Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire




Gibbon's The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire

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255 - 273, 396 - 501. The count de Buat was French minister at

the court of Bavaria
a liberal curiosity prompted his inquiries into the antiquities of the country, and that curiosity was the germ of twelve respectable volumes.] [Footnote 45: See the Gothic transactions on the Danube and the Illyricum, in Jornandes, (c. 58, p. 699;) Ennodius, (p. 1607 - 1610;) Marcellmus (in Chron. p. 44, 47, 48;) and Cassiodorus, in (in Chron and Var. iii. 29 50, iv. 13, vii. 4 24, viii. 9, 10, 11, 21, ix. 8, 9.)]

[Footnote 46: I cannot forbear transcribing the liberal and classic style of Count Marcellinus: Romanus comes domesticorum, et Rusticus comes scholariorum cum centum armatis navibus, totidemque dromonibus, octo millia militum armatorum secum ferentibus, ad devastanda Italiae littora processerunt, ut usque ad Tarentum antiquissimam civitatem aggressi sunt; remensoque mari in honestam victoriam quam piratico ausu Romani ex Romanis rapuerunt, Anastasio Caesari reportarunt, (in Chron. p. 48.) See Variar. i. 16, ii. 38.]
[Footnote 47: See the royal orders and instructions, (Var. iv. 15, v. 16 - 20.) These armed boats should be still smaller than the thousand vessels of Agamemnon at the siege of Troy. (Manso,

  1. 121.)]

[Footnote 48: Vol. iii. p. 581 - 585.]

[Footnote 49: Ennodius (p. 1610) and Cassiodorus, in the royal name, (Var. ii 41,) record his salutary protection of the Alemanni.]

[Footnote 50: The Gothic transactions in Gaul and Spain are represented with some perplexity in Cassiodorus, (Var. iii. 32, 38, 41, 43, 44, v. 39.) Jornandes, (c. 58, p. 698, 699,) and Procopius, (Goth. l. i. c. 12.) I will neither hear nor reconcile the long and contradictory arguments of the Abbe Dubos and the Count de Buat, about the wars of Burgundy.]

[Footnote 51: Theophanes, p. 113.]

The union of the Goths and Romans might have fixed for ages

the transient happiness of Italy; and the first of nations, a new people of free subjects and enlightened soldiers, might have gradually arisen from the mutual emulation of their respective virtues. But the sublime merit of guiding or seconding such a revolution was not reserved for the reign of Theodoric: he wanted either the genius or the opportunities of a legislator; ^52 and while he indulged the Goths in the enjoyment of rude liberty, he servilely copied the institutions, and even the abuses, of the political system which had been framed by Constantine and his successors. From a tender regard to the expiring prejudices of Rome, the Barbarian declined the name, the purple, and the diadem, of the emperors; but he assumed, under the hereditary title of king, the whole substance and plenitude of Imperial prerogative. ^53 His addresses to the eastern throne were respectful and ambiguous: he celebrated, in pompous style, the harmony of the two republics, applauded his own government as the perfect similitude of a sole and undivided empire, and claimed above the kings of the earth the same preeminence which he modestly allowed to the person or rank of Anastasius. The alliance of the East and West was annually declared by the unanimous choice of two consuls; but it should seem that the Italian candidate who was named by Theodoric accepted a formal confirmation from the sovereign of Constantinople. ^54 The Gothic palace of Ravenna reflected the image of the court of Theodosius or Valentinian. The Praetorian praefect, the praefect of Rome, the quaestor, the master of the offices, with the public and patrimonial treasurers, ^* whose functions are painted in gaudy colors by the rhetoric of Cassiodorus, still continued to act as the ministers of state. And the subordinate care of justice and the revenue was delegated to seven consulars, three correctors, and five presidents, who governed the fifteen regions of Italy according to the principles, and even the forms, of Roman jurisprudence. ^55 The violence of the conquerors was abated or eluded by the slow artifice of judicial proceedings; the civil administration, with its honors and emoluments, was confined to the Italians; and the people still preserved their dress and language, their laws and customs, their personal freedom, and two thirds of their landed property. ^! It had been the object of Augustus to conceal the introduction of monarchy; it was the policy of Theodoric to disguise the reign of a Barbarian. ^56 If his subjects were sometimes awakened from this pleasing vision of a Roman government, they derived more substantial comfort from the character of a Gothic prince, who had penetration to discern, and firmness to pursue, his own and the public interest. Theodoric loved the virtues which he possessed, and the talents of which he was destitute. Liberius was promoted to the office of Praetorian praefect for his unshaken fidelity to the unfortunate cause of Odoacer. The ministers of Theodoric, Cassiodorus, ^57 and Boethius, have reflected on his reign the lustre of their genius and learning. More prudent or more fortunate than his colleague, Cassiodorus preserved his own esteem without forfeiting the royal favor; and after passing thirty years in the honors of the world, he was blessed with an equal term of repose in the devout and studious solitude of Squillace. ^*

[Footnote 52: Procopius affirms that no laws whatsoever were promulgated by Theodoric and the succeeding kings of Italy, (Goth. l. ii. c. 6.) He must mean in the Gothic language. A Latin edict of Theodoric is still extant, in one hundred and fifty-four articles.

