither Tacitus, nor Suetonius, nor the Apocalypse, helps us to solve this particular problem. The Christians had filled no large[Pg 136] space in the eye of the world. Until the days of Domitian we do not hear of a single noble or distinguished person who had joined their ranks. That the Pudens and Claudia of Rom. xvi. were the Pudens and Claudia of Martial's Epigrams seems to me to be a baseless dream. If the "foreign superstition" with which Pomponia Græcina, wife of Aulus Plautius, the conqueror of Britain, was charged, and of which she was acquitted, was indeed, as has been suspected, the Christian religion, at any rate the name of Christianity was not alluded to by the ancient writers who had mentioned the circumstance. Even if Rom. xvi. was addressed to Rome, and not, as I believe, to Ephesus, "they of the household of Narcissus which were in the Lord" were unknown slaves, as also were "they of Cæsar's household."

The slaves and artisans, Jewish and Gentile, who formed the Christian community at Rome, had never in any way come into collision with the Roman government. They must have been the victims rather than the exciters of the messianic tumults—for such they are conjectured to have been—which led to the expulsion of the Jews from Rome by the futile edict of Claudius. Nay, so obedient and docile were they required to be by the very principles on which their morality was based, so far were they removed from the fierce independence of the Jewish zealots, that, in writing to them a few years earlier, the greatest of their leaders had urged upon them a payment of tribute and a submission to the higher powers, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake, because the earthly ruler, in his office of repressing evil works, is a minister of God. That the Christians were entirely innocent of the crime charged against them was well known both at the time and afterward. But how was it that Nero sought popularity and partly averted the deep rage which was rankling in many hearts against himself, by torturing men and women, on whose agonies he thought that the populace would gaze not only with a stolid indifference, but even with fierce satisfaction?

Gibbon has conjectured that the Christians were confounded with the Jews, and that the detestation universally felt for the latter fell with double force upon the former. Christians suffered even more than the Jews because of the calumnies so[Pg 137] assiduously circulated against them, and from what appeared to the ancients to be the revolting absurdity of their peculiar tenets. "Nero," says Tacitus, "exposed to accusation, and tortured with the most exquisite penalties, a set of men detested for their enormities, whom the common people called 'Christians.' Christus, the founder of this sect, was executed during the reign of Tiberius, by the procurator Pontius Pilate, and the deadly superstition, suppressed for a time, began to burst out once more, not only throughout Judea, where the evil had its root, but even in the city, whither from every quarter all things horrible or shameful are drifted, and find their votaries."

The lordly disdain which prevented Tacitus from making any inquiry into the real views and character of the Christians is shown by the fact that he catches up the most baseless allegations against them. He talks of their doctrines as savage and shameful when they breathed the very spirit of peace and purity. He charges them with being animated by a hatred of their kind when their central tenet was a universal charity. The masses, he says, called them "Christians"; and while he almost apologizes for staining his page with so vulgar an appellation,[30] he merely mentions in passing that, though innocent of the charge of being turbulent incendiaries, on which they were tortured to death, they were yet a set of guilty and infamous sectaries, to be classed with the lowest dregs of Roman criminals.

But the haughty historian throws no light on one difficulty—namely, the circumstances which led to the Christians being thus singled out. The Jews were in no way involved in Nero's persecution. To persecute the Jews at Rome would not have[Pg 138] been an easy matter. They were sufficiently numerous to be formidable, and had overawed Cicero in the zenith of his fame. Besides this, the Jewish religion was recognized, tolerated, licensed. Throughout the length and breadth of the empire no man, however much he and his race might be detested and despised, could have been burned or tortured for the mere fact of being a Jew. We hear of no Jewish martyrdoms or Jewish persecutions till we come to the times of the Jewish War, and then chiefly in Palestine itself. It is clear that a shedding of blood—in fact, some form or other of human sacrifice—was imperatively demanded by popular feeling as an expiation of the ruinous crime which had plunged so many thousands into the depths of misery. In vain had the sibylline books been once more consulted, and in vain had public prayer been offered, in accordance with their directions to Vulcan and the goddesses of Earth and Hades. In vain had the Roman matrons walked in procession in dark robes, and with their long hair unbound, to propitiate the insulted majesty of Juno, and to sprinkle with sea-water her ancient statue. In vain had largesses been lavished upon the people, and propitiatory sacrifices offered to the gods. In vain had public banquets been celebrated in honor of various deities. A crime had been committed, and Romans had perished unavenged. Blood cried for blood before the sullen suspicion against Nero could be averted or the indignation of heaven appeased.

Nero had always hated, persecuted, and exiled the philosophers, and no doubt, so far as he knew anything of the Christians—so far as he saw among his own countless slaves any who had embraced this superstition, which the élite of Rome described as not only new, but "execrable" and "malefic"—he would hate their gravity and purity, and feel for them that raging envy which is the tribute that virtue receives from vice. Moreover, St. Paul, in all probability, had recently stood before his tribunal, and though he had been acquitted on the special charges of turbulence and profanation, respecting which he had appealed to Cæsar, yet during the judicial inquiry Nero could hardly have failed to hear from the emissaries of the Sanhedrim many fierce slanders of a sect which was everywhere spoken against. The Jews were by far the deadliest[Pg 139] enemies of the Christians, and two persons of Jewish proclivities were at this time in close proximity to the person of the Emperor. One was the pantomimist Aliturus, the other was Poppæa, the harlot-empress.[31] The Jews were in communication with these powerful favorites, and had even promised Nero that if his enemies ever prevailed at Rome he should have the kingdom of Jerusalem.[32]

It is not even impossible that there may have been a third dark and evil influence at work to undermine the Christians, for about this very time the unscrupulous Pharisee Flavius Josephus had availed himself of the intrigues of the palace to secure the liberation of some Jewish priests. If, as seems certain, the Jews had it in their power during the reign of Nero more or less to shape the whisper of the throne, does not historical induction drive us to conclude with some confidence that the suggestion of the Christians as scapegoats and victims came from them? St. Clement says in his Epistle that the Christians suffered through jealousy. Whose jealousy? Who can tell what dark secrets lie veiled under that suggestive word? Was Acte a Christian, and was Poppæa jealous of her? That suggestion seems at once inadequate and improbable, especially as Acte was not hurt. But there was a deadly jealousy at work against the new religion.

To the pagans, Christianity was but a religious extravagance—contemptible, indeed, but otherwise insignificant. To the Jews, on the other hand, it was an object of hatred, which never stopped short of bloodshed when it possessed or could usurp the power, and which, though long suppressed by circumstances,[Pg 140] displayed itself in all the intensity of its virulence during the brief spasm of the dictatorship of Barcochebas. Christianity was hateful to the Jews on every ground. It nullified their law. It liberated all Gentiles from the heavy yoke of that law, without thereby putting them on a lower level. It even tended to render those who were born Jews indifferent to the institutions of Mosaism. It was, as it were, a fatal revolt and schism from within, more dangerous than any assault from without. And, worse than all, it was by the Gentiles confounded with the Judaism which was its bitterest antagonist. While it sheltered its existence under the mantle of Judaism, as a religio licita, it drew down upon the religion from whose bosom it sprang all the scorn and hatred which were attached by the world to its own special tenets, for however much the Greeks and Romans despised the Jews, they despised still more the belief that the Lord and Saviour of the world was a crucified malefactor who had risen from the dead.

I see in the proselytism of Poppæa, guided by Jewish malice, the only adequate explanation of the first Christian persecution. Hers was the jealousy which had goaded Nero to matricide; hers not improbably was the instigated fanaticism of a proselyte which urged him to imbrue his hands in martyr blood. And she had her reward. A woman of whom Tacitus has not a word of good to say and who seems to have been repulsive even to a Suetonius, is handed down by the renegade Pharisee as "a devout woman"—as a worshipper of God!

And, indeed, when once the Christians were pointed out to the popular vengeance, many reasons would be adduced to prove their connection with the conflagration. Temples had perished—and were they not notorious enemies of the temples? Did not popular rumor charge them with nocturnal orgies and Thyestæan feasts? Suspicions of incendiarism were sometimes brought against Jews; but the Jews were not in the habit of talking, as these sectaries were, about a fire which should consume the world, and rejoicing in the prospect of that fiery consummation.[33] Nay, more, when pagans had bewailed the[Pg 141] destruction of the city and the loss of the ancient monuments of Rome, had not these pernicious people used ambiguous language, as though they joyously recognized in these events the signs of a coming end? Even when they tried to suppress all outward tokens of exultation, had they not listened to the fears and lamentations of their fellow-citizens with some sparkle in the eyes, and had they not answered with something of triumph in their tones? There was a satanic plausibility which dictated the selection of these particular victims. Because they hated the wickedness of the world, with its ruthless games and hideous idolatries, they were accused of hatred of the whole human race.

The charge of incivisme, so fatal in this reign of terror, was sufficient to ruin a body of men who scorned the sacrifices of heathendom and turned away with abhorrence from its banquets and gayeties. The cultivated classes looked down upon the Christians with a disdain which would hardly even mention them without an apology. The canaille of pagan cities insulted them with obscene inscriptions and blasphemous pictures on the very walls of the places where they met.[34] Nay, they were popularly known by nicknames, like Sarmenticii and Semaxii—untranslatable terms of opprobrium derived from the fagots with which they were burned and the stakes to which they were chained. Even the heroic courage which they displayed was described as being sheer obstinacy and stupid fanaticism.

But in the method chosen for the punishment of these saintly innocents Nero gave one more proof of the close connection between effeminate æstheticism and sanguinary callousness. As in old days, "on that opprobrious hill," the temple of Chemosh had stood close by that of Moloch, so now we find the spoliarium beside the fornices—Lust hard by Hate. The carnificina of Tiberius, at Capreæ, adjoined the sellariæ. History has given many proofs that no man is more systematically[Pg 142] heartless than a corrupted debauchee. Like people, like prince. In the then condition of Rome, Nero well knew that a nation, "cruel, by their sports to blood inured," would be most likely to forget their miseries and condone their suspicions by mixing games and gayety with spectacles of refined and atrocious cruelty, of which, for eighteen centuries, the most passing record has sufficed to make men's blood run cold.

Tacitus tells us that "those who confessed were first seized, and then on their evidence a huge multitude[35] were convicted, not so much on the charge of incendiarism as for their hatred to mankind." Compressed and obscure as the sentence is, Tacitus clearly means to imply by the "confession" to which he alludes the confession of Christianity, and though he is not sufficiently generous to acquit the Christians absolutely of all complicity in the great crime, he distinctly says that they were made the scapegoats of a general indignation. The phrase—"a huge multitude"—is one of the few existing indications of the number of martyrs in the first persecution, and of the number of Christians in the Roman Church. When the historian says that they were convicted on the charge of "hatred against mankind" he shows how completely he confounds them with the Jews, against whom he elsewhere brings the accusation of "hostile feelings toward all except themselves."

Then the historian adds one casual but frightful sentence—a sentence which flings a dreadful light on the cruelty of Nero and the Roman mob. He adds: "And various forms of mockery were added to enhance their dying agonies. Covered with the skins of wild beasts, they were doomed to die by the mangling of dogs, or by being nailed to crosses, or to be set on fire and burned after twilight by way of nightly illumination. Nero offered his own garden for this show, and gave a chariot race, mingling with the mob in the dress of a charioteer, or actually driving about among them. Hence, guilty as the victims were, and deserving of the worst punishments, a feeling of compassion toward them began to rise, as men felt that they were being immolated not for any advantage to the Commonwealth, but to glut the savagery of a single man."

[Pg 143]

Imagine that awful scene, once witnessed by the silent obelisk in the square before St. Peter's at Rome! Imagine it, that we may realize how vast is the change which Christianity has wrought in the feelings of mankind! There, where the vast dome now rises, were once the gardens of Nero. They were thronged with gay crowds, among whom the Emperor moved in his frivolous degradation—and on every side were men dying slowly on their cross of shame. Along the paths of those gardens on the autumn nights were ghastly torches, blackening the ground beneath them with streams of sulphurous pitch, and each of those living torches was a martyr in his shirt of fire. And in the amphitheatre hard by, in sight of twenty thousand spectators, famished dogs were tearing to pieces some of the best and purest of men and women, hideously disguised in the skins of bears or wolves. Thus did Nero baptize in the blood of martyrs the city which was to be for ages the capital of the world!

The specific atrocity of such spectacles—unknown to the earlier ages which they called barbarous—was due to the cold-blooded selfishness, the hideous realism of a refined, delicate, æsthetic age. To please these "lisping hawthorn buds," these debauched and sanguinary dandies, art, forsooth, must know nothing of morality; must accept and rejoice in a "healthy animalism"; must estimate life by the number of its few wildest pulsations; must reckon that life is worthless without the most thrilling experiences of horror or delight! Comedy must be actual shame, and tragedy genuine bloodshed. When the play of Afranius, called The Conflagration, was put on the stage, a house must be really burned and its furniture really plundered. In the mime called Laureolus an actor must really be crucified and mangled by a bear, and really fling himself down and deluge the stage with blood. When the heroism of Mucius Scævola was represented, a real criminal must thrust his hand without a groan into the flame and stand motionless while it is being burned. Prometheus must be really chained to his rock, and Dirce in very fact be tossed and gored by the wild bull; and Orpheus be torn to pieces by a real bear; and Icarus must really fly, even though he fall and be dashed to death; and Hercules must ascend the funeral pyre and there[Pg 144] be veritably burned alive; and slaves and criminals must play their parts heroically in gold and purple till the flames envelop them.

It was the ultimate romance of a degraded and brutalized society. The Roman people, "victors once, now vile and base," could now only be amused by sanguinary melodrama. Fables must be made realities, and the criminal must gracefully transform his supreme agonies into amusements for the multitude by becoming a gladiator or a tragedian. Such were the spectacles at which Nero loved to gaze through his emerald eye-glass. And worse things than these—things indescribable, unutterable. Infamous mythologies were enacted, in which women must play their part in torments of shamefulness more intolerable than death. A St. Peter must hang upon the cross in the Pincian gardens, as a real Laureolus upon the stage. A Christian boy must be the Icarus, and a Christian man the Scævola or the Hercules or the Orpheus of the amphitheatre; and Christian women, modest maidens, holy matrons, must be the Danaids or the Proserpine or worse, and play their parts as priestesses of Saturn and Ceres, and in blood-stained dramas of the dead. No wonder that Nero became to Christian imagination the very incarnation of evil; the antichrist; the Wild Beast from the abyss; the delegate of the great red Dragon, with a diadem and a name of blasphemy upon his brow. No wonder that he left a furrow of horror in the hearts of men, and that, ten centuries after his death, the church of Sta. Maria del Popolo had to be built by Pope Pascal II to exorcise from Christian Rome his restless and miserable ghost!

And it struck them with deeper horror to see that the antichrist, so far from being abhorred, was generally popular. He was popular because he presented to the degraded populace their own image and similitude. The frog-like unclean spirits which proceeded, as it were, out of his mouth were potent with these dwellers in an atmosphere of pestilence. They had lost all love for freedom and nobleness; they cared only for doles and excitement. Even when the infamies of a Petronius had been superseded by the murderous orgies of Tigellinus, Nero was still everywhere welcomed with shouts as a god on earth and saluted on all coins as Apollo, as Hercules, as "the savior[Pg 145] of the world." The poets still assured him that there was no deity in heaven who would not think it an honor to concede to him his prerogatives; that if he did not place himself well in the centre of Olympus, the equilibrium of the universe would be destroyed. Victims were slain along his path, and altars raised for him—for this wretch, whom an honest slave could not but despise and loathe—as though he was too great for mere human honors. Nay, more, he found adorers and imitators of his execrable example—an Otho, a Vitellius, a Domitian, a Commodus, a Caracalla, a Heliogabalus—to poison the air of the world. The lusts and hungers and furies of the world lamented him, and cherished his memory, and longed for his return.

And yet, though all bad men—who were the majority—admired and even loved him, he died the death of a dog. Tremendous as was the power of imperialism, the Romans often treated their individual emperors as Nero himself treated the Syrian goddess, whose image he first worshipped with awful veneration and then subjected to the most grotesque indignities, for retribution did not linger, and the vengeance fell at once on the guilty Emperor and the guilty city.

"Careless seems the Great Avenger: History's pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness 'twixt false systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne,
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own."[36]

The air was full of prodigies. There were terrible storms; the plague wrought fearful ravages. Rumors spread from lip to lip. Men spoke of monstrous births; of deaths by lightning under strange circumstances; of a brazen statue of Nero melted by the flash; of places struck by the brand of heaven in fourteen regions of the city; of sudden darkenings of the sun. A hurricane devastated Campania; comets blazed in the heavens; earthquakes shook the ground. On all sides were the traces of deep uneasiness and superstitious terror. To all these portents, which were accepted as true by Christians as well as by pagans, the Christians would give a specially terrible significance. They strengthened their conviction that the coming of[Pg 146] the Lord drew nigh. They convinced the better sort of pagans that the hour of their deliverance from a tyranny so monstrous and so disgraceful was near at hand.

In spite of the shocking servility with which alike the senate and the people had welcomed him back to the city with shouts of triumph, Nero felt that the air of Rome was heavy with curses against his name. He withdrew to Naples, and was at supper there on March 19, a.d. 68, the anniversary of his mother's murder, when he heard that the first note of revolt had been sounded by the brave C. Julius Vindex, prefect of Farther Gaul. He was so far from being disturbed by the news that he showed a secret joy at the thought that he could now order Gaul to be plundered. For eight days he took no notice of the matter. He was only roused to send an address to the senate because Vindex wounded his vanity by calling him Ahenobarbus[37] and "a bad singer." But when messenger after messenger came from the provinces with tidings of menace, he hurried back to Rome. At last, when he heard that Virginius Rufus had also rebelled in Germany, and Galba in Spain, he became aware of the desperate nature of his position.

On receiving this intelligence he fainted away, and remained for some time unconscious. He continued, indeed, his grossness and frivolity, but the wildest and fiercest schemes chased each other through his melodramatic brain. He would slay all the exiles; he would give up all the provinces to plunder; he would order all the Gauls in the city to be butchered; he would have all the senators invited to banquets, and would then poison them; he would have the city set on fire, and the wild beasts of the Amphitheatre let loose among the people; he would depose both the consuls and become sole consul himself, since legend said that only by a consul could Gauls be conquered; he would go with an army to the province, and when he got there would do nothing but weep, and when he had thus moved the rebels to compassion would next day sing with them at a great festival the ode of victory which he must at once compose. Not a single manly resolution lent a moment's dignity to his miserable fall.

[Pg 147]

Sometimes he talked of escaping to Ostia and arming the sailors; at others of escaping to Alexandria and earning his bread by his "divine voice." Meanwhile he was hourly subjected to the deadliest insults, and terrified by dreams and omens so sombre that his faith in the astrologers who had promised him the government of the East and the kingdom of Jerusalem began to be rudely shaken. When he heard that not a single army or general remained faithful to him, he kicked over the table at which he was dining, dashed to pieces on the ground two favorite goblets embossed with scenes from the Homeric poems, and placed in a golden box some poison furnished to him by Locusta.

The last effort which he contemplated was to mount the Rostra, beg pardon of the people for his crimes, ask them to try him again, and, at the worst, to allow him the prefecture of Egypt. But this design he did not dare to carry out, from fear that he would be torn to pieces before he reached the Forum. Meanwhile he found that the palace had been deserted by his guards, and that his attendants had robbed his chamber even of the golden box in which he had stored his poison. Rushing out, as though to drown himself in the Tiber, he changed his mind, and begged for some quiet hiding-place in which to collect his thoughts. The freedman Phaon offered him a lowly villa about four miles from the city. Barefooted, and with a faded coat thrown over his tunic, he hid his head and face in a kerchief and rode away with only four attendants. On the road he heard the tumult of the prætorians cursing his name. Amid evil omens and serious perils he reached the back of Phaon's villa, and, creeping toward it through a muddy reed-bed, was secretly admitted into one of its mean slave-chambers by an aperture through which he had to crawl on his hands and feet.

There is no need to dwell on the miserable spectacle of his end, perhaps the meanest and most pusillanimous which has ever been recorded. The poor wretch who, without a pang, had caused so many brave Romans and so many innocent Christians to be murdered could not summon up resolution to die. He devised every operatic incident of which he could think. When even his most degraded slaves urged him to[Pg 148] have sufficient manliness to save himself from the fearful infamies which otherwise awaited him, he ordered his grave to be dug, and fragments of marble to be collected for its adornment, and water and wood for his funeral pyre, perpetually whining, "What an artist to perish!"

Meanwhile a courier arrived for Phaon. Nero snatched his despatches out of his hand and read that the senate had decided that he should be punished in the ancestral fashion as a public enemy. Asking what the ancestral fashion was, he was informed that he would be stripped naked and scourged to death with rods, with his head thrust into a fork. Horrified at this, he seized two daggers, and, after theatrically trying their edges, sheathed them again, with the excuse that the fatal moment had not yet arrived! Then he bade Sporus begin to sing his funeral song, and begged some one to show him how to die. Even his own intense shame at his cowardice was an insufficient stimulus, and he whiled away the time in vapid epigrams and pompous quotations. The sound of horses' hoofs then broke on his ears, and, venting one more Greek quotation, he held the dagger to his throat. It was driven home by Epaphroditus, one of his literary slaves. At this moment the centurion who came to arrest him rushed in. Nero was not yet dead, and under pretence of helping him the centurion began to stanch the wound with his cloak. "Too late," he said; "is this your fidelity?" So he died; and the bystanders were horrified with the way in which his eyes seemed to be starting out of his head in a rigid stare. He had begged that his body might be burned without posthumous insults, and this was conceded by Icelus, the freedman of Galbo.

So died the last of the Cæsars! And as Robespierre was lamented by his landlady, so even Nero was tenderly buried by two nurses who had known him in the exquisite beauty of his engaging childhood, and by Acte, who had inspired his youth with a genuine love.

But his history does not end with his grave. He was to live on in the expectation alike of Jews and Christians. The fifth head of the Wild Beast of the Revelation was in some sort to reappear as the eighth; the head with its diadem and its names of blasphemy had been wounded to death, but in the[Pg 149] Apocalyptic sense the deadly wound was to be healed. The Roman world could not believe that the heir of the deified Julian race could be cut off thus suddenly and obscurely and vanish like foam upon the water. The Christians felt sure that it required something more than an ordinary death stroke to destroy the antichrist, and to end the vitality of the Wild Beast from the Abyss, who had been the first to set himself in deadly antagonism against the Redeemer and to wage war upon the saints of God.


[29] In his behavior at the burning of Rome.

[30] There can be little doubt that the name "Christian"—so curiously hybrid, yet so richly expressive—was a nickname due to the wit of the Antiochenes, which exercised itself quite fearlessly even on the Roman emperors. They were not afraid to affix nicknames to Caracalla, and to call Julian Cecrops and Victimarius, with keen satire of his beard. It is clear that the sacred writers avoided the name, because it was employed by their enemies, and by them mingled with terms of the vilest opprobrium. It only became familiar when the virtues of Christians had shed lustre upon it, and when alike in its true form, and in the ignorant mispronunciation "Chrestians," it readily lent itself to valuable allegorical meanings.

[31] According to John of Antioch and the Chronicon Paschale, Nero was originally favorable to the Christians, and put Pilate to death, for which the Jews plotted his murder. Poppæa's Judaism is inferred from her refusing to be burned, and requesting to be embalmed; from her adopting the custom of wearing a veil in the streets; from the favor which she showed to Aliturus and Josephus; and from the fact that Josephus speaks of her as a religious woman.

[32] Tiberius Alexander, the nephew of Philo, afterward procurator of Judea, was a person of influence at Rome; but he was a renegade, and would not be likely to hate the Christians. It is, however, remarkable that legend attributed the anger of Nero to the conversion of his mistress and a favorite slave.

[33] St. Peter—apparently thinking of the fire at Rome and its consequences—calls the persecution from which the Christians were suffering when he wrote his First Epistle a "conflagration."

[34] Tertullian mentions one of these coarse caricatures—a figure with one foot hoofed, wearing a toga, carrying a book, and with long ass's ears, under which was written, "The God of the Christians, Onokoites." He says that Christians were actually charged with worshipping the head of an ass. The same preposterous calumny, with many others, is alluded to by Minucius Felix. The Christians were hence called Asinarii. Analogous calumnies were aimed at the Jews.

[35] Tertullian says that "Nero was the first who raged with the sword of Cæsar against this sect, which was then specially rising at Rome."

[36] James Russell Lowell: The Present Crisis.

[37] "Bronze-beard." Ahenobarbus was the name of a plebeian family to which Nero belonged.

[Pg 150]



A.D. 70


From a.d. 66 events of great moment occurred in Palestine. The Jews were in the throes of revolt against the Roman Government. At the same time the chief factions of the revolutionary party were constantly fighting each other. One of these factions was led by the famous John of Gischala, another by Simon bar Gioras, and a third by Eleazar. These factions of a party which—since the reduction of Judea to a Roman province soon after the death of Herod—had resisted the oppression of the procurators, were now stirred to revolt by the exactions of the procurator Gessius Florus. The revolutionary party, called the Zealots, gained power, and there were many outbreaks in Jerusalem. The counsel of the more prudent spirits was disregarded. At last Roman blood was shed. The nobility and priesthood played into the hands of the Zealots by applying to Florus to put down the revolt. Florus marched against Jerusalem and was badly beaten by the Zealots.

Open war henceforth existed. Josephus, a Jew of the lineage of Aaron, trained according to the best discipline of his race, and who had also been well received at Rome, was placed by his countrymen in command of the province of Galilee. Afterward, as a historian, he described the events of the war.

Vespasian, who was then Rome's greatest general, soon came at the head of sixty thousand Roman soldiers. He attacked Galilee. Josephus, with such followers as he could gather, took position on an almost inaccessible hill in Jotapata, which the Romans for five days stormed in vain, then besieged its brave defenders, afterward repeatedly assaulted; and finally, during the night following the forty-seventh day of the siege, Titus, serving under his father, Vespasian, gained possession of the place. Josephus, with forty of the principal citizens, hid in a cave, but their refuge was discovered through treachery.

Vespasian was anxious to take Josephus alive. He sent the tribune Nicanor, who had been his friend, to the Jewish leader to induce him with fair promises to surrender. Josephus was about to give himself up, but was prevented by his companions. "We will care for the honor of our country," they said. At the same time they offered a sword and "a hand that shall use it against thee." Josephus then proposed that they[Pg 151] should all die together, but by the hands of one another, instead of suicide. Lots were cast. He who drew the first offered his neck to him who stood next and so forward. Finally, through marvellous fortune, Josephus and one other alone were left, and here the slaughter ended. The two survivors surrendered to the Romans. Loud cries for the death of Josephus arose, but he was spared by the intercession of Titus. The fall of Jotapata led to the subjugation of Galilee.

When captured, Josephus made to Vespasian the prophecy: "Thou shalt be emperor—thou and thy son after thee," a prediction soon to be fulfilled, for in a.d. 69 Vespasian was proclaimed emperor, and the next year went to Rome, leaving Titus to carry on the war and subdue Jerusalem. Vespasian himself, it is recorded, released Josephus, "cutting off his chains," thus relieving him from all stain of dishonor.

"The capture of Jerusalem by Titus in this campaign," says Hosmer, "is one of the most memorable events in the history of mankind. It caused the expulsion of an entire race from its home. The Roman valor, skill, and persistence were never more conspicuously displayed. No more desperate resistance was ever opposed to the eagle-emblemed mistress of the ancient world. There is no event of ancient history the details of which are more minutely known. The circumstances in all their appalling features are given to us by the eye-witness, Josephus, so that we know them as vividly as we do the events of the career of Grant."

The legions had orders to encamp at the distance of six furlongs from Jerusalem, at the mount called the Mount of Olives, which lies over against the city on the east side, and is parted from it by a deep valley, interposed between them, which is named Cedron.

Now, when hitherto the several parties in the city had been dashing one against another perpetually, this foreign war, now suddenly come upon them after a violent manner, put the first stop to their contentions one against another; and as the seditious now saw with astonishment the Romans pitching three several camps, they began to think of an awkward sort of concord, and said one to another: "What do we here, and what do we mean, when we suffer three fortified walls to be built to coop us in, that we shall not be able to breathe freely? while the enemy is securely building a kind of city in opposition to us, and while we sit still within our own walls and become spectators only of what they are doing, with our hands idle, and our armor laid by, as if they were about somewhat that was for our good and advantage. We are, it seems (so did they cry out), only courageous against ourselves, while the Romans are likely[Pg 152] to gain the city without bloodshed by our sedition." Thus did they encourage one another when they were gotten together and took their armor immediately and ran out upon the Tenth legion and fell upon the Romans with great eagerness, and with a prodigious shout, as they were fortifying their camp. These Romans were caught in different parties, and this in order to perform their several works, and on that account had in great measure laid aside their arms, for they thought the Jews would not have ventured to make a sally upon them; and had they been disposed so to do, they supposed their sedition would have distracted them. So they were put into disorder unexpectedly; when some of them left their works they were about and immediately marched off, while many ran to their arms, but were smitten and slain before they could turn back upon the enemy. The Jews became still more and more in number, as encouraged by the good success of those that first made the attack; and while they had such good fortune, they seemed both to themselves and to the enemy to be many more than they really were.

The disorderly way of their fighting at first put the Romans also to a stand, who had been constantly used to fight skilfully in good order, and with keeping their ranks and obeying the orders that were given them, for which reason the Romans were caught unexpectedly and were obliged to give way to the assaults that were made upon them. Now, when these Romans were overtaken and turned back upon the Jews, they put a stop to their career; yet when they did not take care enough of themselves through the vehemency of their pursuit, they were wounded by them; but as still more and more Jews sallied out of the city, the Romans were at length brought into confusion, and put to flight, and ran away from their camp. Nay, things looked as though the entire legion would have been in danger, unless Titus had been informed of the case they were in, and had sent them succors immediately. So he reproached them for their cowardice and brought those back that were running away, and fell himself upon the Jews on their flank, with those select troops that were with him, and slew a considerable number, and wounded more of them, and put them all to flight, and made them run away hastily down the valley. Now as these[Pg 153] Jews suffered greatly in the declivity of the valley, so when they were gotten over it they turned about and stood over against the Romans, having the valley between them, and there fought with them. Thus did they continue the fight till noon; but when it was already a little after noon, Titus set those that came to the assistance of the Romans with him, and those that belonged to the cohorts, to prevent the Jews from making any more sallies, and then sent the rest of the legion to the upper part of the mountain, to fortify their camp.

This march of the Romans seemed to the Jews to be a flight; and as the watchman who was placed upon the wall gave a signal by shaking his garment, there came out a fresh multitude of Jews, and that with such mighty violence that one might compare it to the running of the most terrible wild beasts. To say the truth, none of those that opposed them could sustain the fury with which they made their attacks; but, as if they had been cast out of an engine, they brake the enemies' ranks to pieces, who were put to flight, and ran away to the mountain; none but Titus himself, and a few others with him, being left in the midst of the acclivity. Now these others, who were his friends, despised the danger they were in and were ashamed to leave their general, earnestly exhorting him to give way to these Jews that are fond of dying, and not to run into such dangers before those that ought to stay before him; to consider what his fortune was, and not, by supplying the place of a common soldier, to venture to turn back upon the enemy so suddenly; and this because he was general in the war, and lord of the habitable earth, on whose preservation the public affairs do all depend.

These persuasions Titus seemed not so much as to hear, but opposed those that ran upon him, and smote them on the face; and when he had forced them to go back, he slew them: he also fell upon great numbers as they marched down the hill, and thrust them forward; while those men were so amazed at his courage and his strength that they could not fly directly to the city, but declined from him on both sides, and pressed after those that fled up the hill; yet did he still fall upon their flank, and put a stop to their fury. In the mean time a disorder and a terror fell again upon those that were fortifying their camp at[Pg 154] the top of the hill, upon their seeing those beneath them running away; insomuch that the whole legion was dispersed while they thought that the sallies of the Jews upon them were plainly insupportable, and that Titus was himself put to flight, because they took it for granted that, if he had stayed, the rest would never have fled for it. Thus were they encompassed on every side by a kind of panic fear, and some dispersed themselves one way, and some another, till certain of them saw their general in the very midst of an action, and being under great concern for him, they loudly proclaimed the danger he was in to the entire legion; and now shame made them turn back, and they reproached one another that they did worse than run away, by deserting Cæsar. So they used their utmost force against the Jews, and declining from the straight declivity, they drove them on heaps into the bottom of the valley. Then did the Jews turn about and fight them; but as they were themselves retiring, and now, because the Romans had the advantage of the ground and were above the Jews, they drove them all into the valley.

As now the war abroad ceased for a while, the sedition within was revived; and on the feast of unleavened bread, which was now come, it being the fourteenth day of the month Xanthicus [Nisan], when it is believed the Jews were first freed from the Egyptians, Eleazar and his party opened the gates of this [inmost court of the] Temple, and admitted such of the people as were desirous to worship God into it. But John made use of this festival as a cloak for his treacherous designs, and armed the most inconsiderable of his own party, the greater part of whom were not purified, with weapons concealed under their garments, and sent them with great zeal into the Temple, in order to seize upon it, which armed men, when they were gotten in, threw their garments away, and presently appeared in their armor. Upon which there was a very great disorder and disturbance about the holy house, while the people, who had no concern in the sedition, supposed that this assault was made against all without distinction, as the Zealots thought it was made against themselves only. So these left off guarding the gates any longer and leaped down from their battlements before they came to an engagement, and fled away into the[Pg 155] subterranean caverns of the Temple, while the people that stood trembling at the altar and about the holy house were rolled on heaps together and trampled upon, and were beaten both with wooden and with iron weapons without mercy. Such also as had differences with others slew many persons that were quiet, out of their own private enmity and hatred, as if they were opposite to the seditious; and all those that had formerly offended any of these plotters were now known, and were now led away to the slaughter, and when they had done abundance of horrid mischief to the guiltless they granted a truce to the guilty and let those go off that came out of the caverns. These followers of John also did now seize upon this inner temple, and upon all the warlike engines therein, and then ventured to oppose Simon. And thus that sedition, which had been divided into three factions, was now reduced to two.

But Titus, intending to pitch his camp nearer to the city than Scopus, placed as many of his choice horsemen and footmen as he thought sufficient opposite to the Jews to prevent their sallying out upon them, while he gave orders for the whole army to level the distance as far as the wall of the city. So they threw down all the hedges and walls which the inhabitants had made about their gardens and groves of trees, and cut down all the fruit trees that lay between them and the wall of the city, and filled up all the hollow places and the chasms, and demolished the rocky precipices with iron instruments; and thereby made all the place level from Scopus to Herod's monuments, which adjoined to the pool called the Serpent's Pool.

Now at this very time the Jews contrived the following stratagem against the Romans. The bolder sort of the seditious went out at the towers, called the Women's Towers, as if they had been ejected out of the city by those who were for peace, and rambled about as if they were afraid of being assaulted by the Romans, and were in fear of one another, while those that stood upon the wall and seemed to be of the people's side cried out aloud for peace, and entreated they might have security for their lives given them, and called for the Romans, promising to open the gates to them; and as they cried out after that manner they threw stones at their own people, as though they would drive them away from the gates. These[Pg 156] also pretended that they were excluded by force, and that they petitioned those that were within to let them in; and rushing upon the Romans perpetually, with violence, they then came back, and seemed to be in great disorder. Now the Roman soldiers thought this cunning stratagem of theirs was to be believed real, and thinking they had the one party under their power, and could punish them as they pleased, and hoping that the other party would open their gates to them, set to the execution of their designs accordingly.

But for Titus himself, he had this surprising conduct of the Jews in suspicion, for whereas he had invited them to come to terms of accommodation, by Josephus, but one day before, he could then receive no civil answer from them; so he ordered the soldiers to stay where they were. However, some of them that were set in the front of the works prevented him, and catching up their arms ran to the gates; whereupon those that seemed to have been ejected at the first retired; but as soon as the soldiers were gotten between the towers on each side of the gate the Jews ran out and encompassed them round, and fell upon them behind, while that multitude which stood upon the wall threw a heap of stones and darts of all kinds at them, insomuch that they slew a considerable number, and wounded many more, for it was not easy for the Romans to escape, by reason those behind them pressed them forward; besides which, the shame they were under for being mistaken, and the fear they were in of their commanders, engaged them to persevere in their mistake; wherefore they fought with their spears a great while, and received many blows from the Jews, though indeed they gave them as many blows again, and at last repelled those that had encompassed them about, while the Jews pursued them as they retired, and followed them, and threw darts at them as far as the monuments of Queen Helena.

Now the warlike men that were in the city, and the multitude of the seditious that were with Simon, were ten thousand, besides the Idumeans. Those ten thousand had fifty commanders, over whom this Simon was supreme. The Idumeans that paid him homage were five thousand, and had eight commanders, among whom those of greatest fame were Jacob, the son of Sosas, and Simon, the son of Cathlas. John, who had seized[Pg 157] upon the Temple, had six thousand armed men under twenty commanders; the Zealots also that had come over to him and left off their opposition were two thousand four hundred, and had the same commander that they had formerly, Eleazar, together with Simon, the son of Arinus. Now, while these factions fought one against another, the people were their prey on both sides, and that part of the people who would not join with them in their wicked practices were plundered by both factions.

Simon held the upper city and the great wall as far as Cedron, and as much of the old wall as bent from Siloam to the east, and which went down to the palace of Monobazus, who was king of the Adiabeni, beyond Euphrates; he also held that fountain and the Acra, which was no other than the lower city; he also held all that reached to the palace of Queen Helena, the mother of Monobazus. But John held the Temple and the parts thereto adjoining, for a great way, as also Ophla, and the valley called "the Valley of Cedron"; and when the parts that were interposed between their possessions were burned by them, they left a space wherein they might fight with each other, for this internal sedition did not cease even when the Romans were encamped near their very walls. But although they had grown wiser at the first onset the Romans made upon them, this lasted but awhile, for they returned to their former madness, and separated one from another, and fought it out and did everything that the besiegers could desire them to do, for they never suffered anything that was worse from the Romans than they made each other suffer; nor was there any misery endured by the city, after these men's actions, that could be esteemed new. But it was most of all unhappy before it was overthrown, while those that took it did it a greater kindness; for I venture to affirm that the sedition destroyed the city, and the Romans destroyed the sedition, which it was a much harder thing to do than to destroy the walls; so that we may justly ascribe our misfortunes to our own people, and the just vengeance taken on them to the Romans; as to which matter let everyone determine by the actions on both sides.

Now when affairs within the city were in this posture, Titus went round the city on the outside with some chosen horsemen[Pg 158] and looked about for a proper place where he might make an impression upon the walls; but as he was in doubt where he could possibly make an attack on any side—for the place was no way accessible where the valleys were, and on the other side the first wall appeared too strong to be shaken by the engines—he thereupon thought it best to make his assault upon the monument of John, the high-priest, for there it was that the first fortification was lower, and the second was not joined to it, the builders neglecting to build strong where the new city was not much inhabited. Here also was an easy passage to the third wall, through which he thought to take the upper city and, through the tower of Antonia, the Temple itself. But at this time, as he was going round about the city, one of his friends, whose name was Nicanor, was wounded with a dart on his left shoulder, as he approached, together with Josephus, too near the wall, and attempted to discourse to those that were upon the wall about terms of peace, for he was a person known by them.

On this account it was that Cæsar, as soon as he knew their vehemence, that they would not bear even such as approached them to persuade them to what tended to their own preservation, was provoked to press on the siege. He also, at the same time, gave his soldiers leave to set the suburbs on fire, and ordered that they should bring timber together, and raise banks against the city. And when he had parted his army into three parts, in order to set about those works, he placed those that shot darts, and the archers in the midst of the banks that were then raising, before whom he placed those engines that threw javelins and darts and stones, that he might prevent the enemy from sallying out upon their works and might hinder those that were upon the wall from being able to obstruct them. So the trees were now cut down immediately and the suburbs left naked. But now while the timber was being carried to raise the banks, and the whole army was earnestly engaged in their works, the Jews were not, however, quiet. And it happened that the people of Jerusalem, who had been hitherto plundered and murdered, were now of good courage, and supposed they should have a breathing time, while the others were very busy in opposing their enemies without the city, and that they[Pg 159] should now be avenged on those that had been the authors of their miseries, in case the Romans did but get the victory.

However, John stayed behind, out of his fear of Simon, even while his own men were earnest in making a sally upon their enemies without. Yet did not Simon lie still, for he lay near the place of the siege; he brought his engines of war and disposed of them at due distances upon the wall, both those which they took from Cestius formerly, and those which they got when they seized the garrison that lay in the tower Antonia. But though they had these engines in their possession, they had so little skill in using them that they were in great measure useless to them; but a few there were who had been taught by deserters how to use them, which they did use, though after an awkward manner. So they cast stones and arrows at those that were making the banks; they also ran out upon them by companies and fought with them.

Now those that were at work covered themselves with hurdles spread over their banks, and their engines were opposed to them when they made their excursions. The engines, that all the legions had ready prepared for them, were admirably contrived; but still more extraordinary ones belonged to the Tenth legion: those that threw darts and those that threw stones were more forcible and larger than the rest, by which they not only repelled the excursions of the Jews, but drove those away that were upon the walls also. Now the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and farther. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space.

As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was of a white color, and could therefore not only be perceived by the great noise it made, but could be seen also before it came, by its brightness. Accordingly, the watchmen that sat upon the towers gave them notice when the engine was let go, and the stone came from it, and cried out aloud, in their own country language, "The son cometh!" so those that were in its way stood off, and threw themselves down upon the ground; by which means, and by their thus guarding themselves, the stone fell down and did them no harm. But the[Pg 160] Romans contrived how to prevent that, by blacking the stone, who then could aim at them with success when the stone was not discerned beforehand as it had been till then; and so they destroyed many of them at one blow. Yet did not the Jews, under all this distress, permit the Romans to raise their banks in quiet, but they shrewdly and boldly exerted themselves, and repelled them both by night and by day.

And now, upon the finishing the Roman works, the workmen measured the distance there was from the wall, and this by lead and a line which they threw to it from their banks, for they could not measure it any other wise, because the Jews would shoot at them, if they came to measure it themselves. And when they found that the engines could reach the wall they brought them thither. Then did Titus set his engines, at proper distances, so much nearer to the wall that the Jews might not be able to repel them, and gave orders they should go to work; and when, thereupon, a prodigious noise echoed round about from three places, and that on a sudden there was a great noise made by the citizens that were within the city, and no less a terror fell upon the seditious themselves. Whereupon both sorts, seeing the common danger they were in, contrived to make a like defence. So those of different factions cried out one to another that they acted entirely as in concert with their enemies, whereas they ought, however, notwithstanding God did not grant them a lasting concord in their present circumstances, to lay aside their enmities one against another and to unite together against the Romans. Accordingly, Simon gave those that came from the Temple leave, by proclamation, to go upon the wall; John also himself, though he could not believe Simon was in earnest, gave them the same leave.

So on both sides they laid aside their hatred and their peculiar quarrels, and formed themselves into one body. They then ran round the walls, and having a vast number of torches with them threw them at the machines, and shot darts perpetually upon those that impelled those engines which battered the wall—nay, the bolder sort leaped out by troops upon the hurdles that covered the machines, and pulled them to pieces, and fell upon those that belonged to them, and beat them, not so much by any skill they had, as principally by the boldness of their attacks.[Pg 161]

However, Titus himself still sent assistance to those that were the hardest beset, and placed both horsemen and archers on the several sides of the engines, and thereby beat off those that brought the fire to them. He also thereby repelled those that shot stones or darts from the towers, and then set the engines to work in good earnest; yet did not the wall yield to these blows, excepting where the battering ram of the Fifteenth legion moved the corner of a tower, while the wall itself continued unhurt, for the wall was not presently in the same danger with the tower, which was extant far above it; nor could the fall of that part of the tower easily break down any part of the wall itself together with it.

And now the Jews intermitted their sallies for a while, but when they observed the Romans dispersed all abroad at their works, and in their several camps—for they thought the Jews had retired out of weariness and fear—they all at once made a sally at the tower Hippicus, through an obscure gate, and at the same time brought fire to burn the works, and went boldly up to the Romans, and to their very fortifications themselves, where, at the cry they made, those that were near them came presently to their assistance, and those farther off came running after them. And here the boldness of the Jews was too hard for the good order of the Romans, and as they beat those whom they first fell upon, so they pressed upon those that were now gotten together. So this fight about the machines was very hot, while the one side tried hard to set them on fire, and the other side to prevent it. On both sides there was a confused cry made, and many of those in the forefront of the battle were slain.

However, the Jews were now too hard for the Romans by the furious assaults they made like madmen, and the fire caught hold of the works, and both all those works, and the engines themselves, had been in danger of being burned, had not many of those select soldiers that came from Alexandria opposed themselves to prevent it, and had they not behaved themselves with greater courage than they themselves supposed they could have done, for they outdid those in this fight that had greater reputation than themselves. This was the state of things till Cæsar took the stoutest of his horsemen and attacked the enemy,[Pg 162] while he himself slew twelve of those that were in the forefront of the Jews, which death of these men, when the rest of the multitude saw, they gave way, and he pursued them, and drove them all into the city, and saved the works from the fire. Now it happened at this fight that a certain Jew was taken alive who, by Titus' order, was crucified before the wall, to see whether the rest of them would be affrighted and abate of their obstinacy. But after the Jews were retired, John,[38] who was commander of the Idumeans, and was talking to a certain soldier of his acquaintance before the wall, was wounded by a dart shot at him by an Arabian, and died immediately, leaving the greatest lamentation to the Jews, and sorrow to the seditious, for he was a man of great eminence, both for his actions and his conduct also.

Now, on the next night, a surprising disturbance fell upon the Romans; for whereas Titus had given orders for the erection of three towers of fifty cubits high, that, by setting men upon them at every bank, he might from thence drive those away who were upon the wall, it so happened that one of these towers fell down about midnight, and as its fall made a very great noise, fear fell upon the army, and they, supposing that the enemy was coming to attack them, ran all to their arms. Whereupon a disturbance and a tumult arose among the legions, and as nobody could tell what had happened, they went on after a disconsolate manner; and seeing no enemy appear, they were afraid one of another, and every one demanded of his neighbor the watchword with great earnestness as though the Jews had invaded their camp. And now were they like people under a panic fear, until Titus was informed of what had happened, and gave orders that all should be acquainted with it; and then, though with some difficulty, they got clear of the disturbance they had been under.

Now these towers were very troublesome to the Jews, who otherwise opposed the Romans very courageously, for they shot at them out of their lighter engines from those towers, as they did also by those that threw darts, and the archers, and those that flung stones. For neither could the Jews reach those[Pg 163] that were over them, by reason of their height; and it was not practicable to take them, nor to overturn them, they were so heavy, nor to set them on fire, because they were covered with plates of iron. So they retired out of the reach of the darts, and did no longer endeavor to hinder the impression of their rams, which, by continually beating upon the wall, did gradually prevail against it; so that the wall already gave way to the Nico, for by that name did the Jews themselves call the greatest of their engines, because it conquered all things. And now they were for a long while grown weary of fighting and of keeping guards, and were retired to lodge in the night-time at a distance from the wall. It was on other accounts also thought by them to be superfluous to guard the wall, there being besides that two other fortifications still remaining, and they being slothful, and their counsels having been ill-concerted on all occasions; so a great many grew lazy and retired. Then the Romans mounted the breach, where Nico had made one, and all the Jews left the guarding that wall and retreated to the second wall; so those that had gotten over that wall opened the gates and received all the army within it. And thus did the Romans get possession of this first wall, on the fifteenth day of the siege, which was the seventh day of the month Artemisius (Jyar), when they demolished a great part of it, as well as they did of the northern parts of the city, which had been demolished also by Cestius formerly.

And now Titus pitched his camp within the city, at that place which was called "the Camp of the Assyrians," having seized upon all that lay as far as Cedron, but took care to be out of the reach of the Jews' darts. He then presently began his attacks, upon which the Jews divided themselves into several bodies, and courageously defended that wall, while John[39] and his faction did it from the tower of Antonia, and from the northern cloister of the Temple, and fought the Romans before the monuments of King Alexander; and Simon's army also took for their share the spot of ground that was near John's monument,[40] and fortified it as far as to that gate where water[Pg 164] was brought in to the tower Hippicus. However, the Jews made violent sallies, and that frequently also, and in bodies together out of the gates, and there fought the Romans; and when they were pursued all together to the wall, they were beaten in those fights, as wanting the skill of the Romans. But when they fought them from the walls they were too hard for them; the Romans being encouraged by their power, joined to their skill, as were the Jews by their boldness, which was nourished by the fear they were in, and that hardiness which is natural to our nation under calamities; they were also encouraged still by the hope of deliverance, as were the Romans by their hopes of subduing them in a little time.

Nor did either side grow weary; but attacks and fightings upon the wall, and perpetual sallies out in bodies, were there all the day long; nor were there any sort of warlike engagements that were not then put in use. And the night itself had much ado to part them, when they began to fight in the morning—nay, the night itself was passed without sleep on both sides, and was more uneasy than the day to them, while the one was afraid lest the wall should be taken, and the other lest the Jews should make sallies upon their camps; both sides also lay in their armor during the night-time, and thereby were ready at the first appearance of light to go to the battle. Now among the Jews the ambition was who should undergo the first dangers, and thereby gratify their commanders. Above all, they had a great veneration and dread of Simon; and to that degree was he regarded by every one of those that were under him, that at his command they were very ready to kill themselves with their own hands.

What made the Romans so courageous was their usual custom of conquering and disuse of being defeated, their constant wars, and perpetual warlike exercises, and the grandeur of their dominion. And what was now their chief encouragement—Titus, who was present everywhere with them all—for it appeared a terrible thing to grow weary while Cæsar was there, and fought bravely as well as they did—was himself at once an eye-witness of such as behaved themselves valiantly, and he was to reward them also. It was, besides, esteemed an advantage at present to have anyone's valor known by Cæsar; on which[Pg 165] account many of them appeared to have more alacrity than strength to answer it. And now, as the Jews were about this time standing in array before the wall, and that in a strong body, and while both parties were throwing their darts at each other, Longinus, one of the equestrian order, leaped out of the army of the Romans, and leaped into the very midst of the army of the Jews; and as they dispersed themselves upon this attack, he slew two of their men of the greatest courage; one of them he struck in his mouth as he was coming to meet him, the other was slain by him by that very dart which he drew out of the body of the other, with which he ran this man through his side as he was running away from him; and when he had done this, he first of all ran out of the midst of his enemies to his own side.

So this man signalized himself for his valor, and many there were who were ambitious of gaining the like reputation. And now the Jews were unconcerned at what they suffered themselves from the Romans, and were only solicitous about what mischief they could do them; and death itself seemed a small matter to them, if at the same time they could but kill any one of their enemies. But Titus took care to secure his own soldiers from harm, as well as to have them overcome their enemies. He also said that inconsiderate violence was madness, and that this alone was the true courage that was joined with good conduct. He therefore commanded his men to take care, when they fought their enemies, that they received no harm from them at the same time, and thereby show themselves to be truly valiant men.

And now Titus brought one of his engines to the middle tower of the north part of the wall, in which a certain crafty Jew, whose name was Castor, lay in ambush, with ten others like himself, the rest being fled away by reason of the archers. These men lay still for a while, as in great fear, under their breastplates; but when the tower was shaken, they arose, and Castor did then stretch out his hand, as a petitioner, and called for Cæsar, and by his voice moved his compassion, and begged of him to have mercy upon them; and Titus, in the innocency of his heart, believing him to be in earnest, and hoping that the Jews did now repent, stopped the working of the battering ram,[Pg 166] and forbade them to shoot at the petitioners, and bid Castor say what he had a mind to say to him. He said that he would come down, if he would give him his right hand for his security.

To which Titus replied that he was well pleased with such his agreeable conduct, and would be well pleased if all the Jews would be of his mind, and that he was ready to give the like security to the city. Now five of the ten dissembled with him, and pretended to beg for mercy, while the rest cried out aloud that they would never be slaves to the Romans, while it was in their power to die in a state of freedom. Now while these men were quarrelling for a long while the attack was delayed; Castor also sent to Simon, and told him that they might take some time for consultation about what was to be done, because he would elude the power of the Romans for a considerable time. And at the same time that he sent thus to him, he appeared openly to exhort those that were obstinate to accept of Titus' hand for their security; but they seemed very angry at it, and brandished their naked swords upon the breastworks, and struck themselves upon their breast, and fell down as if they had been slain. Hereupon Titus, and those with him, were amazed at the courage of the men; and as they were not able to see exactly what was done, they admired at their great fortitude and pitied their calamity.

During this interval a certain person shot a dart at Castor, and wounded him in his nose; whereupon he presently pulled out the dart, and showed it to Titus, and complained that this was unfair treatment; so Cæsar reproved him that shot the dart, and sent Josephus, who then stood by him, to give his right hand to Castor. But Josephus said that he would not go to him, because these pretended petitioners meant nothing that was good; he also restrained those friends of his who were zealous to go to him. But still there was one Eneas, a deserter, who said he would go to him. Castor also called to them, that somebody should come and receive the money which he had with him; this made Eneas the more earnestly to run to him with his bosom open. Then did Castor take up a great stone and threw it at him, which missed him, because he guarded himself against it; but still it wounded another soldier that was coming to him. When Cæsar understood that this was a delusion,[Pg 167] he perceived that mercy in war is a pernicious thing, because such cunning tricks have less place under the exercise of greater severity. So he caused the engine to work more strongly than before, on account of his anger at the deceit put upon him. But Castor and his companions set the tower on fire when it began to give way, and leaped through the flame into a hidden vault that was under it, which made the Romans further suppose that they were men of great courage, as having cast themselves into the fire.

Now Cæsar took this wall there on the fifth day after he had taken the first; and when the Jews had fled from him he entered into it with a thousand armed men, and those of his choice troops, and this at a place where were the merchants of wool, the braziers, and the market for cloth, and where the narrow streets led obliquely to the wall. Wherefore, if Titus had either demolished a larger part of the wall immediately, or had come in, and, according to the law of war, had laid waste what was left, his victory would not, I suppose, have been mixed with any loss to himself. But now, out of the hope he had that he should make the Jews ashamed of their obstinacy by not being willing, when he was able, to afflict them more than he needed to do, he did not widen the breach of the wall, in order to make a safer retreat upon occasion, for he did not think they would lay snares for him that did them such a kindness. When therefore, he came in, he did not permit his soldiers to kill any of those they caught, nor to set fire to their houses neither—nay, he gave leave to the seditious, if they had a mind, to fight without any harm to the people, and promised to restore the people's effects to them, for he was very desirous to preserve the city for his own sake, and the Temple for the sake of the city.

As to the people, he had them of a long time ready to comply with his proposals; but as to the fighting men, this humanity of his seemed a mark of his weakness, and they imagined that he made these proposals because he was not able to take the rest of the city. They also threatened death to the people, if they should any one of them say a word about a surrender. They, moreover, cut the throats of such as talked of a peace, and then attacked those Romans that were come within the[Pg 168] wall. Some of them they met in the narrow streets, and some they fought against from their houses, while they made a sudden sally out at the upper gates, and assaulted such Romans as were beyond the wall, till those that guarded the wall were so affrighted that they leaped down from their towers and retired to their several camps: upon which a great noise was made by the Romans that were within, because they were encompassed round on every side by their enemies; as also by them that were without, because they were in fear for those that were left in the city. Thus did the Jews grow more numerous perpetually, and had great advantages over the Romans, by their full knowledge of those narrow lanes; and they wounded a great many of them, and fell upon them, and drove them out of the city.

Now these Romans were at present forced to make the best resistance they could, for they were not able, in great numbers, to get out at the breach in the wall, it was so narrow. It is also probable that all those that were gotten within had been cut to pieces, if Titus had not sent them succors, for he ordered the archers to stand at the upper ends of these narrow lanes, and he stood himself where was the greatest multitude of his enemies, and with his darts he put a stop to them; as with him did Domitius Sabinus also, a valiant man, and one that in this battle appeared so to be. Thus did Cæsar continue to shoot darts at the Jews continually and to hinder them from coming upon his men, and this until all his soldiers had retreated out of the city.

