Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

oracles respecting the event of his enterprise, and was uniformly assured of success. Full of hope and confidence, inspired by these assurances, he marched towards Persia, crossed the Euphrates and Tigris, and penetrated some way into the enemy's territory. But the Persians had laid waste the country on his line of march, and he was at length compelled to retreat. The Persian horse now harassed him continually. It was in vain that the Romans were victorious in every encounter, the enemy only retired to renew the assault, till, at length, Julian, in his eagerness to repulse one of these attacks, was mortally wounded, and died the same evening, having reigned only twenty months. The army, reduced to great straits, chose

Jovian, an able commander, to succeed him, A. D. 363. When Jovian was thus raised to the throne, he and his army were in imminent danger of perishing by famine. Unexpectedly the Persians sent proposals of peace, upon the condition that the Romans should restore five provinces which had been taken from them in the reign of Dioclesian. To these conditions Jovian agreed, and this was the first permanent dismemberment of the empire. Jovián did not live to return to Rome, or even to Constantinople ; but was found dead in his bed on his way thither. At Antioch, however, he had revoked all the laws that Julian had made against Christianity.

Valentinian was chosen emperor, and then named his brother Valens as his colleague. The empire being assailed on all sides by the barbarians, the two emperors divided the empire between them, Valentinian receiving, as his share, the western, and Valens the eastern part of it. The Goths, in the reign of Valens, advanced up to the very suburbs of Constantinople, defeated and killed the emperor, and then laid siege to Adrianople, but were repulsed with great slaughter. After their repulse, great numbers of them were cut to pieces by the Saracens, who had come to the aid of the Romans. Valentinian continued to make head against the barbarians who invaded his part of

the empire, till A. D. 375, when he died in the 12th year of his reign. At his death he was succeeded in the west by

Gratian, and the western empire being at this time without any emperor, he obtained the sovereignty of that also. He was immediately engaged in conflict with the barbarians, who threatened the empire with destruction. Finding himself pressed on all sides, he chose Theodosius as his partner, and committed the east to his care. Theodosius was an able general, and of generous dispositions. He was a decided favourer of Christianity, and did much towards the abolition of idolatry, destroying the idols and temples of the heathens. While Theodosius was employed in combating the barbarians in the east, Gratian was attacked by a usurper in the west named Maximus. Gratian had previously given his brother Valentinian (known as Valentinian II.) a portion of his dominions. Maximus succeeded in putting Gratian to death, and then attacked Valentinian. Valentinian fled to Theodosius, who espoused his quarrel, attacked and defeated Maximus, took him prisoner, and put him to death. Valentinian II. was afterwards murdered by a general of his army, and Eugenius raised to the throne. Theodosius attacked and defeated him, and he was afterwards beheaded by his own soldiers. Theodosius, who is sometimes called the Great, divided his empire between his two sons, Honorius and Arcadius, allotting the west to Honorius, and the east to Arcadius. He died soon afterwards of dropsy.

Honorius and Arcadius succeeded him, A. D. 395. Honorius was a weak prince, utterly incapable of contending with the hordes of furious barbarians that were pouring in on the empire. He had, however, an able general named Stilicho. The celebrated Alaric was at this time king of the Goths. He ravaged Greece and invaded Italy, where he was defeated by Stilicho, who was hailed as the deliverer of Italy. Honorius retired to the inaccessible fastnesses of Ravenna, to be secure from the assaults of the barbarians, and the efforts of his general were confined to the defence of Italy; it

being utterly impossible to protect the more distant provinces. A most formidable invasion now threatened Rome by Rodogaisus or Rodogast, at the head of an immense host of Germans of different tribes. They laid siege to Florence, which was reduced to the last extremity,' when Stilicho appeared for its deliverance. He introduced supplies into the city, surrounded the besieging army with a trench and rampart, and reduced it by famine to a fragment of what it originally was. The wretched remnant of it was forced to surrender at discretion, and sold for slaves. Stilicho was thus hailed a second time as the deliverer of Italy.

