Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire

Gibbon's The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire

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1598, 1599,) Jornandes, (de Rebus Geticis, c. 5, p. 194, et de Regn. Successione, p. 242,) Theophanes, (p. 185,) and the Chronicles of Cassiodorus and Marcellinus. The name of Huns is too vague; the tribes of the Cutturgurians and Utturgurians are too minute and too harsh.

Note: The Bulgarians are first mentioned among the writers

of the West in the Panegyric on Theodoric by Ennodius, Bishop of Pavia. Though they perhaps took part in the conquests of the Huns, they did not advance to the Danube till after the dismemberment of that monarchy on the death of Attila. But the Bulgarians are mentioned much earlier by the Armenian writers. Above 600 years before Christ, a tribe of Bulgarians, driven from their native possessions beyond the Caspian, occupied a part of Armenia, north of the Araxes. They were of the Finnish race; part of the nation, in the fifth century, moved westward, and reached the modern Bulgaria; part remained along the Volga, which is called Etel, Etil, or Athil, in all the Tartar languages, but from the Bulgarians, the Volga. The power of the eastern Bulgarians was broken by Batou, son of Tchingiz Khan; that of the western will appear in the course of the history. From St. Martin, vol. vii p. 141. Malte-Brun, on the contrary, conceives that the Bulgarians took their name from the river. According to the Byzantine historians they were a branch of the Ougres, (Thunmann, Hist. of the People to the East of Europe,) but they have more resemblance to the Turks. Their first country, Great Bulgaria, was washed by the Volga. Some remains of their capital are still shown near Kasan. They afterwards dwelt in Kuban, and finally on the Danube, where they subdued (about the year 500) the Slavo-Servians established on the Lower Danube. Conquered in their turn by the Avars, they freed themselves from that yoke in 635; their empire then comprised the Cutturgurians, the remains of the Huns established on the Palus Maeotis. The Danubian Bulgaria, a dismemberment of this vast state, was long formidable to the Byzantine empire. Malte-Brun, Prec. de Geog Univ. vol. i.

  1. 419. - M.

According to Shafarik, the Danubian Bulgaria was peopled by

a Slavo Bulgarian race. The Slavish population was conquered by the Bulgarian (of Uralian and Finnish descent,) and incorporated with them. This mingled race are the Bulgarians bordering on the Byzantine empire. Shafarik, ii 152, et seq. - M. 1845]

[Footnote 12: Procopius, (Goth. l. iv. c. 19.) His verbal message (he owns him self an illiterate Barbarian) is delivered as an epistle. The style is savage, figurative, and original.]

[Footnote 13: This sum is the result of a particular list, in a curious Ms. fragment of the year 550, found in the library of Milan. The obscure geography of the times provokes and exercises the patience of the count de Buat, (tom. xi. p. 69 - 189.) The French minister often loses himself in a wilderness which requires a Saxon and Polish guide.]

[Footnote 14: Panicum, milium. See Columella, l. ii. c. 9, p. 430, edit. Gesner. Plin. Hist. Natur. xviii. 24, 25. The Samaritans made a pap of millet, mingled with mare's milk or blood. In the wealth of modern husbandry, our millet feeds poultry, and not heroes. See the dictionaries of Bomare and Miller.]

[Footnote 15: For the name and nation, the situation and manners, of the Sclavonians, see the original evidence of the vith century, in Procopius, (Goth. l. ii. c. 26, l. iii. c. 14,) and the emperor Mauritius or Maurice (Stratagemat. l. ii. c. 5, apud Mascon Annotat. xxxi.) The stratagems of Maurice have been printed only, as I understand, at the end of Scheffer's edition of Arrian's Tactics, at Upsal, 1664, (Fabric. Bibliot. Graec. l.

  1. c. 8, tom. iii. p. 278,) a scarce, and hitherto, to me, an inaccessible book.] I have marked the faint and general outline of the