And thus were the Romans driven out, after they had possessed themselves of the second wall. Whereupon the fighting men that were in the city were lifted up in their minds and were elevated upon this their good success, and began to think that the Romans would never venture to come into the city any more; and that if they kept within it themselves they should not be any more conquered, for God had blinded their minds for the transgressions they had been guilty of, nor could they see how much greater forces the Romans had than those that were now expelled, no more than they could discern how a famine was creeping upon them, for hitherto they had fed themselves out of the public miseries and drank the blood of the[Pg 169] city. But now poverty had for a long time seized upon the better part, and a great many had died already for want of necessaries, although the seditious indeed supposed the destruction of the people to be an easement to themselves, for they desired that none others might be preserved but such as were against a peace with the Romans, and were resolved to live in opposition to them, and they were pleased when the multitude of those of a contrary opinion were consumed, as being then freed from a heavy burden. And this was their disposition of mind with regard to those that were within the city, while they covered themselves with their armor, and prevented the Romans, when they were trying to get into the city again, and made a wall of their own bodies over against that part of the wall that was cast down.

Thus did they valiantly defend themselves for three days; but on the fourth day they could not support themselves against the vehement assaults of Titus, but were compelled by force to fly whither they had fled before; so he quietly possessed himself again of that wall and demolished it entirely. And when he had put a garrison into the towers that were on the south parts of the city, he contrived how he might assault the third wall.

A resolution was now taken by Titus to relax the siege for a little while, and to afford the seditious an interval for consideration, and to see whether the demolishing of their second wall would not make them a little more compliant, or whether they were not somewhat afraid of a famine, because the spoils they had gotten by rapine would not be sufficient for them long; so he made use of this relaxation in order to compass his own designs. Accordingly, as the usual appointed time when he must distribute subsistence money to the soldiers was now come, he gave orders that the commanders should put the army into battle array, in the face of the enemy, and then give every one of the soldiers his pay.

The Romans spent four days in bringing this subsistence money to the several legions. But on the fifth day, when no signs of peace appeared to come from the Jews, Titus divided his legions and began to raise banks, both at the tower of Antonia and at John's monument. Now his designs were to take[Pg 170] the upper city at that monument, and the Temple at the tower of Antonia, for if the Temple were not taken, it would be dangerous to keep the city itself; so at each of these parts he raised him banks, each legion raising one. As for those that wrought at John's monument, the Idumeans, and those that were in arms with Simon, made sallies upon them, and put some stop to them; while John's party, and the multitude of Zealots with them, did the like to those that were before the tower of Antonia.

These Jews were now too hard for the Romans, not only in direct fighting, because they stood upon the higher ground, but because they had now learned to use their own engines, for their continual use of them one day after another did by degrees improve their skill about them, for of one sort of engines for darts they had three hundred, and forty for stones; by the means of which they made it more tedious for the Romans to raise their banks. But then Titus, knowing that the city would be either saved or destroyed for himself, did not only proceed earnestly in the siege, but did not omit to have the Jews exhorted to repentance; so he mixed good counsel with his works for the siege. And being sensible that exhortations are frequently more effectual than arms, he persuaded them to surrender the city, now in a manner already taken, and thereby to save themselves, and sent Josephus to speak to them in their own language, for he imagined they might yield to the persuasion of a countryman of their own.

As Josephus was speaking thus with a loud voice, the seditious would neither yield to what he said, nor did they deem it safe for them to alter their conduct; but as for the people, they had a great inclination to desert to the Romans. Accordingly, some of them sold what they had, and even the most precious things that had been laid up as treasures by them, for a very small matter, and swallowed down pieces of gold, that they might not be found out by the robbers; and when they had escaped to the Romans, went to stool, and had wherewithal to provide plentifully for themselves, for Titus let a great number of them go away into the country, whither they pleased. And the main reasons why they were so ready to desert were these: That now they should be freed from those miseries which they[Pg 171] had endured in that city, and yet should not be in slavery to the Romans. However John and Simon, with their factions, did more carefully watch these men's going out than they did the coming in of the Romans; and if any one did but afford the least shadow of suspicion of such an intention, his throat was cut immediately.

But as for the richer sort, it proved all one to them whether they stayed in the city or attempted to get out of it, for they were equally destroyed in both cases, for every such person was put to death under this pretence, that they were going to desert, but in reality that the robbers might get what they had. The madness of the seditious did also increase together with their famine, and both those miseries were every day inflamed more and more, for there was no corn which anywhere appeared publicly, but the robbers came running into and searched men's private houses; and then, if they found any, they tormented them, because they had denied they had any; and if they found none, they tormented them worse, because they supposed they had more carefully concealed it. The indication they made use of whether they had any or not was taken from the bodies of these miserable wretches, which, if they were in good case, they supposed they were in no want at all of food; but if they were wasted away, they walked off without searching any further; nor did they think it proper to kill such as these, because they saw they would very soon die of themselves for want of food. Many there were indeed who sold what they had for one measure. It was of wheat, if they were of the richer sort; but of barley, if they were poorer. When these had so done, they shut themselves up in the inmost rooms of their houses, and ate the corn they had gotten. Some did it without grinding it, by reason of the extremity of the want they were in, and others baked bread of it, according as necessity and fear dictated to them. A table was nowhere laid for a distinct meal, but they snatched the bread out of the fire, half-baked, and ate it very hastily.

It was now a miserable case, and a sight that would justly bring tears into our eyes, how men stood as to their food, while the more powerful had more than enough, and the weaker were lamenting [for want of it]. But the famine was too hard for[Pg 172] all other passions, and it is destructive to nothing so much as to modesty, for what was otherwise worthy of reverence was in this case despised; insomuch that children pulled the very morsels that their fathers were eating out of their very mouths, and what was still more to be pitied, so did the mothers do as to their infants; and when those that were most dear were perishing under their hands, they were not ashamed to take from them the very last drops that might preserve their lives; and while they ate after this manner, yet were they not concealed in so doing; but the seditious everywhere came upon them immediately and snatched away from them what they had gotten from others, for when they saw any house shut up this was to them a signal that the people within had gotten some food; whereupon they broke open the doors and ran in and took pieces of what they were eating almost up out of their very throats, and this by force; the old men who held their food fast were beaten; and if the women hid what they had within their hands, their hair was torn for so doing; nor was there any commiseration shown either to the aged or to the infants, but they lifted up children from the ground as they hung upon the morsels they had gotten and shook them down upon the floor. But still they were more barbarously cruel to those that had prevented their coming in, and had actually swallowed down what they were going to seize upon, as if they had been unjustly defrauded of their right.

They also invented terrible methods of torments to discover where any food was, and they were these: to stop up the passages of the privy parts of the miserable wretches, and to drive sharp stakes up their fundaments; and a man was forced to bear what it is terrible even to hear, in order to make him confess that he had but one loaf of bread, or that he might discover a handful of barley meal that was concealed; and this was done when these tormentors were not themselves hungry, for the thing had been less barbarous had necessity forced them to it; but this was done to keep their madness in exercise, and as making preparation of provisions for themselves for the following days. These men went also to meet those that had crept out of the city by night, as far as the Roman guards, to gather some plants and herbs that grew wild; and when those people[Pg 173] thought they had got clear of the enemy, they snatched from them what they had brought with them, even while they had frequently entreated them, and that by calling upon the tremendous name of God, to give them back some part of what they had brought, though these would not give them the least crumb, and they were to be well contented that they were only spoiled and not slain at the same time.

It is impossible to go distinctly over every instance of these men's iniquity. I shall therefore speak my mind here at once briefly: That neither did any other city ever suffer such miseries, nor did any age ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness than this was, from the beginning of the world. Finally, they brought the Hebrew nation into contempt, that they might themselves appear comparatively less impious with regard to strangers. They confessed what was true, that they were the slaves, the scum, and the spurious and abortive offspring of our nation, while they overthrew the city themselves, and forced the Romans, whether they would or no, to gain a melancholy reputation, by acting gloriously against them, and did almost draw that fire upon the Temple which they seemed to think came too slowly; and indeed when they saw that Temple burning from the upper city, they were neither troubled at it nor did they shed any tears on that account, while yet these passions were discovered among the Romans themselves.

So now Titus' banks were advanced a great way, notwithstanding his soldiers had been very much distressed from the wall. He then sent a party of horsemen and ordered they should lay ambushes for those that went out into the valleys to gather food. Some of these were indeed fighting men, who were not contented with what they got by rapine; but the greater part of them were poor people, who were deterred from deserting by the concern they were under for their own relations, for they could not hope to escape away, together with their wives and children, without the knowledge of the seditious; nor could they think of leaving these relations to be slain by the robbers on their account; nay, the severity of the famine made them bold in thus going out; so nothing remained but that, when they were concealed from the robbers, they should be taken by the enemy; and when they were going to[Pg 174] be taken they were forced to defend themselves for fear of being punished; as after they had fought they thought it too late to make any supplications for mercy; so they were first whipped and then tormented with all sorts of tortures before they died, and were then crucified before the wall of the city. This miserable procedure made Titus greatly to pity them, while they caught every day five hundred Jews; nay, some days they caught more; yet it did not appear to be safe for him to let those that were taken by force go their way, and to set a guard over so many he saw would be to make such as guarded them useless to him. The main reason why he did not forbid that cruelty was this: that he hoped the Jews might perhaps yield at that sight, out of fear lest they might themselves afterward be liable to the same cruel treatment. So the soldiers, out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest, when their multitude was so great that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses wanting for the bodies.

But so far were the seditious from repenting at this sad sight that, on the contrary, they made the rest of the multitude believe otherwise, for they brought the relations of those that had deserted upon the wall, with such of the populace as were very eager to go over upon the security offered them, and showed them what miseries those underwent who fled to the Romans; and told them that those who were caught were supplicants to them, and not such as were taken prisoners. This sight kept many of those within the city who were so eager to desert, till the truth was known; yet did some of them run away immediately as unto certain punishment, esteeming death from their enemies to be a quiet departure, if compared with that by famine. So Titus commanded that the hands of many of those that were caught should be cut off, that they might not be thought deserters, and might be credited on account of the calamity they were under, and sent them in to John and Simon, with this exhortation, that they would now at length leave off (their madness), and not force him to destroy the city, whereby they would have those advantages of repentance, even in their utmost distress, that they would preserve their own lives, and so find a city of their own, and that Temple[Pg 175] which was their peculiar. He then went round about the banks that were cast up, and hastened them, in order to show that his words should in no long time be followed by his deeds. In answer to which the seditious cast reproaches upon Cæsar himself, and upon his father also, and cried out, with a loud voice, that they contemned death, and did well in preferring it before slavery; that they would do all the mischief to the Romans they could while they had breath in them; and that for their own city, since they were, as he said, to be destroyed, they had no concern about it, and that the world itself was a better temple to God than this. That yet this Temple would be preserved by Him that inhabited therein, whom they still had for their assistant in this war, and did therefore laugh at all his threatenings, which would come to nothing, because the conclusion of the whole depended upon God only. These words were mixed with reproaches, and with them they made a mighty clamor.

In the mean time Antiochus Epiphanes came to the city, having with him a considerable number of other armed men, and a band called the Macedonian band about him, all of the same age, tall, and just past their childhood, armed, and instructed after the Macedonian manner, whence it was that they took that name. Antiochus with his Macedonians made a sudden assault upon the wall; and, indeed, for his own part, his strength and skill were so great that he guarded himself from the Jewish darts, and yet shot his darts at them, while yet the young men with him were almost all sorely galled, for they had so great a regard to the promises that had been made of their courage, that they would needs persevere in their fighting, and at length many of them retired, but not till they were wounded; and then they perceived that true Macedonians, if they were to be conquerors, must have Alexander's good fortune also.

Now as the Romans began to raise their banks on the twelfth day of the month Artemisius [Jyar], so had they much ado to finish them by the twenty-ninth day of the same month, after they had labored hard for seventeen days continually, for there were now four great banks raised, one of which was at the tower Antonia. This was raised by the Fifth legion, over against the middle of that pool which was called Struthius. Another was cast up by the Twelfth legion at the distance of[Pg 176] about twenty cubits from the other. But the labors of the Tenth legion, which lay a great way off these, were on the north quarter, and at the pool called Amygdalon; as was that of the Fifteenth legion about thirty cubits from it, and at the high-priest's monument. And now, when the engines were brought, John had from within undermined the space that was over against the tower of Antonia, as far as the banks themselves, and had supported the ground over the mine with beams laid across one another, whereby the Roman works stood upon an uncertain foundation.

Then did he order such materials to be brought in as were daubed over with pitch and bitumen, and set them on fire; and as the cross-beams that supported the banks were burning, the ditch yielded on the sudden, and the banks were shaken down, and fell into the ditch with a prodigious noise. Now at the first, there arose a very thick smoke and dust, as the fire was choked with the fall of the bank; but as the suffocated materials were now gradually consumed, a plain flame brake out; on which sudden appearance of the flame a consternation fell upon the Romans, and the shrewdness of the contrivance discouraged them; and indeed this accident coming upon them at a time when they thought they had already gained their point, cooled their hopes for the time to come. They also thought it would be to no purpose to take the pains to extinguish the fire, since if it were extinguished the banks were swallowed up already [and become useless to them].

Two days after this Simon and his party made an attempt to destroy the other banks, for the Romans had brought their engines to bear there, and began already to make the wall shake. And here one Tephtheus, of Garsis, a city of Galilee, and Megassarus, one who was derived from some of Queen Mariamne's servants, and with them one from Adiabene, he was the son of Nabateus, and called by the name of Chagiras, from the ill-fortune he had, the word signifying "a lame man," snatched some torches and ran suddenly upon the engines. Nor were there during this war any men that ever sallied out of the city who were their superiors, either in their boldness or in the terror they struck into their enemies, for they ran out upon the Romans, not as if they were enemies, but friends,[Pg 177] without fear or delay; nor did they leave their enemies till they had rushed violently through the midst of them, and set their machines on fire. And though they had darts thrown at them on every side and were on every side assaulted with their enemies' swords, yet did they not withdraw themselves out of the dangers they were in till the fire had caught hold of the instruments; but when the flame went up the Romans came running from their camp to save their engines.

Then did the Jews hinder their succors from the wall, and fought with those that endeavored to quench the fire, without any regard to the danger their bodies were in. So the Romans pulled the engines out of the fire, while the hurdles that covered them were on fire; but the Jews caught hold of the battering rams through the flame itself and held them fast, although the iron upon them was become red hot; and now the fire spread itself from the engines to the banks, and prevented those that came to defend them; and all this while the Romans were encompassed round about with the flame; and, despairing of saving their works from it, they retired to their camp. Then did the Jews become still more and more in number by the coming of those that were within the city to their assistance; and as they were very bold upon the good success they had had, their violent assaults were almost irresistible—nay, they proceeded as far as the fortifications of the enemies' camp, and fought with their guards.

Now there stood a body of soldiers in array before that camp, which succeeded one another by turns in their armor; and as to those, the law of the Romans was terrible, that he who left his post there, let the occasion be whatsoever it might be, he was to die for it; so that body of soldiers, preferring rather to die in fighting courageously than as a punishment for their cowardice, stood firm; and at the necessity these men were in of standing to it, many of the others that had run away, out of shame, turned back again; and when they had set the engines against the wall they put the multitude from coming more of them out of the city (which they could the more easily do) because they had made no provision for preserving or guarding their bodies at this time; for the Jews fought now hand-to-hand with all that came in their way, and, without any[Pg 178] caution, fell against the points of their enemies' spears, and attacked them bodies against bodies, for they were now too hard for the Romans, not so much by their other warlike actions, as by these courageous assaults they made upon them; and the Romans gave way more to their boldness than they did to the sense of the harm they had received from them.

And now Titus was come from the tower of Antonia, whither he was gone to look out for a place for raising other banks, and reproached the soldiers greatly for permitting their own walls to be in danger, when they had taken the walls of their enemies, and sustained the fortune of men besieged, while the Jews were allowed to sally out against them, though they were already in a sort of prison. He then went round about the enemy with some chosen troops and fell upon their flank himself; so the Jews, who had been before assaulted in their faces, wheeled about to Titus and continued the fight.

The armies also were now mixed one among another, and the dust that was raised so far hindered them from seeing one another, and the noise that was made so far hindered them from hearing one another, that neither side could discern an enemy from a friend. However, the Jews did not flinch, though not so much from their real strength as from their despair of deliverance. The Romans also would not yield, by reason of the regard they had to glory and to their reputation in war, and because Cæsar himself went into the danger before them; insomuch that I cannot but think the Romans would in the conclusion have now taken even the whole multitude of the Jews, so very angry were they at them, had these not prevented the upshot of the battle, and retired into the city. However, seeing the banks of the Romans were demolished, these Romans were very much cast down upon the loss of what had cost them so long pains, and this in one hour's time. And many indeed despaired of taking the city with their usual engines of war only.

And now did Titus consult with his commanders what was to be done. Those that were of the warmest tempers thought he should bring the whole army against the city and storm the wall. The opinion of Titus was, that if they aimed at quickness joined with security they must build a wall round about the[Pg 179] whole city, and he gave orders that the army should be distributed to their several shares of this work. Titus began the wall from the camp of the Assyrians, where his own camp was pitched, and drew it down to the lower parts of Cenopolis; thence it went along the valley of Cedron to the Mount of Olives; it then bent toward the south, and encompassed the mountain as far as the rock called Peristereon, and that other hill which lies next it, and is over the valley which reaches to Siloam; whence it bended again to the west, and went down to the valley of the Fountain, beyond which it went up again at the monument of Ananus, the high-priest, and encompassing that mountain where Pompey had formerly pitched his camp, it returned back to the north side of the city, and was carried on as far as a certain village called "The House of the Erebinthi"; after which it encompassed Herod's monument, and there, on the east, was joined to Titus' own camp, where it began.

Now the length of this wall was forty furlongs, one only abated. Now at this wall without were erected thirteen places to keep garrison in, whose circumferences, put together, amounted to ten furlongs; the whole was completed in three days; so that what would naturally have required some months was done in so short an interval as is incredible. When Titus had therefore encompassed the city with this wall and put garrisons into proper places, he went round the wall, at the first watch of the night, and observed how the guard was kept; the second watch he allotted to Alexander; the commanders of legions took the third watch. They also cast lots among themselves who should be upon the watch in the night-time, and who should go all night long round the spaces that were interposed between the garrisons.

So all hope of escaping was now cut off from the Jews, together with their liberty of going out of the city. Then did the famine widen its progress and devoured the people by whole houses and families; the upper rooms were full of women and children that were dying by famine, and the lanes of the city were full of the dead bodies of the aged; the children also and the young men wandered about the market-places like shadows, all swelled with the famine, and fell down dead, wheresoever[Pg 180] their misery seized them. As for burying them, those that were sick themselves were not able to do it; and those that were hearty and well were deterred from doing it by the great multitude of those dead bodies, and by the uncertainty there was how soon they should die themselves, for many died as they were burying others, and many went to their coffins before that fatal hour was come. Nor was there any lamentations made under these calamities, nor were heard any mournful complaints; but the famine confounded all natural passions, for those who were just going to die looked upon those that were gone to rest before them with dry eyes and open mouths.

A deep silence also, and a kind of deadly night, had seized upon the city; while yet the robbers were still more terrible than these miseries were themselves, for they brake open those houses which were no other than graves of dead bodies, and plundered them of what they had; and carrying off the coverings of their bodies went out laughing, and tried the points of their swords in their dead bodies; and, in order to prove what metal they were made of, they thrust some of those through that still lay alive upon the ground; but for those that entreated them to lend them their right hand and their sword to despatch them, they were too proud to grant their requests, and left them to be consumed by the famine. Now every one of these died with their eyes fixed upon the Temple, and left the seditious alive behind them. Now the seditious at first gave orders that the dead should be buried out of the public treasury, as not enduring the stench of their dead bodies. But afterward, when they could not do that, they had them cast down from the walls into the valleys beneath.

However, when Titus, in going his rounds along those valleys, saw them full of dead bodies, and the thick putrefaction running about them, he gave a groan; and, spreading out his hands to heaven, called God to witness that this was not his doing; and such was the sad case of the city itself. But the Romans were very joyful, since none of the seditious could now make sallies out of the city, because they were themselves disconsolate, and the famine already touched them also. These Romans besides had great plenty of corn and other necessaries[Pg 181] out of Syria and out of the neighboring provinces; many of whom would stand near to the wall of the city and show the people what great quantities of provisions they had and so make the enemy more sensible of their famine, by the great plenty, even to satiety, which they had themselves.

In the mean time Josephus, as he was going round the city, had his head wounded by a stone that was thrown at him; upon which he fell down as giddy. Josephus soon recovered of his wound and came out and cried out aloud, that it would not be long ere they should be punished for this wound they had given him. He also made a fresh exhortation to the people to come out upon the security that would be given them. This sight of Josephus encouraged the people greatly and brought a great consternation upon the seditious.

Hereupon some of the deserters, having no other way, leaped down from the wall immediately, while others of them went out of the city with stones, as if they would fight them; but thereupon they fled away to the Romans. But here a worse fate accompanied these than what they had found within the city; and they met with a quicker despatch from the too great abundance they had among the Romans than they could have done from the famine among the Jews, for when they came first to the Romans they were puffed up by the famine and swelled like men in a dropsy; after which they all on the sudden overfilled those bodies that were before empty, and so burst asunder, excepting such only as were skilful enough to restrain their appetites, and by degrees took in their food into bodies unaccustomed thereto.

Yet did another plague seize upon those that were thus preserved, for there was found among the Syrian deserters a certain person who was caught gathering pieces of gold out of the excrements of the Jews' bellies, for the deserters used to swallow such pieces of gold, as we told you before, when they came out, and for these did the seditious search them all; for there was a great quantity of gold in the city, insomuch that as much was now sold [in the Roman camp] for twelve Attic [drachmas] as was sold before for twenty-five. But when this contrivance was discovered in one instance, the fame of it filled their several camps, that the deserters came to them full of[Pg 182] gold. So the multitude of the Arabians, with the Syrians, cut up those that came as supplicants, and searched their bellies. Nor does it seem to me that any misery befell the Jews that was more terrible than this, since in one night's time about two thousand of these deserters were thus dissected.

When Titus came to the knowledge of this wicked practice, he threatened that he would put such men to death if any of them were discovered to be so insolent as to do so again. Moreover, he gave it in charge to the legions, that they should make a search after such as were suspected, and should bring them to him. But it appeared that the love of money was too great for all their dread of punishment, and a vehement desire of gain is natural to men, and no passion is so venturesome as covetousness. Otherwise such passions have certain bounds and are subordinate to fear. But in reality it was God who condemned the whole nation and turned every course that was taken for their preservation to their destruction. This, therefore, which was forbidden by Cæsar under such a threatening, was ventured upon privately against the deserters, and these barbarians would go out still and meet those that ran away before any saw them, and looking about them to see that no Roman spied them, they dissected them and pulled this polluted money out of their bowels, which money was still found in a few of them, while yet a great many were destroyed by the bare hope there was of thus getting by them, which miserable treatment made many that were deserting to return back again into the city.

And, indeed, why do I relate these particular calamities? while Manneus, the son of Lazarus, came running to Titus at this very time and told him that there had been carried out through that one gate, which was intrusted to his care, no fewer than a hundred and fifteen thousand eight hundred and eighty dead bodies in the interval between the fourteenth day of the month Xanthicus (Nisan), when the Romans pitched their camp by the city, and the first day of the month Panemus (Tamuz). This was itself a prodigious multitude; and though this man was not himself set as a governor at that gate, yet was he appointed to pay the public stipend for carrying these bodies out, and so was obliged of necessity to number them,[Pg 183] while the rest were buried by their relations, though all their burial was but this, to bring them away and cast them out of the city.

After this man there ran away to Titus many of the eminent citizens and told him the entire number of the poor that were dead, and that no fewer than six hundred thousand were thrown out at the gates, though still the number of the rest could not be discovered; and they told him further that when they were no longer able to carry out the dead bodies of the poor they laid their corpses on heaps in very large houses and shut them up therein; as also that a medimno of wheat was sold for a talent; and that when, a while afterward, it was not possible to gather herbs, by reason the city was all walled about, some persons were driven to that terrible distress as to search the common sewers and old dunghills of cattle, and to eat the dung which they got there, and what they of old could not endure so much as to see they now used for food. When the Romans barely heard all this they commiserated their case; while the seditious, who saw it also, did not repent, but suffered the same distress to come upon themselves, for they were blinded by that fate which was already coming upon the city, and upon themselves also.

And now the Romans, although they were greatly distressed in getting together their materials, raised their banks in one-and-twenty days, after they had cut down all the trees that were in the country that adjoined to the city, and that for ninety furlongs round about. And when the banks were finished, they afforded a foundation for fear both to the Romans and to the Jews, for the Jews expected that the city would be taken unless they could burn those banks, as did the Romans expect that, if these were once burned down they should never be able to take it, for there was a mighty scarcity of materials, and the bodies of the soldiers began to fail with such hard labors, as did their souls faint with so many instances of ill-success.

The Romans had an advantage, in that their engines for sieges coöperated with them in throwing darts and stones as far as the Jews, when they were coming out of the city; whereby the man that fell became an impediment to him that was next[Pg 184] to him, as did the danger of going farther make them less zealous in their attempts; and for those that had run under the darts some of them were terrified by the good order and closeness of the enemies' ranks before they came to a close fight, and others were pricked with their spears and turned back again. At length they reproached one another for their cowardice, and retired without doing anything. This attack was made upon the first day of the month Panemus (Tamuz).

So when the Jews were retreated the Romans brought their engines, although they had all the while stones thrown at them from the tower of Antonia, and were assaulted by fire and sword, and by all sorts of darts, which necessity afforded the Jews to make use of, for although these had great dependence on their own wall, and a contempt of the Roman engines, yet did they endeavor to hinder the Romans from bringing them. Now these Romans struggled hard, on the contrary, to bring them, as deeming that this zeal of the Jews was in order to avoid any impression to be made on the tower of Antonia, because its wall was but weak and its foundations rotten. However, that tower did not yield to the blows given it from the engines; yet did the Romans bear the impressions made by the enemies' darts which were perpetually cast at them, and did not give way to any of those dangers that came upon them from above, and so they brought their engines to bear. But then, as they were beneath the other, and were sadly wounded by the stones thrown down upon them, some of them threw their shields over their bodies, and partly with their hands and partly with their bodies and partly with crows they undermined its foundations, and with great pains they removed four of its stones. Then night came upon both sides, and put an end to this struggle for the present. However, that night the wall was so shaken by the battering rams in that place where John had used his stratagem before, and had undermined their banks, that the ground then gave way and the wall fell down suddenly.

When this accident had unexpectedly happened, the minds of both parties were variously affected, for though one would expect that the Jews would be discouraged, because this fall of their wall was unexpected by them, and they had made no provision[Pg 185] in that case, yet did they pull up their courage, because the tower of Antonia itself was still standing; as was the unexpected joy of the Romans at this fall of the wall soon quenched by the sight they had of another wall, which John and his party had built within it.

Upon the fifth day of the month Panemus (Tamuz), twelve of those men that were on the forefront and kept watch upon the banks got together and called to them the standard-bearer of the Fifth legion, and two others of a troop of horsemen, and one trumpeter; these went without noise, about the ninth hour of the night, through the ruins, to the tower of Antonia; and when they had cut the throats of the first guards of the place, as they were asleep, they got possession of the wall and ordered the trumpeter to sound his trumpet. Upon which the rest of the guard got up on the sudden and ran away before anybody could see how many they were that were gotten up, for partly from the fear they were in and partly from the sound of the trumpet which they heard they imagined a great number of the enemy were gotten up. But as soon as Cæsar heard the signal he ordered the army to put on their armor immediately, and came thither with his commanders, and first of all ascended, as did the chosen men that were with him. And as the Jews were flying away to the Temple they fell into that mine which John had dug under the Roman banks. Then did the seditious of both the bodies of the Jewish army, as well that belonging to John as that belonging to Simon, drive them away; and indeed were no way wanting as to the highest degree of force and alacrity; for they esteemed themselves entirely ruined if once the Romans got into the Temple, as did the Romans look upon the same thing as the beginning of their entire conquest.

So a terrible battle was fought at the entrance of the Temple, while the Romans were forcing their way, in order to get possession of that Temple, and the Jews were driving them back to the tower of Antonia; in which battle the darts were on both sides useless, as well as the spears, and both sides drew their swords and fought it out hand-to-hand. Now during this struggle the positions of the men were undistinguished on both sides, and they fought at random, the men being intermixed[Pg 186] one with another and confounded, by reason of the narrowness of the place; while the noise that was made fell on the ear after an indistinct manner, because it was so very loud. Great slaughter was now made on both sides, and the combatants trod upon the bodies and the armor of those that were dead, and dashed them to pieces. Accordingly, to which side soever the battle inclined, those that had the advantage exhorted one another to go on, as did those that were beaten make great lamentation. But still there was no room for flight nor for pursuit, but disorderly revolutions and retreats, while the armies were intermixed one with another; but those that were in the first ranks were under the necessity of killing or being killed, without any way for escaping, for those on both sides that came behind forced those before them to go on, without leaving any space between the armies.

At length the Jews' violent zeal was too hard for the Romans' skill, and the battle already inclined entirely that way; for the fight had lasted from the ninth hour of the night till the seventh hour of the day, while the Jews came on in crowds, and had the danger the Temple was in for their motive; the Romans having no more here than a part of their army, for those legions, on which the soldiers on that side depended, were not come up to them. So it was at present thought sufficient by the Romans to take possession of the tower of Antonia.

In the mean time the rest of the Roman army had, in seven days' time, overthrown [some] foundations of the tower of Antonia, and had made a ready and broad way to the Temple. Then did the legions come near the first court and began to raise their banks. The one bank was over against the northwest corner of the inner temple; another was at that northern edifice which was between the two gates; and of the other two, one was at the western cloister of the outer court of the Temple; the other against its northern cloister. However these works were thus far advanced by the Romans, not without great pains and difficulty, and particularly by being obliged to bring their materials from the distance of a hundred furlongs.

They had further difficulties also upon them; sometimes by their over-great security they were in that they should overcome the Jewish snares laid for them, and by that boldness of[Pg 187] the Jews which their despair of escaping had inspired them withal.

In the mean time the Jews were so distressed by the fights they had been in, as the war advanced higher and higher, and creeping up to the holy house itself, that they, as it were, cut off those limbs of their body which were infected, in order to prevent the distemper's spreading further, for they set the northwest cloister, which was joined to the tower of Antonia, on fire, and after that brake off about twenty cubits of that cloister, and thereby made a beginning in burning the sanctuary; two days after which, or on the twenty-fourth day of the forenamed month [Panemus or Tamuz], the Romans set fire to the cloister that joined to the other, when the fire went fifteen cubits farther. The Jews, in like manner, cut off its roof; nor did they entirely leave off what they were about till the tower of Antonia was parted from the Temple, even when it was in their power to have stopped the fire—nay, they lay still while the Temple was first set on fire, and deemed this spreading of the fire to be for their own advantage. However, the armies were still fighting one against another about the Temple, and the war was managed by continual sallies of particular parties against one another.

Now of those that perished by famine in the city the number was prodigious, and the miseries they underwent were unspeakable, for if so much as the shadow of any kind of food did anywhere appear a war was commenced presently, and the dearest friends fell a-fighting one with another about it, snatching from each other the most miserable supports of life. Nor would men believe that those who were dying had no food, but the robbers would search them when they were expiring, lest anyone should have concealed food in his bosom and counterfeited dying; nay, these robbers gaped for want, and ran about stumbling and staggering along like mad dogs, and reeling against the doors of the houses like drunken men; they would also, in the great distress they were in, rush into the very same houses two or three times in one and the same day. Moreover, their hunger was so intolerable that it obliged them to chew everything, while they gathered such things as the most sordid animals would not touch, and endured to eat them;[Pg 188] nor did they at length abstain from girdles and shoes; and the very leather which belonged to their shields they pulled off and gnawed; the very wisps of old hay became food to some; and some gathered up fibres and sold a very small weight of them for four Attic [drachmas].

But why do I describe the shameless impudence that the famine brought on men in their eating inanimate things, while I am going to relate a matter of fact, the like to which no history relates, either among the Greeks or barbarians? It is horrible to speak of it and incredible when heard. I had indeed willingly omitted this calamity of ours, that I might not seem to deliver what is so portentous to posterity, but that I have innumerable witnesses to it in my own age; and besides, my country would have had little reason to thank me for suppressing the miseries that she underwent at this time.

There was a certain woman that dwelt beyond Jordan, her name was Mary; her father was Eleazar, of the village Bethezob, which signifies "the House of Hyssop." She was eminent for her family and her wealth, and had fled away to Jerusalem with the rest of the multitude, and was with them besieged therein at this time. The other effects of this woman had been already seized upon, such I mean as she had brought with her out of Perea, and removed to the city. What she had treasured up besides, as also what food she had contrived to save, had been also carried off by the rapacious guards, who came every day running into her house for that purpose. This put the poor woman into a very great passion, and by the frequent reproaches and imprecations she cast at these rapacious villains she had provoked them to anger against her; but none of them, either out of the indignation she had raised against herself, or out of commiseration of her case, would take away her life; and if she found any food, she perceived her labors were for others, and not for herself; and it was now become impossible for her any way to find any more food, while the famine pierced through her very bowels and marrow, when also her passion was fired to a degree beyond the famine itself; nor did she consult with anything but with her passion and the necessity she was in. She then attempted a most unnatural thing; and snatching up her son, who was a child sucking at her[Pg 189] breast, she said: "O thou miserable infant! for whom shall I preserve thee in this war, this famine, and this sedition? As to the war with the Romans, if they preserve our lives we must be slaves. This famine also will destroy us even before that slavery comes upon us. Yet are these seditious rogues more terrible than both the other. Come on: be thou my food, and be thou a fury to these seditious varlets, and a by-word to the world, which is all that is now wanting to complete the calamities of us Jews."

As soon as she had said this she slew her son, and then roasted him, and eat the one half of him, and kept the other half by her concealed. Upon this the seditious came in presently, and smelling the horrid scent of this food, they threatened her that they would cut her throat immediately if she did not show them what food she had gotten ready. She replied that she had saved a very fine portion of it for them, and withal uncovered what was left of her son. Hereupon they were seized with a horror and amazement of mind, and stood astonished at the sight, when she said to them: "This is mine own son, and what hath been done was mine own doing! Come, eat of this food, for I have eaten of it myself! Do not you pretend to be either more tender than a woman or more compassionate than a mother; but if you be so scrupulous and do abominate this my sacrifice, as I have eaten the one half, let the rest be reserved for me also." After which those men went out trembling, being never so much affrighted at anything as they were at this, and with some difficulty they left the rest of that meat to the mother. Upon which the whole city was full of this horrid action immediately; and while everybody laid this miserable case before their own eyes, they trembled, as if this unheard-of action had been done by themselves. So those that were thus distressed by the famine were very desirous to die, and those already dead were esteemed happy, because they had not lived long enough either to hear or to see such miseries.

This sad instance was quickly told to the Romans, some of whom could not believe it, and others pitied the distress which the Jews were under; but there were many of them who were hereby induced to a more bitter hatred than ordinary against[Pg 190] our nation. But for Cæsar, he excused himself before God as to this matter, and said that he had proposed peace and liberty to the Jews, as well as an oblivion of all their former insolent practices; but that they, instead of concord, had chosen sedition; instead of peace, war; and before satiety and abundance, a famine. That they had begun with their own hands to burn down that Temple which we have preserved hitherto, and that therefore they deserved to eat such food as this was. That, however, this horrid action of eating an own child ought to be covered with the overthrow of their very country itself, and men ought not to leave such a city upon the habitable earth to be seen by the sun wherein mothers are thus fed, although such food be fitter for the fathers than for the mothers to eat of, since it is they that continue still in a state of war against us, after they have undergone such miseries as these. And at the same time that he said this, he reflected on the desperate condition these men must be in; nor could he expect that such men could be recovered to sobriety of mind after they had endured those very sufferings, for the avoiding whereof it only was probable they might have repented.

And now two of the legions had completed their banks on the eighth day of the month Lous [Ab]. Whereupon Titus gave orders that the battering rams should be brought and set over against the western edifice of the inner temple; for before these were brought, the firmest of all the other engines had battered the wall for six days together without ceasing, without making any impression upon it; but the vast largeness and strong connection of the stones were superior to that engine and to the other battering rams also. Other Romans did indeed undermine the foundations of the northern gate, and after a world of pains removed the outermost stones, yet was the gate still upheld by the inner stones, and stood still unhurt; till the workmen, despairing of all such attempts by engines and crows, brought their ladders to the cloisters.

Now the Jews did not interrupt them in so doing; but when they were gotten up, they fell upon them and fought with them; some of them they thrust down and threw them backward headlong; others of them they met and slew; they also beat many of those that went down the ladders again, and[Pg 191] slew them with their swords before they could bring their shields to protect them; nay, some of the ladders they threw down from above when they were full of armed men. A great slaughter was made of the Jews also at the same time, while those that bare the ensigns fought hard for them, as deeming it a terrible thing, and what would tend to their great shame, if they permitted them to be stolen away. Yet did the Jews at length get possession of these engines, and destroyed those that had gone up the ladders, while the rest were so intimidated by what those suffered who were slain that they retired; although none of the Romans died without having done good service before his death. Of the seditious, those that had fought bravely in the former battles did the like now, as besides them did Eleazar, the brother's son of Simon the tyrant. But when Titus perceived that his endeavors to spare a foreign temple turned to the damage of his soldiers and made them be killed, he gave order to set the gates on fire.

But then, on the next day, Titus commanded part of his army to quench the fire and to make a road for the more easy marching up of the legions, while he himself gathered the commanders together. Titus proposed to these that they should give him their advice what should be done about the holy house. Now some of these thought it would be the best way to act according to the rules of war [and demolish it], because the Jews would never leave off rebelling while that house was standing; at which house it was that they used to get all together. Others of them were of opinion that in case the Jews would leave it, and none of them would lay their arms up in it, he might save it; but that in case they got upon it and fought any more, he might burn it; because it must then be looked upon not as a holy house, but as a citadel; and that the impiety of burning it would then belong to those that forced this to be done, and not to them.

But Titus said that "although the Jews should get upon that holy house and fight us thence, yet ought we not to revenge ourselves on things that are inanimate, instead of the men themselves"? and that he was not in any case for burning down so vast a work as that was, because this would be a mischief to the Romans themselves, as it would be an ornament[Pg 192] to their government while it continued. So Fronto and Alexander and Cerealis grew bold upon that declaration, and agreed to the opinion of Titus. Then was this assembly dissolved, when Titus had given orders to the commanders that the rest of their forces should lie still; but that they should make use of such as were most courageous in this attack. So he commanded that the chosen men that were taken out of the cohorts should make their way through the ruins and quench the fire.

Now it is true that on this day the Jews were so weary and under such consternation that they refrained from any attacks. But on the next day they gathered their whole force together, and ran upon those that guarded the outward court of the Temple very boldly, through the east gate, and this about the second hour of the day. These guards received their attack with great bravery, and by covering themselves with their shields before, as if it were with a wall, drew their squadron close together; yet was it evident that they could not abide there very long, but would be overborne by the multitude of those that sallied out upon them, and by the heat of their passion. However, Cæsar seeing, from the tower of Antonia, that this squadron was likely to give way, sent some chosen horsemen to support them. Hereupon the Jews found themselves not able to sustain their onset, and, upon the slaughter of those in the forefront, many of the rest were put to flight. But as the Romans were going off, the Jews turned upon them and fought them; and as those Romans came back upon them, they retreated again, until about the fifth hour of the day they were overborne, and shut themselves up in the inner [court of the] Temple.

So Titus retired into the tower of Antonia and resolved to storm the Temple the next day, early in the morning, with his whole army, and to encamp round about the holy house. But as for that house, God had, for certain, long ago doomed it to the fire; and now that fatal day was come, according to the revolution of ages. It was the tenth day of the month Lous [Ab] upon which it was formerly burned by the king of Babylon; although these flames took their rise from the Jews themselves, and were occasioned by them, for upon Titus' retiring[Pg 193] the seditious lay still for a little while, and then attacked the Romans again when those that guarded the holy house fought with those that quenched the fire that was burning the inner [court of the] Temple; but these Romans put the Jews to flight and proceeded as far as the holy house itself. At which time one of the soldiers, without staying for any orders and without any concern or dread upon him at so great an undertaking and being hurried on by a certain divine fury, snatched somewhat out of the materials that were on fire, and being lifted up by another soldier he set fire to a golden window through which there was a passage to the rooms that were round about the holy house on the north side of it.

As the flames went upward the Jews made a great clamor such as so mighty an affliction required and ran together to prevent it; and now they spared not their lives any longer nor suffered anything to restrain their force, since that holy house was perishing for whose sake it was that they kept such a guard about it.

And now Cæsar was no way able to restrain the enthusiastic fury of the soldiers, and the fire proceeded on more and more. He went into the holy place of the Temple with his commanders and saw it, with what was in it, which he found to be far superior to what the relations of foreigners contained, and not inferior to what we ourselves boasted of and believed about it. But as the flame had not as yet reached to its inward parts, but was still consuming the rooms that were about the holy house, and Titus supposing what the fact was, that the house itself might yet be saved, came in haste and endeavored to persuade the soldiers to quench the fire, and gave order to Liberalius the centurion, and one of those spearmen that were about him, to beat the soldiers that were refractory with their staves and to restrain them; yet were their passions too hard for the regards they had for Cæsar, and the dread they had of him who forbade them, as was their hatred of the Jews, and a certain vehement inclination to fight them, too hard for them also. Moreover, the hope of plunder induced many to go on, as having this opinion, that all the places within were full of money, and as seeing that all round about it was made of gold. And besides, one of those that went into the place prevented Cæsar,[Pg 194] when he ran so hastily out to restrain the soldiers, and threw the fire upon the hinges of the gate, in the dark; whereby the flame burst out from within the holy house itself immediately, when the commanders retired, and Cæsar with them, and when nobody any longer forbade those that were without to set fire to it. And thus was the holy house burned down without Cæsar's approbation.

While the holy house was on fire everything was plundered that came to hand, and ten thousand of those that were caught were slain; nor was there a commiseration of any age, or any reverence of gravity, but children, and old men, and profane persons, and priests were all slain in the same manner; so that this war went round all sorts of men, and brought them to destruction, and as well those that made supplication for their lives as those that defended themselves by fighting. The flame was also carried a long way, and made an echo, together with the groans of those that were slain; and because this hill was high, and the works at the Temple were very great, one would have thought the whole city had been on fire. Nor can one imagine anything either greater or more terrible than this noise, for there was at once a shout of the Roman legions, who were marching all together, and a sad clamor of the seditious, who were now surrounded with fire and sword.

The people also that were left above were beaten back upon the enemy, and under a great consternation, and made sad moans at the calamity they were under; the multitude also that was in the city joined in this outcry with those that were upon the hill. And besides, many of those that were worn away by the famine and their mouths almost closed, when they saw the fire of the holy house they exerted their utmost strength and brake out into groans and outcries again. Perea did also return the echo, as well as the mountains round about [the city], and augmented the force of the entire noise. Yet was the misery itself more terrible than this disorder, for one would have thought that the hill itself, on which the Temple stood, was seething hot, as full of fire on every part of it, that the blood was larger in quantity than the fire, and those that were slain more in number than those that slew them, for the ground did nowhere appear visible for the dead bodies that lay on it; but[Pg 195] the soldiers went over heaps of those bodies, as they ran upon such as fled from them.

And now it was that the multitude of the robbers were thrust out [of the inner court of the Temple] by the Romans, and had much ado to get into the outward court, and from thence into the city, while the remainder of the populace fled into the cloister of that outer court. As for the priests, some of them plucked up from the holy house the spikes that were upon it, with their bases, which were made of lead, and shot them at the Romans instead of darts. But then as they gained nothing by so doing, and as the fire burst out upon them, they retired to the wall that was eight cubits broad, and there they tarried.

And now the Romans, judging that it was in vain to spare what was round about the holy house, burned all those places, as also the remains of the cloisters and the gates, two excepted: the one on the east side and the other on the south; both which, however, they burned afterward. They also burned down the treasury chambers, in which was an immense quantity of money and an immense number of garments and other precious goods there reposited; and, to speak all in a few words, there it was that the entire riches of the Jews were heaped up together, while the rich people had there built themselves chambers (to contain such furniture). The soldiers also came to the rest of the cloisters that were in the outer (court of the) Temple, whither the women and children, and a great mixed multitude of the people, fled, in number about six thousand. But before Cæsar had determined anything about these people, or given the commanders any orders relating to them, the soldiers were in such a rage that they set that cloister on fire; by which means it came to pass that some of these were destroyed by throwing themselves down headlong, and some were burned in the cloisters themselves. Nor did any one of them escape with his life.

And now the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself and of all the buildings round about it, brought their ensigns to the Temple and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make[Pg 196] Titus imperator with the greatest acclamations of joy. And now all the soldiers had such vast quantities of the spoils which they had gotten by plunder that in Syria a pound weight of gold was sold for half its former value.

But as for the tyrants themselves and those that were with them, when they found that they were encompassed on every side, and, as it were, walled round, without any method of escaping, they desired to treat with Titus by word of mouth. Accordingly, such was the kindness of his nature and his desire of preserving the city from destruction, joined to the advice of his friends, who now thought the robbers were come to a temper, that he placed himself on the western side of the outer (court of the) Temple, for there were gates on that side above the Xystus, and a bridge that connected the upper city to the Temple. This bridge it was that lay between the tyrants and Cæsar, and parted them; while the multitude stood on each side; those of the Jewish nation about Simon and John, with great hopes of pardon; and the Romans about Cæsar, in great expectation how Titus would receive their supplication.

So Titus charged his soldiers to restrain their rage and to let their darts alone, and appointed an interpreter between them, which was a sign that he was the conqueror, and first began the discourse, and said: "I hope you, sirs, are now satiated with the miseries of your country, who have not had any just notions either of our great power or of your own great weakness, but have, like madmen, after a violent and inconsiderate manner, made such attempts as have brought your people, your city, and your holy house to destruction. You have been the men that have never left off rebelling since Pompey first conquered you, and have since that time made open war with the Romans.... And now, vile wretches, do you desire to treat with me by word of mouth? To what purpose is it that you would save such a holy house as this was which is now destroyed? What preservation can you now desire after the destruction of your Temple? Yet do you stand still at this very time in your armor; nor can you bring yourselves so much as to pretend to be supplicants even in this your utmost extremity. O miserable creatures! what is it you depend on? Are not your people dead? is not your holy house gone? is[Pg 197] not your city in my power? and are not your own very lives in my hands? And do you still deem it a part of valor to die? However, I will not imitate your madness. If you throw down your arms and deliver up your bodies to me, I grant you your lives; and I will act like a mild master of a family; what cannot be healed shall be punished, and the rest I will preserve for my own use."

To that offer of Titus they made this reply: That they could not accept of it, because they had sworn never to do so; but they desired they might have leave to go through the wall that had been made about them, with their wives and children; for that they would go into the desert and leave the city to him.

At this Titus had great indignation, that when they were in the case of men already taken captives, they should pretend to make their own terms with him, as if they had been conquerors. So he ordered this proclamation to be made to them: That they should no more come out to him as deserters, nor hope for any further security, for that he would henceforth spare nobody, but fight them with his whole army; and that they must save themselves as well as they could, for that he would from henceforth treat them according to the laws of war. So he gave orders to the soldiers both to burn and to plunder the city; who did nothing indeed that day; but on the next day they set fire to the repository of the archives, to Acra, to the council house, and to the place called Ophlas; at which time the fire proceeded as far as the palace of Queen Helena, which was in the middle of Acra; the lanes also were burned down, as were also those houses that were full of the dead bodies of such as were destroyed by famine.

On the same day it was that the sons and brethren of Izates the King, together with many others of the eminent men of the populace, got together there, and besought Cæsar to give them his right hand for their security. Upon which, though he was very angry at all that were now remaining, yet did he not lay aside his old moderation, but received these men. At that time, indeed, he kept them all in custody, but still bound the King's sons and kinsmen, and led them with him to Rome, in order to make them hostages for their country's fidelity to the Romans.[Pg 198]

And now the seditious rushed into the royal palace, into which many had put their effects, because it was so strong, and drove the Romans away from it. They also slew all the people that had crowded into it, who were in number about eight thousand four hundred, and plundered them of what they had.

On the next day the Romans drove the robbers out of the lower city and set all on fire as far as Siloam. These soldiers were indeed glad to see the city destroyed. But they missed the plunder, because the seditious had carried off all their effects, and were retired into the upper city, for they did not yet at all repent of the mischiefs they had done, but were insolent, as if they had done well; for, as they saw the city on fire, they appeared cheerful, and put on joyful countenances, in expectation, as they said, of death to end their miseries. Accordingly, as the people were now slain, the holy house was burned down, and the city was on fire, there was nothing further left for the enemy to do. Yet did not Josephus grow weary, even in this utmost extremity, to beg of them to spare what was left of the city; he spake largely to them about their barbarity and impiety, and gave them his advice in order to their escape, though he gained nothing thereby more than to be laughed at by them; and as they could not think of surrendering themselves up, because of the oath they had taken, nor were strong enough to fight with the Romans any longer upon the square, as being surrounded on all sides, and a kind of prisoners already, yet were they so accustomed to kill people that they could not restrain their right hands from acting accordingly.

So they dispersed themselves before the city and laid themselves in ambush among its ruins, to catch those that attempted to desert to the Romans. Accordingly, many such deserters were caught by them and were all slain, for these were too weak, by reason of their want of food, to fly away from them; so their dead bodies were thrown to the dogs. Now every other sort of death was thought more tolerable than the famine, insomuch that, though the Jews despaired now of mercy, yet would they fly to the Romans, and would themselves, even of their own accord, fall among the murderous rebels also. Nor was there any place in the city that had no dead bodies in it,[Pg 199] but what was entirely covered with those that were killed either by the famine or the rebellion; and all was full of the dead bodies of such as had perished, either by that sedition or by the famine.

So now the last hope which supported the tyrants and that crew of robbers who were with them was in the caves and caverns underground; whither, if they could once fly, they did not expect to be searched for; but endeavored that, after the whole city should be destroyed and the Romans gone away, they might come out again and escape from them. This was no better than a dream of theirs, for they were not able to lie hid either from God or from the Romans. However, they depended on these underground subterfuges, and set more places on fire than did the Romans themselves; and those that fled out of their houses thus set on fire into the ditches they killed without mercy, and pillaged them also; and if they discovered food belonging to anyone they seized upon it and swallowed it down, together with their blood also—nay, they were now come to fight one with another about their plunder; and I cannot but think that, had not their destruction prevented it, their barbarity would have made them taste of even the dead bodies themselves.

Now when Cæsar perceived that the upper city was so steep that it could not possibly be taken without raising banks against it, he distributed the several parts of that work among his army, and this on the twentieth day of the month Lous [Ab].

It was at this time that the commanders of the Idumeans got together privately and took counsel about surrendering up themselves to the Romans. Accordingly, they sent five men to Titus and entreated him to give them his right hand for their security. So Titus, thinking that the tyrants would yield, if the Idumeans, upon whom a great part of the war depended, were once withdrawn from them, after some reluctancy and delay complied with them, and gave them security for their lives, and sent the five men back. But as these Idumeans were preparing to march out, Simon perceived it, and immediately slew the five men that had gone to Titus, and took their commanders and put them in prison, of whom the most eminent was Jacob, the son of Sosas; but as for the multitude of[Pg 200] the Idumeans, who did not at all know what to do, now their commanders were taken from them, he had them watched, and secured the walls by a more numerous garrison. Yet could not that garrison resist those that were deserting, for although a great number of them were slain, yet were the deserters many more in number. These were all received by the Romans, because Titus himself grew negligent as to his former orders for killing them, and because the very soldiers grew weary of killing them, and because they hoped to get some money by sparing them, for they left only the populace, and sold the rest of the multitude, with their wives and children, and every one of them at a very low price, and that because such as were sold were very many, and the buyers were few; and although Titus had made proclamation beforehand that no deserter should come alone by himself, that so they might bring out their families with them, yet did he receive such as these also.

However, he set over them such as were to distinguish some from others, in order to see if any of them deserved to be punished. And indeed the number of those that were sold was immense; but of the populace above forty thousand were saved, whom Cæsar let go whither every one of them pleased.

But now at this time it was that one of the priests, the son of Thebuthus, whose name was Jesus, upon his having security given him, by the oath of Cæsar, that he should be preserved upon condition that he should deliver to him certain of the precious things that had been deposited in the Temple, came out of it and delivered him from the wall of the holy house two candlesticks, like to those that lay in the holy house, with tables, and cisterns, and vials, all made of solid gold and very heavy. He also delivered to him the veils and the garments, with the precious stones, and a great number of other precious vessels that belonged to their sacred worship.

The treasurer of the Temple also, whose name was Phineas, was seized on, and showed Titus the coats and girdles of the priests, with a great quantity of purple and scarlet, which were there deposited for the uses of the veil, as also a great deal of cinnamon and cassia, with a large quantity of other sweet spices, which used to be mixed together and offered as incense to God[Pg 201] every day. A great many other treasures were also delivered to him, with sacred ornaments of the Temple not a few, which things thus delivered to Titus obtained of him for this man the same pardon that he had allowed to such as deserted of their own accord.

And now were the banks finished on the seventh day of the month Gorpieus (Elul) in eighteen days' time, when the Romans brought their machines against the wall. But for the seditious, some of them, as despairing of saving the city, retired from the wall to the citadel. Others of them went down into the subterranean vaults, though still a great many of them defended themselves against those that brought the engines for the battery; yet did the Romans overcome them by their number and by their strength; and, what was the principal thing of all, by going cheerfully about their work, while the Jews were quite dejected and become weak. Now as soon as a part of the wall was battered down, and certain of the towers yielded to the impression of the battering rams, those that opposed themselves fled away, and such a terror fell upon the tyrants as was much greater than the occasion required, for before the enemy got over the breach they were quite stunned, and were immediately for flying away. And now one might see these men, who had hitherto been so insolent and arrogant in their wicked practices, to be cast down and to tremble, insomuch that it would pity one's heart to observe the change that was made in those vile persons.

Accordingly, they ran with great violence upon the Roman wall that encompassed them, in order to force away those that guarded it, and to break through it and get away. But when they saw that those who had formerly been faithful to them had gone away—as indeed they were fled whithersoever the great distress they were in persuaded them to flee—as also when those that came running before the rest told them that the western wall was entirely overthrown, while others said the Romans were gotten in, and others that they were near and looking out for them, which were only the dictates of their fear, which imposed upon their sight, they fell upon their face and greatly lamented their own mad conduct; and their nerves were so terribly loosed that they could not flee away. And[Pg 202] here one may chiefly reflect on the power of God exercised upon these wicked wretches, and on the good fortune of the Romans, for these tyrants did now wholly deprive themselves of the security they had in their own power, and came down from those very towers of their own accord, wherein they could have never been taken by force, nor indeed by any other way than by famine. And thus did the Romans, when they had taken such great pains about weaker walls, get by good fortune what they could never have gotten by their engines, for three of these towers were too strong for all mechanical engines whatsoever.

So they now left these towers of themselves, or rather they were ejected out of them by God himself, and fled immediately to that valley which was under Siloam, where they again recovered themselves out of the dread they were in for a while, and ran violently against that part of the Roman wall which lay on that side; but as their courage was too much depressed to make their attacks with sufficient force, and their power was now broken with fear and affliction, they were repulsed by the guards, and dispersing themselves at distances from each other, went down into the subterranean caverns.

So the Romans being now become masters of the walls, they both placed their ensigns upon the towers and made joyful acclamations for the victory they had gained, as having found the end of this war much lighter than its beginning, for when they had gotten upon the last wall, without any bloodshed, they could hardly believe what they found to be true; but seeing nobody to oppose them, they stood in doubt what such an unusual solitude could mean. But when they went in numbers into the lanes of the city with their swords drawn they slew those whom they overtook without mercy, and set fire to the houses whither the Jews were fled, and burned every soul in them, and laid waste a great many of the rest; and when they were come to the houses to plunder them they found in them entire families of dead men; and the upper rooms full of corpses, that is, of such as died by the famine. They stood in horror at this sight, and went out without touching anything.

