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TYRANTS IN THE PROVINCES.
these, as we have seen, came the decuriones, whose only duty was to produce wealth, and pay taxes on it to the treasury. That these men might neither be soldiers nor Christian priests,1 except by express permission, implied in itself that the empire did not desire its citizens either to carry arms or to take other service than its own. Inaction and timidity were therefore forced upon the middle classes, at the very moment when the Goth was at the gates of the empire. Meanwhile, the legions were a separate society; recruited from the few country districts of Italy where a peasantry still remained but still more from military colonies and from barbarous tribes. They were subject only to their own tribunals, and encouraged by these in a soldatesque license against civilians; the very title of the head of the state, imperator or general, seemed to justify the pretensions of the troops to supersede the senate and name their sovereign.
Under these circumstances, it is not wonderful if Britain, the most remote and military province of the west, was the one in which pretenders to the crown were most frequently set up by the legions. Already in 277 A.D., Probus had thought it expedient to settle Burgundian and Vandal colonies in the island, with the view of dividing the forces of any future revolt, yet only ten years later, under Diocletian, Carausius, a Menapian or Belgo-German by birth, had almost succeeded in establishing an insular royalty. A sailor by profession, he had been entrusted with the defence of the coasts of Britain and North Gaul, against the Frisian pirates. But as he never overtook their fleets, until they had done the work of havoc, and never restored the plundered wealth to the provincials, it was thought he acted in concert with the enemy; and instructions were given from Rome to put him to death. Carausius heard of the orders in time to escape into Britain, assumed the purple, and usurped the empire. The Roman legion then
1 Guizot's Civilisation en France, Leçon iiéme. If they evaded the prohibition, "Per xxx et innumeros annos presbyteri quidam gradu functi vel ministri ecclesiæ, retrahuntur munere sacro et curiæ deputantur."-Ambr. Epist. 29. 2 Britannia fertilis provincia tyrannorum.-St. Jerome, Epist. 43.
BRITAIN RE-CONQUERED BY CONSTANTIUS.
in the island appears to have1 acquiesced sullenly in the change of government. But Carausius found hearty allies in the numerous foreign mercenaries, especially, it would seem, among his German countrymen, whom he enriched with contributions levied on the provinces. Maximian, then emperor of the west, had no fleet to oppose to the rebel navy, and was forced to conclude a peace upon equal terms. Carausius seems to have governed with ability; he drove back the northern tribes, who were plundering Valentia; and bridled the country with seven forts along the lines of Antonine. He is commemorated in Irish legend, as Caros, king of ships; and a probable tradition2 says, that he brought over some of the conquered Gwyddelian Picts, and settled them in the rescued but desolated northern districts. He was not destined to found a royal line. He fell by the hands of Allectus, one of his officers; and the island, left without a capable head, was soon retrieved to the empire by a successful enterprise. Constantius passed the British fleet in a fog: burned his ships as soon as he landed, and marched boldly upon London. The Roman legionaries of Britain do not seem to have been brought into the field; they probably could not be trusted. The Franks, who composed the staple of the rebel force, were routed in the field; and when they attempted to fire and plunder London in their flight, were cut to pieces in the streets.
Constantius is described as a mild and sensible man. The presence of his imperial court was no doubt grateful to British pride, and a source of profit; his mild enforcement of the Diocletian persecution, and the fact that the first Christian emperor was his son, have been titles to the favour of ecclesiastical historians. But except one expedition against the ever restless Caledonian tribes, Constantius achieved nothing memorable
I infer that the Roman soldiers did not support Carausius heartily, from the antithesis in the words of Eumenius "occupatâ legione Romanâ ** solicitatis per spolia ipsarum provinciarum non mediocribus copiis barbarorum." Again, in the final battle against Allectus, scarcely any Roman by birth was slain.—Eumenius Panegyricus, M.B., lxvii., lxviii.
2 Herbert's Britannia after the Romans, vol i. p. 11.
THE WALL OF HADRIAN.
before his death at York, A. D. 306. His son, the famous Constantine, is the one historical instance of a British tyrannus who became emperor of the whole Roman world. For it is important to observe that the true tyrant was not an adventurer like Carausius, contented with a separate kingdom; but a rival emperor, with all the insignia of office, with a senate, consuls, and lictors, maintaining the tradition of a Roman empire, one and indivisible. His nearest parallel is to be found in the antipopes of Latin Christendom. In this imperial fiction lay the strength and the weakness of every revolt: it carried the soldiers with it, but it never stirred the pulses of national life. The fact, however, serves to prove how completely the existence of universal empire had already been confounded with the right; and explains the affectation of Roman titles for centuries after the eagles had left the island. It was partly a dim sense of legality, an uneasy feeling that all dominion was derived from Rome, that led the Saxon kings of the tenth century to call themselves basileus and imperator in their charters.