Sclavonians and Bulgarians, without attempting to define their intermediate boundaries, which were not accurately known or respected by the Barbarians themselves. Their importance was measured by their vicinity to the empire; and the level country of Moldavia and Wallachia was occupied by the Antes, ^16 a Sclavonian tribe, which swelled the titles of Justinian with an epithet of conquest. ^17 Against the Antes he erected the fortifications of the Lower Danube; and labored to secure the alliance of a people seated in the direct channel of northern inundation, an interval of two hundred miles between the mountains of Transylvania and the Euxine Sea. But the Antes wanted power and inclination to stem the fury of the torrent; and the light-armed Sclavonians, from a hundred tribes, pursued with almost equal speed the footsteps of the Bulgarian horse. The payment of one piece of gold for each soldier procured a safe and easy retreat through the country of the Gepidae, who commanded the passage of the Upper Danube. ^18 The hopes or fears of the Barbarians; their intense union or discord; the accident of a frozen or shallow stream; the prospect of harvest or vintage; the prosperity or distress of the Romans; were the causes which produced the uniform repetition of annual visits, ^19 tedious in the narrative, and destructive in the event. The same year, and possibly the same month, in which Ravenna surrendered, was marked by an invasion of the Huns or Bulgarians, so dreadful, that it almost effaced the memory of their past inroads. They spread from the suburbs of Constantinople to the Ionian Gulf, destroyed thirty-two cities or castles, erased Potidaea, which Athens had built, and Philip had besieged, and repassed the Danube, dragging at their horses' heels one hundred and twenty thousand of the subjects of Justinian. In a subsequent inroad they pierced the wall of the Thracian Chersonesus, extirpated the habitations and the inhabitants, boldly traversed the Hellespont, and returned to their companions, laden with the spoils of Asia. Another party, which seemed a multitude in the eyes of the Romans, penetrated, without opposition, from the Straits of Thermopylae to the Isthmus of Corinth; and the last ruin of Greece has appeared an object too minute for the attention of history. The works which the emperor raised for the protection, but at the expense of his subjects, served only to disclose the weakness of some neglected part; and the walls, which by flattery had been deemed impregnable, were either deserted by the garrison, or scaled by the Barbarians. Three thousand Sclavonians, who insolently divided themselves into two bands, discovered the weakness and misery of a triumphant reign. They passed the Danube and the Hebrus, vanquished the Roman generals who dared to oppose their progress, and plundered, with impunity, the cities of Illyricum and Thrace, each of which had arms and numbers to overwhelm their contemptible assailants. Whatever praise the boldness of the Sclavonians may deserve, it is sullied by the wanton and deliberate cruelty which they are accused of exercising on their prisoners. Without distinction of rank, or age, or sex, the captives were impaled or flayed alive, or suspended between four posts, and beaten with clubs till they expired, or enclosed in some spacious building, and left to perish in the flames with the spoil and cattle which might impede the march of these savage victors. ^20 Perhaps a more impartial narrative would reduce the number, and qualify the nature, of these horrid acts; and they might sometimes be excused by the cruel laws of retaliation. In the siege of Topirus, ^21 whose obstinate defence had enraged the Sclavonians, they massacred fifteen thousand males; but they spared the women and children; the most valuable captives were always reserved for labor or ransom; the servitude was not rigorous, and the terms of their deliverance were speedy and moderate. But the subject, or the historian of Justinian, exhaled his just indignation in the language of complaint and reproach; and Procopius has confidently affirmed, that in a reign of thirty-two years, each annual inroad of the Barbarians consumed two hundred thousand of the inhabitants of the Roman empire. The entire population of Turkish Europe, which nearly corresponds with the provinces of Justinian, would perhaps be incapable of supplying six millions of persons, the result of this incredible estimate. ^22

[Footnote 16: Antes corum fortissimi .... Taysis qui rapidus et vorticosus in Histri fluenta furens devolvitur, (Jornandes, c. 5,

  1. 194, edit. Murator. Procopius, Goth. l. iii. c. 14, et de Edific. l iv. c. 7.) Yet the same Procopius mentions the Goths and Huns as neighbors to the Danube, (de Edific. l. v. c. 1.)]

[Footnote 17: The national title of Anticus, in the laws and inscriptions of Justinian, was adopted by his successors, and is justified by the pious Ludewig (in Vit. Justinian. p. 515.) It had strangely puzzled the civilians of the middle age.]

[Footnote 18: Procopius, Goth. l. iv. c. 25.]

[Footnote 19: An inroad of the Huns is connected, by Procopius, with a comet perhaps that of 531, (Persic. l. ii. c. 4.) Agathias

  1. v. p. 154, 155) borrows from his predecessors some early facts.]

[Footnote 20: The cruelties of the Sclavonians are related or magnified by Procopius, (Goth. l. iii. c. 29, 38.) For their mild and liberal behavior to their prisoners, we may appeal to the authority, somewhat more recent of the emperor Maurice, (Stratagem. l. ii. c. 5.)]

[Footnote 21: Topirus was situate near Philippi in Thrace, or Macedonia, opposite to the Isle of Thasos, twelve days' journey from Constantinople (Cellarius, tom. i. p. 676, 846.)]

[Footnote 22: According to the malevolent testimony of the Anecdotes, (c. 18,) these inroads had reduced the provinces south of the Danube to the state of a Scythian wilderness.]