Although they had this commiseration for such as were destroyed[Pg 203] in that manner, yet had they not the same for those that were still alive, but they ran every one through whom they met, and obstructed the very lanes with their dead bodies, and made the whole city run with blood, to such a degree indeed that the fire of many of the houses was quenched with these men's blood. And truly so it happened, that though the slayers left off at the evening, yet did the fire greatly prevail in the night; and as all was burning, came that eighth day of the month Gorpieus [Elul] upon Jerusalem, a city that had been liable to so many miseries during this siege, that, had it always enjoyed as much happiness from its first foundation, it would certainly have been the envy of the world. Nor did it on any other account so much deserve these sore misfortunes as by producing such a generation of men as were the occasion of this its overthrow.

Now when Titus was come into this (upper) city, he admired not only some other places of strength in it, but particularly those strong towers which the tyrants in their mad conduct had relinquished, for when he saw their solid altitude, and the largeness of their several stones, and the exactness of their joints, as also how great was their breadth and how extensive their length, he expressed himself after the manner following: "We have certainly had God for our assistant in this war, and it was no other than God who ejected the Jews out of these fortifications, for what could the hands of men or any machines do toward overthrowing these towers?" At which time he had many such discourses to his friends; he also let such go free as had been bound by the tyrants, and were left in the prisons. To conclude, when he entirely demolished the rest of the city and overthrew its walls, he left these towers as a monument of his good fortune, which had proved his auxiliaries, and enabled him to take what could not otherwise have been taken by him.

And now, since his soldiers were already quite tired with killing men, and yet there appeared to be a vast multitude still remaining alive, Cæsar gave orders that they should kill none but those that were in arms and opposed them, but should take the rest alive. But, together with those whom they had orders to slay, they slew the aged and the infirm; but for those that[Pg 204] were in their flourishing age and who might be useful to them they drove them together into the Temple and shut them up within the walls of the court of the women, over which Cæsar set one of his freedmen, as also Fronto, one of his own friends, which last was to determine everyone's fate, according to his merits.

So this Fronto slew all those that had been seditious and robbers, who were impeached one by another; but of the young men he chose out the tallest and most beautiful and reserved them for the triumph, and as for the rest of the multitude that were above seventeen years old he put them into bonds and sent them to the Egyptian mines. Titus also sent a great number into the provinces as a present to them, that they might be destroyed upon their theatres by the sword and by the wild beasts; but those that were under seventeen years of age were sold for slaves. Now during the days wherein Fronto was distinguishing these men there perished, for want of food, eleven thousand, some of whom did not taste any food, through the hatred their guards bore to them, and others would not take in any when it was given them. The multitude also was so very great that they were in want even of corn for their sustenance.

Now the number of those that were carried captive during this whole war was collected to be ninety-seven thousand; as was the number of those that perished during the whole siege eleven hundred thousand, the greater part of whom was indeed of the same nation [with the citizens of Jerusalem], but not belonging to the city itself. They were come up from all the country to the feast of unleavened bread and were on a sudden shut up by an army, which, at the very first, occasioned so great a straitness among them that there came a pestilential destruction upon them, and soon afterward such a famine as destroyed them more suddenly.

That this city could contain so many people in it is manifest by that number of them which was taken under Cestius, who, being desirous of informing Nero of the power of the city, who otherwise was disposed to contemn that nation, entreated the high-priests, if the thing were possible, to take the number of their whole multitude. So these high-priests, upon the[Pg 205] coming of that feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour till the eleventh, but so that a company not less than ten belong to every sacrifice (for it is not lawful for them to feast singly by themselves), and many of them were twenty in a company, found the number of sacrifices was two hundred and fifty-six thousand five hundred, which, upon the allowance of no more than ten that feast together, amounts to two millions seven hundred thousand and two hundred persons that were pure and holy; for as to those that have the leprosy, or the gonorrhœa, or women that have their monthly courses, or such as are otherwise polluted, it is not lawful for them to be partakers of this sacrifice; nor indeed for any foreigners neither, who come hither to worship.

Now this vast multitude is indeed collected out of remote places, but the entire nation was now shut up by fate as in prison, and the Roman army encompassed the city when it was crowded with inhabitants. Accordingly, the multitude of those that therein perished exceeded all the destructions that either men or God ever brought upon the world; for, to speak only of what was publicly known, the Romans slew some of them, some they carried captives, and others they made a search for underground, and when they found where they were they broke up the ground and slew all they met with. There were also found slain there above two thousand persons, partly by their own hands and partly by one another, but chiefly destroyed by the famine; but then the ill-savor of the dead bodies was most offensive to those that lighted upon them, insomuch that some were obliged to get away immediately, while others were so greedy of gain that they would go in among the dead bodies that lay on heaps and tread upon them, for a great deal of treasure was found in these caverns, and the hope of gain made every way of getting it to be esteemed lawful.

Many also of those that had been put in prison by the tyrants were now brought out, for they did not leave off their barbarous cruelty at the very last; yet did God avenge himself upon upon them both in a manner agreeable to justice. As for John, he wanted food, together with his brethren, in these caverns, and begged that the Romans would now give[Pg 206] him their right hand for his security, which he had often proudly rejected before; but for Simon, he struggled hard with the distress he was in, till he was forced to surrender himself. So he was reserved for the triumph, and to be then slain, as was John condemned to perpetual imprisonment. And now the Romans set fire to the extreme parts of the city, and burned them down, and entirely demolished its walls.

And thus was Jerusalem taken, in the second year of the reign of Vespasian, on the eighth day of the month Gorpieus (Elul). It had been taken five times before, though this was the second time of its desolation, for Shishak, the king of Egypt, and after him Antiochus, and after him Pompey, and after them Sosius and Herod, took the city, but still preserved it; but before all these the king of Babylon conquered it and made it desolate, one thousand four hundred and sixty-eight years and six months after it was built.

But he who first built it was a potent man among the Canaanites, and is in our own tongue called (Melchisedek), the righteous king, for such he really was. On which account he was (there) the first priest of God, and first built a temple (there), and called the city Jerusalem, which was formerly called Salem. However, David, the king of the Jews, ejected the Canaanites, and settled his own people therein.

It was demolished entirely by the Babylonians, four hundred and seventy-seven years and six months after him. And from King David, who was the first of the Jews who reigned therein, to this destruction under Titus, were one thousand one hundred and seventy-nine years; but from its first building till this last destruction were two thousand one hundred and seventy-seven years; yet hath not its great antiquity, nor its vast riches, nor the diffusion of its nation over all the habitable earth, nor the greatness of the veneration paid to it on a religious account, been sufficient to preserve it from being destroyed. And thus ended the siege of Jerusalem.


[38] Not to be confounded with John of Gischala, leader of one of the three factions.

[39] John of Gischala.

[40] Probably that of John Hyrcanus I, a Maccabæan, prince of Judea, b.c. 135-105.

[Pg 207]


A.D. 79


Among the historic calamities of the world none has gathered about itself more of human interest, whether in connection with the study of ancient cities and customs or in the calling forth of sympathy through the magical treatment of imaginative literature, than the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which occurred at the beginning of the reign of Titus. The eruption was accompanied by an earthquake, and the combination of natural commotions caused the complete ruin and burial of the two cities.

One of the most vivid descriptions of the catastrophe is that given in the account of Dion Cassius. Among those who perished in the disaster was the elder Pliny, the celebrated naturalist; and the most famous narrative of the eruption is that here given of Pliny the Younger, nephew of the other, in the two letters which he wrote to Tacitus in order to supply that historian with accurate details.

Lytton's well-known Last Days of Pompeii, although a work of imagination, deals with this subject in a manner which almost simulates the realistic tale of an actual observer; and his account, linking the calamity itself with the revelations of the earlier explorers of the buried city, after so many centuries had passed, well deserves a place in connection with the story of the older and more circumstantial writer.

One of the earliest important discoveries at Pompeii, made in 1771, was that of the "Villa of Diomedes," named from the tomb of Marcus Arrius Diomedes across the street. Since then every decade has seen some progress in the work of excavation, and among other buildings brought to light are the "House of Pansa," the "House of the Tragic Poet," the "House of Sallustius," the "Castor and Pollux," a double house, and the "House of the Vettii"—the last, a recent discovery, being left with all its furnishings as found. Many interesting objects have been discovered lately, and a complete picture can now be presented of a small Italian city and its life in the first century a.d. Valuable finds are wall paintings, illustrative of decorative art; floor mosaics, etc., which may be seen in the Royal Museum of Naples. Another of the most recent discoveries is that of the temple of Venus Pompeiana in the southern corner of the city; others are the remains of persons who, carrying valuables, perished in a wayside inn where they had sought refuge. At the present time about one-half of the city has been excavated, and the circuit[Pg 208] of the walls has been found to be about two miles. The uncovering of the whole city will probably require many years. Excavations now being made in the adjacent country promise results as interesting as those already obtained within the city limits.


Your request that I would send you an account of my uncle's death, in order to transmit a more exact relation of it to posterity, deserves my acknowledgments; for, if this accident shall be celebrated by your pen, the glory of it, I am well assured, will be rendered forever illustrious. And notwithstanding he perished by a misfortune, which as it involved at the same time a most beautiful country in ruins, and destroyed so many populous cities, seems to promise him an everlasting remembrance; notwithstanding he has himself composed many and lasting works; yet I am persuaded, the mentioning of him in your immortal writings will greatly contribute to render his name immortal.

Happy I esteem those to be to whom by provision of the gods has been granted the ability either to do such actions as are worthy of being related or to relate them in a manner worthy of being read; but peculiarly happy are they who are blessed with both these uncommon talents: in the number of which my uncle, as his own writings and your history will evidently prove, may justly be ranked. It is with extreme willingness, therefore, that I execute your commands; and should indeed have claimed the task if you had not enjoined it. He was at that time with the fleet under his command at Misenum.

On the 24th of August, about one in the afternoon, my mother desired him to observe a cloud which appeared of a very unusual size and shape. He had just taken a turn in the sun,[41] and, after bathing himself in cold water, and making a[Pg 209] light luncheon, gone back to his books: he immediately arose and went out upon a rising ground from whence he might get a better sight of this very uncommon appearance. A cloud, from which mountain was uncertain at this distance (but it was found afterward to come from Mount Vesuvius[42]) was ascending, the appearance of which I cannot give you a more exact description of than by likening it to that of a pine tree, for it shot up to a great height in the form of a very tall trunk, which spread itself out at the top into a sort of branches; occasioned, I imagine, either by a sudden gust of air that impelled it, the force of which decreased as it advanced upward, or the cloud itself, being pressed back again by its own weight, expanded in the manner I have mentioned; it appeared sometimes bright and sometimes dark and spotted, according as it was either more or less impregnated with earth and cinders.

This phenomenon seemed to a man of such learning and research as my uncle extraordinary and worth further looking into. He ordered a light vessel to be got ready, and gave me leave, if I liked, to accompany him. I said I had rather go on with my work; and it so happened he had himself given me something to write out. As he was coming out of the house, he received a note from Rectina, the wife of Bassus, who was in the utmost alarm at the imminent danger which threatened her; for her villa lying at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, there was no way of escape but by sea; she earnestly entreated him therefore to come to her assistance.

He accordingly changed his first intention, and what he had begun from a philosophical, he now carried out in a noble and generous, spirit. He ordered the galleys to put to sea, and went himself on board with an intention of assisting not only Rectina, but the several other towns which lay thickly strewn along that beautiful coast. Hastening then to the place from whence others fled with the utmost terror, he steered his course direct to the point of danger, and with so much calmness and presence of mind as to be able to make and dictate his observations upon the motion and all the phenomena of that dreadful scene. He was now so close to the mountain that the cinders, which grew thicker and hotter the nearer he approached, fell[Pg 210] into the ships, together with pumice-stones and black pieces of burning rock: they were in danger too not only of being aground by the sudden retreat of the sea, but also from the vast fragments which rolled down from the mountain and obstructed all the shore. Here he stopped to consider whether he should turn back again; to which the pilot advising him, "Fortune," said he, "favors the brave; steer to where Pomponianus is." Pomponianus was then at Stabiæ, separated by a bay, which the sea, after several insensible windings, forms with the shore. He had already sent his baggage on board; for though he was not at that time in actual danger, yet being within sight of it, and indeed extremely near, if it should in the least increase, he was determined to put to sea as soon as the wind, which was blowing dead in-shore, should go down. It was favorable, however, for carrying my uncle to Pomponianus, whom he found in the greatest consternation: he embraced him tenderly, encouraging and urging him to keep up his spirits, and, the more effectually to soothe his fears by seeming unconcerned himself, ordered a bath to be got ready, and then, after having bathed, sat down to supper with great cheerfulness, or at least—what is just as heroic—with every appearance of it.

Meanwhile broad flames shone out in several places from Mount Vesuvius, which the darkness of the night contributed to render still brighter and clearer. But my uncle, in order to soothe the apprehensions of his friend, assured him it was only the burning of the villages, which the country people had abandoned to the flames. After this he retired to rest, and it is most certain he was so little disquieted as to fall into a sound sleep, for his breathing, which, on account of his corpulence, was rather heavy and sonorous, was heard by the attendants outside.

The court which led to his apartment being now almost filled with stones and ashes, if he had continued there any time longer, it would have been impossible for him to have made his way out. So he was awoke and got up, and went to Pomponianus and the rest of his company, who were feeling too anxious to think of going to bed. They consulted together whether it would be most prudent to trust to the houses—which now rocked from side to side with frequent and violent concussions as though shaken from their very foundations—or fly to[Pg 211] the open fields, where the calcined stones and cinders, though light indeed, yet fell in large showers and threatened destruction. In this choice of dangers they resolved for the fields: a resolution which, while the rest of the company were hurried into by their fears, my uncle embraced upon cool and deliberate consideration. They went out then, having pillows tied upon their heads with napkins; and this was their whole defence against the storm of stones that fell round them.

It was now day everywhere else, but there a deeper darkness prevailed than in the thickest night; which, however, was in some degree alleviated by torches and other lights of various kinds. They thought proper to go farther down upon the shore to see if they might safely put out to sea, but found the waves still running extremely high and boisterous. There my uncle, laying himself down upon a sail-cloth, which was spread for him, called twice for some cold water, which he drank, when immediately the flames, preceded by a strong whiff of sulphur, dispersed the rest of the party, and obliged him to rise. He raised himself up with the assistance of two of his servants, and instantly fell down dead; suffocated, as I conjecture, by some gross and noxious vapor, having always had a weak throat, which was often inflamed.

As soon as it was light again, which was not till the third day after this melancholy accident, his body was found entire, and without any marks of violence upon it, in the dress in which he fell, and looking more like a man asleep than dead. During all this time my mother and I, who were at Misenum—but this has no connection with your history, and you did not desire any particulars besides those of my uncle's death, so I will end here, only adding that I have faithfully related to you what I was either an eye-witness of myself or received immediately after the accident happened, and before there was time to vary the truth. You will pick out of this narrative whatever is most important: for a letter is one thing, a history another; it is one thing writing to a friend, another thing writing to the public. Farewell.

The letter which, in compliance with your request, I wrote to you concerning the death of my uncle has raised, it seems,[Pg 212] your curiosity to know what terrors and dangers attended me while I continued at Misenum; for there, I think, my account broke off:

"Though my shock'd soul recoils, my tongue shall tell."

My uncle having left us, I spent such time as was left on my studies—it was on their account indeed that I had stopped behind—till it was time for my bath. After which I went to supper, and then fell into a short and uneasy sleep. There had been noticed for many days before, a trembling of the earth, which did not alarm us much, as this is quite an ordinary occurrence in Campania; but it was so particularly violent that night that it not only shook but actually overturned, as it would seem, everything about us.

My mother rushed into my chamber, where she found me rising in order to awaken her. We sat down in the open court of the house, which occupied a small space between the buildings and the sea. As I was at that time but eighteen years of age, I know not whether I should call my behavior, in this dangerous juncture, courage or folly; but I took up Livy, and amused myself with turning over that author, and even making extracts from him, as if I had been perfectly at my leisure. Just then, a friend of my uncle's, who had lately come to him from Spain, joined us, and observing me sitting by my mother with a book in my hand, reproved her for her calmness, and me at the same time for my careless security: nevertheless I went on with my author.

Though it was now morning, the light was still exceedingly faint and doubtful; the buildings all around us tottered, and though we stood upon open ground, yet, as the place was narrow and confined, there was no remaining without imminent danger: we therefore resolved to quit the town. A panic-stricken crowd followed us, and—as to a mind distracted with terror every suggestion seems more prudent than its own—pressed on us in dense array to drive us forward as we came out. Being at a convenient distance from the houses, we stood still, in the midst of a most dangerous and dreadful scene.

The chariots, which we had ordered to be drawn out, were so agitated backward and forward, though upon the most level[Pg 213] ground, that we could not keep them steady, even by supporting them with large stones. The sea seemed to roll back upon itself, and to be driven from its banks by the convulsive motion of the earth; it is certain at least the shore was considerably enlarged, and several sea animals were left upon it. On the other side, a black and dreadful cloud, broken with rapid, zig-zag flashes, revealed behind it variously shaped masses of flame: these last were like sheet lightning, but much larger. Upon this our Spanish friend, whom I mentioned above, addressing himself to my mother and me with great energy and urgency: "If your brother," he said, "if your uncle be safe, he certainly wishes you may be so too; but if he perished, it was his desire, no doubt, that you might both survive him: why therefore do you delay your escape a moment?"

We could never think of our own safety, we said, while we were uncertain of his. Upon this our friend left us, and withdrew from the danger with the utmost precipitation. Soon afterward, the cloud began to descend and cover the sea. It had already surrounded and concealed the island of Capreæ[43] and the promontory of Misenum.

My mother now besought, urged, even commanded me to make my escape at any rate, which, as I was young, I might easily do; as for herself, she said, her age and corpulency rendered all attempts of that sort impossible; however, she would willingly meet death if she could have the satisfaction of seeing that she was not the occasion of mine. But I absolutely refused to leave her, and, taking her by the hand, compelled her to go with me. She complied with great reluctance, and not without many reproaches to herself for retarding my flight. The ashes now began to fall upon us, though in no great quantity. I looked back; a dense, dark mist seemed to be following us, spreading itself over the country like a cloud. "Let us turn out of the high-road," I said, "while we can still see, for fear that, should we fall in the road, we should be pressed to death in the dark by the crowds that are following us."

We had scarcely sat down when night came upon us, not such as we have when the sky is cloudy, or when there is no moon, but that of a room when it is shut up and all the lights[Pg 214] put out. You might hear the shrieks of women, the screams of children, and the shouts of men; some calling for their children, others for their parents, others for their husbands, and seeking to recognize each other by the voices that replied; one lamenting his own fate, another that of his family; some wishing to die, from the very fear of dying; some lifting their hands to the gods; but the greater part convinced that there were now no gods at all, and that the final endless night of which we have heard had come upon the world.[44] Among these there were some who augmented the real terrors by others imaginary or wilfully invented. I remember some who declared that one part of Misenum had fallen, that another was on fire; it was false, but they found people to believe them. It now grew rather lighter, which we imagined to be rather the forerunner of an approaching burst of flames—as in truth it was—than the return of day: however, the fire fell at a distance from us: then again we were immersed in thick darkness, and a heavy shower of ashes rained upon us, which we were obliged every now and then to stand up to shake off, otherwise we should have been crushed and buried in the heap.

I might boast that, during all this scene of horror, not a sigh or expression of fear escaped me, had not my support been grounded in that miserable, though mighty, consolation, that all mankind were involved in the same calamity, and that I was perishing with the world itself. At last this dreadful darkness was dissipated by degrees, like a cloud or smoke; the real day returned, and even the sun shone out, though with a lurid light, like when an eclipse is coming on. Every object that presented itself to our eyes—which were extremely weakened—seemed changed, being covered deep with ashes as if with snow.

We returned to Misenum, where we refreshed ourselves as well as we could, and passed an anxious night between hope and fear; though, indeed, with a much larger share of the latter; for the earthquake still continued, while many frenzied[Pg 215] persons ran up and down, heightening their own and their friends' calamities by terrible predictions. However, my mother and I, notwithstanding the danger we had passed and that which still threatened us, had no thoughts of leaving the place till we could receive some news of my uncle.

And now you will read this narrative without any view of inserting it in your history, of which it is not in the least worthy; and indeed you must put it down to your own request if it should appear not worth even the trouble of a letter. Farewell.


The Amphitheatre at Pompeii was crowded to the doors. A lion was at large in the arena, and the populace surged toward an Egyptian priest, Arbaces, demanding that he be thrown down to be devoured. As the mob rolled around him, intent on his death, Arbaces noted a strange and awful apparition. His craft made him courageous; he stretched forth his hand.

"Behold!" he shouted with a voice of thunder, which stilled the roar of the crowd; "behold how the gods protect the guiltless! The fires of the avenging Orcus burst forth against the false witness of my accusers!"

The eyes of the crowd followed the gesture of the Egyptian, and beheld, with ineffable dismay, a vast vapor shooting from the summit of Vesuvius, in the form of a gigantic pine tree; the trunk, blackness—the branches, fire!—a fire that shifted and wavered in its hues with every moment, now fiercely luminous, now of a dull and dying red, that again blazed terrifically forth with intolerable glare!

There was a dead, heart-sunken silence—through which there suddenly broke the roar of the lion, which was echoed back from within the building by the sharper and fiercer yells of its fellow-beast. Dread seers were they of the burden of the atmosphere, and wild prophets of the wrath to come!

Then there arose on high the universal shrieks of women; the men stared at each other, but were dumb. At that moment they felt the earth shake beneath their feet; the walls of the theatre trembled, and beyond, in the distance, they heard the crash of falling roofs; an instant more and the mountain-cloud[Pg 216] seemed to roll toward them, dark and rapid, like a torrent; at the same time it cast forth from its bosom a shower of ashes mixed with vast fragments of burning stone. Over the crushing vines—over the desolate streets—over the Amphitheatre itself—far and wide—with many a mighty splash in the agitated sea—fell that awful shower!

No longer thought the crowd of justice or of Arbaces; safety for themselves was their sole thought. Each turned to fly—each dashing, pressing, crushing, against the other. Trampling recklessly over the fallen—amid groans and oaths and prayers and sudden shrieks, the enormous crowd vomited itself forth through the numerous passages. Whither should they fly? Some, anticipating a second earthquake, hastened to their homes to load themselves with their more costly goods, and escape while it was yet time; others, dreading the showers of ashes that now fell fast, torrent upon torrent, over the streets, rushed under the roofs of the nearest houses or temples or sheds—shelter of any kind—for protection from the terrors of the open air. But darker and larger and mightier spread the cloud above them. It was a sudden and more ghastly Night rushing upon the realm of Noon!

Meanwhile the streets were already thinned; the crowd had hastened to disperse itself under shelter; the ashes began to fill up the lower parts of the town; but, here and there, you heard the steps of fugitives cranching them warily, or saw their pale and haggard faces by the blue glare of the lightning or the more unsteady glare of torches, by which they endeavored to steer their steps. But ever and anon the boiling water, or the straggling ashes, mysterious and gusty winds, rising and dying in a breath, extinguished these wandering lights, and with them the last living hope of those who bore them.

Amid the other horrors, the mighty mountain now cast up columns of boiling water. Blent and kneaded with the half-burning ashes, the streams fell like seething mud over the streets in frequent intervals. And full, where the priests of Isis had now cowered around the altars, on which they had vainly sought to kindle fires and pour incense, one of the fiercest of those deadly torrents, mingled with immense fragments[Pg 217] of scoria, had poured its rage. Over the bended forms of the priests it dashed: that cry had been of death—that silence had been of eternity! The ashes—the pitchy stream—sprinkled the altars, covered the pavement, and half concealed the quivering corpses of the priests!

In proportion as the blackness gathered did the lightnings around Vesuvius increase in their vivid and scorching glare. Nor was their horrible beauty confined to the usual hues of fire; no rainbow ever rivalled their varying and prodigal dyes. Now brightly blue as the most azure depth of a southern sky—now of a livid and snakelike green, darting restlessly to and fro as the folds of an enormous serpent—now of a lurid and intolerable crimson, gushing forth through the columns of smoke, far and wide, and lighting up the whole city from arch to arch—then suddenly dying into a sickly paleness, like the ghost of their own life!

In the pauses of the showers you heard the rumbling of the earth beneath and the groaning waves of the tortured sea; or, lower still, and audible but to the watch of intensest fear, the grinding and hissing murmur of the escaping gases through the chasms of the distant mountain. Sometimes the cloud appeared to break from its solid mass, and, by the lightning, to assume quaint and vast mimicries of human or of monster shapes, striding across the gloom, hurtling one upon the other, and vanishing swiftly into the turbulent abyss of shade; so that to the eyes and fancies of the affrighted wanderers the unsubstantial vapors were as the bodily forms of gigantic foes—the agents of terror and of death.

The ashes in many places were already knee-deep; and the boiling showers which came from the steaming breath of the volcano forced their way into the houses, bearing with them a strong and suffocating vapor. In some places immense fragments of rock, hurled upon the house roofs, bore down along the streets masses of confused ruin, which yet more and more, with every hour, obstructed the way; and, as the day advanced, the motion of the earth was more sensibly felt—the footing seemed to slide and creep—nor could chariot or litter be kept steady, even on the most level ground.

Sometimes the huger stones, striking against each other as[Pg 218] they fell, broke into countless fragments, emitting sparks of fire, which caught whatever was combustible within their reach; and along the plains beyond the city the darkness was now terribly relieved, for several houses, and even vineyards, had been set on flames; and at various intervals the fires rose sullenly and fiercely against the solid gloom. To add to this partial relief of the darkness, the citizens had, here and there, in the more public places, as the porticoes of temples and the entrances to the forum, endeavored to place rows of torches; but these rarely continued long; the showers and the winds extinguished them, and the sudden darkness into which their sudden birth was converted had something in it doubly terrible and doubly impressing on the impotence of human hopes, the lesson of despair.

Frequently, by the momentary light of these torches, parties of fugitives encountered each other, some hurrying toward the sea, others flying from the sea back to the land; for the ocean had retreated rapidly from the shore—an utter darkness lay over it, and upon its groaning and tossing waves the storm of cinders and rock fell without the protection which the streets and roofs afforded to the land. Wild—haggard—ghastly with supernatural fears, these groups encountered each other, but without the leisure to speak, to consult, to advise; for the showers fell now frequently, though not continuously, extinguishing the lights, which showed to each band the death-like faces of the other, and hurrying all to seek refuge beneath the nearest shelter.

The whole elements of civilization were broken up. Ever and anon, by the flickering lights, you saw the thief hastening by the most solemn authorities of the law, laden with and fearfully chuckling over the produce of his sudden gains. If, in the darkness, wife was separated from husband, or parent from child, vain was the hope of reunion. Each hurried blindly and confusedly on. Nothing in all the various and complicated machinery of social life was left save the primal law of self-preservation!

In parts, where the ashes lay dry and uncommixed with the boiling torrents, cast upward from the mountain at capricious intervals, the surface of the earth presented a leprous and[Pg 219] ghastly white. In other places cinder and rock lay matted in heaps, from beneath which emerged the half-hid limbs of some crushed and mangled fugitive.

The groans of the dying were broken by wild shrieks of women's terror—now near, now distant—which, when heard in the utter darkness, were rendered doubly appalling by the crushing sense of helplessness and the uncertainty of the perils around; and clear and distinct through all were the mighty and various noises from the fatal mountain; its rushing winds; its whirling torrents; and, from time to time, the burst and roar of some more fiery and fierce explosion. And ever as the winds swept howling along the street, they bore sharp streams of burning dust, and such sickening and poisonous vapors as took away, for the instant, breath and consciousness, followed by a rapid revulsion of the arrested blood, and a tingling sensation of agony trembling through every nerve and fibre of the frame.

Suddenly all became lighted with an intense and lurid glow. Bright and gigantic through the darkness, which closed around it like the walls of hell, the mountain shone—a pile of fire! Its summit seemed riven in two; or rather, above its surface there seemed to rise two monster shapes, each confronting each, as demons contending for a world. These were of one deep blood-red hue of fire, which lighted up the whole atmosphere far and wide; but below, the nether part of the mountain was still dark and shrouded, save in three places, adown which flowed, serpentine and irregular, rivers of molten lava. Darkly red through the profound gloom of their banks they flowed slowly on, as toward the devoted city. Over the broadest there seemed to spring a cragged and stupendous arch, from which, as from the jaws of hell, gushed the sources of the sudden Phlegethon. And through the still air was heard the rattling of the fragments of rock, hurtling one upon another as they were borne down the fiery cataracts—darkening, for one instant, the spot where they fell, and suffused the next, in the burnished hues of the flood in which they floated!

Nearly seventeen centuries had rolled away when the city of Pompeii was disinterred from its silent tomb,[45] all vivid with[Pg 220] undimmed hues; its walls fresh as if painted yesterday—not a hue faded on the rich mosaic of its floors—in its forum the half-finished columns as left by the workman's hand—in its gardens the sacrificial tripod—in its halls the chest of treasure—in its baths the strigil—in its theatres the counter of admission—in its saloons the furniture and the lamp—in its triclinia the fragments of the last feast—in its cubicula the perfumes and the rouge of faded beauty—and everywhere the bones and skeletons of those who once moved the springs of that minute yet gorgeous machine of luxury and of life!

In the house of Diomed, in the subterranean vaults, twenty skeletons (one of a babe) were discovered in one spot by the door, covered by a fine ashen dust, that had evidently been wafted slowly through the apertures, until it had filled the whole space. There were jewels and coins, candelabra for unavailing light, and wine hardened in the amphoræ for the prolongation of agonized life. The sand, consolidated by damps, had taken the forms of the skeletons as in a cast; and the traveller may yet see the impression of a female neck and bosom of young and round proportions. It seems to the inquirer as if the air had been gradually changed into a sulphurous vapor; the inmates of the vaults had rushed to the door, to find it closed and blocked up by the scoria without, and, in their attempts to force it, had been suffocated with the atmosphere.

In the garden was found a skeleton with a key by its bony hand, and near it a bag of coins. This is believed to have been the master of the house, who had probably sought to escape by the garden, and been destroyed either by the vapors or some fragment of stone. Beside some silver vases lay another skeleton, probably that of a slave.

Various theories as to the exact mode by which Pompeii was destroyed have been invented by the ingenious; I have adopted that which is the most generally received, and which, upon inspecting the strata, appears the only one admissible by common sense; namely, a destruction by showers of ashes and boiling water, mingled with frequent irruptions of large stones, and aided by partial convulsions of the earth. Herculaneum, on the contrary, appears to have received not only the[Pg 221] showers of ashes, but also inundations from molten lava; and the streams referred to must be considered as destined for that city rather than for Pompeii. Volcanic lightnings were evidently among the engines of ruin at Pompeii. Papyrus, and other of the more inflammable materials, are found in a burned state. Some substances in metal are partially melted; and a bronze statue is completely shivered, as by lightning. Upon the whole—excepting only the inevitable poetic license of shortening the time which the destruction occupied—I believe my description of that awful event is very little assisted by invention, and will be found not the less accurate for its appearance in a romance.


[41] The Romans used to lie or walk naked in the sun, after anointing their bodies with oil, which was esteemed as greatly contributing to health, and therefore daily practised by them. This custom, however, of anointing themselves, is inveighed against by the satirists as in the number of their luxurious indulgences; but since we find the elder Pliny here, and the amiable Spurinna in a former letter, practising this method, we cannot suppose the thing itself was esteemed unmanly, but only when it was attended with some particular circumstances of an over-refined delicacy.

[42] About six miles distant from Naples.

[43] An island near Naples, now called Capri.

[44] The Stoic and Epicurean philosophers held that the world was to be destroyed by fire, and all things fall again into original chaos; not excepting even the national gods themselves from the destruction of this general conflagration.

[45] Destroyed a.d. 79; first discovered a.d. 1750.

[Pg 222]


A.D. 132


The successful revolt of the Maccabees against the bloody persecutions of the Assyrian king Antiochus Epiphanes, about b.c. 164, inaugurated a glorious epoch in Jewish history. From that time the Jews enjoyed their freedom under the dynasty of their priest-kings till, b.c. 63, the Romans under Pompey took possession of Jerusalem. A period of Roman tyranny and oppression followed. In a.d. 66-70 a great revolt of the Jews occurred. The Romans burned Jerusalem to the ground. Josephus says the number killed in this revolt was one million one hundred thousand, and the number of prisoners ninety-seven thousand. Of those who survived, "all above seventeen years old were sent to Egypt to work in the mines, or distributed among the provinces to be exhibited as gladiators in the public theatres and in the combats against wild beasts."

About fifty years later, a.d., 116, a tremendous uprising occurred among the Jews of the eastern Mediterranean, in which many lives were lost. It was quickly suppressed by the emperor Trajan, and the punishments were similar in cruelty to those which followed the previous insurrection.

But this dauntless people were not yet conquered. When the emperor Hadrian, a.d., 130, arrived at Jerusalem on his tour of the empire, he resolved that the holy city of the Jews should be rebuilt as a Roman colony, and its name changed to Ælia Capitolina; and the Jews were forbidden to sojourn in the new city. By this and other measures the spark of revolt was once more kindled among the religious and patriotic spirits of the Jewish nation. The Jews in Palestine flew to arms, a.d., 132, encouraged by the prayers, the vows, and the material support of their compatriots in Rome, Byzantium, Alexandria, and Babylon. The Jewish war-cry echoed around the civilized world.

A fitting leader for the insurrectionists soon appeared in the person of Simon Barcochebas. Julius Severus, who was in Britain ordering the affairs of that distant province, was summoned to the East to quell the disturbance, which had swollen to the dimensions of a revolution and threatened to abolish Roman authority in Palestine. The conflict which ensued lasted from a.d. 132 to 135, and was very bitterly contested on both sides. It was not before the Hebrew leader fell amid thousands of his followers that the Jewish forces were defeated. We are told that in[Pg 223] this last revolution the Romans took fifty fortresses, nine hundred and eighty-five villages were occupied, and that the people killed numbered five hundred and eighty thousand. The Jews were dispersed to every quarter of the known world and remain so to this day. The new city of Hadrian continued to exist, but did not prosper; and the Jews were prohibited under penalty of death from ever setting foot in Jerusalem.

The thread of imperial life could hardly snap without a jar which would be felt throughout the whole extent of the empire. Trajan, like Alexander, had been cut off suddenly in the Far East, and, like Alexander, he had left no avowed successor. Several of his generals abroad might advance nearly equal claims to the sword of Trajan; some of the senators at home might deem themselves not unworthy of the purple of Nerva.

On every side there was an army or faction ready to devote itself to the service of its favorite or its champion.

The provinces lately annexed were at the same time in a state of ominous agitation; along one half of the frontiers Britons, Germans, and Sarmatians were mustering their forces for invasion; a virulent insurrection was still glowing throughout a large portion of the empire. Nevertheless, the compact body of the Roman Commonwealth was still held firmly together by its inherent self-attraction. There was no tendency to split in pieces, as in the ill-cemented masses of the Macedonian conquest; and the presence of mind of a clever woman was well employed in effecting the peaceful transfer of power and relieving the State from the stress of disruption.

Of the accession of Publius Ælius Hadrianus, a.d., 117, to the empire; of the means by which it was effected; of the character and reputation he brought with him to the throne; of the first measures of his reign, by which he renounced the latest conquests of his predecessor, while he put forth all his power to retain the realms bequeathed him from an earlier period—is matter for another story.

But let us turn to a review of eastern affairs; to the great Jewish insurrection, and the important consequences which followed from it. Trajan was surely fortunate in the moment of his death. Vexed, as he doubtless was, by the frustration of his grand designs for incorporating the Parthian monarchy with[Pg 224] the Roman, and fulfilling the idea of universal empire which had flitted through the mind of Pompius or Julius, but had been deliberately rejected by Augustus and Vespasian, his proud spirit would have been broken indeed had he lived to witness the difficulties in which Rome was plunged at his death, the spread of the Jewish revolt in Asia and Palestine, the aggressions of the Moors, the Scythians, and the Britons at the most distant points of his dominions.

The momentary success of the insurgents of Cyprus and Cyrene had prompted a general assurance that the conquering race was no longer invincible, and the last great triumphs of its legions were followed by a rebound of fortune still more momentous.

The first act of the new reign was the formal relinquishment of the new provinces beyond the Euphrates. The Parthian tottered back with feeble step to his accustomed frontiers. Arabia was left unmolested; India was no longer menaced. Armenia found herself once more suspended between two rival empires, of which the one was too weak to seize, the other too weak to retain her.

All the forces of Rome in the East were now set free to complete the suppression of the Jewish disturbances. The flames of insurrection which had broken out in so many remote quarters were concentrated, and burned more fiercely than ever in the ancient centre of the Jewish nationality.

Martius Turbo, appointed to command in Palestine, was equally amazed at the fanaticism and the numbers of people whose faith had been mocked, whose hopes frustrated, whose young men had been decimated, whose old men, women, and children had been enslaved and exiled. Under the teaching of the doctors of Tiberia faith had been cherished and hope had revived. Despised and unmolested for fifty years, a new generation had risen from the soil of their ancestors, recruited by the multitudes who flocked homeward, year by year, with an unextinguishable love of country, and reënforced by the fugitives from many scenes of persecution, all animated with a growing conviction that the last struggle of their race was at hand, to be contested on the site of their old historic triumphs.[Pg 225]

It is not perhaps wholly fanciful to imagine that the Jewish leaders, after the fall of their city and Temple and the great dispersion of their people, deliberately invented new means for maintaining their cherished nationality. Their conquerors, as they might observe, were scattered like themselves over the face of the globe and abode wherever they conquered; but the laws, the manners, and the traditions of Rome were preserved almost intact amid alien races by the consciousness that there existed a visible centre of their nation, the source, as it were, to which they might repair to draw the waters of political life. But the dispersions of the Jews seemed the more irremediable as the destruction of their central home was complete.

To preserve the existence of their nation one other way presented itself. In their sacred books they retained a common bond of law and doctrine, such as no other people could boast. In these venerated records they possessed, whether on the Tiber or the Euphrates, an elixir of unrivalled virtue. With a sudden revulsion of feeling the popular orators and captains betook themselves to the study of law, its history and antiquities, its actual text and its inner meaning. The schools of Tiberias resounded with debate on the rival principles of interpretation, the ancient and the modern, the stricter and the laxer, known respectively by the names of their teachers, Schammai and Hillel.

The doctors decided in favor of the more accommodating system, by which the stern exclusiveness of the original letter was extenuated, and the law of the rude tribes of Palestine moulded to the varied taste and temper of a cosmopolitan society, while the text itself was embalmed in the Masora, an elaborate system of punctuation and notation, to every particle of which, to insure its uncorrupted preservation, a mystical significance was attached. By this curious contrivance the letter of the Law, the charter of Judaism, was sanctified forever, while its spirit was remodelled to the exigencies of the present or the future, till it would have been no longer recognized by its authors, or even by very recent disciples. To this new learning of traditions and glosses the ardent youth of the nation devoted itself with a fanaticism not less vehement than that which had fought and bled half a century before. The name[Pg 226] of the rabbi Akiba is preserved as a type of the hierophant of restored Judaism.

The stories depicting him are best expounded as myths and figures. He reached, it was said, the age of a hundred and twenty years, the period assigned in the sacred records to his prototype, the law-giver Moses.

Like David, in his youth he kept sheep on the mountains; like Jacob, he served a master, a rich citizen of Jerusalem, for Jerusalem in his youth was still standing. His master's daughter cast the eyes of affection upon him and offered him a secret marriage; but this damsel was no other than Jerusalem itself, so often imaged to the mind of the Jewish people by the figure of a maiden, a wife, or a widow.

This mystic bride required him to repair to the schools, acquire knowledge and wisdom, surround himself with disciples; and such, as we have seen, was the actual policy of the new defenders of Judaism.

The damsel was rebuked by her indignant father; but when, after the lapse of twelve years, Akiba returned to claim his bride, with twelve thousand scholars at his heels, he heard her replying that, long as he had been absent, she only wished him to prolong his stay twice over, so as to double his knowledge; whereupon he returned patiently to his studies, and frequented the schools twelve years longer. Twice twelve years thus passed, he returned once more with twice twelve thousand disciples, and then his wife received him joyfully, and, covered as she was with rags, an outcast and a beggar, he presented her to his astonished followers as the being to whom he owed his wisdom, his fame, and his fortune.

Such were the legends with which the new learning was consecrated to the defence of Jewish nationality.

The concentration of the Roman forces on the soil of Palestine seems to have repressed for a season all overt attempts at insurrection.

The Jewish leaders restrained their followers from action as long as it was possible to feed their spirit with hopes only. It was not till about the fourteenth year of Hadrian's reign that the final revolt broke out.

When the Jews of Palestine launched forth upon the war,[Pg 227] the doctor Akiba gave place to the warrior Barcochebas. This gallant warrior, the last of the national heroes, received or assumed his title, "the Son of the Star," given successively to several leaders of the Jewish people, in token of the fanatic expectations of divine deliverance by which his countrymen did not yet cease to be animated. Many were the legends which declared this champion's claims to the leadership of the national cause. His size and strength were vaunted as more than human. "It was the arm of God, not of man," said Hadrian when he saw at last the corpse encircled by a serpent, "that could alone strike down the giant." Flame and smoke were seen to issue from his lips in speaking, a portent which was rationalized centuries later into a mere conjurer's artifice. The concourse of the Jewish nation at his summons was symbolized, with a curious reference to the prevalent idea of Israel as a school and the Law as a master, by the story that at Bethar, the appointed rendezvous and last stronghold of the national defence, were four hundred academies, each ruled by four hundred teachers, each teacher boasting a class of four hundred pupils.

Akiba, now at the extreme point of his protracted existence, like Samuel of old, nominated the new David to the chiefship of the people. He girded Barcochebas with the sword of Jehovah, placed the staff of command in his hand, and held himself the stirrup by which he vaulted into the saddle.

The last revolt of the Jewish people was precipitated apparently by the increased severity of the measures which the rebellion under Trajan had drawn down. They complained that Hadrian had enrolled himself as a proselyte of the Law, and were doubly incensed against him as a persecutor and a renegade.

This assertion, indeed, may have no foundation. On the other hand, it is not unlikely that this prince, a curious explorer of religions of opinions, had sought initiation into some of the mysteries of the Jewish faith and ritual.

But however this may be, he gave them mortal offence by perceiving the clear distinction between Judaism and Christianity, and by forbidding the Jews to sojourn in the town which he was again raising on the ruins of Jerusalem, while he[Pg 228] allowed free access to their rivals. He is said to have even prohibited the rite of circumcision by which they jealously maintained their separation from the nations of the West.

At last, when they rose in arms, he sent his best generals against them. Tinnius Rufus was long baffled and often defeated; but Julius Severus, following the tactics of Vespasian, constantly refused the battle they offered him, and reduced their strongholds in succession by superior discipline and resources. Barcochebas struggled with the obstinacy of despair. Every excess of cruelty was committed on both sides, and it is well, perhaps, that the details of this mortal spasm are almost wholly lost to us.

The later Christian writers, while they allude with unseemly exultation to the overthrow of one inveterate enemy by another who proved himself in the end not less inveterate, affirmed that the barbarities of the Jewish leader were mainly directed against themselves.

On such interested assertions we shall place little reliance. In the counter-narration of the Jews even the name of Christian is contemptuously disregarded. It relates, however, how at the storming of Bethar, when Barcochebas perished in the field, ten of the most learned of the rabbis were taken and put cruelly to death, while Akiba, reserved to expire last, and torn in pieces with hot pincers, continued to attest the great principle of the Jewish doctrine, still exclaiming in his death throes, Jehovah Erhad! ("God is one").

The Jews who fell in these their latest combats are counted by hundreds of thousands, and we may conclude that the suppression of the revolt was followed by sanguinary proscriptions, by wholesale captivity and general banishment. The dispersion of the unhappy race, particularly in the West, was now complete and final. The sacred soil of Jerusalem was occupied by a Roman colony, which received the name of Ælia Capitolina, with reference to the Emperor who founded it, and to the supreme God of the pagan mythology, installed on the desecrated summits of Zion and Moriah.

The fane of Jupiter was erected on the site of the holy Temple, and a shrine of Venus planted, we are assured, on the very spot hallowed to Christians by our Lord's crucifixion. But[Pg 229] Hadrian had no purpose of insulting the disciples of Jesus, and this desecration, if the tradition be true, was probably accidental. A Jewish legend affirms that the figure of a swine was sculptured, in bitter mockery, over a gate of the new city. The Jews have retorted with equal scorn that the effigy of the unclean animal, which represented to their minds every low and bestial appetite, was a fitting emblem of the colony and its founder, of the lewd worship of its gods, and the vile propensities of its Emperor.

The fancy of later Christian writers that Hadrian regarded their coreligionists with special consideration seems founded on misconception. We hear, indeed, of the graciousness with which he allowed them, among other sectarians, to defend their usages and expound their doctrines in his presence; and doubtless his curiosity, if no worthier feeling, was moved by the fact, which he fully appreciated, of the interest they excited in certain quarters of the empire. But there is no evidence that his favor extended further than to the recognition of their independence of the Jews, from whom they now formally separated themselves, and the discouragement of the local persecutions to which they were occasionally subjected.

So far the bigoted hostility of their enemies was overruled at last in their favor.

In another way they learned to profit by the example of their rivals. From the recent policy of the Jews they might understand the advantage to a scattered community, without a local centre or a political status, of erecting in a volume of sacred records their acknowledged standard of faith and practice.

The scriptures of the New Testament, like the Nuschua of the Jewish rabbis, took the place of the holy of holies as the tabernacle of their God and the pledge of their union with him.

The canon of their sacred books, however casual its apparent formation, was indeed a providential development. The habitual references of bishops and doctors to the words of their Founder, and the writings of the first disciples, guided them to the proper sources of their faith and taught them justly to discriminate the genuine from the spurious.[Pg 230]

Meagre as are the remains of Christian literature of the second century, they tend to confirm our assurance that the scriptures of the new dispensation were known and recognized as divine at that early period, and that the Church of Christ, the future mistress of the world, was already become a great social fact, an empire within the empire.

[Pg 231]



A.D. 155


The Roman emperor Antoninus Pius, who died a.d. 161, had been tolerant to the new Judaic sect known as Christians. Under his mild regime, although he did not encourage them, the faithful had greatly multiplied. The Christians had become a body great enough to be reckoned with in a political sense. The populace were generally hostile to them as "enemies of the gods." More than one of the apostolic fathers had suffered martyrdom, among them Ignatius, a disciple of St. John and bishop of Antioch, who is said to have been thrown to the lions in the Circus about a.d. 107. But the account of the martyrdom of Polycarp is probably the first authentic description we have.

Polycarp was born about a.d. 60, probably of Christian parents. He bridges the little-known period between the age of his master, the apostle John, and that of his own disciple, Irenæus. During the earlier half of the second century he was bishop of Smyrna. Ephesus had become the new hope of the faith, and in that city Polycarp had received his education and "lived in familiar intercourse with many who had seen Christ." He was also intimate with Papias and Ignatius. The only writing of Polycarp extant is the Epistle to the Philippians, which follows. It is of great value for questions of the canon, the origin of the Church, and the Ignatian epistles. Of the authenticity of Polycarp's epistle Rev. Father W. O'B. Pardow, S.J., says, "There are long and learned controversies about some of these [apocryphal] books." Of that in question he says: "Probably authentic; not inspired." Archbishop Wake was fully convinced of its genuineness, and his translation has been here used.

Justin, surnamed "the Martyr," was born at Sichen, Samaria, about a.d. 100. After his conversion to Christianity he wandered about arguing for the truth of the new faith. He was of a bold, aggressive nature, and scorned to temporize in things spiritual. His language and mode of address were borrowed from the Stoics, but were the "true utterance of his own manly soul. 'You can kill us; you cannot harm us,'" was his answer when condemned for being a Christian. The words proceeded from a believer ready and destined to give his life for the faith.

Truly did the blood of the martyrs prove the seed of the Church.[Pg 232] Polycarp's Epistle to the Philippians, hereto annexed, is taken from a rare work which contains the uncanonical books of the period of Christ's infancy and the early days of the Church, entitled The Apocryphal Books of the New Testament. The laity have little knowledge of it, but it is well known by the clergy.


Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, was undoubtedly a companion of the apostle John, and received instruction from other apostles. "About this time," says Eusebius, referring to the commencement of the second century, "flourished Polycarp in Asia, an intimate disciple of the apostles, who received the episcopate of the Church of Smyrna at the hands of eye-witnesses and servants of the Lord."

The lengthened life of the apostle John, who attained to an extreme old age, connects the fathers of the second century with the immediate followers of Christ. Polycarp must have been a contemporary of St. John for about twenty years.

A letter of Irenæus, who was a pupil of Polycarp, has been preserved, which gives a graphic and remarkably interesting account of the familiar intercourse of Polycarp with the apostle. The letter is addressed by Irenæus to a friend named Florinus, with whom he remonstrates for holding erroneous doctrines:

"These doctrines, O Florinus, to say the least, are not of a sound understanding. These doctrines are inconsistent with the Church, and calculated to thrust those that follow them into the greatest impiety; these doctrines not even the heretics out of the Church ever attempted to assert; these doctrines were never delivered to thee by the presbyters before us, those who also were the immediate disciples of the apostles.

"For I saw thee when I was yet a boy in Lower Asia with Polycarp moving in great splendor at court, and endeavoring by all means to gain his esteem. I remember the events of those times much better than those of more recent occurrence, as the studies of our youth growing with our minds unite with them so firmly that I can tell also the very place where the blessed Polycarp was accustomed to sit and discourse, and also his entrances, his walks, his manner of life, the form of his body, his conversations with the people and familiar intercourse with John, as he was accustomed to tell, as also his familiarity[Pg 233] with those that had seen the Lord; also concerning his miracles, his doctrine; all these were told by Polycarp in consistency with the Holy Scriptures, and he had received them from the eye-witnesses of the doctrine of salvation.

"These things, by the mercy of God and the opportunity then afforded me, I attentively heard, noting them down, not on paper, but in my heart; and these same facts I am always in the habit, by the grace of God, of recalling faithfully to mind; and I can bear witness in the sight of God that, if that blessed and apostolic presbyter had heard any such thing as this, he would have exclaimed and stopped his ears, and, according to his custom, would have said: 'O good God! unto what things hast thou reserved me, that I should tolerate these things?' He would have fled from the place in which he had sat or stood hearing doctrines like these.

"From his epistles also, which he wrote to the neighboring churches in order to confirm them, or to some of the brethren in order to admonish or exhort them, the same thing may be clearly shown."

In another place Irenæus states that Polycarp was appointed bishop of Smyrna by the apostles themselves:

"Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also by apostles in Asia appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he lived a very long time; and when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom, departed this life, having always taught those things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true."

Of the numerous letters which Polycarp as bishop of Smyrna wrote to the neighboring churches only one is extant. It is addressed by "Polycarp and the presbyters with him to the Church of God sojourning at Philippi," and probably was written about the middle of the second century. In this epistle he praises the Philippians for their firm Christian faith, and exhorts them to adhere to the doctrine which St. Paul had taught them by word of mouth and by his epistle. After various exhortations to presbyters, deacons, and other members of the Church, Polycarp refers to the martyrdom of Ignatius, but apparently[Pg 234] was ignorant of the circumstances attending it, for the epistle concludes with a request for information respecting him.

The martyrdom of Polycarp himself is described in an epistle addressed by the Church of Smyrna, of which he was bishop, to the Church of Philomelium, a city of the neighboring province of Phrygia. There are probably some interpolations; but, excepting these, the document can hardly be of much later date than the death of the martyr. There are several reasons for this conclusion.

In the first place, the general tenor shows that it is intended to give information of events which had recently happened; secondly, a postscript states that a copy of it belonged to Irenæus, a disciple of Polycarp; and thirdly, a large part of it is transcribed by Eusebius, who treats it as an authentic document.

The date of the death of Polycarp is well ascertained to be a.d. 167, in the reign of Marcus Aurelius. For some time previously there had been a cruel persecution of the Christians at Smyrna, in which both the Gentile and Jewish inhabitants took part. Against Polycarp especially, as the chief minister of the Christian Church, their hostility was directed. After several Christians had been tortured and thrown to the lions, the multitude clamored for the death of the bishop.

Yielding to the urgent entreaties of those around him Polycarp quitted the city; but he was pursued and brought back. The proconsul, who had reluctantly allowed him to be arrested, was anxious to save him.

"When he was led forward, a great tumult arose among those that heard he was taken. At length, as he advanced, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp, and, he answering that he was, he urged him to deny Christ, saying, 'Have a regard for your age,' and adding similar expressions such as are usual for them to employ.

"'Swear,' he said, 'by the genius of Cæsar. Repent. Say, "Away with those that deny the gods."'

"But Polycarp, with a countenance grave and serious, and contemplating the whole multitude that were collected in the stadium, beckoned with his hand to them, and with a sigh looked up to heaven and said, 'Away with the atheists.'[Pg 235]

"The governor continued to urge him again, saying: 'Swear, and I will dismiss you. Revile Christ.'

"'Revile Christ!' Polycarp replied. 'Eighty-and-six years have I served him and he never did me wrong; and how can I now blaspheme my King who has saved me?'"

The governor continued to urge him, and in vain threatened him with the wild beasts. At length a herald was ordered to proclaim in the midst of the stadium that "Polycarp confesses he is a Christian." Thereupon the multitude cried out, "This is that teacher of Asia, the father of the Christians, the destroyer of our gods," and demanded that he should be burned alive; and the governor gave sentence accordingly.

According to the horrid custom of the times the executioners were about to fasten his hands to the stake by spikes, when he begged that he might be bound merely, saying that He who gave him strength to bear the flames would also give him strength to remain unmoved on the pyre.

This last request was granted; and being bound to the stake, he uttered this beautiful prayer:

"Father of thy well-beloved and blessed Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we have received the knowledge of thee, the God of angels and powers and all creation, and of all the family of the righteous that live before thee, I bless thee that thou hast thought me worthy of the present day and hour, to have a share in the number of the martyrs and in the cross of Christ unto the resurrection of eternal life, both of the soul and body, in the incorruptible felicity of the Holy Spirit, among whom may I be received in thy sight this day as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as thou, the faithful and true God, hast prepared, hast revealed, and fulfilled. Wherefore, on this account and for all things, I praise thee, I bless thee, I glorify thee through the eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ, thy well-beloved Son, through whom glory be to thee with him in the Holy Ghost, both now and evermore. Amen."

The flames did not immediately seize upon his body; so one of the executioners—in mercy perhaps—plunged a sword into his body, and so ended his sufferings. The centurion then placed the body in the midst of the fire and burned it, "according to the custom of the Gentiles."[Pg 236]

"Thus at last, taking up his bones, valued more than precious stones, more tried than gold, we deposited them where they should be. There also, as far as we can, the Lord will grant us to celebrate the natal day of his martyrdom in joy and gladness, both in commemoration of those who finished their contest before, and to prepare those that shall be hereafter."

There is something wonderfully touching in this reference to the "natal day of his martyrdom." Those who wrote it thought that the day on which Polycarp was pierced by the sword was not the day of his death, but the birthday of a new and happier life.

Justin, who from the manner of his death is often called Justin Martyr, was a native of Samaria. He was of Roman parentage, and was born early in the second century, and therefore must have been contemporary with many persons who had seen some of the apostles.

Justin, who was addicted to philosophical pursuits, has given in one of his works a very curious account of his studies and search after religious truth. First, he thought to find it in the Stoic philosophy:

"I surrendered myself to a certain Stoic, and, having spent a considerable time with him, when I had not acquired any further knowledge of God—for he did not know it himself, and said such instruction was unnecessary—I left him and betook myself to another, who was called a Peripatetic, and, as he fancied, shrewd. And this man, after having entertained me for a few days, requested me to settle the fee, in order that our intercourse might not be unprofitable. Him, too, for this reason I abandoned, believing him to be no philosopher at all."

