Friday, January 31, 2014

Edward Gibbon: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

I have taken on another rather daunting task.  In the midst of reading Plato’s Complete Works I have started reading Gibbon’s master work on the Ancient Romans.  I will probably confine my read to Volume I, we will see.  I will confess, up front, that I am cheating - in a way.  I own two copies of the three volume set, one paper back, and one hard bound and boxed.  The other day I got the Kindle version for free, and for 99 cents more hired a reader.  Now, as I work on my drawings, I can have Gibbon read to me.  I keep my paper back “working copie” at hand; to mark up and annotate.  It’s almost like doing two things at once.  In this way I plan to continue in my “Dialogue – other book” alternation of reading and posting; while plowing my what through 1000+ pages of Roman History as well.  Again, we will see.

I will try an ongoing posting effort here At the Agora.  As I finish a chapter, I will add to an every growing offering of  quotes.

Chapter One – The Extent and Military Force of the Empire in the Age of the Antonines.
1. A description of Rome at its height:  “In the second century of the Christian Era, the empire of Rome comprehended the fairest part of the earth, and the most civilized portion of mankind.  The frontiers of that extensive monarchy were guarded by ancient renown and disciplined valor.  The gentle, but powerful influence of laws and manners had gradually cemented the union of the provinces.  Their peaceful inhabitants enjoyed and abused the advantages of wealth and luxury.  The image of the free constitution was preserved with decent reverence.  The Roman senate appeared to possess the sovereign authority, and devolved on the emperors all executive powers of government.” p.31
2. Scope of the book:  “It is the design of this, and the two succeeding chapters, to describe the prosperous condition of their empire; and afterwards, from the death of Marcus Antoninus, to deduce the most important circumstances of its decline and fall; a revolution which will ever be remembered, and is still felt by the nations of the earth.”  p.31

3. The first 700 years of conquest moderated by the wisdom of Augustus:  “The seven first centuries were filled with a rapid succession of triumphs; but it was reserved for Augustus, to relinquish the ambitious design of subduing the whole earth, and to introduce a spirit of moderation into the public councils." p.31

4. Augustus’ “legacy” of restraint:  “On the death of that emperor, his testament was publicly read in the senate.  He bequeathed, as a valuable legacy to his successors, the advice of confining the empire within those limits which Nature seemed to have placed as its permanent bulwarks and boundaries; on the west the Atlantic ocean; the Rhine and Danube on the north; the Euphrates on the east; and towards the south, the sandy deserts of Arabia and Africa.”  p.32

5. Moderation of the military:  “The military prerogative; and it became the duty, as well as interest, of every Roman general, to guard the frontiers intrusted to his care, without aspiring to conquests which might have proved no less fatal to himself than to the vanquished barbarians.”  p.33

6. Trajan’s Rome – It’s greatest extent, the emulation of Alexander:  “Trajan was ambitious of fame; and as long as mankind shall continue to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than on their benefactors, the thirst of military glory will be the vice or the most exalted characters.  The praises of Alexander, transmitted by a succession of poets and historians, had kindled a dangerous emulation in the mind of Trajan.  Like him the Roman emperor undertook an expedition against the nations of the east, but he lamented with a sigh, that his advanced age scarcely left him any hopes of equaling the son of Philip.  Yet the success of Trajan, however transient, was rapid and specious [hollow].”  pp. 35-36

7. Trajan’s conquests:  They [Roman Senate] were informed that kings of Bosphorus, Colchos, Iberia, Albania, Osrhoene, and even the Parthian monarch himself, had accepted their diadems from the hands of the emperor; that the independent tribes of Median and Carduchian hills had implored his protection; and that the rich countries of Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria, were reduced into the state of provinces.”  p. 36

8. Terminus and Hadrian’s boundaries of Rome: “It was an ancient tradition, that when the Capitol was founded by one of the Roman kings, the god Terminus (who presided over boundaries, and was represented according to the fashion of that age by a large stone) alone, among all the inferior deities, refused to yield his place to Jupiter himself. A favorable inference was drawn from his obstinacy, which was interpreted by the augurs, as a sure presage that the boundaries of the Roman power would never recede.  During many ages, the prediction, as it is usual, contributed to its own accomplishment.  But though Terminus had resisted the majesty of Jupiter, he submitted to the authority of the emperor Hadrian.”  P36

9. Inviting the friendship of conquered peoples:  “By every honorable expedient they [Hadrian and the two Antonines] invited the friendship of the barbarians; and endeavored to convince mankind, that the Roman power, raised above the temptation of conquest, was actuated only by the love of order and justice.  During a long period of forty-three years their virtuous labors were crowned with success; and if we except a few slight hostilities that served to exercise the legions of the frontier, the reigns of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius offer the fair prospect of universal peace.  The Roman name was revered among the most remote nations of the earth.”  Pp.37-38

10. The terror of Roman Arms, peace through strength:  “The terror of the Roman arms added weight and dignity to the moderation of the emperors.  They preserved peace by a constant preparation for war; and while justice regulated their conduct, they announced to the nations on their confines, that they were as little disposed to endure, as to offer an injury.”  p. 38

11. Wars of Marcus Aurelius, just war theory: The military strength, which it had been sufficient for Hadrian and the elder Antoninus to display, was exerted against the Parthians and the Germans by the emperor Marcus.  The hostilities of the barbarians provoked the resentment of that philosophic monarch, and, in the prosecution of a just defense, Marcus and his generals obtained many signal victories, both on the Euphrates and on the Danube.”  

12. Early criteria for military service:  “In the purer ages of the commonwealth, the use of arms was reserved for those ranks of citizens who had a country to love, a property to defend, and some share in enacting those laws, which it was their interest, as well as duty, to maintain.”  p. 38

13. How qualifications for serve in the military change over time:   ‘’But in proportion as the public freedom was lost in extent of conquest, war was gradually improved into an art, and degraded into a trade.  The legions themselves, even at the time when they were recruited in the most distant provinces, were supposed to consist of Roman citizens.  That distinction was generally considered, either as a legal qualification, or as a proper recompense for the soldier; but a more serious regard was paid to the essential merit of age, strength, and military stature.”  P. 38

14. Motivations for service:  “That public virtue which among the ancients was denominated patriotism, is derived form a strong sense of our own interest in the preservation and prosperity of the free government of which we are members.  Such a sentiment, which had rendered the legions of the republic almost invincible, could make but a very feeble impression on the mercenary servants of a despotic prince; and it became necessary to supply the defect by other motives, of a different, but not less forcible nature; honor and religion.”  pp. 38-39

35. Oath of the solider:  “He promised never to desert his standard, to submit his own will to the commands of his leaders, and to sacrifice his life for the safety of the emperor and the empire.”  p. 39

36. On the discipline of Roman soldiers:  “These motives, which derived their strength from the imagination, were enforced by fears and hopes of a more substantial kind.  Regular pay, occasional donatives, and a stated recompense, after the appointed time of service, alleviated the hardships of the military life, whilst, on the other hand, it was impossible for cowardice or disobedience to escape the severest punishment.  The centurions were authorized to chastise with blows, the generals had a right to punish with death; and it was an inflexible maxim of Roman discipline, that a good soldier should dread his officers far more than the enemy.”  p. 40 

37. On the training of Roman soldiers:  “And yet so sensible were the Romans of the imperfection of valor without skill and practice, that, in their language, the name of an army was borrowed from the word which signified exercise.  Military exercises were the important and unremitted object of their discipline.  The recruits and young soldiers were constantly trained both in the morning and in the evening, nor was age or knowledge allowed to excuse the veterans from the daily repetition of what they had completely learnt.  Large sheds were erected in the winter-quarters of the troops, that their useful labors might not receive any interruption from the most tempestuous weather; and it was carefully observed, that the arms destined to this imitation of war, should be of double the weight which was required in real action.  It is not the purpose of this work to enter into any minute description of the Roman exercises.   We shall only remark, that they comprehended whatever could add strength to the body, activity to the limbs, or grace to the motions.  The soldiers were diligently instructed to march, to run, to leap, to swim, to carry heavy burdens, to handle every species of arms that was used either for offence or for defence (sp.), either in distant engagement or in a close onset; to form a variety of evolutions; and to move to the sound of flutes, in the Pyrrhic or martial dance.  In the midst of peace, the Roman troops familiarized themselves with the practice of war; and it is prettily remarked by an ancient of blood was the only circumstance which distinguished a field of battle from a field of exercise.”  pp. 40-41

38. Arms and weapons:  “Their arms were uniform, with a lofty crest; a breast-plate, or coat of mail; greaves on their legs, and an ample buckler on their left arm.  The buckler was of an oblong and concave figure, four feet in length, and two and an half in breadth, framed of a light wood, covered with a bull’s hide, and strongly guarded with plates of brass.  Besides a lighter spear, the legionary soldier grasped in his right hand the formidable pilum, a ponderous javelin, whose utmost length was about six feet, and which was terminated by a massy triangular point of steel of eighteen inches.  This instrument was indeed much inferior to our modern fire-arms; since it was exhausted by a single discharge, at the distance of only ten or twelve paces.  Yet when it was launched by a firm and skillful hand, there was not any cavalry that durst venture within its reach, nor any shield or corslet that could sustain the impetuosity of its weight.  As soon as the Roman had darted his pilum, he drew his sword and rushed forwards to close with the enemy.  His sword was a short well-tempered Spanish blade, that carried a double edge, and was alike suited to the purpose of striking or of pushing; but the soldier was always instructed to prefer the latter use of his weapon, as his own body remained less exposed, whilst he inflicted a more dangerous wound on his adversary.”   p. 42