Honorius, however, was exposed to a worse enemy than the barbarians, namely, his own jealousy and weakness. Stilicho, after all his services, was accused of corrupt motives, and put to death. This opened Italy to the Goths, and Alaric, a Gothic king professing Christianity, descended upon Rome itself. He was at first induced to spare the city by a large ransom, but afterwards he assailed it, took and plundered it, massacring many of the inhabitants.

In the eastern empire, nothing worthy of being noticed in this brief narrative is recorded, from the reign of Constantine, till the end of this century.

FIFTH CENTURY.

Alaric had taken and plundered Rome, A. D. 410, and Honorius died, A. D. 423. It is not necessary to give the names of the different nominal emperors of the west, who assumed that title, during the early part of this century. None of them ever possessed the real government of the empire, almost every province of it being now in full possession of the barbarian tribes that had invaded it. At length, when a youth, called in derision, Augustulus, who had been raised to the nominal rank of emperor by his father Orestes, a general of the Roman army, was in possession of the

can

title of emperor, Italy was invaded by Odoacer, a Goth. Odoacer defeated, took, and slew Orestes, went to Ravenna and took Augustulus ; but spared his life in consideration of his youth, and appointed him a liberal maintenance. He then went to Rome, which readily submitted to him, and he immediately caused himself to be proclaimed king of Italy. Thus the very name of the empire of the west was obliterated. Britain had long been abandoned by the Romans. Spain was held by the Goths and Suevans. Africa by the Vandals. The Burgundians, Goths, Franks, and Alans, had erected several governments in Gaul, and at length Italy itself, as we have just seen, was enslaved by a barbarian, whose family, country and nation scarcely be traced.

In the east the empire was attacked by the most formidable

enemy it had yet encountered. Attila, king of the Huns, a Tartar race who had come from the great wall of China, spreading blood and desolation over their track. Attila called himself the scourge of God, and boasted that grass never grew where his horse had trodden. He afterwards advanced westwards to Gaul. His empire is supposed to have been the most extensive ever acquired in one reign; his authority being acknowledged over the north of Asia and Europe, from the shores of the Pacific nearly to the shores of the Atlantic. It was, however, greater in territorial extent than in population and importance. Aætius, the Roman prefect of Gaul, who had induced the kings of the Goths and Franks to make common cause with the empire against Attila, met him near Chalons-sur-Marne, and defeated him with the loss of 200,000 men. But Attila though defeated was not subdued; he sent a threatening message to the emperor, and roceived in reply a defiance. He then resolved to raise all his forces and invade Italy, and actually penetrated as far as Milan, which he took. Such was the terror that his approach occasioned, that many of the inhabitants took refuge among the canals and marshes that were at the extremity of the Adriatic Gulf, and there gave origin to the city of Venice. Attila was dissuaded by the

Pope from advancing upon Rome. Actius compelled him to pass into Gaul, and there Thorismond, king of the Goths, gave him as signal a defeat as he had formerly received from Actius.

In 476 a great conflagration took place in Constantinople in which 120,000 books were consumed. Towards the end of this century, the Ostro Goths, ern Goths, erected a kingdom

kingdom within the limits of the eastern empire, as the Visi Goths, or Western Goths, had done in the West.

or Ea

SIXTH CENTURY.

The western empire is now at an end. In the eastern empire the chief object worthy of attention during this century is the reign of Justinian. He came to the throne, A. D. 527. The first enemy that he had to encounter, was the Persian monarch. This monarch, although successful in one battle, was routed afterwards by the celebrated Belisarius. The war, however, was continued, with various success for many years. During this war, one of the greatest civil tumults, recorded in history, took place at Constantinople. It began with different factions in the Circus, but ended in open rebellion. One party went so far as to proclaim a new emperor, and seemed to carry every thing before them till Belisarius, who had been recalled from the Persian war, came upon the rebels when they were assembled in the Circus, attacked and slew 30,000 of them, and effectually quelled the rebellion.

Justinian now turned his arms against the Vandals in Africa, and the Goths in Italy, both of which provinces his able generals Belisarius and Narses recovered out of the hands of these barbarians. In A. D. 558, Justinian purchased peace with the Persians by paying a large sum of money. The same year a body of Huns having passed the Danube, marched towards Constantinople, and came within 18 miles of the city. The

« PredošláPokračovať »