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ROMAN SOCIETY

LAST CENTURY OF THE WESTERN EMPIRE

BY THE SAME AUTHOR.

ROMAN SOCIETY FROM NERO TO


MARCUS AURELIUS
Second Edition.

MACMILLAN AND

%vo.

i$s. net.

CO., LTD.,

LONDON.

BOMAN SOCIETY
IN

THE

LAST CENTUEY OF THE WESTEEN

EMPIEE

BY

SAMUEL

DILL,
v^N

M.A.

PROFESSOR OF GREEK IN QUEEN'S COLLEGE, BELFAST


SOMETIME FELLOW AND TUTOR OF CORPUS
CHRISTI COLLEGE, OXFORD

SECOND EDITION, REVISED

MACMILLAN AND
ST.

CO.,

LIMITED

MABTIN'S STEEET, LONDON


1910

D5
.

First Edition (8w) 1898.

Second Edition (Ex. Crown Zvo)

Reprinted (8vd)

1905, 1906, 1910

PEEFACE TO SECOND EDITION


THIS second edition of a work, which has met with such
a generous reception both from the educated public and

from learned

critics,

has not been fundamentally altered.

It is possible that materials, so

from so

many

sources,

arranged in an
reader.

On

fragmentary and gleaned

might here and there have been

order more satisfactory to the critical

the other hand,

it is

not improbable that

something of the freshness of the original impression


derived from the authorities might be lost in an effort to
obtain a more perfect sequence.

At the same time the

opportunity of a reprint has been used to

many minor changes.


sion has been

An

make

amended; statements which seemed too

strong or incautious have occasionally been toned

and some

a good

occasional looseness of expres-

slips as

to fact, or the

have been corrected.

down

form of proper names,

few additional references have

been inserted in the notes, especially to Friedlander's


Sittengeschichte JKoms, which, although it deals only

the

society of the first

and second

centuries,

with

may

be

instructively used for purposes of comparison with the

ROMAN SOCIETY

vi

society of the later Empire.

Lastly, a table of the

more

important dates of the period has been added, with the


object

of facilitating

some knowledge
assumed.
6th July 1899.

of

the perusal

of a

the general history

book in which
is

necessarily

PEEFACE
A

FEW words

of preface

seem

to be necessary to explain

the object of this book, and the limits within which the

writer has wished to confine

it.

It is perhaps superfluous

to say that nothing like a general history of the period


That is a task which has been
has been attempted.
The subject of
already accomplished by abler hands.

work is mainly what it professes to be, the inner life


and thoughts of the last three generations in the Empire
If external events are referred to, it is only
of the West.
this

because men's private fortunes and feelings cannot be


severed from the fortunes of the State.

The

of the

period covered by this study of


have
not
been arbitrarily chosen.
The
society
hundred years of the Western Empire seem marked
limits

Koman
last
off

both by momentous events, and, for the student of

by the authorities at his command. The commencement of the period coincides roughly with the
society,

passage of the Gothic hordes across the Danube, the


accession of Gratian and Theodosius, the termination of
truce between paganism and the Christian
and
the reopening of the conflict which, within
Empire,
twenty years, ended in the final prohibition of heathen

the

long

ROMAN SOCIETY

viii

It closes, not only with the deposition of the last

rites.

shadowy Emperor of the West, but with the

Eoman power

extinction of

practical

in the great prefecture of the

Perhaps even more obvious are the lines drawn


by the fullest authorities for our subject. The earliest
extant letters of Symmachus, which describe the relations
Gauls.

of the last generation of great pagan nobles, belong to


j./>

376390.

the years

The

literary

of Ausonius coincides with the

poems we

and

same

political activity

years,

and from

his

derive an invaluable picture of a provincial

society in the reigns of Gratian

and Theodosius.

thrown on the same generation by


searching light
some of S. Jerome's letters, by the Saturnalia of Macrois

bius,

and by many

we

our period

Inscriptions.

At the other end

The works of Apollinaris Sidonius

mation.

of

are almost equally fortunate in our inforof

Auvergne

are a priceless revelation of the state of society, both in

Eome and

in Gaul, from the accession of Avitus

till

the

triumph of the Visigothic power.


is there wanting a certain bond of union among
these and other scattered materials when they are closely

final

Nor

'

At the beginning of the period, Eoman


indeed
society
sharply divided in a determined religious
and
the
sharpness of the contrast is rendered
struggle,
more decided by the increasing fervour of asceticism.
scrutinised.
is

But

at the hottest

moment

of the conflict there

was a

mass of scepticism, lukewarmness, or wavering conformity,


between the confines of the opposing creeds.
The influences which inspired that attitude had not spent their
force at the close of the fourth century.
When the
terrors of the anti-pagan laws had produced an outward
submission, the Christianity of

many

of the noble

and

PREFACE

ix

lettered class seems to have been far

The

from enthusiastic.

was a powerful rival of the


who had had that training were steeped

discipline of the schools

Church.

Men

in the lingering sentiment of paganism,

and looked with

distrust, or even with contempt, on the severer form of

One can

Christian renunciation.

doubt that

scarcely

of his
early manhood, and some
friends down to the fall of the Western Empire, would

Sidonius,

in

his

have been

far

Symmachus

or

more

at

home

in

the

of

company

Flavianus than in that of

S.

Paulinus

of Nola.
It would, of course, be impossible to treat of society

in such a period without

some reference

who

to those

devoted themselves to the higher ideals of the Christian


life.

in

/But they belong rather to the future. Our interest


these pages must be concentrated o^__those__whose

greatest pride

was

it

tions of the past.

give

to preserve

and transmit the

The main purpose

of this

work

tradiis to

some account of that worldly society which, in its


tone and external fortunes, had undergone but

ideals,
little

.change

between the reign

of

Gratian

and the

dethronement of Eomulus Augustulus.


The period is an obscure one, and the materials are

The

widely scattered.

an orderly view

is

difficulty

not slight

conscious that a critical eye

of arranging

and the writer

may

is

them

in

painfully

easily discover omis-

His only claim is that


sions and faults of treatment.
he has made an honest attempt to answer a question
which has often presented itself to his own mind

How

were

men

living,

and what were

their thoughts

and private fortunes, during that period of momentous


change

/^

ROMAN SOCIETY

only remains for the author to express his


warmest thanks to his old pupil and friend, the Eev.
It

Charles Plummer, Vice-President and Librarian of Corpus


Christi

College, Oxford, for

the kind care with which

he has gone over the proof-sheets.


Uh

October 1898.

TABLE OF DATES
EMPERORS OF THE WEST
Reign of Valentinian

Valentiiiiauli
Gratian
Theodosius 1

Honorius

.......

Valentinian III

Maximus
Avitus
Majorian
Severus

Anthemius
Olybrius
Glycerins
Julius Nepos

Romulus Augustulus

364-375
375-392
375-383
379-395
395-423
425-455
455
455-456
457-461
461-465
467-472
472
473
474-475
475-476

KINGS OF THE VISIGOTHS


395-410

Reign of Alaric
Ataulphus
Wallia
Theodoric

4lti-4T5

415-419
419-451
451-453
453-466
466-485

Thorismond
Iheodoric II

Eunc

Birth of D.
S.

Magnus Ausonius
Martin

,,

Ammianus Marcellhms

,,

Sext. Petron. Probus

Virius

.....

Nicomachus Flavianus

...

circ.

310

,,316
,,

330

,,334
334

ROMAN SOCIETY
Birth of Q. Aurelius
,,
,,

S.

Jerome

S.

Paulinus

.....

Symmachus

S.

........

Birth of Sulpicius Severus


Ausonius, tutor of Gratian

Praetextatus, Praef. Urb


Sext. Petron. Probus, P. P. of Illyricum
S.

Consul
,,
,,
Jerome in the desert of Chalcis

Episcopate of S. Ambrose
Hesperius, son of Ausonius, Procos. of Africa
Flavian us, Yicarius of Africa
.
Birth of Paulinus Pellaeus
The Goths cross the Danube
.
Consulship of Ausonius
Anti-pagan legislation of Gratian
.

.
Jerome, secretary to Pope Damasus
Affair of the Altar of Victory
.
Symmachus, Praef. Urb.
Praetextatus P. P. of Italy
Death of Praetextatus Cos. designatus
S. Jerome and Paula migrate to Bethlehem
S. Paulinus retires to Barcelona
.
Death of Probus
Flavianus P. P. of Italy
.
_Symmachus, Praef. Urb.
Anti-pagan laws of Theodosius

S.

Usurpation of Eugenius
Ausonius writes to S. Paulinus
.

Battle of the Frigidus

Death of Theodosius
Ascendency of Stilicho
Claudian the poet

.....

Scarcity and sedition at Rome


Consulship of Olybrins and Probinus

Gildonic war

->

.......

Orientius

Death of

S.

Macrobius (author of the Saturnalia) Vicarius of Spain


Birth of Salvianus
S.

"...

Martin

Praetorship and games of the younger


Battle of Pollentia
Triumph of Honorius
Death of Paula at Bethlehem
Last poem of Claudian
Invasion and defeat of Radagaisus
.

Symmachus

..
....
......
.

The Sueves and Vandals cross the Rhine


Death of Stilicho
Catholic reaction and rise of Olympius

....

379'

381
382
382-392
384
384
385
386
390
.
circ. 391
389-391
391
391, 392
392
393
394
395
395-408
.
flor. 395-408
395
395
397, 398
399
circ. 400
flor. 400-439 ?
circ. 400
401
403
404
.
404
.
404
405
406
408
408
.
.
.

.......

,,353

340
340

354
364
365
.
circ. 367
367
368
371
374-378
374-397
376
.
376
376
376

Augustine
Vettius Agorius Praetextatus, Procos. of Achaea
,,

arc.

TABLE OF DA TES

xiii

Anti-pagan legislation of Honorius

408
408
Second siege Attains emperor
409
Third siege and capture of Rome
410
The Goths under Ataulphus enter Gaul
412
Rutilius Namatianus, Praef. Urb.
413
S. Augustine begins the City of God
413
414
Marriage of Placidia and Ataulphus
414
Occupation of Bordeaux by the Goths
Paulinus Pellaeus, Count of the S. Largesses under Attalus
414
Orosius arrives at Hippo
414
The Goths at war with the Vandals and Sueves in Spain
415-418
Return of Rutilius Namatianus to Gaul
416
The Goths under Wallia settle in Aquitaine
419
Death of S. Jerome
420
Aries besieged by the Goths and relieved by Aetius
425
The Vandals cross to Africa
428
.
Aetius recovers the Rhineland from the Franks
428
.
Death of S. Augustine, and siege of Hippo by the Vandals
.
430
Death of S. Paulinus
431
Birth of Apollinaris Sidonius
tire. 430
S. Prosper Aq
flor. 430-455
Aetius defeats the Burgundians
436
Narbonne besieged by the Goths and relieved by Litorms
436
Litorius defeated and captured by the Goths
439
.
Peace with the Goths
439
The Vandals surprise Carthage
.
439
.
The Vandals ravage Sicily
440
Death of Placidia
450
circ. 450
Marriage of Sidonius
Attila invades Gaul
451
.
Tonantius Ferreolus, P. P. of Gaul
453
Murder of Aetius by Valentinian III
454
Sack of Rome by the Vandals
455
.
456
Panegyric of Sidonius on Avitus
The Goths under Theodoric II. at war with the Sueves in Spain
on behalf of the empire
457
458
Panegyric on Majorian
Eucharisticos of Paulinus Pellaeus composed
459
Narbonne surrendered to the Goths
462
Visit of Sidonius to Rome
.
467
Prosecution of Arvandus
468
.
.
468
.
.
.
Panegyric on Anthemius
468
Sidonius, Praef. Urb
Mam. Claudianus composes De Statu Animae,
circ. 470
.
Sidonius becomes Bishop of Auvergne
.
.
470
Mission of Epiphanius to Euric
,
.
474
Final surrender of Auvergne to Euric
.
.
475
.
475
Imprisonment of Sidonius at Li via
Victorius Governor of Auvergne
475
Death of Sidonius
circ. 479
First siege of

Rome by

Alaric

...
.

......
.

.......
.

