Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire

Gibbon's The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire

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(A. D 998,) consulibus senatûs populique Romani; but the act is probably spurious. At the coronation of Henry I., A.D. 1014, the historian Dithmar (apud Muratori, Dissert. xxiii.) describes him, a senatoribus duodecim vallatum, quorum sex rasi barbâ, alii prolixâ, mystice incedebant cum baculis. The senate is mentioned in the panegyric of Berengarius, (p. 406.)]

[Footnote 34: In ancient Rome the equestrian order was not ranked with the senate and people as a third branch of the republic till the consulship of Cicero, who assumes the merit of the establishment, (Plin. Hist. Natur. xxxiii. 3. Beaufort, République Romaine, tom. i. p. 144--155.)]

[Footnote 35: The republican plan of Arnold of Brescia is thus stated by Gunther: --

Quin etiam titulos urbis renovare vetustos;

Nomine plebeio secernere nomen equestre,

Jura tribunorum, sanctum reparare senatum,

Et senio fessas mutasque reponere leges.

Lapsa ruinosis, et adhuc pendentia muris

Reddere primævo Capitolia prisca nitori.

But of these reformations, some were no more than ideas, others no more than words.]

In the revolution of the twelfth century, which gave a new existence and æra to Rome, we may observe the real and important events that marked or confirmed her political independence. I. The Capitoline hill, one of her seven eminences, ^36 is about four hundred yards in length, and two hundred in breadth. A flight of a hundred steps led to the summit of the Tarpeian rock; and far steeper was the ascent before the declivities had been smoothed and the precipices filled by the ruins of fallen edifices. From the earliest ages, the Capitol had been used as a temple in peace, a fortress in war: after the loss of the city, it maintained a siege against the victorious Gauls, and the sanctuary of the empire was occupied, assaulted, and burnt, in the civil wars of Vitellius and Vespasian. ^37 The temples of Jupiter and his kindred deities had crumbled into dust; their place was supplied by monasteries and houses; and the solid walls, the long and shelving porticos, were decayed or ruined by the lapse of time. It was the first act of the Romans, an act of freedom, to restore the strength, though not the beauty, of the Capitol; to fortify the seat of their arms and counsels; and as often as they ascended the hill, the coldest minds must have glowed with the remembrance of their ancestors. II. The first Cæsars had been invested with the exclusive coinage of the gold and silver; to the senate they abandoned the baser metal of bronze or copper: ^38 the emblems and legends were inscribed on a more ample field by the genius of flattery; and the prince was relieved from the care of celebrating his own virtues. The successors of Diocletian despised even the flattery of the senate: their royal officers at Rome, and in the provinces, assumed the sole direction of the mint; and the same prerogative was inherited by the Gothic kings of Italy, and the long series of the Greek, the French, and the German dynasties. After an abdication of eight hundred years, the Roman senate asserted this honorable and lucrative privilege; which was tacitly renounced by the popes, from Paschal the Second to the establishment of their residence beyond the Alps. Some of these republican coins of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries are shown in the cabinets of the curious. On one of these, a gold medal, Christ is depictured holding in his left hand a book with this inscription: "The vow of the Roman senate and people: Rome the capital of the world;" on the reverse, St. Peter delivering a banner to a kneeling senator in his cap and gown, with the name and arms of his family impressed on a shield. ^39 III. With the empire, the præfect of the city had declined to a municipal officer; yet he still exercised in the last appeal the civil and criminal jurisdiction; and a drawn sword, which he received from the successors of Otho, was the mode of his investiture and the emblem of his functions. ^40 The dignity was confined to the noble families of Rome: the choice of the people was ratified by the pope; but a triple oath of fidelity must have often embarrassed the præfect in the conflict of adverse duties. ^41 A servant, in whom they possessed but a third share, was dismissed by the independent Romans: in his place they elected a patrician; but this title, which Charlemagne had not disdained, was too lofty for a citizen or a subject; and, after the first fervor of rebellion, they consented without reluctance to the restoration of the præfect. About fifty years after this event, Innocent the Third, the most ambitious, or at least the most fortunate, of the Pontiffs, delivered the Romans and himself from this badge of foreign dominion: he invested the præfect with a banner instead of a sword, and absolved him from all dependence of oaths or service to the German emperors. ^42 In his place an ecclesiastic, a present or future cardinal, was named by the pope to the civil government of Rome; but his jurisdiction has been reduced to a narrow compass; and in the days of freedom, the right or exercise was derived from the senate and people.