39. The tactics of the Greeks and Macedonians inferior to those of the Legion:  “The legion was usually drawn up eight deep; and the regular distance of three feet was left between the files as well as ranks.  A body of troops, habituated to preserve this open order, in a long front and a rapid charge, found themselves prepared to execute every disposition which the circumstances of war, or the skill of their leader, might suggest.  The soldier possessed a free space for his arms and motions, and sufficient intervals were allowed, through which seasonable reinforcements might be introduced to the relief of the exhausted combatants.  The tactics of the Greeks and Macedonians  were formed on very different principles.  The strength of the phalanx depended on sixteen ranks of long pikes, wedged together I the closest array.  But it was soon discovered by reflection, as well as by the event, that the strength of the phalanx was unable to contend with the activity of the legion.  pp.42-43

40. The Cavalry:  “The cavalry, without which the force of the legion would have remained imperfect, was divided into ten troops or squadrons; the first, as companion of the first cohort, consisted of an hundred and thirty-two men; whilst each of the other nine amounted only to sixty-six.  The entire establishment formed a regiment, if we may use the modern expression, of seven hundred and twenty-six horse, naturally connected with its respective legion, but occasionally separated to act in the line, and to compose a part of the wings of the army. . . Their more useful arms consisted in a helmet, an oblong shield, light boots, and a coat of mail.  A Javelin, and a long broad sword, were their principal weapons of offence.  The use of lances and of iron maces they seem to have borrowed from the barbarians.  p. 43

41. The Artillery:  “Nor was the legion destitute of what, in modern language, would be styled a train of artillery.  It consisted in ten military engines of the largest, and fifty-five of a smaller size; but all of which, either in an oblique or horizontal manner, discharged stones and darts with irresistible violence.”  P. 45

42. The Camp:  “The camp of the Roman legion presented the appearance of a fortified city.  A soon as the space was marked out, the pioneers carefully leveled the ground, and removed every impediment that might interrupt its perfect regularity.  Its form was an exact quadrangle; and we may calculate, that a square of about seven hundred yards was sufficient for the encampment of twenty thousand Romans; though a similar number of our own troops would expose the enemy a front of more that treble that extent.  In the midst of the camp, the praetorium, or general’s quarters, rose above the others; the cavalry, the infantry, and the auxiliaries occupied their respective stations; the streets were broad, and perfectly straight, and a vacant space of two hundred feet was left on all sides, between the tents and the rampart.  The rampart itself was usually twelve feet high, armed with a line of strong and intricate palisades, and defended by a ditch of twelve feet in depth as well as in breadth.  This important labor was performed by the hands of the legionaries themselves; to whom the use of the spade and the pick-axe was no less familiar than that of the sword or pilum.  Active valour (sp.) may often be the present of nature; but such patient diligence can be the fruit only of habit and discipline.”  pp. 44-45

43. Kit and marching speed:  “Besides their arms, which the legionaries scarcely considered as an encumbrance, they were laden with their kitchen furniture, the instruments of fortification, and the provisions of many days.  Under this weight, which would oppress the delicacy of a modern soldier, they were trained by a regular step to advance, in about six hours, near twenty miles.”  p. 54

44. Deployment for battle:  “ON the appearance of an enemy, they threw aside their baggage, and by easy and rapid evolutions converted the column of march into an order of battle.  The slingers and archers skirmished in the front; the auxiliaries formed the first line, and we seconded or sustained by the strength of the legions: the cavalry covered the flanks, and the military engines were placed in the rear.” p. 45

45. Size of the Legion:  “We may compute, however, that the legion, which was itself a body of six thousand eight hundred and thirty one Roans, might, with its attendant auxiliaries, amount to about twelve thousand five hundred men.

46. Navy – not so much:  “The navy maintained by the emperors might seem inadequate to their greatness; but it was fully sufficient for every useful purpose of government. . . The policy of the emperors was directed only to preserve the peaceful dominion of that sea [Mediterranean] , and to protect the commerce of their subjects.”  pp. 46-47

46. Phoenicia and Palestine – Importance in history:  “Yet Phoenician and Palestine will for ever live in the memory of mankind; since America, as well as Europe, has received letters from the one, and religion form the other.”  P53

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Chapter Two – Of the Union and internal Prosperity of the Roman Empire, in the Age of the Antonines.

1. What made the Roman Empire Great – not size!:  “It is not alone by the rapidity, or extent of conquest, the we should estimate the greatness of Rome.  The sovereign of the Russian deserts commands a larger portion of the globe.  In the seventh summer after his passage of the Hellespont, Alexander erected the Macedonian trophies on the banks of the Hyphasis.  Within less than a century, the irresistible Zingis, and the Mogul princes of his race, spread their cruel devastations and transient empire, from the sea of China to the confines of Egypt and Germany.  But the firm edifice of Roman power was raised and preserved by the wisdom of ages.  The obedient provinces of Trajan and the Antonines were united by laws, and adorned by arts.  They might occasionally suffer from the partial abuse of delegated authority; but the general principle of government was wise, simple, and beneficent.  They enjoyed the religion of their ancestors, whilst in civil honors and advantages they were exalted, by just degrees, to an equality with their conquerors.”  p. 56

2. On Religion, Roman style:   “The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful.  And thus toleration produced not only mutual indulgence, but even religious concord. . .  Such was the mild spirit of antiquity that the nations were less attentive to the difference, than to the resemblance, of their religious worship.  The Greek, the Roman, and the Barbarian, as they met before their respective alters, easily persuaded themselves, that under various names, and with various ceremonies, they adored the same deities.”  P. 56-57

3. Intellectual Challenges to Religion:  “The spirit of inquiry, prompted by emulation, and supported by freedom, had divided the public teachers of philosophy into a variety of contending sects; but the ingenuous youth, who, from every part, resorted to Athens, and the other seats of learning in the Roman empire, were alike instructed in every school to reject and to despise the religion of the multitude.  How, indeed, was it possible, that a philosopher should accept, as divine truths, the idle tales of the poets, and the incoherent traditions of antiquity; or’ that he would adore, as gods, those imperfect beings whom he must have despised, as men!  Against such unworthy adversaries, Cicero condescended to employ the arms of reason and eloquence; but the satire of Lucian was a much more adequate, as well as more efficacious weapon.  We may be well assured, that a writer, conversant with the world, would never have ventured to expose the gods of his country to public ridicule, had they not already been the objects of secret contempt among the polished and enlightened orders of society.”  p. 58

4. Value of Religion:  “They knew and valued the advantages of religion, as it is connected with civil government.  They encouraged the public festivals which humanized the manners of the people.  They managed the arts of divination, as a convenient instrument of policy; and they respected as the firmest bond of society, the useful persuasion, that, either in this or in a future life, the crime of perjury is most assuredly punished by the avenging gods.”  p. 59

5. Freedom of Religion:  “Rome gradually became the common temple of her subjects; and the freedom of the city was bestowed on all the gods of mankind.” pp. 60-61

6. Roman respect for merit:  “The aspiring genius of Rome sacrificed vanity to ambition, and deemed it more prudent, as well as honorable, to adopt virtue and merit for her own wheresoever they were found, among slaves or strangers, enemies or barbarians.  p. 61

7. Danger of democracy:  “Under a democratical (sp.) government, the citizens exercise the powers of sovereignty; and those powers will be first abased, and afterwards lost, if they are committed to an unwieldy multitude.”   p. 61

8. Roman citizenship available to all #1):  “The republic gloried in her generous policy, and was frequently rewarded by the merit and services of her adopted sons.  Had she always confined the distinction of Romans to the ancient families within the walls of the city, That merit and services of her adopted sons.  Had she always confined the distinction of Romans to the ancient families within the walls of the city, that immortal name would have been deprived of some of its noblest ornaments.  Virgil was a native of Mantua; Horace was incline d to doubt whether he should call himself an Apulian or a Lucanian; it was in Padua that an historian was found worthy to record the majestic series of Roman victories.  The patriot family of the Catos emerged from Tusculum; and the little town of Arpinum claimed the double honor of producing Marius and Cicero, the former of whom deserved, after Romulus and Camillus, to be styled the Third Founder of Rome; and the latter, after saving his country from the designs of Catiline, enabled her to contend with Athens for the palm of eloquence.”  p. 62

9. Roman citizenship available to all (#2):  “But the same salutary maxims of government, which had secured the peace of obedience of Italy, were extended to the most distant conquests.  A nation of Romans was gradually formed in the provinces, by the double expedient of introducing colonies, and of admitting the most faithful and deserving of the provincials to the freedom of Rome.”   P. 63

10. Roman soldiers establish colonies to spread Roman values:  “But after the legions were rendered permanent by the emperors, the provinces were peopled by a race of soldiers; and the veterans, whether they received the reward of their service I land or in money, usually settled with their families in the country, where they had honorably spent their youth.”  p. 63