CONTENTS
BOOK

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

CHAPTER

THE PAGAN ARISTOCRACY AND THE CONFUSION OF PARTIES


Obstinate attachment to paganism both among the vulgar and the
educated Causes of this Influence of Eastern cults Philosophic
Patriotism and antiquarian sentiment Roman feeling
shocked by the ascetic spirit which turned its back on public duty
Yet the line between Christian and pagan in the fourth century was
not sharply drawn Intermixture of opposing creeds in the same

monotheism

family, and in general society The latter illustrated by the circle of


Q. Aur. Symmachus Its leading members both Christian and pagan
Character of Symmachus of Praetextatus of Flavianus Some

German
Attalus

......

chiefs

S.

Ambrose

Sext. Petron. Probus

CHAPTER

Jovius

Prisons

Pages 3-26

II

THE LAST CONFLICTS OF PAGANISM WITH THE CHRISTIAN EMPIRE


The long

series of anti-pagan laws down to 439


Practical toleration till
the reign of Gratian The removal of the altar of
Victory and the
protest of the Senate Symmachus represents their views to the
Emperor His speech Symmachus and Flavianus still high in

ROMAN SOCIETY
Decided legislation of 392 Yet apostasy was
imperial favour in 391
frequent Why the pagan cause did not seem hopeless The usurpation of Eugenius Flavianus heads the pagan reaction The battle

on the Frigidus Yet the Senate is still obstinately pagan LegisHow anti-pagan laws were defeated by the
lation of Honorius
negligence of governors and inferior officers Yet this semi-pagan
sentiment had a good effect in checking the destruction of temples
and works of art The tolerant policy of Stilicho Outbreak of pagan
Christian
feeling on the appearance of Alaric and Radagaisus
calumnies against Stilicho Olympius and the Catholic reaction
Brief triumph of paganism under Attalus Fate of Claudian, the
poet of the pagan Senate

The poem

of Rutilius Namatianus, another

Tone of Rutilius His hatred of Jews and monks


Magic, astrology, the theatre, and the games are the last strongholds
of paganism Tuscan diviners offer their services against Alaric
pagan poet

Rome Legislation against the magic


Neoplatonism gives its countenance to them The diviners
under the government of Attalus The gladiatorial shows They had
been exhibited by the best emperors, and defended by men of high
character Their abolition in the reign of Honorius The passion of
Romans for the theatre Character of later legislation on the subject
Attitude of Innocent, bishop of
arts

How

the taste

still

lasted in the age of the Invasions

CHAPTEE
8.

Pages 27-58

III

AUGUSTINE AND OROSIU8 ON THE CAPTURE OF ROME

Fhe moral

minds

effect of the

Was

it

capture of Rome by Alaric on pagan and Christian


to desertion of the gods of Rome ?
Why have

due

Christians suffered in the sack of the City? The controversy


keenest in Africa Doubts of Volusianus and bis friends S.

is

AugusAugustine

The City of God begun in 413 How S.


tine's answer
deals with the catastrophe The old religion did not protect its
It did not give prosperity
votaries
It was impotent for good and
fruitful of evil

Orosius arrives in Hippo His historical task, to


far greater calamities than the Christian

prove that past ages suffered

Empire had endured Orosius' mode of dealing with history His \^


curious omissions and gross exaggeration
Both S. Augustine and
^
Orosius addressed an educated class, which must have been numerous &
and formidable
.
.
,
59-73
'

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

xvii

IV

SOME CAUSES OP THE VITALITY OF THE LATER PAGANISM


The character of the native religion of Rome,
spiring The real living paganism was of

formal, scrupulous, uninPower of


foreign origin

foreign cults in the fourth century Evidence of the Inscriptions


Growing influence of Eastern religions under the Empire The charIsis
The character of Mithra-worship
The Taurobolium in the fourth century
Mithra the great enemy of Christianity Moral and devotional effects

acteristics of the

The mysteries

worship of

of Mithra

Illustration from the initiation of Lucius in the


of such worships
mysteries of Isis described by Apuleius The procession to the sea
The launching of the sacred bark The prayers in the temple The

communion His baptism and initiation


Plutarch's monotheism and devout
His prayer of thanksgiving
Illusfeeling The monotheistic tendency in the later paganism
trated from the Saturnalia of Macrobius The tendency to syncretism
and monotheism How the Romans identified foreign deities with

preparation of Lucius for

their

own

under one

The
rule,

influence of the Empire, by bringing so


tended to amalgamation of worships

many peoples
and a vague

The

creed of the pagan Maximus of Madaura in the


time of S. Augustine The influence of philosophy Plutarch the

monotheism

movement Neoplatonism at Rome Fascination of


Degeneracy of Neoplatonism in the reign of Julian Yet
Julian's moral aims were high Why Neoplatonism was committed
to a defence of paganism, partly by traditional sentiment, partly by
the instinct of philosophic freedom How the system of Emanation
lent itself to a support of paganism
The justification of myth The
Divine can only be expressed by fiction The superstition of the
later Alexandrines founded on the doctrine of daemons and of secret
affinities linking all parts of the universe together
Yet even in the
last age the purer influences of Neoplatonism were not extinct
Illustration of this from the commentary of Macrobius on the Dream
of Sdpio Its characteristics It combines physical and astronomical
speculation with an ethical and devotional purpose The Supreme
father of the

Plotinus

One

The universe God's temple The fall of man through the seven
The immersion of the soul in the material world The soul

spheres

must not quit


fresh the

its

prison in the body but await its release, and keep


of its Divine source
Virtue the only hope of

memory

eternal felicity The different degrees of virtue


man may serve
"
"
his country and yet seek a
citizenship which is in heaven

Pages 74-112

ROMAN SOCIETY

Kviii

BOOK

II

SKETCHES OF WESTEEN SOCIETY FROM


SYMMACHUS TO SIDONIUS

CHAPTER

THE INDICTMENT OP HEATHEN AND CHRISTIAN MORALISTS


satirists and moralists on the morality of an age must
be accepted with caution Characteristics of Roman satire, especially
that of Juvenal History proves that it was extravagant In the last
age of the Empire asceticism condemned the world en masse It dealt
The views of
as hardly with Christian as with pagan morality

The judgment of

Marcellinus, a pagan, on the character of his age He is


honest, but perhaps rather hard and narrow He accuses the upper
class of pride, frivolity, and luxury, rather than of gross vice

Ammianus

His connection with high society His


must bo accepted with reserve
His ascetic spirit and plain speaking illustrated from the letter to
Demetrias de Virginitate He does not attack the morals of leading
pagans like Praetextatus, but he reveals some of the perils to virtue
in Roman life Corrupting influence of slaves Female extravagance

('Judgment of

S.

Jerome

Why his

female friends

censures

Danger in fashionable gatherings Dangers of the banquet


view compared with the picture in the Saturnalia of
S. Jerome deals most hardly with the professedly
Macrobius

in dress

S. Jerome's

religious

Worldliness

among the higher

clergy

Their

luxury,

and doubtful relations with women Clerical and monkish


The
Agapetarum pestis" Painful pictures of female
Salvianus on the morals of Southern Gaul after the
hypocrisy
invasions Account of his career The theme of the De Gubematione
DeiThQ calamities of the time due to Roman profligacy and oppression of the poor by the rich The corruption of the governing class
The frenzy of deThe passion for the theatre and the circus
bauchery in the crisis of the invasions Aquitaine wholly abandoned
to vice Can Salvianus be believed ? No confirmation to be found in
Symmachus, Ausonius, or Sidonius The key to his unconscious
exaggeration He is a preacher and ascetic enthusiast Pages 115-142
cupidity,
avarice

' '

CONTENTS

CHAPTER
THE SOCIETY OF
The family

Q.

xix

II

AURELIUS SYMMACHUS

Aurelius Sjmmachus His position and fame as an


of information on public affairs in his letters Position
of the Senate
Rome no longer the seat of government Proud
of Q.

Lack

orator

reticence of the upper class Yet Symmachus gives glimpses of the


dangerous state of the city from the failure of the corn-supply in the
war with Gildo The wealth of the senatorial class Estimate of
senatorial incomes
Profuse expenditure illustrated by the prepara-

games to be given in honour of the praetorship of the


younger Symmachus The stiff ceremonious etiquette of life at Rome
The charms of country life felt as a relief Passion for literature
and learning in the circle of Symmachus, Praetextatus, and Flavianus
Literary affectation and ambition Knowledge and critical study
of the great authors combined with great degeneracy of style
Influtions for the

ence of cliques

Mutual

flattery

passion for rhetorical exhibitions

Yet there was a genuine love

still

strong

of literature in the

upper class How letters gave a man a career Palladius, Marinianus,


Ausonius There are glimpses of selfishness and cruelty in the society
But both he and ^Macrobius^xleave the impression
of Symmachus
that the life of the upper class is regular and decent Testimony of
Macrobius as to the decrease of luxury and drunkenness Stricter
ideas about dancing and acting
Family affection of Symmachus

Humane

feeling towards slaves


in the position of women
the intellectual companions of men,

Change

under the Empire Became more


cultivated, taking a leading part in
believed in the old

about his children

him

Symmachus'

etc.

charity,

Symmachus

Roman

conception of woman's place His anxiety


Care of his son's education Reads Greek with

last letters

Goths are in the valley of the Po

His journey to
.

CHAPTER

Milan while the


.

Pages 143-166

III

THE SOCIETY OF AQUITAINE IN THE TIME OF AUSONIUS


The value of the poems of Ausonius
has preserved the portraits of a provincial circle Family loyalty
of Ausonius
Portraits of his grandfather, an Aeduan astrologer,
who casts his horoscope His father, the Stoic physician His female
The literary career of
relatives, characterised by a Puritan quietude

The wealth and peacejrf Aquitaine

He

ROMAN SOCIETY
The

Ausoiiius

Gallic renaissance of the fourth century Thirty years


rise in the world
Yet he is always faithful to

His

a professor

letters
His old age at Bordeaux Love of the country growing
Ausonius hates the town Pleasures of country life Visiting and

The eccentric Theon


The society of Aquitaine
correspondence
depicted in the Eucharisticos of Paulinus Pellaeus, the poet's grandson
His account of his youth, temptations, taste for sport
His
Reforms the management of his wife's estates His love of
and luxury A "sectator deliciarum" The ascetic movement
in Gaul
Influence of S. Martin His Life by Sulpicius Conversion
of S. Paulinus and Sulpicius Severus
How the ascetic movement was
opposed even by the clergy Influence of S. Jerome His fame as a
Biblical critic The charm of the Holy Places drew great numbers of
marriage
ease

pilgrims to the East Description of a pilgrimage given by Sulpicius


Severus The visit of Postumianus, a Gallic monk, to Bethlehem
and the monasteries of Egypt S. Jerome's correspondents in Gaul

Descended from a Druidical family Its academic members


Hedibia's questions as to the narratives of the Resurrection
Questions of Algasia "Pray that your flight be not in the
winter"
Pages 167-186
Hedibia

CHAPTER

IV

THE SOCIETY OF APOLLINARIS SIDONIU8


The family of Apoll. Sidonius
.

His career

Publication of his letters

(jGreat changes in the interval between Ausonius and Sidonius Yet


the condition of the upper class remains unaltered Sidonius tells
little of the middle and lower
classes-^His interest centres in his own

order /-Its exclusive tastes

Minute faithfulness with which ho


life
His wide circle of

own society Monotony of its


acquaintance The ideal of the Roman noble
describes his

Pride of birth

Imperial
there

office

as sketched

by Sidonius

birth considered even in episcopal elections


generally sought for its external distinction Yet

High

of men possessing high administrative


Duties of the Pretorian prefect
the prefectures, etc.
Gallic nobles were becoming farmers on a large scale

must have been a number

capacity to

fill

But many

Instance of Syagrius A country squire on good terms with the


Germans Extent of senatorial estates That of Ausonius at Bazas,

The villa a
The arrangements

about 1000 acres


tion of it

houses
visits

community in itself Descripof a great house Avitacum Great


Mode of travelling Country house

little

fortified
Roads unsafe
Voroangus and Prusianum

Position

of

women

They

are

Daily

life

treated with

at a country

great

houseFew

respect

CONTENTS

xxi

Picture of the parasite exceptional


allusions to gross immorality
General_decency of morals The real vices of Gallo-Roman society,
cultivated selfishness, want of high public spirit, absence of ideals
These the result of bureaucratic government and of education which
cultivated only
The Christian movement in Gaul
rhetorical^skill
Hidden saints Picture oT Vectius, the ascetic grand seigneur
Sidonius called to the episcopate Great change in his life The

His multifarious duties


position of a bishop in the fifth century
classes of bishops, the monastic and the aristocratic
the

Why

Twp

aristocratic~bisF6p was a necessity of the times


tions
Sidonius when bishop of Auvergne, aided

Two

episcopal elec-

by Ecdicius, defends
independence against the Visigoths Bishop Patiens saves a large
population from famine
Learning and eloquence of the Gallic
bishops S. Remi the apostle of the Franks Lupus of Troyes
Faustus of Riez His career and character His heresies His book
on the corporeal nature of the soul Reply by Mam. Claudianus
its

Sidonius equally friendly with both His tolerance His reverenge


Visit to Le"rins Intercourse with monks

for the monastic ideal

.....