  1. After the revival of the senate, ^43 the conscript fathers (if I may use the expression) were invested with the legislative and executive power; but their views seldom reached beyond the present day; and that day was most frequently disturbed by violence and tumult. In its utmost plenitude, the order or assembly consisted of fifty-six senators, ^44 the most eminent of whom were distinguished by the title of counsellors: they were nominated, perhaps annually, by the people; and a previous choice of their electors, ten persons in each region, or parish, might afford a basis for a free and permanent constitution. The popes, who in this tempest submitted rather to bend than to break, confirmed by treaty the establishment and privileges of the senate, and expected from time, peace, and religion, the restoration of their government. The motives of public and private interest might sometimes draw from the Romans an occasional and temporary sacrifice of their claims; and they renewed their oath of allegiance to the successor of St. Peter and Constantine, the lawful head of the church and the republic. ^45

[Footnote 36: After many disputes among the antiquaries of Rome, it seems determined, that the summit of the Capitoline hill next the river is strictly the Mons Tarpeius, the Arx; and that on the other summit, the church and convent of Araceli, the barefoot friars of St. Francis occupy the temple of Jupiter, (Nardini, Roma Antica, l. v. c. 11--16. *)

* The authority of Nardini is now vigorously impugned, and the question of the Arx and the Temple of Jupiter revived, with new arguments by Niebuhr and his accomplished follower, M. Bunsen. Roms Beschreibung, vol. iii. p. 12, et seqq. -- M.]

[Footnote 37: Tacit. Hist. iii. 69, 70.]

[Footnote 38: This partition of the noble and baser metals between the emperor and senate must, however, be adopted, not as a positive fact, but as the probable opinion of the best antiquaries, * (see the Science des Medailles of the Père Joubert, tom. ii. p. 208--211, in the improved and scarce edition of the Baron de la Bastie.)

* Dr. Cardwell (Lecture on Ancient Coins, p. 70, et seq.) assigns convincing reasons in support of this opinion. -- M.]

[Footnote 39: In his xxviith dissertation on the Antiquities of Italy, (tom. ii. p. 559--569,) Muratori exhibits a series of the senatorian coins, which bore the obscure names of Affortiati, Infortiati, Provisini, Paparini. During this period, all the popes, without excepting Boniface VIII, abstained from the right of coining, which was resumed by his successor Benedict XI., and regularly exercised in the court of Avignon.]

[Footnote 40: A German historian, Gerard of Reicherspeg (in Baluz. Miscell. tom. v. p. 64, apud Schmidt, Hist. des Allemands, tom. iii. p. 265) thus describes the constitution of Rome in the xith century: Grandiora urbis et orbis negotia spectant ad Romanum pontificem itemque ad Romanum Imperatorem, sive illius vicarium urbis præfectum, qui de suâ dignitate respicit utrumque, videlicet dominum papam cui facit hominum, et dominum imperatorem a quo accipit suæ potestatis insigne, scilicet gladium exertum.]

[Footnote 41: The words of a contemporary writer (Pandulph. Pisan. in Vit. Paschal. II. p. 357, 358) describe the election and oath of the præfect in 1118, inconsultis patribus . . . . loca præfectoria . . . . Laudes præfectoriæ . . . . comitiorum applausum . . . . juraturum populo in ambonem sublevant . . . . confirmari eum in urbe præfectum petunt.]