Disgusted with the mercenary spirit of the Peripatetic, the inquirer next determined to make a trial of Pythagorean philosophy. But the celebrated Pythagorean teacher whom he consulted wished him to learn music, astronomy, and geometry. Those kinds of knowledge, however, were not what Justin wanted, and besides he thought that they would take up too much time. So he next resolved to make a trial of Platonism; and this time he was more successful.

"In my helpless condition it occurred to me to have a meeting[Pg 237] with the Platonists, for their fame was great. I thereupon spent as much of my time as possible with one who had lately settled in our city—a sagacious man holding a high position among the Platonists—and I progressed and made the greatest improvements daily. And the perception of immaterial things quite overpowered me, and the contemplation of ideas furnished my mind with wings, so that in a little while I supposed that I had become wise; and such was my folly that I expected forthwith to look upon God, for this is the end of Plato's philosophy."

Justin then proceeds to give a remarkably interesting and graphic account of his conversion to Christianity:

"And while I was thus disposed, when I wished to be filled with great quietness and to shun the path of men, I used to go into a certain field not far from the sea. And when I was near that spot one day where I purposed to be by myself, a certain old man of dignified appearance, exhibiting meek and venerable manners, followed me at a little distance. And when I turned around on him, having halted, I fixed my eyes rather keenly upon him."

Justin gets into conversation with the old man and says that he delights in solitary spots, where his attention is not distracted and where his converse with himself is uninterrupted, and proceeds to a fervid laudation of philosophy.

"'Does philosophy, then, make happiness?' said he, interrupting. 'Assuredly,' said I, 'and it alone.' 'What, then, is philosophy?' he said, 'and what is happiness? Pray tell me, unless something hinders you from saying.'

"'Philosophy,' said I, 'is a knowledge of that which really exists and a clear perception of truth, and happiness is the reward of such knowledge and wisdom.' 'But what do you call God?' said he. 'That which always maintains the same nature and is the cause of all other things—that, indeed, is God.' So I answered him, and he listened with pleasure."

The conversation, which is too long to be fully transcribed, turns on the attributes of the soul. Justin discourses on that topic after the manner of the Platonists. The old man, on the other hand, urges him to study the prophets of the Old Testament, for they predicted the coming of Christ, and their prophecies[Pg 238] have been fulfilled. "'They,' said he, 'both glorified the Creator, the God and Father of all, and proclaimed his Son the Christ sent by him. But,' he added, 'pray that, above all things, the gates of light may be opened to you, for these things cannot be perceived or understood by all, but only by him to whom God and his Christ have imparted wisdom.'

"When he had spoken these and many other things which there is no time for mentioning at present, he went away, bidding me attend to them, and I have not seen him since. But straightway a flame was kindled in my soul, and a love of the prophets and of those men who are friends of Christ possessed me; and whilst revolving his words in my mind I found this philosophy alone to be safe and profitable. Thus and for this reason I am a philosopher. Moreover, I would that all, making a resolution similar to my own, would regard the words of the Saviour, for they possess a terrible power in themselves, and are sufficient to inspire those who turn aside from the path of rectitude with awe, while the sweetest rest is afforded to those who diligently observe them."

The Dialogue from which these passages are taken is a real or imaginary disputation with Trypho, a learned Jew at Ephesus, respecting the principles of Christianity, and contains an elaborate demonstration that Christ is the Messiah of the Old Testament. The controversy is carried on with courtesy on both sides, and each disputant is equally earnest in his attempt to convert the other.

Justin was a very copious writer. The two most important of his writings now remaining are the two Apologies. These are certainly the two earliest of the numerous ancient pleas for toleration of Christianity now extant. The first Apologia is addressed to the emperor Antoninus Pius and the Roman senate and the "whole people of the Romans"; and the purport of it may be inferred from the commencement, in which Justin says that he presents this "address and petition in behalf of all nations who are unjustly hated and wantonly abused, myself being one of them."

The second Apologia was addressed to the Roman senate, probably in the reign of Antoninus Marcus Aurelius, and successor of Antoninus Pius. In this work Justin appeals indignantly[Pg 239] to the Roman senate against the unjust conduct of one Urbicus, who at Rome had condemned several persons to death simply because they professed to be Christians. This Urbicus seems to have held the office of prefect of the city—a magistrate from whom there was no appeal except to the prince himself, or, as this Apologia would suggest, to the senate.

The two Apologies contain the most vehement invectives against the whole system of heathen idolatry, and accuse Jupiter and the other gods whom the Romans revered of ineffable vices.

Of course the man who could thus tell the Roman senate and people that all that they held sacred was unspeakably and hideously wicked could expect but one fate. Justin threw down the gauntlet, and the constituted authorities very quietly took it up, with a result which, as the human power was all with them, it was not difficult to foresee.

Some time in the reign of Aurelius, but in what year is not known, Justin and several other Christians were accused before Rusticus, prefect of Rome, of disobedience to certain decrees then in force, by which Christians who refused to sacrifice to the gods were liable to be put to death. It is difficult to reconcile the passing of these decrees with the known character of Aurelius, who is universally described as a humane, as a benevolent king. The probable explanation is that, like his predecessor Trajan, he was actuated by motives of state policy, and regarded Christianity as rebellion against the authority of the State.

Eusebius has given an account of the martyrdom of Justin upon the authority of Tatian, who was a disciple of the martyr. This account substantially agrees with the very ancient Martyrdom of Justin, which concludes thus:

"The prefect says to Justin: 'Hearken, you who are called learned and think that you know true doctrines: if you are scourged and beheaded, do you believe that you will ascend into heaven?'

"Justin said, 'I hope that if I endure these things I shall have this gift, for I know that to all who have thus lived there abides the divine favor until the completion of the world.'

"Rusticus, the prefect, said, 'Do you suppose that you will[Pg 240] ascend into heaven to receive such a recompense?' Justin said, 'I do not suppose it, but I know and am fully persuaded of it.'

"Thus also said the other Christians, 'Do what you will, for we are Christians and do not sacrifice to idols.'

"Rusticus, the prefect, pronounced sentence, saying, 'Let those who have refused to sacrifice to the gods and to yield to the command of the Emperor be scourged and led away to suffer decapitation according to the law.'

"The holy martyrs, having glorified God and having gone forth to the accustomed place, were beheaded, and perfected their testimony in the confession of the Saviour. And some of the faithful, having secretly removed their bodies, laid them in a suitable place, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ having wrought along with them, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."


Polycarp, and the presbyters that are with him, to the Church of God which is at Philippi: mercy unto you and peace from God Almighty and the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, be multiplied. I rejoiced greatly with you in our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye received the images of a true love, and accompanied, as it is behooved you, those who were in bonds, becoming saints; which are the crowns of such as are truly chosen by God and our Lord: as also that the root of the faith which was preached from ancient times remains firm in you to this day; and brings forth fruit to our Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered himself to be brought even to the death for our sins. Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death; whom, having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Into which many desire to enter; knowing that by grace ye are saved; not by works, but by the will of God through Jesus Christ. Wherefore girding up the loins of your minds, serve the Lord with fear and in truth; laying aside all empty and vain speech, and the error of many; believing in him that raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and hath given him glory and a throne at his right hand. To whom all things[Pg 241] are made subject, both that are in heaven and that are in earth; whom every living creature shall worship; who shall come to be the judge of the quick and dead: whose blood God shall require of them that believe in him.

But he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also raise up us in like manner, if we do his will and walk according to his commandments; and love those things which he loved; abstaining from all unrighteousness, inordinate affection, and love of money; from evil speaking; false witness; not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing, or striking for striking, or cursing for cursing. But remembering what the Lord has taught us, saying, Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; forgive and ye shall be forgiven; be merciful, and ye shall obtain mercy; for with the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again. And again, that blessed are the poor and they that are persecuted for righteousness' sake; for theirs is the kingdom of God.

These things, my brethren, I took not the liberty of myself to write unto you concerning righteousness, but you yourselves before encouraged me to it. For neither can I, nor any other such as I am, come up to the wisdom of the blessed and renowned Paul: who, being himself in person with those who then lived, did with all exactness and soundness teach the word of truth; and being gone from you wrote an epistle to you. Into which, if you look, you will be able to edify yourselves in the faith that has been delivered unto you; which is the mother of us all; being followed with hope, and led on by a general love, both toward God and toward Christ and toward our neighbor.

For if any man has these things he has fulfilled the law of righteousness: for he that has charity is far from all sin. But the love of money is the root of all evil. Knowing therefore that as we brought nothing into this world, so neither may we carry anything out; let us arm ourselves with the armor of righteousness. And teach ourselves first to walk according to the commandments of the Lord; and then your wives to walk likewise according to the faith that is given to them; in charity, and in purity; loving their own husbands with all sincerity, and all others alike with all temperance; and to bring up their children in the instruction and fear of the Lord. The widows[Pg 242] likewise teach that they be sober as to what concerns the faith of the Lord: praying always for all men; being far from all detraction, evil speaking, false witness; from covetousness, and from all evil. Knowing that they are the altars of God, who sees all blemishes, and from whom nothing is hid; who searches out the very reasonings, and thoughts, and secrets of our hearts.

Knowing, therefore, that God is not mocked, we ought to walk worthy both of his command and of his glory. Also the deacons must be blameless before him, as the ministers of God in Christ, and not of men. Not false accusers; not double-tongued; not lovers of money; but moderate in all things, compassionate, careful; walking according to the truth of the Lord, who was the servant of all. Whom if we please in this present world we shall also be made partakers of that which is to come, according as he has promised to us, that he will raise us from the dead; and that if we shall walk worthy of him, we shall also reign together with him, if we believe.

In like manner the younger men must be unblamable in all things; above all, taking care of their purity, and to restrain themselves from all evil. For it is good to be cut off from the lusts that are in the world, because every such lust warreth against the Spirit; and neither fornicators, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, shall inherit the kingdom of God; nor they who do such things as are foolish and unreasonable. Wherefore ye must needs abstain from all these things, being subject to the priests and deacons, as unto God and Christ. The virgins admonish to walk in a spotless and pure conscience. And let the elders be compassionate and merciful toward all; turning them from their errors; seeking out those that are weak; not forgetting the widows, the fatherless, and the poor; but always providing what is good both in the sight of God and man. Abstaining from all wrath, respect of persons, and unrighteous judgment; and especially being free from all covetousness. Not easy to believe anything against any; not severe in judgment; knowing that we are all debtors in point of sin.

If, therefore, we pray to the Lord that he would forgive us, we ought also to forgive others; for we are all in the sight of our Lord and God; and must all stand before the judgment[Pg 243] seat of Christ; and shall every one give an account of himself. Let us, therefore, serve him in fear, and with all reverence as both himself hath commanded, and as the apostles who have preached the gospel unto us, and the prophets who have foretold the coming of our Lord have taught us. Being zealous of what is good; abstaining from all offence, and from false brethren; and from those who bear the name of Christ in hypocrisy; who deceive vain men.

For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, he is antichrist; and whoever does not confess his suffering upon the cross is from the devil. And whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there shall neither be any resurrection, nor judgment, he is the first-born of Satan. Wherefore, leaving the vanity of many and their false doctrines, let us return to the word that was delivered to us from the beginning. Watching unto prayer, and persevering in fasting. With supplication beseeching the all-seeing God not to lead us into temptation; as the Lord hath said, The spirit is truly willing, but the flesh is weak. Let us, therefore, without ceasing hold steadfastly to him who is our hope, and the earnest of our righteousness, even Jesus Christ; who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree; who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. But suffered all for us that we might live through him. Let us, therefore, imitate his patience; and if we suffer for his name, let us glorify him; for this example he has given us by himself, and so have we believed.

Wherefore I exhort all of you that ye obey the word of righteousness, and exercise all patience; which ye have seen set forth before our eyes, not only in the blessed Ignatius and Zosimus and Rufus, but in others among ourselves; and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles. Being confident of this, that all these have not run in vain, but in faith and righteousness, and are gone to the place that was due to them from the Lord, with whom they also suffered; for they loved not this present world, but him who died, and was raised again by God for us. Stand, therefore, in these things and follow the example of the Lord; being firm and immutable in the faith, lovers of the brotherhood, lovers of one another, companions[Pg 244] together in the truth, being kind and gentle toward each other, despising none. When it is in your power to do good, defer it not, for charity delivered from death. Be all of you subject one to another, having your conversation honest among the Gentiles; that by your good works both ye yourselves may receive praise and the Lord may not be blasphemed through you. But woe be to him by whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed. Therefore teach all men sobriety; in which do ye also exercise yourselves.

I am greatly afflicted for Valens, who was once a presbyter among you; that he should so little understand the place that was given to him in the Church. Wherefore I admonish you that ye abstain from covetousness, and that ye be chaste, and true of speech. Keep yourselves from all evil; for he that in these things cannot govern himself, how shall he be able to prescribe them to another? If a man does not keep himself from covetousness he shall be polluted with idolatry and be judged as if he were a Gentile. But who of you are ignorant of the judgment of God? Do we not know that the saints shall judge the world, as Paul teaches? But I have neither perceived nor heard anything of this kind in you, among whom the blessed Paul labored, and who are named in the beginning of his epistle. For he glories of you in all the churches who then only knew God; for we did not then know him. Wherefore, my brethren, I am exceedingly sorry both for him and for his wife; to whom God grant a true repentance.

And be ye also moderate upon this occasion, and look not upon such as enemies, but call them back as suffering and erring members, that ye may save your whole body; for by so doing ye shall edify your own selves. For I trust that ye are well exercised in the Holy Scriptures, and that nothing is hid from you; but at present it is not granted unto me to practise that which is written, Be angry and sin not; and again, Let not the sun go down upon your wrath. Blessed be he that believeth and remembereth these things, which also I trust you do.

Now the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and he himself who is our everlasting high-priest, the Son of God, even Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and in truth and in all[Pg 245] meekness and lenity; in patience and long-suffering, in forbearance and chastity. And grant unto you a lot and portion among his saints; and us with you, and to all that are under the heavens, who shall believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in his Father who raised him from the dead. Pray for all the saints; pray also for kings, and all that are in authority; and for those who persecute you, and hate you, and for the enemies of the cross; that your fruit may be manifest in all, and that ye may be perfect in Christ. Ye wrote to me, both ye and also Ignatius, that if anyone went from hence into Syria he should bring your letters with him, which also I will take care of, as soon as I shall have a convenient opportunity, either by myself or him whom I shall send upon your account. The Epistles of Ignatius, which he wrote unto us, together with what others of his have come to our hands, we have sent to you, according to your order, which are subjoined to this epistle. By which we may be greatly profited; for they treat of faith and patience, and of all things that pertain to edification in the Lord Jesus. What you know certainly of Ignatius and those that are with him signify to us.

These things have I written unto you by Crescens, whom by this present epistle I have recommended to you, and do now again commend. For he has had his conversation without blame among us, and I suppose also with you. Ye will also have regard unto his sister when she shall come unto you. Be ye safe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in favor with all yours. Amen.

[Pg 246]


A.D. 177


That the persecutions of Christians under the Roman Empire should have been inaugurated by a Nero is not a subject of wonder in view of that Emperor's character as depicted in history through all ages since his own. But it is difficult to understand how an emperor like Trajan—an enlightened and humane ruler—if he was powerless to prevent, could have brought himself to give countenance to a policy at once so intolerant and cruel, and in the end to prove so short-sighted. A great cause prospers by persecution. The martyr-spirit is strengthened by blows and fagots. History has well proved the truth of that saying of the Church Fathers, tersely given by St. Jerome: Est sanguis martyrium seminarium Ecclesiarum ("The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church").

Still more incomprehensible to modern students is the fact that Marcus Aurelius, the imperial philosopher and benevolent man, should also be stained with the infamy of the persecutions. The charges brought against him as a cruel persecutor of the Christians have given rise to much dispute among historical scholars. Among modern Christian writers of favorable disposition toward Marcus, F. W. Farrar has perhaps as clearly as any set forth the views that explain his conduct and vindicate his reputation for humanity: "That he shared the profound dislike with which Christians were regarded is very probable. That he was a cold-blooded and virulent persecutor is utterly unlike his whole character. The deep calamities in which during his whole reign the empire was involved caused widespread distress, and roused into peculiar fury the feelings of the provincials against men whose atheism (for such they considered it to be) had kindled the anger of the gods. Marcus, when appealed to, simply let the existing law take its course." In like manner the purely official or legal view of human affairs often leads the most kindly and conscientious of men to pursue or acquiesce in policies against which, in different situations, their moral nature would rebel.

There were many reasons which led the populace to hate Christians, whom, first of all, they regarded as being unpatriotic. While among Romans it was considered the highest honor to possess the privileges of Roman citizenship, the Christians announced that they were citizens of heaven. They shrank from public office and military service.

Again, the ancient religion of Rome was an adjunct of state dignity and ceremonial. It was hallowed by a thousand traditional and patriotic associations. The Christians regarded its rites and its popular assemblies[Pg 247] with contempt and abhorrence. The Romans viewed the secret meetings of the Christians with suspicion, and accused them of abominable excesses and crime. They were known to have representatives in every important city of Gaul, Spain, Italy, and Asia; and the more their communities grew, the more the Roman populace raged against them. Only such considerations appear to mitigate the historical judgments against Aurelius for marring the splendor of his reign by persecutions. The tragedies enacted in the churches of Lyons and Vienne, as described in the following pages, form one of the most melancholy records of history.

When Christianity began to penetrate into Gaul, it encountered there two religions very different one from the other, and infinitely more different from the Christian religion; these were Druidism and paganism—hostile one to the other, but with a hostility political only, and unconnected with those really religious questions that Christianity was coming to raise.

Druidism, considered as a religion, was a mass of confusion, wherein the instinctive notions of the human race concerning the origin and destiny of the world and of mankind were mingled with the oriental dreams of metempsychosis—that pretended transmigration, at successive periods, of immortal souls into divers creatures. This confusion was worse confounded by traditions borrowed from the mythologies of the East and the North, by shadowy remnants of a symbolical worship paid to the material forces of nature, and by barbaric practices, such as human sacrifices, in honor of the gods or of the dead.

People who are without the scientific development of language and the art of writing do not attain to systematic and productive religious creeds. There is nothing to show that, from the first appearance of the Gauls in history to their struggle with victorious Rome, the religious influence of Druidism had caused any notable progress to be made in Gallic manners and civilization. A general and strong, but vague and incoherent, belief in the immortality of the soul was its noblest characteristic. But with the religious elements, at the same time coarse and mystical, were united two facts of importance: the Druids formed a veritable ecclesiastical corporation, which had, throughout Gallic society, fixed attributes, special manners and customs, an existence at the same time[Pg 248] distinct and national; and in the wars with Rome this corporation became the most faithful representatives and the most persistent defenders of Gallic independence and nationality.

The Druids were far more a clergy than Druidism was a religion; but it was an organized and a patriotic clergy. It was especially on this account that they exercised in Gaul an influence which was still existent, particularly in Northwestern Gaul, at the time when Christianity reached the Gallic provinces of the South and Centre.

The Græco-Roman paganism was, at this time, far more powerful than Druidism in Gaul, and yet more lukewarm and destitute of all religious vitality. It was the religion of the conquerors and of the State, and was invested, in that quality, with real power; but, beyond that, it had but the power derived from popular customs and superstitions. As a religious creed, the Latin paganism was at bottom empty, indifferent, and inclined to tolerate all religions in the State, provided only that they, in their turn, were indifferent at any rate toward itself, and that they did not come troubling the State, either by disobeying her rulers or by attacking her old deities, dead and buried beneath their own still standing altars.

Such were the two religions with which in Gaul nascent Christianity had to contend. Compared with them it was, to all appearance, very small and very weak; but it was provided with the most efficient weapons for fighting and beating them, for it had exactly the moral forces which they lacked. Christianity, instead of being, like Druidism, a religion exclusively national and hostile to all that was foreign, proclaimed a universal religion, free from all local and national partiality, addressing itself to all men in the name of the same God, and offering to all the same salvation. It is one of the strangest and most significant facts in history that the religion most universally human, most dissociated from every consideration but that of the rights and well-being of the human race in its entirety—that such a religion, be it repeated, should have come forth from the womb of the most exclusive, most rigorously and obstinately national religion that ever appeared in the world, that is, Judaism. Such, nevertheless, was the birth of Christianity; and this wonderful contrast between the essence[Pg 249] and the earthly origin of Christianity was without doubt one of its most powerful attractions and most efficacious means of success.

Against paganism Christianity was armed with moral forces not a whit less great. Confronting mythological traditions and poetical or philosophical allegories, appeared a religion truly religious, concerned solely with the relations of mankind to God and with their eternal future. To the pagan indifference of the Roman world the Christians opposed the profound conviction of their faith, and not only their firmness in defending it against all powers and all dangers, but also their ardent passion for propagating it without any motive but the yearning to make their fellows share in its benefits and its hopes. They confronted, nay, they welcomed martyrdom, at one time to maintain their own Christianity, at another to make others Christians around them; propagandism was for them a duty almost as imperative as fidelity.

And it was not in memory of old and obsolete mythologies, but in the name of recent deeds and persons, in obedience to laws proceeding from God, One and Universal, in fulfilment and continuation of a contemporary and superhuman history—that of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man—that the Christians of the first two centuries labored to convert to their faith the whole Roman world. Marcus Aurelius was contemptuously astonished at what he called the obstinacy of the Christians; he knew not from what source these nameless heroes drew a strength superior to his own, though he was at the same time emperor and sage. It is impossible to assign with exactness the date of the first footprints and first labors of Christianity in Gaul. It was not, however, from Italy, nor in the Latin tongue and through Latin writers, but from the East and through the Greeks, that it first came and began to spread. Marseilles and the different Greek colonies, originally from Asia Minor and settled upon the shores of the Mediterranean or along the Rhone, mark the route and were the places whither the first Christian missionaries carried their teaching: on this point the letters of the apostles and the writings of the first two generations of their disciples are clear and abiding proof.[Pg 250]

In the West of the empire, especially in Italy, the Christians at their first appearance were confounded with the Jews, and comprehended under the same name. "The emperor Claudius," says Suetonius, "drove from Rome (a.d. 52) the Jews who, at the instigation of Christus, were in continual commotion." After the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus (a.d. 70), the Jews, Christian or not, dispersed throughout the empire; but the Christians were not slow to signalize themselves by their religious fervor, and to come forward everywhere under their own true name.

Lyons became the chief centre of Christian preaching and association in Gaul. As early as the first half of the second century there existed there a Christian congregation, regularly organized as a church, and already sufficiently important to be in intimate and frequent communication with the Christian churches of the East and West. There is a tradition, generally admitted, that St. Pothinus, the first bishop of Lyons, was sent thither from the East by the bishop of Smyrna, St. Polycarp, himself a disciple of St. John. One thing is certain, that the Christian Church of Lyons produced Gaul's first martyrs, among whom was the bishop, St. Pothinus.

It was under Marcus Aurelius, the most philosophical and most conscientious of the emperors, that there was enacted for the first time in Gaul, against nascent Christianity, that scene of tyranny and barbarity which was to be renewed so often and during so many centuries in the midst of Christendom itself. In the eastern provinces of the empire and in Italy the Christians had already been several times persecuted, now with cold-blooded cruelty, now with some slight hesitation and irresolution. Nero had caused them to be burned in the streets of Rome, accusing them of the conflagration himself had kindled, and, a few months before his fall, St. Peter and St. Paul had undergone martyrdom at Rome. Domitian had persecuted and put to death Christians even in his own family, and though invested with the honors of the consulate.

Righteous Trajan, when consulted by Pliny the Younger on the conduct he should adopt in Bithynia toward the Christians, had answered: "It is impossible, in this sort of matter, to establish any certain general rule; there must be no quest[Pg 251] set on foot against them, and no unsigned indictment must be accepted; but if they be accused and convicted, they must be punished." To be punished, it sufficed that they were convicted of being Christians; and it was Trajan himself who condemned St. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, to be brought to Rome and thrown to the beasts, for the simple reason that he was highly Christian. Marcus Aurelius, not only by virtue of his philosophical conscientiousness, but by reason of an incident in his history, seemed bound to be further than any other from persecuting the Christians.

During one of his campaigns on the Danube, a.d. 174, his army was suffering cruelly from fatigue and thirst; and at the very moment when they were on the point of engaging in a great battle against the barbarians, the rain fell in abundance, refreshed the Roman soldiers, and conduced to their victory. There was in the Roman army a legion, the Twelfth, called the Melitine or the Thundering, which bore on its roll many Christian soldiers. They gave thanks for the rain and the victory to the one omnipotent God who had heard their prayers, while the pagans rendered like honor to Jupiter, the Rain-giver and the Thunderer. The report about these Christians got spread abroad and gained credit in the empire, so much so that there was attributed to Marcus Aurelius a letter, in which by reason, no doubt, of this incident, he forbade persecution of the Christians.

Tertullian, a contemporary witness, speaks of this letter in perfect confidence; and the Christian writers of the following century did not hesitate to regard it as authentic. Nowadays, a strict examination of its existing text does not allow such a character to be attributed to it. At any rate the persecutions of the Christians were not forbidden, for in the year 177, that is, only three years after the victory of Marcus Aurelius over the Germans, there took place, undoubtedly by his orders, the persecution which caused at Lyons the first Gallic martyrdom. This was the fourth, or, according to others, the fifth great imperial persecution of the Christians.

Most tales of the martyrs were written long after the event, and came to be nothing more than legends laden with details often utterly puerile or devoid of proof. The martyrs of Lyons[Pg 252] in the second century wrote, so to speak, their own history; for it was their comrades, eye-witnesses of their sufferings and their virtue, who gave an account of them in a long letter addressed to their friends in Asia Minor, and written with passionate sympathy and pious prolixity, but bearing all the characteristics of truth. It seems desirable to submit for perusal that document, which has been preserved almost entire in the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, bishop of Cæsarea in the third century, and which will exhibit, better than any modern representations, the state of facts and of souls in the midst of the imperial persecutions, and the mighty faith, devotion, and courage with which the early Christians faced the most cruel trials:

"The servants of Christ, dwelling at Vienne and Lyons in Gaul, to the brethren settled in Asia and Phrygia, who have the same faith and hope of redemption that we have, peace, grace, and glory from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord!

"None can tell to you in speech or fully set forth to you in writing the weight of our misery, the madness and rage of the Gentiles against the saints, and all that hath been suffered by the blessed martyrs. Our enemy doth rush upon us with all the fury of his powers, and already giveth us a foretaste and the first-fruits of all the license with which he doth intend to set upon us. He hath omitted nothing for the training of his agents against us, and he doth exercise them in a sort of preparatory work against the servants of the Lord. Not only are we driven from the public buildings, from the baths, and from the Forum, but it is forbidden to all our people to appear publicly in any place whatsoever.

"The grace of God hath striven for us against the devil: at the same time that it hath sustained the weak, it hath opposed to the Evil One, as it were, pillars of strength—men strong and valiant, ready to draw on themselves all his attacks. They have had to bear all manner of insult; they have deemed but a small matter that which others find hard and terrible; and they have thought only of going to Christ, proving by their example that the sufferings of this world are not worthy to be put in the balance with the glory which is to be manifested in us.[Pg 253] They have endured, in the first place, all the outrages that could be heaped upon them by the multitude, outcries, blows, thefts, spoliation, stoning, imprisonment, all that the fury of the people could devise against hated enemies. Then, dragged to the Forum by the military tribune and the magistrates of the city, they have been questioned before the people and cast into prison until the coming of the governor. He, from the moment our people appeared before him, committed all manner of violence against them.

"Then stood forth one of our brethren, Vettius Epagathus, full of love toward God and his neighbor, living a life so pure and strict that, young as he was, men held him to be the equal of the aged Zacharias. He could not bear that judgment so unjust should go forth against us, and, moved with indignation, he asked leave to defend his brethren, and to prove that there was in them no kind of irreligion or impiety. Those present at the tribunal, among whom he was known and celebrated, cried out against him, and the governor himself, enraged at so just a demand, asked him no more than this question, 'Art thou a Christian?' Straightway with a loud voice he declared himself a Christian, and was placed among the number of the martyrs.

"Afterward, the rest began to be examined and classed. The first, firm and well prepared, made hearty and solemn confession of their faith. Others, ill prepared and with little firmness, showed that they lacked strength for such a fight. About ten of them fell away, which caused us incredible pain and mourning. Their example broke down the courage of others, who, not being yet in bonds, though they had already had much to suffer, kept close to the martyrs, and withdrew not out of their sight. Then were we all stricken with dread for the issue of the trial: not that we had great fear of the torments inflicted, but because, prophesying the result according to the degree of courage of the accused, we feared much falling away. They took, day by day, those of our brethren who were worthy to replace the weak; so that all the best of the two churches, those whose care and zeal had founded them, were taken and confined.

"They took, likewise, some of our slaves, for the governor[Pg 254] had ordered that they should be all summoned to attend in public; and they, fearing the torments they saw the saints undergo, and instigated by the soldiers, accused us falsely of odious deeds, such as the banquet of Thyestes, the incest of Œdipus, and other crimes which must not be named or even thought of, and which we cannot bring ourselves to believe that men were ever guilty of. These reports having once spread among the people, even those persons who had hitherto by reason, perhaps, of relationship, shown moderation toward us, burst forth into bitter indignation against our people. Thus was fulfilled that which had been prophesied by the Lord: 'The time cometh when whosoever shall kill you shall think that he doeth God service.' Since that day the holy martyrs have suffered tortures that no words can express.

"The fury of the multitude, of the governor, and of the soldiers fell chiefly upon Sanctus, a deacon of Vienne; upon Maturus, a neophyte still, but already a valiant champion of Christ; upon Attalus also, born at Pergamus, but who hath ever been one of the pillars of our Church; upon Blandina, lastly, in whom Christ hath made it appear that persons who seem vile and despised of men are just those whom God holds in the highest honor by reason of the excellent love they bear him, which is manifested in their firm virtue and not in vain show. All of us, and even Blandina's mistress here below, who fought valiantly with the other martyrs, feared that this poor slave, so weak of body, would not be in a condition to freely confess her faith; but she was sustained by such vigor of soul that the executioners, who from morn till eve put her to all manner of torture, failed in their efforts, and declared themselves beaten, not knowing what further punishment to inflict, and marvelling that she still lived, with her body pierced through and through, and torn piecemeal by so many tortures, of which a single one should have sufficed to kill her. But that blessed saint, like a valiant athlete, took fresh courage and strength from the confession of her faith; all feeling of pain vanished, and ease returned to her at the mere utterance of the words, 'I am a Christian, and no evil is wrought among us.'

"As for Sanctus, the executioners hoped that in the midst of the tortures inflicted upon him—the most atrocious which[Pg 255] man could devise—they would hear him say something unseemly or unlawful; but so firmly did he resist them, that, without even saying his name, or that of his nation or city, or whether he was bond or free, he only replied in the Roman tongue, to all questions, 'I am a Christian.' Therein was, for him, his name, his country, his condition, his whole being; and never could the Gentiles wrest from him another word. The fury of the governor and the executioners was redoubled against him; and, not knowing how to torment him further, they applied to his most tender members bars of red-hot iron. His members burned; but he, upright and immovable, persisted in his profession of faith, as if living waters from the bosom of Christ flowed over him and refreshed him. Some days after, these infidels began again to torture him, believing that if they inflicted upon his blistering wounds the same agonies, they would triumph over him, who seemed unable to bear the mere touch of their hands; and they hoped, also, that the sight of his torturing alive would terrify his comrades. But, contrary to general expectation, the body of Sanctus, rising suddenly up, stood erect and firm amid these repeated torments, and recovered its old appearance and the use of its members, as if, by divine grace, this second laceration of his flesh had caused healing rather than suffering.

"When the tyrants had thus expended and exhausted their tortures against the firmness of the martyrs sustained by Christ, the devil devised other contrivances. They were cast into the darkest and most unendurable place in their prison; their feet were dragged out and compressed to the utmost tension of the muscles; the jailers, as if instigated by a demon, tried every sort of torture, insomuch that several of them, for whom God willed such an end, died of suffocation in prison. Others, who had been tortured in such a manner that it was thought impossible they should long survive, deprived as they were of every remedy and aid from men, but supported nevertheless by the grace of God, remained sound and strong in body as in soul, and comforted and reanimated their brethren.

"The blessed Pothinus, who held at that time the bishopric of Lyons, being upward of ninety, and so weak in body that he could hardly breathe, was himself brought before the tribunal,[Pg 256] so worn with old age and sickness that he seemed nigh to extinction; but he still possessed his soul, wherewith to subserve the triumph of Christ. Being brought by the soldiers before the tribunal, whither he was accompanied by all the magistrates of the city and the whole populace, that pursued him with hootings, he offered, as if he had been the very Christ, the most glorious testimony. At a question from the governor, who asked what the God of the Christians was, he answered, 'If thou be worthy, thou shalt know.' He was immediately raised up, without any respect or humanity, and blows were showered upon him; those who happened to be nearest to him assaulted him grievously with foot and fist, without the slightest regard for his age; those who were farther off cast at him whatever was to their hand; they would all have thought themselves guilty of the greatest default if they had not done their best, each on his own score, to insult him brutally. They believed they were avenging the wrongs of their gods. Pothinus, still breathing, was cast again into prison, and two days after yielded up his spirit.

"Then were manifested a singular dispensation of God and the immeasurable compassion of Jesus Christ: an example rare among brethren, but in accord with the intentions and the justice of the Lord. All those who, at their first arrest, had denied their faith, were themselves cast into prison and given over to the same sufferings as the other martyrs, for their denial did not serve them at all. Those who had made profession of being what they really were—that is, Christians—were imprisoned without being accused of other crimes. The former, on the contrary, were confined as homicides and wretches, thus suffering double punishment. The one sort found repose in the honorable joys of martyrdom, in the hope of promised blessedness, in the love of Christ, and in the spirit of God the Father; the other were a prey to the reproaches of conscience. It was easy to distinguish the one from the other by their looks. The one walked joyously, bearing on their faces a majesty mingled with sweetness, and their very bonds seemed unto them an ornament, even as the broidery that decks a bride; the other, with downcast eyes and humble and dejected air, were an object of contempt to the Gentiles themselves,[Pg 257] who regarded them as cowards who had forfeited the glorious and saving name of Christians. And so they who were present at this double spectacle were thereby signally strengthened, and whoever among them chanced to be arrested confessed the faith without doubt or hesitation.

"Things having come to this pass, different kinds of death were inflicted on the martyrs, and they offered to God a crown of divers flowers. It was but right that the most valiant champions, those who had sustained a double assault and gained a signal victory, should receive a splendid crown of immortality. The neophyte Maturus and the deacon Sanctus, Blandina and Attalus, then, were led into the amphitheatre, and thrown to the beasts, as a sight to please the inhumanity of the Gentiles. Maturus and Sanctus there underwent all kinds of tortures, as if they had hitherto suffered nothing; or, rather, like athletes who had already been several times victorious, and were contending for the crown of crowns, they braved the stripes with which they were beaten, the bites of the beasts that dragged them to and fro, and all that was demanded by the outcries of an insensate mob, so much the more furious because it could by no means overcome the firmness of the martyrs or extort from Sanctus any other speech than that which, on the first day, he had uttered—'I am a Christian.' After this fearful contest, as life was not extinct, their throats were at last cut, when they alone had thus been offered as a spectacle to the public instead of the variety displayed in the combat of gladiators.

"Blandina, in her turn, tied to a stake, was given to the beasts; she was seen hanging, as it were, on a sort of cross, calling upon God with trustful fervor, and the brethren present were reminded, in the person of a sister, of Him who had been crucified for their salvation. As none of the beasts would touch the body of Blandina, she was released from the stake, taken back to prison, and reserved for another occasion.

"Attalus, whose execution, seeing that he was a man of mark, was furiously demanded by the people, came forward ready to brave everything, as a man deriving confidence from the memory of his life, for he had courageously trained himself to discipline, and had always among us borne witness for the[Pg 258] truth. He was led all round the Amphitheatre, preceded by a board bearing this inscription in Latin: 'This is Attalus the Christian.' The people pursued him with the most furious hootings; but the governor, having learned that he was a Roman citizen, had him taken back to prison with the rest. Having subsequently written to Cæsar, he waited for his decision as to those who were thus detained.

"This delay was neither useless nor unprofitable, for then shone forth the boundless compassion of Christ. Those of the brethren who had been but dead members of the Church were recalled to life by the pains and help of the living; the martyrs obtained grace for those who had fallen away; and great was the joy in the Church, at the same time virgin and mother, for she once more found living those whom she had given up for dead. Thus revived and strengthened by the goodness of God, who willeth not the death of the sinner, but rather inviteth him to repentance, they presented themselves before the tribunal, to be questioned afresh by the governor. Cæsar had replied that they who confessed themselves to be Christians should be put to the sword, and they who denied sent away safe and sound. When the time for the great market had fully come, there assembled a numerous multitude from every nation and every province. The governor had the blessed martyrs brought up before his judgment-seat, showing them before the people with all the pomp of a theatre. He questioned them afresh; and those who were discovered to be Roman citizens were beheaded, the rest were thrown to the beasts.

"Great glory was gained for Christ by means of those who had at first denied their faith, and who now confessed it contrary to the expectation of the Gentiles. Those who, having been privately questioned, declared themselves Christians were added to the number of the martyrs. Those in whom appeared no vestige of faith and no fear of God, remained without the pale of the Church. When they were dealing with those who had been reunited to it, one Alexander, a Phrygian by nation, a physician by profession, who had for many years been dwelling in Gaul, a man well known to all for his love of God and open preaching of the faith, took his place in the hall of judgment, exhorting by signs all who filled it to confess their faith,[Pg 259] even as if he had been called in to deliver them of it. The multitude, enraged to see that those who had at first denied turned round and proclaimed their faith, cried out against Alexander, whom they accused of the conversion.

"The governor forthwith asked him what he was, and at the answer, 'I am a Christian,' condemned him to the beasts. On the morrow Alexander was again brought up, together with Attalus, whom the governor, to please the people, had once more condemned to the beasts. After they had both suffered in the Amphitheatre all the torments that could be devised, they were put to the sword. Alexander uttered not a complaint, not a word; he had the air of one who was talking inwardly with God. Attalus, seated on an iron seat, and waiting for the fire to consume his body, said, in Latin, to the people: 'See what ye are doing; it is in truth devouring men; as for us, we devour not men, and we do no evil at all.' He was asked what was the name of God: 'God,' said he, 'is not like us mortals; he hath no name.'

"After all these martyrs, on the last day of the shows, Blandina was again brought up, together with a young lad, named Ponticus, about fifteen years old. They had been brought up every day before that they might see the tortures of their brethren. When they were called upon to swear by the altars of the Gentiles, they remained firm in their faith, making no account of those pretended gods, and so great was the fury of the multitude against them that no pity was shown for the age of the child or the sex of the woman. Tortures were heaped upon them; they were made to pass through every kind of torment, but the desired end was not gained.

"Supported by the exhortations of his sister, who was seen and heard by the Gentiles, Ponticus, after having endured all magnanimously, gave up the ghost. Blandina, last of all—like a noble mother that hath roused the courage of her sons for the fight, and sent them forth to conquer for their king—passed once more through all the tortures they had suffered, anxious to go and rejoin them, and rejoicing at each step toward death. At length, after she had undergone fire, the talons of beasts, and agonizing aspersion, she was wrapped in a network and thrown to a bull that tossed her in the air; she was already[Pg 260] unconscious of all that befell her, and seemed altogether taken up with watching for the blessings that Christ had in store for her. Even the Gentiles allowed that never a woman had suffered so much or so long.

"Still their fury and their cruelty toward the saints were not appeased. They devised another way of raging against them; they cast to the dogs the bodies of those who had died of suffocation in prison, and watched night and day that none of our brethren might come and bury them. As for what remained of the martyrs' half-mangled or devoured corpses, they left them exposed under a guard of soldiers, coming to look on them with insulting eyes, and saying: 'Where is now their God? Of what use to them was this religion for which they laid down their lives?' We were overcome with grief that we were not able to bury these poor corpses; nor the darkness of night, nor gold, nor prayers could help us to succeed therein. After being thus exposed for six days in the open air, given over to all manner of outrage, the corpses of the martyrs were at last burned, reduced to ashes, and cast hither and thither by the infidels upon the waters of the Rhone, that there might be left no trace of them on earth. They acted as if they had been more mighty than God, and could rob our brethren of their resurrection: ''Tis in that hope,' said they, 'that these folk bring among us a new and strange religion, that they set at naught the most painful torments, and that they go joyfully to face death: let us see if they will rise again, if their God will come to their aid and will be able to tear them from our hands.'"

It is not without a painful effort that, even after so many centuries, we can resign ourselves to be witnesses, in imagination only, of such a spectacle. We can scarce believe that among men of the same period and the same city so much ferocity could be displayed in opposition to so much courage, the passion for barbarity against the passion for virtue. Nevertheless, such is history; and it should be represented as it really was: first of all, for truth's sake; then for the due appreciation of virtue and all it costs of effort and sacrifice; and, lastly, for the purpose of showing what obstacles have to be surmounted, what struggles endured, and what sufferings[Pg 261] borne, when the question is the accomplishment of great moral and social reforms. Marcus Aurelius was, without any doubt, a virtuous ruler, and one who had it in his heart to be just and humane; but he was an absolute ruler, that is to say, one fed entirely on his own ideas, very ill-informed about the facts on which he had to decide, and without a free public to warn him of the errors of his ideas or the practical results of his decrees. He ordered the persecution of the Christians without knowing what the Christians were or what the persecution would be, and this conscientious philosopher let loose at Lyons, against the most conscientious of subjects, the zealous servility of his agents, and the atrocious passions of the mob.

The persecution of the Christians did not stop at Lyons or with Marcus Aurelius; it became, during the third century, the common practice of the emperors in all parts of the empire: from a.d. 202 to 312, under the reigns of Septimius Severus, Maximinus the First, Decius, Valerian, Aurelian, Diocletian, Maximian, and Galerius, there are reckoned six great general persecutions, without counting others more circumscribed or less severe. The emperors Alexander Severus, Philip the Arabian, and Constantius Chlorus were almost the only exceptions to this cruel system; and nearly always, wherever it was in force, the pagan mob, in its brutality or fanatical superstition, added to imperial rigor its own atrocious and cynical excesses.

But Christian zeal was superior in perseverance and efficacy to pagan persecution. St. Pothinus the Martyr was succeeded as bishop at Lyons by St. Irenæus, the most learned, most judicious, and most illustrious of the early heads of the Church in Gaul. Originally from Asia Minor, probably from Smyrna, he had migrated to Gaul, at what particular date is not known, and had settled as a simple priest in the diocese of Lyons, where it was not long before he exercised vast influence, as well on the spot as also during certain missions intrusted to him, and among them one, they say, to the pope, St. Eleutherius, at Rome.

While bishop of Lyons, from a.d. 177 to 202, he employed the five-and-twenty years in propagating the Christian faith in Gaul, and in defending, by his writings, the Christian doctrines[Pg 262] against the discord to which they had already been subjected in the East, and which was beginning to penetrate the West.

In 202, during the persecution instituted by Septimius Severus, St. Irenæus crowned by martyrdom his active and influential life. It was in his episcopate that there began what may be called the swarm of Christian missionaries who, toward the end of the second and during the third century, spread over the whole of Gaul, preaching the faith and forming churches. Some went from Lyons at the instigation of St. Irenæus; others from Rome, especially under the pontificate of Pope St. Fabian, himself martyred in 249; St. Felix and St. Fortunatus to Valence, St. Ferréol to Besançon, St. Marcellus to Châlons-sur-Saône, St. Benignus to Dijon, St. Trophimus to Arles, St. Paul to Narbonne, St. Saturninus to Toulouse, St. Martial to Limoges, St. Andéol and St. Privatus to the Cévennes, St. Austremoine to Clermont-Ferrand, St. Galian to Tours, St. Denis to Paris, and so many others that their names are scarcely known beyond the pages of erudite historians, or the very spots where they preached, struggled, and conquered, often at the price of their lives.

Such were the founders of the faith and of the Christian Church in France. At the commencement of the fourth century their work was, if not accomplished, at any rate triumphant; and when, a.d. 312, Constantine declared himself a Christian, he confirmed the fact of the conquest of the Roman world, and of Gaul in particular, by Christianity. No doubt the majority of the inhabitants were not as yet Christians; but it was clear that the Christians were in the ascendant and had command of the future.

Of the two grand elements which were to meet together on the ruins of Roman society, for the formation of modern society, the moral element, the Christian religion, had already taken possession of souls; the devastated territory awaited the coming of new peoples, known to history under the general name of Germans, whom the Romans called the Barbarians.

[Pg 263]


A.D. 180


That a ruler of such noble character as the Roman philosopher Marcus Aurelius should have had for his son and successor a man like Commodus is one of the strange contrasts of history. The succession of Commodus, marking as it does the beginning of the decline of the great empire, may be regarded as one of the most critical moments in the existence of Rome. How folly and cruelty, shameless vice and unbridled ferocity, may be associated in the same character has often been illustrated in the careers of the world's rulers, and nowhere more conspicuously than in some of the Roman emperors; and in the case of Commodus the combination of these qualities led to acts which involved not only the Emperor himself, but also the empire over which he ruled, in fatal consequences.

This vast empire, composed of many different peoples, was under the rule and subject to the caprice of one man. The form of the government imposed practically no checks on his power. With such able emperors as Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius the State was safe; but the wise men of Rome had foreseen that a tyrant or weak and inexperienced ruler, under this system, might plunge the empire into confusion and ruin. Yet they had made no provision against such a contingency. In the death of such a ruler and the accession of an abler and juster one lay their only hope of amelioration.

The course of events during the bloody reign of the degenerate Commodus was such as surely to forecast the decline of Roman power and supremacy. In the next hundred years there were twenty-three emperors, thirteen of whom were murdered by their own soldiers or servants—a tragic period of cruelty, licentiousness, and decay.

If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus. The vast extent of the Roman Empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of virtue and wisdom. The armies were restrained by the firm but gentle[Pg 264] hand of four successive emperors, whose characters and authority commanded involuntary respect. The forms of the civil administration were carefully preserved by Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the Antonines, who delighted in the image of liberty, and were pleased with considering themselves as the accountable ministers of the laws. Such princes deserved the honor of restoring the republic, had the Romans of their days been capable of enjoying a rational freedom.

The labors of these monarchs were overpaid by the immense reward that inseparably waited on their success, by the honest pride of virtue, and by the exquisite delight of beholding the general happiness of which they were the authors. A just but melancholy reflection imbittered, however, the noblest of human enjoyments. They must often have recollected the instability of a happiness which depended on the character of a single man. The fatal moment was perhaps approaching when some licentious youth or some jealous tyrant would abuse, to the destruction, that absolute power which they had exerted for the benefit of their people. The ideal restraints of the senate and the laws might serve to display the virtues, but could never correct the vices, of the emperor. The military force was a blind and irresistible instrument of oppression, and the corruption of Roman manners would always supply flatterers eager to applaud, and ministers prepared to serve, the fear or the avarice, the lust or the cruelty, of their masters.

These gloomy apprehensions had been already justified by the experience of the Romans. The annals of the emperors exhibit a strong and various picture of human nature, which we should vainly seek among the mixed and doubtful characters of modern history. In the conduct of those monarchs we may trace the utmost lines of vice and virtue; the most exalted perfection, and the meanest degeneracy of our own species.

The mildness of Marcus Aurelius, which the rigid discipline of the Stoics was unable to eradicate, formed, at the same time, the most amiable, and the only defective, part of his character. His excellent understanding was often deceived by the unsuspecting goodness of his heart. Artful men, who study the passions of princes, and conceal their own, approached his person in the disguise of philosophic sanctity, and acquired riches and[Pg 265] honors by affecting to despise them. His excessive indulgence to his brother,[46] his wife, and his son exceeded the bounds of private virtue, and became a public injury, by the example and consequences of their vices.

Faustina, the daughter of Pius and the wife of Marcus, has been as much celebrated for her gallantries as for her beauty. The grave simplicity of the philosopher was ill-calculated to engage her wanton levity, or to fix that unbounded passion for variety which often discovered personal merit in the meanest of mankind. The Cupid of the ancients was, in general, a very sensual deity; and the amours of an empress, as they exact on her side the plainest advances, are seldom susceptible of much sentimental delicacy. Marcus was the only man in the empire who seemed ignorant or insensible of the irregularities of Faustina, which, according to the prejudices of every age, reflected some disgrace on the injured husband. He promoted several of her lovers to posts of honor and profit, and, during a connection of thirty years, invariably gave her proofs of the most tender confidence and of a respect which ended not with her life. In his Meditations he thanks the gods, who had bestowed on him a wife so faithful, so gentle, and of such a wonderful simplicity of manners. The obsequious senate, at his earnest request, declared her a goddess. She was represented in her temples with the attributes of Juno, Venus, and Ceres; and it was decreed that, on the day of their nuptials, the youth of either sex should pay their vows before the altar of their chaste patroness.

The monstrous vices of the son have cast a shade on the purity of the father's virtues. It has been objected to Marcus that he sacrificed the happiness of millions to a fond partiality for a worthless boy; and that he chose a successor in his own family rather than in the empire. Nothing, however, was neglected by the anxious father, and by the men of virtue and learning whom he summoned to his assistance, to expand the narrow mind of young Commodus, to correct his growing vices, and to render him worthy of the throne for which he was designed. But the power of instruction is seldom of much efficacy, except in those happy dispositions where it is almost[Pg 266] superfluous. The distasteful lesson of a grave philosopher was, in a moment, obliterated by the whisper of a profligate favorite; and Marcus himself blasted the fruits of this labored education by admitting his son, at the age of fourteen or fifteen, to a full participation of the imperial power. He lived but four years afterward; but he lived long enough to repent a rash measure which raised the impetuous youth above the restraint of reason and authority.

Most of the crimes which disturb the internal peace of society are produced by the restraints which the necessary but unequal laws of property have imposed on the appetites of mankind by confining to a few the possession of those objects that are coveted by many. Of all our passions and appetites the love of power is of the most imperious and unsociable nature, since the pride of one man requires the submission of the multitude. In the tumult of civil discord, the laws of society lose their force, and their place is seldom supplied by those of humanity. The ardor of contention, the pride of victory, the despair of success, the memory of past injuries, and the fear of future dangers all contribute to inflame the mind and to silence the voice of pity. From such motives almost every page of history has been stained with civil blood; but these motives will not account for the unprovoked cruelties of Commodus, who had nothing to wish and everything to enjoy.

The beloved son of Marcus succeeded to his father, amid the acclamations of the senate and armies; and when he ascended the throne the happy youth saw round him neither competitor to remove nor enemies to punish. In this calm, elevated station it was surely natural that he should prefer the love of mankind to their detestation, the mild glories of his five predecessors to the ignominious fate of Nero and Domitian.

Yet Commodus was not, as he has been represented, a tiger born with an insatiate thirst of human blood, and capable, from his infancy, of the most inhuman actions. Nature had formed him of a weak rather than a wicked disposition. His simplicity and timidity rendered him the slave of his attendants, who gradually corrupted his mind. His cruelty, which at first obeyed the dictates of others, degenerated into habit, and at length became the ruling passion of his soul.[Pg 267]

Upon the death of his father, Commodus found himself embarrassed with the command of a great army, and the conduct of a difficult war against the Quadi and Marcomanni. The servile and profligate youths whom Marcus had banished soon regained their station and influence about the new Emperor. They exaggerated the hardships and dangers of a campaign in the wild countries beyond the Danube; and they assured the indolent prince that the terror of his name and the arms of his lieutenants would be sufficient to complete the conquest of the dismayed barbarians, or to impose such conditions as were more advantageous than any conquest. By a dexterous application to his sensual appetites they compared the tranquillity, the splendor, the refined pleasures of Rome with the tumult of a Pannonian camp, which afforded neither leisure nor materials for luxury. Commodus listened to the pleasing advice, but while he hesitated between his own inclination and the awe which he still retained for his father's counsellors, the summer insensibly elapsed, and his triumphal entry into the capital was deferred till the autumn. His graceful person, popular address, and imagined virtues attracted the public favor; the honorable peace which he had recently granted to the barbarians diffused a universal joy; his impatience to revisit Rome was fondly ascribed to the love of his country; and his dissolute course of amusements was faintly condemned in a prince of nineteen years of age.

During the three first years of his reign the forms, and even the spirit, of the old administration were maintained by those faithful counsellors to whom Marcus had recommended his son, and for whose wisdom and integrity Commodus still entertained a reluctant esteem. The young prince and his profligate favorites revelled in all the license of sovereign power; but his hands were yet unstained with blood; and he had even displayed a generosity of sentiment which might perhaps have ripened into solid virtue.[47] A fatal incident decided his fluctuating character.

[Pg 268]

One evening, as the Emperor was returning to the palace through a dark and narrow portico in the Amphitheatre, an assassin, who waited his passage, rushed upon him with a drawn sword, loudly exclaiming, "The senate sends you this." The menace prevented the deed; the assassin was seized by the guards, and immediately revealed the authors of the conspiracy. It had been formed, not in the state, but within the walls of the palace. Lucilla, the Emperor's sister, and widow of Lucius Verus, impatient of the second rank, and jealous of the reigning empress, had armed the murderer against her brother's life. She had not ventured to communicate the black design to her second husband, Claudius Pompeianus, a senator of distinguished merit and unshaken loyalty; but among the crowd of her lovers—for she imitated the manners of Faustina—she found men of desperate fortunes and wild ambition, who were prepared to serve her more violent as well as her tender passions. The conspirators experienced the rigor of justice, and the abandoned princess was punished, first with exile, and afterward with death.

But the words of the assassin sunk deep into the mind of Commodus, and left an indelible impression of fear and hatred against the whole body of the senate. Those whom he had dreaded as importunate ministers he now suspected as secret enemies. The delators, a race of men discouraged and almost extinguished under the former reigns, again became formidable, as soon as they discovered that the Emperor was desirous of finding disaffection and treason in the senate. That assembly, whom Marcus had ever considered as the great council of the nation, was composed of the most distinguished of the Romans; and distinction of every kind soon became criminal. The possession of wealth stimulated the diligence of the informers; rigid virtue implied a tacit censure of the irregularities of Commodus; important services implied a dangerous superiority of merit; and the friendship of the father always insured the aversion of the son. Suspicion was equivalent to proof; trial to condemnation. The execution of a considerable senator was attended with the death of all who might lament or revenge his fate, and when Commodus had once tasted human blood he became incapable of pity or remorse.[Pg 269]

Of these innocent victims of tyranny none died more lamented than the two brothers of the Quintilian family, Maximus and Condianus, whose fraternal love has saved their names from oblivion and endeared their memory to posterity. Their studies and their occupations, their pursuits and their pleasures, were still the same. In the enjoyment of a great estate they never admitted the idea of a separate interest: some fragments are now extant of a treatise which they composed in common; and in every action of life it was observed that their two bodies were animated by one soul. The Antonines, who valued their virtues and delighted in their union, raised them, in the same year, to the consulship; and Marcus afterward intrusted to their joint care the civil administration of Greece, and a great military command, in which they obtained a signal victory over the Germans. The kind cruelty of Commodus united them in death.

The tyrant's rage, after having shed the noblest blood of the senate, at length recoiled on the principal instrument of his cruelty. While Commodus was immersed in blood and luxury, he devolved the detail of the public business on Perennis, a servile and ambitious minister, who had obtained his post by the murder of his predecessor, but who possessed a considerable share of vigor and ability. By acts of extortion and the forfeited estates of the nobles sacrificed to his avarice he had accumulated an immense treasure. The prætorian guards were under his immediate command; and his son, who already discovered a military genius, was at the head of the Illyrian legions. Perennis aspired to the empire; or what, in the eyes of Commodus, amounted to the same crime, he was capable of aspiring to it, had he not been prevented, surprised, and put to death.

The fall of a minister is a very trifling incident in the general history of the empire; but it was hastened by an extraordinary circumstance, which proved how much the nerves of discipline were already relaxed. The legions of Britain, discontented with the administration of Perennis, formed a deputation of fifteen hundred select men, with instructions to march to Rome and lay their complaints before the Emperor. These military petitioners, by their own determined behavior, by inflaming[Pg 270] the divisions of the guards, by exaggerating the strength of the British army, and by alarming the fears of Commodus, exacted and obtained the minister's death, as the only redress of their grievances. This presumption of a distant army, and their discovery of the weakness of government, were a sure presage of the most dreadful convulsions.