Thembnk Abraham
by

his deathbed

in Auvergne

The

BOOK

III

Visigothic governor stands


Pages 187-223

THE FAILUEE OF ADMINISTRATION, AND THE


RUIN OF THE MIDDLE CLASS, AS KEVEALED
BY THE THEODOSIAN CODE

CHAPTER

THE DISORGANISATION OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE


General view of the social and administrative disorganisation of the period
The government with the best intentions strove to find a remedy
-^-The sense of responsibility expressed by the later emperors The
rhetorical tone of the later legislation The hereditary guilds of Rome
The corporal bound to their functions, but constantly trying to evade

them

Failure of the corn-supply through desertion or evasion on the


part of the navicularii ^Different modes of evasion Wholesale desertion in 455
Disorganisation in the army Frequent enactments de re
militari in Stilicho's time

Failure of recruits Money accepted from


the great proprietors instead of men Aversion to military service
Self-mutilation to escape it Frequency of desertion- -Concealment of

ROMAN SOCIETY
deserters heavily punished
The frontier garrisons melt away
arms in 406 Disorganisation of the posting service

called to

great roads

Abuse of

evectio

Officers

bound

Slaves

on the

to the service desert

The animals
curiosi

Growth

are not properly fed The tyranny and corruption of the


They have to be peremptorily removed from large districts
of brigandage Character of the shepherds of S. Italy

Shepherd and brigand almost synonymous


in collusion with the criminals

out seven provinces of Italy

Agents on remote states

The

use of horses forbidden throughDeserters from the army become

dangerous banditti Signs of the growth of poverty Sale of children


in the famine of 450
Plunder of tombs Decay of public buildings
Poor exiles from Africa allowed to practise in the Italian courts
Pages 227-244

CHAPTER

II

THE DECAY OF THE MIDDLE CLASS AND THE AGGRANDISEMENT


OP THE ARISTOCRACY
Roman wealth

chiefly in jp.nd
Decay of commerce from the third century
Depressed condition of the merchant class in the later Empire
Two classes of landed proprietors, the senatorial and the curial
Senators exempt from municipal burdens
Decay of the municiThe curia now composed of owners of
palities in the fourth century

at least 25 jugera of land Enormous liabilities of the curiales They


had to assess and collect the land-taxes of their district Liable for
all deficits

recruit its

The curial class was being depleted without being able to


numbers from below The emperors devote great attention

192 enactments de Decurionibus The flight of the


Their attempt to obtain admission to the senatorial class
Means of doing so In the fifth century this movement was peremp-

to the curia
curiales

torily stopped
public service

Persons of curial descent recalled from places in the


curial's position became a hereditary servitude

The

His personal freedom curtailed on every side He could not go abroad


or dispose of his property The whole force of law exerted to prevent
his escape How he did escape
Often by placing himself under the
patronage of a great landowner *As the curial class shrank in numbers,
became heavier-^l'or^the ^bcTe sEows that the tax-

their liabilities

bearing area was contracting And there was an appreciation in gold,


which, since a large proportion of the taxes had to be paid in gold,
rendered the liability heavier Tendency of the large proprietors to

absorb the smaller very marked The ruined farmer takes refuge on
the senatorial estate Growth of this form of patronage Attempts to
check it by legislation ineffectual How the great proprietor got the
small farmer in his grasp

Secret or fraudulent sales

The

senatorial

CONTENTS

xxiii

growing in power They evade taxation, and by social


and corruption obtain connivance at evasion in others
Their agents a corrupt class In league with brigands Mortgage
class steadily

influence

estates surreptitiously
Illegitimate influence brought to bear on
Measures taken to protect the purity of the bench
judges
How the great landowners
Grievances of the province of Africa
evaded their burdens Every branch of the revenue service had

become corrupt Frauds and cruel over-exaction cf the susceptores


and numerarii The provincials are helpless against the tax-gatherer
The enormities of the discussores, described in an edict of Valen-

ghe efforts of government to check these abuses were


by the power of the aristocracy and the contumacy of
All these evils summed up in the edict of Majorian in 458

tinian III.
frustrated
officials

Examples of the humane

spirit of the latest imperial legislation

Remission of taxes over large areas Governors ordered to visit the


prisons Prisoners to be brought up for trial within a year Status
protected by a term of prescription Redeemed captives protected
against the redemptor Exposed infants of the servile class saved from
servitude Limit within which fugitive coloni could be reclaimed

Pages 245-281

BOOK

IV

THE BARBARIANS AND THE FUTURE OF


THE EMPIRE

CHAPTER

THE GENERAL CHARACTER OF THE INVASIONS


this book : thejeeling of Romans as to tha
the condition of the Empire General character of the Invasions
Why the Romans were not so much startled by them as we should

Main subject of

expect The Invasions were nothing new Invasions of the third and
fourth centuries apparently overwhelming, yet triumphantly repelled
Their effects not lasting In the fifth century the Roman generals

show no

fear of the invaders

The barbarians were not impelled by


They were ready to

any common purpose or by any hatred of Rome

Barbarian troops in the Roman


fight for Rome against their brethren
army for ages Received lands on military tenure The Laeti of Gaul
Peaceful settlement of barbarians within the frontier from the days
of Augustus Examples German officers in the Roman
army from
the third century Examples in the fourth century Some brilliant

ROMAN SOCIETY

xxiv

among them

figures

barbarian dress in

Honorius

They have

great social influence

Fashion of

Rome

has to be restrained by law in the reign of


Immense number of barbarians settled on estates as colpni

Examples The Invasions of the fifth century not of a uniform and


overwhelming character Estimated strength of the Visigoths, BurgunInvasions differed in character and
dians, and Franks in Gaul
objects Somemerely for plunder, others for regular settlement In
the latter case the chief acts aslTRoman official, and carries on the

Roman

administration

-culture, religion,

Wide

differences

and moral character

among the

invaders in

Example from Noricum in the


thus complex and various in

time of S. Severinus The Invasions,


character, produced very different impressions

on

different minds*

Pages 285-302

CHAPTER

II

ROMAN PEELING ABOUT THE INVASIONS AND THE FUTURE OP


THE EMPIRE
( The

first terror

on the approach of the Goths

Flight to places of security

wif.h AUrin
TVi m/wi
shock caused by the capture of Rome LameBMiinir" *f & T^^mp
His picture of the Invasions Flight of the guildsmen of Rome Fate

The alarm did not

last long

Negotiati

who fled to Africa Cruelties of Count Heraclian


Actual_damageinflicted by the Goths probably not very great
The feelings of Kufilin~~Namatianus about Rome iqCJj
His passionate ^love of her and confidence in her destiny The views of
makes light of the invasions Hopes for a rapprochement
_
^Orosius-j-He
between Roman and barbarian Yet the Empire may pass away
Rome has given order to the world, but at a great cost to the proof aristocratic exiles

Strong provincial feeling in Orosius What the poems Ad


Uxorem, De Providentia Divina, and the Commonitorium of Orientius
tells us of the Invasions
Pictures of devastation and ruin Moral

vinces

Gaul Loss of faith in Providence Growth of atheistic


Salvianus wrote to refute the same scepticism in his
pessimism^
day Salvianus maintains that the calamities of Rome were due
to Roman vices The barbarians were superior both in private and
effects in

public virtulP^'Oppression made many welcome the rule of the


barbarian chief Orosius and Salvianus compared They alone faced

the problems of the time Roman feeling is stronger in Orosius,


although he has no horror^ofjhe^barbarians ^alvianus has lost faith
in Roman society, which he thinks hopelessly rotten The future

new races Views and feelings of Apollinaris Sidonius


represents a different world from that of Salvianus His advan-

belongs to the

He
tages,

through his family connections, especially with Avitus,

for a

CONTENTS

xxv

brilliant pictures in Sidonius


Tho
The Goths, Saxons, and Franks Wedding
procession of Sigismer Description of Theodoric II. and his court
This written with a political purpose The party of Gallic independence With the help of the Visigoths they raise Avitus to the throne

study of the barbarians

Huns

On

Many

The Burgundians

the

fall

Marcellinus
the prefect

of Avitus, the party

make another

effort in

support of

Triumph and clemency of Majorian The intrigues


Arvandus with Euric Sidonius probably not a party

of
to

Changed attitude of the Goths Description of society at Rome


Deputation from Gaul on the accession of Anthemius
Journey of Sidonius described Classical reminiscences Ravenna
Rome, after the Vandal sack, apparently little changed The city en
Leaders of Roman society Avianus
ftte for the marriage of Ricimer
and Basilius Sidonius attaches himself to Basilius, who proposes
that Sidonius should celebrate the new Emperor in verse The Panegyric on Anthemius is rewarded with the Urban prefecture Not a
word in Sidonius' letter about the dangers of the Empire It is in
the Panegyrics of Sidonius that his views on the condition of the
Empire are to be found In spite of the union of Roman and Visi-

them

in 467

goth, the Panegyric on Avitus reflects the general gloom Humiliation of Rome The need of a warlike prince There is yet hope, but
the hope is in Gaul The services of Avitus He can bring the force
of the Visigoths to the help of Rome Tone of the poem on Majorian
not so pessimistic Africa beseeches Rome for help against the Van-

The might of Rome is only slumbering The achievements of


Majorian, and the hopes of his success Yet the discontent of Gaul
once more breaks out She is ignored and crushed by taxation Fate

dals

of Majorian

throne

Sidonius in
pride
before

The appeal to Leo, who recommends Anthemius for the


is to marry his daughter
Difficulties of the task of
writing the Panegyric on Anthemius Shock to Roman

Ricimer

Hatred of Constantinople

Expressed by Claudian

Sidonius does not disguise the weakness of


conquests have passed to her rival The Empire

But

division need not

mean

discord

Rome

is finally

All jealousy

fifty

years

Her Eastern
divided

must be forgotten

in the effort to crush the Vandal power


Ricimer has already made
head against the invaders He is hated by the Vandal king But
only an emperor can cope with the danger Recapitulation of these

various views

.....
CHAPTER

\ SSx-^

Pages 303-345

III

fe"

^*

RELATIONS OF ROMANS WITH THE INVADERS


jfubject of this chapter/; the relations of Gallo-Romans with the invaders
from the first appearance of the Visigoths in Gaul till their conquest

ROMAN SOCIETY

xxvi
of

Auvergne

in 474

The

Eucharisticos of Paulinus Pellaeus

He

was

General character of the poem Paulinus


interest in public affairs, yet his poem has a great value

a grandson of Ausonius

has

little

temporary occupation of Bordeaux by


the Visigoths in 414 Their movements from 412 till 414 They supHis
port Jovinus and then overthrow him Ataulphus at Narbonne
It is the sole authority for the

marriage with Placidia, the sister of Honorius How Ataulphus came


Paulinus
to occupy Bordeaux, and proclaim Attalus as Emperor
obliged to accept the office of Count of the Largesses The Goths
leave Bordeaux
is

besieged

Paulinus loses everything and flies to Bazas, which


A servile revolt breaks out in Bazas

by the Goths

Paulinus determines to appeal for aid to the king of the


The
Strange interview
serving with the Goths
deserts the Goths, who decamp The subsequent fortunes
He thinks of becoming a monk Falls into poverty
is

Alans,

who

Alan king
of Paulinus
Fate of his

In his old age receives unexpectedly from an unknown Goth


the price of some portion of his estates at Bordeaux Light which the
Eucharisticos throws on the attitude of the Goths to Rome Fluctuations of Gothic policy in the lifetime of Apollinaris Sidonius
They
sons

sometimes support the Empire, sometimes they are at war with it


Auvergne long left in peace Family of Sidonius on friendly terms
with Theodoric II. Sidonius also on good terms with the Burgundians Their settlement at Lyons Chilperic magister militum
The Burgundians a kindly race, but their personal habits offend the
taste of Sidonius