The history of Constantine, when he had once set out on the expedition that laid the world at his feet, is of no especial importance for the secular aspects of Britain. The island enjoyed a peace of some fifty years, only broken by the revolt of Magnentius, A. D. 350, whose British birth perhaps enlisted the sympathies of his countrymen, and by a bloody inquisition, conducted by a covetous Roman notary, as to the authors of the revolt. Under Julian, A. D. 360, and his successors, we hear constantly of renewed invasions from the Picts and Scots, with whom the name of the Saxons begins to be joined. It was probably during this century that the famous wall, so called of Hadrian, was erected. It was the natural defence of a timid people against marauders. Taking a parallel course to the lines of Hadrian and Severus, it scaled the most difficult moun
1 Thus Sozomen says that Maximus invaded Italy "in order to clear himself from the imputation of being a tyrant and anxious, if he could in any way, to seem to possess the sovereignty of the Romans constitutionally and not by force."-Lib. vii., M.B. lxxxi.
2 Ammianus Marcellinus, lib. xxvi., c. 4.
THE EXPEDITION OF MAXIMUS.
tain cliffs, and planted towers and ramparts twenty feet high, in a country so bleak and rugged that a hundred and twenty years ago no road traversed it. Behind this and the walls of their cities, the descendants of the fierce Brigantes awaited in terror the inroads of their unconquered countrymen, and looked for protection to the foreign legionaries, who plundered and insulted them, but who still remained faithful to the Roman labarum.
The fall of Roman Britain was precipitated by the insurrection of Maximus. An Iberian by birth, Maximus had married a British lady; his family were settled in their mother's country, and his fortunes, varied in a thousand ways, have been the subject of a cycle of Welsh legends. Supported by the sympathies of his adopted fatherland, Maximus succeeded in raising a large number of British recruits, and passed over with these, and with the flower of the Roman army, into Gaul. Partly, perhaps, influenced by his wife, who was a zealous follower of St. Martin, bishop of Tours, Maximus tried to give his struggle an ecclesiastical character; and after a few years sovereignty in Gaul, marched into Italy to put down innovations in church matters. He was defeated and slain at Aquileia, A.D. 388. Unfortunately for Britain, his native recruits never returned to the island. Some had fallen in fight, others had been settled in Armorica; and the island, thus deprived of its natural defenders, was more than ever the prey of barbarous foes.
Neither could it be hoped that Rome, unable to defend herself, would protect her provincials. In the desperate rally which Stilicho made, we find him, indeed, contriving to send an additional legion into the island, A. D. 396. But it was withdrawn six years later, having only driven back the
1 Quart. Rev., Jan., 1860, "The Roman Wall." Inscriptions found in the north show that British tribes worked at the wall.-Wright's Celt, Roman, and Saxon, chap. S.
2 The Dream of Maxen Wledig (Guest's Mabinogion, vol. 3), is an obvious and splendid instance of these stories. I believe Arthur's conquest of Gaul and Italy, as told in Geoffrey of Monmouth, is derived from the same original. British fancy was profoundly impressed by the conception of an expedition under a prince naturalized in the island against the imperial city.
THE LAST ROMAN TYRANT.
Picts and Scots into their fastnesses, and assisted the Britons to complete or repair the wall. The island, however, was still nominally Roman, and garrisoned by a few companies of troops who were well affected to the empire. But in 407 A.D., these men seem to have been panic-struck by the rumours that a barbarous league of Vandals, Suevi, and Alani, had overrun Gaul, and meditated the conquest of Britain. In a hasty instinct of self-defence,1 the soldiery elected two tyrants to head them against the enemy, and murdered them when they proved incompetent for their duties. The third time the choice fell upon a common soldier, Constantine, who took care to occupy his dangerous subjects with an expedition into Gaul. Fortune favoured him; a great victory gave Gaul into his hands; and his son, Constans, whom he withdrew from a monastery, succeeded in recovering Iberia. The emperor, to whom Constantine had apologized for the treason forced upon him, appeared for a time to admit the excuse, and accepted him as a partner in government. But the alliance was dissolved on the first opportunity. A treacherous general, Gerontius,3 slew Constans; and his father was captured, and put to death by the troops of Honorius. Britain, however, did not revert to Rome, for Honorius was in no position to pursue his victory. The great results of Constantine's struggle had been, that a barbarous invasion from Gaul was warded off, and that Britain was left without soldiers to direct its own destinies. The native tribes,
1 Zosimus, lib. vi., chap. 3, distinctly states that the troops elected these emperors through fear of the barbarians: δέει τοῦ μὴ και σφᾶς προελθεῖν.
3 Gerontius was soon afterwards attacked by mutineers, and slew himself, his house being set on fire. His story, like that of Maximus, has passed into British legend. Under the name of Vortigern, he is represented by Geoffrey of Monmouth, and in the old romance of Merlin, as conspiring against the royal family of Britain, dethroning the monk Constans, and finally as burned to death by his subjects. The connecting links between the two stories seem to be, that Gerontius was a Briton by birth, and that he called in barbarians to assist him in his revolt against Constantine. But the language of Zosimus, roùs iv Kiλraïs ἐπανίστησι Κωνσταντινῶ βαρβάρους, can only, I think, refer to the German bands not yet driven out of Gaul. Zosimus, lib. vi., chap. 5. Sharon Turner's AngloSaxons, book i., chap. 7. Ellis's Metrical Romances; Merlin.