The negligence of the public administration was betrayed, soon afterward, by a new disorder, which arose from the smallest beginnings. A spirit of desertion began to prevail among the troops; and the deserters, instead of seeking their safety in flight or concealment, infested the highways. Maternus, a private soldier, of a daring boldness above his station, collected those bands of robbers into a little army, set open the prisons, invited the slaves to assert their freedom, and plundered with impunity the rich and defenceless cities of Gaul and Spain. The governors of the provinces, who had long been the spectators, and perhaps the partners, of his depredations, were at length roused from their supine indolence by the threatening commands of the Emperor. Maternus found that he was encompassed, and foresaw that he must be overpowered. A great effort of despair was his last resource. He ordered his followers to disperse, to pass the Alps in small parties and various disguises, and to assemble at Rome, during the licentious tumult of the festival of Cybele. To murder Commodus, and to ascend the vacant throne, were the ambition of no vulgar robber. His measures were so ably concerted that his concealed troops already filled the streets of Rome. The envy of an accomplice discovered and ruined this singular enterprise in the moment when it was ripe for execution.

Suspicious princes often promote the last of mankind from a vain persuasion that those who have no dependence, except on their favor, will have no attachment, except to the person of their benefactor. Cleander, the successor of Perennis, was a Phrygian by birth; of a nation over whose stubborn but servile temper blows only could prevail. He had been sent from his native country to Rome, in the capacity of a slave. As a slave he entered the imperial palace, rendered himself useful to his master's passions, and rapidly ascended to the most exalted station which a subject could enjoy. His influence over the[Pg 271] mind of Commodus was much greater than that of his predecessor; for Cleander was devoid of any ability or virtue which could inspire the Emperor with envy or distrust.

Avarice was the reigning passion of his soul and the great principle of his administration. The rank of consul, of patrician, of senator, was exposed to public sale; and it would have been considered as disaffection if anyone had refused to purchase these empty and disgraceful honors, with the greatest part of his fortune. In the lucrative provincial employments the minister shared with the governor the spoils of the people. The execution of the laws was venal and arbitrary. A wealthy criminal might obtain not only the reversal of the sentence by which he was justly condemned, but might likewise inflict whatever punishment he pleased on the accuser, the witnesses, and the judge.

By these means Cleander, in the space of three years, had accumulated more wealth than had ever yet been possessed by any freedman. Commodus was perfectly satisfied with the magnificent presents which the artful courtier laid at his feet in the most seasonable moments. To divert the public envy, Cleander, under the Emperor's name, erected baths, porticoes, and places of exercise for the use of the people. He flattered himself that the Romans, dazzled and amused by this apparent liberality, would be less affected by the bloody scenes which were daily exhibited; that they would forget the death of Byrrhus, a senator to whose superior merit the late Emperor had granted one of his daughters; and that they would forgive the execution of Arrius Antoninus, the last representative of the name and virtues of the Antonines. The former, with more integrity than prudence, had attempted to disclose, to his brother-in-law, the true character of Cleander. An equitable sentence pronounced by the latter, when proconsul of Asia, against a worthless creature of the favorite proved fatal to him. After the fall of Perennis, the terrors of Commodus had for a short time assumed the appearance of a return to virtue. He repealed the most odious of his acts, loaded his memory with the public execration, and ascribed to the pernicious counsels of that wicked minister all the errors of his inexperienced youth. But his repentance lasted only thirty days; and, under Cleander's[Pg 272] tyranny, the administration of Perennis was often regretted.

Pestilence and famine contributed to fill up the measure of the calamities of Rome. The first could be only imputed to the just indignation of the gods; but a monopoly of corn, supported by the riches and power of the minister, was considered as the immediate cause of the second. The popular discontent, after it had long circulated in whispers, broke out in the assembled Circus. The people quitted their favorite amusements for the more delicious pleasure of revenge, rushed in crowds toward a palace in the suburbs, one of the Emperor's retirements, and demanded, with angry clamors, the head of the public enemy. Cleander, who commanded the prætorian guards, ordered a body of cavalry to sally forth and disperse the seditious multitude. The multitude fled with precipitation toward the city; several were slain, and many more were trampled to death; but when the cavalry entered the streets their pursuit was checked by a shower of stones and darts from the roofs and windows of the houses.

The foot-guards, who had been long jealous of the prerogatives and insolence of the prætorian cavalry, embraced the party of the people. The tumult became a regular engagement, and threatened a general massacre. The prætorians at length gave way, oppressed with numbers; and the tide of popular fury returned with redoubled violence against the gates of the palace, where Commodus lay, dissolved in luxury, and alone unconscious of the civil war. It was death to approach his person with the unwelcome news. He would have perished in this supine security had not two women, his eldest sister Fadilla, and Marcia, the most favored of his concubines, ventured to break into his presence. Bathed in tears, and with dishevelled hair, they threw themselves at his feet, and, with all the pressing eloquence of fear, discovered to the affrighted Emperor the crimes of the minister, the rage of the people, and the impending ruin which, in a few minutes, would burst over his palace and person. Commodus started from his dream of pleasure and commanded that the head of Cleander should be thrown out to the people. The desired spectacle instantly appeased the tumult; and the son of Marcus might even yet have regained the affection and confidence of his subjects.[Pg 273]

But every sentiment of virtue and humanity was extinct in the mind of Commodus. While he thus abandoned the reins of empire to these unworthy favorites, he valued nothing in sovereign power except the unbounded license of indulging his sensual appetites. The influence of a polite age and the labor of an attentive education had never been able to infuse into his rude and brutish mind the least tincture of learning; and he was the first of the Roman emperors totally devoid of taste for the pleasures of the understanding. Nero himself excelled, or affected to excel, in the elegant arts of music and poetry; nor should we despise his pursuits, had he not converted the pleasing relaxation of a leisure hour into the serious business and ambition of his life. But Commodus, from his earliest infancy, discovered an aversion to whatever was rational or liberal, and a fond attachment to the amusements of the populace; the sports of the Circus and Amphitheatre, the combats of gladiators, and the hunting of wild beasts. The masters in every branch of learning, whom Marcus provided for his son, were heard with inattention and disgust, while the Moors and Parthians, who taught him to dart the javelin and to shoot with the bow, found a disciple who delighted in his application, and soon equalled the most skilful of his instructors in the steadiness of the eye and the dexterity of the hand.

The servile crowd, whose fortune depended on their master's vices, applauded these ignoble pursuits. The perfidious voice of flattery reminded him that by exploits of the same nature, by the defeat of the Nemæan lion, and the slaughter of the wild boar of Erymanthus, the Grecian Hercules had acquired a place among the gods and an immortal memory among men. They only forgot to observe that in the first ages of society, when the fiercer animals often dispute with man the possession of an unsettled country, a successful war against those savages is one of the most innocent and beneficial labors of heroism. In the civilized state of the Roman Empire the wild beasts had long since retired from the face of man and the neighborhood of populous cities. To surprise them in their solitary haunts and to transport them to Rome that they might be slain in pomp by the hand of an emperor was an enterprise equally ridiculous for the prince and oppressive for the people.[Pg 274]

Ignorant of these distinctions, Commodus eagerly embraced the glorious resemblance and styled himself (as we still read on his medals) the Roman Hercules. The club and the lion's hide were placed by the side of the throne, among the ensigns of sovereignty, and statues were erected in which Commodus was represented in the character and with the attributes of the god whose valor and dexterity he endeavored to emulate in the daily course of his ferocious amusements.

Elated with these praises, which gradually extinguished the innate sense of shame, Commodus resolved to exhibit before the eyes of the Roman people those exercises which till then he had decently confined within the walls of his palace and to the presence of a few favorites. On the appointed day the various motives of flattery, fear, and curiosity attracted to the Amphitheatre an innumerable multitude of spectators; and some degree of applause was deservedly bestowed on the uncommon skill of the imperial performer. Whether he aimed at the head or heart of the animal, the wound was alike certain and mortal. With arrows whose point was shaped into the form of a crescent Commodus often intercepted the rapid career and cut asunder the long, bony neck of the ostrich.

A panther was let loose, and the archer waited till he had leaped upon a trembling malefactor. In the same instant the shaft flew, the beast dropped dead, and the man remained unhurt. The dens of the Amphitheatre disgorged at once a hundred lions: a hundred darts from the unerring hand of Commodus laid them dead as they ran raging round the arena. Neither the huge bulk of the elephant nor the scaly hide of the rhinoceros could defend them from his stroke. Æthiopia and India yielded their most extraordinary productions; and several animals were slain in the Amphitheatre which had been seen only in the representations of art or perhaps of fancy. In all these exhibitions the securest precautions were used to protect the person of the Roman Hercules from the desperate spring of any savage, who might possibly disregard the dignity of the Emperor and the sanctity of the god.

But the meanest of the populace were affected with shame and indignation when they beheld their sovereign enter the lists as a gladiator, and glory in a profession which the laws and[Pg 275] manners of the Romans had branded with the justest note of infamy.[48] He chose the habit and arms of the secutor, whose combat with the retiarius formed one of the most lively scenes in the bloody sports of the Amphitheatre. The secutor was armed with a helmet, sword, and buckler; his naked antagonist had only a large net and a trident; with the one he endeavored to entangle, with the other to despatch his enemy. If he missed the first throw, he was obliged to fly from the pursuit of the secutor till he had prepared his net for a second cast.

The Emperor fought in this character seven hundred and thirty-five several times. These glorious achievements were carefully recorded in the public acts of the empire; and that he might omit no circumstance of infamy, he received from the common fund of gladiators a stipend so exorbitant that it became a new and most ignominious tax upon the Roman people. It may be easily supposed that in these engagements the master of the world was always successful; in the Amphitheatre his victories were not often sanguinary; but when he exercised his skill in the school of gladiators or his own palace, his wretched antagonists were frequently honored with a mortal wound from the hand of Commodus, and obliged to seal their flattery with their blood.

He now disdained the appellation of Hercules. The name of Paulus, a celebrated secutor, was the only one which delighted his ear. It was inscribed on his colossal statues and repeated in the redoubled acclamations of the mournful and applauding senate. Claudius Pompeianus, the virtuous husband of Lucilla, was the only senator who asserted the honor of his rank. As a father, he permitted his sons to consult their safety by attending the Amphitheatre. As a Roman he declared that his own life was in the Emperor's hands, but that he would never behold the son of Marcus prostituting his person and dignity. Notwithstanding his manly resolution, Pompeianus escaped the[Pg 276] resentment of the tyrant, and, with his honor, had the good fortune to preserve his life.

Commodus had now attained the summit of vice and infamy. Amid the acclamations of a flattering court he was unable to disguise from himself that he had deserved the contempt and hatred of every man of sense and virtue in his empire. His ferocious spirit was irritated by the consciousness of that hatred, by the envy of every kind of merit, by the just apprehension of danger, and by the habit of slaughter which he contracted in his daily amusements. History has preserved a long list of consular senators sacrificed to his wanton suspicion, which sought out, with peculiar anxiety, those unfortunate persons connected, however remotely, with the family of the Antonines, without sparing even the ministers of his crimes or pleasures.

His cruelty proved at last fatal to himself. He had shed with impunity the noblest blood of Rome: he perished as soon as he was dreaded by his own domestics. Marcia, his favorite concubine, Eclectus, his chamberlain, and Lætus, his prætorian prefect, alarmed by the fate of their companions and predecessors, resolved to prevent the destruction which every hour hung over their heads, either from the mad caprice of the tyrant or the sudden indignation of the people. Marcia seized the occasion of presenting a draught of wine to her lover, after he had fatigued himself with hunting some wild beasts. Commodus retired to sleep; but while he was laboring with the effects of poison and drunkenness, a robust youth, by profession a wrestler, entered his chamber and strangled him without resistance. The body was secretly conveyed out of the palace, before the least suspicion was entertained in the city, or even in the court, of the Emperor's death. Such was the fate of the son of Marcus, and so easy was it to destroy a hated tyrant, who, by the artificial powers of government, had oppressed, during thirteen years, so many millions of subjects, each of whom was equal to their master in personal strength and personal abilities.


[46] His brother by adoption, and his colleague, L. Verus. Marcus Aurelius had no other brother.

[47] Manilius, the confidential secretary of Avidius Cassius, was discovered after he had lain concealed several years. The Emperor nobly relieved the public anxiety by refusing to see him, and burning his papers without opening them.

[48] The virtuous and even the wise princes forbade the senators and knights to embrace this scandalous profession, under pain of infamy, or, what was more dreaded by those profligate wretches, of exile. The tyrants allured them to dishonor by threats and rewards. Nero once produced in the arena forty senators and sixty knights.

[Pg 277]


A.D. 240


Under Mithradates I the Parthian empire rose to great power, and that monarch, about b.c. 163, began to make conquests toward the west. By b.c. 150 he had added to his possessions Media Magna, Susiana, Babylonia, Assyria proper, and Persia. The Persians appear to have yielded without resistance to his rule, and he governed them with a fair degree of moderation, allowing them, as was the Parthian policy toward subject peoples, a large measure of self-government under their hereditary native kings, the "King of Kings" exacting little from them besides regular tribute and the required number of men for his armies.

The Parthian empire was in turn overthrown by Ardashir or Artaxerxes, who about b.c. 226 defeated and killed Ardavan, the last Parthian king, and became the chief founder of the Sassanian dynasty, which ruled Persia until the Mahometan invasion.

The victories of Artaxerxes had fatal results for the Roman power in the East, for the new head of the Persian monarchy was no sooner established on his throne than he sent an embassy to the Roman Emperor, Alexander Severus, to demand from him the surrender of all Asia and the withdrawal of Roman arms and authority to the western shores of the Ægean Sea and of the Propontis, as the Sea of Marmora was anciently called. From this began a series of wars which continued at intervals for four centuries, and which ended only with the Mahometan conquests that overwhelmed Roman and Persian power alike. The first campaigns of the Romans against Artaxerxes were indecisive, but the renewal of the war in the reign of his son, Sapor I, was followed by disasters to the Roman arms which Rawlinson describes in his most lucid and vigorous manner, together with the other feats of this remarkable man.

Artaxerxes appears to have died in a.d. 240. He was succeeded by his son Shahpuhri, or Sapor, the first Sassanian prince of that name. According to the Persian historians, the mother of Sapor was a daughter of the last Parthian king, Artabanus, whom Artaxerxes had taken to wife after his conquest of her father. But the facts known of Sapor throw doubt on this story, which has too many parallels in oriental romance[Pg 278] to claim implicit credence. Nothing authentic has come down to us respecting Sapor during his father's lifetime, but from the moment that he mounted the throne we find him engaged in a series of wars, which show him to have been of a most active and energetic character.

Armenia, which Artaxerxes had subjected, attempted, it would seem, to regain its independence at the commencement of the reign; but Sapor easily crushed the nascent insurrection, and the Armenians made no further effort to free themselves till several years after his death. Contemporaneously with this revolt in the mountain region of the North a danger showed itself in the plains country of the South, where Manizen, king of Hatra, or El Hadhr, not only declared himself independent, but assumed dominion over the entire tract between the Euphrates and the Tigris, the Jezireh of the Arabian geographers.

The strength of Hatra was great, as had been proved by Trajan and Severus; its thick walls and valiant inhabitants would probably have defied every attempt of the Persian prince to make himself master of it by force. He, therefore, resorted to stratagem. Manizen had a daughter who cherished ambitious views. On obtaining a promise from Sapor that if she gave Hatra into his power he would make her his queen, this unnatural child turned against her father, betrayed him into Sapor's hands, and thus brought the war to an end. Sapor recovered his lost territory; but he did not fulfil his bargain. Instead of marrying the traitoress, he handed her over to an executioner, to receive the death that she had deserved, though scarcely at his hands.

Encouraged by his success in these two lesser contests, Sapor resolved (apparently in a.d. 241) to resume the bold projects of his father, and engage in a great war with Rome. The confusion and troubles which afflicted the Roman Empire at this time were such as might well give him hopes of obtaining a decided advantage. Alexander, his father's adversary, had been murdered in a.d. 235 by Maximin, who from the condition of a Thracian peasant had risen into the higher ranks of the army. The upstart had ruled like the savage that he was, and after three years of misery the whole Roman world had risen[Pg 279] against him. Two emperors had been proclaimed in Africa. On their fall two others had been elected by the senate; a third, a mere boy, had been added at the demand of the Roman populace. All the pretenders except the last had met with violent deaths; and after the shocks of a year, unparalleled since a.d. 69, the administration of the greatest kingdom in the world was in the hands of a youth of fifteen. Sapor, no doubt, thought he saw in this condition of things an opportunity that he ought not to miss, and rapidly matured his plans lest the favorable moment should pass away.

Crossing the middle Tigris into Mesopotamia, the bands of Sapor first attacked the important city of Nisibis. Nisibis, at the time a Roman colony, was strongly situated on the outskirts of the mountain range which traverses Northern Mesopotamia between the thirty-seventh and thirty-eighth parallels. The place was well fortified and well defended; it offered a prolonged resistance; but the walls were breached and it was forced to yield itself. The advance was then made along the southern flank of the mountains by Carrhæ (Harran) and Edessa to the Euphrates, which was probably reached in the neighborhood of Birehjik. The hordes then poured into Syria, and, spreading themselves over that fertile region, surprised and took the metropolis of the Roman East, the rich and luxurious city of Antioch. But meantime the Romans had shown a spirit which had not been expected from them.

Gordian, young as he was, had quitted Rome and marched through Mœsia and Thrace into Asia, accompanied by a formidable army and by at least one good general. Timesitheus, whose daughter Gordian had recently married, though his life had hitherto been that of a civilian, exhibited on his elevation to the dignity of prætorian prefect considerable military ability. The army, nominally commanded by Gordian, really acted under his orders. With it Timesitheus attacked and beat the bands of Sapor in a number of engagements, recovered Antioch, crossed the Euphrates, retook Carrhæ, defeated the Persian monarch in a pitched battle near Resaina (Ras-el-Ain), recovered Nisibis, and once more planted the Roman standards on the banks of the Tigris. Sapor hastily evacuated most of his conquests, and retired first across the Euphrates, and[Pg 280] then across the more eastern river, while the Romans advanced as he retreated, placed garrisons in the various Mesopotamian towns, and even threatened the great city of Ctesiphon.

Gordian was confident that his general would gain further triumphs, and wrote to the senate to that effect; but either disease or the arts of a rival cut short the career of the victor, and from the time of his death the Romans ceased to be successful. The legions had, it would seem, invaded Southern Mesopotamia when the prætorian prefect who had succeeded Timesitheus brought them intentionally into difficulties by his mismanagement of the commissariat, and at last retreat was determined on.

The young Emperor had almost reached his own frontier, when the discontent of the army, fomented by the prefect, Philip, came to a head. Gordian was murdered at a place called Zaitha, about twenty miles south of Circesium, and was buried where he fell, the soldiers raising a tumulus in his honor. His successor, Philip, was glad to make peace on any tolerable terms with the Persians; he felt himself insecure upon his throne, and was anxious to obtain the senate's sanction of his usurpation. He therefore quitted the East in a.d. 244, having concluded a treaty with Sapor by which Armenia seems to have been left to the Persians, while Mesopotamia returned to its old condition of a Roman province.

The peace made between Philip and Sapor was followed by an interval of fourteen years, during which scarcely anything is known of the condition of Persia. We may suspect that troubles in the northeast of his empire occupied Sapor during this period, for at the end of it we find Bactria, which was certainly subject to Persia during the earlier years of the monarchy, occupying an independent position, and even assuming an attitude of hostility toward the Persian monarch. Bactria had, from a remote antiquity, claims to preëminence among the Aryan nations. She was more than once inclined to revolt from the Achæmenidæ, and during the later Parthian period she had enjoyed a sort of semi-independence. It would seem that she now succeeded in detaching herself altogether from her southern neighbor and becoming a distinct and separate power. To strengthen her position she entered into relations[Pg 281] with Rome, which gladly welcomed any adhesions to her cause in this remote region.

Sapor's second war with Rome was, like his first, provoked by himself. After concluding his peace with Philip he had seen the Roman world governed successively by six weak emperors, of whom four had died violent deaths, while at the same time there had been a continued series of attacks upon the northern frontiers of the empire by Alamanni, Goths, and Franks, who had ravaged at will a number of the finest provinces, and threatened the absolute destruction of the great monarchy of the West. It was natural that the chief kingdom of Western Asia should note these events, and should seek to promote its own interests by taking advantage of the circumstances of the time. Sapor, in a.d. 258, determined on a fresh invasion of the Roman provinces, and once more entering Mesopotamia carried all before him, became master of Nisibis, Carrhæ, and Edessa, and, crossing the Euphrates, surprised Antioch, which was wrapped in the enjoyment of theatrical and other representations, and only knew its fate on the exclamation of a couple of actors that "the Persians were in possession of the town!" The aged Emperor, Valerian, hastened to the protection of his more eastern territories, and at first gained some successes, retaking Antioch, and making that city his head-quarters during his stay in the East.

But after this the tide turned. Valerian intrusted the whole conduct of the war to Macrianus, his prætorian prefect, whose talents he admired, and of whose fidelity he did not entertain a suspicion. Macrianus, however, aspired to the empire, and intentionally brought Valerian into difficulties in the hope of disgracing or removing him. His tactics were successful. The Roman army in Mesopotamia was betrayed into a situation whence escape was impossible and where its capitulation was only a question of time. A bold attempt made to force a way through the enemy's lines failed utterly, after which famine and pestilence began to do their work. In vain did the aged Emperor send envoys to propose a peace and offer to purchase escape by the payment of an immense sum in gold. Sapor, confident of victory, refused the overture, and, waiting patiently till his adversary was at the last gasp, invited him to[Pg 282] a conference, and then treacherously seized his person. The army surrendered or dispersed. Macrianus, the prætorian prefect, shortly assumed the title of emperor and marched against Gallienus, the son and colleague of Valerian, who had been left to direct affairs in the West. But another rival started up in the East. Sapor conceived the idea of complicating the Roman affairs by himself putting forward a pretender; and an obscure citizen of Antioch, a certain Miriades, or Cyriades, a refugee in his camp, was invested with the purple and assumed the title of Cæsar.

The blow struck at Edessa laid the whole of Roman Asia open to attack, and the Persian monarch was not slow to seize the occasion. His troops crossed the Euphrates in force, and, marching on Antioch, once more captured that unfortunate town, from which the more prudent citizens had withdrawn, but where the bulk of the people, not displeased at the turn of affairs, remained and welcomed the conqueror. Miriades was installed in power, while Sapor himself, at the head of his irresistible squadrons, pressed forward, bursting "like a mountain torrent" into Cilicia, and thence into Cappadocia. Tarsus, the birthplace of St. Paul, at once a famous seat of learning and a great emporium of commerce, fell; Cilicia Campestris was overrun, and the passes of Taurus, deserted or weakly defended by the Romans, came into Sapor's hand.

Penetrating through them and entering the campaign country beyond, his bands soon began the siege of Cæsarea Mazaca, the greatest city of these parts, estimated at this time to have contained a population of four hundred thousand souls. Demosthenes, the governor of Cæsarea, defended it bravely, and, had force only been used against him, might have prevailed; but Sapor found friends within the walls, and by their help made himself master of the place, while its bold defender was obliged to content himself with escaping by cutting his way through the victorious host. All Asia Minor now seemed open to the conqueror; and it is difficult to understand why he did not at any rate attempt a permanent occupation of the territory which he had so easily overrun. But it seems certain that he entertained no such idea.

Devastation and plunder, revenge and gain, not permanent[Pg 283] conquest, were his objects; and hence his course was everywhere marked by ruin and carnage, by smoking towns, ravaged fields, and heaps of slain. His cruelties have no doubt been exaggerated; but when we hear that he filled the ravines and valleys of Cappadocia with dead bodies, and so led his cavalry across them; that he depopulated Antioch, killing or carrying off into slavery almost the whole population; that he suffered his prisoners in many cases to perish of hunger, and that he drove them to water once a day like beasts, we may be sure that the guise in which he showed himself to the Romans was that of a merciless scourge—an avenger bent on spreading the terror of his name, not of one who really sought to enlarge the limits of his empire. During the whole course of this plundering expedition, until the retreat began, we hear but of one check that the bands of Sapor received. It had been determined to attack Emesa, one of the most important of the Syrian towns, where the temple of Venus was known to contain a vast treasure. The invaders approached, scarcely expecting to be resisted; but the high-priest of the temple, having collected a large body of peasants, appeared in his sacerdotal robes at the head of a fanatic multitude armed with slings, and succeeded in beating off the assailants. Emesa, its temple, and its treasure escaped the rapacity of the Persians; and an example of resistance was set, which was not perhaps without important consequences.

For it seems certain that the return of Sapor across the Euphrates was not effected without considerable loss and difficulty. On his advance into Syria he had received an embassy from a certain Odenathus, a Syrian, or Arab chief, who occupied a position of semi-independence at Palmyra, which through the advantages of its situation, had lately become a flourishing commercial town. Odenathus sent a long train of camels laden with gifts, consisting in part of rare and precious merchandise, to the Persian monarch, begging him to accept them, and claiming his favorable regard on the ground that he had hitherto refrained from all acts of hostility against the Persians. It appears that Sapor took offence at the tone of the communication, which was not sufficiently humble to please him. Tearing the letter to fragments and trampling it beneath his feet he exclaimed:[Pg 284] "Who is this Odenathus, and of what country, that he ventures thus to address his lord? Let him now, if he would lighten his punishment, come here and fall prostrate before me with his hands tied behind his back. Should he refuse, let him be well assured that I will destroy himself, his race, and his land." At the same time he ordered his servants to cast the costly presents of the Palmyrene prince into the Euphrates.

This arrogant and offensive behavior naturally turned the willing friend into an enemy. Odenathus, finding himself forced into a hostile position, took arms and watched his opportunity. So long as Sapor continued to advance he kept aloof. As soon, however, as the retreat commenced, and the Persian army, encumbered with its spoil and captives, proceeded to make its way back slowly and painfully to the Euphrates, Odenathus, who had collected a large force—in part from the Syrian villages, in part from the wild tribes of Arabia—made his appearance in the field. His light and agile horsemen hovered about the Persian host, cut off their stragglers, made prize of much of their spoil, and even captured a portion of the seraglio of the great king.

The harassed troops were glad when they had placed the Euphrates between themselves and their pursuer, and congratulated each other on their escape. So much had they suffered and so little did they feel equal to further conflicts that on their march through Mesopotamia they consented to purchase the neutrality of the people of Edessa by making over to them all the coined money that they had carried off in their Syrian raid. After this it would seem that the retreat was unmolested, and Sapor succeeded in conveying the greater part of his army, together with his illustrious prisoner, to his own country.

With regard to the treatment that Valerian received at the hands of his conqueror it is difficult to form a decided opinion. The writers nearest to the time speak vaguely and moderately, merely telling us that he grew old in his captivity and was kept in the condition of a slave. It is reserved for authors of the next generation to inform us that he was exposed to the constant gaze of the multitude, fettered, but clad in the imperial purple; and that Sapor, whenever he mounted on horseback, placed his foot upon his prisoner's neck. Some add that when[Pg 285] the unhappy captive died, about the year a.d. 265 or 266, his body was flayed and the skin inflated and hung up to view in one of the most frequented temples of Persia, where it was seen by Roman envoys on their visits to the great king's court.

It is impossible to deny that oriental barbarism may conceivably have gone to these lengths; and it is in favor of the truth of the details that Roman vanity would naturally have been opposed to their invention. But, on the other hand, we have to remember that in the East the person of a king is generally regarded as sacred, and that self-interest restrains the conquering monarch from dishonoring one of his own class. We have also to give due weight to the fact that the earlier authorities are silent with respect to any such atrocities, and that they are first related half a century after the time when they are said to have occurred.

Under these circumstances the scepticism of Gibbon with respect to them is perhaps worthy of commendation.

It may be added that oriental monarchs, when they are cruel, do not show themselves ashamed of their cruelties, but usually relate them openly in their inscriptions or represent them in their bas-reliefs. The remains ascribed on good grounds to Sapor do not, however, contain anything confirmatory of the stories which we are considering. Valerian is represented on them in a humble attitude, but not fettered, and never in the posture of extreme degradation commonly associated with his name. He bends his knee, as no doubt he would be required to do, on being brought into the great king's presence; but otherwise he does not appear to be subjected to any indignity. It seems thus to be on the whole most probable that the Roman Emperor was not more severely treated than the generality of captive princes, and that Sapor has been unjustly taxed with abusing the rights of conquest.

The hostile feeling of Odenathus against Sapor did not cease with the retreat of the latter across the Euphrates. The Palmyrene prince was bent on taking advantage of the general confusion of the times to carve out for himself a considerable kingdom, of which Palmyra should be the capital. Syria and Palestine, on the one hand, Mesopotamia, on the other, were the provinces that lay most conveniently near to him and that[Pg 286] he especially coveted. But Mesopotamia had remained in the possession of the Persians as the prize of their victory over Valerian, and could only be obtained by wresting it from the hands into which it had fallen. Odenathus did not shrink from this contest. It has been, with some reason, conjectured that Sapor must have been at this time occupied with troubles which had broken out on the eastern side of his empire. At any rate, it appears that Odenathus, after a short contest with Macrianus and his son, Quietus, turned his arms once more, about a.d. 263, against the Persians, crossed the Euphrates into Mesopotamia, took Carrhæ and Nisibis, defeated Sapor and some of his sons in a battle, and drove the entire Persian host in confusion to the gates of Ctesiphon. He even returned to lay siege to that city; but it was not long before effectual relief arrived; from all the provinces flocked in contingents for the defence of the western capital; several engagements were fought, in some of which Odenathus was defeated; and at last he found himself involved in difficulties through his ignorance of the localities, and so thought it best to retire. Apparently his retreat was undisturbed; he succeeded in carrying off his booty and his prisoners, among whom were several satraps, and he retained possession of Mesopotamia, which continued to form a part of the Palmyrene kingdom until the capture of Zenobia by Aurelian, a.d. 273.

The successes of Odenathus, in a.d. 263, were followed by a period of comparative tranquillity. That ambitious prince seems to have been content with ruling from the Tigris to the Mediterranean, and with the title of "Augustus," which he received from the Roman emperor Gallienus, and "King of Kings," which he assumed upon his coins. He did not press further upon Sapor, nor did the Roman Emperor make any serious attempt to recover his father's person or revenge his defeat upon the Persians. An expedition which he sent out to the East, professedly with this object, in the year a.d. 267, failed utterly, its commander, Heraclianus, being signally defeated by Zenobia, the widow and successor of Odenathus. Odenathus himself was murdered by a kinsman three or four years after his great successes, and though Zenobia ruled his kingdom almost with a man's vigor, the removal of his powerful adversary[Pg 287] must have been felt as a relief by the Persian monarch. It is evident, too, that from the time of the accession of Zenobia the relations between Rome and Palmyra had become unfriendly; the old empire grew jealous of the new kingdom which had sprung up upon its borders; and the effect of this jealousy, while it lasted, was to secure Persia from any attack on the part of either.

It appears that Sapor, relieved from any further necessity of defending his empire in arms, employed the remaining years of his life in the construction of great works, and especially in the erection and ornamentation of a new capital. The ruins of Shapur, which still exist near Kazerun, in the province of Fars, commemorate the name and afford some indication of the grandeur of the second Persian monarch. Besides remains of buildings, they comprise a number of bas-reliefs and rock inscriptions, some of which were, beyond a doubt, set up by Sapor I. In one of the most remarkable, the Persian monarch is represented on horseback, wearing the crown usual upon his coins, and holding by the hand a tunicked figure, probably Miriades, whom he is presenting to the captured Romans as their sovereign. Foremost to do him homage is the kneeling figure of a chieftain, probably Valerian, behind whom are arranged in a double line seventeen persons, representing probably the different corps of the Roman army. All these persons are on foot, while in contrast with them are arranged behind Sapor ten guards on horseback, who represent his irresistible cavalry. Another bas-relief at the same place gives us a general view of Sapor on his return to Persia with his illustrious prisoners. Here fifty-seven guards are ranged behind him, while in front are thirty-three tribute bearers having with them an elephant and a chariot. In the centre is a group of seven figures, comprising: Sapor, who is on horseback in his usual costume; Valerian, who is under the horse's feet; Miriades, who stands by Sapor's side; three principal tribute bearers in front of the main figure; and a Victory, which floats in the sky.

Another important work, assigned by tradition to Sapor I, is the great dike at Shuster. This is a dam across the river Karun, formed of cut stones, cemented by lime and fastened together by cramps of iron; it is twenty feet broad and no less[Pg 288] than twelve hundred feet in length. The whole is a solid mass except in the centre, where two small arches have been constructed for the purpose of allowing a part of the stream to flow in its natural bed. The greater portion of the water is directed eastward into a canal cut for it; and the town of Shuster is thus defended on both sides by a water barrier, whereby the position becomes one of great strength. Tradition says that Sapor used his power over Valerian to obtain Roman engineers for this work; and the great dam is still known as the "Dam of Cæsar" to the inhabitants of the neighboring country.

Sapor died, having reigned thirty-one years, from a.d. 240 to a.d. 271. He was undoubtedly one of the most remarkable princes of the Sassanian series. In military talent, indeed, he may not have equalled his father, for though he defeated Valerian he had to confess himself inferior to Odenathus. But in general governmental ability he is among the foremost of the Neo-Persian monarchs, and may compare favorably with almost any prince of the series. He baffled Odenathus, when he was not able to defeat him, by placing himself behind walls, and by bringing into play those advantages which naturally belonged to the position of a monarch attacked in his own country. He maintained, if he did not permanently advance, the power of Persia in the West, while in the East it is probable that he considerably extended the bounds of his dominion.

To the internal administration of his empire he united works of usefulness with the construction of memorials which had only a sentimental and æsthetic value. He was a liberal patron of art and is thought not to have confined his patronage to the encouragement of native talent. On the subject of religion he did not suffer himself to be permanently led away by the enthusiasm of a young and bold freethinker. He decided to maintain the religious system that had descended to him from his ancestors, and turned a deaf ear to persuasions that would have led him to revolutionize the religious opinion of the East without placing it upon a satisfactory footing. The orientals add to these commendable features of character that he was a man of remarkable beauty, of great personal courage, and of a noble and princely liberality. According to them, "he only desired wealth that he might use it for good and great purposes."

[Pg 289]



A.D. 300-337


A new epoch in the history of the Roman Empire began with the accession of Diocletian to the throne in a.d. 284. From that time the old names of consul, tribune, etc., belonging to the republic lost their significance, and even the senate was practically abolished. Thenceforth the empire became an oriental sovereignty. In the year 292, having previously associated with himself one colleague, Maximianus Herculius, Diocletian created two Cæsars: the one, Galerius Maximianus, to act as his subordinate in the East; the other, Constantius Chlorus, to divide the government of the western provinces with Maximianus Herculius. Each of these emperors ruled with vigor in his own territory, defending the frontiers of the empire and also suppressing such revolts as broke out within its borders.

But these transformations in the empire were preparing the way for events of unprecedented nature and importance, and for the rise of an emperor destined to play a part in the history of the world quite different from that performed by any of his predecessors. This was Constantine, in whose character, throughout his life, opposing elements seemed to contend for mastery, as was shown in his treatment of the perplexing questions that arose during his reign concerning Christianity, which was persecuted under Diocletian and the old Roman religion. Of his statesmanship and his further transformation of the empire, in ways which Diocletian could not have foreseen, history has made an impressive record.

But the great events of his reign, which caused it to be regarded as the inauguration of a new era, were his conversion to Christianity and the acts whereby he secured its toleration and then its supremacy in the empire. In the account which follows it is clearly shown by what steps these results were attained, and how the work of Constantine the Great became the chief agency by which Christianity mounted the throne of the Cæsars.

In the beginning of the fourth century the Roman Empire had four sovereigns, of whom two were superior to the others and bore the title of Augustus, namely, Diocletian and Maximianus Herculius; the two inferior sovereigns, who bore[Pg 290] the title of Cæsars, were Constantius Chlorus and Galerius Maximianus. Under these four emperors the state of the Church was peaceful and happy. Diocletian, though superstitious, indulged no hatred toward the Christians. Constantius Chlorus, following only the dictates of reason in matters of religion, was averse to the popular idolatry, and friendly to the Christians. The pagan priests, therefore, from well-grounded fears lest Christianity, to their great and lasting injury, should spread far and wide its triumphs, endeavored to excite Diocletian, whom they knew to be both timid and credulous, by means of feigned oracles and other impositions, to engage in persecuting the Christians.

These artifices not succeeding very well, they made use of the other emperor, Galerius Maximianus, who was son-in-law to Diocletian, in order to effect their purpose. This Emperor, who was of a ferocious character and ill-informed in everything except the military art, continued to work upon his father-in-law, being urged on partly by his own inclination, partly by the instigation of his mother, a most superstitious woman, and partly by that of the pagan priests, till at last, when Diocletian was at Nicomedia, in the year 303, he obtained from him an edict by which the temples of the Christians were to be demolished, their sacred books committed to the flames, and themselves deprived of all their civil rights and honors. This first edict spared the lives of the Christians; for Diocletian was averse from slaughter and bloodshed. Yet it caused many Christians to be put to death, particularly those who refused to deliver up their sacred books to the magistrates. Seeing this operation of the law, many Christians, and several even of the bishops and clergy, in order to save their lives, voluntarily surrendered the sacred books in their possession. But they were regarded by their more resolute brethren as guilty of sacrilege.

Not long after the publication of this first edict, there were two conflagrations in the palace of Nicomedia; and the enemies of the Christians persuaded Diocletian to believe that Christian hands had kindled them. He therefore ordered many Christians of Nicomedia to be put to the torture and to undergo the penalties due to incendiaries. Nearly at the same[Pg 291] time there were insurrections in Armenia and in Syria; and as their enemies charged the blame of these also upon the Christians, the Emperor by a new edict ordered all bishops and ministers of Christ to be thrown into prison; and by a third edict, soon after, he ordered that all these prisoners should be compelled by tortures and punishments to offer sacrifice to the gods; for he hoped, if the bishops and teachers were once brought to submission, the Christian churches would follow their example. A great multitude, therefore, of excellent men, in every part of the Roman Empire, Gaul only excepted, which was subject to Constantius Chlorus, were either punished capitally or condemned to the mines.

In the second year of the persecution, a.d. 304, Diocletian published a fourth edict, at the instigation of his son-in-law and other enemies of the Christians. By this edict the magistrates were directed to compel all Christians to offer sacrifices to the gods, and to use tortures for that purpose. And as the governors yielded strict obedience to these orders, the Christian Church was reduced to the last extremity. Galerius Maximianus therefore no longer hesitated to disclose the secret designs he had long entertained. He required his father-in-law, Diocletian, together with his colleague, Maximianus Herculius, to divest themselves of their power, and constituted himself emperor of the East; leaving the West to Constantius Chlorus, whose health he knew to be very infirm. He also associated with him in the government two assistants of his own choosing, namely, Caius Galerius Maximinus, his sister's son, and Flavius Severus; excluding altogether Constantine, the son of Constantius Chlorus. This revolution in the Roman Government restored peace to Christians in the Western provinces, which were under Constantius; but in the Eastern provinces the persecution raged with greater severity than before.

But divine Providence frustrated the whole plan of Galerius Maximianus. For, Constantius Chlorus dying in Britain, in the year 306, the soldiery by acclamation made his son Constantine, who afterward by his achievements obtained the title of "the Great," Augustus or Emperor; and the tyrant Galerius was obliged to submit, and even to approve this adverse event. Soon after a civil war broke out. For Maxentius, the son-in-law[Pg 292] of Galerius Maximianus, being indignant that Galerius should prefer Severus before him, and invest him with imperial power, himself assumed the purple, and took his father, Maximianus Herculius, for his colleague in the empire. In the midst of these commotions Constantine, beyond all expectation, made his way to the imperial throne. The western Christians, those of Italy and Africa excepted, enjoyed a good degree of tranquillity and liberty during these civil wars. But the oriental churches experienced various fortune, adverse or tolerable, according to the political changes from year to year. At length Galerius Maximianus, who had been the author of the heaviest calamities, being brought low by a terrific and protracted disease, and finding himself ready to die, in the year 311, issued a decree which restored peace to them, after they had endured almost unbounded sufferings.

After the death of Galerius Maximianus, Caius Galerius Maximianus and Caius Valerius Licinius divided between themselves the provinces which had been governed by Galerius. At the same time Maxentius, who held Africa and Italy, determined to make war upon Constantine, who governed in Spain and Gaul, in order to bring all the West under his authority. Constantine anticipated his designs, marched his army into Italy in the year 312, and in a battle fought at the Milvian bridge, near Rome, routed the army of Maxentius. In the flight the bridge broke down, and Maxentius fell into the Tiber and was drowned. After this victory Constantine, with his colleague Licinius, immediately gave full liberty to the Christians of living according to their own institutions and laws; and this liberty was more clearly defined the following year, a.d. 313, in a new edict drawn up at Milan. Caius Galerius Maximinus, indeed, who reigned in the East, was projecting new calamities for the Christians, and menacing the emperors of the West with war; but being vanquished by Licinius, he put an end to his own life, in the year 313, by swallowing poison, at Tarsus.

About this time Constantine the Great, who was previously a man of no religion, is said to have embraced Christianity, being induced thereto principally by the miracle of a cross appearing to him in the heavens. But this story is liable to[Pg 293] much doubt. His first edict in favor of the Christians, and many other things, sufficiently evince that he was indeed at that time well disposed toward the Christians and their worship, but that he by no means regarded Christianity as the only true and saving religion; on the contrary, it appears that he regarded other religions, and among them the old Roman religion, as likewise true and useful to mankind; and he therefore wished all religions to be freely practised throughout the Roman Empire. But as he advanced in life, Constantine made progress in religious knowledge, and gradually came to regard Christianity as the only true and saving religion, and to consider all others as false and impious. Having learned this, he now began to exhort his subjects to embrace Christianity; and at length he proclaimed war against the ancient superstitions. At what time this change in the views of the Emperor took place, and he began to look upon all religions but the Christian as false, cannot be determined. This, however, is certain, that the change in his views was first made manifest by his laws and edicts in the year 324, after the death of Licinius, when Constantine became sole emperor. His purpose, however, of abolishing the ancient religion of the Romans, and of tolerating only the Christian religion, he did not disclose till a little before his death, when he published his edicts for pulling down the pagan temples and abolishing the sacrifices.

That the Emperor was sincere, and not a dissembler, in regard to his conversion to Christianity, no person can doubt who believes that men's actions are an index of their real feelings. It is indeed true that Constantine's life was not such as the precepts of Christianity required; and it is also true that he remained a catechumen all his life, and was received to full membership in the Church, by baptism, only a few days before his death, at Nicomedia. But neither of these is adequate proof that the Emperor had not a general conviction of the truth of the Christian religion, or that he only feigned himself a Christian. For in that age many persons deferred baptism till near the close of life, that they might pass into the other world altogether pure and undefiled with sin; and it is but too notorious that many persons who look upon the Christian religion as indubitably true and of divine origin, yet do not conform[Pg 294] their lives to all its holy precepts. It is another question whether worldly motives might not have contributed in some degree to induce Constantine to prefer the Christian religion to the ancient Roman, and to all other religions, and to recommend the observance of it to his subjects. Indeed, it is no improbable conjecture that the Emperor had discernment to see that Christianity possessed great efficacy, and idolatry none at all, to strengthen public authority, and to bind citizens to their duty.

The sign of the cross, which Constantine most solemnly affirmed he saw in the heavens, near midday, is a subject involved in the greatest obscurities and difficulties. It is, however, an easy thing to refute those who regard this prodigy as a cunning fiction of the Emperor, or who rank it among fables; and also those who refer the phenomenon to natural causes, ingeniously conjecturing that the form of a cross appeared in a solar halo, or in the moon; and likewise those who ascribe the transaction to the power of God, who intended by a miracle to confirm the wavering faith of the Emperor. Now these suppositions being rejected, the only conclusion that remains is that Constantine saw, in a dream while asleep, the appearance of a cross, with the inscription, In hoc signo vinces ("By this sign thou shalt conquer"). Nor is this opinion unsupported by competent authorities of good credit.

The happiness anticipated by the Christians from the edicts of Constantine and Licinius was a little afterward interrupted by Licinius, who waged war against his kinsman Constantine. Being vanquished in the year 314, he was quiet for about nine years. But in the year 324 this restless man again attacked Constantine, being urged on both by his own inclination and by the instigation of the pagan priests. That he might secure himself a victory, he attached the pagans to his cause by severely oppressing the Christians, and putting not a few of their bishops to death. But all his plans failed; for, after several unsuccessful battles, he was obliged to throw himself upon the mercy of the victor, who, nevertheless, ordered him to be strangled, in the year 325. After his victory over Licinius, Constantine reigned sole emperor till his death; and by his plans, his enactments, his regulations, and his munificence he[Pg 295] endeavored as much as possible to obliterate gradually the ancient superstitions and to establish Christian worship throughout the Roman Empire. He had undoubtedly learned from the wars and the machinations of Licinius that neither himself nor the Roman Empire could remain secure while the ancient superstition continued prevalent; and therefore, from this time onward, he openly opposed the pagan deities and their worship, as being prejudicial to the interests of the State.

After the death of Constantine, which happened in the year 337, his three surviving sons, Constantine II, Constantius, and Constans, assumed the empire, and were all proclaimed emperors by the Roman senate. There were still living two brothers of Constantine the Great, namely, Constantius Dalmatius and Julius Constans, and they had several sons. But nearly all of these were slain by the soldiers at the command of Constantine's sons, who feared lest their thirst for power might lead them to make insurrections and disturb the Commonwealth. Only Gallus and Julian, sons of Julius Constans, escaped the massacre; and the latter of these afterward became emperor. Constantine II held Britain, Gaul, and Spain, but lost his life, a.d. 340, in a war with his brother Constans, who at first governed only Illyricum, Italy, and Africa; but after the fall of his brother, Constantine II, he annexed his provinces to his empire, and thus became emperor of all the West, until he lost his life, a.d. 350, in the war with Maxentius, a usurper. After the death of Constans, Maxentius being subdued, the third brother, Constantius, who had before governed Asia, Syria, and Egypt, in the year 353 became sole emperor, and governed the whole empire till the year 361, when he died. Neither of these brothers possessed the disposition or the discernment of their father; yet they all pursued their father's purpose of abolishing the ancient superstitions of the Romans and other pagans, and of propagating the Christian religion throughout the Roman Empire. The thing itself was commendable and excellent; but in the means employed there was much that was censurable.

Rhetoricians and philosophers, whose schools were supposed to be so profitable to the community, exhausted all their ingenuity, both before the days of Constantine the Great and[Pg 296] afterward, to arrest the progress of Christianity. In the beginning of this century Hierocles, the great ornament of the Platonic school, composed two books against the Christians, in which he had the audacity to compare our Saviour with Apollonius Tyanæus, and for which he was chastised by Eusebius in a tract written expressly against him. Lactantius speaks of another philosopher who endeavored to convince the Christians they were in error; but his name is not mentioned. After the reign of Constantine the Great, Julian wrote a large volume against the Christians, and Himerius and Libanius in their public declamations, and Eunapius in his lives of the philosophers, zealously decried the Christian religion. Yet no one of these persons was punished at all for the licentiousness of his tongue or of his pen.

How much harm these sophists or philosophers, who were full of the pride of imaginary knowledge and of hatred to the Christian name, did to the cause of Christianity in this century appears from many examples, and especially from the apostasy of Julian, who was seduced by men of this stamp. Among those who wished to appear wise, and to take moderate ground, many were induced by the arguments and explanations of these men to devise a kind of reconciling religion, intermediate between the old superstition and Christianity, and to imagine that Christ had enjoined the very same thing which had long been represented by the pagan priests under the envelope of their ceremonies and fables. Of these views were Ammianus Marcellinus, a very prudent and discreet man; Chalcidius, a philosopher; Themistius, a very celebrated orator, and others, who conceived that both religions were in unison, as to all the more important points, if they were rightly understood, and therefore held that Christ was neither to be contemned nor to be honored to the exclusion of the pagan deities.

As Constantine the Great and his sons and successors took much pains to enlarge the Christian Church, it is not strange that many nations, before barbarous and uncivilized, became subject to Christ. Many circumstances make it probable that the light of Christianity cast some of its rays into both Armenias, the Greater and the Less, soon after the establishment of the Christian Church. But the Armenian Church first received[Pg 297] due organization and firm establishment in this century; in the beginning of which Gregory, the son of Anax, commonly called "the Illuminator," because he dispelled the mists of superstition which beclouded the minds of the Athenians, first persuaded some private individuals, and afterward Tiridates, the king of the Armenians, as well as his nobles, to embrace and observe the Christian religion. He was therefore ordained the first bishop of Armenia, by Leontius, bishop of Cappadocia, and gradually diffused the principles of Christianity throughout that country.

In the European provinces of the Roman Empire there still remained a vast number of idolaters; and though the Christian bishops endeavored to convert them to Christ, the business went on but slowly. In Gaul, the great Martin, bishop of Tours, was not unsuccessful in this work; but travelling through the provinces of Gaul, he everywhere persuaded many to renounce their idols and embrace Christ, and he destroyed their temples and threw down their statues. He therefore merited the title "Apostle of the Gauls."

It is very evident that the victories of Constantine the Great, and both the fear of punishment and the desire of pleasing the Roman emperors, were cogent reasons, in the view of whole nations as well as of individuals, for embracing the Christian religion. Yet no person well informed in the history of this period will ascribe the extension of Christianity wholly to these causes. For it is manifest that the untiring zeal of the bishops and other holy men, the pure and devout lives which many of the Christians exhibited, the translations of the sacred volume, and the excellence of the Christian religion were as efficient motives with many persons as the arguments from worldly advantage and disadvantage were with some others.

Although the Christian Church within the Roman Empire was involved in no severe calamities from the times of Constantine the Great onward, except during the commotion of Licinius and the short reign of Julian, yet slight tempests sometimes beat upon them in certain places. Athanaric, for instance, a king of the Goths, fiercely assailed for a time that portion of the Gothic nation which had embraced Christianity. In the more remote provinces, also, the adherents to idolatry[Pg 298] often defended their hereditary superstitions with the sword, and murdered the Christians, who in propagating their religion were not always as gentle or as prudent as they ought to have been. Beyond the limits of the Roman Empire, Sapor II, the king of Persia, waged three bloody wars against the Christians in his dominions. The first was in the eighteenth year of his reign; the second was in the thirtieth year; and the third, which was the most cruel and destroyed an immense number of Christians, commenced in his thirty-first year, a.d. 330, and lasted forty years, or till a.d. 370. Yet religion was not the ostensible cause of this dreadful persecution, but a suspicion of treasonable practices among the Christians; for the Magi and the Jews persuaded the King to believe that all Christians were in the interests of the Roman Empire.

[Pg 299]



A.D. 325


Controversies in the Christian Church concerning the mystery of the Trinity began in the second century, prior to which the word trinity—a term not found in the Scriptures—had scarcely been used in Christian writings. It was prominently introduced by theologians of the second century, who employed new metaphysical methods in their attempts to explain the divine nature. The dispute turned upon the questions whether Christ was God or man or an intermediate being, whether or not he was created, and like inquiries. Arius, a deacon of Alexandria, early in the fourth century, held that Christ was a created being, though superior to all other created beings. The Son, he maintained, is of a nature similar to—not the same as—that of the Father, to whom the Son is subordinate. This heresy obtained such currency in the Church that, in 321, a provincial synod at Alexandria excommunicated Arius, who in his learned writings had set them forth since 318. Once started among the people, the controversy begun in the schools became very bitter, and in many of the churches partisans of the heretical view equalled in number those of the orthodox. Meanwhile Arius continued to publish his doctrines.

The emperor Constantine, having become the patron of Christianity, conceived that the controversy might be settled by an assembly of the whole Church, and in the year 325 he convoked the first council of Nicæa, which was also the first ecumenical or general council. At this council, before which Arius defended his views, over three hundred bishops were in attendance, and pronounced in favor of the orthodox doctrine—that of the equality of the Son with the Father—and condemned the Arians to exile and their books to be burned. This council also promulgated the Nicene Creed in its early form. The chief opponent of the Arians was Athanasius, the "Father of Orthodoxy," whose name was given to a modified creed later adopted into the Greek, Roman, and English services. The Arian heresy, however, continued to spread in the East, and had the strong support of Constantine and his son Constantius. The controversy was renewed again and again, and for a long time Arianism was an important factor in theological and political affairs. Some phases of its peculiar doctrine have reappeared in various teachings and sects of[Pg 300] modern times. But the orthodox doctrine affirmed at Nicæa has prevailed in the great branches of the Christian Church, and the acceptance of its fundamental principle—that of the Incarnation—in the post-apostolic age was destined to have an incalculable influence upon the development of individual and national life, civil as well as religious, throughout the world.


In the year 317 a storm arose in Egypt which spread its ravages over the whole Christian world. The ground of this controversy was the doctrine of three persons in the Godhead, which during the three preceding centuries had not been in all respects defined. The doctors explained this subject in different ways, and gave various representations of the difference between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, without offence being taken.

Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria—it is uncertain on what occasion—expressed himself very freely on this subject in a meeting of his presbyters, and maintained, among other things, that the Son possesses not only the same dignity as the Father, but also the same essence. But Arius, one of the presbyters, a man of an acute mind and fluent, at first denied the truth of Alexander's positions, on the ground that they were allied to the Sabellian errors, which were condemned by the Church; and then, going to the opposite extreme, he maintained that the Son is totally and essentially distinct from the Father; that he was only the first and noblest of those created beings whom God the Father formed out of nothing, and the instrument which the Father used in creating the material universe, and therefore that he was inferior to the Father both in nature and in dignity. No one of the ancients has left us a connected and systematic account of the religion professed by Arius and his associates.

The opinions of Arius were no sooner divulged than they found very many abettors, and among them men of distinguished talents and rank, both in Egypt and the neighboring provinces. Alexander, on the other hand, accused Arius of blasphemy before two councils assembled at Alexandria, and cast him out of the Church. He was not discouraged by this disgrace; but retiring to Palestine he wrote various letters to[Pg 301] men of distinction, in which he labored to demonstrate the truth of his doctrines, and with so much success that he drew over immense numbers to his side, and in particular Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, who was a man of vast influence. The emperor Constantine, who considered the discussion as relating to a matter of little importance and remote from the fundamentals of religion, at first addressed the disputants by letter, admonishing them to desist from contention. But when he found that nothing was effected by this measure, and that greater commotion was daily rising throughout the empire, he in the year 325 summoned that famous council of the whole Church which met at Nice in Bithynia, to put an end to this controversy. In this council, after various altercations and conflicts of the bishops, the doctrine of Arius was condemned, Christ was pronounced to be of the same essence with the Father, Arius was sent into exile in Illyricum, and his followers were compelled to assent to a creed or confession of faith composed by the council.