Change in the attitude of the Visigothic power on

the accession of Euric

Causes of this Roman maladministration


His encroachments
Overthrows the

Euric an intolerant Arian

Breton troops in Berry

Assails

Auvergne

Gallant defence

made

Ecdicius, brother-in-law of Sidonius Moral influence of Sidonius


He fortifies the courage of the people by solemn religious services

by
-

The Rogations introduced by Mam. Claudianus

of

Vienne

Embassy
They

of Epiphanius to Euric Negotiations of the four bishops


surrender Auvergne to Euric Indignant protest of Sidonius

How

Euric treated the Catholics Sees left vacant Churches falling into
ruins This policy subsequently mitigated, probably through the
Count Victorius, a
influence of Leo, Euric's Roman minister
Catholic, appointed governor of Auvergne Sidonius banished for a
time to the fortress of Livia Leo obtains his release His stay at
Bordeaux His flattery of Euric and the queen He is restored to
his diocese Attitude of the Gallo-Roman nobles to the Germans
Some seclude themselves and fortify their houses Yet they had
probably not much to fear except from irregular bands Some take
service under the

German king

as administrators

"Why they were

Position and character of Leo, the secretary of Euric The


Their sinister arts described by Sidonius While
tribe of delators
the Germans wished to maintain order, there are signs of suspicion

needed

CONTENTS
and insecurity

What

Sidonius

Roads watched
tells of

xxvii

to be stopped

Couriers liable

the condition of the lower classes

Dangers
from brigandage A woman carried off by the Vargi and sold into
slavery A poor squatter on episcopal lands Raids of the Breton
Great famine after the inroads of the
troops in Auvergne
Relieved by the munificence of Bishop Patiens and
Visigoths
Ecdicius

Pages 346-382

BOOK V
ROMAN EDUCATION
AND CULTURE IN THE FIFTH CENTUEY

CHARACTERISTICS OF

Subject of this book : the culture of pagan tradition Attitude of the


Church to the ancient literary culture By many Churchmen in the

West

Hellenism hostile to
it was long viewed with suspicion
Christianity But in the fourth century the Church determines to
use the ancient discipline for its own purposes Attitude of SS.

"
Jerome and Augustine S. Jerome's love of learning
Spoiling the
"
to
sacred
forms
of
literature
Ancient
applied
subjects
Egyptians
Juvencus Proba The two Apollinares No hard and fast line
between classical and mediaeval literature Singular permanence of
the school tradition Example in the case of Ennodius of the time of
His declamations on hackneyed themes
Failure of
Theodoric
Singular barrenness of three
original power after the Silver Age
centuries
Deadening effect of academic conservatism Its pagan

Opposition between Hellenism and serious Christianity


in the conversion of S. Paulinus
His correspondence with
his old professor Ausonius shows the gulf between the ascetic and the

spirit

Example

Influence of imperial authority and


spirit of the time
patronage in perpetuating the school system Academic endowments
under the Empire Julian claims control over academic appointments
The stipends of professors fixed in 376 Position and emoluments
of professors as described by Ausonius Some of the rhetors men of

academic

and high social standing


Profession of letters greatly
honoured
Literary enthusiasm of the aristocracy, especially in
Gaul The great schools of Gaul from the earliest times Marseilles,
wealth

The literary renaissance of the fourth century Its centres


were Treves and the schools of Aquitaine, especially Bordeaux
Fame of Bordeaux in the Roman world The subjects of academic

etc.

Jurisprudence at Aries and Narbonne Philosophy decaying


the fourth century Platonists in the time of Sidonius But

study
in

ROMAN SOCIETY

xxviii

probably little serious study of philosophy Examples of superficial


treatment of the subject in Sidonius and Martianus Capella Serious

The semistudy of philosophy found only among ecclesiastics


The controversy between Faustus and Mam.
Pelagian school
Claudianus on the nature of the soul Claudianus shows philosophic
grasp and knowledge Academic study confined to Grammar and
Rhetoric Greek and Latin grammarians But the study of Greek was
evidently declining Meaning of Grammar What the grammarian

taught An tiquarianism Traces of literary appreciation Criticism of


Virgil in the Saturnalia of Macrobius Virgil the favourite author
Next in popularity, Terence and Horace The influence of Statius
Cicero not popular in the fifth century Pliny a favourite model
Sallust the most admired prose writer Opposition between literary
and antiquarian modes of study Dry-as-dust scholars at Bordeaux

Grammar might have developed

into a systematic liberal education,

The rage for declamatory


displays in the fourth century The triumph of the rhetor Palladius
The character of the rhetorical training How it had degenerated
into a mere display of conventional skill in dealing with unreal subbut came to be

far inferior to rhetoric

The moral and intellectual results of this discipline Abject


submission to authority whether political or literary It produces a
tendency to insincere flattery Example from the Actio Gfratiarum
of Ausonius And from the Panegyrics of Sidonius on Avitus and

jects

The interchange of flattery in literary coteries Its


The passion for literary fame
absurd exaggerations illustrated
even in an ascetic like S. Jerome The anxious literary ambition of
Sidonius Yet, in spite of the idolatry of style, there was a manifest
Anthemius

decadence, of which Sidonius was fully conscious Failure of mental


energy Dreams of history which was never written Why Sidonius

did not write the history of the invasion of Attila The fifth century
can only show meagre chronicles
Their
Prosper and Idatius
characteristics
The poverty of imagination in poetic art vainly

supplemented by mythological ornament Examples from Sidonius


His epithalamium for the wedding of Polemius and Iberia His prose
style is as full of literary faults as his poetry The men whom he
flatters probably had the same literary vices as himself
The crowd
of brilliant literary people in his time
Yet they have left no
trace

Pages 385-451

BOOK

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

CHAPTER

THE PAGAN ARISTOCRACY AND THE CONFUSION OF PARTIES


IN

spite of the

moral force which ensured the future to

the Christian faith, its final triumph was long delayed.


Religious conservatism is, of all forms of attachment to
It
the past, probably the most difficult to overcome.
has its seat in the deepest and most powerful instincts of
human nature, which, when they have once twined

themselves around a sacred symbol of devotion, are only


torn away after a long struggle.
|But this form of
attachment is peculiarly obstinate when it is identified,
as religion has so often been, with patriotic reverence for
the glory of an ancient state, which in the omens of its

election of its magistrates, the daily work of


or in the stress of war, and the
administration,
peaceful
exultation of conquest, has for many ages recognised the
birth, the

same divine sanction and help.


charm of sacred

the seductive

Superstitious fancy, or
may keep the

festivals,

vulgar constant to the old faith / but the class which in


high office has been specially charged with the safety of
the State, and which, by a chain of real or imagined
ancestry, is

more

closely

identified

with

its

career, is

penetrated with a deeper conservatism than that of the

common

herd. / Antiquarian and literary culture also


reinforce religious sentiment, or replace it, when it has

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

BOOK

Even the sceptical epicurean, to whom all


decayed.
faiths are alike, will prefer that which has the refined
charm of immemorial possession, and which has received
an added dignity and glory from the magic touch of
genius, and the reverence of heroic characters.
For nearly a hundred years the emperors had intermittently denounced the practice of the
Yet the edict 1 which closes
heathenism.
I

of

rites

the long

anti- pagan laws shows, by the fierceness of


and
the severity of the penalties with which it
tone,
threatens the offender, that the spirit of paganism was
not yet crushed. I In the very years in which Theodosius
was issuing the laws which were to extinguish the
ancient superstition, men were reviving a prophecy that
the religion of the Cross was about to reach its final
2
term, and the most solemn pagan rites were publicly
of

series

its

fiftlfthrated.

At

tfre

qlflge.

Senate

the

of

the

of

were

fourth

little

majority
4
Christian faith, although the
j

{ffin^ury^

touched

by

the
the

wives and daughters of

had adopted
of them
Staunch adherents of paganism

some

its
still

most

ascetic

form.

held the Urban or

Pretorian prefecture in the reign of Honorius.


They
might still meet, apparently with no thought of the immi-

nent triumph of the Church, to hear one of their number


5
expound the sacerdotal lore of Eome, and another set
the

forth

or

Stoic

Alexandrian interpretation of the

command

of augural science possessed by


Their
Virgil.
great poet, as if he were writing in the
of
age
Augustus, could invite the Christian Emperor

myths, or the

6
Honorius to survey the shrines of the gods, which still
in all their old splendour surrounded the imperial palace

Nov. Th.

tit. iii.

Aug. de

Civ. Dei, xviii. 53.


See Seeck's Symmachus, cxviii.
8

S.

'

LL
T-

T-

'

Seeck's

V1 - 512

'

Sym. HT.

Zos. iv. 59.

For the opposite view cf. Prud.


i.
666 Ambros. Ep 17,
10 Rauschen, Jahrbucher der Chr.

* Sym.

Kirche. p. 119.
>

Mac?ob. Sat.

Claudian, de Sex. Cons Hon.

44.

CHAP,

THE PAGAN ARISTOCRACY

Another pagan poet, who


of the city, a quarter of a century after

with a divine guardianship.

had been prefect


the death
Christian

5
1

Theodosius, could pour contempt on the


profession, and rejoice at the sight of the
of

villagers of Etruria gaily celebrating the rites of Osiris in


Magic and divination of every form had

the springtime.

Yet a prefect of
long been under the ban of the State.
Honorius proposed to employ the Tuscan sorcerers, 2 who
offered the aid of their arts against Alaric, and Litorius,
fighting against a successor of Alaric in Gaul, consulted

the pagan seers before his last battle, under the walls of
3
In the last years of the Western Empire, the
Toulouse.
diviners of Africa were practising their arts among the

nominal Christians of Aquitaine. 4

/Long

after the external rites of

heathenism had been


its hold

suppressed, the pagan tone and spirit retained

on men's imaginations. /The obstinate, unchanging conservatism of the Eoman character never displayed itself
than in the age when Eoman institutions
more^strikingly
were tottering. / That race, so tenacious of the past,
yet so bold and aggressive, always strove to disguise
fundamental changes, and to retain the charm of old
associations under altered circumstances.
In this, as in
other respects, the Church carried on the tradition of
The prejudices and attachments of a
pagan Eome.
thousand years, which might be proof against the fervid
dialectic of S. Augustine, were gently trained by pious
5
arts to turn to other objects of love and devotion.
She
followed the advice of the great pontiff, to break the
idols and consecrate the churches.
The cycle of the
Christian year was in
calendar.

The

many

cult of

lished at the very altars


1

2
3
4

Rutil. Namat.
Zos. v. 41.

i.

440, 375.

Prosp. Chron. 439.


Apollin. Sidon. E$.

points adapted to the pagan

and martyrs was estabwhere incense had been offered


saints

For a specimen see S. Paulin.


the
Carm. 27, 548 - 580
principle of accommodation is stated
in S. Aug. Ep. 47,
3.
Nol.

viii. 11.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

BOOK

At Naples, lamps burning before


the image of the Virgin took the place of those before
2
the family gods.
The worship of the Virgin mother
weaned the Sicilian peasant from the worship of a
Mars

to

or Bacchus.

goddess of less immaculate fame.


Many a literary noble of Aquitaine

in

the

fifth

century was probably as

pagan as the peasant


His
who bowed
on Mount Eryx.
grandfather in the days of Ausonius may have conformed
to Christianity; some of his friends might have sold
their lands, and followed S. Paulinus to Kola or S.
Jerome to Bethlehem
but he himself was often as
really
before the old altar

little

men who,

of a Christian as the

before him,

three generations
to leave the

had pleaded with the Emperor

Altar of Victory in the Senate-house.


Like Ausonius,
he might pay a cold and perfunctory homage to Christ, 8
and visit the neighbouring town for the Easter festival
but the whole tone of his thoughts and life was inspired
by the memories of the heathen past. With no belief in
the old gods, he was steeped in the literary spirit and
culture of paganism. ) The Eoman schools had moulded
him far more than the teaching of the Church. / The
unbroken academic tradition of eight hundred years,
coming down from the age of the great sophists, was a
and it was a force which repelled
tremendous force
all novelty, and all idealism which looked to the future
All the literature on which he
rather than to the past.
had been nourished was created in the atmosphere of
paganism, and teemed with mythological allusionsN His
;

;|C

fllQ

Jgachqra Tyere. saturate^ wjift TTftnp.m'aifl, Jffbjfih


-"vend mamtemed a cold and distant attitude to Christian
devotion.
From his earliest years his gaze was turned
|

'

^^^^o

the great deeds of Eoman heroes


.-.,
-.-Q<>a<9Bini<KtM<M^I>i|<. >_^^^awJg.*!-:,

i.