11. Role of colonies in the building the strength of Rome:  “In their manners and internal policy, the colonies formed a perfect representation of their great parent; and as they were soon endeared to the natives by the ties of friendship and alliance, they effectually diffused a reverence for the Roman name, and a desire, which was seldom disappointed, of sharing, in due time, its honours (sp.) and advantages. . . The grandsons of the Gauls who had besieged Julius Caesar in Alesia, commanded legions, governed provinces, and were admitted into the senate of Rome.  Their ambition, instead of disturbing the tranquility of the state, was intimately connected with its safety and greatness.”   p. 64

12. The role of the Latin language:  “So sensible were the Romans of the influence of language over national manners, that it was their most serious care to extend, with the progress of their arms, the use of the Latin tongue . . . The language of Virgil and Cicero, though with some inevitable mixture of corruption, was so universally adopted in Africa, Spain, Gaul, Britain, and Pannonia, that the faint traces of the Punic or Celtic idioms were preserved only in the mountains, or among the peasants.  Education and study insensibly inspired the natives of those countries with the sentiments of Romans; and Italy gave fashions, as well as laws, to her Latin provincials.”   pp. 64-65

13. Greece and Rome “together” (#1):  “The situation of the Greeks was very different from that of the barbarians.  The former had been long since civilized and corrupted.  They had too much taste to relinquish their language, and too much vanity to adopt any foreign institutions.  Still preserving the prejudices, after they had lost the virtues, of their ancestors, they affected to despise the unpolished manners of the Roman conquerors, whilst they were compelled to respect their superior wisdom and power.”  p. 65

14. Rome Empire was divided Greek – and – Roman:  “Asia was covered with Greek cities, and the long reign of the Macedonian kings had introduced a silent revolution into Syria and Egypt.  In their pompous courts those princes united the elegance of Athens with the luxury of the East, and the example of the court was imitated, at an humble distance, by the higher ranks of their subjects.  Such was the general division of the Roman empire into the Latin and Greek languages.”  P. 66

15. Greece and Rome “together” (#2):  “It is a just though trite observation, that victorious Rome was herself subdued by the arts of Greece.  Those immortal writers who still command the admiration of modern Europe, soon became the favorite object of study and imitation in Italy and the western provinces.  But the elegant amusements of the Romans were not suffered to interfere with their sound maxims of policy. . . The two languages exercised at the same time their separate jurisdiction throughout the empire: the former, as the natural idiom of science; the latter, as the legal dialect of public transactions.  Those who united letters with business, were equally conversant with both; and it was almost impossible, in any province, to find a Roman subject, of a liberal education, who was at once a stranger to the Greek and to the Latin language.  It was by such institutions that the nations of the empire insensibly melted away into the Roman name and people” pp. 66-67

16. On Slaves in the Roman Empire:  “The slaves consisted, for the most part, of barbarian captives, taken in thousands by the chance of war, purchased at a vile price, accustomed to a life of independence, and impatient to break and to revenge their fetters.  Against such internal enemies, whose desperate insurrections had more than once reduced the republic to the brink of destruction, the most sever regulations, and the most cruel treatment, seemed almost justified by the great law of self-preservation.  But when the principal nations of Europe, Asia, and Africa, were united under the laws of one sovereign, the source of foreign supplies flowed with much less abundance, and the Romans were reduced to the milder but more tedious method of propagation.  In their numerous families, and particularly in their country estates, they encouraged the marriage of their slaves. The sentiment of nature, the habits of education, and the possession of a dependent species of property, contributed to alleviate the hardship of servitude.  The existence of a slave became an object of greater value, and though his happiness still depended on the temper and circumstances of the master, the humanity of the latter, instead of being restrained by fear, was encouraged by the sense of his own interest.”  p. 67

17. On Freedom of Slaves:  “Hope, the best comfort of our imperfect condition, was not denied to the Roman slave; and if he had any opportunity of rendering himself either useful or agreeable, he might very naturally expect that the diligence and fidelity of a few years would be rewarded with the inestimable gift of freedom.”  p. 68

18. Population of the Roman Empire at the time of Claudius [long before the height of the empire]:  “We are informed, that when the emperor Claudius exercised the office of censor, he took an account of six millions nine hundred and forty-five thousand Roman citizens, who, with the proportion of women and children, must have amounted to about twenty millions of souls.  The multitude of subjects of an inferior rank, was uncertain and fluctuation.  But, after weighing with attention every circumstance which could influence the balance, it seem probably, that there existed, in the time of Claudius, about twice as many provincials as there were citizens, of either sex, and of every age; and that the slaves were at least equal in number to the free inhabitants of the Roman world.  The total amount of this imperfect calculation would rise to about one hundred and twenty millions of persons: a degree of population which possible exceeds that of modern Europe, and forms the most numerous society that has ever been united under the same system of government.”  pp. 69-70

The Success of the Roman Empire:  “But the obedience of the Roman world was uniform, voluntary, and permanent.  The vanquished nations, blended into one great people, resigned the hope, nay even the wish, of resuming their independence, and scarcely considered their own existence as distinct from the existence of Rome.  The established authority of the emperors pervaded without an effort the wide extent of their dominions, and was exercised with the same facility on the banks of the Thames, or of the Nile, as on those of the Tyber (sp.).  The legions were destined to serve against the public enemy, and the civil magistrate seldom required the aid of the military force.  I this state of general security, the leisure as well as opulence both of the prince and people, were devoted to improve and to adorn the Roman empire.”  p. 70

19. The ruins of Rome speak to its greatness and to private expense for public good:  “. . . the majestic ruins that are still scattered over Italy and the provinces, would be sufficient to prove, that those countries were once the seat of a polite and powerful empire.  Their greatness alone, or their beauty, might deserve our attention; but they are rendered more interesting , by two important circumstances, which connect the agreeable history of the arts , with the more useful history of human manners. Many of those works were erected at private expense, and almost all were intended for public benefit.”  pp. 70-71

20. Rome the model of all cities in the empire to the benefit of all people:  “All the other quarters of the capital, and all the provinces of the empire, were filled with amphitheaters, theatres, temples, porticos, triumphal arches, baths, and aqueducts, all variously conducive to the health, the devotion, and the pleasures for the meanest citizen.”  p. 74

21. Aqueducts:  “The boldness of the enterprise, the solidity of the execution, and the uses to which they were subservient, rank the aqueducts among the noblest monument of Roman genius and power.  The aqueducts of the capital claim a just pre-eminence; but the curious traveler, who, without the light of history, should examine those of Spoleto, of Metz, or of Segovia, would very naturally conclude, that those provincial towns had formerly been the residence of some potent monarch.  The solitudes of Asia and Africa were once covered with flourishing cities, whose populousness (sp.), and even whose existence, was derived from such artificial supplies of perennial stream of fresh water. “  p. 74

22. Number of cities in the empire – estimated:  “ Ancient Italy is said to have contained eleven hundred and ninety-seven cities. . . Gaul could boast of her twelve hundred cities. . . Spain . . . three hundred and sixty cities. . . Three hundred African cities had once acknowledge the authority of Carthage, nor is it likely that their numbers diminished under the administration of the emperors: Carthage itself rose with new splendor from its ashes. . . Under the reign of the Caesars the proper Asia alone contained five hundred populous cities.” [Totally noted – 3557] pp. 75-76

23. Highways:  “All these cities were connected with each other, and with the capital by the public highways, which issuing form the Forum of Rome, traverse Italy, pervaded the province, and were terminated only by the frontiers of the empire.  If we carefully trace the distance for the wall of Antoninus to Rome, and from thence to Jerusalem, it will be found that the great chin of communication, from the north-west to the south-east point of the empire, was drawn out to the length of four thousand and eight Roman miles. . . They united the subjects of the most distant provinces by an easy and familiar intercourse; but their primary object had been to facilitate the marches of the legions; nor was any country considered as completely subdued, till it had been rendered, in all its parts, previous to the arms and authority of the conqueror. ” p. 77

24. Sea Trade – the harbor of Claudius:  Nor was the communication of the Roman empire less free and open by sea than it was by land.  The provinces surrounded and inclosed the Mediterranean; and Italy, in the shape of an immense promontory, advanced into the midst of that great lake.  The coast of Italy are, in general, destitute of safe harbours (sp.); but human industry had corrected the deficiencies of nature; and the artificial port of Ostia, in particular, situated at eh mouth of the Tyber, and formed by the emperor Claudius, was an useful monument of Roman greatness.  From this port, which was only sixteen miles from the capital, a favorable breeze frequently carried vessels in seven days to the columns of Hercules, and in nine of ten , to Alexandrian in Egypt.”  p. 78 

25. Improvement of agriculture made possible by the empire:  “Whatever evils reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire, the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind; and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise the improvements, of social life.  In the more remote ages of antiquity, the world was unequally divided.  The east was in the immemorial possession of arts and luxury; whilst the west was inhabited by rude and warlike barbarians, who either disdained agriculture, or to whom it was totally unknown.  Under the protection of the established government, the production of happier climates and eh industry of more civilized nations, were gradually introduced into the western countries of Europe; and the natives were encouraged, by an open and profitable commerce, to multiply the former, as well as to improve the latter.”  p. 78

26. A land without famine:  “The elegant treatise of Columella describes the advanced state of the Spanish husbandry, under the reign of Tiberius; and it may be observed, that those famines which so frequently afflicted the infant republic, were seldom or never experienced by the extensive empire of Rome.  That accidental scarcity, in a single province, was immediately relieved by the plenty of its more fortunate neighbors.”  p. 80