No part of church history, perhaps, has acquired more celebrity than this assembly of bishops at Nice to settle the affairs of the Church; and yet it is very singular that scarcely any part of ecclesiastical history has been investigated and explained more negligently. The ancient writers are not agreed as to the time and year, nor the place, nor the number of the judges, nor the president of this council, nor as to many other particulars. No written journal of the proceedings of this venerable tribunal was kept—at least none has reached us. How many and what canons or ecclesiastical laws were enacted is not agreed on by the Eastern and Western Christians. The latter tell us they were only twenty in number, but the orientals make them far more numerous. From the canons universally received, and from the other monuments of the council, it appears not only that Arius was condemned, but that other things were decreed, with a view to settle the affairs of the Church. In particular, the controversy respecting the time of celebrating Easter, which had long perplexed Christians, was terminated; the jurisdiction of the greater bishops was defined, and several other matters of a like nature were determined.[Pg 302]

But the passions of men were more efficient than either the decrees of the Nicene Council or the authority of the Emperor; for there were those who, though they did not fall in with the doctrine of Arius, yet were dissatisfied with some things in the decrees and the creed of the council, and the Arians left no means untried to free themselves from the evils inflicted on them by those decrees. And the issue was favorable to their wishes; for in a few years after the Nicene Council an Arian presbyter whom Constantia, the Emperor's sister, at her death had recommended to the care of her brother, succeeded in persuading Constantine the Great that Arius had been wrongfully condemned from personal enmity. Accordingly, in the year 330, the Emperor recalled Arius from exile, rescinded the decrees passed against his associates and friends, and permitted Eusebius of Nicomedia, the principal supporter of Arius, and his powerful faction, now thirsting for revenge, to persecute the defenders of the Nicene Council. They assailed no one more fiercely than Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria. When he could in no way be brought to restore Arius to his former honors and ecclesiastical standing, Athanasius was first deprived of his office, in a council held at Tyre, a.d. 335, and then banished to Gaul, while in the same year, by a numerous council held at Jerusalem, Arius and his friends were solemnly admitted to the communion of the Church. But by none of these proceedings could the Alexandrians be induced to receive Arius among their presbyters. Accordingly the Emperor called him to Constantinople, in the year 336, and ordered Alexander, the bishop of that city, to open the doors of his church to him. But before that could take place Arius died at Constantinople in a tragical manner;[49] and the Emperor himself closed life shortly after.

After the death of Constantine the Great, one of his sons, Constantius, the Emperor of the East, with his wife and his court, was very partial to the Arian cause, but Constantine[Pg 303] and Constans supported in the western parts, where they governed, the decisions of the Nicene Council. Hence the broils, the commotions, the plots, the injuries had neither measure nor bounds, and on both sides councils were assembled to oppose councils. Constans died in the year 350, and two years afterward a great part of the West, particularly Italy and Rome, came under the dominion of his brother Constantius. This revolution was most disastrous to the friends of the Nicene Council; for this Emperor, being devoted to the Arians, involved the others in numerous evils and calamities, and by threats and punishments compelled many of them to apostatize to that sect to which he was himself attached. The Nicene party made no hesitation to return the same treatment as soon as time, place, and opportunity were afforded them, and the history of Christianity under Constantius presents the picture of a most stormy period, and of a war among brethren which was carried on without religion or justice or humanity.

On the death of Constantius, in the year 362, the prosperous days of the Arians were at an end. Julian had no partiality for either, and therefore patronized neither the Arians nor the orthodox. Jovian espoused the orthodox sentiments, and therefore all the West, with no small part of the East, rejecting Arian views, reverted to the doctrines of the Nicene Council. But the scene was changed under the two brothers Valentinian and Valens, who were advanced to the government of the Empire in the year 364. Valentinian adhered to the decisions at Nice, and therefore in the West the Arian sect, a few churches excepted, was wholly extirpated. Valens, on the contrary, took sides with the Arians, and hence in the eastern provinces many calamities befell the orthodox. But when this Emperor had fallen in a war with the Goths, a.d. 378, Gratian—who succeeded Valentinian in the West, in the year 376, and became master of the whole empire in 378—restored peace to the orthodox. After him Theodosius the Great, by depriving the Arians of all their churches and enacting severe laws against them, caused the decisions of the Nicene Council to triumph everywhere, and none could any longer publicly profess Arian doctrines except among the barbarous nations, the Goths, the Vandals, and the Burgundians. That there were great faults[Pg 304] on both sides in this long and violent contest no candid person can deny, but which party was guilty of the greatest wrong it is difficult to say.

The Arians would have done much more harm to the Church if they had not become divided among themselves, after the Nicene Council, and split into sects which could not endure each other. Unhappily the Arian contests produced, as was very natural, some new sects. Some persons, while eager to avoid and to confute the opinions of Arius, fell into opinions equally dangerous. Others, after treading in the footsteps of Arius, ventured on far beyond him and became still greater errorists. The human mind, weak and subject to the control of the senses and the imagination, seldom exerts all its energies to comprehend divine subjects in such a manner as to be duly guarded against extremes. In the former class I would reckon Apollinaris the Younger, bishop of Laodicea, though otherwise a man of great merit, and one who in various ways rendered important service to the Church. He manfully asserted the divinity of Christ against the Arians, but by philosophizing too freely and too eagerly he almost set aside the human nature of the Saviour. This great man was led astray, not merely by the ardor of debate, but likewise by his immoderate attachment to the Platonic doctrine concerning a twofold soul, from which if the divines of the age had been free they would have formed more wise and more correct judgments on many points. The doctrine of Apollinaris met the approbation of many in nearly all the eastern provinces, and, being explained in different ways, it became a source of new sects. But as it was assailed by the laws of the emperors, the decrees of councils, and the writings of learned men, it gradually sunk under these united assaults.

At the head of those whom the contests with Arius led into still greater errors may undoubtedly be placed Photinus, bishop of Sirmium, who in the year 343 advanced opinions concerning God equally remote from those of the orthodox and those of the Arians. The temerity of the man was chastened not only by the orthodox, in their councils of Antioch in 345, of Milan in 347, and of Sirmium, but also by the Arians in a council held at Sirmium in 351. He was deprived of his office, and[Pg 305] died in exile in the year 372. After him Macedonius, bishop of Constantinople, a distinguished semi-Arian teacher, being deprived of his office by the Council of Constantinople, in the year 360, in his exile founded the sect of the Pneumatomachi. He openly professed that the Holy Spirit is a divine energy diffused throughout the universe, and not a person distinct from the Father and the Son. This doctrine was embraced by many in the Asiatic provinces; but the Council of Constantinople, assembled by Theodosius the Great, in the year 381, and which is commonly considered as the second ecumenical council, early dissipated by its authority this young and immature sect. One hundred and fifty bishops present in this council defined fully and perfectly the doctrine of three persons and one God, as it is still professed by the great body of Christians, which the Nicene Council had only in part performed. They also anathematized all the heresies then known.

In the fifth century the Arians, oppressed and persecuted by the imperial edicts, took refuge among those barbarous nations who gradually overturned the Roman Empire in the West; and found among the Goths, Heruli, Suevi, Vandals, and Burgundians a fixed residence and a quiet retreat. Being now safe, they treated the orthodox with the same violence which the orthodox had employed against them and other heretics, and had no hesitation about persecuting the adherents to the Nicene doctrines in a variety of ways. The Vandals, who had established their kingdom in Africa, surpassed all the rest in cruelty and injustice. At first Genseric, their king, and then Huneric, his son, demolished the temples of such Christians as maintained the divinity of the Saviour, sent their bishops into exile, mutilated many of the more firm and decided, and tortured them in various ways; and they expressly stated that they were authorized to do so by the example of the emperors, who had enacted similar laws against the Donatists in Africa, the Arians, and others who dissented from them in religion.

At the beginning of the sixth century the Arians were triumphant in some parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe. Not a few of the Asiatic bishops favored them. The Vandals in[Pg 306] Africa, the Goths in Italy, many of the Gauls, the Suevi, the Burgundians, and the Spaniards openly espoused their interests. The Greeks indeed, who approved of the Nicene Council, oppressed and also punished them wherever they were able; but the Arians returned the like treatment, especially in Africa and Italy. Yet this prosperity of the Arians wholly terminated when, under the auspices of Justinian, the Vandals were driven from Africa and the Goths from Italy. For the other Arian kings, Sigismund, king of the Burgundians, Theodimir, king of the Suevi in Lusitania, and Receared, king of Spain, without violence and war, suffered themselves to be led to a renunciation of the Arian doctrine, and to efforts for its extirpation among their subjects by means of legal enactments and councils. Whether reason and arguments or hope and fear had the greater influence in the conversion of these kings, it is difficult to say; but it is certain that the Arian sect was from this time dispersed and could never after recover any strength.


The delegates to the council assembled in the first instance in one of the chief buildings of Nicæa, apparently for the purpose of a thanksgiving and a religious reunion. Whether it was an actual church may be questioned. Christians, no doubt, there had been in Bithynia for some generations. Already in the second century Pliny had found them in such numbers that the temples were deserted and the sacrifices neglected. But it would seem that on this occasion a secular building was fitted up as a temporary house of prayer. At least the traditional account of the place where their concluding prayers were held exactly agrees with Strabo's account of the ancient gymnasium of Nicæa.

It was a large building, shaped like a basilica, with an apsis at one end, planted in the centre of the town, and thus commanding down each of the four streets a view of the four gates, and therefore called Mesomphalos, the "Navel" of the city. Whether, however, this edifice actually was a church or not, its use as such on this occasion served as a precedent for most of the later councils. From the time of the Council of Chalcedon,[Pg 307] they have usually been held within the walls of churches. But for this the first council, the church, so far as it was a church, was only used as the beginning and the end. After these thanksgivings were over, the members of the assembly must have been collected according to the divisions which shall now be described.

The group which, above the rest, attracts our attention, is the deputation from the Church of Egypt. Shrill above all other voices, vehement above all other disputants, "brandishing their arguments," as it was described by one who knew them well, "like spears, against those who sate under the same roof and ate off the same table as themselves," were the combatants from Alexandria, who had brought to its present pass the question which the council was called to decide. Foremost in the group in dignity, though not in importance or in energy, was the aged Alexander, whose imprudent sermon had provoked the quarrel, and whose subsequent vacillation had encouraged it. He was the bishop, not indeed of the first, but of the most learned, see of Christendom. He was known by a title which he alone officially bore in that assembly. He was "the Pope." "The Pope of Rome" was a phrase which had not yet emerged in history. But "Pope of Alexandria" was a well-known dignity. Papa, that strange and universal mixture of familiar endearment and of reverential awe, extended in a general sense to all Greek presbyters and all Latin bishops, was the special address which, long before the name of patriarch or of archbishop, was given to the head of the Alexandrian Church.

In the Patriarchal Treasury at Moscow is a very ancient scarf or omophorion, said to have been given by the bishop of Nicæa in the seventeenth century to the czar Alexis, and to have been left to the Church of Nicæa by Alexander of Alexandria. It is white, and is rudely worked with a representation of the Ascension; possibly an allusion to the first Sunday of their meeting. This relic, true or false, is the nearest approach we can now make to the bodily presence of the old theologian. The shadow of death is already upon him; in a few months he will be beyond the reach of controversy.

But close beside the pope Alexander is a small insignificant[Pg 308] young man, of hardly twenty-five years of age, of lively manners and speech, and of bright, serene countenance. Though he is but the deacon, the chief deacon, or archdeacon, of Alexander, he has closely riveted the attention of the assembly by the vehemence of his arguments. He is already taking the words out of the bishop's mouth, and briefly acting in reality the part he had before, as a child, acted in name, and that in a few months he will be called to act both in name and in reality. In some of the conventional pictures of the council his humble rank as a deacon does not allow of his appearance. But his activity and prominence behind the scenes made enemies for him there, who will never leave him through life. Anyone who had read his passionate invectives afterward may form some notion of what he was when in the thick of his youthful battles. That small, insignificant deacon is the great Athanasius.

Next after the pope and deacon of Alexandria we must turn to one of its most important presbyters—the parish priest of its principal church, which bore the name of Baucalis, and marked the first beginnings of what we should call a parochial system. In appearance he is the very opposite of Athanasius. He is sixty years of age, very tall and thin, and apparently unable to support his stature; he has an odd way of contorting and twisting himself, which his enemies compare to the wrigglings of a snake. He would be handsome but for the emaciation and deadly pallor of his face, and a downcast look, imparted by a weakness of eyesight. At times his veins throb and swell and his limbs tremble, as if suffering from some violent internal complaint—the same, perhaps, that will terminate one day in his sudden and frightful death. There is a wild look about him, which at first sight is startling. His dress and demeanor are those of a rigid ascetic. He wears a long coat with short sleeves, and a scarf of only half size, such as was the mark of an austere life; and his hair hangs in a tangled mass over his head. He is usually silent, but at times breaks out into fierce excitement, such as will give the impression of madness. Yet with all this there are a sweetness in his voice and a winning, earnest manner which fascinates those who come across him. Among the religious ladies of Alexandria[Pg 309] he is said to have had from the first a following of not less than seven hundred. This strange, captivating, moon-struck giant is the heretic Arius, or, as his adversaries called him, the madman of Ares or Mars. Close beside him was a group of his countrymen, of whom we know little, except their fidelity to him through good report and evil: Saras, like himself a presbyter, from the Libyan province; Euzoius, a deacon of Egypt; Achillas, a reader; Theonas, bishop of Marmarica in the Cyrenaica; and Secundus, bishop of Ptolemais in the Delta.

These were the most remarkable deputies from the Church of Alexandria. But from the interior of Egypt came characters of quite another stamp; not Greeks, nor Grecized Egyptians, but genuine Copts, speaking the Greek language not at all, or with great difficulty; living half or the whole of their lives in the desert; their very names taken from the heathen gods of the times of the ancient Pharaohs. One was Potammon, bishop of Heracleopolis, far up the Nile; the other, Paphnutius, bishop of the Upper Thebaid. Both are famous for the austerity of their lives. Potammon—that is, "dedicated to Ammon"—had himself visited the hermit Antony; Paphnutius—that is, "dedicated to his God"—had been brought up in a hermitage. Both, too, had suffered in the persecutions. Each presented the frightful spectacle of the right eye dug out with iron. Paphnutius, besides, came limping on one leg, his left having been hamstrung.

Next in importance must be reckoned the bishop of Syria and of the interior of Asia; or, as they are sometimes called in the later councils, the Eastern bishops, as distinguished from the Church of Egypt. Then, as afterward, there was a rivalry between those branches of oriental Christendom; each, from long neighborhood, knowing each, yet each tending in an opposite direction till, after the Council of Chalcedon, a community of heresy drew them together again. Here, as in Egypt, we find two classes of representatives—scholars from the more civilized cities of Syria; wild ascetics from the remoter East. The first in dignity was the orthodox Eustathius, who either was, or was on the point of being made, bishop of the capital of Syria, the metropolis of the Eastern Church, Antioch, then called "the city of God." He had suffered in heathen persecutions,[Pg 310] and was destined to suffer in Christian persecutions also. But he was chiefly known for his learning and eloquence, which was distinguished by an antique simplicity of style. One work alone has come down to us on the "Witch of Endor."

Next in rank and far more illustrious was his chief suffragan, the metropolitan of Palestine, the bishop of Cæsarea, Eusebius. We honor him as the father of ecclesiastical history, as the chief depositary of the traditions which connect the fourth with the first century. But in the bishops of Nicæa his presence awakened feelings of a very different kind. He alone of the eastern prelates could tell what was in the mind of the Emperor; he was the clerk of the imperial closet; he was the interpreter, the chaplain, the confessor of Constantine. And yet he was on the wrong side. Two especially, we may be sure, of the Egyptian Church, were on the watch for any slip that he might make. Athanasius—whatever may have been the opinions of later times respecting the doctrines of Eusebius—was convinced that he was at heart an Arian. Potammon of the one eye had known him formerly in the days of persecution, and was ready with that most fatal taunt, which, on a later occasion, he threw out against him, that, while he had thus suffered for the cause of Christ, Eusebius had escaped by sacrificing to an idol.

If Eusebius was suspected of Arianism, he was supported by most of his suffragan bishops in Palestine, of whom Paulinus of Tyre, and Patrophilus of Bethshan (Scythopolis) were the most remarkable. One, however, a champion of orthodoxy, was distinguished, not in himself, but for the see which he occupied—once the highest in Christendom, in a few years about to claim something of its former grandeur, but at the time of the council known only as a second-rate Syro-Roman city—Macarius, bishop of Ælia Capitolina, that is, "Jerusalem."

From Neocæsarea, a border fortress on the Euphrates, came its confessor bishop, Paul, who, like Paphnutius and Potammon, had suffered in the persecutions, but more recently under Licinius. His hands were paralyzed by the scorching of the muscles of all the fingers with red-hot iron. Along with him were the orthodox representatives of four famous churches,[Pg 311] who, according to the Armenian tradition, travelled in company. Their leader was the marvel, "the Moses" as he was termed, of Mesopotamia, James, or Jacob, bishop of Nisibis. He had lived for years as a hermit on the mountains—in the forests during the summer, in caverns during the winter—browsing on roots and leaves like a wild beast, and like a wild beast clothed in a rough goat-hair cloak. This dress and manner of life, even after he became bishop, he never laid aside; and the mysterious awe which his presence inspired was increased by the stories of miraculous powers which, we are told, he exercised in a manner as humane and playful as it was grotesque; as when he turned the washerwoman's hair white, detected the impostor who pretended to be dead, and raised an army of gnats against the Persians. His fame as a theologian rests on disputed writings.

The second was Ait-allaha—"the brought of God," like the Greek "Theophorus"—who had just occupied the see of Edessa, and finished the building of the cemetery of his cathedral.

The third was Aristaces, said to be the cousin of Jacob of Bisibis and son of Gregory the Illuminator, founder of the Armenian Church. He represented both his father and the bishop and Tiridates, the king of Armenia; the bishop and King having received a special invitation from Constantine, and sent their written professions of faith by the hands of Aristaces.

The fourth came from beyond the frontier, the sole representative of the more distant East, "John the Persian," who added to his name the more sounding title—here appearing for the first time, but revived in our own days as the designation of our own bishops of Calcutta—"Metropolitan of India."

A curious tradition related that this band, including eleven other names from the remote East, were the only members of the Nicene Council who had not sustained some bodily mutilation or injury.

As this little band advanced westward, they encountered a remarkable personage, who stands at the head of the next group which we meet—the prelates of Asia Minor and Greece. This was Leontius of Cæsarea in Cappadocia. From his hands,[Pg 312] it was said, Gregory of Armenia had received ordination, and from his successors in the see of Cæsarea had desired that every succeeding bishop of Armenia should receive ordination likewise. For this reason, it may be, Aristaces and his company sought them out. They found Leontius already on his journey, and they overtook him at a critical moment. He was on the point of baptizing another Gregory, father of a much more celebrated Gregory, the future bishop of Nazianzen. A light, it was believed, shone from the water, which was only discerned by the sacred travellers.

Leontius was claimed by the Arians, but still more decidedly by the orthodox. Others, of the same side, are usually named as from the same region, among them Hypatius of Gangra, whose end we shall witness at the close of these events, and Hermogenes the deacon, afterward bishop of Cæsarea, who acted as secretary of the council.

Eusebius of Nicomedia, afterward of Constantinople, Theognis of Nicæa, Maris of Chalcedon, and Menophantus of Ephesus, were among the most resolute defenders of Arius. It is curious to reflect that they represent the four sees of the four orthodox councils of the Church. The three last named soon vanish away from history. But Eusebius of Nicomedia, friend, namesake, perhaps even brother of the bishop of Cæsarea, was a personage of high importance both then and afterward. As Athanasius was called "the Great" by the orthodox, so was Eusebius by the Arians. Even miracles were ascribed to him. Originally bishop of Beyruth (Berytus), he had been translated to the see of Nicomedia, then the capital of the Eastern Empire. He had been a favorite of the Emperor's rival Licinius, and had thus become intimate with Constantia, the Emperor's sister, the wife, now the widow of Licinius. Through her and through his own distant relationship with the imperial family he kept a hold on the court which he never lost, even to the moment when he stood by the dying bed of the Emperor, years afterward, and received him into the Church. We must not be too hard on the Christianity of Eusebius, if we wish to vindicate the baptism of Constantine.

Not far from the great prelate of the capital of the East would be the representative of what was now a small Greek[Pg 313] town, but in five years from that time would supersede altogether the glories of Nicomedia. Metrophanes, bishop of Byzantium, was detained by old age and sickness, but Alexander, his presbyter, himself seventy years of age, was there with a little secretary of the name of Paul, not more than twelve years old, one of the readers and collectors of the Byzantine Church. Alexander had already corresponded with his namesake on the Arian controversy, and was apparently attached firmly to the orthodox side.

Besides their more regular champions the orthodox party of Greece and Asia Minor had a few very eccentric allies. One was Acesius, the Novatian, "the Puritan," summoned by Constantine from Byzantium with Alexander, from the deep respect entertained by the Emperor for his ascetic character. He was attended by a boy, Auxanon, who lived to a great age afterward as a presbyter in the same sect. This child was then living with a hermit, Eutychianus, on the heights of the neighboring mountain of the Bithynian Olympus, and he descended from these solitudes to attend upon Acesius. From him we have obtained some of the most curious details of the council.

Marcellus, Bishop of Ancyra, was among the bishops, the fiercest opponent of Arius, and, when the active deacon of Alexandria was not present, seems to have borne the brunt of the arguments. Yet, if we may judge from his subsequent history, Athanasius could never have been quite at ease in leaving the cause in his hands. He was one of those awkward theologians who never could attack Arianism without falling into Sabellianism; and in later life he was twice deposed from his see for heresy, once excommunicated by Athanasius himself; and in the present form of the Nicene Creed one clause—that which asserts that "the kingdom of Christ shall have no end"—is said to have been expressly aimed at his exaggerated language.

And now come two, who in the common pictures of the council always appear together, of whom the one probably left the deepest impression on his contemporaries; and the other, if he were present at all, on the subsequent traditions of the council. From the island of Cyprus there arrived the simple shepherd Spyridion, a shepherd both before and after his elevation[Pg 314] to the episcopate. Strange stories were told by his fellow-islanders to the historian Socrates of the thieves who were miraculously caught in attempting to steal his sheep, and of Spyridion's good-humored reply when he found them in the morning, and gave them a ram, that they might not have sat up all night for nothing.

Another tale, exactly similar to the fantastic Mussulman legends which hand about stories of Jerusalem, told how he had gained an answer from his dead daughter Irene to tell where a certain deposit was hidden. Two less marvellous, but more instructive, stories bring out the simplicity of his character. He rebuked a celebrated preacher at Cyprus for altering, in a quotation from the gospels, the homely word for "bed" into "couch." "What! are you better than He who said 'bed,' that you are ashamed to use his words?" On occasion of a way-worn traveller coming to him in Lent, finding no other food in the house, he presented him with salted pork; and when the stranger declined, saying that he could not as a Christian break his fast: "So much the less reason," he said, "have you for scruple; to the pure all things are pure."

A characteristic legend attaches to the account of his journey to the council. It was his usual practice to travel on foot. But on this occasion the length of the journey, as well as the dignity of his office, induced him to ride, in company with his deacon, on two mules, a white and a chestnut. One night at his arrival at a caravansary where a cavalcade of orthodox bishops were already assembled, the mules were turned out to pasture, while he retired to his devotions. The bishops had conceived an alarm lest the cause of orthodoxy should suffer in the council by the ignorance or awkwardness of the Shepherd of Cyprus when opposed to the subtleties of the Alexandrian heretic. Accordingly, taking advantage of his encounter, they determined to throw a decisive impediment in his way. They cut off the heads of his two mules, and then, as is the custom in oriental travelling, started on their journey before sunrise. Spyridion also rose, but was met by his terrified deacon announcing the unexpected disaster. On arriving at the spot the saint bade the deacon attach the heads to the dead bodies. He did so, and at a sign from the bishop the two mules with their[Pg 315] restored heads shook themselves as if from a deep sleep, and started to their feet. Spyridion and the deacon mounted and soon overtook the travellers. As the day broke the prelates and the deacon were alike astonished at seeing that he, performing the annexation in the dark and in haste, had fixed the heads on the wrong shoulders, so that the white mule had now a chestnut head, and the chestnut mule had the head of its white companion. Thus the miracle was doubly attested, the bishops doubly discomfited, and the simplicity of Spyridion doubly exemplified.

Many more stories might be told of him, but, to use the words of an ancient writer who has related some of them, "from the claws you can make out the lion." Of all the Nicene fathers, it may yet be said that in a certain curious sense he is the only one who has survived the decay of time. After resting for many years in his native Cyprus his body was transferred to Constantinople, where it remained till a short time before the fall of the empire. It was thence conveyed to Corfu, where it is still preserved. Hence by a strange resuscitation of fame he has become the patron saint, one might almost say the divinity, of the Ionian Islands. Twice a year in solemn procession he is carried round the streets of Corfu. Hundreds of Corfutes bear his name, now abridged into the familiar diminutive of "Spiro." The superstitious veneration entertained for the old saint is a constant source of quarrel between the English residents and the native Ionians. But the historian may be pardoned for gazing with a momentary interest on the dead hands, now black and withered, that subscribed the Creed of Nicæa.

Still more famous—and still more apocryphal, at least in his attendance at Nicæa—is Nicolas, bishop of Myra. Not mentioned by a single ancient historian, he yet figures in the traditional pictures of the council as the foremost figure of all. Type as he is of universal benevolence to sailors, to thieves, to the victims of thieves, to children—known by his broad red face and flowing white hair—the traditions of the East always represent him as standing in the midst of the assembly, and suddenly roused by righteous indignation to assail the heretic Arius with a tremendous box on the ear.[Pg 316]

One more group of deputies closes the arrivals. The Nicene Council was a council of the Eastern Church, and Eastern seemingly were at least three hundred and ten of the three hundred and eighteen bishops. But the West was not entirely unrepresented. Nicasius from France, Marcus from Calabria, Capito from Sicily, Eustorgius from Milan—where a venerable church is still dedicated to his memory—Domnus of Stridon in Pannonia were the less conspicuous deputies of the western provinces.

But there were five men whose presence must have been full of interest to their Eastern brethren. Corresponding to John the Persian from the Extreme East was Theophilus the Goth from the extreme North. His light complexion doubtless made a marked contrast with the tawny hue and dark hair of almost all the rest. They rejoiced to think that they had a genuine Scythian among them. From all future generations of his Teutonic countrymen he may claim attention as the predecessor and teacher of Ulphilas, the great missionary of the Gothic nation.

Out of the province of Northern Africa, the earliest cradle of the Latin Church, came Cæcilian, bishop of Carthage. A few years ago he had himself been convened before the two Western councils of the Lateran and of Arles, and had there been acquitted of the charges brought against him by the Donatists.

If any of the distant orientals had hoped to catch a sight of the bishop of the "Imperial City," they were doomed to disappointment. Doubtless had he been there his position as prelate of the capital would have been, if not first, at least among the first. But Sylvester was now far advanced in years; and in his place came the two presbyters, who, according to the arrangement laid down by the Emperor, would have accompanied him had he been able to make the journey. In this simple deputation later writers have seen—and perhaps by a gradual process the connection might be traced—the first germ of legati a latere. But it must have been a very far-seeing eye which in Victor and Vincentius, the two unknown elders, representing their sick old bishop, could have detected the predecessors of Pandulf or of Wolsey. With them, however, was a[Pg 317] man who, though now long forgotten, was then an object of deeper interest to Christendom than any bishop of Rome could at that time have been. It was the world-renowned Spaniard, as he is called by Eusebius; the magician from Spain, as he is called by Zosimus; Hosius, bishop of Cordova. He was the representative of the westernmost of European churches; but, as Eusebius of Cæsarea was the chief counsellor of the Emperor in the Greek Church, so was Hosius in the Latin, as shown in the darkest and most mysterious crisis of Constantine's life.

It was probably by degrees that these different arrivals took place, and the lapse of two or three weeks must be supposed for the preparatory arrangements before the council was formally opened. This interval was occupied by eager discussions on the questions likely to be debated. The first assemblage had been, as we have seen, within the walls of a public building. But the other preliminary meetings were held, as was natural, in the streets or colonnades in the open air. The novelty of the occasion had collected many strangers to the spot. Laymen, philosophers, heathen as well as Christians, might be seen joining in the arguments on either side, orthodox as well as heretical. There were also discussions among the orthodox themselves as to the principle on which the debates should be conducted. The enumeration of the characters just given shows that there were two very different elements in the assembly, such indeed as will always constitute the main difficulty in making any general statements of theology which shall be satisfactory at once to the few and to the many. A large number, perhaps the majority, consisted of rough, simple, almost illiterate men, like Spyridion the shepherd, Potammon the hermit, Acesius the puritan, who held their faith earnestly and sincerely, but without conscious knowledge of the grounds on which they maintained it, incapable of arguing themselves, or of entering into the arguments of their opponents. These men, when suddenly brought into collision with the acutest and most learned disputants of the age, naturally took up the position that the safest course was to hold by what had been handed down, without any further inquiry or explanation.

A story somewhat variously told is related of an encounter[Pg 318] of one of these simple characters with the more philosophical combatants, which, in whatever way it be taken, well illustrates the mixed character of the council, and the choice of the courses open before it. As Socrates describes the incident, the disputes were running so high, from the mere pleasure of argument, that there seemed likely to be no end to the controversy, when suddenly a simple-minded layman, who by his sightless eye or limping leg bore witness of his zeal for the Christian faith, stepped among them and abruptly said, "Christ and the apostles left us not a system of logic nor a vain deceit, but a naked truth to be guided by faith and good works." "There has," says Bishop Kaye in recording the story, "been hardly any age of the Church in which its members have not required to be reminded of this lesson." On the present occasion the bystanders, at least for the moment, were struck by its happy application. The disputants, after hearing this plain word of truth, took their differences more good-humoredly and the hubbub of controversy subsided.

The tradition grew in later times into the form which it bears in all the pictures of the council, and which is commemorated in the services of the Greek Church. Aware of his incapacity of argument he took a brick and said: "You deny that three can be one. Look at this: it is one, and yet it is composed of the three elements of fire, earth, and water." As he spoke the brick resolved itself into its component parts; the fire flew upward, the clay remained in his hand, and the water fell to the ground. The philosopher, or, according to some accounts, Arius himself was so confounded as to declare himself converted on the spot.

These tales represent probably the feeling of a large portion of the council—the sound, unprofessional, untheological, lay element which lay at the basis of all their weakness and their strength. The historian Socrates is very anxious to prove that the assembly was not entirely composed of men of this kind, and he points triumphantly to the presence of such men as Eusebius of Cæsarea. No proof was necessary. The subsequent history of the council itself is a sufficient indication that, however small a minority might be the dialecticians and theologians, yet they constitute the life and movement of the[Pg 319] whole. Socrates dwells with evident pleasure on the circumstance that the ultimate decisions were only made after long inquiry, and that everything was stirred to the bottom.

We may wish with Bishop Jeremy Taylor and Bishop Kaye that it had been otherwise. But there is a point of view in which we may fully sympathize with the course that was taken. All the elements which go to make up the interest of theology were involved: love of free inquiry, desire of precision in philosophical statements, research into Christian antiquity, comparison of the texts of Scripture one with another. Traditional and episcopal authority was regarded as insufficient for the establishment of the faith. The well-known clause of the Twenty-first Article does but express the principle of the Nicene Fathers themselves: "Things ordained by them as necessary for salvation have neither strength nor authority unless it may be declared that they are taken out of Holy Scripture." The battle was fought and won by quotations, not from tradition, but from the Old and New Testaments. The overruling sentiment was that even ancient opinions were not to be received without sifting and inquiry. The chief combatant and champion of the faith was not the bishop of Antioch or of Rome, nor the pope of Alexandria, but the deacon Athanasius. The eager discussions of Nicæa present the first grand precedent for the duty of private judgment, and the free, unrestrained exercise of biblical and historical criticism.


[49] Some of the old writers declared that Arius died by the falling out of his bowels, as if by a miracle. The matter became a subject of much controversy. Mosheim thinks it most probable that Arius was poisoned by his enemies. Most recorders of the present day are content to say simply that "he died suddenly."

[Pg 320]


A.D. 330


On the eastern part of the site of Constantinople stood the ancient Greek city of Byzantium, said to have been founded in the seventh century b.c. From its situation on the Bosporus it enjoyed great advantages as a trading centre, and was especially noted for its control of the corn supply. There also were fisheries from which vast wealth was derived. After the battle of Platæa (b.c. 479), which put an end to the Persian invasion of Greece, Byzantium was recolonized. In the later Grecian wars it was many times taken, being besieged in the year b.c. 339 by Philip of Macedon and relieved by Phocion. Soon after this it formed an alliance with Alexander the Great; but the city was thenceforth continually harassed by enemies, and never regained its former prosperity. About the year b.c. 277 it was menaced by the Gauls, to whom the Byzantines were forced to pay tribute. When those invaders had been driven back by the Thracian tribes, these in turn exacted from Byzantium like payments, and to increase its revenues the city taxed all vessels entering the Euxine. This led, b.c. 220, to a war with Rhodes, instigated by aggrieved merchants in different parts of the world, the result of which was that the Byzantines levied no more tribute on ships.

By treaty, b.c. 148, Byzantium entered into relations with Rome, then engaged in eastern wars, and from that time the Byzantines sought Roman favor, and long maintained an alliance with the empire. After this, little is told of Byzantium until the war of the emperor Septimius Severus with his great rival, Niger, governor of Syria. Byzantium adhered to the cause of Niger. Confident in their future if he should be victorious, the Byzantines indulged dreams of becoming the head of an eastern empire. Their city was strongly fortified, they had a powerful fleet, and for three years they held out against the Roman besiegers, then, after untold sufferings and slaughter, yielded under the distress of famine. "At last they were reduced to chewing leather hides soaked in water, and finally to the horrible extremity in which the weak become literally the prey of the strong." The Romans destroyed the magnificent city walls and deprived Byzantium of municipal and political liberties.

The fall of Byzantium was accomplished in a.d. 194-196, and when next its site became the scene of historic events a wholly new order of things had been inaugurated in the world. After his successful war with[Pg 321] his colleague Licinius, sole ruler of the East, Constantine had him put to death in a.d. 325. Constantine then became sole augustus, and in 330 he transferred the capital of the empire from Rome to Byzantium, which was henceforth called Constantinople.

The unfortunate Licinius was the last rival who opposed the greatness, and the last captive who adorned the triumph, of Constantine. After a tranquil and prosperous reign, the conqueror bequeathed to his family the inheritance of the Roman Empire; a new capital, a new policy, and a new religion; and the innovations which he established have been embraced and consecrated by succeeding generations.

After the defeat and abdication of Licinius, his victorious rival proceeded to lay the foundations of a city destined to reign in future times, the mistress of the East, and to survive the empire and religion of Constantine. The motives, whether of pride or of policy, which first induced Diocletian to withdraw himself from the ancient seat of government, had acquired additional weight by the example of his successors and the habits of forty years. Rome was insensibly confounded with the dependent kingdoms which had once acknowledged her supremacy; and the country of the Cæsars was viewed with cold indifference by a martial prince, born in the neighborhood of the Danube, educated in the courts and armies of Asia, and invested with the purple by the legions of Britain. The Italians, who had received Constantine as their deliverer, submissively obeyed the edicts which he sometimes condescended to address to the senate and people of Rome; but they were seldom honored with the presence of their new sovereign.

During the vigor of his age, Constantine, according to the various exigencies of peace and war, moved with slow dignity, or with active diligence, along the frontiers of his extensive dominions, and was always prepared to take the field either against a foreign or a domestic enemy. But as he gradually reached the summit of prosperity and the decline of life, he began to meditate the design of fixing in a more permanent station the strength as well as majesty of the throne. In the choice of an advantageous situation, he preferred the confines of Europe and Asia; to curb with a powerful arm the barbarians who dwelt between the Danube and the Tanais; to watch[Pg 322] with an eye of jealousy the conduct of the Persian monarch, who indignantly supported the yoke of an ignominious treaty. With these views, Diocletian had selected and embellished the residence of Nicomedia: but the memory of Diocletian was justly abhorred by the protector of the Church; and Constantine was not insensible to the ambition of founding a city which might perpetuate the glory of his own name. During the late operations of the war against Licinius, he had sufficient opportunity to contemplate, both as a soldier and as a statesman, the incomparable position of Byzantium, and to observe how strongly it was guarded by nature against a hostile attack, while it was accessible on every side to the benefits of commercial intercourse.

Many ages before Constantine, one of the most judicious historians of antiquity had described the advantages of a situation, from whence a feeble colony of Greeks derived the command of the sea and the honors of a flourishing and independent republic.[50]

The harbor of Constantinople, which may be considered as an arm of the Bosporus, obtained, in a very remote period, the denomination of the "Golden Horn." The curve which it describes might be compared to the horn of a stag, or as it should seem, with more propriety, to that of an ox. The epithet of golden was expressive of the riches which every wind wafted from the most distant countries into the secure and capacious port of Constantinople. The river Lycus, formed by the conflux of two little streams, pours into the harbor a perpetual supply of fresh water, which serves to cleanse the bottom and to invite the periodical shoals of fish to seek their retreat in that convenient recess. As the vicissitudes of tides are scarcely felt in those seas, the constant depth of the harbor allows goods to be landed on the quays without the assistance of boats; and it has been observed that in many places the largest vessels may rest their prows against the houses, while their sterns are floating in the water. From the mouth of the Lycus[Pg 323] to that of the harbor, this arm of the Bosporus is more than seven miles in length. The entrance is about five hundred yards broad, and a strong chain could be occasionally thrown across it, to guard the port and city from the attack of a hostile navy.

The geographers who, with the most skilful accuracy, have surveyed the form and extent of the Hellespont, assign about sixty miles for the winding course, and about three miles for the ordinary breadth, of those celebrated straits. But the narrowest part of the channel is found to the northward of the old Turkish castles between the cities of Sestus and Abydus. It was here that the adventurous Leander braved the passage of the flood for the possession of his mistress.[51] It was here likewise, in a place where the distance between the opposite banks cannot exceed five hundred paces, that Xerxes imposed a stupendous bridge of boats, for the purpose of transporting into Europe a hundred and seventy myriads of barbarians. A sea contracted within such narrow limits may seem but ill to deserve the singular epithet of broad, which Homer, as well as Orpheus, has frequently bestowed on the Hellespont. But our ideas of greatness are of a relative nature: the traveller, and especially the poet, who sailed along the Hellespont, who pursued the windings of the stream, and contemplated the rural scenery, which appeared on every side to terminate the prospect, insensibly lost the remembrance of the sea: and his fancy painted those celebrated straits, with all the attributes of a mighty river flowing with a swift current, in the midst of a woody and inland country, and at length, through a wide mouth, discharging itself into the Ægean or Archipelago.

Ancient Troy, seated on an eminence at the foot of Mount Ida, overlooked the mouth of the Hellespont, which scarcely received an accession of waters from the tribute of those immortal rivulets, the Simois and Scamander. The Grecian camp had stretched twelve miles along the shore from the Sigæan to the Rhætean promontory; and the flanks of the army were guarded by the bravest chiefs who fought under the banners of Agamemnon.

[Pg 324]

The first of those promontories was occupied by Achilles with his invincible myrmidons, and the dauntless Ajax pitched his tents on the other. After Ajax had fallen a sacrifice to his disappointed pride and to the ingratitude of the Greeks, his sepulchre was erected on the ground where he had defended the navy against the rage of Jove and of Hector; and the citizens of the rising town of Rhæteum celebrated his memory with divine honors. Before Constantine gave a just preference to the situation of Byzantium, he had conceived the design of erecting the seat of empire on this celebrated spot, from whence the Romans derived their fabulous origin. The extensive plain which lies below ancient Troy, toward the Rhætean promontory and the tomb of Ajax, was first chosen for his new capital; and though the undertaking was soon relinquished, the stately remains of unfinished walls and towers attracted the notice of all who sailed through the straits of the Hellespont.

We are at present qualified to view the advantageous position of Constantinople; which appears to have been formed by nature for the centre and capital of a great monarchy. Situated in the forty-first degree of latitude, the imperial city commanded, from her seven hills, the opposite shores of Europe and Asia; the climate was healthy and temperate, the soil fertile, the harbor secure and capacious; and the approach on the side of the Continent was of small extent and easy defence. The Bosporus and the Hellespont may be considered as the two gates of Constantinople; and the prince who possessed these important passages could always shut them against a naval enemy and open them to the fleets of commerce. The preservation of the eastern provinces may, in some degree, be ascribed to the policy of Constantine, as the barbarians of the Euxine, who in the preceding age had poured their armaments into the heart of the Mediterranean, soon desisted from the exercise of piracy and despaired of forcing this insurmountable barrier.

When the gates of the Hellespont and Bosporus were shut, the capital still enjoyed within their spacious enclosure every production which could supply the wants or gratify the luxury of its numerous inhabitants. The sea-coasts of Thrace and Bithynia, which languish under the weight of Turkish oppression,[Pg 325] still exhibit a rich prospect of vineyards, of gardens, and of plentiful harvests; and the Propontis has ever been renowned for an inexhaustible store of the most exquisite fish, that are taken in their stated seasons, without skill and almost without labor. But when the passages of the straits were thrown open for trade, they alternately admitted the natural and artificial riches of the north and south, of the Euxine, and of the Mediterranean. Whatever rude commodities were collected in the forests of Germany and Scythia, as far as the sources of the Tanais and the Borysthenes; whatsoever was manufactured by the skill of Europe or Asia; the corn of Egypt, and the gems and spices of the farthest India, were brought by the varying winds into the port of Constantinople, which for many ages attracted the commerce of the ancient world.

The prospect of beauty, of safety, and of wealth, united in a single spot, was sufficient to justify the choice of Constantine. But as some decent mixture of prodigy and fable has, in every age, been supposed to reflect a becoming majesty on the origin of great cities, the Emperor was desirous of ascribing his resolution, not so much to the uncertain counsels of human policy as to the infallible and eternal decrees of divine wisdom. In one of his laws he has been careful to instruct posterity that, in obedience to the commands of God, he laid the everlasting foundations of Constantinople: and though he has not condescended to relate in what manner the celestial inspiration was communicated to his mind, the defect of his modest silence has been liberally supplied by the ingenuity of succeeding writers, who describe the nocturnal vision which appeared to the fancy of Constantine, as he slept within the walls of Byzantium. The tutelar genius of the city, a venerable matron sinking under the weight of years and infirmities, was suddenly transformed into a blooming maid, whom his own hands adorned with all the symbols of imperial greatness. The monarch awoke, interpreted the auspicious omen, and obeyed, without hesitation, the will of heaven.

The day which gave birth to a city or colony was celebrated by the Romans with such ceremonies as had been ordained by a generous superstition; and though Constantine might omit some rites which savored too strongly of their pagan origin, yet[Pg 326] he was anxious to leave a deep impression of hope and respect on the minds of the spectators. On foot, with a lance in his hand, the Emperor himself led the solemn procession, and directed the line which was traced as the boundary of the destined capital: till the growing circumference was observed with astonishment by the assistants, who, at length, ventured to observe that he had already exceeded the most ample measure of a great city. "I shall still advance," replied Constantine, "till He, the invisible guide who marches before me, thinks proper to stop." Without presuming to investigate the nature or motives of this extraordinary conductor, we shall content ourselves with the more humble task of describing the extent and limits of Constantinople.

In the actual state of the city, the palace and gardens of the seraglio occupy the eastern promontory, the first of the seven hills, and cover about one hundred and fifty acres of our own measure. The seat of Turkish jealousy and despotism is erected on the foundations of a Grecian republic; but it may be supposed that the Byzantines were tempted by the conveniency of the harbor to extend their habitations on that side beyond the modern limits of the seraglio. The new walls of Constantine stretched from the port to the Propontis across the enlarged breadth of the triangle, at a distance of fifteen stadia from the ancient fortification; and with the city of Byzantium they enclosed five of the seven hills, which, to the eyes of those who approach Constantinople, appear to rise above each other in beautiful order. About a century after the death of the founder the new buildings, extending on one side up the harbor, and on the other along the Propontis, already covered the narrow ridge of the sixth and the broad summit of the seventh hill.

The necessity of protecting those suburbs from the incessant inroads of the barbarians engaged the younger Theodosius to surround his capital with an adequate and permanent enclosure of walls. From the eastern promontory to the Golden Gate, the extreme length of Constantinople was about three Roman miles; the circumference measured between ten and eleven; and the surface might be computed as equal to about two thousand acres. It is impossible to justify the vain and[Pg 327] credulous exaggerations of modern travellers, who have sometimes stretched the limits of Constantinople over the adjacent villages of the European and even of the Asiatic coast.[52] But the suburbs of Pera and Galata, though situate beyond the harbor, may deserve to be considered as a part of the city; and this addition may perhaps authorize the measure of a Byzantine historian, who assigns sixteen Greek, about fourteen Roman, miles for the circumference of his native city. Such an extent may seem not unworthy of an imperial residence. Yet Constantinople must yield to Babylon and Thebes, to ancient Rome, to London, and even to Paris.

The master of the Roman world, who aspired to erect an eternal monument of the glories of his reign, could employ in the prosecution of that great work the wealth, the labor, and all that yet remained of the genius of obedient millions. Some estimate may be formed of the expense bestowed with imperial liberality on the foundation of Constantinople, by the allowance of about two million five hundred thousand pounds for the construction of the walls, the porticos, and the aqueducts. The forests that overshadowed the shores of the Euxine, and the celebrated quarries of white marble in the little island of Proconnesus, supplied an inexhaustible stock of materials, ready to be conveyed, by the convenience of a short water-carriage, to the harbor of Byzantium. A multitude of laborers and artificers urged the conclusion of the work with incessant toil; but the impatience of Constantine soon discovered that, in the decline of the arts, the skill as well as numbers of his architects bore a very unequal proportion to the greatness of his designs. The magistrates of the most distant provinces were therefore directed to institute schools, to appoint professors, and by the hopes of rewards and privileges to engage in the study and practice of architecture a sufficient number of[Pg 328] ingenious youths who had received a liberal education. The buildings of the new city were executed by such artificers as the reign of Constantine could afford; but they were decorated by the hands of the most celebrated masters of the age of Pericles and Alexander. To revive the genius of Phidias and Lysippus surpassed indeed the power of a Roman emperor; but the immortal productions which they had bequeathed to posterity were exposed without defence to the rapacious vanity of a despot.

By his commands the cities of Greece and Asia were despoiled of their most valuable ornaments. The trophies of memorable wars, the objects of religious veneration, the most finished statues of the gods and heroes, of the sages and poets, of ancient times, contributed to the splendid triumph of Constantinople, and gave occasion to the remark of the historian Cedrenus, who observes, with some enthusiasm, that nothing seemed wanting except the souls of the illustrious men whom those admirable monuments were intended to represent. But it is not in the city of Constantine, nor in the declining period of an empire, when the human mind was depressed by civil and religious slavery, that we should seek for the souls of Homer and of Demosthenes.

During the siege of Byzantium the conqueror had pitched his tent on the commanding eminence of the second hill. To perpetuate the memory of his success, he chose the same advantageous position for the principal forum, which appears to have been of a circular or rather elliptical form. The two opposite entrances formed triumphal arches; the porticos, which enclosed it on every side, were filled with statues; and the centre of the forum was occupied by a lofty column, of which a mutilated fragment is now degraded by the appellation of the "burnt pillar." This column was erected on a pedestal of white marble twenty feet high, and was composed of ten pieces of porphyry, each of which measured about ten feet in height and about thirty-three in circumference. On the summit of the pillar, above one hundred and twenty feet from the ground, stood the colossal statue of Apollo. It was of bronze, had been transported either from Athens or from a town of Phrygia, and was supposed to be the work of Phidias. The artist[Pg 329] had represented the god of day, or, as it was afterward interpreted, the emperor Constantine himself, with a sceptre in his right hand, the globe of the world in his left, and a crown of rays glittering on his head.[53]

The Circus, or Hippodrome, was a stately building about four hundred paces in length and one hundred in breadth. The space between the two metæ or goals was filled with statues and obelisks; and we may still remark a very singular fragment of antiquity, the bodies of three serpents, twisted into one pillar of brass. Their triple heads had once supported the golden tripod which, after the defeat of Xerxes, was consecrated in the temple of Delphi by the victorious Greeks. The beauty of the hippodrome has been long since defaced by the rude hands of the Turkish conquerors; but, under the similar appellation of Atmeidan, it still serves as a place of exercise for their horses. From the throne, whence the emperor viewed the Circensian games, a winding staircase descended to the palace; a magnificent edifice, which scarcely yielded to the residence of Rome itself, and which, together with the dependent courts, gardens, and porticos, covered a considerable extent of ground upon the banks of the Propontis between the Hippodrome and the Church of St. Sophia. We might likewise celebrate the baths, which still retained the name of Zeuxippus,[54] after they had been enriched, by the munificence of Constantine, with lofty columns, various marbles, and above threescore statues of bronze. But we should deviate from the design of this history if we attempted minutely to describe the different buildings or quarters of the city. It may be sufficient to observe that whatever could adorn the dignity of a great capital, or contribute to the benefit or pleasure of its numerous inhabitants, was contained within[Pg 330] the walls of Constantinople. A particular description, composed about a century after its foundation, enumerates a capitol or school of learning, a circus, two theatres, eight public and one hundred and fifty-three private baths, fifty-two porticos, five granaries, eight aqueducts or reservoirs of water, four spacious halls for the meetings of the senate or courts of justice, fourteen churches, fourteen palaces, and four thousand three hundred and eighty-eight houses, which, for their size or beauty, deserved to be distinguished from the multitude of plebeian habitations.

The populousness of his favored city was the next and most serious object of the attention of its founder. In the dark ages which succeeded the translation of the empire, the remote and the immediate consequences of that memorable event were strangely confounded by the vanity of the Greeks and the credulity of the Latins. It was asserted, and believed, that all the noble families of Rome, the senate, and the equestrian order, with their innumerable attendants, had followed their Emperor to the banks of the Propontis; that a spurious race of strangers and plebeians was left to possess the solitude of the ancient capital; and that the lands of Italy, long since converted into gardens, were at once deprived of cultivation and inhabitants. Since the growth of Constantinople cannot be ascribed to the general increase of mankind and of industry, it must be admitted that this artificial colony was raised at the expense of the ancient cities of the empire.

Many opulent senators of Rome, and of the eastern provinces, were probably invited by Constantine to adopt for their country the fortunate spot which he had chosen for his own residence. The invitations of a master are scarcely to be distinguished from commands; and the liberality of the Emperor obtained a ready and cheerful obedience. He bestowed on his favorites the palaces which he had built in the several quarters of the city, assigned them lands and pensions for the support of their dignity, and alienated the demesnes of Pontus and Asia to grant hereditary estates by the easy tenure of maintaining a house in the capital. But these encouragements and obligations soon became superfluous and were gradually abolished. Wherever the seat of government is fixed, a considerable part of the[Pg 331] public revenue will be expended by the prince himself, by his ministers, by the officers of justice, and by the domestics of the palace. The most wealthy of the provincials will be attracted by the powerful motives of interest and duty, of amusement and curiosity. A third and more numerous class of inhabitants will insensibly be formed, of servants, of artificers, and of merchants, who derive their subsistence from their own labor and from the wants or luxury of the superior ranks. In less than a century Constantinople disputed with Rome itself the preëminence of riches and numbers. New piles of buildings, crowded together with too little regard to health or convenience, scarcely allowed the intervals of narrow streets for the perpetual throng of men, of horses, and of carriages. The allotted space of ground was insufficient to contain the increasing people; and the additional foundations, which, on either side, were advanced into the sea, might alone have composed a very considerable city.

The frequent and regular distributions of wine and oil, of corn or bread, of money or provisions, had almost exempted the poorer citizens of Rome from the necessity of labor. The magnificence of the first Cæsars was in some measure imitated by the founder of Constantinople; but his liberality, however it might excite the applause of the people, has incurred the censure of posterity. A nation of legislators and conquerors might assert their claim to the harvests of Africa, which had been purchased with their blood; and it was artfully contrived by Augustus that, in the enjoyment of plenty, the Romans should lose the memory of freedom. But the prodigality of Constantine could not be excused by any consideration either of public or private interest; and the annual tribute of corn imposed upon Egypt for the benefit of his new capital was applied to feed a lazy and insolent populace at the expense of the husbandmen of an industrious province. Some other regulations of this Emperor are less liable to blame, but they are less deserving of notice. He divided Constantinople into fourteen regions or quarters, dignified the public council with the appellation of senate, communicated to the citizens the privileges of Italy, and bestowed on the rising city the title of colony, the first and most favored daughter of ancient Rome. The venerable[Pg 332] parent still maintained the legal and acknowledged supremacy which was due to her age, to her dignity, and to the remembrance of her former greatness.

As Constantine urged the progress of the work with the impatience of a lover, the walls, the porticos, and the principal edifices were completed in a few years, or, according to another account, in a few months; but this extraordinary diligence should excite the less admiration, since many of the buildings were finished in so hasty and imperfect a manner that, under the succeeding reign, they were preserved with difficulty from impending ruin. But while they displayed the vigor and freshness of youth, the founder prepared to celebrate the dedication of his city. The games and largesses which crowned the pomp of this memorable festival may easily be supposed; but there is one circumstance of a more singular and permanent nature, which ought not entirely to be overlooked. As often as the birthday of the city returned, the statue of Constantine, framed by his order, of gilt wood, and bearing in its right hand a small image of the genius of the place, was erected on a triumphal car. The guards, carrying white tapers, and clothed in their richest apparel, accompanied the solemn procession as it moved through the Hippodrome. When it was opposite to the throne of the reigning Emperor, he rose from his seat, and with grateful reverence adored the memory of his predecessor. At the festival of the dedication, an edict, engraved on a column of marble, bestowed the title of "Second or New Rome" on the city of Constantine. But the name of Constantinople has prevailed over that honorable epithet; and after the revolution of fourteen centuries, still perpetuates the fame of its author.


[50] The navigator Byzas, who was styled the Son of Neptune, founded the city 656 years before the Christian era. His followers were drawn from Argos and Megara. Byzantium was afterward rebuilt and fortified by the Spartan general Pausanias.

[51] The practical illustration of the possibility of Leander's feat by Lord Byron is too well known to need particular reference.

[52] The accurate Thevenot walked in one hour and three-quarters round two of the sides of the triangle, from the Kiosk of the Seraglio to the seven towers. D'Anville examines with care, and receives with confidence, this decisive testimony, which gives a circumference of ten or twelve miles. The extravagant computation of Tournefort of thirty-four or thirty miles, without including Scutari, is a strange departure from his usual character.

[53] On this column Constantine, with singular shamelessness, placed his own statue with the attributes of Apollo and Christ. He substituted the nails of the Passion for the rays of the sun. Constantine was replaced by the "great and religious" Julian; Julian, by Theodosius. a.d. 1412 the keystone was loosened by an earthquake. The statue fell in the reign of Alexius Comnenus, and was replaced by the cross. The palladium was said to be buried under the pillar.

[54] Zeuxippus was an epithet of Jupiter, and the baths were a part of old Byzantium.

[Pg 333]


A.D. 360


The great reign of Constantine was ended. The new capital, Constantinople, which after fifteen centuries still perpetuates the name of its imperial founder, had outrivalled Rome. The heirs of Constantine, the sons of Fausta, had all been called Cæsar, and were appointed to succeed to imperial power. Constantine, Constantius, and Constans they were named. They held court in different parts of the realm during their father's life, although he reserved for himself the title of Augustus.

The last years of his reign of thirty years had been peaceful, disturbed only by the insurrection in Cyprus and the wars of the Goths and Sarmatians. And so he died, and the purple and diadem were but empty symbols, as he lay in state upon his golden bed.

The great Emperor was no sooner dead than the sons made haste to rid themselves of all possible rivals in a family that seemed too numerous for peace. Two uncles and seven cousins were quickly put out of the way under one pretence and another.

The provinces were divided between the three brothers, and they reigned peacefully for three years, until Constantine demanded the surrender to him of a part of the dominions of Constans. In the war which ensued Constantine was killed, and Constans took possession of his brother's provinces, refusing any share of them to Constantius.

He reigned ten years longer, when he was destroyed, a.d. 350, by a conspiracy in Gaul headed by one Magnentius. This soldier, of barbarian extraction, was soon defeated by Constantius, who now became sole Emperor.

He soon found his burden of power too great, and decided to share it with the two young nephews who had been permitted to live when the massacre of the house of Constantine occurred.

To Gallus, the elder, he gave the title of cæsar, and invested him with the government of the East. Gallus conducted himself like a Nero and was disgraced and executed about three years later.

The younger nephew, Julian, had been brought up in the Christian faith, and received an excellent education, which was finished in the philosophical schools of Athens. He was created cæsar by Constantius, whose sister Helena he married, and was invested with the government of Gaul, Spain, and Britain.[Pg 334]

Julian's wise civil administration was very acceptable to the people, and his brilliant military exploits established his fame throughout the empire and won the affection of his soldiers. He repulsed the Alemanns and the Franks, sending captives to the court of Constantius. His expeditions beyond the Rhine were crowned with success. He restored the cities of Gaul and stemmed the tide of barbarian invasion.