Ozanam, La

Civ.

au

V* si&de,

Maury, La Magie,

17

231.
p. 152.

had worshipped
who
g ^**^***
**
-%
M **i'*'''''*

Auson. Ephem.
;

Idyll. 11, 88.

ii.

15

Ep.

10,

CHAP,

THE PAGAN ARISTOCRACY

who had read the fate of their


Jupiter,
in
the
flash
of lightning or the flight of birds
campaigns
or the entrails of the victim at the altar, who had con-

Mars and

sulted the Chaldaean seer about their objects of ambition


2
or their hour of death.
If he could not rival the

achievements of these great sons of Kome, he could still


add his name to the Fasti in which theirs appeared.

He

could maintain the stately forms of the past, and

the literary and antiquarian tradition which he regarded


as the finest essence of the national life.
I

In the

stand which paganism made against


and the polemic of the Church, many
were arrayed.
Sensuality and gross

final

imperial edicts
different forces

superstition in the degraded masses clung to the rites


of magic and divination, to the excitement of the circus,
and the obscenities of the theatre. | And these base

influences long maintained their hold.


a
mistake to suppose that the

But

it

old

faith rested

would .be

grave
only on ignorant superstition and sensuality, or on the
hard formalism of the old Eoman mythology.
For
many generations the cults of Eastern origin, the worship
8

of the Great Mother, and Mithra, had satisfied


devotional feelings which could find little nourishment
in the cold abstractions of old Eoman religion, or the
of Isis,

brilliant

The

anthropomorphism of Greece.

of the fourth century reveal the enduring


4
Syrian or Egyptian worships.
They
ecstatic

devotion, and

gave

S Augustine had a genuine


admiration for great Romans of the
early ages, e.g. Regulus, de Civ.
Of. S. Jerome's Up.
Dei, i. c. xv.

relief

6
hStorke?
^ The grandfather of Ausonius
was himself an astrologer. Parent.
iv.

17

remorse for

sin.

tu coeli numeros et conscia sidera fati


callebas, studium dissimulanter agens.

60,
5, quid memorem Romanes
duces quorum virtutibus quasi qui-

to

inscriptions

power of these
cultivated an

S.

Aug. had consulted the books of

astrologers (libris genethliacorum


deditus) in his youth.
Conf. iv. 3.
3
i.

c.
4

See R ev ille, Rel. unter den Sev.


2 and 3, pp. 52, 59, 76.
C.I.L.

504.

&79

Cf.
;

vi.

512, 749-754, 499-

Renan, M. AurMe,

infra, p. 64.

p.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

BOOK

They had

their mystic brotherhoods and guilds, with


1
initiatory baptismal rite.
They had their rules and
periods of fasting and abstinence from all the pleasures

an

of

sense.

They had a priesthood

set apart

from the

world with the tonsure and a peculiar habit.

And,

in

profound impression was

initiation to their mysteries, a

made on the imagination and

of the

feelings

novice.

The baptism of blood, of which many a stone record


remains, was the crowning rite of the later paganism,
the guilty conscience, and regarded as a new
relieving
2

It can hardly be doubted that, while these cults


not have supplied the moral tone and discipline,
which was the great want in all heathen systems, they
stimulated a devotional feeling which was unknown to
birth.

may

the native religions of Greece and Rome.


There was,
moreover, in this later pagan movement, penetrated as it
was by syncretism, a decided tendency to monotheistic
8
faith.
Praetextatus held the most prominent place

among the
Mithra,

last generation

Hecate,

and

who openly worshipped


Mater.

Magna

Yet,

in

Isis,

the

Saturnalia, he is put forward to explain that, under the


many names of the Pantheon, it is the attributes of one

Great Power which are really adored. 6

The inner monotheism of the loftier minds in paganism


was the fruit of a millennium of the freest and most disinterested philosophic movement in history.
More than
five centuries before Christ, Greek speculation had lifted

men's minds to the conception of a mysterious Unity


behind the phantasmagoria of sense. 6
In the fifth
century after Christ, Macrobius, at once Pagan and
Neoplatonist, holds fast to the doctrine of the Infinite
1
Apul. Met. xi. c. 23 ; Tertull.
de JBaptismo, c. 5, nam et sacris
quibusdam per la vacrum initiari tur,
Isidis alicujus et Mithrae.
Cf.
Juv. vi. 522 ; Porpliyr. de Abst. iv.

p.

367.

a
3

Prudent. Peristeph.

ReViHe,

c.

ii.

C.I.L.

Macrob. Sat.

vi.

1779.

Arist. Met.

rb Iv flvai

<j>r)<n

i.

x. 1021.

10, p. 285.
i.

5,

17.

Se

rbv 0e6v.

CHAP,

THE PAGAN ARISTOCRACY

1
One, from whom, by a chain of successive emanations,
If this lofty conception of the
the Universe proceeds.

Divine Nature often lent itself to the support of systems


which seemed to degrade and fritter away the central
idea

of

pure

the

religion

philosophic

supporter

of

He would
paganism was ready with an explanation.
have said the Infinite can neither be known nor expressed
Yet the human spirit instinctively
by finite powers.
turns with reverence to the Father of

all spirits,

and, in

helplessness, can only find utterance for its yearnings


in symbolism of word or act.
Plato sought an image of
its

the

Infinite

Good

in

the Sun. 2

Common

worshippers

under the names of Jupiter, Apollo, Isis, or


Mithra. 3
The Great Reality can by any human soul be
only dimly conceived, and expressed only in a rude
We see the Divine One in religious
fragmentary way.
adore

it

"

Yet, if we purge
myths as through a glass darkly."
of
of
fancies
the
rude
gross
mythology
ages, the myths

may

be used as

a consecrated language

of

devotion.

They are only faint shadows of the Infinite One, from


which we are separated by an impassable gulf ; yet they
represent the collective thought and feeling of the past
about

God.

They are only symbols, but a religious


doubly sacred when it has ministered to the
devotion of many generations.
In some such way the
symbol

is

philosopher reconciled himself to the ancient worships.


Yet although, like Longinianus,4 a correspondent of S.

Augustine, he might believe that the ancient sacred rites


had a real value, he believed also that the one "great,

and ineffable Creator" was to be


approached only by the way of piety, truth, and purity

incomprehensible,

word and deed.


Philosophy and the mysticism of the East had given

in

Macrob. Com. in Som. Scip.

i.

17, 12.
2

p.

Rep. bk.

176.

vi. p.

508

cf.

Hcllenica,

3
Pint, de Is. c. 67 ; cf. Vacherot's
exposition of the creed of Porphyry,
ficole d'Alexandrie, ii. pp. Ill, 112.
4

S.

Aug. Ep. 234.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

10

new

to the religion of

life

But

Kome.

BOOK

old

Eoman

patriotic feeling>7as perhaps the most powerful support


of paganism in its final conflict with the Church.
Men

Uke Symmachus, Flavianus, and Volusianus were often


sceptics at heart.
They may have believed vaguely in
some Divine Power, and were ready to admit that He
might be approached by many ways; but their real
devotion was to Koma Bea, 1 the idealised genius of the
Latin race, with

/
i

\
/

its

twelve centuries of victorious warfare

I
In every step of
that marvellous career, their ancient gods had been their
were inexThe forms of its
partners.
Ancestral religion
2
of
fabric
the State.
the
whole
intertwined
with
tricably

and

worldwide organisation.

skilful

law, language, literature, the


the people, her ancient worship

Imbedded^jLn

deepest

seemed
The
true
of
Eome.
from
the
inseparable
very identity
not
be
faith
his
even
Koman,
might
very
though
religious
deep or warm, inherited the most ancient belief of his
race that the gods of a city were sharers in all its
fortunes.
Apostasy from them was identified with a
languid patriotism, and was regarded as the cause of
3
public calamities. ^he complete and literal acceptance

instincts

of

of the Christian faith

seemed

to

mean

form the duties of citizen or soldier,

ment

a refusal to per.abandon-

a_ scornful

of the old traditions of culture, even a loss of faith

4
in the mission of Eome.

In that

age, as in our

conceptions of the

own, there were widely different

meaning of the Christian

profession.

There can be little doubt that there was a vast mass of


interested and perfunctory conformity to the religion

which had become the established religion of the State.


The philosophic scepticism and worldly tone of the
cultivated pagan were often not much altered when he
1

Claudian, de Bell. Gild. 46 de


50 Rutil. Namat. i. 47;

Bell. Get.

132.
a

Sym.

Eel. 3, ergo

Itomanae

re-

ligiones ad

tinent

Romana

jura non per-

Ib. 3, sacrilegio exarnit

Auson. Ep. xxv. 44-74.

annus.

CHAP,

THE PAGAN ARISTOCRACY

11

transferred his nominal allegiance from his ancestral gods


1 There
was a worldliness and easy selfChrist.

to

indulgence in the higher rank of nominally Christian


society, which moved alike the indignation of the ascetic

and the good-humoured ridicule of the pagan observer. 1


But a large and growing class took the claims of Christ
To carry out to the letter the precepts
more seriously.
of the Sermon on the Mount, in the midst of a society
penetrated with individualism and easygoing sensuality,
The aspiration aftert
seemed a hopeless attempt. 2
|

'

Christian perfection could be satisfied only by a withd'rawal from the, contamination of thg world, and a
complete renunciation of the duties of citizenship. ( This
spirit

has_b^_some modern historians been made respon-

sible for the resignation of the defence of the Empire_to


barbarian mercenaries, for the decay of industry and

wealth, for the decline of letters and art, and the darkness
of a thousand years. 3
And there is some of the religious
literature of that period which gives a colour to part of

In the very years when the great


indictment.
invasions were desolating the provinces of the West, and
when the hosts of Kadagaisus and Alaric were threatening
this

the heart of the Empire, S. Paulinus wrote a remarkable


a soldier who felt himself drawn to the higher

letter to

Christian

life.

In

this

the

epistle

ascetic

ideal

is

expounded with a breadth and absence of qualification


The
which shock and amaze the modern reader.
evangelical counsels of perfection are construed in the
sternest and most uncompromising fashion.
Christian
1

Hieron.

c.

Johann. Hierosol.

8,

raisevabilis Praetextatus qui designatus consul est mortuus, homo

sacrilegus et idolorum cultor, solebat


ludens beato papae Damaso dicere :
" facite me Romanae ecclesiae
episcopum et ero protinus Christianus."
As a comment on this mot of Praetcxtatus read the reflections on the

conflict for the papal seat in 367 in


Marc. 27, 3, 14.

Amm.

J Eenan
^nn NM

2g p
ql[ *
fi
3

'

'

JI>7/ Pn 627
607
Aurele
'

>

'

^ ^wrtte, 595,
humame ^ suspendue pour
>

millc ans
4

'

? e nan

la vie

'

cf'

pp.

S. Paulin.

Ep. xxv.

603,

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

12

is

of

The love

boldly represented as inconsistent with the


citizenship and the relations of family life.

obedience
duties

BOOK

of father or mother, of wife or child, the desire

\ror riches or honour, devotion to one's country, are all so


many barriers to keep the soul from Christ. There is
J

not a word to indicate that a Christian

life,

worthy of

made compatible with the performance


The rich are condemned for ever, in
of worldly duties.
1
The soldier is a
the words of prophet or evangelist.
8
2
mere shedder of blood, doomed to eternal torment.
the name, could be

There

no possibility of serving both Christ and Caesar.


way in which secular life was regarded by

is

This was the

the voluntary exiles who followed S. Jerome, in the last


years of the fourth century, to the convents at Bethlehem,
or

who

islands

to the Syrian or Egyptian deserts, the


Tuscan
Sea, and the hermitages in the
tl\e
a
Such
movement might well seem to
Gau|)

retired

of

woods of
an old-fashioned Koman
citizenship, but of

and
"

life,

was
and

\j

It

social

all

as a renunciation, not only of


the hard- won fruits of civilisation

If this

life.

was the highest form of Christian

as its devotees proclaimed it to be, then Christianity


the foe, not only of the old religion, but of the social
political order which Eome had given to the world.
hardly to be wondered at that the monks were

is

4
by the mob and by the cultivated pagan

^ialeqi alike
noble.

it would be a mistake to suppose that in general


line Between the two camps was siiarpiy drawn.
the
society
a matter of factr there" was on eitEer side a large

Yet

AT

.wavering
1

class, half-hearted, sceptical, or formalist.,/

S. Paulin.

Ep. xxv.