27. On Capitalism:  “But in the present imperfect condition of society, luxury, though in may proceed from vice or folly, seems to be the only means that can correct the unequal distribution of property.  The diligent mechanic, and the skillful artist, who have obtained no share in the division of the earth, receive a voluntary tax from the possessors of land; and the latter are prompted, by a sense of interest, to improve those estates, with whose produce they may purchase additional pleasures.  This operation, the particular effects of which are felt in every society, acted with much more diffusive energy in the roman world.  The provinces would soon have been exhausted of their wealth, if the manufactures and commerce of luxury had not insensibly restored to the industrious subjects, the sums which were exacted from them by the arms and authority of Rome.”  P. 80

28. The extent of Roman trade:  “The most remote countries of the ancient world were ransacked to supply the pomp and delicacy of Rome.  The forest of Scythia afforded some valuable furs.  Amber was brought over land form the shores of the Baltic to the Danube; and the barbarians were astonished at the price which they received in exchange for so useless a commodity.  There was a considerable demand for Babylonian carpets, and other manufactures of the East; but the most important and unpopular branch of foreign trade was carried on with Arabia and India.  Every year, about the time of the summer solstice, a fleet of an hundred and twenty vessels sailed from Myos-hormos , a port of Egypt, on the Red Sea. By the periodical assistance of the Monsoons, they traversed the ocean in about forty days. . . The objects of oriental traffic were splendid and trifling: silk, a pound of which was esteemed not inferior in value to a pound of gold; precious stones, among which the pearl claimed the first rank after the diamond; with a variety of aromatics, that were consumed in religious worship and the pomp of funerals.  P. 81

29. Negative balance of trade: The labor and risk of the voyage [to India] was rewarded with almost incredible profit; but the profit was made upon Roman subjects, and a few individuals were enriched at the expense of the public.  As the natives of Arabia and India were contented with the productions and manufactures of their own country, silver, on the side of the Romans, was the principal, if not the only instrument of commerce.  It was a complaint worth of the gravity of the senate, that, in the purchase of female ornaments, the wealth of the state was irrecoverably given away to foreign and hostile nations.  The annual loss is computed, by a writer of an inquisitive but censorious temper, at upwards of eight hundred thousand pounds sterling.”  p. 82  

30. Roman success includes the wisdom of Athens and more:  “They [subjects of the empire] acknowledged that the true principles of social life, laws, agriculture, and science, which had been first invented by the wisdom of Athens, were now firmly established by the power of Rome, under whose auspicious influence, the fiercest barbarians were united by an equal government and common language.  They affirm, that with the improvement of arts, the human species was visibly multiplied.  The celebrate the increasing splendor of the cities, the beautiful face of the country, cultivated and adorned like an immense garden; and the long festival of peace, which was enjoyed by so many nations, forgetful of their ancient animosities, and delivered form the apprehension of future danger.”  p. 82

31. Slow and secret poison – decay and corruption:  “It was scarcely possible that the eyes of contemporaries should discover in the public felicity the latent causes of decay and corruption.  This long peace, and the uniform government of the Romans, introduced a slow and secret poison into the vitals of the empire.  The minds of men were gradually reduced to the same level, the fire of genius was extinguished, and even the military spirit evaporated.  The natives of Europe were brave and robust.  Spain, Gaul, Britain, and Illyricum, supplied the legions with excellent soldiers, and constituted the real strength of the monarchy.  Their person valor remained, but they no longer possessed that public courage which is nourished by the love of independence, the sense of national honor, the presence of danger, and the habit of command.  They received laws and governors form the will of their sovereign, and trusted for their defence (sp.) to the mercenary army.”  p. 83

32. On Education without creativity:  “The love of letters, almost inseparable from peace and refinement, was fashionable among the subjects of Hadrian and the Antonines, who were themselves men of learning and curiosity.  It was diffused over the whole extent of the empire; the most northern tribes of Britons had acquired a taste for rhetoric; Homer as well as Virgil were transcribed and studied on the banks of the Rhine and Danube; and the most liberal rewards sought out the faintest glimmerings of literary merit.  The sciences of physic and astronomy were successfully cultivated by the Greeks; the observations of Ptolemy and the writings of Galen are studied by those who have improved their discoveries and corrected their errors; but if we except the inimitable Lucian, this age of indolence passed away without having produced a single writer of original genius, or who excelled in the arts of elegant composition.  The authority of Plato and Aristotle, of Zeno and Epicurus, still reigned in the schools; and their systems, transmitted with blind deference from one generation of disciples to another, precluded every generous attempt to exercise the powers, or enlarge the limits, of the human mind.  The beauties of the poets and orators, instead of kindling a fire like their own, inspired only cold and servile imitation: or if any ventured to deviate from those models, they deviated at the same time form good sense and propriety.”  p. 84

33. On Critics and “modern arts”:  “The name of Poet was almost forgotten; that of Orator was usurped by the sophists.  A cloud of critics, of compilers, of commentators, darkened the face of learning, and the decline of genus was soon followed by the corruption of taste.”  p. 84
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Chapter Three – Of the Constitution of the Roman Empire, in the Age of the Antonines.

