Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire




Gibbon's The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire

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150--220.) The victors in the Capitol were crowned with a garland of oak eaves, (Martial, l. iv. epigram 54.)]

[Footnote 12: The pious grandson of Laura has labored, and not without success, to vindicate her immaculate chastity against the censures of the grave and the sneers of the profane, (tom. ii. notes, p. 76--82.)]

The ceremony of his coronation ^13 was performed in the Capitol, by his friend and patron the supreme magistrate of the republic. Twelve patrician youths were arrayed in scarlet; six representatives of the most illustrious families, in green robes, with garlands of flowers, accompanied the procession; in the midst of the princes and nobles, the senator, count of Anguillara, a kinsman of the Colonna, assumed his throne; and at the voice of a herald Petrarch arose. After discoursing on a text of Virgil, and thrice repeating his vows for the prosperity of Rome, he knelt before the throne, and received from the senator a laurel crown, with a more precious declaration, "This is the reward of merit." The people shouted, "Long life to the Capitol and the poet!" A sonnet in praise of Rome was accepted as the effusion of genius and gratitude; and after the whole procession had visited the Vatican, the profane wreath was suspended before the shrine of St. Peter. In the act or diploma ^14 which was presented to Petrarch, the title and prerogatives of poet-laureate are revived in the Capitol, after the lapse of thirteen hundred years; and he receives the perpetual privilege of wearing, at his choice, a crown of laurel, ivy, or myrtle, of assuming the poetic habit, and of teaching, disputing, interpreting, and composing, in all places whatsoever, and on all subjects of literature. The grant was ratified by the authority of the senate and people; and the character of citizen was the recompense of his affection for the Roman name. They did him honor, but they did him justice. In the familiar society of Cicero and Livy, he had imbibed the ideas of an ancient patriot; and his ardent fancy kindled every idea to a sentiment, and every sentiment to a passion. The aspect of the seven hills and their majestic ruins confirmed these lively impressions; and he loved a country by whose liberal spirit he had been crowned and adopted. The poverty and debasement of Rome excited the indignation and pity of her grateful son; he dissembled the faults of his fellow-citizens; applauded with partial fondness the last of their heroes and matrons; and in the remembrance of the past, in the hopes of the future, was pleased to forget the miseries of the present time. Rome was still the lawful mistress of the world: the pope and the emperor, the bishop and general, had abdicated their station by an inglorious retreat to the Rhône and the Danube; but if she could resume her virtue, the republic might again vindicate her liberty and dominion. Amidst the indulgence of enthusiasm and eloquence, ^15 Petrarch, Italy, and Europe, were astonished by a revolution which realized for a moment his most splendid visions. The rise and fall of the tribune Rienzi will occupy the following pages: ^16 the subject is interesting, the materials are rich, and the glance of a patriot bard ^17 will sometimes vivify the copious, but simple, narrative of the Florentine, ^18 and more especially of the Roman, historian. ^19

[Footnote 13: The whole process of Petrarch's coronation is accurately described by the abbé de Sade, (tom. i. p. 425--435, tom. ii. p. 1--6, notes, p. 1--13,) from his own writings, and the Roman diary of Ludovico, Monaldeschi, without mixing in this authentic narrative the more recent fables of Sannuccio Delbene.]

[Footnote 14: The original act is printed among the Pieces Justificatives in the Mémoires sur Pétrarque, tom. iii. p. 50--53.]

[Footnote 15: To find the proofs of his enthusiasm for Rome, I need only request that the reader would open, by chance, either Petrarch, or his French biographer. The latter has described the poet's first visit to Rome, (tom. i. p. 323--335.) But in the place of much idle rhetoric and morality, Petrarch might have amused the present and future age with an original account of the city and his coronation.]

[Footnote 16: It has been treated by the pen of a Jesuit, the P. de Cerceau whose posthumous work (Conjuration de Nicolas Gabrini, dit de Rienzi, Tyran de Rome, en 1347) was published at Paris, 1748, in 12mo. I am indebted to him for some facts and documents in John Hocsemius, canon of Liege, a contemporary historian, (Fabricius Bibliot. Lat. Med. Ævi, tom. iii. p. 273, tom. iv. p. 85.)]

[Footnote 17: The abbé de Sade, who so freely expatiates on the history of the xivth century, might treat, as his proper subject, a revolution in which the heart of Petrarch was so deeply engaged, (Mémoires, tom.

  1. p. 50, 51, 320--417, notes, p. 70--76, tom. iii. p. 221--243,

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Fall of Roman Empire
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