All these triumphs had awakened the jealousy of the emperor Constantius, who was practically ruled by the eunuchs and bishops at his court. The rising fortunes of Julian had caused envy among many, who set about to poison the mind of Constantius with innuendoes and false suggestions. They resolved to disarm Julian and to separate him from his army. The Emperor ordered Julian to send his best troops to the war in Persia. But they forgot that the troops adored Julian. They overlooked the fact that the soldiers would see through such a scheme to humiliate their commander. The Gauls also feared the departure of Julian's men, for they dreaded the attacks of the Germans. This then was the situation. Julian attempted to follow the orders of the Emperor. But fate ordained otherwise. The army proclaimed him emperor. He refused the honor at first, but was forced to assume the dangerous title. The war which immediately followed was cut short by the sudden death of Constantius, and Julian became sole ruler of the Roman Empire. He renounced Christianity and is known in history as Julian the Apostate.

While the Romans languished under the ignominious tyranny of eunuchs and bishops, the praises of Julian were repeated with transport in every part of the empire, except in the palace of Constantius. The barbarians of Germany had felt and still dreaded the arms of the young cæsar; his soldiers were the companions of his victory; the grateful provincials enjoyed the blessings of his reign; but the favorites, who had opposed his elevation, were offended by his virtues; and they justly considered the friend of the people as the enemy of the court. As long as the fame of Julian was doubtful the buffoons of the palace, who were skilled in the language of satire, tried the efficacy of those arts which they had so often practised with success. They easily discovered that his simplicity was not exempt from affectation; the ridiculous epithets of a hairy savage, of an ape invested with the purple, were applied to the dress and person of the philosophic warrior; and his modest despatches were stigmatized as the vain and elaborate fictions of a loquacious Greek, a speculative soldier, who had studied the art of war amid the groves of the academy.

The voice of malicious folly was at length silenced by the[Pg 335] shouts of victory; the conqueror of the Franks and Alemanni could no longer be painted as an object of contempt; and the monarch himself was meanly ambitious of stealing from his lieutenant the honorable reward of his labors. In the letters crowned with laurel, which, according to ancient custom, were addressed to the provinces, the name of Julian was omitted. "Constantius had made his dispositions in person; he had signalized his valor in the foremost ranks; his military conduct had secured the victory; and the captive king of the barbarians was presented to him on the field of battle," from which he was at that time distant about forty days' journey. So extravagant a fable was incapable, however, of deceiving the public credulity, or even of satisfying the pride of the Emperor himself. Secretly conscious that the applause and favor of the Romans accompanied the rising fortunes of Julian, his discontented mind was prepared to receive the subtle poison of those artful sycophants, who colored their mischievous designs with the fairest appearances of truth and candor. Instead of depreciating the merits of Julian, they acknowledged, and even exaggerated, his popular fame, superior talents, and important services. But they darkly insinuated that the virtues of the cæsar might instantly be converted into the most dangerous crimes if the inconstant multitude should prefer their inclinations to their duty; or if the general of a victorious army should be tempted from his allegiance by the hopes of revenge and independent greatness. The personal fears of Constantius were interpreted by his council as a laudable anxiety for the public safety; while in private, and perhaps in his own breast, he disguised, under the less odious appellation of fear, the sentiments of hatred and envy, which he had secretly conceived for the inimitable virtues of Julian.

The apparent tranquillity of Gaul, and the imminent danger of the eastern provinces, offered a specious pretence for the design which was artfully concerted by the imperial ministers. They resolved to disarm the cæsar; to recall those faithful troops who guarded his person and dignity; and to employ, in a distant war against the Persian monarch, the hardy veterans who had vanquished, on the banks of the Rhine, the fiercest nations of Germany. While Julian used the laborious hours of[Pg 336] his winter quarters at Paris in the administration of power, which, in his hands, was the exercise of virtue, he was surprised by the hasty arrival of a tribune and a notary, with positive orders from the Emperor, which they were directed to execute and he was commanded not to oppose.

Constantius signified his pleasure that four entire legions, the Celtæ, and Petulants, the Heruli, and the Batavians, should be separated from the standard of Julian, under which they had acquired their fame and discipline; that in each of the remaining bands three hundred of the bravest youths should be selected; and that this numerous detachment, the strength of the Gallic army, should instantly begin their march, and exert their utmost diligence to arrive, before the opening of the campaign, on the frontiers of Persia. The cæsar foresaw and lamented the consequences of this fatal mandate. Most of the auxiliaries, who engaged their voluntary service, had stipulated that they should never be obliged to pass the Alps. The public faith of Rome, and the personal honor of Julian, had been pledged for the observance of this condition. Such an act of treachery and oppression would destroy the confidence and excite the resentment of the independent warriors of Germany, who considered truth as the noblest of their virtues, and freedom as the most valuable of their possessions.

The legionaries who enjoyed the title and privileges of Romans were enlisted for the general defence of the republic; but those mercenary troops heard with cold indifference the antiquated names of the republic and of Rome. Attached, either from birth or long habit, to the climate and manners of Gaul, they loved and admired Julian; they despised, and perhaps hated, the Emperor; they dreaded the laborious march, the Persian arrows, and the burning deserts of Asia. They claimed as their own the country which they had saved, and excused their want of spirit, by pleading the sacred and more immediate duty of protecting their families and friends. The apprehensions of the Gauls were derived from the knowledge of the impending and inevitable danger. As soon as the provinces were exhausted of their military strength the Germans would violate a treaty which had been imposed on their fears; and notwithstanding the abilities and valor of Julian, the general[Pg 337] of a nominal army, to whom the public calamities would be imputed, must find himself, after a vain resistance, either a prisoner in the camp of the barbarians or a criminal in the palace of Constantius.

If Julian complied with the orders which he had received, he subscribed his own destruction and that of a people who deserved his affection. But a positive refusal was an act of rebellion and a declaration of war. The inexorable jealousy of the Emperor, the peremptory and perhaps insidious nature of his commands, left not any room for a fair apology or candid interpretation; and the dependent station of the cæsar scarcely allowed him to pause or to deliberate. Solitude increased the perplexity of Julian; he could no longer apply to the faithful counsels of Sallust, who had been removed from his office by the judicious malice of the eunuchs; he could not even enforce his representations by the concurrence of the ministers, who would have been afraid or ashamed to approve the ruin of Gaul. The moment had been chosen when Lupicinus, the general of the cavalry, was despatched into Britain to repulse the inroads of the Scots and Picts; and Florentius was occupied at Vienne by the assessment of the tribute. The latter, a crafty and corrupt statesman, declining to assume a responsible part on this dangerous occasion, eluded the pressing and repeated invitations of Julian, who represented to him that in every important measure the presence of the prefect was indispensable in the council of the prince.

In the mean while the cæsar was oppressed by the rude and importunate solicitations of the imperial messengers, who presumed to suggest that if he expected the return of his ministers, he would charge himself with the guilt of the delay, and reserve for them the merit of the execution. Unable to resist, unwilling to comply, Julian expressed, in the most serious terms, his wish, and even his intention, of resigning the purple, which he could not preserve with honor, but which he could not abdicate with safety.

After a painful conflict, Julian was compelled to acknowledge that obedience was the virtue of the most eminent subject, and that the sovereign alone was entitled to judge of the public welfare. He issued the necessary orders for carrying[Pg 338] into execution the commands of Constantius; a part of the troops began their march for the Alps; and the detachments from the several garrisons moved toward their respective places of assembly. They advanced with difficulty through the trembling and affrighted crowds of provincials, who attempted to excite their pity by silent despair or loud lamentations; while the wives of the soldiers, holding their infants in their arms, accused the desertion of their husbands, in the mixed language of grief, of tenderness, and of indignation. This scene of general distress afflicted the humanity of the cæsar; he granted a sufficient number of post-wagons to transport the wives and families of the soldiers, endeavored to alleviate the hardships which he was constrained to inflict, and increased, by the most laudable arts, his own popularity and the discontent of the exiled troops.

The grief of an armed multitude is soon converted into rage; their licentious murmurs, which every hour were communicated from tent to tent with more boldness and effect, prepared their minds for the most daring acts of sedition; and by the connivance of their tribunes, a seasonable libel was secretly dispersed, which painted in lively colors the disgrace of the cæsar, the oppression of the Gallic army, and the feeble vices of the tyrant of Asia. The servants of Constantius were astonished and alarmed by the progress of this dangerous spirit. They pressed the cæsar to hasten the departure of the troops; but they imprudently rejected the honest and judicious advice of Julian, who proposed that they should not march through Paris, and suggested the danger and temptation of a last interview.

As soon as the approach of the troops was announced the cæsar went out to meet them, and ascended his tribunal, which had been erected in a plain before the gates of the city. After distinguishing the officers and soldiers who by their rank or merit deserved a peculiar attention, Julian addressed himself in a studied oration to the surrounding multitude: he celebrated their exploits with grateful applause; encouraged them to accept, with alacrity, the honor of serving under the eyes of a powerful and liberal monarch; and admonished them that the commands of Augustus required an instant and cheerful obedience.[Pg 339]

The soldiers, who were apprehensive of offending their general by an indecent clamor, or of belying their sentiments by false and venal acclamations, maintained an obstinate silence, and after a short pause were dismissed to their quarters. The principal officers were entertained by the cæsar, who professed, in the warmest language of friendship, his desire and his inability to reward, according to their deserts, the brave companions of his victories. They retired from the feast, full of grief and perplexity, and lamented the hardship of their fate, which tore them from their beloved general and their native country. The only expedient which could prevent their separation was boldly agitated and approved; the popular resentment was insensibly moulded into a regular conspiracy; their just reasons of complaint were heightened by passion, and their passions were inflamed by wine, as, on the eve of their departure, the troops were indulged in licentious festivity. At the hour of midnight, the impetuous multitude, with swords and bows and torches in their hands, rushed into the suburbs, encompassed the palace, and, careless of future dangers, pronounced the fatal and irrevocable words "Julian Augustus!"

The prince, whose anxious suspense was interrupted by their disorderly acclamations, secured the doors against their intrusion, and, as long as it was in his power, secluded his person and dignity from the accidents of a nocturnal tumult. At the dawn of day the soldiers, whose zeal was irritated by opposition, forcibly entered the palace, seized, with respectful violence, the object of their choice, guarded Julian with drawn swords through the streets of Paris, placed him on the tribunal, and with repeated shouts saluted him as their emperor. Prudence, as well as loyalty, inculcated the propriety of resisting their treasonable designs, and of preparing, for his oppressed virtue, the excuse of violence. Addressing himself by turns to the multitude and to individuals, he sometimes implored their mercy, and sometimes expressed his indignation; conjured them not to sully the fame of their immortal victories; and ventured to promise, that if they would immediately return to their allegiance, he would undertake to obtain from the Emperor not only a free and gracious pardon, but even the revocation of the orders which had excited their resentment.[Pg 340]

But the soldiers, who were conscious of their guilt, chose rather to depend on the gratitude of Julian than on the clemency of the Emperor. Their zeal was insensibly turned into impatience, and their impatience into rage. The inflexible cæsar sustained, till the third hour of the day, their prayers, their reproaches, and their menaces; nor did he yield till he had been repeatedly assured that if he wished to live he must consent to reign. He was exalted on a shield in the presence and amid the unanimous acclamations of the troops; a rich military collar, which was offered by chance, supplied the want of a diadem; the ceremony was concluded by the promise of a moderate donative; and the new Emperor, overwhelmed with real or affected grief, retired into the most secret recesses of his apartment.

The grief of Julian could proceed only from his innocence, but his innocence must appear extremely doubtful in the eyes of those who have learned to suspect the motives and the professions of princes. His lively and active mind was susceptible of the various impressions of hope and fear, of gratitude and revenge, of duty and of ambition, of the love of fame, and of the fear of reproach. But it is impossible for us to calculate the respective weight and operation of these sentiments; or to ascertain the principles of action which might escape the observation, while they guided, or rather impelled, the steps of Julian himself.

The discontent of the troops was produced by the malice of his enemies; their tumult was the natural effect of interest and of passion; and if Julian had tried to conceal a deep design under the appearances of chance, he must have employed the most consummate artifice without necessity, and probably without success. He solemnly declares, in the presence of Jupiter, of the Sun, of Mars, of Minerva, and of all the other deities, that till the close of the evening which preceded his elevation he was utterly ignorant of the designs of the soldiers; and it may seem ungenerous to distrust the honor of a hero and the truth of a philosopher. Yet the superstitious confidence that Constantius was the enemy, and that he himself was the favorite, of the gods, might prompt him to desire, to solicit, and even to hasten the auspicious moment of his reign, which was predestined to restore the ancient religion of mankind. When[Pg 341] Julian had received the intelligence of the conspiracy he resigned himself to a short slumber, and afterward related to his friends that he had seen the Genius of the Empire waiting with some impatience at his door, pressing for admittance, and reproaching his want of spirit and ambition. Astonished and perplexed, he addressed his prayers to the great Jupiter, who immediately signified, by a clear and manifest omen, that he should submit to the will of heaven and of the army.

The conduct which disclaims the ordinary maxims of reason excites our suspicion and eludes our inquiry. Whenever the spirit of fanaticism, at once so credulous and so crafty, has insinuated itself into a noble mind, it insensibly corrodes the vital principles of virtue and veracity.

To moderate the zeal of his party, to protect the persons of his enemies, to defeat and to despise the secret enterprises which were formed against his life and dignity, were the cares which employed the first days of the reign of the new emperor. Although he was firmly resolved to maintain the station which he had assumed, he was still desirous of saving his country from the calamities of civil war, of declining a contest with the superior forces of Constantius, and of preserving his own character from the reproach of perfidy and ingratitude. Adorned with the ensigns of military and imperial pomp, Julian showed himself in the field of Mars to the soldiers, who glowed with ardent enthusiasm in the cause of their pupil, their leader, and their friend. He recapitulated their victories, lamented their sufferings, applauded their resolution, animated their hopes, and checked their impetuosity; nor did he dismiss the assembly till he had obtained a solemn promise from the troops, that if the emperor of the East would subscribe an equitable treaty, they would renounce any views of conquest and satisfy themselves with the tranquil possession of the Gallic provinces.

On this foundation he composed, in his own name, and in that of the army, a specious and moderate epistle, which was delivered to Pentadius, his master of the offices, and to his chamberlain Eutherius, two ambassadors whom he appointed to receive the answer and observe the dispositions of Constantius. This epistle is inscribed with the modest appellation of cæsar; but Julian solicits, in a peremptory, though respectful,[Pg 342] manner, the confirmation of the title of augustus. He acknowledges the irregularity of his own election, while he justifies, in some measure, the resentment and violence of the troops which had extorted his reluctant consent. He allows the supremacy of his brother Constantius, and engages to send him an annual present of Spanish horses, to recruit his army with a select number of barbarian youths, and to accept from his choice a prætorian prefect of approved discretion and fidelity. But he reserves for himself the nomination of his other civil and military officers, with the troops, the revenue, and the sovereignty of the provinces beyond the Alps. He admonishes the Emperor to consult the dictates of justice; to distrust the arts of those venal flatterers, who subsist only by the discord of princes, and to embrace the offer of a fair and honorable treaty, equally advantageous to the republic and to the house of Constantine.

In this negotiation Julian claimed no more than he already possessed. The delegated authority which he had long exercised over the provinces of Gaul, Spain, and Britain was still obeyed under a name more independent and august. The soldiers and the people rejoiced in a revolution which was not stained even with the blood of the guilty. Florentius was a fugitive; Lupicinus a prisoner. The persons who were disaffected to the new government were disarmed and secured; and the vacant offices were distributed, according to the recommendation of merit, by a prince who despised the intrigues of the palace and the clamors of the soldiers.

The negotiations of peace were accompanied and supported by the most vigorous preparations for war. The army, which Julian held in readiness for immediate action, was recruited and augmented by the disorders of the times. The cruel persecution of the faction of Magnentius had filled Gaul with numerous bands of outlaws and robbers. They cheerfully accepted the offer of a general pardon from a prince whom they could trust, submitted to the restraints of military discipline, and retained only their implacable hatred to the person and government of Constantius.

As soon as the season of the year permitted Julian to take the field, he appeared at the head of his legions; threw a bridge[Pg 343] over the Rhine in the neighborhood of Cleves; and prepared to chastise the perfidy of the Attuarii, a tribe of Franks, who presumed that they might ravage, with impunity, the frontiers of a divided empire. The difficulty, as well as glory, of this enterprise consisted in a laborious march; and Julian had conquered, as soon as he could penetrate into a country which former princes had considered as inaccessible. After he had given peace to the barbarians, the emperor carefully visited the fortifications along the Rhine from Cleves to Basel; surveyed, with peculiar attention, the territories which he had recovered from the hands of the Alemanni, passed through Besançon, which had severely suffered from their fury, and fixed his head-quarters at Vienne for the ensuing winter.

The barrier of Gaul was improved and strengthened with additional fortifications; and Julian entertained some hopes that the Germans, whom he had so often vanquished, might, in his absence, be restrained by the terror of his name. Vadomair was the only prince of the Alemanni whom he esteemed or feared; and while the subtle barbarian affected to observe the faith of treaties, the progress of his arms threatened the State with an unseasonable and dangerous war. The policy of Julian condescended to surprise the prince of the Alemanni by his own arts: and Vadomair, who, in the character of a friend, had incautiously accepted an invitation from the Roman governors, was seized in the midst of the entertainment, and sent away prisoner into the heart of Spain. Before the barbarians were recovered from their amazement the Emperor appeared in arms on the banks of the Rhine, and, once more crossing the river, renewed the deep impressions of terror and respect which had been already made by four preceding expeditions.

The ambassadors of Julian had been instructed to execute, with the utmost diligence, their important commission. But, in their passage through Italy and Illyricum, they were detained by the tedious and affected delays of the provincial governors; they were conducted by slow journeys from Constantinople to Cæsarea in Cappadocia; and when at length they were admitted to the presence of Constantius, they found that he had already conceived, from the despatches of his own officers, the most unfavorable opinion of the conduct of Julian and of the[Pg 344] Gallic army. The letters were heard with impatience; the trembling messengers were dismissed with indignation and contempt; and the looks, the gestures, the furious language of the monarch expressed the disorder of his soul. The domestic connection, which might have reconciled the brother and the husband of Helena, was recently dissolved by the death of that princess, whose pregnancy had been several times fruitless, and was at last fatal to herself. The empress Eusebia had preserved, to the last moment of her life, the warm, and even jealous, affection which she had conceived for Julian; and her mild influence might have moderated the resentment of a prince, who, since her death, was abandoned to his own passions, and to the arts of his eunuchs.

But the terror of a foreign invasion obliged him to suspend the punishment of a private enemy; he continued his march toward the confines of Persia, and thought it sufficient to signify the conditions which might entitle Julian and his guilty followers to the clemency of their offended sovereign. He required that the presumptuous cæsar should expressly renounce the appellation and rank of augustus, which he had accepted from the rebels; that he should descend to his former station of a limited and dependent minister; that he should vest the powers of the State and army in the hands of those officers who were appointed by the imperial court; and that he should trust his safety to the assurances of pardon, which were announced by Epictetus, a Gallic bishop, and one of the Arian favorites of Constantius. Several months were ineffectually consumed in a treaty which was negotiated at the distance of three thousand miles between Paris and Antioch; and, as soon as Julian perceived that his modest and respectful behavior served only to irritate the pride of an implacable adversary, he boldly resolved to commit his life and fortune to the chance of a civil war.

He gave a public and military audience to the quæstor Leonas; the haughty epistle of Constantius was read to the attentive multitude; and Julian protested, with the most flattering deference, that he was ready to resign the title of augustus, if he could obtain the consent of those whom he acknowledged as the authors of his elevation. The faint proposal was impetuously silenced; and the acclamations of "Julian Augustus,[Pg 345] continue to reign, by the authority of the army, of the people, of the republic which you have saved," thundered at once from every part of the field, and terrified the pale ambassador of Constantius. A part of the letter was afterward read, in which the Emperor arraigned the ingratitude of Julian, whom he had invested with the honors of the purple; whom he had educated with so much care and tenderness; whom he had preserved in his infancy, when he was left a helpless orphan.

"An orphan!" interrupted Julian, who justified his cause by indulging his passions: "does the assassin of my family reproach me that I was left an orphan? He urges me to revenge those injuries which I have long studied to forget." The assembly was dismissed; and Leonas, who, with some difficulty, had been protected from the popular fury, was sent back to his master with an epistle, in which Julian expressed, in a strain of the most vehement eloquence, the sentiments of contempt, of hatred, and of resentment, which had been suppressed and imbittered by the dissimulation of twenty years. After this message, which might be considered as a signal of irreconcilable war, Julian, who, some weeks before, had celebrated the Christian festival of the Epiphany, made a public declaration that he committed the care of his safety to the immortal gods, and thus publicly renounced the religion as well as the friendship of Constantius.

The situation of Julian required a vigorous and immediate resolution. He had discovered, from intercepted letters, that his adversary, sacrificing the interest of the State to that of the monarch, had again excited the barbarians to invade the provinces of the West. The position of two magazines, one of them collected on the banks of the Lake of Constance, the other formed at the foot of the Cottian Alps, seemed to indicate the march of two armies; and the size of those magazines, each of which consisted of six hundred thousand quarters of wheat, or rather flour, was a threatening evidence of the strength and numbers of the enemy who prepared to surround him. But the imperial legions were still in their distant quarters of Asia; the Danube was feebly guarded; and if Julian could occupy, by a sudden incursion, the important provinces of Illyricum, he might expect that a people of soldiers would resort to his standard,[Pg 346] and that the rich mines of gold and silver would contribute to the expenses of the civil war.

He proposed this bold enterprise to the assembly of the soldiers; inspired them with a just confidence in their general and in themselves; and exhorted them to maintain their reputation of being terrible to the enemy, moderate to their fellow-citizens, and obedient to their officers. His spirited discourse was received with the loudest acclamations, and the same troops which had taken up arms against Constantius, when he summoned them to leave Gaul, now declared with alacrity that they would follow Julian to the farthest extremities of Europe or Asia. The oath of fidelity was administered; and the soldiers, clashing their shields, and pointing their drawn swords to their throats, devoted themselves, with horrid imprecations, to the service of a leader whom they celebrated as the deliverer of Gaul and the conqueror of the Germans. This solemn engagement, which seemed to be dictated by affection rather than by duty, was singly opposed by Nebridius, who had been admitted to the office of prætorian prefect.

That faithful minister, alone and unassisted, asserted the rights of Constantius in the midst of an armed and angry multitude, to whose fury he had almost fallen an honorable but useless sacrifice. After losing one of his hands by the stroke of a sword, he embraced the knees of the prince whom he had offended. Julian covered the prefect with his imperial mantle, and, protecting him from the zeal of his followers, dismissed him to his own house, with less respect than was perhaps due to the virtue of an enemy. The high office of Nebridius was bestowed on Sallust; and the provinces of Gaul, which were now delivered from the intolerable oppression of taxes, enjoyed the mild and equitable administration of the friend of Julian, who was permitted to practise those virtues which he had instilled into the mind of his pupil.

The hopes of Julian depended much less on the number of his troops than on the celerity of his motions. In the execution of a daring enterprise, he availed himself of every precaution, as far as prudence could suggest; and where prudence could no longer accompany his steps, he trusted the event to valor and to fortune. In the neighborhood of Basel he assembled[Pg 347] and divided his army. One body, which consisted of ten thousand men, was directed under the command of Nevitta, general of the cavalry, to advance through the midland parts of Rhætia and Noricum. A similar division of troops, under the orders of Jovius and Jovinus, prepared to follow the oblique course of the highways, through the Alps and the northern confines of Italy. The instructions to the generals were conceived with energy and precision: to hasten their march in close and compact columns, which, according to the disposition of the ground, might readily be changed into any order of battle; to secure themselves against the surprises of the night by strong posts and vigilant guards; to prevent resistance by their unexpected arrival; to elude examination by their sudden departure; to spread the opinion of their strength and the terror of his name; and to join their sovereign under the walls of Sirmium.

For himself Julian had reserved a more difficult and extraordinary part. He selected three thousand brave and active volunteers, resolved, like their leader, to cast behind them every hope of a retreat: at the head of this faithful band he fearlessly plunged into the recesses of the Marcian, or Black Forest, which conceals the sources of the Danube; and, for many days, the fate of Julian was unknown to the world. The secrecy of his march, his diligence and vigor, surmounted every obstacle; he forced his way over mountains and morasses, occupied the bridges or swam the rivers, pursued his direct course, without reflecting whether he traversed the territory of the Romans or of the barbarians, and at length emerged, between Ratisbon and Vienna, at the place where he designed to embark his troops on the Danube. By a well-concerted stratagem, he seized a fleet of light brigantines as it lay at anchor; secured a supply of coarse provisions sufficient to satisfy the indelicate but voracious appetite of a Gallic army; and boldly committed himself to the stream of the Danube.

The labors of his mariners, who plied their oars with incessant diligence, and the steady continuance of a favorable wind, carried his fleet above seven hundred miles in eleven days; and he had already disembarked his troops at Bononia, only nineteen miles from Sirmium, before his enemies could receive any[Pg 348] certain intelligence that he had left the banks of the Rhine. In the course of this long and rapid navigation, the mind of Julian was fixed on the object of his enterprise; and though he accepted the deputations of some cities, which hastened to claim the merit of an early submission, he passed before the hostile stations, which were placed along the river, without indulging the temptation of signalizing a useless and ill-timed valor. The banks of the Danube were crowded on either side with spectators, who gazed on the military pomp, anticipated the importance of the event, and diffused through the adjacent country the fame of a young hero, who advanced with more than mortal speed at the head of the innumerable forces of the West. Lucilian, who, with the rank of general of the cavalry, commanded the military powers of Illyricum, was alarmed and perplexed by the doubtful reports, which he could neither reject nor believe.

He had taken some slow and irresolute measures for the purpose of collecting his troops, when he was surprised by Dagalaiphus, an active officer, whom Julian, as soon as he landed at Bononia, had pushed forward with some light infantry. The captive general, uncertain of his life or death, was hastily thrown upon a horse, and conducted to the presence of Julian; who kindly raised him from the ground, and dispelled the terror and amazement which seemed to stupefy his faculties. But Lucilian had no sooner recovered his spirits than he betrayed his want of discretion, by presuming to admonish his conqueror that he had rashly ventured, with a handful of men, to expose his person in the midst of his enemies. "Reserve for your master Constantius these timid remonstrances," replied Julian, with a smile of contempt: "when I gave you my purple to kiss, I received you not as a counsellor, but as a suppliant." Conscious that success alone could justify his attempt, and that boldness only could command success, he instantly advanced, at the head of three thousand soldiers, to attack the strongest and most populous city of the Illyrian provinces.

As he entered the long suburb of Sirmium, he was received by the joyful acclamations of the army and people, who, crowned with flowers, and holding lighted tapers in their hands, conducted their acknowledged sovereign to his imperial residence.[Pg 349] Two days were devoted to the public joy, which was celebrated by the games of the Circus; but, early on the morning of the third day, Julian marched to occupy the narrow pass of Succi, in the defiles of Mount Hæmus; which, almost in the midway between Sirmium and Constantinople, separates the provinces of Thrace and Dacia, by an abrupt descent toward the former, and a gentle declivity on the side of the latter. The defence of this important post was intrusted to the brave Nevitta; who, as well as the generals of the Italian division, successfully executed the plan of the march and junction which their master had so ably conceived.

The homage which Julian obtained, from the fears or the inclination of the people, extended far beyond the immediate effect of his arms. The prefectures of Italy and Illyricum were administered by Taurus and Florentius, who united that important office with the vain honors of the consulship; and, as those magistrates had retired with precipitation to the court of Asia, Julian, who could not always restrain the levity of his temper, stigmatized their flight by adding, in all the Acts of the Year, the epithet of fugitive to the names of the two consuls.

The provinces which had been deserted by their first magistrates acknowledged the authority of an emperor who, conciliating the qualities of a soldier with those of a philosopher, was equally admired in the camps of the Danube and in the cities of Greece. From his palace, or, more properly, from his head-quarters of Sirmium and Naissus, he distributed, to the principal cities of the empire, a labored apology for his own conduct; published the secret despatches of Constantius, and solicited the judgment of mankind between two competitors, the one of whom had expelled, and the other had invited, the barbarians. Julian, whose mind was deeply wounded by the reproach of ingratitude, aspired to maintain, by argument as well as by arms, the superior merits of his cause; and to excel, not only in the arts of war, but in those of composition. His epistle to the senate and people of Athens seems to have been dictated by an elegant enthusiasm; which prompted him to submit his actions and his motives to the degenerate Athenians of his own times, with the same humble deference as if[Pg 350] he had been pleading, in the days of Aristides, before the tribunal of the Areopagus. His application to the senate of Rome, which was still permitted to bestow the titles of imperial power, was agreeable to the forms of the expiring republic. An assembly was summoned by Tertullus, prefect of the city; the epistle of Julian was read; and, as he appeared to be master of Italy, his claims were admitted without a dissenting voice.

His oblique censure of the innovations of Constantine, and his passionate invective against the vices of Constantius, were heard with less satisfaction; and the senate, as if Julian had been present, unanimously exclaimed, "Respect, we beseech you, the author of your own fortune"—an artful expression, which, according to the chance of war, might be differently explained; as a manly reproof of the ingratitude of the usurper, or as a flattering confession that a single act of such benefit to the State ought to atone for all the failings of Constantius.

The intelligence of the march and rapid progress of Julian was speedily transmitted to his rival, who, by the retreat of Sapor, had obtained some respite from the Persian war. Disguising the anguish of his soul under the semblance of contempt, Constantius professed his intention of returning into Europe, and of giving chase to Julian; for he never spoke of his military expedition in any other light than that of a hunting party. In the camp of Hierapolis, in Syria, he communicated this design to his army; slightly mentioned the guilt and rashness of the cæsar, and ventured to assure them that if the mutineers of Gaul presumed to meet them in the field they would be unable to sustain the fire of their eyes and the irresistible weight of their shout of onset.

The speech of the Emperor was received with military applause, and Theodotus, the president of the council of Hierapolis, requested, with tears of adulation, that his city might be adorned with the head of the vanquished rebel. A chosen detachment was despatched away in post-wagons, to secure, if it were yet possible, the pass of Succi; the recruits, the horses, the arms, and the magazines, which had been prepared against Sapor, were appropriated to the service of the civil war; and the domestic victories of Constantius inspired his partisans[Pg 351] with the most sanguine assurances of success. The notary Gaudentius had occupied in his name the provinces of Africa; the subsistence of Rome was intercepted; and the distress of Julian was increased by an unexpected event, which might have been productive of fatal consequences. Julian had received the submission of two legions and a cohort of archers, who were stationed at Sirmium; but he suspected with reason the fidelity of those troops which had been distinguished by the Emperor; and it was thought expedient, under the pretence of the exposed state of the Gallic frontier, to dismiss them from the most important scene of action.

They advanced, with reluctance, as far as the confines of Italy; but as they dreaded the length of the way and the savage fierceness of the Germans, they resolved, by the instigation of one of their tribunes, to halt at Aquileia, and to erect the banners of Constantius on the walls of that impregnable city. The vigilance of Julian perceived at once the extent of the mischief, and the necessity of applying an immediate remedy. By his order, Jovinus led back a part of the army into Italy; and the siege of Aquileia was formed with diligence and prosecuted with vigor. But the legionaries, who seemed to have rejected the yoke of discipline, conducted the defence of the place with skill and perseverance; invited the rest of Italy to imitate the example of their courage and loyalty; and threatened the retreat of Julian, if he should be forced to yield to the superior numbers of the armies of the East.

But the humanity of Julian was preserved from the cruel alternative which he pathetically laments, of destroying or of being himself destroyed; and the seasonable death of Constantius delivered the Roman Empire from the calamities of civil war. The approach of winter could not detain the monarch at Antioch; and his favorites durst not oppose his impatient desire of revenge. A slight fever, which was perhaps occasioned by the agitation of his spirits, was increased by the fatigues of the journey; and Constantius was obliged to halt at the little town of Mopsucrene, twelve miles beyond Tarsus, where he expired, after a short illness, in the forty-fifth year of his age and the twenty-fourth of his reign. Julian thus became master of the Roman world.

[Pg 352]


A.D. 374-376


The Huns, whose incursions into Europe constituted the first "yellow peril," were a nomadic Mongolian race. In the fourth century before Christ they successfully invaded China. From that country, about a.d. 90, they were driven by Hiong-nu, and the Huns then proceeded, joined by hordes of their fellows from the steppes of Tartary, to make their way to the Caspian Sea.

Previous to the incursion of the Huns another Tartar tribe, the Alani—the first of that race known to the Romans—had ravaged Media and Armenia, a.d. 75, carrying off a vast number of prisoners and an enormous booty. They later settled themselves in the country between the Volga and the Tanais, at an equal distance from the Black Sea and the Caspian. The Huns, having crossed the Volga, drove the Alani before them to the Danube. Valens, the then Emperor of the East, was a weak, incapable ruler; he failed to recognize the peril by which his empire would ere long be threatened, and permitted the Alani to find a refuge in his dominions. These were in turn followed and absorbed by the Huns, and the whole Roman Empire was finally faced by Mongol foes.

The historian Ammianus Marcellinus wrote racily of these events at the time of their occurrence.

The swift wheel of fortune, which continually alternates adversity with prosperity, was giving Bellona the Furies for her allies, and arming her for war; and now transferred our disasters to the east, as many presages and portents foreshowed by undoubted signs.

For after many true prophecies uttered by diviners and augurs, dogs were seen to recoil from howling wolves, and the birds of night constantly uttered querulous and mournful cries; and lurid sunrises made the mornings dark. Also, at Antioch, among the tumults and squabbles of the populace, it had come to be a custom for anyone who fancied himself ill-treated to cry out, in a licentious manner: "May Valens be burned alive."[Pg 353] And the voices of the criers were constantly heard ordering wood to be carried to warm the baths of Valens, which had been built under the superintendence of the Emperor himself.

All which circumstances all but pointed out in express words that the end of the Emperor's life was at hand. Besides all these things, the ghost of the King of Armenia, and the miserable shades of those who had lately been put to death in the affair of Theodorus, agitated numbers of people with terrible alarms, appearing to them in their sleep, and shrieking out verses of horrible import.

Last of all, when the ancient walls of Chalcedon were thrown down in order to build a bath at Constantinople, and the stones were torn asunder, on one squared stone which was hidden in the very centre of the walls these Greek verses were found engraved, which gave a full revelation of what was to happen:

"But when young wives and damsels blithe, in dances that delight,
Shall glide along the city streets, with garlands gayly bright;
And when these walls, with sad regrets, shall fall to raise a bath,
Then shall the Huns in multitude break forth with might and wrath,
By force of arms the barrier-stream of Ister they shall cross,
O'er Scythic ground and Mœsian lands spreading dismay and loss;
They shall Pannonian horsemen brave, and Gallic soldiers slay,
And nought but loss of life and breath their course shall ever stay."

The following circumstances were the original cause of all the destruction and various calamities which the fury of Mars roused up, throwing everything into confusion by his usual ruinous violence: the people called Huns, slightly mentioned in the ancient records, live beyond the Sea of Azov, on the border of the Frozen Ocean, and are a race savage beyond all parallel.

At the very moment of their birth the cheeks of their infant children are deeply marked by an iron, in order that the usual vigor of their hair, instead of growing at the proper season, may be withered by the wrinkled scars; and accordingly they grow up without beards, and consequently without any beauty, like eunuchs, though they all have closely knit and strong limbs and plump necks; they are of great size, and bow-legged, so that[Pg 354] you might fancy them two-legged beasts, or the stout figures which are hewn out in a rude manner with an axe on the posts at the end of bridges.

They are certainly in the shape of men, however uncouth, but are so hardy that they neither require fire nor well-flavored food, but live on the roots of such herbs as they get in the fields, or on the half-raw flesh of any animal, which they merely warm rapidly by placing it between their own thighs and the back of their horses.

They never shelter themselves under roofed houses, but avoid them, as people ordinarily avoid sepulchres as things not fitted for common use. Nor is there even to be found among them a cabin thatched with reed; but they wander about, roaming over the mountains and the woods, and accustom themselves to bear frost and hunger and thirst from their very cradles. And even when abroad they never enter a house unless under the compulsion of some extreme necessity; nor, indeed, do they think people under roofs as safe as others.

They wear linen clothes, or else garments made of the skins of field-mice; nor do they wear a different dress out of doors from that which they wear at home; but after a tunic is once put round their necks, however much it becomes worn, it is never taken off or changed till, from long decay, it becomes actually so ragged as to fall to pieces.

They cover their heads with round caps, and their shaggy legs with the skins of kids; their shoes are not made on any lasts, but are so unshapely as to hinder them from walking with a free gait. And for this reason they are not well suited to infantry battles, but are nearly always on horseback, their horses being ill-shaped, but hardy; and sometimes they even sit upon them like women if they want to do anything more conveniently. There is not a person in the whole nation who cannot remain on his horse day and night. On horseback they buy and sell, they take their meat and drink, and there they recline on the narrow neck of their steed, and yield to sleep so deep as to indulge in every variety of dream.

And when any deliberation is to take place on any weighty matter, they all hold their common council on horseback. They are not under the authority of a king, but are contented with[Pg 355] the irregular government of their nobles, and under their lead they force their way through all obstacles.

Sometimes, when provoked, they fight; and when they go into battle, they form in a solid body, and utter all kinds of terrific yells. They are very quick in their operations, of exceeding speed, and fond of surprising their enemies. With a view to this, they suddenly disperse, then reunite, and again, after having inflicted vast loss upon the enemy, scatter themselves over the whole plain in irregular formations: always avoiding the fort or an intrenchment.

And in one respect you may pronounce them the most formidable of all warriors, for when at a distance they use missiles of various kinds, tipped with sharpened bones instead of the usual points of javelins, and these bones are admirably fastened into the shaft of the javelin or arrow; but when they are at close quarters they fight with the sword, without any regard for their own safety; and often while their antagonists are warding off their blows they entangle them with twisted cords, so that, their hands being fettered, they lose all power of either riding or walking.

None of them plough, or even touch a plough handle; for they have no settled abode, but are homeless and lawless, perpetually wandering with their wagons, which they make their homes; in fact, they seem to be people always in flight. Their wives live in these wagons, and there weave their miserable garments; and here, too, they sleep with their husbands, and bring up their children till they reach the age of puberty; nor, if asked, can any one of them tell you where he was born, as he was conceived in one place, born in another at a great distance, and brought up in another still more remote.

In truces they are treacherous and inconstant, being liable to change their minds at every breeze of every fresh hope which presents itself, giving themselves up wholly to the impulse and inclination of the moment; and, like brute beasts, they are utterly ignorant of the distinction between right and wrong. They express themselves with great ambiguity and obscurity; have no respect for any religion or superstition whatever; are immoderately covetous of gold; and are so fickle and irascible that they very often, on the same day that they quarrel with[Pg 356] their companions without any provocation, again become reconciled to them without any mediator.

This active and indomitable race, being excited by an unrestrainable desire of plundering the possessions of others, went on ravaging and slaughtering all the nations in their neighborhood till they reached the Alani, who were formerly called the Massagetæ; and from what country these Alani came, or what territories they inhabit—since my subject has led me so far—it is expedient now to explain, after showing the confusion existing in the accounts of the geographers, who, at last, have found out the truth.

The Danube, which, is greatly increased by other rivers falling into it, passes through the territory of the Sauromatæ [Scythians], which extends as far as the river Don, the boundary between Asia and Europe. On the other side of this river the Alani inhabit the enormous deserts of Scythia, deriving their own name from the mountains around; and they, like the Persians, having gradually subdued all the bordering nations by repeated victories, have united them to themselves and comprehended them under their own name. Of these other tribes the Neuri inhabit the inland districts, being near the highest mountain chains, which are both precipitous and covered with the everlasting frost of the north. Next to them are the Budini, and the Geloni, a race of exceeding ferocity, who flay the enemies they have slain in battle, and make of their skins clothes for themselves and trappings for their horses. Next to the Geloni are the Agathyrsi, who dye both their bodies and their hair of a blue color, the lower classes using spots few in number and small; the nobles broad spots, close and thick, and of a deeper hue.

Next to those are the Melanchlænæ and the Anthropophagi, who roam about upon different tracts of land and live on human flesh. And these men are so avoided on account of their horrid food that all the tribes which were their neighbors have removed to a distance from them. And in this way the whole of that region to the northeast, till you come to the Chinese, is uninhabited.

On the other side the Alani again extend to the east, near the territories of the Amazons, and are scattered among many[Pg 357] populous and wealthy nations, stretching to the parts of Asia which, as I am told, extend up to the Ganges, a river which passes through the country of the Indians, and falls into the Southern Ocean.

Then the Alani, being thus divided among the two quarters of the globe—the various tribes which make up the whole nation it is not worth while to enumerate—although widely separated, wander, like the nomads, over enormous districts. But in the progress of time all these tribes came to be united under one generic appellation, and are called Alani.

They have no cottages, and never use the plough, but live solely on meat and plenty of milk, mounted on their wagons which they cover with a curved awning made of the bark of trees, and then drive them through their boundless deserts. And when they come to any pasture land, they pitch their wagons in a circle, and live like a herd of beasts, eating up all the forage—carrying, as it were, their cities with them in their wagons. In them the husbands sleep with their wives—in them their children are born and brought up; these wagons, in short, are their perpetual habitation, and, wherever they fix them, that place they look upon as their home.

They drive before them their flocks and herds to their pasturage; and about all other cattle, they are especially careful of their horses. The fields in that country are always green, and are interspersed with patches of fruit-trees, so that, wherever they go, there is no dearth either of food for themselves or fodder for their cattle. And this is caused by the moisture of the soil and the number of the rivers which flow through these districts.

All their old people, and especially all the weaker sex, keep close to the wagons and occupy themselves in the lighter employments. But the young men, who from their earliest childhood are trained to the use of the horses, think it beneath them to walk. They are also all trained by careful discipline of various sorts to become skilful warriors. And this is the reason why the Persians, who are originally of Scythian extraction, are very skilful in war.

Nearly all the Alani are men of great stature and beauty. Their hair is somewhat yellow, their eyes are terribly fierce;[Pg 358] the lightness of their armor renders them rapid in their movements, and they are in every respect equal to the Huns, only more civilized in their food and their manner of life. They plunder and hunt as far as the Sea of Azov and the Cimmerian Bosporus, ravaging also Armenia and Media.

And as ease is a delightful thing to men of a quiet and placid disposition, so danger and war are a pleasure to the Alani, and among them that man is called happy who has lost his life in battle; for those who grow old, or who go out of the world from accidental sicknesses, they pursue with bitter reproaches as degenerate and cowardly. Nor is there anything of which they boast with more pride than of having killed a man; and the most glorious spoils they esteem the scalps which they have torn from the heads of those whom they have slain, which they put as trappings and ornaments on their war horses.

Nor is there any temple or shrine seen in their country, nor even any cabin thatched with straw, their only idea of religion being to plunge a naked sword into the ground with barbaric ceremonies, and they worship that with great respect, as Mars, the presiding deity of the regions over which they wander.

They presage the future in a most remarkable manner, for they collect a number of great twigs of osier, then with certain secret incantations they separate them from one another on particular days; and from them they learn clearly what is about to happen.

They have no idea of slavery, inasmuch as they themselves are all born of noble families; and those whom even now they appoint to be judges are always men of proved experience and skill in war. But now let us return to the subject which we proposed to ourselves.

The Huns, after having traversed the territories of the Alani, and especially of that tribe of them who border on the Gruthungi, and who are called Tanaitæ, and having slain many of them and acquired much plunder they made a treaty of friendship and alliance with those who remained. And when they had united them to themselves, with increased boldness they made a sudden incursion into the extensive and fertile districts of Ermenrichus, a very warlike prince, and one whom[Pg 359] his numerous gallant actions of every kind had rendered formidable to all the neighboring nations.

He was astonished at the violence of this sudden tempest, and although, like a prince whose power was well established, he long attempted to hold his ground, he was at last overpowered by a dread of the evils impending over his country, which were exaggerated by common report, till he terminated his fear of great danger by a voluntary death.

After his death Vithimiris was made king. He for some time maintained a resistance to the Alani, relying on the aid of other tribes of the Huns whom by large promises of pay he had won over to his party; but, after having suffered many losses, he was defeated by superior numbers and slain in battle. He left an infant son named Viderichus, of whom Alatheus and Saphrax undertook the guardianship, both generals of great experience and proved courage. And when they, yielding to the difficulties of the crisis, had given up all hope of being able to make an effectual resistance, they retired with caution till they came to the river Dniester, which lies between the Danube and the Dnieper, and flows through a vast extent of country.

When Athanaric, the chief magistrate of the Thuringians, had become informed of those unexpected occurrences, he prepared to maintain his ground, with a resolution to rise up in strength should he be assailed as the others had been.

At last he pitched his camp at a distance in a very favorable spot near the banks of the Dniester and the valleys of the Gruthungi, and sent Muderic, who afterward became duke of the Arabian frontier, with Lagarimanus and others of the nobles, with orders to advance for twenty miles, to reconnoitre the approach of the enemy; while in the mean time he himself, without delay, marshalled his troops in line of battle.

However, things turned out in a manner very contrary to his expectations. For the Huns—being very sagacious in conjectures—suspecting that there must be a considerable multitude farther off, contrived to pass beyond those they had seen, and arranged themselves to take their rest where there was nothing at hand to disturb them; and then, when the moon dispelled the darkness of night, they forded the river, which was the best plan which presented itself, and fearing lest the[Pg 360] pickets at the outposts might give the alarm to the distant camp, they made all possible speed and advanced with the hope of surprising Athanaric himself.

He was stupefied at the suddenness of their onset, and, after losing many of his men, was compelled to flee for refuge to the precipitous mountains in the neighborhood, where, being wholly bewildered with the strangeness of this occurrence, and the fear of greater evils to come, he began to fortify with lofty walls all the territory between the banks of the River Pruth and the Danube, where it passes through the land of the Taifali; and he completed this line of fortification with great diligence, thinking that by this step he should secure his own personal safety.

While this important work was going on, the Huns kept pressing on his traces with great speed, and they would have overtaken and destroyed him if they had not been forced to abandon the pursuit from being impeded by the great quantity of their booty. In the mean time a report spread extensively through the other nations of the Goths, that a race of men, hitherto unknown, had suddenly descended like a whirlwind from the lofty mountains, as if they had risen from some secret recess of the earth, and were ravaging and destroying everything which came in their way. And then the greater part of the population which, because of their want of necessaries, had deserted Athanaric, resolved to flee and to seek a home remote from all knowledge of the barbarians; and after a long deliberation where to fix their abode, they resolved that a retreat into Thrace was the most suitable for these two reasons: first of all, because it is a district most fertile in grass; and also because, by the great breadth of the Danube, it is wholly separated from the barbarians, who were already exposed to the thunder-bolts of foreign warfare. And the whole population of the tribe adopted this resolution unanimously.

Accordingly, under the command of their leader Alavivus, they occupied the bank of the Danube, and having sent ambassadors to Valens, they humbly entreated to be received by him as his subjects, promising to live quietly, and to furnish a body of auxiliary troops if any necessity for such a force should arise.

While these events were passing in foreign countries, a terrible[Pg 361] rumor arose that the tribes of the North were planning new and unprecedented attacks upon us; and that over the whole region, which extends from the country of the Marcomanni and Quadi to Pontus, a barbarian host, composed of different distant nations, which had suddenly been driven by force from their own country, was now, with all their families, wandering about in different directions on the banks of the river Danube.

At first this intelligence was lightly treated by our people, because they were not in the habit of hearing of any wars in those remote districts till they were terminated either by victory or by treaty.

But presently, as the belief in these occurrences grew stronger, being confirmed, too, by the arrival of the foreign ambassadors, who, with prayers and earnest entreaties, begged that the people thus driven from their homes and now encamped on the other side of the river might be kindly received by us, the affair seemed a cause of joy rather than of fear, according to the skilful flatterers who were always extolling and exaggerating the good fortune of the Emperor; congratulating him that an embassy had come from the farthest corners of the earth unexpectedly, offering him a large body of recruits; and that, by combining the strength of his own nation with these foreign forces, he would have an army absolutely invincible; observing further that, by the yearly payment for military reinforcements which came in every year from the provinces, a vast treasure of gold might be accumulated in his coffers.

Full of this hope, he sent forth several officers to bring this ferocious people and their wagons into our territory. And such great pains were taken to gratify this nation which was destined to overthrow the Empire of Rome, that not one was left behind, not even of those who were stricken with mortal disease. Moreover, having obtained permission of the Emperor to cross the Danube and to cultivate some districts in Thrace, they crossed the stream day and night, without ceasing, embarking in troops on board ships and rafts, and canoes made of the hollow trunks of trees, in which enterprise, as the Danube is the most difficult of all rivers to navigate, and was at that time swollen with continual rains, a great many were drowned,[Pg 362] who, because they were too numerous for the vessels, tried to swim across, and in spite of all their exertions were swept away by the stream.

In this way, through the turbulent zeal of violent people, the ruin of the Roman Empire was brought on. This, at all events, is neither obscure nor uncertain that the unhappy officers who were intrusted with the charge of conducting the multitude of the barbarians across the river, though they repeatedly endeavored to calculate their numbers, at last abandoned the attempt as hopeless; and the man who would wish to ascertain the number might as well—as the most illustrious of poets says—attempt to count the waves in the African Sea, or the grains of sand tossed about by the zephyrs.

Let, however, the ancient annals be accredited which record that the Persian host which was led into Greece was, while encamped on the shores of the Hellespont, and making a new and artificial sea, numbered in battalions at Doriscus; a computation which has been unanimously regarded by all posterity as fabulous.

But after the innumerable multitudes of different nations, diffused over all our provinces and spreading themselves over the vast expanses of our plains, who filled all the champaign country and all the mountain ranges, are considered, the credibility of the ancient accounts is confirmed by this modern instance. And first of all Tritigernus was received with Alavivus, and the Emperor assigned them a temporary provision for their immediate support, and ordered lands to be assigned them to cultivate.

At that time the defences of our provinces were much exposed, and the armies of barbarians spread over them like the lava of Mount Ætna. The imminence of our danger manifestly called for generals already illustrious for their past achievements in war; but nevertheless, as if some unpropitious deity had made the selection, the men who were sought out for the chief military appointments were of tainted character. The chief among them were Lupicinus and Maximus, the one being count of Thrace, the other a leader notoriously wicked—and both men of great ignorance and rashness.

And their treacherous covetousness was the cause of all[Pg 363] our disasters. For—to pass over other matters in which the officers aforesaid, or others with their unblushing connivance, displayed the greatest profligacy in their injurious treatment of the foreigners dwelling in our territory, against whom no crime could be alleged—this one melancholy and unprecedented piece of conduct—which, even if they were to choose their own judges, must appear wholly unpardonable—must be mentioned:

When the barbarians who had been conducted across the river were in great distress from want of provisions, those detested generals conceived the idea of a most disgraceful traffic; and having collected hounds from all quarters with the most unsatiable rapacity, they exchanged them for an equal number of slaves, among whom were several sons of men of noble birth.

About this time also, Vitheric, the King of the Gruthungi, with Alatheus and Saphrax, by whose influence he was mainly guided, and also with Farnobius, approached the bank of the Danube and sent envoys to the Emperor to entreat that he also might be received with the same kindness that Alavivus and Fritigern had experienced.

But when, as seemed best for the interests of the State, these ambassadors had been rejected, and were in great anxiety what they should do, Athanaric, fearing similar treatment, departed, recollecting that long ago, when he was discussing a treaty with Valens, he had treated that Emperor with contempt in affirming that he was bound by a religious obligation never to set his foot on the Roman territory; and that, by this excuse, he had compelled the Emperor to conclude a peace in the middle of the war. And he, fearing that the grudge which Valens bore him for this conduct was still lasting, withdrew with all his forces to Caucalandes, a place which, from the height of its mountains and the thickness of its woods, is completely inaccessible; and from which he had lately driven out the Sarmatians.

[Pg 364]


A.D. 395


When Theodosius I, surnamed "the Great," was elevated to power as ruler of the East, that part of the empire was distracted in consequence of wars with the Visigoths who, flying from the Huns, had been granted a refuge in the Roman provinces of Mœsia and Thrace. Ill-treatment by the Romans drove the Visigoths to revolt, and Valens, then Emperor of the East, set out with an army to punish them. In the battle of Adrianople, August 9, 378, the Roman army was defeated, and in the retreat Valens was killed. The Visigoths pressed on, ravaging the country even to the foot of the walls of Constantinople, and the doom of the empire seemed to be at hand.

At this juncture Gratian—Emperor of the West, who also upon the death of Valens succeeded him as ruler of the East—sent for Theodosius, then a Roman general living in retirement in Spain, made him his colleague in the East, and placed him, a.d., 379 at the head of an army for the suppression of the Gothic outbreaks. Theodosius enabled his soldiers to regain their lost confidence by waging a successful guerilla war with the marauding Goths; but having thus shown his mastery over their straggling bands, he did not undertake to drive them out from Roman territory, but weakened them by causing them to quarrel among themselves; then, showing himself as their friend, he gave them lands and settled them within definite limits. To the Visigoths, or West Goths, he gave Thrace, and to the Ostrogoths, or East Goths, who had also now poured into the Roman provinces, he assigned Pannonia.

By this policy Theodosius established his authority in the East and restored the empire to something of its earlier power. Except during the last four months of his life, when he was sole Emperor, his direct authority was confined to the East; but he exerted a potent influence upon the affairs of the whole empire, both temporal and spiritual. He warred steadily against paganism and heresy. He took the side of Trinitarian orthodoxy against Arianism, which had previously triumphed in the East, and restored religious unity to the empire by making the Athanasian doctrine the faith of Constantinople, as it was that of the West. This policy was ratified by the second ecumenical council, called by[Pg 365] Theodosius, at Constantinople in 381, when the orthodoxy first promulgated by the Council of Nicæa in 325 was substantially reaffirmed. It was also largely through the influence of Theodosius, who was the friend of Ambrose, archbishop of Milan, that the Roman senate, by a great majority, voted (388) to abolish the worship of Jupiter and to adopt the worship of Christ, thus making Christianity the state religion. In the debate which preceded this transition the eloquence of Symmachus, on the pagan side, was overmatched by the arguments of Ambrose, aided by the powerful support of Theodosius in person.

In his further dealings with the Visigoths, Theodosius, following a precedent already established, enlisted in the Roman service a separate Gothic army of forty thousand soldiers; but this policy, as the event proved, was fatal to the permanency of his hitherto successful control of these alien elements, for they soon gathered strength to take the mastery into their own hands. Theodosius died in 395, after publishing a decree for partition of the empire between his two sons, Honorius to rule in the West, and Arcadius in the East. He meant, not to establish two independent jurisdictions, but that there should be one commonwealth, whose two rulers should be colleagues and coadjutors in its defence. This new disposition of the empire was followed by dissensions and intrigues against which the weak sons of Theodosius were helpless in the hands of able and unscrupulous self-seekers, the result of which was the final separation of the empire into two distinct governments and the weakening of the powers of resistance of both against those ever-increasing encroachments of the barbarians which eventually caused the fall of both empires.

One of the few men in history who have won the title of great, the emperor Theodosius I, who had by his policy, at once friendly and firm, pacified the Goths, who had confirmed the triumph of Athanasian over Arian Christianity, who had stamped out the last flames of refractory paganism represented by the tyrant Eugenius, died on the 17th of January, a.d. 395. His wishes were that his younger son, Honorius, then a boy of ten years, should reign in the West, where he had already installed him, and that his eldest son, Arcadius, whom he had left as regent in Constantinople when he set out against Eugenius, should continue to reign in the East.

But he was not willing to leave his youthful heirs—Arcadius was only eighteen—without a protector, and the most natural protector was one bound to them by ties of relationship. Accordingly on his deathbed he commended them to the care of the Vandal Stilicho, whom he had raised for his military and other talents to the rank of commander-in-chief, and, deeming[Pg 366] him worthy of an alliance with his own family, had united to his favorite niece Serena. We can hardly doubt that it was in this capacity, as the husband of his niece and a trusted friend, not as a general, that Stilicho received Theodosius' dying wishes; it was as an elder member of the same family that the husband of their cousin could claim to exert an influence over Arcadius and Honorius, of whom, however, the latter, it would appear, was more especially committed to his care, not only as the younger, but because Stilicho, being magister militum of the armies of Italy, would come more directly into contact with him than with his brother.