1. On Monarchy:  “The obvious definition of a monarchy seems to be that of a state, in which a single person, by whatsoever name he may be distinguished, is intrusted (sp.) with the execution of the laws, the management of the revenue, and the command of the army.  But, unless public liberty is protected by intrepid and vigilant guardians, the authority of so formidable a magistrate will soon degenerate into despotism.”  p. 85
2. Bread and circuses:  “The people of Rome, viewing, with a secret pleasure, the humiliation of the aristocracy, demanded only bread and public shows; the humiliation of the aristocracy, demanded only bread and public shows; and were supplied with both by the liberal hand of Augustus.  The rich and polite Italians, who had almost universally embraced the philosophy of Epicurus, enjoyed the present blessings of ease and tranquility, and suffered not the pleasing dream to be interrupted by the memory of their old tumultuous freedom.”  pp. 85-86  
3. The Senate supports Augustus as Imperator:  “They refused to accept the resignation of Augustus; they conjured him not to desert the republic, which he had saved.  After a decent resistance, the crafty tyrant submitted to the orders of the senate; and consented to receive the government of the provinces, and the general command of the Roman armies, under the well-known names of PROCONSUL and IMPERATOR.  p. 87
4. Power of the general:  “In his camp the general exercised an absolute power of life and death, his jurisdiction was not confined by any forms of trial, or rules of proceeding, and the execution of the sentence was immediate and without appeal.”  p. 88
5. The Emperor as Commander-in-Chief: “The emperor alone was the general of the republic, and his jurisdiction, civil as well as military, extended over all the conquests of Rome. . . A law was passed, that wherever the emperor was present, his extraordinary commission should supersede the ordinary jurisdiction of the governor, a custom was introduced, that the new conquests belonged to the Imperial portion, and it was soon discovered, that the authority of the Prince, the favorite epithet of Augustus, was the same in every part of the empire. ”  p. 89
6. The pretense of Republican Government continues under the Emperor:  “Although Augustus considered a military force as the firmest foundation, he wisely rejected it, as a very odious instrument of government.  It was more agreeable to his temper, as well to his policy, to reign under the venerable names of the ancient magistracy, and artfully to collect, in his own person, all the scattered rays of civil jurisdiction.  With this view, he permitted the senate to confer upon hi, for his life, the powers of the consular and tribunitian offices, which were, in the same manner, continued to all his successors.  The consuls were, in the same manner, continued to all his successors.”  p. 90
7. On the Consuls:  “The consuls had succeeded to the kings of Rome, and represented the dignity of the state.  They superintended the ceremonies of religion, levied and commanded the legions, gave audience to foreign ambassadors, and presided in the assemblies both of the senate and people.  The general control of the finances was intrusted to their care; and though they seldom had leisure to administer justice in person, they were considered as the supreme guardians of law, equity, and the public peace.  Such was their ordinary jurisdiction; but whenever the senate empowered the first magistrate to consult the safety of the commonwealth, he was raised by that degree above the laws, and exercised, in the defence of liberty, a temporary despotism.”  p. 90
8. On the Tribunes:  “The character of the tribunes was, in every respect, different from that of the consuls.  The appearance of the former was modest and humble; but their persons were sacred and inviolable.  Their force was suited rather for opposition than for action.  They were instituted to defend the oppressed, to pardon offences, to arraign the enemies of the people, and , then when they judged it necessary, to stop, by a single word [veto], the whole machine of government.”  pp. 90-91
9. The power of the Emperor:  “But when the consular and tribunitian powers were united, when they were vested for life in a single person, when the general of the army was, at the same time, the minister of the senate and the representative of the Roman people, it was impossible to resist the exercise, nor was it easy to define the limits, of his imperial prerogative.”  p. 91
10. The final accumulation of power in Augustus:  “To these accumulated honours, the policy of Augustus soon added the splendid as well as important dignities of supreme pontiff, and of censor.  By the former he acquired the management of the religion, and by the latter a legal inspection over the manners and fortunes of the Roman people.”  p. 91
11. The abolishment of the Assemblies:  “The assemblies of the people were for ever abolished, and the emperors were delivered from a dangerous multitude, who, without restoring liberty, might have disturbed, and perhaps endangered, the established government. p. 92
12. The power of the Judiciary:  “The exercise of the judicial power became the most frequent and serious occupation of the senate; and the important causes that were pleaded before them, afforded a last refuge to the spirit of ancient eloquence.  As a council of state, and as a court of justice, the senate possessed very considerable prerogatives; but in its legislative capacity, in which it was supposed virtually to represent the people, the rights of sovereignty were acknowledged to reside in that assembly.  Every power was derived from their authority, every law was ratified by their sanction.  Their regular meetings were held on the stated days in every month, the Calends, the Nones, and the Ides. The debates were conducted with decent freedom; and the emperors themselves, who gloried in the name of senators, sat, voted, and divided with their equals.” p. 93
13. Deification of Emperors:  “The deification of the emperors is the only instance in which they departed from their accustomed prudence and modesty.  The Asiatic Greeks were the first inventors, the successor of Alexander the first objects, of this servile and impious mode of adulation.  It was easily transferred form the kings to the governors of Asia; and the Roman magistrates very frequently were adored as provincial deities, with the pomp of altars and temples, of festivals and sacrifices.  It was natural that the emperors should not refuse what the proconsuls had accepted; and the divine honours which both the one and the other received from the provinces, attested rather the despotism than the servitude of Rome.  But the conquerors soon imitated the vanquished nations in the arts of flattery; and the imperious spirit of the first Caesar too easily consented to assume, during his life-time, a place among the tutelary [guardian]  deities of Rome.   The milder temper of his successor [Augustus] declined so dangerous an ambition, which was never afterwards revived, except by the madness of Caligula and Domitian.” p. 94
14. Avoidance of the name King:  “Caesar had provoked his fate, as much by the ostentation of his power, as by his power itself.  The consul or the tribune might have reigned in peace. The title of king had armed the Romans against his life.  Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were respectfully assured, that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom.  A feeble senate and enervated [anemic] people cheerfully acquiesced in the pleasing illusion, as long as it was supported by the virtue, or by even the prudence, of the successors of Augustus.”
15. Senate restored and then repressed by the Praetorian guard:  “When the throne was vacant by the murder of Caligula, the consuls convoked that assembly [senate] in the Capitol, condemned the memory of the Caesars, gave the watch-work liberty to the few cohorts who faintly adhered to their standard, and during eight and forty hours acted as the independent chiefs of a free commonwealth.  But while they deliberated, the Praetorian guards had resolved.  The stupid Claudius, brother of Germanicus, was already in their camp, invested with the Imperial purple, and prepared to support his election by arms.  The dream of liberty was at an end; and the senate awoke to all the horrors of inevitable servitude.  Deserted by the people, and threatened by a military force, the feeble assembly was compelled to ratify the
choice of the Praetorians, and to embrace the benefit of an amnesty, which Claudius had the prudence to offer, and the generosity to observe.”  p.97
16. Process of succession:  “In elective monarchies, the vacancy of the throne is a moment big with danger and mischief.  The Roman emperors, desirous to spare the legions that interval of suspense, and the temptation of an irregular choice, invested their designed successor with so large a share of present power, as should enable him, after their decease, to assume the remainder, without suffering the empire to perceive the change of masters.  Thus Augustus, after all his fairer prospects had been snatched from him by untimely deaths, rested his last hopes on Tiberius, obtained for his adopted son the censorial and tribunitian powers, and dictated a law, by which the future prince was invested with an authority equal to his own, over the provinces and the armies.”  p. 98
17. Power to choose Emperors goes to the army:  “The rapid down fall of Galba, Otho, and VItellius, taught the armies to consider the emperors as the creatures of their will, and the instrument of their licence (sp.).”
18. Wisdom of Hadrian’s choice of successors:  “As soon as Hadrian’s passion was either gratified or disappointed, he resolved to deserve the thanks of posterity, by placing the most exalted merit on the Roman throne.  His discerning eye easily discovered a senator about fifty years of age, blameless in all the offices of life, and a youth of about seventeen, whose riper years opened the fair prospect of every virtue: the elder of these was declared the son and successor of Hadrian, on condition, however, that he himself should immediately adopt the younger.  The two Antonines (for it is of them that we are now speaking) governed the Roman world forty-two years with the same invariable spirit of wisdom and virtue . . .  Their united reigns are possibly the only period of history in which the happiness of a great people was the sole object of government.”  p. 101- 102
19. On Titus Antoninus Pius (great good – little history):  “Titus Antoninus Pius has been justly denominated as second Numa [King and law giver to early Rome].  The same love of religion, justice, and peace, was the distinguishing characteristic of both princes.  But the situation of the latter opened a much larger field for the exercise of those virtues.  Numa could only prevent a few neighboring villages from plundering each other’s harvests. Antoninus diffused order and tranquility over the greatest part of the earth.  His reign is marked by the rare advantage of furnishing very few materials for history; which is indeed, little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.  In private life, he was an amiable, as well as a good man.  The native simplicity of his virtue was a stranger to vanity or affectation.  He enjoyed, with moderation, the conveniences of his fortune, and the innocent pleasure of society; and the benevolence of his soul displayed itself in a cheerful serenity of temper.”  pp. 101-102
20. On Marcus Aurelius Antoninus:  “The virtue of Marcus Aurelius Antonius was of a severer and more laborious kind.  It was the well-earned harvest of many a learned conference, of many a patient lecture, and many a midnight lucubration [long study].  At the age of twelve years he embraced the rigid system of the Stoics which taught him to submit his body to his mind, his passions to his reason; to consider virtue as the only good, vice as the only evil, all things external, as things indifferent.  His meditations, composed in the tumult of a camp, are still extant; and he even condescended to give lessons on philosophy, in a more public manner, than was perhaps consistent with the modesty of a sage, or the dignity of an emperor.  But his life was the noblest commentary on the precepts of Zeno.  He was sever to himself, indulgent to the imperfections of others, just and beneficent to all mankind . . . War he detested, as the disgrace and calamity of human nature; but when the necessity of a just defence called upon him to take up arms, he readily exposed his person to eight winter campaigns, on the frozen banks of the Danube, the severity of which was at last fatal to the weakness of his constitution.”  Pp. 102-103
21. The happiness of the Romans under the good Emperors (see Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones):  “If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus.  The vast extent of the Roman empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of virtue and wisdom,  The armies were restrained by the firm but gentle hand of four successive emperors, whose characters and authority commanded involuntary respect.  The forms of the civil administration were carefully preserved by Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the Antonines, who delighted in the image of liberty, and were pleased with considering themselves as the accountable ministers of the laws.  Such princes deserved the honour of restoring the republic, had the Romans of their days been capable of enjoying a rational freedom.”  p. 103
22 No escape when tyrants replace just rulers:  “But the empire of the Romans filled the world, and when that empire fell into the hands of a single person, the world became a safe and dreary prison for his enemies.  The slave of Imperial despotism, whether he was condemned to drag his gilded chain in Rome and the senate, or to wear out a life of exile on the barren rock of Seriphus, or the frozen banks of the Danube, expected his fate in silent despair.  To resist was fatal, and it was impossible to fly.  On every side he was encompassed with a vast extent of sea and land, which he could never hope to traverse without being discovered, seized, and restored to his irritated master.  P. 107

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Chapter Four – The cruelty, follies, and murder of Commodus.  — Election of Pertinax – his attempts to reform the State – his assassination by the Praetorian Guards.

1. The tragic flaw in Marcus Aurelius:  “The mildness of Marcus, which the rigid discipline of the Stoics was unable to eradicate, formed, at the same time, the most amiable, and the only defective part of his character.  His excellent understanding was often deceived by the unsuspecting goodness of his heart.”  p. 108

2. His guileless ignorance of his wife’s mischief:  “Marcus was the only man in the empire who seemed ignorant or insensible of the irregularities of Faustina; which, according to the prejudices of every age, reflected some disgrace on the injured husband.”  P.108

3. Marcus sacrificed the happiness of millions for an unworthy son:  “The monstrous vices of he son have cast a shade on the purity of the father’s virtues.  It has been objected to Marcus, that he sacrificed the happiness of millions to a fond partiality for a worthless boy; and that he chose a successor in his own family, rather than in the republic.”  p. 109  

4. The trouble with Education:  “But the power of instruction is seldom of much efficacy, except in those happy dispositions where it is almost superfluous.” 