Note: See Manso, 92. Savigny, vol. ii. p. 164, et seq. - M.]

[Footnote 53: The image of Theodoric is engraved on his coins: his modest successors were satisfied with adding their own name to the head of the reigning emperor, (Muratori, Antiquitat. Italiae Medii Aevi, tom. ii. dissert. xxvii. p. 577 - 579. Giannone, Istoria Civile di Napoli tom. i. p. 166.)] [Footnote 54: The alliance of the emperor and the king of Italy are represented by Cassiodorus (Var. i. l, ii. 1, 2, 3, vi. l) and Procopius, (Goth. l. ii. c. 6, l. iii. c. 21,) who celebrate the friendship of Anastasius and Theodoric; but the figurative style of compliment was interpreted in a very different sense at Constantinople and Ravenna.]

[Footnote *: All causes between Roman and Roman were judged by the old Roman courts. The comes Gothorum judged between Goth and Goth; between Goths and Romans, (without considering which was the plaintiff.) the comes Gothorum, with a Roman jurist as his assessor, making a kind of mixed jurisdiction, but with a natural predominance to the side of the Goth Savigny, vol. i. p. 290. -

[Footnote 55: To the xvii. provinces of the Notitia, Paul Warnefrid the deacon (De Reb. Longobard. l. ii. c. 14 - 22) has subjoined an xviiith, the Apennine, (Muratori, Script. Rerum Italicarum, tom. i. p. 431 - 443.) But of these Sardinia and Corsica were possessed by the Vandals, and the two Rhaetias, as well as the Cottian Alps, seem to have been abandoned to a military government. The state of the four provinces that now form the kingdom of Naples is labored by Giannone (tom. i. p. 172, 178) with patriotic diligence.] [Footnote !: Manso enumerates and develops at some length the following sources of the royal revenue of Theodoric: 1. A domain, either by succession to that of Odoacer, or a part of the third of the lands was reserved for the royal patrimony. 1. Regalia, including mines, unclaimed estates, treasure-trove, and confiscations. 3. Land tax. 4. Aurarium, like the Chrysargyrum, a tax on certain branches of trade. 5. Grant of Monopolies. 6. Siliquaticum, a small tax on the sale of all kinds of commodities. 7. Portoria, customs Manso, 96, 111. Savigny (i. 285) supposes that in many cases the property remained in the original owner, who paid his tertia, a third of the produce to the crown, vol. i. p. 285. - M.]

[Footnote 56: See the Gothic history of Procopius, (l. i. c. 1,

  1. ii. c. 6,) the Epistles of Cassiodorus, (passim, but especially the vth and vith books, which contain the formulae, or patents of offices,) and the Civil History of Giannone, (tom. i.
  1. ii. iii.) The Gothic counts, which he places in every Italian city, are annihilated, however, by Maffei, (Verona Illustrata, P.
  1. l. viii. p. 227; for those of Syracuse and Naples (Var vi. 22,
  1. were special and temporary commissions.]

[Footnote 57: Two Italians of the name of Cassiodorus, the father (Var. i. 24, 40) and the son, (ix. 24, 25,) were successively employed in the administration of Theodoric. The son was born in the year 479: his various epistles as quaestor, master of the offices, and Praetorian praefect, extend from 509 to 539, and he lived as a monk about thirty years, (Tiraboschi Storia della Letteratura Italiana, tom. iii. p. 7 - 24. Fabricius, Bibliot. Lat. Med. Aevi, tom. i. p. 357, 358, edit. Mansi.)]

[Footnote *: Cassiodorus was of an ancient and honorable family; his grandfather had distinguished himself in the defence of Sicily against the ravages of Genseric; his father held a high rank at the court of Valentinian III., enjoyed the friendship of Aetius, and was one of the ambassadors sent to arrest the progress of Attila. Cassiodorus himself was first the treasurer of the private expenditure to Odoacer, afterwards "count of the sacred largesses." Yielding with the rest of the Romans to the dominion of Theodoric, he was instrumental in the peaceable submission of Sicily; was successively governor of his native provinces of Bruttium and Lucania, quaestor, magister, palatii, Praetorian praefect, patrician, consul, and private secretary, and, in fact, first minister of the king. He was five times Praetorian praefect under different sovereigns, the last time in the reign of Vitiges. This is the theory of Manso, which is not unencumbered with difficulties. M. Buat had supposed that it was the father of Cassiodorus who held the office first named. Compare Manso, p. 85, &c., and Beylage, vii. It certainly appears improbable that Cassiodorus should have been count of the sacred largesses at twenty years old. - M.]