2, et

iterum

per prophetam ait, "Exterminati


sunt omnes qui exaltati fuerant
In Evangelic
auro et argento."
" vae vobis
quoque clamat
.

divitibus," etc.
3
Ib.
3, mortis minister est.

Ib.

1,

quod

si

We

maluerimus

Caesari mill tare quam Christo


ad Gehennara transferemur.
4
Hieron. Ep, 39,
5, quousque
genus detestabile non urbe pellitur t
non lapidibus obruitur?
6
Rutil. Namat. i. 440.
.

CHAP,

THE PAGAN ARISTOCRACY

13

1
know, on the testimony of Libanius, that there were
many sham converts to Christianity, whose conformity
was due either to fear or motives of selfish ambition.
Such men were ready to return to their old faith as
Apostasy to
lightly as they had conformed to the new.
heathenism became so frequent that Gratian and Theo-

bound to
The upper class were
the old social and
dosius felt

divided

by

religious

2
by severe legislation.
generations far more united by

restrain
for

literary

it

that\ they were


of
friends

tradition

were

There

belief.

Sidonius living at the close of the Western Empire who


were at heart as pagan as Symmachus who saw paganism
3
\In truth, the line between Christian
and pagan was long wavering and uncertain.
We find
adherents of the opposing creeds side by side even in the
same family at the end of the fourth century. Mixedv
marriages (imparia matrimoma) were evidently not
uncommon.
Any one acquainted with the life of S.
Jerome will remember Paula, the great Eoman lady, who
was the leader of the aristocratic exodus to the Holy
Places. 4
She gave up all her vast wealth to maintain
the religious houses which she founded at Bethlehem. 6
Her whole soul was absorbed in the study of the
6
Yet
Scriptures, and in the thought of the life to come.
Paula was united in early youth to a noble named Julius
7
Toxotius, who boasted of his descent from Aeneas, and
who refused to abandon the worship of his ancestors.

finally proscribed.

Their son, the younger Toxotius, who, at any rate in his


8
youth, was also a staunch pagan, was married to Laeta,
another devout friend of S. Jerome, to whom he addressed
a letter on the proper education for a Christian maiden.
1

Orat. pro Templis, ed.

Reiske,

Th. xvi. tit. 7


cf. Godefroy's note to xvi. 7, 1 ; Eauschen,
0.

Ib.

30,

testis est

unum quidem minimum

p. 176.
;

Jahrbiicher, p. 153.
8
Apollin. Sid. JEp. viii. 9
4
Hieron. Ep. 108.

viii. 11.

Jesus, ne

ab ea

filiae

relictum.
6

Ib.

26.

Ib.

pp. 26, 27.


8
Ib. 107,

Thierry's S. Jerome,
1.

'

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

14

BOOK

offspring of a mixed marriage,


a Christian, and her father was one of
the most distinguished chiefs of the pagan aristocracy,
Publilius Caeonius Albinus. 1 The affectionate relations

Laeta herself was the

Her mother was

seem

have been quite undisturbed


S.
among its members.
Jerome speaks of Albinus in a friendly tone as a most
learned and distinguished man, and sketches a pleasant
picture of the old heathen pontiff listening to his little
of this household

by the

of

difference

to

creed

singing her infant hymns to Christ.


many of his class in that day, was plainly
in
tolerant
matters
of religion ; yet he was a colleague of
\[
in
the
pontifical college, and he figures in the
Symmachus

grand -daughter
Albinus, like

Saturnalia of Macrobius as a great master of the anti2


quarian lore of old Kome.

fl^e cultivated sceptic or pagan


have
often
maintained a friendly intimacy
appears
even with the most uncompromising champions of the
Church, The correspondence of S. Augustine reveals the
I
singular freedom and candour with which the great
religious questions of the time were debated between the
cultivated members of the two parties.
Among the

VD. general society

to

friends of the great bishop was Volusianus, brother of


that Laeta to whom we have just referred. 3
Volusianus,
4
although he is said to have been afterwards converted,

was

at this time, if not a decided pagan, like his father


pontiff, at any rate little disposed to accept the
fundamental tenets of the Christian faith.
He seems to

the

which debated not only the old


but
those doctrines of the Christian
philosophical questions,
have lived in a

circle

creed which present the greatest obstacles to the reason.


1
His restoration of a ruined
Capitol at Thamugad in Numidia
is commemorated in an inscription
of the time of Valentinian and
Valens, C.I.L. viii. 2388 cf. C.I.L.
viii. 6975, \vhich contains the dedication by him of a chapel to Mithra
;

cf.

Macrob. Sat.

1.
Ep. 107,
2
Macrob. Sat.
8

S.

Sym.
4

i.

15

2,

Hieron.

i. iii.

Aug. Ep. 132

cf.

Seeck's

clxxix.

Baron. Annal. Eccl. v. 728


(quoted in Seeck's Sym. clxxix.).

CHAP,

THE PAGAN ARISTOCRACY

At one

of

these

gatherings

15

the

difficulties

and

of the Incarnation

of

the

miraculous conception of Christ,


the omnipresent Euler of the Universe in a single
human form, subject to all the changes, wants, and limiAnd Volusianus, in a
tations of humanity, were raised.
of

of

full

letter

deferential

admiration

and learning, asks

character

for

for

some

Augustine's
on these

light

In another letter, 2 Marcellinus, who


puzzling questions.
was a friend of both, submits, on behalf of Volusianus,

some other problems as to the apparent inconstancy of


the Deity in abrogating the Jewish law which He had
Himself given, and the possibility of obeying the precepts
of the

Sermon on the Mount

dominant

state.

On

in the

both sides there

government of a

is

the ancient culture in foe fierce


samelboneis conspicuous in the

correspondenc^o^the^pa^an

3
Their letters
philosopher Longinianus and Augustine.
seem to show that the two men were on terms of friendly

and although Longinianus cannot give a


"
What think you of
answer
to the question,
satisfactory
Christ?" a devout monotheism supplied some common
ground with the Christian bishop, who deals in a singularly gentle tone with the philosopher's lingering and
vaguely expressed attachment to ancient mystic rites.
VA.ugustine's letter to Lampadius on fatalist superstitions
4
Yet Lampadius
displays even more startling tolerance.
was a devotee of the pagan belief in astrology and divinaintercourse,

tion.

ment

He was

Pretorian prefect intrie shorT-lived govern409 by the old senatorial party, 5 withi/

established in

Attalus as emperor and Alaric as master of the forces,


which was the last attempt of the old pagan spirit to
regain the sceptre.
1

9
8

S.

<"

Aug. Ep. 135.

Ib. 136.
Ib. 233, 234,

235.

Jb. 246.

Zos. vi. 7.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

16

In the

Symmachus, which

circle of

us than any other of that time, there

known

better

is
is

BOOK

to

a striking inter-

mixture of pagan and Christian, with a reticent suppression of all differences on religious questions! J^jyvrek

Symmachus was

the chief of the pagan aristocracy,


the most gallant defender of the old religion in its last
His ancestors had held the
struggles for toleration.
lius

highest office since the days of Constantine, and he himself had added fresh lustre to the honours of his house.

He was

regarded as the finest product of the literary

tradition of Borne,

judgments were
Senate.

an arbiter elegantiarum whose


the

infallible,

Probably, like so

many

critical

greatest orator of the


of his class for ages, he

was a sceptic whose inner creed was a vague monotheism.


But he cherished a sentimental, or a statesmanlike,
religion.

The fortunes and the dignity

his eyes

of

The
guardian deities.
grandeur and beneficence of her career were for ever
associated with the religion of the old Fabii, Decii, and
inseparably

,/"

Eoman
Rome were in

attachment to the ancient forms of the


linked

with

her

There are, indeed, but few direct references to


Scipios.
religion in his private letters, none to Christianity or the
internecine war of faiths which was raging around him.
Like Claudian and Macrobius, he seems to shut his eyes

which in

to the spiritual revolution

his closing years

was

sending the world of Western Europe on a new orbit.


To the very end of the legal existence of paganism, he
maintained the same tranquil, old-world tone about
religion.

He

records the meetings of the Sacred College,

and the recurrence of the


mentions in his

festival of

terrifying prodigies,
consul suffectus being thrown from his car,
1

Seeck's

Sym.

Auson. Idyll, x.
Ep.
Prudent, c. Sym. i. 632
;

xvii.

somewhat

Tullius

tern,

He

such as the
in

Roraani decus eloquii, cui cedat et ipse

xl.

O linguam

Mater.

Magna

letters

miro verborura fonte fluen-

Ambros. Ep. 18,


3
Sym. Rd. 3.
4

Ep.

vi.

40

2.

i.

49

ii

34.

CHAP,

THE PAGAN ARISTOCRACY

manner

the

of

Virgins prayed

the
for

early annals.
leave to erect a
1

Agorius

Praetextatus,

deepest knowledge

When

of sacred things,"

the

Vestal

statue to Vettius
"

man who

the

17

possessed the
probably the best

and most devout pagan of that age, and a dear friend of


Symmachus, he resisted the proposal, partly on the
ground of propriety, partly as a violation of ancient
usage.
Personally the most kindly and humane of men,
he demanded of the prefect that an erring Vestal should
be surrendered to pontifical authority, to be punished in
Eoman fashion. 2 He once or twice laments

the cruel old

the growing neglect of the ancient worship, 3 and prays


the gods to pardon it, although he cannot help feeling
that it is sometimes due to an unworthy subservience to
the feelings of the Court.
It seems as if Symmachus
was incapable of imagining that the Roman State could
I

ever finally disown the gods in

whom

the

men

Jf-

of her

great ages had believed. \


Yet the correspondence of

Symmachus shows that he


and even affectionate intimacy,
not only with nominal Christians, but with determined

lived on terms of friendly


foes of the

jud

religion.

Inthe

list of

v.

his friends, indeed,

almost every shade of belief or of indifference is repreand there is no better way of understanding the
sented
religious condition of that time than to study some of the
;

men with whom

the great pagan noble was intimate, from


Praetextatus the heathen mystic, to S. Ambrose the great
champion of Cathnlin orthodmrp

Praetextatus was probably the truest representative of


the last gen erajionj)f paganism.
The inscriptions which
commemorate his virtues and distinctions are a proof
of the space he filled in the eyes of contemporaries. 4
1

Ep.il

Ib. ix. 147.

Ib,

i.

36.

51,

Romanos genus

nunc

aris

C.I.L.

vi.

1779,

2145.

The

latter refers to a monument erected


to him by the Vestals.

deesse

est ambiendi.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

18

BOOK

He was

proconsul of Achaea in the reign of Julian, and,


2
after a long retirement of fifteen years, he held the
Pretorian prefecture in the reign of Theodosius, and was
designated for the consulship in 385, when he died in

Praetextatus combined all the


sixtieth
year.
qualities which then constituted the ideal of the Eoman
He was devoted to letters, had emended MSS., 8
noble.
his

and translated

Aristotle.

His house

is

the scene of the

As

learned conversations of the Saturnalia*

a states-

law of Valentinian I. against


5
nocturnal rites, which seemed intolerable to his proWhen he was prefect of the
vincial subjects in Greece.

man, he

resisted

the

6
he gained universal popularity, without offending
any party, although he had the difficult duty of maintaining order when, in the furious struggle for the papal
throne, the rival factions of Damasus and Ursinus were
slaughtering one another on the pavement of the

city

churches.

On

his death, even S. Jerome,

who

consigns

nim

to outer darkness, agrees with Marcellinus that he


received the tribute of a universal mourning from the
'
Praetextatus was the most learned
populace of Eome.
most
enthusiastic devotee in the ranks
and
the
theologian
J^/
of the last pagan nobles./ His monument describes him

as augur, priest of Vesta, priest of the sun, curial of


Hercules, devoted to Liber and the Eleusinian deities,

neocorus, hierophant, pater patrum, cleansed by the rite of


9
His wife, Fabia Aconia Paulina, was
the Taurobolium.
his partner in all sacred things, and was famous in the

Koman world
friends to
1

Amm.