5. Evil of the love of power:  “Of all our passions and appetites, the love of power is of the most imperious [high-handed] and unsociable nature, since the pride of one man requires the submission of the multitude.”  P. 109

6. Tyranny against virtue – especially in the Senate:  “That assembly, whom Marcus had ever considered as the great council of the nation, was composed of the most distinguished of the Romans; and distinction of every kind soon became criminal.  The possession of wealth stimulated the diligence of the informers; rigid virtue implied a tacit censure of the irregularities of Commodus; important services implied a dangerous superiority of merit; and the friendship of the father [Marcus Aurelius] always ensured the aversion of the son [Commodus].  Suspicion was equivalent to proof.  Trial to condemnation.  The execution of a considerable senator was attended with the death of all who might lament or revenge his fate; and when Commodus had once tasted human blood, be became incapable of pity or remorse.”  p. 112

7. Mention of Maximus (and Condianus):  “Maximus and Condianus; whose fraternal love has saved their names from oblivion . . . The Antonines, who valued their virtues, and delighted in their union, raised them, in the same year, to consulship: and Marcus afterwards intrusted to their joint care, the civil administration of Greece, and a great military command, in which they obtained a signal victory over the Germans.  The kind cruelty of Commodus united them in death.”  p. 112

8. Everything in government for sale:  “Avarice was the reigning passion of his [Cleander – chief counselor to Commodus] soul, and the great principle of his administration.  The rank of Consul, of Patrician, of Senator, was exposed to public sale; and it would have been considered as disaffection, if any one had refused to purchase these empty and disgraceful honours with the greatest part of his fortune.  In the lucrative provincial employments, the minister shared with the governor the spoils of the people.  The execution of the laws was venal [willing to sell one's influence, especially in return for a bribe] and arbitrary.  A wealthy criminal might obtain, not only the reversal of the sentence by which he was justly condemned; but might likewise inflict whatever punishment he pleased on the accuser, the  witnesses, and the judge.”  p. 114

9. Debauchery if Commodus:  “But every sentiment of virtue and humanity was extinct in the mind of Commodus.  Whilst he thus abandoned the reins of empire to these unworthy favorites, he valued nothing in sovereign power, except the unbounded licence of indulging his sensual appetites.  His hours were spent in a seraglio of three hundred beautiful women, and as many boys, of every rank, and of every province; and, wherever that arts of seduction proved ineffectual, the brutal lover had recourse to violence.  The ancient historians have expatiated on these abandoned scenes of prostitution, which scorned every restraint of nature or modesty; but it would not be easy to translate their too faithful descriptions into the decency of modern language.  The intervals of lust were filled up with the basest amusements.  The influence of a polite age, and the labour of an attentive education, had never been able to infuse into his rude and brutish mind, the least tincture of learning; and he was the first of the Roman emperors totally devoid of taste for the pleasures of the understanding. . .  But Commodus, from his earliest infancy, discovered an aversion to whatever was rational or liberal, and a fond attachment to the amusement of the gladiators, and the hunting of wild beasts.”  p. 117

10. Commodus styles himself Hercules:  “The perfidious [characterized by perfidy] voice of flattery reminded him, that by exploits of eh same nature, by the defeat of the Nemaean lion, and the slaughter of the wild boar of Erymanthus, the Grecian Hercules had acquire a place among the gods, and an immortal memory among men. . . Commodus eagerly embraced the glorious resemblance, and stiled himself (as we still read on his medals) the Roman Hercules.  The club and the lion’s hide were placed by the side of the throne, amongst the ensigns of sovereignty; and statues were erected, in which Commodus was represented in the character, and  with the attributes, of the god, whose valour and dexterity he endeavored to emulate in the daily course of his ferocious amusements.”  pp. 117-118

11. War against savage animals innocent, beneficial and heroic:  “They only forgot to observe, that, in the first ages of society, when the fiercer animals often disputed with man the possession of an unsettle country, a successful war against those savages is one of the most innocent and beneficial labours of heroism.” p. 117

12. Commodus on the arena:  “On the appointed day, the various motives of flattery, fear, and curiosity, attracted to the amphitheatre (sp.) an innumerable multitude of spectators; and some degree of applause was deservedly bestowed on the uncommon skill of the Imperial performer.  Whether he aimed at the head or heart of the animal, the wound was alike certain and mortal.  With arrows, whose point was shaped into the form of a crescent, Commodus often intercepted the rapid career, and cut asunder the long bony neck of the ostrich.  A panther was let loose; and the archer waited till he had leaped upon a trembling malefactor.  In the same instant the shaft flew, the beast dropt dead, and the man remained unhurt.  The dens of the amphitheater disgorged at once a hundred lions; a hundred darts from the unerring hand of Commodus laid them dead as they ran raging round the Arena.  Neither the huge bulk of the elephant, nor the scaly hide of the rhinoceros, could defend them from his stroke.  Ethiopia and India yielded their most extraordinary productions; and several animals were slain in the ampitheatre, which had been seen only in representation of art, or perhaps of fancy.  In all these exhibitions, the securest precautions were used to protest the person of the Roman Hercules from the desperate spring of a savage; who might possibly disregard the dignity of the emperor, and the sanctity of the god.”  p. 118

13.  The people despised Commodus’ behavior:  “But the meanest of the populace were affected with shame and indignation when they beheld their sovereign enter the lists as a gladiator, and glory in a profession which the laws and manners of the Romans had branded with the justest note of infamy.”

14.  Number of fights and their cost to the people:  “The emperor fought in this character seven hundred and thirty-five several times.  These glorious achievements were carefully recorded in the public acts of the empire; and that he might omit no circumstance of infamy, he received from the common fund of gladiators, a stipend so exorbitant, that  it became a new and most ignominious tax upon the Roman people.”  p. 119

15. The death of Commodus:  “His cruelty proved at last fatal to himself.  He had shed with impunity the noblest blood of Rome; he perished as soon as he was dreaded by his own domestics.  Marcia, his favorite concubine, Eclectus his chamberlain, and Laetus his Praetorian prefect, alarmed by the fate of their companions and predecessors, resolved to prevent the destruction which every hour hung over their heads, either from the mad caprice of the tyrant, or the sudden indignation of the people Marcia seized the occasion of presenting a draught of wine to her lover, after he had fatigued himself with hunting some wild beasts.  Commodus retired to sleep; but whilst he was labouring with the effects of poison and drunkenness, a robust youth, by profession a wrestler, entered his chamber and strangled him without resistance.  The body was secretly conveyed out of the palace, before the least susp9icion was entertained in the city, or even in the court, of the emperor’s death.  Such was the fate of the tyrant, who, by the artificial powers of government, had oppressed, during thirteen years, so many millions of subjects, each of whom was equal to their master in personal strength and personal abilities.”  p. 210 

16. How Pertinax, his successor, dealt with Commodus:  “The memory of Commodus was branded with eternal infamy.  The names of tyrant, and gladiator, of public enemy, resounded in every corner of the house.  They decreed in tumultuous votes, that his honors should be reversed, his titles erased from the public monuments, his statues thrown down, his body dragged with a hook into the stripping room of the gladiators, the satiate of public fury; and they expressed some indignation against those officious servant who had already presumed to screen his remains from the justice of the senate.  But Pertinax could not refuse those last rites to the memory of Marcus and the tears of his first protector Claudius Pompeianus, who lamented the cruel fate of his brother-in-law, and lamented still more that he had deserved it.”  p. 122

17. The Senate could only punish the dead:  “To censure, to depose, or to punish with death, the first magistrate of the republic, who had abused his delegated trust, was the ancient and undoubted prerogative of the Roman senate; but the feeble assembly was obliged to content itself with inflicting on a fallen tyrant that public justice, from which, during his life and reign, he had been shielded by the strong arm of military despotism.   p. 123

18. Pertinax condemning his predecessor by the contrast of his virtues:  “Pertinax found a nobler way of condemning his predecessor’s memory; by the contrast of his own virtues, with the vices of Commodus. “  p. 123

19. Just nature of Pertinax:  “Pertinax proceeded with a steady temper, which gave every thing to justice, and nothing to popular prejudice and resentment.”  p. 124

20. Pertinax cut taxes, found new sources of revenue, and freed those unjustly enslaved, he also instituted land reforms :  “Pertinax had the generous firmness to remit all the oppressive taxes invented by Commodus, and to cancel all the unjust claims of the treasury; declaring in a decree of the senate, “that he was better satisfied to administer a poor republic with innocence, than to acquire riches by the ways of tyranny and dishonor.”  Oeconomy (sp.) and industry he considered as the pure and genuine sources of wealth; and from them he soon derived a copious supply for the public necessities.  The expense of the household was immediately reduced to one half.  All the instruments of luxury, Pertinax exposed to public auction, gold and silver plate, chariots of a singular construction, a superfluous wardrobe of silk and embroidery, and a great number of beautiful slaves of both sexes; excepting only, with attentive humanity, those who were born in a state of freedom, and had been ravished from the arms of their weeping parents.  At the same time that he obliged the worthless favorites of the tyrant to resign a part of their ill-gotten wealth, he satisfied the just creditors of the state, and unexpectedly discharged the long arrears of honest services.  He removed the oppressive restrictions which had been laid upon commerce, and granted all the uncultivated lands in Italy and the provinces, to those who would improve them; with an exemption from tribute, during the term of ten years.”    p. 124