Arcadius, with whom we are especially concerned, was about eighteen at the time of his father's death. He was of short stature, of dark complexion, thin and inactive, and the dulness of his wit was betrayed by his speech and by his eyes, which always seemed as if they were about to close in sleep. His smallness of intellect and his weakness of character made it inevitable that he should come under the influence, good or bad, of commanding personalities, with which he might be brought in contact. Such a potent personality was the prætorian prefect Rufinus, a native of Aquitaine, who in almost every respect presented a contrast to his sovereign. He was tall and manly, and the restless movements of his keen eyes and the readiness of his speech signified his intellectual powers. He was a strong, worldly man, ambitious of power, and sufficiently unprincipled; avaricious, too, like most ministers of the age.

He had made many enemies by acts which were perhaps somewhat more than usually unscrupulous, but we cannot justly assume that in the overthrow of certain rivals he was entirely guilty and they entirely innocent, as is sometimes represented. It is almost certain that he formed the scheme and cherished the hope of becoming joint emperor with Arcadius.

This ambition of Rufinus placed him at once in an attitude of opposition to Stilicho, who was himself not above the suspicion of entertaining similar schemes, not, however, in the interest of his own person, but for his son Eucherius. The position of the Vandal, who was connected by marriage with the imperial family, gave him an advantage over Rufinus, which was[Pg 367] strengthened by the generally known fact that Theodosius had given him his last instructions. Stilicho, moreover, was popular with the army, and for the present the great bulk of the forces of the empire was at his disposal; for the regiments united to suppress Eugenius had not yet been sent back to their various stations. Thus a struggle was imminent between the ambitious minister who had the ear of Arcadius, and the strong general who held the command and enjoyed the favor of the army.

Before the end of the year this struggle began and concluded in an extremely curious way; but we must first relate how a certain scheme of Rufinus had been checkmated by an obscurer but wilier rival nearer at hand.

It was the cherished project of Rufinus to unite Arcadius with his only daughter; once the Emperor's father-in-law, he might hope to become speedily an emperor himself. But he imprudently made a journey to Antioch, in order to execute vengeance personally on the Count of the East, who had offended him; and during his absence from Byzantium an adversary stole a march on him. This adversary was the eunuch Eutropius, the lord chamberlain, a bald old man, who with oriental craftiness had won his way up from the meanest services and employments. Determining that the future Empress should be bound to himself and not to Rufinus, he chose Eudoxia, a girl of singular beauty, the daughter of a distinguished Frank, but herself of Roman education.

Her father, Bauto, was dead, and she lived in the house of the widow and sons of one of the victims of Rufinus. Eutropius showed a picture of the Frank maiden to the Emperor and engaged his affections for her; the nuptials were arranged by the time Rufinus returned to Constantinople, and were speedily celebrated (April 27, 395). This was a blow to Rufinus, but he was still the most powerful man in the East.

The event which at length brought him into contact with Stilicho was the rising of the Visigoths, who had been settled by Theodosius in Mœsia and Thrace, and were bound in return for their lands to serve in the army as fœderati. They had accompanied the Emperor to Italy against Eugenius, and had returned to their habitations sooner than the rest of the army.[Pg 368]

The causes of discontent which led to their revolt are not quite clear; but it seems that Arcadius refused to give them certain grants of money which had been allowed them by his father, and, as has been suggested, they probably expected that favor would wane and influence decrease now that the "friend of Goths" was dead, and consequently determined to make themselves heard and felt. To this must be added that their most influential chieftain, Alaric, called Baltha ("the Bold"), desired to be made a commander-in-chief, magister militum, and was offended that he had been passed over.

However this may be, the historical essence of the matter is that an immense body of restless, uncivilized Germans could not abide permanently in the centre of Roman provinces in a semi-dependent, ill-defined relation to the Roman government; the West Goths had not yet found their permanent home. Under the leadership of Alaric they raised the ensign of revolt, and spread desolation in the fields and homesteads of Macedonia, Mœsia, and Thrace, even advancing close to the walls of Constantinople. They carefully spared certain estates outside the city, belonging to the prefect Rufinus, but this policy does not seem to have been adopted with the same motive that caused Archidamus to spare the lands of Pericles. Alaric may have wished not to render Rufinus suspected, but to conciliate his friendship and obtain thereby more favorable terms. Rufinus actually went to Alaric's camp, dressed as a Goth, but the interview led to nothing.

It was impossible to take the field against the Goths, because there were no forces available, as the eastern armies were still with Stilicho in the West. Arcadius therefore was obliged to summon Stilicho to send or bring them back immediately, to protect his throne. This summons gave that general the desired opportunity to interfere in the politics of Constantinople; and having with energetic celerity arranged matters on the Gallic frontier, he marched overland through Illyricum and confronted Alaric in Thessaly, whither the Goth had traced his devastating path from the Propontis.

It appears that Stilicho's behavior is quite as open to the charges of ambition and artfulness as the behavior of Rufinus, for I do not perceive how we can strictly justify his detention[Pg 369] of the forces, which ought to have been sent back to defend the provinces of Arcadius at the very beginning of the year. Stilicho's march to Thessaly can scarcely have taken place before October, and it is hard to interpret this long delay in sending back the troops, over which he had no rightful authority, if it were not dictated by a wish to implicate the government of New Rome in difficulties and render his own intervention necessary.

We are told, too, that he selected the best soldiers from the eastern regiments and enrolled them in the western corps. If we adopted the Cassian maxim, Cui bono fuerit, we should be inclined to accuse Stilicho of having been privy to the revolt of Alaric; such a supposition would at least be far more plausible than the calumny which was circulated charging Rufinus with having stirred up the Visigoths. For such a supposition, too, we might find support in the circumstance that the estates of Rufinus were spared by the soldiers of Alaric; it would be intelligible that Stilicho suggested the plan in order to bring odium upon Rufinus. To such a conjecture, finally, certain other circumstances, soon to be related, point: but it remains nothing more than a suspicion.

It seems that before Stilicho arrived Alaric had experienced a defeat at the hands of garrison soldiers in Thessaly; at all events he shut himself up in a fortified camp and declined to engage with the Roman general. In the mean time Rufinus induced Arcadius to send a peremptory order to Stilicho to despatch the eastern troops to Constantinople and depart himself whence he had come; the Emperor resented, or pretended to resent, the presence of his cousin as an officious interference. Stilicho yielded so readily that his willingness seems almost suspicious; but we shall probably never know whether he was responsible for the events that followed. He consigned the eastern soldiers to the command of a Gothic captain, Gainas, and himself departed to Salona, allowing Alaric to proceed on his wasting way into the lands of Hellas.

Gainas and his soldiers marched by the Via Egnatia to Constantinople, and it was arranged that, according to a usual custom, the Emperor and his court should come forth from the city to meet the army in the Campus Martius, which extended[Pg 370] on the west side of the city near the Golden Gate. We cannot trust the statement of a hostile writer that Rufinus actually expected to be created augustus on this occasion, and appeared at the Emperor's side prouder and more sumptuously arrayed than ever; we only know that he accompanied Arcadius to meet the army.

It is said that, when the Emperor had saluted the troops, Rufinus advanced and displayed a studied affability and solicitude to please toward even individual soldiers. They closed in round him as he smiled and talked, anxious to secure their good-will for his elevation to the throne, but just as he felt himself very nigh to supreme success, the swords of the nearest were drawn, and his body, pierced with wounds, fell to the ground. His head, carried through the streets, was mocked by the people, and his right hand, severed from the trunk, was presented at the doors of houses with the request: "Give to the insatiable!"

We can hardly suppose that the lynching of Rufinus was the fatal inspiration of a moment, but whether it was proposed or approved of by Stilicho, or was a plan hatched among the soldiers on their way to Constantinople, is uncertain. One might even conjecture that the whole affair was the result of a prearrangement between Stilicho and the party in Byzantium, which was adverse to Rufinus and led by the eunuch Eutropius; but there is no evidence. Our knowledge of this scene unfortunately depends on a partial and untrustworthy writer, who, moreover, wrote in verse—the poet Claudian.

He enjoyed the patronage of Stilicho, and his poems Against Rufinus, Against Eutropius, and On the Gothic War are a glorification of his patron's splendid virtues. Stilicho and Rufinus he paints as two opposite forces, the force of good and the force of evil, like the principles of the Manichæans.

Rufinus is the terrible Pytho, the scourge of the world; Stilicho is the radiant Apollo, the deliverer of mankind. Rufinus is a power of darkness, whose tartarean wickedness surpasses even the wickedness of the Furies of hell; Stilicho is an angel of light. In the works of a poet whose leading idea was so extravagant, we can hardly expect to find much fair historical truth; it is, as a rule, only accidental references and allusions[Pg 371] that we can accept, unless other authorities confirm his statements. Yet even modern writers, who know well how cautiously Claudian must be used, have been unconsciously prejudiced in favor of Stilicho and against Rufinus.

We must return to the movements of Alaric, who had entered the regions of classical Greece, for which he showed scant respect. The commander of the garrison at Thermopylæ, and the proconsul of Achaia, offered no resistance, and the West Goths entered Bœotia, where Thebes alone escaped their devastation. They occupied the Piræus, but Athens itself was spared, and Alaric was entertained as a guest in the city of Athene. But the great temple of the mystic goddesses Demeter and Persephone, at Eleusis, was burned down by the irreverent barbarians; Megara, the next place on their southward route, fell; then Corinth, Argos, and Sparta.

But when they reached Elis they were confronted by an unexpected opponent. Stilicho had returned from Italy, by way of Salona, which he reached by sea, to stay the hand of the invader. He blockaded him in the plain of Pholœ, but for some reason, not easily comprehensible, he did not press his advantage, and set free the hordes of the Visigothic land pirates to resume their career of devastation. He went back to Italy, and Alaric returned, plundering as he went, to Illyricum and Thrace, where he made terms with the government of New Rome, and received the desired title of magister militum per Illyricum. No one will suppose that Stilicho went all the way from Italy to the Peloponnesus, and then, although he had Alaric practically at his mercy, retreated, leaving matters just as they were, without some excellent reason.

If he had genuinely wished to deliver the distressed countries and assist the emperor Arcadius, he would not have acted in this ineffectual manner. And it is difficult to see that his conduct is explained by assuming that he was not willing, by a complete extermination of the Goths, to enable Arcadius to dispense with his help in future. In that case, what did he gain by going to the Peloponnesus at all? Or we might ask, if he wished Arcadius to summon his assistance from year to year, is it likely that he would have adopted the method of rendering no assistance whatever? But, above all, the question occurs,[Pg 372] what pleasure would it have been to the general to look forward to being called upon again and again to take the field against the Visigoths?

It seems evident that Stilicho and Alaric made at Pholœ some secret and definite arrangement, which conditioned Stilicho's departure, and that this arrangement was conducive to the interests of Stilicho, who was in the position of advantage, and at the same time not contrary to the interests of Alaric, for otherwise Stilicho could not have been sure that the agreement would be carried out. What this secret compact was can only be a matter of conjecture; but I would suggest that Stilicho had already formed the plan of creating his son Eucherius emperor, and that he designed the Balkan peninsula to be the dominion over which Eucherius should hold sway. His conduct becomes perfectly explicable if we assume that by a secret agreement he secured Alaric's assistance for the execution of this scheme, which the preponderance of Gothic power in Illyricum and Thrace would facilitate.

It was not only the European parts of Arcadius' dominions that were ravaged in 395, by the fire and sword of barbarians. In the same year hordes of trans-Caucasian Huns poured through the Caspian gates, and, rushing southward through the provinces of Mesopotamia, carried desolation into Syria. St. Jerome was in Palestine at this time, and in two of his letters we have the account of an eye-witness: "As I was searching for an abode worthy of such a lady (Fabiola, his friend), behold, suddenly messengers rush hither and thither, and the whole East trembles with the news that from the far Mæotis, from the land of the ice-bound Don and the savage Massagetæ, where the strong works of Alexander on the Caucasian cliffs keep back the wild nations, swarms of Huns had burst forth, and, flying hither and thither, were scattering slaughter and terror everywhere. The Roman army was at that time, absent in consequence of the civil wars in Italy.... May Jesus protect the Roman world in future from such beasts! They were everywhere, when they were least expected, and their speed outstripped the rumor of their approach; they spared neither religion nor dignity nor age; they showed no pity to the cry of infancy.[Pg 373]

"Babes, who had not yet begun to live, were forced to die; and, ignorant of the evil that was upon them, as they were held in the hands and threatened by the swords of the enemy, there was a smile upon their lips. There was a consistent and universal report that Jerusalem was the goal of the foes, and that on account of their insatiable lust for gold they were hastening to this city. The walls, neglected by the carelessness of peace, were repaired. Antioch was enduring a blockade. Tyre, fain to break off from the dry land, sought its ancient island. Then we too were constrained to provide ships, to stay on the sea-shore, to take precautions against the arrival of the enemy, and, though the winds were wild, to fear a shipwreck less than the barbarians—making provision not for our own safety so much as for the chastity of our virgins." In another letter, speaking of these "wolves of the north," he says: "How many monasteries were captured? The waters of how many rivers were stained with human gore? Antioch was besieged and the other cities, past which the Halys, the Cydnus, the Orontes, the Euphrates flow. Herds of captives were dragged away; Arabia, Phœnicia, Palestine, Egypt, were led captive by fear."

The Huns, however, were not the only depredators at whose hands the provinces of Asia Minor and Syria suffered. There were other enemies within, whose ravages were constant, while the expedition of the Huns from without occurred only once. These enemies were the freebooters who dwelt in the Isaurian mountains, wild and untamed in their secure fastnesses. Ammianus Marcellinus describes picturesquely the habits of these sturdy robbers. They used to descend from the difficult mountain slopes like a whirlwind to places on the sea-shore, where in hidden ways and glens they lurked till the fall of night, and in the light of the crescent moon watched until the mariners riding at anchor slept; then they boarded the vessels, killed and plundered the crews. Thus the coast of Isauria was like a deadly shore of Sciron; it was avoided by sailors, who made a practice of putting in at the safer ports of Cyprus.

The Isaurians did not always confine their land expeditions to the surrounding provinces of Cilicia and Pamphylia; they penetrated, in a.d. 403, northward to Cappadocia and Pontus, or[Pg 374] southward to Syria and Palestine; and the whole range of the Taurus, as far as the confines of Syria, seems to have been their spacious habitation. An officer named Arbacazius was intrusted by Arcadius with an office similar in object to that which, four and a half centuries ago, had been assigned to Pompeius; but, though he quelled the spirits of the freebooters for a moment, Arbacazius did not succeed in eradicating the lawless element, in the same way as Pompeius had succeeded in exterminating the piracy which in his day infested the same regions. In the years 404 and 405 Cappadocia was overrun by the robber bands.

Meanwhile, after the death of Rufinus, the weak emperor Arcadius passed under the influence of the eunuch Eutropius, who, in unscrupulous greed of money, resembled Rufinus and many other officials of the time, and, like Rufinus, has been painted far blacker than he really was. All the evil things that were said by his enemies of Rufinus were said of Eutropius by his enemies; but in reading of the enormities of the latter we must make great allowance for the general prejudice existing against a person with Eutropius' physical disqualifications.

Eutropius naturally looked on the prætorian prefects, the most powerful men in the administration next to the Emperor, with jealousy and suspicion, as dangerous rivals. It was his interest to reduce their power and to raise the dignity of his own office to an equality with theirs. To his influence, then, we are probably justified in ascribing two innovations which were made by Arcadius. The administration of the cursus publicus, or office of postmaster-general, was transferred from the prætorian prefects to the master of offices, and the same transferrence was made in regard to the manufactories of arms. On the other hand, the grand chamberlain, præpositus sacri cubiculi, was made an illustris, equal in rank to the prætorian prefects. Both these innovations were afterward altered.

The general historical import of the position of Eutropius is that the empire was falling into a danger, by which it had been threatened from the outset, and which it had been ever trying to avoid. We may say that there were two dangers which constantly impended over the Roman Empire from its inauguration by Augustus to its redintegration by Diocletian—a Scylla[Pg 375] and Charybdis, between which it had to steer. The one was a cabinet of imperial freedmen, the other was a military despotism. The former danger called forth, and was counteracted by, the creation of a civil service system, to which Hadrian perhaps made the most important contributions, and which was finally elaborated by Diocletian, who at the same time averted the other danger by separating the military and civil administrations. But both dangers revived in a new form. The danger from the army became danger from the Germans, who preponderated in it; and the institution of court ceremonial tended to create a cabinet of chamberlains and imperial dependents.

This oriental ceremonial, so marked a feature of late "Byzantinism," involved, as one of its principles, difficulty of access to the Emperor, who, living in the retirement of his palace, was tempted to trust less to his eyes than his ears, and saw too little of public affairs. Diocletian appreciated this disadvantage himself, and remarked that the sovereign, shut up in his palace, cannot know the truth, but must rely on what his attendants and officers tell him. We may also remark that absolute monarchy, by its very nature, tends in this direction; for absolute monarchy naturally tends to a dynasty, and a dynasty implies that there must sooner or later come to the throne weak men, inexperienced in public affairs, reared up in an atmosphere of flattery and illusion, easily guided by intriguing chamberlains and eunuchs. Under such conditions, then, aulic cabals and chamber cabinets are sure to become dominant sometimes. Diocletian, whose political insight and ingenuity were remarkable, tried to avoid the dangers of a dynasty by his artificial system, but artifice could not contend with success against nature.

The greatest blot on the ministry of Eutropius—for, as he was the most trusted adviser of the Emperor, we may use the word ministry—was the sale of offices, of which Claudian gives a vivid and exaggerated account. This was a blot, however, that stained other men of those days as well as Eutropius, and we must view it rather as a feature of the times than as a personal enormity. Of course, the eunuch's spies were ubiquitous; of course, informers of all sorts were encouraged and rewarded. All the usual stratagems for grasping and plundering were put into practice.[Pg 376]

The strong measures that a determined minister was ready to take for the mere sake of vengeance may be exemplified by a treatment which the whole Lycian province received at the hands of Rufinus. On account of a single individual, Tatian, who had offended that minister, all the provincials were excluded from public offices. After the death of Rufinus, the Lycians were relieved from these disabilities; but the fact that the edict of emancipation expressly enjoins "that no one henceforward venture to wound a Lycian citizen with a name of scorn" shows what a serious misfortune their degradation was.

The eunuch won considerable odium in the first year of his power (396) by bringing about the fall of two men of distinction—Abundantius, to whose patronage he owed his rise in the world, and Timasius, who had been the commander-general in the East. An account of the manner in which the ruin of the latter was wrought will illustrate the sort of intrigues that were spun at the Byzantine court.

Timasius had brought with him from Sardis a Syrian sausage-seller, named Bargus, who, with native address, had insinuated himself into his good graces and obtained a subordinate command in the army. The prying omniscience of Eutropius discovered that, years before, this same Bargus had been forbidden to enter Constantinople for some misdemeanor, and by means of this knowledge he gained an ascendency over the Syrian, and compelled him to accuse his benefactor, Timasius, of a treasonable conspiracy, supporting the charge by forgeries. The accused was tried, condemned, and banished to the Lybian oasis, a punishment equivalent to death; he was never heard of more. Eutropius, foreseeing that the continued existence of Bargus might at some time compromise himself, suborned his wife to lodge very serious charges against her husband, in consequence of which he was put to death. Whether Eutropius then got rid of the wife we are not informed.

Among the adherents of Eutropius, who were equally numerous and insincere, two were of especial importance—Osius, who had risen from the post of a cook to be count of the sacred largesses, and finally master of the offices, and Leo, a soldier, corpulent and good-humored, who was known by the sobriquet[Pg 377] of Ajax, a man of great body and little mind, fond of boasting, fond of eating, fond of drinking, and fond of women.

On the other hand, Eutropius had many enemies, and enemies in two different quarters. Romans of the stamp of Timasius and Aurelian were naturally opposed to the supremacy of an emasculated chamberlain; while, as we shall see subsequently, the German element in the empire, represented by Gainas, was also inimical. It seems certain that a serious confederacy was formed in the year 397, aiming at the overthrow of Eutropius. Though this is not stated by any writer, it seems an inevitable conclusion from the law which was passed in the autumn of that year, assessing the penalty of death to anyone who had conspired "with soldiers or private persons, including barbarians," against the lives "of illustres who belong to our consistory or assist at our counsels," or other senators, such a conspiracy being considered equivalent to treason. Intent was to be regarded as equivalent to crime, and not only did the individual concerned incur capital punishment, but his descendants were visited with disfranchisement.

It is generally recognized that this law was an express palladium for chamberlains; but surely it must have been suggested by some actually formed conspiracy, of which Eutropius discovered the threads before it was carried out. The particular mention of soldiers and barbarians points to a particular danger, and we may suspect that Gainas, who afterward brought about the fall of Eutropius, had some connection with it.

While the eunuch was sailing in the full current of success at Byzantium, the Vandal Stilicho was enjoying an uninterrupted course of prosperity in the somewhat less stifling air of Italy. The poet Claudian, who acted as a sort of poet-laureate to Honorius, was really an apologist for Stilicho, who patronized and paid him. Almost every public poem he produced is an extravagant panegyric on that general, and we cannot but suspect that many of his utterances were direct manifestoes suggested by his patron. In the panegyric in honor of the third consulate of Honorius (396), which, composed soon after the death of Rufinus, breathes a spirit of concord between East and West, the writer calls upon Stilicho "to protect with his[Pg 378] right hand the two brothers" (geminos dextra tu protege fratres).

Such lines as this are written to put a certain significance on Stilicho's policy. In the panegyric in honor of the fourth consulate of Honorius (398) he gives an absolutely false and misleading account of Stilicho's expedition to Greece two years before, an account which no allowance for poetical exaggeration can defend. At the same time he extols Honorius with the most absurd eulogiums, and overwhelms him with the most extravagant adulations, making out the boy of fourteen to be greater than his father and grandfather. If Claudian were not a poet, we should say that he was a most outrageous liar. We are therefore unable to accord him the smallest credit when he boasts that the subjects in the western provinces are not oppressed by heavy taxes and that the treasury is not replenished by extortion.

Stilicho and Eutropius had shaken hands over the death of Rufinus, but the good understanding was not destined to last longer than the song of triumph. We cannot justly blame Eutropius for this. No minister of Arcadius could regard with good-will or indifference the desire of Stilicho to interfere in the affairs of New Rome; for this desire cannot be denied, even if one do not accept the theory that the scheme of detaching Illyricum from Arcadius' dominion was entertained by him at as early a date as 396. His position as master of soldier in Italy gave him no power in other parts of the empire; and the attitude which he assumed as an elderly relative, solicitously concerned for the welfare of his wife's young cousin, in obedience to the wishes of that cousin's father, was untenable, when it led him to exceed the acts of a strictly private friendship.

We can then well understand the indignation felt at New Rome, not only by Eutropius, but probably also by men of a quite different faction, when the news arrived that Stilicho purposed to visit Constantinople to set things in order and arrange matters for Arcadius. Such officiousness was intolerable, and it was plain that the strongest protest must be made against it. The senate accordingly passed a resolution declaring Stilicho a public enemy. This action of the senate is very[Pg 379] remarkable, and its signification is not generally perceived. If the act had been altogether due to Eutropius, it would surely have taken the form of an imperial decree. Eutropius would not have resorted to the troublesome method of bribing or threatening the whole senate even if he had been able to do so. We must conclude then that the general feeling against Stilicho was strong, and we must confess naturally strong.

The situation was now complicated by a revolt in Africa, which eventually proved highly fortunate for the glory and influence of Stilicho.

Eighteen years before, the Moor Firmus had made an attempt to create a kingdom for himself in the African provinces (a.d. 379), and had been quelled by the arms of Theodosius, who received important assistance from Gildo, the brother and enemy of Firmus. Gildo was duly rewarded. He was finally military commander, or Count, of Africa, and his daughter Salvina was united in marriage to a nephew of the empress Ælia Flaccilla. But the faith of the Moors was as the faith of Carthaginians. Gildo refused to send aid to Theodosius in his expedition against Eugenius.

After Theodosius' death he prepared to take a more positive attitude, and he engaged numerous African nomad tribes to support him in his revolt. The strained relations between Old and New Rome, which did not escape his notice, suggested to him that his rebellion might assume the form of a transition from the sovereignty of Honorius to the sovereignty of Arcadius. He knew that if he were dependent only on New Rome he would be practically independent. He entered accordingly into communication with the government of Arcadius, but the negotiations came to nothing. It appears that Gildo demanded that Lybia should be consigned to his rule, and he certainly took possession of it. It also appears that embassies on the subject passed between Italy and Constantinople, and that Symmachus the orator was one of the ambassadors. But it is certain that Arcadius did not in any way assist Gildo, and the comparatively slight and moderate references which the hostile Claudius makes to the hesitating attitude of New Rome indicate that the government of Alexandrius did not behave very badly after all.[Pg 380]

We need not go into the details of the Gildonic war, through which Stilicho won well-deserved laurels, although he did not take the field himself. What made the revolt of the Count of Africa of such great moment was the fact that the African provinces were the granary of Old Rome, as Egypt was the granary of New Rome. By stopping the supplies of corn, Gildo might hope to starve out Italy. The prompt action and efficient management of Stilicho, however, prevented any catastrophe; for ships from Gaul and from Spain, laden with corn, appeared in the Tiber, and Rome was supplied during the winter months. Early in 398 a fleet sailed against the tyrant, whose hideous cruelties and oppressions were worthy of his Moorish blood; and it is a curious fact that this fleet was under the command of Mascezel, Gildo's brother, who was now playing the same part toward Gildo that Gildo had played toward his brother Firmus. The undisciplined nomadic army of the rebel was scattered without labor at Ardalio, and Africa was delivered from the Moor's reign of ruin and terror, to which Roman rule, with all its fiscal sternness, was peace and prosperity.

This subjugation of the man whom the senate of Old Rome had pronounced a public enemy redounded far and wide to the glory of the man whom the senate of New Rome had proclaimed a public enemy. And in the mean time Stilicho's position had become still more splendid and secure by the marriage of his daughter Maria with the emperor Honorius (398), for which an epithalamium was written by Claudian, who, as we might expect, celebrates the father-in-law as expressly as the bridal pair. The Gildonic war also supplied, we need hardly remark, a grateful material for his favorite theme; and the year 400, to which Stilicho gave his name of consul, inspired an enthusiastic effusion.

It may seem strange that now, almost at the zenith of his fame, the father-in-law of the Emperor and the hero of the Gildonic war did not make some attempt to carry out his favorite project of interfering with the government of the eastern provinces. But there are two considerations which may help to explain this.

In the first place Stilicho himself was not the man of indomitable[Pg 381] will who forms a project and carries it through; he was a man rather of that ambitious but hesitating character which Mommsen attributes to Pompey. He was half a Roman and half a barbarian; he was half strong and half weak; he was half patriotic and half selfish. His intentions were unscrupulous, but he was almost afraid of them. Besides this, his wife, Serena, probably endeavored to check his policy of discord and maintain unity in the Theodosian house. In the second place, it is sufficiently probable that he was in constant communication with Gainas, the German general of the eastern armies and chief representative of the German interests in the realm of Arcadius, and that Gainas was awaiting his time for an outbreak, by which Stilicho hoped to profit and execute his designs. He had no excuse for interference, and he was willing to wait. His inactive policy of the next two years must not be taken to indicate that he cherished no ambitious projects.

The Germans looked up to Stilicho as the most important German in the empire; their natural protector and friend, while there was a large Roman faction opposed to him as a foreigner. But as yet this faction was not strong enough to overpower him. It is remarkable that his fall was finally brought about by the influence of a palace official (a.d. 408), while the fall of his rival Eutropius, which occurred far sooner (a.d. 399), was brought about by the compulsion of a German general. These facts indicate that the two dangers to which I have already called attention—the preponderating influence of chamberlains and eunuchs—were mutually checks on each other.

[Pg 385]


Embracing the Period Covered in This Volume

A.D. 13-409


Events treated at length are here indicated in large type; the numerals following give volume and page.

Separate chronologies of the various nations, and of the careers of famous persons, will be found in the Index Volume, with volume and page references showing where the several events are fully treated.

* Denotes date uncertain.


13. A fifth ten-year term of imperial rule is voted to Augustus at Rome.

Roman invasion of Germany under Germanicus. See "Germanicus in Germany," iii, 1.

14. Death of Augustus; succeeded by his adopted son, Tiberius, as emperor of Rome.

16. Germanicus successful in his campaign against Arminius. He is recalled to Rome by Tiberius. See "Germanicus in Germany," iii, 1.

17. Ephesus, Magnesia, and other cities in Asia destroyed by an earthquake.

Germanicus fêted in Rome.

18. Herod the Tetrarch builds the city of Tiberias in Galilee.

Wealthy women of Jerusalem provide wine medicated with opiates for crucified malefactors. See "The Crucifixion," iii, 23.

19. Death of Germanicus.

Jews and Egyptians expelled from Rome; four thousand of them colonize in Sardinia.

21. The theatre of Pompey, at Rome, destroyed by fire.

23. Birth of Pliny the Elder.

26. Tiberius leaves Rome to the government of Sejanus.

27. The Roman Pantheon completed.

30 (29-33). Death of Jesus. See "The Crucifixion," iii, 23.

31. Downfall and execution of Sejanus.[Pg 386]

33. Great impetus of Christianity. See "The Rise and Spread of Christianity," iii, 40.

37. Caius, called Caligula, succeeds Tiberius as emperor of Rome.

41. Emperor Caligula murdered; Claudius elevated to the throne.

The Herodian kingdom of Judea restored under Herod Agrippa.

43. Beginning of the Roman conquest of Britain under Aulus Plautius and Claudius.

44. Plautius is appointed the first Roman governor of Britain.

Death of Herod Agrippa; end of the kingdom of Judea.

51. Caractacus, King of the Trinobantes in Britain, captured by Ostorius and sent in chains to Rome.

52. Aqueducts of the Aqua Claudia in Rome, begun in a.d. 38, completed.

54. Agrippina poisons Claudius; Nero, her son, becomes emperor.

55.* Birth of Tacitus.

59. Agrippina murdered at Nero's order.

61. Boadicea in Britain revolts against the Romans; the uprising quelled by Suetonius Paulinus.

62.* Birth of Pliny the Younger.

64. The burning of Rome. See "Burning of Rome under Nero," iii, 108.

First persecution of Christians. See "Persecution of the Christians under Nero," iii, 134.

65. The conspiracy of Piso against Nero. Execution of Lucan and Seneca by command of Nero.

66. Revolt of the Jews against the Roman government.

67. Victorious campaigns of Vespasian against the rebellious Jews.

68. Rise of the Roman commanders against Nero. Galba's march upon Rome. Suicide of Emperor Nero; accession of Galba.

69. Galba murdered. Otho becomes emperor; vanquished by Vitellius, who ascends the throne. Vespasian overthrows Vitellius and succeeds him.

Uprising of the Batavians under Claudius Civilis.

70. The Roman Capitol rebuilt by Vespasian.

Jerusalem besieged and destroyed by Titus. See "The Great Jewish Revolt," iii, 150.

76. Birth of the emperor Hadrian.

78. Agricola succeeds Julius Frontinus in Britain; extends the Roman dominion to the Tyne and introduces the useful arts.

79. Death of Vespasian; Titus on the throne.

Destruction of Herculaneum and Pompeii by an eruption of Vesuvius; Pliny the Elder, writer of the Studiosus, loses his life. See "Destruction of Pompeii," iii, 207.

80. The Roman Empire swept by pestilence.

The Colosseum, the work of Vespasian, dedicated by Titus.

81. Death of Titus; Domitian, his brother, becomes emperor.

Agricola extends Roman dominion in Britain.[Pg 387]

84. Successful campaigns of Agricola against the Caledonians under Galgacus. Agricola builds a wall of defence between the Clyde and the Forth, and sails around the north of Scotland for the first time.

85. Agricola recalled to Rome through jealousy of Domitian, who appoints Sallustius in his stead.

86. Successful onslaught of the Dacians, under the Decebalus, against the Romans.

Capitoline games instituted by Domitian at Rome.

87. Dacian wars led Rome to agree to pay tribute and provoked the cruelties of Domitian.

88. Celebration of the secular games at Rome.

Tacitus appointed prætor.

91. Domitian concludes a peace with the Dacians.

94. Domitian's wholesale slaughter of his subjects appalls Rome.

95. Jews and Christians refusing to pay taxes to rebuild the temple of Jupiter at Rome are severely punished. These cruelties are sometimes called the "second persecution."

96. The tyrannies of Domitian finally provoke a conspiracy which accomplishes his death. Nerva succeeds him as emperor. Exiles recalled and the unjustly imprisoned freed.

97. Tacitus, the historian, becomes consul at Rome. Nerva adopts Trajan.

98. Nerva dies and is succeeded by Trajan; Pliny and Plutarch are highly distinguished by him.

99. Julius Servius becomes governor of Britain.

101. Trajan discontinues the annual payment to the Dacians; they invade the Roman provinces; Trajan attacks and drives them over the Danube.

102. Rome continues the war in Dacia. Trajan's Empress, Plotina Pompeia, and his sister, Marciana, by their example reform the manners and character of the Roman women.

103. Trajan dictates a treaty of peace to Decebalus, the Dacian leader.

104. Rome renews the Dacian war; Trajan again in command; Hadrian serves under him.

Pliny writes his famous letter to the Roman Emperor in regard to the Christians.

105. Trajan's bridge over the Danube constructed.

Plutarch is governor of Illyricum.

106. Decebalus falling in battle, the Dacian war ends; Dacia becomes a Roman province beyond the Danube.

107. Trajan drains the Pontine marshes and constructs a road through them; he erects a school for poor children and performs other meritorious works.

Great discontent is aroused by the progress of Christianity among the numerous classes of those whose livelihood is derived from the services and ceremonies of the heathen temples. The third persecution of Christians begins.[Pg 388]

114. Trajan's Column erected; it was made of twenty-four huge blocks of marble so closely united that they seem like one piece; it is still in existence, although Trajan's statue, surmounting it, was replaced by one of St. Peter.

115. War of Rome with Parthia; Trajan adds Armenia and Mesopotamia to the Roman domains. Rome attains its greatest extension.

Great earthquake at Antioch.

116. Great revolt of the Jews in Cyrene, Cyprus, and Egypt; they slaughter many thousands of Greeks and Romans.

117. Death of Trajan, who is succeeded by Hadrian; the Asiatic conquests are relinquished by him.

118. Hadrian, who was with Trajan at the time of his death, returns to Rome; a plot against him is discovered and four conspiring senators are put to death. Hadrian conciliates the people with large gifts. He enters upon his campaign in Mœcia.

119. Hadrian begins a personal survey of his dominions; he visits Campania, Gaul, and Britain.

121. Birth of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.

131. Birth of Galen, long the supreme authority in medical science.

132. Insurrection of the Jews under Bar Cocheba; their final dispersion follows. See "The Jews' Last Struggle for Freedom: Their Final Dispersion," iii, 222.

138. Death of Hadrian and succession of Antoninus Pius.

155.* About this time Polycarp and Justin suffer martyrdom. See "Martyrdom of Polycarp and Justin Martyr," iii, 231.

161. Death of Antoninus Pius; Marcus Aurelius Antoninus succeeds to the Roman throne and makes Lucius Verus his associate in the Empire.

Roman war with Parthia begins.

162. Volagases, with a Parthian army, invades Syria and defeats the Romans.

163. Verus, the Roman Emperor, enjoys himself at Antioch and Daphne while his generals reap successes in Armenia and Media.

165. Seleucia and Ctesiphon are captured by the Romans; end of the Parthian war; Rome acquires Mesopotamia.

166.* Great plague throughout the Roman Empire.

War begins between Rome and the Germanic tribes of the Marcomanni and Quadi, which had invaded Roman territories.

168. The Marcomanni retire into their own country, but M. Aurelius pursues his preparations against them, in order to safeguard Italy.

169. Sudden death of Verus, while in his chariot, on his journey to Rome.

174. Aurelius makes a short visit to Rome; when he rejoins the army the German tribes are signally defeated; this gives rise to the fable of the "Thundering Legion."

177. Persecution of the Christians in Gaul begins; Pothinus, Bishop[Pg 389] of Lyons, suffers martyrdom. See "Persecution of the Christians in Gaul," iii, 246.

180. Death of Marcus Aurelius; his son, Commodus, succeeds him on the Roman throne. See "Beginning of Rome's Decline: Commodus," iii, 263.

183. Lucilla, the sister of Commodus, having conspired against her brother, is exiled from Rome; Commodus vents his rage on the senators.

184. The Caledonians break through the wall on the northern borders of Britain; they are driven back by Ulpius Marcellus.

185. Marcia, the favorite of Commodus, protects the Christians.

Birth of Origen, one of the early Church fathers, at Alexandria.

186. Many prominent Roman citizens are put to death, by order of Commodus.

187. Commodus degrades himself by acting as a gladiator and slaying wild beasts in the Circus at Rome. See "Beginning of Rome's Decline: Commodus," iii, 263.

188. Lightning strikes the Capitol at Rome; the library and many adjacent buildings are burned.

189. Revolt of Maternus in Spain and Gaul subdued by Pescennius Niger.

Famine and pestilence in Rome; popular commotions; the guards are overcome and Commodus is driven to Lanuvium; the populace is appeased by the sacrifice of Cleander. See "Beginning of Rome's Decline: Commodus," iii, 263.

191. Great fire at Rome; the temples of Vesta and of Peace are burned; many valuable libraries destroyed, in which some works of Galen's are lost.

192. Murder of Commodus.

193. Pertinax elected emperor by the Roman senate; he is later assassinated by the prætorians. The Imperial dignity is purchased by Didius Julianus; he is slain the same year. Albinus in Britain, Niger in Syria, and Septimus Severus in Pannonia are proclaimed emperors by their respective legions. Fall of Didius Julianus and accession of Severus.

194. In the East, Severus triumphs over his rival, Niger. Byzantium resists Severus.

196. Byzantium falls before Severus.

197. Albinus in Gaul is crushed by Severus.

198. Septimus Severus proceeds against the Parthians; he besieges and captures Ctesiphon.

208. Successful campaign of Severus against the Caledonians in Britain and Caledonia.

211. Death of Septimus Severus at York; his sons Caracalla and Geta succeed him.

212. Caracalla slays his brother Geta.

213. Caracalla, universally detested for his cruelties, goes into Gaul[Pg 390] and assumes the surname of Germanicus. He leads the first attack of the Romans against the Alemanni.

215. Having proceeded through Dacia, Thrace, and Antioch to Alexandria, Caracalla orders a massacre of the Egyptians.

216. By a delusive offer of marriage with the daughter of Artabanus, Caracalla decoys the Parthians into his camp, where he treacherously attacks and slays a great number of them.

217. Caracalla is assassinated; Macrinus is proclaimed emperor; he purchases peace with the Parthians. Julia Domna, the mother of Caracalla and Geta, being banished to Antioch, starves herself to death.

218. Macrinus is overthrown by Elagabalus, who succeeds him as emperor of Rome. This was accomplished by Mœsa, sister of Julia Domna, bribing a portion of the army to espouse the cause of her grandson Elagabalus.

219. Elagabalus arrives at Rome; he brings with him his Syrian idol, which he places in a stately temple.

220. The highest offices of the State are filled by Elagabalus with his vilest associates.

222. Alexander Severus (Alexianus) succeeds Elagabalus, who is slain by the prætorians; his mother, Soœmias, is killed with him.

223. All persecution of the Christians ceases in Rome.

Alexander Severus guided by his mother, Marnæa, who is created augusta.

224. The Persians, under Ardashir (known by the Greeks as Artaxerxes), revolt against the Parthians.

225. Marriage of Alexander Severus to Sulpitia Memmia.

226. Ardashir overthrows the Parthian kingdom; he founds the new Persian kingdom of the Sassanidæ.

228. Ulpian, prætorian prefect, endeavors to restrain the licentiousness of the guards; a mutiny ensues and he is put to death.

229. Dion Cassius having, as governor of Dalmatia and Pannonia, offended the army by his strictness, the Emperor testifies his approbation by making him his colleague in the consulship.

230. Artaxerxes, now at the head of a powerful empire and great army, lays claim to all the former territories of Persia.

231. Alexander Severus, at Antioch, prepares to resist the Persian demands by arms.

232. After a campaign in Mesopotamia without decisive results, but in which the Romans claim the victory, Alexander returns to Antioch.

233. Close of the Persian war.

234. Alexander musters his forces in Gaul to repel the German tribes that had invaded the province.

235. Alexander Severus and his mother, Mamæa, are murdered in a mutiny of the army, near Mainz (or Mentz).

Maximin is proclaimed emperor.

Ambrosius assists the labors of Origen by paying clerks to copy for him.[Pg 391]

236. Maximin defeats the Germans and drives them across the Rhine.

237. Maximin proceeds to Sirmium, with the design of attacking the Sarmatians. His ferocious tyranny excites universal horror.

238. A rebellion against Maximin in Africa; Gordian, the proconsul, and his son are proclaimed emperors; they are overthrown by Capelianus and slain, Maximus and Balbinus are elected by the senate as joint emperors; they are murdered by the prætorians. On his march to Rome, Maximin is assassinated by his soldiers; his son is also slain. The Third Gordian is associated with Maximus and Capelianus in the empire. The two latter are slain, and Gordian becomes ruler of the Roman domain.

239. The young emperor of Rome, at first deceived by the eunuchs of the palace, is extricated from their pernicious influence by Misitheus.

240. Various tribes of Germany confederate under the name of Franks. This is the first time they are mentioned in history.

241. Victorious advance of Sapor I against the Roman dominions. See "Eventful Reign of Sapor I, King of Persia," iii, 277.

242. The Persians are defeated by Gordian; Misitheus, his general, recovers Mesopotamia. Plotinus accompanies the Roman army, in the hope of reaching India.

244. Gordian, aged nineteen, is murdered, near Circesium (Carchemish); a lofty mound is there raised to his memory.

Philip the Arabian becomes emperor of Rome; he makes peace with Sapor.

249. The Roman legions revolt in several provinces; some proclaim Jotapianus, and others Marinus, both of whom are killed by their own men. Decius, who is sent to appease the mutineers, is compelled by them to assume the purple and lead them into Italy. Battle of Verona. Philip is defeated and slain, and his son murdered at Rome. Decius is emperor.

250. Decius orders the persecution of the Christians.

The Goths cross the Danube, enter the Roman dominions as far as Thrace, and capture Philippopolis.

251. Victory of the Goths; Decius, at the head of the Romans, is defeated and slain. Gallus ascends the throne.

253. Barbarians invade Mœsia and Pannonia; they are defeated by Æmilianus, who is hailed as emperor by his army; he marches against Gallus, who, with his son, is assassinated by his soldiers. On the approach of Valerian, at the head of the Gallic legions, Æmilianus is slain, near Spoleto. Valerian becomes emperor.

254. Franks invade the northern provinces of Gaul.

An eruption of Mount Ætna.

Persecution of the Christians recommences.

256. The Roman Empire is assailed on all sides. The Franks pass through Gaul and sack Tarraco in Spain; the Alemanni attack Italy; the Sarmatians and Quadi force their way into Pannonia; Macedon and Greece are ravaged by the Goths; Persians invade Syria and Mesopotamia.[Pg 392]

Cyprian, one of the early fathers of the Church, assembles another council at Carthage, which provokes angry disputes.

258. Valerian goes into the East against the Persians. The invaders of Gaul are checked by Postumus. The Goths capture Trebizond.

260. Roman war with Persia; defeat and capture of Valerian by Sapor. Outbreaks continue throughout the provinces. Gallienus ascends the throne.

261. Manes originates the Manichæan heresy, which taught among other things that there were two souls or spirits in man, one good and the other evil; also that the soul at death went first to the moon and then to the sun, and thence to God.

267. Various Gothic bands, called by some Scythians, ravage Greece and Asia. One section is driven out of Asia by Odenathus; later he is assassinated by his nephew, Mæonius. His widow, Zenobia, avenges his death and fills with glory his vacant throne of Palmyra.

268. Murder of the emperor Gallienus; accession of Claudius II.

269. Claudius signally defeats the Goths at Naissus, Mœsia.

Zenobia rules in Egypt in the name of Claudius.

270. The Goths are again defeated by Claudius; shortly after, he dies of the plague at Sirmium. His brother assumes the purple, but dies by his own hand seventeen days later. Aurelian is universally acknowledged as emperor; he makes peace with the Goths, and relinquishes Dacia to them, transferring that name to another province south of the Danube.

271. The Alemanni who had invaded Italy are overwhelmed by Aurelian.

272. Aurelian attacks Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra; he captures Tyana, Emesa, and Antioch.

273. Palmyra surrenders to Aurelian, and Queen Zenobia is made prisoner.

274. Aurelian, having reunited the Roman Empire, celebrates a splendid triumph at Rome. Queen Zenobia is treated generously and passes her life in peace and affluence.

275. On his march to attack Persia, Aurelian is assassinated; Tacitus is elected by the senate.

276. Aurelian's murderers are punished by Tacitus; he dies while leading an expedition against the Goths, who had invaded Asia. Florian, his brother, succeeds him; he is slain. Probus is proclaimed emperor by the army; the senate confirms it.

277. Probus drives out the Franks, Burgundians, and other German tribes that had overrun Gaul. A number of his prisoners, removed to Pontus, seize a fleet in the Euxine, escape through the Bosporus, plunder many cities on the shores of the Mediterranean, and reach Germany again.

278. Probus repairs the fortified line from the Rhine to the Danube, expels the Goths from Thrace, represses the Isaurian robbers, and arrives in Syria, where he arranges terms of peace with Persia.[Pg 393]

282. Probus, successful since 276 against the enemies of Rome, is killed in a mutiny of the army at Sirmium.

Accession of Carus; he gives the title of cæsar to each of his two sons, Carinus and Numerianus.

283. Carus wages a successful campaign against Persia; he dies mysteriously in his tent, near Ctesiphon, during a violent storm. Carinus and Numerianus become joint emperors of Rome.

284. Murder of Numerianus; Diocletian proclaimed emperor.

285. Carinus is murdered.

286. Maximian made Imperial colleague of Diocletian.

287. The Bagauds revolt in Gaul.

288. Carausius, in command of the Roman fleet at Gessoriacum, revolts and establishes an independent sovereignty in Britain.

292. Constantius Chlorus and Galerius are appointed cæsars by Diocletian and Maximian; the Roman Empire is divided among the four.

293. Carausius is treacherously murdered by Allectus, who assumes the government of Britain.

296. Athanasius, the "Father of Orthodoxy," born.*

297. Achillius having revolted in Egypt, Diocletian in person suppresses the insurrection; Alexandria is captured and the inhabitants slaughtered.

298. Rome makes a victorious peace with Persia; extension of the Roman Empire.

300. From this date paganism declines. See "Conversion of Constantine," iii, 289.

303. Diocletian persecutes the Christians; the fiercest and most systematic persecution which they had yet suffered.

304. Severe illness of Diocletian, imputed to his long journey in the winter, but attributable rather to his vexation at the disorders caused by his change of policy toward the Christians, and to his finding it impossible to extirpate their religion. See "Conversion of Constantine," iii, 289.

305. The dilemma in which Diocletian is placed by the rash counsels of Galerius determines him to abdicate. He resigns the purple at Nicomedia, and persuades Maximian to follow his example on the same day at Milan. Constantius and Galerius take the title of augustus, and that of cæsar is given to Severus and Maximian.

306. Death of Constantius Chlorus; Constantine the Great, his son, is made cæsar; Severus becomes augustus; Maxentius, son of Maximian, assumes the purple. Maximian resumes the rank of augustus. Civil war begins between Constantine and his rivals. The Salian Franks are defeated by Constantine.

307. Licinius is made augustus on the fall of Severus.

308. There are five emperors actually ruling in the Roman Empire, with Maximian, as a sixth, holding nominal power in the court of his son-in-law, Constantine.

[Pg 394]

310. Maximian is slain by order of Constantine.

311. Galerius issues an order to stop the persecution of the Christians; his death occurs soon afterward.

312. Constantine vanquishes Maxentius in Italy, and becomes sole ruler of the Western Roman Empire. See "Conversion of Constantine," iii, 289.

313. Constantine and Licinius proclaim toleration for the Christians.

Maximian is overthrown by Licinius, who unites the Roman Empire of the East under his rule.

314. Constantine and Licinius have their first war; the latter is vanquished. See "Conversion of Constantine," iii, 289.

315. Constantine issues an edict against infanticide; another edict condemns to be burned alive any Jews who persecute or ill-treat converts from their sect to Christianity.

318. Beginning of the Arian controversy.

321. Constantine makes an edict ordering the Aruspices to be consulted in certain cases, according to the ancient form. Two others prescribe the observance of Sunday.

323. Licinius is overcome by Constantine, who becomes sole master of the Roman Empire. See "Conversion of Constantine," iii, 289.

324. Constantine, who had promised his sister not to injure Licinius, orders Licinius to be strangled.

325. Council of Nice, the first general council of the Church; the followers of Athanasius pronounce the condemnation of the Arians. See "First Nicene Council," iii, 299.

326. Helena, saint and Empress, visits Palestine and founds churches there.

329. Frumentius preaches Christianity to the Abyssinians.

330. Removal of the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to Byzantium. See "Foundation of Constantinople," iii, 320.

331. Birth of Hieronymus (St. Jerome).

333. The title of cæsar given by Constantine to his youngest son, Constans.

An edict of Constantine's exempts medical men and professors of literature from military service. This confirmed the procedure of certain former emperors.

337. Death of Constantine, soon after his baptism by Eusebius, an Arian bishop. Partition of the Roman Empire between his sons, Constantine, Constans, and Constantius.

340. Constantine II makes war upon Constans; the former is slain, and Constans becomes ruler of the greater part of the Roman Empire. Constantius rules in the East.

341. Gaul is invaded by the Franks, who resist Constans.

Ulfilas becomes bishop of the Goths.*

Violent earthquakes in Syria. The Synod of Antioch assents to an [Pg 395]Arian creed, deposes Athanasius, and appoints Gregory bishop of Alexandria.

347. A general council is held at Sardica. The majority approves the Nicene faith; the deposition of Arian bishops voted, and the restoration of Athanasius and Marcellus to episcopal honors. The minority secede to Philippopolis and annul their acts; the two bodies mutually excommunicate each other.

348. Sapor, at the head of the Persians, defeats the Romans at Singara.

350. Magentius proclaims himself emperor; Constans flees into Spain, where he is assassinated.

351. Constantius defeats Magentius at the battle of Mursa.

352. Italy declares against Magentius, who gains a useless victory at Pavia.

353. Constantius sole emperor, Magentius being overthrown by him.

Constantius convokes the Council of Arles, which condemns Arianism.

354. Birth of St. Augustine.

355. Julian, being appointed cæsar, takes command of the Roman troops in Gaul.

Athanasius is deposed by the Council of Milan.

356. Julian is successful against the Alemanni and Franks in Gaul.

357. Constantius visits Rome; he presents an obelisk from Egypt to the city.

Julian has a great victory at Strasburg.

358. Julian winters in Paris, after which he resumes his campaign and defeats the Franks.

359. Again the Rhine is crossed by Julian, who conquers all before him.

360. The Cathedral of St. Sophia is dedicated at Constantinople.

Julian is elected emperor in Gaul. See "Julian the Apostate Becomes Emperor of Rome," iii, 333.

361. Death of Constantius while on his way to oppose Julian.

A revival of paganism.

362. Julian proclaims universal toleration and recalls the exiled bishops to their sees.

363. Expedition of Julian against the Persians, under Sapor II; Julian retreats and is slain; Jovian succeeds him in the purple; he purchases peace of Sapor by allotting him the Roman frontiers.

Christianity again in the ascendant.

364. Death of Emperor Jovian; Valentinian succeeds him in the West, and Valens in the East.

365. Great earthquake in the Roman dominions.

Gaul is harassed by the Alemanni; Britain by the Picts, Scots, and Saxons.

367. First campaign of Theodosius against the Picts and Scots in Britain.

368. The Alemanni repulsed from Gaul.

369. Theodosius, having subdued a revolt in Britain, returns to Gaul.[Pg 396]

370. Saxons infest the coast of Gaul; they are driven back to their ships by Severus.

374. Huns cross the Volga and proceed westward, overpowering the Alani. See "The Huns and Their Western Migration," iii, 352.

St. Ambrose is elected bishop of Milan.

375. Death of Valentinian I; he is succeeded by his son Gratian and Valentinian II, his infant brother.

376. Driven by the Huns, the Visigoths are admitted into the Roman Empire south of the Danube.

378. Death of Emperor Valens in an encounter with the Visigoths at Adrianople.

Gaul is invaded by the Alemanni; they are repulsed by Gratian.

379. Theodosius is recalled from his retirement in Spain and awarded the sovereignty of the East by Gratian.

380. Theodosius is baptized by the Bishop of Thessalonica.

381. Second general council, held at Constantinople.

382. Theodosius makes a treaty with the Visigoths; their final settlement in Thrace and Mœsia.

383. Rebellion of Maximus in Britain; he lands in Gaul, where he is joined by the forces there; he overthrows Gratian.

387. Maximus invades Italy. Valentinian flees with his mother and sister, Galla, to Thessalonica; Theodosius meets them, marries Galla, and prepares to meet Maximus.

388. Maximus is defeated and slain.

A formal vote of the senate establishes Christianity in the Roman Empire.

389. Theodosius visits Rome; he commands the destruction of the heathen temples. Valentinian becomes sole ruler of the West.

390. Sedition at Thessalonica, and massacre of its inhabitants, by order of Theodosius.

392. Paganism in the Roman Empire is finally suppressed by law.

Murder of Valentinian II by Arbogast; Eugenius usurps the throne in the West.

394. Eugenius and Arbogast are vanquished by Theodosius the Great, who unites the whole Roman Empire under his sceptre.

395. Death of Theodosius the Great; final division of the Empire. See "Final Division of Roman Empire," iii, 364.

399. The Ostrogoths, under Tribigild, revolt and ravage Phrygia.

Stilicho sends additional forces into Britain, and fortifies the coast against the Saxons.

402. Alaric advances in Italy, and Stilicho prepares to resist him.

403. Honorius, on the approach of Alaric, flees from Milan.

Alaric, King of the Visigoths, encounters Stilicho, Honorius' general, at Pollentia; the Romans claim the victory, but Alaric continues his advance toward Rome. Stilicho defeats and drives him back, near Verona; Alaric retires from Italy.*

[Pg 397]

404. Triumph of Honorius and Stilicho at Rome. Combats of gladiators exhibited for the last time.

The capital of the Western Empire is removed from Rome to Ravenna.*

Chrysostom, the patriarch, is banished Constantinople; the Church of St. Sophia, probably kindled by the angry adherents of Chrysostom, burned to the ground.

405. Radagaisus collects a great horde of Ostrogoths, Vandals, Suevi, and other Barbarians, and leads them into Italy. He is defeated by Stilicho near Florence, and surrenders on condition of having his life spared. He is, however, treacherously put to death.

St. Jerome completes his Latin translation of the Bible.*

406. German tribes break down the Rhine barrier and establish themselves in Gaul.

Vigilantius, a presbyter of Barcelona, condemns celibacy, the worship of relics, etc.; St. Jerome attacks him in a furious epistle, saying that he ought to be put to death.

407. Constantine usurps authority in Britain and Gaul.

408. Arcadius is succeeded by his son Theodosius II in the Byzantine empire.

Honorius orders Stilicho to be put to death, accusing him of treacherously treating with Alaric, who is besieging Rome.

409. Alaric receives a large ransom from the citizens of Rome and withdraws into Tuscany. Deceived in his negotiations with Honorius, he again lays siege to Rome, which is again spared on condition of Attalus being made emperor.

Owing to the passes of the Pyrenees being left unguarded, the Vandals, Suevi, and Alani enter Spain.


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