In the midst of these obscure calamities, Europe felt the

shock of revolution, which first revealed to the world the name and nation of the Turks. ^* Like Romulus, the founder ^! of that martial people was suckled by a she-wolf, who afterwards made him the father of a numerous progeny; and the representation of that animal in the banners of the Turks preserved the memory, or rather suggested the idea, of a fable, which was invented, without any mutual intercourse, by the shepherds of Latium and those of Scythia. At the equal distance of two thousand miles from the Caspian, the Icy, the Chinese, and the Bengal Seas, a ridge of mountains is conspicuous, the centre, and perhaps the summit, of Asia; which, in the language of different nations, has been styled Imaus, and Caf, ^23 and Altai, and the Golden Mountains, ^!! and the Girdle of the Earth. The sides of the hills were productive of minerals; and the iron forges, ^24 for the purpose of war, were exercised by the Turks, the most despised portion of the slaves of the great khan of the Geougen. But their servitude could only last till a leader, bold and eloquent, should arise to persuade his countrymen that the same arms which they forged for their masters, might become, in their own hands, the instruments of freedom and victory. They sallied from the mountains; ^25 a sceptre was the reward of his advice; and the annual ceremony, in which a piece of iron was heated in the fire, and a smith's hammer ^* was successively handled by the prince and his nobles, recorded for ages the humble profession and rational pride of the Turkish nation. Bertezena, ^!!! their first leader, signalized their valor and his own in successful combats against the neighboring tribes; but when he presumed to ask in marriage the daughter of the great khan, the insolent demand of a slave and a mechanic was contemptuously rejected. The disgrace was expiated by a more noble alliance with a princess of China; and the decisive battle which almost extirpated the nation of the Geougen, established in Tartary the new and more powerful empire of the Turks. ^* They reigned over the north; but they confessed the vanity of conquest, by their faithful attachment to the mountain of their fathers. The royal encampment seldom lost sight of Mount Altai, from whence the River Irtish descends to water the rich pastures of the Calmucks, ^26 which nourish the largest sheep and oxen in the world. The soil is fruitful, and the climate mild and temperate: the happy region was ignorant of earthquake and pestilence; the emperor's throne was turned towards the East, and a golden wolf on the top of a spear seemed to guard the entrance of his tent. One of the successors of Bertezena was tempted by the luxury and superstition of China; but his design of building cities and temples was defeated by the simple wisdom of a Barbarian counsellor. "The Turks," he said, "are not equal in number to one hundredth part of the inhabitants of China. If we balance their power, and elude their armies, it is because we wander without any fixed habitations in the exercise of war and hunting.

Are we strong? we advance and conquer: are we feeble? we retire and are concealed. Should the Turks confine themselves within the walls of cities, the loss of a battle would be the destruction of their empire. The bonzes preach only patience, humility, and the renunciation of the world. Such, O king! is not the religion of heroes." They entertained, with less reluctance, the doctrines of Zoroaster; but the greatest part of the nation acquiesced, without inquiry, in the opinions, or rather in the practice, of their ancestors. The honors of sacrifice were reserved for the supreme deity; they acknowledged, in rude hymns, their obligations to the air, the fire, the water, and the earth; and their priests derived some profit from the art of divination. Their unwritten laws were rigorous and impartial: theft was punished with a tenfold restitution; adultery, treason, and murder, with death; and no chastisement could be inflicted too severe for the rare and inexpiable guilt of cowardice. As the subject nations marched under the standard of the Turks, their cavalry, both men and horses, were proudly computed by millions; one of their effective armies consisted of four hundred thousand soldiers, and in less than fifty years they were connected in peace and war with the Romans, the Persians, and the Chinese. In their northern limits, some vestige may be discovered of the form and situation of Kamptchatka, of a people of hunters and fishermen, whose sledges were drawn by dogs, and whose habitations were buried in the earth. The Turks were ignorant of astronomy; but the observation taken by some learned Chinese, with a gnomon of eight feet, fixes the royal camp in the latitude of forty-nine degrees, and marks their extreme progress within three, or at least ten degrees, of the polar circle. ^27 Among their southern conquests the most splendid was that of the Nephthalites, or white Huns, a polite and warlike people, who possessed the commercial cities of Bochara and Samarcand, who had vanquished the Persian monarch, and carried their victorious arms along the banks, and perhaps to the mouth, of the Indus. On the side of the West, the Turkish cavalry advanced to the Lake Maeotis. They passed that lake on the ice. The khan who dwelt at the foot of Mount Altai issued his commands for the siege of Bosphorus, ^28 a city the voluntary subject of Rome, and whose princes had formerly been the friends of Athens. ^29 To the east, the Turks invaded China, as often as the vigor of the government was relaxed: and I am taught to read in the history of the times, that they mowed down their patient enemies like hemp or grass; and that the mandarins applauded the wisdom of an emperor who repulsed these Barbarians with golden lances. This extent of savage empire compelled the Turkish monarch to establish three subordinate princes of his own blood, who soon forgot their gratitude and allegiance. The conquerors were enervated by luxury, which is always fatal except to an industrious people; the policy of China solicited the vanquished nations to resume their independence and the power of the Turks was limited to a period of two hundred years. The revival of their name and dominion in the southern countries of Asia are the events of a later age; and the dynasties, which succeeded to their native realms, may sleep in oblivion; since their history bears no relation to the decline and fall of the Roman empire. ^30

[Footnote *: It must be remembered that the name of Turks is extended to a whole family of the Asiatic races, and not confined to the Assena, or Turks of the Altai. - M.]