As the patron of the republic, it was the interest and duty

of the Gothic king to cultivate the affections of the senate ^58 and people. The nobles of Rome were flattered by sonorous epithets and formal professions of respect, which had been more justly applied to the merit and authority of their ancestors. The people enjoyed, without fear or danger, the three blessings of a capital, order, plenty, and public amusements. A visible diminution of their numbers may be found even in the measure of liberality; ^59 yet Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily, poured their tribute of corn into the granaries of Rome an allowance of bread and meat was distributed to the indigent citizens; and every office was deemed honorable which was consecrated to the care of their health and happiness. The public games, such as the Greek ambassador might politely applaud, exhibited a faint and feeble copy of the magnificence of the Caesars: yet the musical, the gymnastic, and the pantomime arts, had not totally sunk in oblivion; the wild beasts of Africa still exercised in the amphitheatre the courage and dexterity of the hunters; and the indulgent Goth either patiently tolerated or gently restrained the blue and green factions, whose contests so often filled the circus with clamor and even with blood. ^60 In the seventh year of his peaceful reign, Theodoric visited the old capital of the world; the senate and people advanced in solemn procession to salute a second Trajan, a new Valentinian; and he nobly supported that character by the assurance of a just and legal government, ^61 in a discourse which he was not afraid to pronounce in public, and to inscribe on a tablet of brass. Rome, in this august ceremony, shot a last ray of declining glory; and a saint, the spectator of this pompous scene, could only hope, in his pious fancy, that it was excelled by the celestial splendor of the new Jerusalem. ^62 During a residence of six months, the fame, the person, and the courteous demeanor of the Gothic king, excited the admiration of the Romans, and he contemplated, with equal curiosity and surprise, the monuments that remained of their ancient greatness. He imprinted the footsteps of a conqueror on the Capitoline hill, and frankly confessed that each day he viewed with fresh wonder the forum of Trajan and his lofty column. The theatre of Pompey appeared, even in its decay, as a huge mountain artificially hollowed, and polished, and adorned by human industry; and he vaguely computed, that a river of gold must have been drained to erect the colossal amphitheatre of Titus. ^63 From the mouths of fourteen aqueducts, a pure and copious stream was diffused into every part of the city; among these the Claudian water, which arose at the distance of thirty-eight miles in the Sabine mountains, was conveyed along a gentle though constant declivity of solid arches, till it descended on the summit of the Aventine hill. The long and spacious vaults which had been constructed for the purpose of common sewers, subsisted, after twelve centuries, in their pristine strength; and these subterraneous channels have been preferred to all the visible wonders of Rome. ^64 The Gothic kings, so injuriously accused of the ruin of antiquity, were anxious to preserve the monuments of the nation whom they had subdued. ^65 The royal edicts were framed to prevent the abuses, the neglect, or the depredations of the citizens themselves; and a professed architect, the annual sum of two hundred pounds of gold, twenty-five thousand tiles, and the receipt of customs from the Lucrine port, were assigned for the ordinary repairs of the walls and public edifices. A similar care was extended to the statues of metal or marble of men or animals. The spirit of the horses, which have given a modern name to the Quirinal, was applauded by the Barbarians; ^66 the brazen elephants of the Via sacra were diligently restored; ^67 the famous heifer of Myron deceived the cattle, as they were driven through the forum of peace; ^68 and an officer was created to protect those works of rat, which Theodoric considered as the noblest ornament of his kingdom.

[Footnote 58: See his regard for the senate in Cochlaeus, (Vit. Theod. viii. p. 72 - 80.)]

[Footnote 59: No more than 120,000 modii, or four thousand quarters, (Anonym. Valesian. p. 721, and Var. i. 35, vi. 18, xi. 5, 39.)]

[Footnote 60: See his regard and indulgence for the spectacles of the circus, the amphitheatre, and the theatre, in the Chronicle and Epistles of Cassiodorus, (Var. i. 20, 27, 30, 31, 32, iii. 51, iv. 51, illustrated by the xivth Annotation of Mascou's History), who has contrived to sprinkle the subject with ostentatious, though agreeable, learning.]

[Footnote 61: Anonym. Vales. p. 721. Marius Aventicensis in Chron. In the scale of public and personal merit, the Gothic conqueror is at least as much above Valentinian, as he may seem inferior to Trajan.]

[Footnote 62: Vit. Fulgentii in Baron. Annal. Eccles. A.D. 500, No. 10.]
[Footnote 63: Cassiodorus describes in his pompous style the Forum of Trajan (Var. vii. 6,) the theatre of Marcellus, (iv. 51,) and the amphitheatre of Titus, (v. 42;) and his descriptions are not unworthy of the reader's perusal. According to the modern prices, the Abbe Barthelemy computes that the brick work and masonry of the Coliseum would now cost twenty millions of French livres, (Mem. de l'Academie des Inscriptions, tom. xxviii. p.


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Fall of Roman Empire
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