21. The rebellion of the Praetorian guards end the just reign:  “These disappointments served only to irritate the rage of the Praetorian guards.  On the twenty-eight of March, eighty-six days only after the death of Commodus, a general sedition broke out in the camp, which the officers wanted either power or inclination to suppress. . . On the news of their approach, Pertinax, disdaining either flight or concealment, advanced to meet his assassins; and recalled to their minds his own innocence, and the sanctity of their recent oath.  For a few moments they stood in silent suspense, ashamed of the atrocious design, and awed by the venerable aspect and majestic firmness of their sovereign, till at length the despair of pardon reviving their fury a barbarian of the country of Tongres leveled the first blow against Pertinax, who was instantly dispatched with a multitude of wounds.  His head separated from his body, and placed on a lance, was carried in triumph to the Praetorian camp, in the sight of a mournful and indignant people, who lamented the unworthy fate of the excellent prince, and the transient blessing of a reign, the memory of which could serve only to aggravate their approaching misfortunes.”  pp. 125-126 
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Chapter V – Public Sale of the Empire to Didius Julianus by the Praetorian Guards, -- Clodius Albinus in Britain, Pescennius Niger in Syria, and Septimius Severus in Pannonia, declare against the Murderers of Pertinax. – Civil Wars and Victory of Severus over his three Rivals – Relaxation of Discipline --   New Maxims of Government.
1.  The power of numbers in arms:  “It has been calculated by the ablest politicians, that no state, without being soon exhausted, can maintain above the hundredth part of its members in arms and idleness. . . The advantages of military science and discipline cannot be exerted, unless a proper number of soldiers are united into one body, and actuated by one soul . . . an hundred thousand well-disciplined soldiers will command, with despotic sway, ten millions of subjects; and a body of ten or fifteen thousand guard will strike terror into the most numerous populace that ever crowded the streets of an immense capital.”  p. 127 
2. Influence of Augustus through the Praetorian Guard: “They [the Praetorian bands] derived their institution from Augustus.  That crafty tyrant, sensible that laws might colour, but that arms alone could maintain, his usurped dominion, had gradually formed this powerful body of guards in constant readiness to protect his person, to awe the senate, and either to prevent or to crush the first motions of rebellion.”  p. 128
3. The Praetorian Guard:  “Such formidable servants are always necessary, but often fatal to the throne of despotism.  By thus introducing the Praetorian guards as it were, into the palace and the senate, the emperors taught them to perceive their own strength, and the weakness of the civil government; to view the vices of their masters with familiar contempt, and to lay aside the reverential awe, which distance only, and mystery ,can preserve, towards an imaginary power.”  p. 128
4. The foolishness of buying an office:  “Yet it was observed, that after the crowd of flatterers dispersed, and left him [Julian, who bought the title of Emperor from the Guard] to darkness, solitude, and terrible reflection, he passed a sleepless night; revolving most probably in his mind his own rash folly, the fate of his virtuous predecessor, and the doubtful and dangerous tenure of an empire, which had not been acquired by merit, but purchased by money.”  p. 131
5. The people protest Julian:  “But the people, secure in their numbers and obscurity, gave a free vent to their passions.  The streets and public places of Rome resounded with clamors and imprecations [cursing].  The enraged multitude affronted the person of Julian, rejected his liberality, and conscious of the impotence of their own resentment, they called aloud on the legions of the frontiers to assert the violated majesty of the Roman empire.”   p. 131
6. The three contenders:
“Clodius Albinus, governor of Britain, surpassed both his competitors in the nobility of his extraction, which he derived from some of the most illustrious names of the old republic.” p. 132
“Personal merit alone had raised Pescennius Niger form an obscure birth to station, to the government of Syria; a lucrative and important command, which in times of civil confusion gave him a near prospect of the throne.”  p. 133
“The Pannonian army was at this time commanded by Septimius Severus, a native of Africa, who, in the gradual ascent of private honors, had concealed his daring ambition, which was never diverted from its steady course by the allurements of pleasure, the apprehension of danger, or the feelings of humanity.”  p. 135
7. The Praetorians betray Julian – his death:  “The faithless Praetorians, whose resistance was supported only by sullen obstinacy, gladly complied with the easy conditions, seized the greatest part of the assassins, and signified to the senate, that they no longer defended the cause of Julian.  The assembly, convoked by the consul, unanimously acknowledged Servers and lawful emperor, decreed divine honours to Pertinax, and pronounced a sentence of deposition [an act of removing from a position of authority] and death against his unfortunate successor.  Julian was conducted into a private apartment of the baths of the palace, and beheaded as a common criminal, after having purchased, with an immense treasure, an anxious and precarious reign of only sixty-six days.”  p. 137
8. The Praetorian Guard dismissed:  “A chosen part of the Illyrian army encompassed them [the Praetorians] with leveled spears,   Incapable of fight or resistance; they expected their fate in silent consternation.  Severus mounted the tribunal, sternly reproached them with perfidy and cowardice, dismissed them with ignominy from the trust which they had betrayed despoiled them of their splendid ornaments, and banished them, on pain of death, to the distance of an hundred miles from the capital.  Curing the transaction, another detachment had been sent to seize their arms, occupy their camp, and prevent the hasty consequences of their despair.”  p. 138
9.  Severus victory over his rivals like and artist:  “Severus subdued the riches of the east, and the valor of the west.  He vanquished two competitors of reputation and ability, and defeated numerous armies, provided with weapons and disciple equal to his own.  In that age, the art of fortification, and the principles of tactics, were well understood by all the Roan generals; and the constant superiority of Severus was that of an artist, who uses the same instruments with more skill and industry than his rivals.”
10. How we tend to overlook the flaws of public officials:  “Falsehood and insincerity, unsuitable as they seem to the dignity of public transactions, offend us with a less degrading idea of meanness, that when they are found in the intercourse of private life.  In the latter, they discover a want of courage; in the other, only a defect of power; and, as it is impossible for the most able statesmen to subdue millions of followers and enemies by their own personal strength, the world, under the name of policy, seems to have granted them a very liberal indulgence of craft and dissimulation [deception in which one conceals the truth].  p. 139
11. Romans and civil war:  “But the Romans, after the fall off the republic, combated only for a choice of masters.  Under the standard of a popular candidate for empire, a few enlisted from affection, some from fear, many from interest, none from principle.”  p. 142
12. The deaths of Niger and Albinus:  “Both Niger and Albinus were discovered and put to death in their flight from the field of battle.  Their fate excited neither surprise nor compassion.  They had staked their lives against the chance of empire, and suffered what they would have inflected; nor did Severus claim the arrogant superiority of suffering his rivals to live in a private station.  But his unforgiving temper, stimulated by avarice, indulged a spirit of revenge, where there was no room for apprehension.”  p. 143
13. Severus’ philosophy of government:  “The true interest of an absolute monarch generally coincides with that of his people.  Their numbers, their wealth, their order, and their security, are the best and only foundations of his real greatness; and were he totally devoid of virtue, prudence might supply its place, and would dictate the same rule of conduct.”  p. 144 
14. Severus’ acts of government – sink all to the same level of dependency:  “Severus considered the Roman empire as his property, and had no sooner secured the possession, than he bestowed his care on the cultivation and improvement of so valuable an acquisition.  Salutary laws, executed with inflexible firmness, soon corrected most of the abuses with which, since the death of Marcus, every part of the government had been infected. In the administration of justice, the judgments of the emperor were characterized by attention, discernment, and impartiality; and whenever he deviate form the strict line of equity, it was generally in favour of the poor and oppressed; not so much indeed from any sense of humanity, as from the natural propensity of a despot, to humble the pride of greatness, and to sink all his subject to the same common level of absolute dependence.”  p. 144
15. The military begins to decline:  “By gratitude, by misguided policy, by seeming necessity, Severus was induced to relax the nerves of discipline.  The vanity of his soldiers was flattered with the honour of wearing gold rings; their ease was indulged in the permission of living with their wives in the idleness of quarters.  He increased their pay beyond the example of former times. And taught them to expect, and soon to claim, extraordinary donatives on every public occasion of danger or festivity.  Elated by success, enervated [deprive of force or strength] by luxury, and raised above the level of subjects by their dangerous privileges, they soon became incapable of military fatigue, oppressive to the country, and impatient of a just subordination.  Their offices asserted the superiority of rank by a more profuse and elegant luxury.”  p. 145
16. Severus the cause of the licentious [lawless; immoral] state of the military:  “There is still extant a letter of Severus, lamenting the licentious state of the army . . . Had the emperor pursued the train of reflection, he would have discovered, that the primary cause of this general corruption might be ascribed, not indeed to the example, but to the pernicious indulgence, however, of the commander in chief.”  p. 145 
17. Severus restores the Praetorian Guard:  “The Praetorians, who murdered their emperor and sold the empire, had received the just punishment of their treason; but the necessary, though dangerous, institution of guards was soon restored on a new model by Severus, and increased toe four times the ancient number.”  p. 146
18. The new Praetorians are not Italian youth:  “By this new institution, the Italian youth were diverted form the exercise of arms, and the capital was terrified by the strange aspect and manners of a multitude of barbarians.”  p. 146
19. The progress and peril of the growth of monarchy:  “Till the reign of Severus, the virtue and even the good sense of eh emperors had been distinguished by their real of affected reverence for the senate, and by a tender regard to the nice frame of civil policy instituted by Augustus.  But the youth of Severus had been trained in the implicit obedience of camps, and his riper years spent in the despotism of military command.  His haughty and inflexible spirit could not discover, or would not acknowledge, the advantage of preserving an intermediate power, however imaginary, between the emperor and the army.  He disdained to profess himself the servant of an assembly that detested his person and trembled at his frown; he issued his commands, where his request would have proved as effectual’ assumed the conduct and style of a sovereign and a conqueror, and exercised, without disguise, the whole legislative as well as executive power.
The victory over the senate was easy and inglorious.  Every eye and every passion were directed to the supreme magistrate, who possessed the arms and treasure of the state; whilst the senate, neither elected by the people, nor guarded by military force nor animated by public spirit, rested its declining authority on the frail and crumbling basis of ancient opinion.  The fine theory of a republic insensibly vanished, and made way for the more natural and substantial feelings of monarchy.”   p. 147
20. People lose love of freedom:  “These new advocates of prerogative were heard with pleasure by the court, and with patience by the people, when they inculcated [to teach and impress by frequent repetitions] the duty of passive obedience, and descanted [ornamental melody] on the inevitable mischiefs of freedom.”  p. 148
21. The emperor above the law:  “The lawyers and the historians concurred in teaching, that he Imperial authority was held, not by the delegated commission, but by the irrevocable resignation of the senate’ that the emperor was freed from the restraint of civil laws, could command by his arbitrary will the lives and fortunes of his subjects, and might dispose of the empire as of his private patrimony.”  p. 148
22. Severus, the principal author of Rome’s decline: The contemporaries of Severus, in the enjoyment of the peace and glory of his reign, forgave the cruelties by which it had been introduced.  Posterity, who experienced the fatal effects of his maxims and example, justly considered him as the principal author of the decline of the Roman empire.”  p. 148

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter IV

Chapter VI – The Death of Severus. – Tyranny of Caracalla. – Usurpation of Macriuus. – Follies of Elagabalus. – Virtues of Alexander Severus. – Licentiousness of the Army. – general State of the Roman Finances.