[Footnote 42: Urbis præfectum ad ligiam fidelitatem recepit, et per mantum quod illi donavit de præfecturâ eum publice investivit, qui usque ad id tempus juramento fidelitatis imperatori fuit obligatus et ab eo præfecturæ tenuit honorem, (Gesta Innocent. III. in Muratori, tom. iii.

  1. i. p. 487.)]

[Footnote 43: See Otho Frising. Chron. vii. 31, de Gest. Frederic. I.,

  1. i. c. 27.]

[Footnote 44: Cur countryman, Roger Hoveden, speaks of the single senators, of the Capuzzi family, &c., quorum temporibus melius regebatur Roma quam nunc (A.D. 1194) est temporibus lvi. senatorum, (Ducange, Gloss. tom. vi. p. 191, Senatores.)]

[Footnote 45: Muratori (dissert. xlii. tom. iii. p. 785--788) has published an original treaty: Concordia inter D. nostrum papam Clementem

  1. et senatores populi Romani super regalibus et aliis dignitatibus urbis, &c., anno 44° senatûs. The senate speaks, and speaks with
Reddimus ad præsens . . . . habebimus . . . . dabitis presbetria . . . . jurabimus pacem et fidelitatem, &c. A chartula de Tenementis Tusculani, dated in the 47th year of the same æra, and confirmed decreto amplissimi ordinis senatûs, acclamatione P. R. publice Capitolio consistentis. It is there we find the difference of senatores consiliarii and simple senators, (Muratori, dissert. xlii. tom. iii. p. 787--789.)]

The union and vigor of a public council was dissolved in a lawless city; and the Romans soon adopted a more strong and simple mode of administration. They condensed the name and authority of the senate in a single magistrate, or two colleagues; and as they were changed at the end of a year, or of six months, the greatness of the trust was compensated by the shortness of the term. But in this transient reign, the senators of Rome indulged their avarice and ambition: their justice was perverted by the interest of their family and faction; and as they punished only their enemies, they were obeyed only by their adherents. Anarchy, no longer tempered by the pastoral care of their bishop, admonished the Romans that they were incapable of governing themselves; and they sought abroad those blessings which they were hopeless of finding at home. In the same age, and from the same motives, most of the Italian republics were prompted to embrace a measure, which, however strange it may seem, was adapted to their situation, and productive of the most salutary effects. ^46 They chose, in some foreign but friendly city, an impartial magistrate of noble birth and unblemished character, a soldier and a statesman, recommended by the voice of fame and his country, to whom they delegated for a time the supreme administration of peace and war. The compact between the governor and the governed was sealed with oaths and subscriptions; and the duration of his power, the measure of his stipend, the nature of their mutual obligations, were defined with scrupulous precision. They swore to obey him as their lawful superior: he pledged his faith to unite the indifference of a stranger with the zeal of a patriot. At his choice, four or six knights and civilians, his assessors in arms and justice, attended the Podesta, ^47 who maintained at his own expense a decent retinue of servants and horses: his wife, his son, his brother, who might bias the affections of the judge, were left behind: during the exercise of his office he was not permitted to purchase land, to contract an alliance, or even to accept an invitation in the house of a citizen; nor could he honorably depart till he had satisfied the complaints that might be urged against his government.

[Footnote 46: Muratori (dissert. xlv. tom. iv. p. 64--92) has fully explained this mode of government; and the Occulus Pastoralis, which he has given at the end, is a treatise or sermon on the duties of these foreign magistrates.]

[Footnote 47: In the Latin writers, at least of the silver age, the title of Potestas was transferred from the office to the magistrate: --

Hujus qui trahitur prætextam sumere mavis;

An Fidenarum Gabiorumque esse Potestas.

Juvenal. Satir. x. 99.11]

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Fall of Roman Empire