[Footnote !: Assena (the wolf) was the name of this chief. Klaproth, Tabl. Hist. de l'Asie p. 114. - M.]

[Footnote 23: From Caf to Caf; which a more rational geography would interpret, from Imaus, perhaps, to Mount Atlas. According to the religious philosophy of the Mahometans, the basis of Mount Caf is an emerald, whose reflection produces the azure of the sky. The mountain is endowed with a sensitive action in its roots or nerves; and their vibration, at the command of God, is the cause of earthquakes. (D'Herbelot, p. 230, 231.)] [Footnote !!: Altai, i. e. Altun Tagh, the Golden Mountain. Von Hammer Osman Geschichte, vol. i. p. 2. - M.]

[Footnote 24: The Siberian iron is the best and most plentiful in the world; and in the southern parts, above sixty mines are now worked by the industry of the Russians, (Strahlenberg, Hist. of Siberia, p. 342, 387. Voyage en Siberie, par l'Abbe Chappe d'Auteroche, p. 603 - 608, edit in 12mo. Amsterdam. 1770.) The Turks offered iron for sale; yet the Roman ambassadors, with strange obstinacy, persisted in believing that it was all a trick, and that their country produced none, (Menander in Excerpt. Leg. p. 152.)]
[Footnote 25: Of Irgana-kon, (Abulghazi Khan, Hist. Genealogique des Tatars, P ii. c. 5, p. 71 - 77, c. 15, p. 155.) The tradition of the Moguls, of the 450 years which they passed in the mountains, agrees with the Chinese periods of the history of the Huns and Turks, (De Guignes, tom. i. part ii. p. 376,) and the twenty generations, from their restoration to Zingis.] [Footnote *: The Mongol Temugin is also, though erroneously, explained by Rubruquis, a smith. Schmidt, p 876. - M.]

[Footnote !!!: There appears the same confusion here. Bertezena (Berte-Scheno) is claimed as the founder of the Mongol race. The name means the gray (blauliche) wolf. In fact, the same tradition of the origin from a wolf seems common to the Mongols and the Turks. The Mongol Berte-Scheno, of the very curious Mongol History, published and translated by M. Schmidt of Petersburg, is brought from Thibet. M. Schmidt considers this tradition of the Thibetane descent of the royal race of the Mongols to be much earlier than their conversion to Lamaism, yet it seems very suspicious. See Klaproth, Tabl. de l'Asie, p. 159.

The Turkish Bertezena is called Thou-men by Klaproth, p. 115. In 552, Thou-men took the title of Kha-Khan, and was called Il Khan.

  • M.]

[Footnote *: Great Bucharia is called Turkistan: see Hammer, 2. It includes all the last steppes at the foot of the Altai. The name is the same with that of the Turan of Persian poetic legend.

  • M.]

[Footnote 26: The country of the Turks, now of the Calmucks, is well described in the Genealogical History, p. 521 - 562. The curious notes of the French translator are enlarged and digested in the second volume of the English version.]

[Footnote 27: Visdelou, p. 141, 151. The fact, though it strictly belongs to a subordinate and successive tribe, may be introduced here.]
[Footnote 28: Procopius, Persic. l. i. c. 12, l. ii. c. 3. Peyssonel, Observations sur les Peuples Barbares, p. 99, 100, defines the distance between Caffa and the old Bosphorus at xvi. long Tartar leagues.]
[Footnote 29: See, in a Memoire of M. de Boze, (Mem. de l'Academie des Inscriptions, tom. vi. p. 549 - 565,) the ancient kings and medals of the Cimmerian Bosphorus; and the gratitude of Athens, in the Oration of Demosthenes against Leptines, (in Reiske, Orator. Graec. tom. i. p. 466, 187.)]

[Footnote 30: For the origin and revolutions of the first Turkish empire, the Chinese details are borrowed from De Guignes (Hist. des Huns, tom. P. ii. p. 367 - 462) and Visdelou, (Supplement a la Bibliotheque Orient. d'Herbelot, p. 82 - 114.) The Greek or Roman hints are gathered in Menander (p. 108 - 164) and Theophylact Simocatta, (l. vii. c. 7, 8.)]

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Fall of Roman Empire