1. The danger of not requiring kids to work:  “The fond hopes of the father, and of the Roman world, were soon disappointed by these vain youths [Caracalla and Geta], who displayed the indolent security of hereditary princes; and a presumption that fortune would supply the place of merit and application.”  p. 150

2. A name for Tolkien:  “Fingal, whose fame, with that of his heroes and bards, has been revived in our language by a recent publication, is said to have commanded the Caledonians in that memorable juncture, to have eluded the power of Severus, and to have obtained a signal victory on the banks of the Carun, in which the son of the King of the World, Caracul, fled from his arms along the fields of his pride.”  P. 152

3. Taxes – bad:  “The most wealthy families were ruined by partial fines and confiscations, and the great body of his [Caracalla’s] subjects oppressed by ingenious and aggravated taxes.”  p. 158

4. The death of Caracalla:  “. . . having stopped on the road for some necessary occasion, his guards preserved a respectful distance, and Martialis approaching his person under a pretense of duty, stabbed him with a dagger.”  p. 159

5. On Caracalla’s “emulation” of Alexander the Great:  “Whilst he was upon earth, Alexander the Great was the only hero whom this god deemed worthy his admiration . . . but in no one action of his life did Caracalla express the faintest resemblance of the Macedonian hero, except in the murder of a great number of his own and his father’s friends.”  p. 160

6. Elagabalus – effeminate luxury:  “The grave senators confessed with a sigh, that, after having long experienced the stern tyranny of their own countrymen, Rome was a t length humbled beneath the effeminate luxury of Oriental despotism.  p. 166

7. Elagabalus – Religious peculiarity:  “The triumph of the god of Emesa over all the religions of the earth, was the great object of his zeal and vanity: and the appellation of Elagabalus (for he presumed as pontiff and favorite to adopt that sacred name) was dearer to him that all the titles of Imperial greatness.  p. 166

8. Elagabalus – debauchery:  “Yet confining ourselves to the public scenes displayed before the Roman people, and attested by grave and contemporary historians, their inexpressible infamy surpasses that of any other age or country.  The license of an eastern monarchy is secluded form the eye of curiosity by the inaccessible walls of his seraglio [The sequestered living quarters used by wives and concubines in an Ottoman household.]. The sentiments of honour (sp) and gallantry have introduced a refinement of pleasure, a regard for decency, and a respect for the public opinion, into the modern courts of Europe; but the corrupt and opulent nobles of Rome gratified every vice that could be collected from the mighty conflux of nations and manners. Secure of impunity, carless of censure, they lived without restraint in the patient and humble society of their slaves and parasites.  The emperor, in his turn, viewing every rank of his subjects with the same contemptuous indifference, asserted without control his sovereign privilege of lust and luxury.”  p. 168

9. Elagabalus – his death:  “He [Elagabalus] soon attempted, by a dangerous experiment, to try the temper of the soldiers.  The report of the death of Alexander, and the natural suspicion that he had been murdered, inflamed their passions into fury, and the tempest of the camp could only be appeased by the presence and authority of the popular youth [Alexander].  Provoked at this new instance of their affection for his cousin, and their contempt for his person, the emperor ventured to punish some of the leaders of the mutiny. His unseasonable severity proved instantly fatal to his minions, his mother, and himself.  Elagabalus was massacred by the indignant Praetorians, his mutilated corpse dragged through the streets of the city, and thrown into the Tyber (sp).  His memory was branded with eternal infamy by the senate; the justice of whose decree has been ratified by posterity.”  pp. 169-170

10. Alexander – his excellence (an example to all princes):  “The simple journal of his ordinary occupations exhibits a pleasing picture of an accomplished emperor, and with some allowance for the difference of manners, might well serve the imitation of modern princes.  Alexander rose early: the first moments of the day were consecrated to private devotion, and his domestic chapel was filled with the images of those heroes, who, by improving or reforming human life, had deserved the grateful reverence of posterity.  But, as he deemed the service of mankind the most acceptable worship of the gods, the greatest part of his morning hours was employed in his council, where he discussed public affairs, and determined private causes, with a patience and discretion above is years.  The dryness of business was relieved by the charms of literature: and a portion of time was always set apart of his favorite studies of poetry, history, and philosophy.  The works of Virgil and Horace, the republics of Plato and Cicero, formed his taste, engaged his understanding, and gave him the noblest ideas of man and government.  The exercises of the body succeeded to those of the mind; and Alexander, who was tall, active, and robust, surpassed most of his equals in the gymnastic arts.  Refreshed by the use of the bath and a slight dinner, he resumed, with new vigor, the business of the day; and, till the hour of supper, the principal meal of the Romans, he was attended by his secretaries, with whom he read and answered the multitude of letters, memorials, and petitions, that must have been addressed to the master of the greatest part of the world.  His table was served with the most frugal simplicity and whenever he was at liberty to consult his own inclination, the company consisted of a few select friends, men of learning and virtue, amongst whom Ulpian was constantly invited.  Their conversation was familiar and instructive; and the pauses were occasionally enlivened by the recital of some pleasing composition, which supplied the place of the dancers, comedians, and even gladiators, so frequently summoned to the tables of the rich and luxurious Romans.  The dress of Alexander was plain and modest, his demeanor courteous and affable; at the proper hours his palace was open to all his subjects, but the voice of a crier was heard, as in the Eleusinian mysteries, pronouncing the same salutary admonition; “Let none enter those holy walls, unless he is conscious of a pure and innocent mind.”   pp. 172-173

11. Alexander – reduces taxes and reforms the administration:  “The provinces, relieved from the oppressive taxes invented by Caracalla and his pretended son, flourished in peace and prosperity, under the administration of magistrates, who were convinced by experience, that to deserve the love of the subjects, was their best and only method of obtaining the favour (sp) of their sovereign.”

12. Alexander – restores the dignity of the Senate:  “The dignity, and freedom, the authority of the senate was restored; and every virtuous senator might approach the person of the emperor, without a fear, and without a blush.”  p. 173

13. Wisdom and power:  “In the civil administration of Alexander, wisdom was enforced by power, and the people, sensible of the public felicity, repaid their benefactor with their love and gratitude.  p. 174

14. Evil in the military:  “That amiable prince was sensible of the obligation [to the military]; but as his gratitude was restrained within the limits of reason and justice, they [the Praetorian guards] soon were more dissatisfied with the virtues of Alexander, than they had ever been with the vices of Elagabalus.”  p. 175

15. Augustus’ secret of balanced budget has been lost:  “History has never perhaps suffered a greater or more irreparable injury, than in the loss of the curious register bequeathed by Augustus to the senate. In which that experienced prince so accurately balanced the revenues and expenses of the Roman empire.”  p. 179

16. Spain the “Peru and Mexico of the old world (history repeats):  “Spain, by a very singular fatality, was the Peru and Mexico of the old world.  The discovery of the rich western continent by the Phoenicians, and the oppression of the simple natives, who were compelled to labor in their own mines for the benefit of strangers, form an exact type of the more recent history of Spanish America.”  p. 180

17. Good Emperors moderate taxation:  “The mildness and precision of their [Trajan and the Antonines] laws ascertained the rule and measure of taxation, and protected the subject of every rank against arbitrary interpretations, antiquated claims, and the insolent vexation of the farmers of the revenue.  p. 184

18. Evil of taxation:  “It was reserved for the virtue of Alexander to relieve them [the Roman people] in a great measure from this intolerable grievance [heavy taxation].  It is impossible to conjecture the motive that engaged him to spare so trifling a remnant of the public evil; but the noxious weed, which had not been totally eradicated, again sprang up with the most luxuriant growth, and in the succeeding age darkened the Roman world with its deadly shade.”  p. 185

19. Corruption of the Army:  “The more polished citizens of the internal provinces were alone qualified to act as lawyers and magistrates.  The rougher trade of arms was abandoned to the peasants and barbarians of the frontiers, who know no country but their camp, no science but that of war, no civil laws, and scarcely those of military discipline.  With blood hands, savage manners, and desperate resolutions, they sometimes guarded, but much oftener subverted, the throne of the emperors.  p. 186

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