Seeck's

whom

Marc. xxii.

Sym.

Sym. Ep.
Zos. iv. 3.

53;

7, 6.

of.

Seeck,

Amm.

jb. xxvii. 3, 12.

Marc, xxvii.

^ ^

Urbs UniverSa
i.

It is note-

almost the only one of his


the reticent Symmachus mentions the
is

Ixxxviii.

i.

Macrob. Sal

eminence.

for her religious

worthy that Praetextatus

ad cujug

commota

1.
9

C.I.L.

vi.

9, 8.

1779.

est '

CHAP,

THE PAGAN ARISTOCRACY

19

although even the pious Praetextatus


seems to have sometimes forgotten his sacerdotal duties
subject of religion,

in the repose of his country-seat in Etruria.


When, as
Urban prefect, Symmachus announced his death to the
3
Emperor, he described Praetextatus, with the assent of
the whole people, as a model of all private and public

virtue.

jinother name ainong the pagan friends of SyTYirrmnlnis


deserves special mention.
Yirius Nicomachus Flavianus,
a

member

of the great Anician house,* was son of a


after long obscurity, rose to prominence in

who,

the

Flavianus was a young man


pagan reaction of Julian.
of twenty-seven when Julian came to the throne, and*
5
along with Venustus his father, and his cousin Sym-

For twelve
machus, obtained a provincial governorship.
of
the
of
Valentinian
I.
Flavianus
was in
years
reign
retirement but in the reign of Gratian, he, along with
;

Symmachus, shared in the extraordinary ascendency


which the circle of Ausonius enjoyed for some years.
Flavianus received the vicariate of Africa, Hesperius, the
poet's son, being proconsul of the province at the same
After the manner of

time.

the pagan or indifferent

governors of the age, Flavianus showed indulgence to


the heretics of his district, 7 and incurred a rebuke from

In the reign of Theodosius he


the orthodox Emperor.
favour
the
of
the
Court, and was made prefect
regained
1

Sym. Ep. i

2b

/j x !Q
The a rr

4 TT, O

to

it;
6

47, 48, 51.

45

10

Symmachi

cf.

Amm.

Seeck,

io
also
cii.,

-K

belonged

and the

Marc. xxm. 1,4, Venusto

yicariam commisit Hispaniae. This


is the Venustus of Macrob. i. 5, 13,
Flavianus mirando viro Venusto
patre praestantior.
6

Cf.

the efforts of the Priscilhave their cause brought

lianists to

before a friendly governor in Spain,


Sulp. Sev. Chron. ii. 49.
7 S.
a
8, to
Aug. Ep. 87,
Donatist bishop, describes Flavianus
ag
rae
ves
^
homo
Cf>
partis
rA x 6 , 2 addressed to Flavianus
in 377, ordering him to suppress

Anabaptism

and

xvi.

5,

4,

378,

Hesperius, in which the continuance of heretical worship is


" dissimulatio
attributed to
judicum>
But the date of the law is
doubtful.
Cf. Godefroy's notes and
Seeck's Sym. cxiv.
to

man
*

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

20

BOOK

383, his two sons also being elevated to


After a brief interval, he
governorships of provinces.
once more rose to favour and held the prefecture in
1
3 9 1.
But his career was drawing to a disastrous close.
of Italy in

Although he wielded such power under the Emperor who


finally proscribed the heathen ritual, Flavianus wagLjm
in religion.
He became the heart
obstinate
reactionary
and soul of the brief pagan restoration under Eugenius.
>

He

obtained the restoration of the altar of Victory to the


2
Senate-house, and of their endowments to the sacred

By

colleges.

advancement,
Christians

and promises
or
weak-kneed
tempted

of official

lavish hospitality,

to

he

the cause

desert

indifferent

of Theodosius

and the

Church^> All the arts of ancient divination were brought


4
into/^lay by the greatest living master of the science.

And

a prophetic verse was recalled or invented which

foreshadowed the end of the Christian superstition three

hundred and sixty-five years after the Passion. 5 The


reckoning seemed to tally exactly with the crisis of
But the gods proved false to their faithful
events.

champion the illusions of the past only led Flavianus


and his party to their doom. Amid the tempest which
raged over the battle on the Frigidus and gave the
;

victory to Theodosius, Flavianus more,

majorum died by
had
staked
all
on
success of tbe
the
^le
to
and
lost.
Yet, strange
say, his memorypapan cause
was respected, and even honoured, by the victors. His
6
confiscated estates were afterwards restored to Ins sons.
The Emperor in a message to the Senate deplored the
loss to the State and to himself.
Nearly forty years

own

his

hand.

See Seeck's note, 579 ; RausJahrb. pp. 150 and 337.


Rauschen controverts Seeck's view
(Prol. cxvii.) that Flavianus was

discovered at the end of a MS.


of Prudentius) quoted by Seeck,

praef. praet. in 389.

&Kpipovv \oyffi[j.fvos

chen,

Paulin.

2(5.
3

vit.

Ambros.

Ss* the Carm. Paris,

c.

viii.

cxviii.
4

SairTJs
5

(a

poem

Sozom.

vii.

22,

TO.

fj.4\\oyra

^T

pavTeias.
Civ. Dei, xviii. 53, 54.

De

Sym. Ep,

iv. 19.

CHAP,

THE PAGAN ARISTOCRACY

21

on the Frigidus the Emperors Valentinian


and Theodosius did justice to the virtues and distinction
1
of Flavianus in a monument which is still extant.
A
master of augural lore, a learned historian, and a
philosopher, he was one of that band who, when
paganism and letters were perishing, united in a single
2
love the literature and the religion of the past.
after the battle

Several of the great German chiefs, who wielded


'such power in that age, were among the most intimate
friends of Symmachus.
these some boldly adhered to

ry

(Of

the

religious

practices

hindrance to their

without any
Others conformed to

of their ancestors

advancement.)

the Church, with more or less intensity of faith.


With
Stilicho, the autocrat of the early years of Honorius,
Symmachus was naturally on the most friendly footing.

We

can well believe that there would be strong bonds of


sympathy between the chief of the party who claimed
toleration for paganism, and the statesman who strove to
modus vivendi between Eoman and Goth, Catholic

find a

and Pagan, and who

incurred

anathemas

the

of

the

8
and of
bigots of both parties, of Eutilius Namatianus
4
Orosius.
another
friend
of
Eichomer,
Symmachus, a

Frank chief of the highest character, who never


abandoned his ancestral faith, 5 is a remarkable example
of the religious confusion of the time.
He was on terms
of the most friendly character with Libanius, the last of
the Hellenists, and yet he rose to be consul and magister
militum under a prince engaged in extirpating heathenism. 6
He was a personal friend of Arbogastes and Eugenius, the
chiefs of the pagan reaction of 394 yet he was

designated^

to

command

C.I.L.

vi.

the cavalry of Theodosius against

'

i6 '
Itin.

1783.

Peter's Gesch. Litt. iiber die


Horn. Kaiserzeit, ii. 32 ; cf. i. 137 ;
Seeck's Sym . cxv. ; Macrob. Sat.

Oros.

5Liban

vii. 38.
'

%^

them when

^26

a Sua l
>

P-

"P*^'

l **>
f'

e 'the authorities collected in

iheProsopographia of the C. Th. ed.


ii.

41.

Ritter.

'

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

22

BOOK

Another Frank, Bauto,


he was overtaken by death. 1
2
whatever his own religion may have been, took care to
have his daughter, the future Empress Eudoxia, brought

up a devout

Catholic.

the correspondents of Symmachus there are


Christians of many shades of conviction, from the great
Bishop of Milan to the trimmers who were ready to

Among

acquiesce in a pagan
authority of Attalus.

restoration

under the shadowy

The Ambrosius

of the letters of

almost

certainly the illustrious saint


and pastor who, by the force of genius and character,
wielded a greater power than any other man in the

Symmachus

is

8
paganism with the Christian Empire.
The man who confronted fearlessly the Arianism of
4
Justina, and who forced Theodosius to do penance for
5
the massacre of Thessalonica, threw the whole energy of
a powerful nature into the conflict, so long wavering and
doubtful, which gave the final victory to the Church
before he died. [When Symmachus, as deputy of the
Senate, appealed to the Emperor to restore to their house
of assembly the altar of Victory, the most venerable

last

struggle

of

symbol of the pagan Empire,

Ambrose

S.

resisted the

proposal with all the arts of a rhetoric, trained, like that of


6
his opponent, in the ancient schools.
The two men

were the chosen champions of the opposing hosts, and


they fought with an equal energy of sentiment or conviction.
But although they were so sharply opposed in
i

>>'

\/

matters of religion, they were connected both by blood


culture.
Symmachus writes to the bishop in the
In one
tone of an assured and unruffled friendship. 7

and

Zos. iv. 55.

Seeck, Sym. cxl., makes him a


Christian on the strength of a singular participle in one of S. Ambrose's
Cf. Rauschen, Jahrb. der
Epistles.
Christ. Kirclie unter dem K. Theod.
4
n.
S. Ambros. Ep. 57.
;
p. 204,
8
Seeck's Sym. cxxviii. ; Ambros.

de Sat. JExcessu, i.
note in Migne's ed.
4

mto

32.

But

cf.

Paulin>

Ambr.

8.

iv.

c.

12.
5

lb

Ib

'

Cl

V11>

c - viii

Sym. Ep.

R ox
^'

26

iii.

$7-

33, 34.

Rel

3.

CHAP,

THE PAGAN ARISTOCRACY

23

he even claims his good offices on behalf of a man


served under the usurpation of Eugenius. _SL_
Ambrose on his side speaks of Symmachus in a tone of
respect for the sincerity of his pagan zeal, and admiration
letter

who had

fojLthe skill of his^ rhetoric.


There are one or two other decided Christians in the
list, such as that Vincentius, who, while prefect of Gaul,
2
strove to cultivate the friendship of S. Martin.
But
most of the other so-called Christian friends of Symmachus

had

common with

Ambrose.
waverers
and sceptics to whom a religious profession was only a
The most distinguished
means, .of safety or of ambition.
friend of Symmachiia~-_iii the high official world was
Sextus PetroniusvJProbus^.,^ Descended from a long line
3
of consuls, Probus was regarded as the greatest glory of
the Anician house. 4
Proconsul of Africa in his twentysecond year, he held the Pretorian prefecture four times,
in one case for a term of eight years, and was colleague
of the Emperor in the consulship of 371.
His rank and
virtues are commemorated in many inscriptions, and in a
5
poem of Ausonius addressed to Probus, when he wielded
little

So_me of

in

them belonged

the enthusiasm of

S.

to that large class of

at Sirmium a power second only to that of the Emperor.


His wife and his sons were devoted Christians 6 his granddaughter Demetrias took the vow of virginity.
Probus himself was only baptized on his deathbed.
Ammianus Marcellinus more than hints ^that love of
wealth and power was his strongest passion. 8 Caecilianus,
who bore a great part in the negotiations with Alaric, was

/
x/

a great friend of
1

ille

Ambros. Ep.

S.

9
Augustine as well as of Symmachus.

57, 2, functus est

partibus suis pro studio etcultu

suo.
3

Sulp. Sev. Dial. i. 25,


Seeck's?/m xci
1752 1753
1756.
1752,
1753, 1756
4

Hieron. Ep. 130,

3.

C.LL.

vi.

3.

vi

% C

1751-6 ; Auson. Ep.


xvi. ; cf. Amm. Marc, xxvii. 11, 1.
6
Prudent, c. Sym. i. 551 ; Hieron.

EP> 130,

6.

OIL

C.LL. 1756,
munere Christi.

senior

Aug. Ep. 151,

14.

donatua

-KX&*

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

24

But
tian

lie
;

BOOK

appears to have been a rather lukewarm 'Chris-

for the saint remonstrates

with him

for

being con-

tent at his age to remain a catechumen.


On a lower level than Probus and Caecilianus are two

men, among the familiar friends of Symmachus, who had


an ephemeral distinction in the years of Alaric's invasion.
Their attitude to religion represents that of many of their
The Jovius of the letters of Symmachus
contemporaries.

probably the believer in chance and the superstitions


whom S. Paulinus laboured to convert from

is

of astrology
1

Yet he began his public career by over2


He is
turning the temples of heathenism at Carthage.
his errors.

3
praised by Symmachus for his high principle and virtue;
but the account which the historian gives of his career

seems to convict him either of fickleness or treachery.


a personal friend of Alaric, and, on the fall of

He was

.Olympius,

the leader

of the

reaction, Jovius

Catholic

succeeded him, 4 and resumed the tolerant religious policy


of Stilicho, along with an attempt to conciliate Alaric by

conceding some of his demands.

Having

failed to obtain

the Emperor's assent to his views, he suddenly took up


an attitude of determined hostility to the Gothic chief. 5

Yet within a very short time we

find Jovius in the office

of Pretorian prefect under Attains,6 the puppet emperor


whom Alaric had set up. In the breach between Attains

and his patron, Jovius deserted Attains, as he had


deserted Honoring. 7
The believer in mere chance, as the
ruling force in the universe, seems, on the more charitable

own life to be governed


only a faint glimmering of any higher
principle in his career, when occasionally he showed a
certain faith in the Gothic power.
hypothesis, to have allowed his

by

it.

There

is

Another great
1

2
3
4

figure in the events of those puzzling

Paulin. Nol. Ep. xvi.


Aug. de Civ. Dei, xviii. 54.
S.

Syra. Ep. viii. 30


Zos. v. 46, 47.

Ib. v. 49

7 oa v

Sozora. ix. 7.

ix. 59.
7

Olympiod. Frag.

13.

CHAP,

THE PAGAN ARISTOCRACY

25

1
He was of Asiatic origin.
years was Prisons Attalus.
His father had a great literary reputation, was the friend
2
and correspondent of Libanius, and rose to high office.

Attalus possessed the superficial literary and rhetorical


he could deliver elaborate
arts which were then in vogue
;

orations, write

pretty verses,

As

and accompany them on

he was a Hellenist, with no


faith either in the old system or the new, but with a
Yet his brilliant
sentimental attachment to the past. 4
him
a
foremost
place in the
accomplishments gave
senatorial ranks, and when the city was hard pressed by
the lyre.

to religion,

Alaric he was one of the envoys chosen to lay before the


6
The
Emperor at Eavenna the miseries of the capital.

mission failed

but Attalus accepted the

office

of count

of the sacred largesses, 6 and shortly afterwards that of


When Alaric, so long mocked by the
prefect of the city.

mingled weakness, perfidy, and insolence of the court at


Eavenna, seized the magazines at Ostia, and ordered the
Senate, as the price of their safety, to depose Honorius
and elect a new chief of the State, their choice fell on

And

Attalus. 7
spectacle

than

surely there was never a more curious


sceptical Hellenist received

when the

8
baptism at the hands of an Arian bishop, to please his
Gothic masters, while he gave his sanction to reactionary
dreamers like Lampadius and Tertullus, who revived for

moment

the arts of divination and the pagan ceremonies

of the old Eepublic.


These men, of such various shades of enthusiasm or

appear to have lived together in perfect


The urbane senator, in whose friendship they
amity.
are united for the study of the historian, seems to have

indifference,

found no more difficulty in his relations with Ambrose


1

For the authorities as to his


Seeck'sSymmachus, clxx.

career see
2
3
*

Amm.

Marc, xxviii.

Olympiod. Frag.
Sozom. ix. 9.

4, 3.

Zos. v. 44.

jj

T
lb

24.
*

44 an(j 45

v>

'

,.

V1 * 7 '

Sozom.

ix. 9.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

26

BOOK

and Probus than with Flavianus or Praetextatus. They


were all during the life of Symmachus united in the
of

service

prefecture

the
or

^Pronounced pagans held the


consulship under Theodosms and

State.

the

1
It was
Honorius, and were even their trusted counsellors.
8
till 41 6 thafr tfrey wereformallv excluded fironTofSce.

of these pagan officials hacrror years in their hands


enforcement of laws against superstitions or heresies

Many

with which they themselves sympathised,


yin the^lopg
truce between the hostile ^amps, the pagan,
the^sceptic,

even the formal, lukewarm Christian, may have come to


dream of a mutual toleration which would leave the
ancient forms undisturbed. ^But sucli men, living in a
world of literary and antiquarian illusions, knew little of
the inner forces of the
chiefs of the

new

The
mould from

Christian movement.

Church were of a very

different

the chiefs of the Senate.


1
Symmachus was consul in 391 ;
Flavianus was prefect of Italy in
391 his son was proconsul of Asia
in 383 (Rauschen, p. 148); Richomer
was consul in 384 (Rauschen, p.
172).
Macrobius, author of the
Saturnalia, was probably Praef.
Praet. of Spain in 399, Procos. of
Africa in 410, and Praepositus S.
Cubiculi in 422 (G. Th. xvi. 10, 15
;

xi. 28,

doubt.

vi. 8).

Of.

But there is some

Godefroy on

xi.

28, 6,

n. 6

Jan, Prol. ad Macrdb.

Teuffel, Rom. Lit. ii. p.


i.
142.
Gesch.
Litt.

453

v. vi.

Peter,

Rutilius
Namatianus was prefect of the City
in 414 (Itin. i. 157).
His father,
Lachanius, had been Consularis
Tusciae (ib. i. 579).
2
G. Th. xvi. 10, 21, qui profano
Pagani ritus errore seu crimine
polluuntur, nee ad militiam admittantur, nee Administratoris vel
Judicis honorc decorentur.

CHAPTEE

II

THE LAST CONFLICTS OF PAGANISM WITH THE


CHRISTIAN EMPIRE

THE

sixteenth book of the Theodosian Code contains a

series of

twenty -five edicts against the practice of pagan


It begins with a curt command that superstition
"
shall cease and
the insanity of sacrificial rites shall be
rites.

abolished."

It closes,

more than eighty years

after-

wards, with denouncing

the penalty of death against


who
still
to
take part in "the damnable
any
presume
"
2
so
forbidden
practices
long
by the State. I It is true

423 the Emperor seems sanguine


3
almost extinct, and he somewhat
"
who are still
mitigates the penalties against those
in
the
accursed
of
daemons.""/ There
entangled
worship
is even a curious note of toleration in the law of the
that in the edict of

that heathenism

same

is

which imposes a heavy fine on any person


Jews or pagans who lived in quietBut this
obedience to the law.
In country
clemency was probably misunderstood.
places, sometimes with the connivance of indifferent
officials, the old
temples were still frequented, and
year,

offering violence to
ness and outward

0.

Th.

perstitio
iusania.
2
8

2,

cesset su-

sacrinciorum

aboleatur

xvi.

10,

qui suporsunt, quanquam jam nullos


esse credamus, legum jaindudum
prescripta compescant.

Ib. xvi. 10, 25.

Ib. xvi. 10,

22 and 23, paganos

Ib. xvi. 10, 24.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

28

BOOK

after
still offered more than
fifty years
fierce
tone
of
the
;^fe^deatE~of
greaT^^doMug^^.|The
of 439 proves that legislation had not
yet finally subdued the obstinacy of old superstition.
sacrifices

were

The closing enactment in the Code, against the obstinate


1
In
and hated remnant, is the most vehement of all.
that strange rhetorical tone of the
after
infuriated Emperor,
referring
ostentatious
of

terrors

contempt
the

laws,"

of

pagans

asks

"

why

later
to

Code, the
almost
the

for

"the

the

springtime

thousand
has

wonted charm, why the summer with its


resigned
mocks the hopes of the toiling husbandharvests
scanty
the
man, why
rigours of winter have condemned the
"
It must be the vengeance
fruitful soil to barrenness ?
its

The violated majesty


of JNature for continued impiety.
of the Heavenly Power demanded expiation and revenge.
Probably the timid devotees, who still clung to their
found the explanation of these calamities in
But here, so far as open
the impiety of the Emperor.
is
with the Empire
ritual
the
conflict
concerned,
pagan
rustic altars,

Tbg_final triumph over the devotional attachwas reserved for the dialectic

closes.

^ments
or .the

of a thousand years

accommodating arts_QfJthe_Ghurch.

The

secret of the long conflict is not to be sought


exclusively in the obstinacy of immemorial custom, and
I

the conservatism of a race wedded to ancient usage.


The truth is, that in the period of transition the laws

were administered

for the

most part by

the pagan or wavering


imperial government for a
to

class.

officials

belonging
But, above all, the

long time was only halfhearted in the war against the old religion of the State.
The policy of Constantine and his successors, till the
reign of Gratian, was, in spite of appearances, one of
practical toleration to the legitimate practice of pagan
1

Nov. Theod.

heretics,

tit.

and pagans.

3.

The law

is

directed against Jews, Samaritans,

CH.

ITS

ii

LAST CONFLICTS WITH THE EMPIRE

29

1
worship in the West. / It is true that Constantius,
Valentinian I., and Valens made the practice of the arts

and magic a political crime, 2 and


.strove to repress them with a ruthless determination.
But from 356 to 381 there is no law in the Code
In the interval
directed against public heathen rites.
they were either authorised or connived at.
Symmachus
and his colleagues still hold the meetings of the pontifical
the feasts of Magna Mater are still celebrated
college
of divination, astrology,

Even Gratian
guard the eternal fire.
did not expressly abolish the heathen worship, although
the Vestals

on

still

he declined to accept
from the sacred
His most serious \
\
1
assault on the old religion was the removal of the statue
(f^^
J
and altar of Victory from the Senate-house. 4 I The figure
of Victory, originally brought from Tarentum, was rehis accession, for the first time,

pontifical robes, and withdrew


3
colleges their estates and endowments.

the

Bom an

garded as the sacred symbol of

From

greatness.

had stood over the altar at


which twelve generations of senators had seen their
sittings opened with sacrifice, and at which they had
the days of Augustus

sworn allegiance
which .contained
Symmachus, and
at this time had
1

Cf.

a majority opposed to the innovation,


Pag.

296 ;
271,
Rauschen,
pp.
Jahrbiicher der Christ. Kirche unter
dem K. Theod. p. 127, die Opfer
dagegen, auch die blutigen, blieben
im Westreiche bis zum Gesetz des
Theodosius vom 24
Feb.
391
erlaubt
0. Th. xvi. 10, 10.
2
is
a
There
controversy as to
the laws between 341 and 356,
ii.

The

interdicting pagan worship.


most probable conclusion seems to
be that, if they were issued, they

were

Duruy,

not
vii.

rigorously

297

cf.

Magie, pp. 110-114.

(The Senate
such attached pagans as Praetextatus,
Flavianus, and which almost certainly

to the chief of the State.

La Fin du

Boissier,

it

enforced.

Maury, La

Zos. iv. 36, rCav otv

/card

rb

Fpartavy
atr^iv.

statement

irpoffayaydvTUv

foi)$es

TW

ffroMjv &Trc<rd<raTo rfy


For doubts about this

see

Rauschen,

der Chr. K. p. 120, n.


4

Sym.
Sym. liii.

Ep.

x.

Gregorovius,

Middle Ages,
Cf.

Jahrb.

4.

cf.

Seeck's

liv.

i.

Seeck,

Rome

in

the

67.

Sym.

liv.

cf.

the

account of the Senate's opposition


to Theodosius in Zosimus, iv. 59
and on the other hand the boast of

Pruclentius,
Sym. 566. Ambros.
Ep. 17 affirms that the Christians
c.

i.

'

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

30

BOOK

resolved to petition the Emperor to rescind the decrees.


But the Christian party, through Damasus and Ambrose,
succeeded in preventing the deputation from even
1
The events which immediately
getting an audience.

followed seemed a judgment of the gods on their enemies.


Gratian fell by the assassin's hand, leaving no heirs;

and a

the granaries

famine wasted the provinces which were


2
of Italy.
The pagan party took fresh

courage, and in

384

terrible

their

and Symmachus, were


other

the

Italy,

two greatest

raised, the

that

to

of

chiefs,

Praetextatus

one to the prefecture of

the

Praetextatus

city.

by obtaining a decree for the


4
of
the spoliation of temples, and to require
prevention
of
of
had
the restitution
works
art -which
been abstracted
Once more the Senate formally
by private persons.
resolved to petition the Emperor to repeal the law of
And Symmachus, as the head of the deputaGratian.
tion, was entrusted with the task of stating their views.
The speech which he composed for the occasion is still
5
extant, and is invaluable as the last formal and public
tenure

his

signalised

It is penetrated at once
protest of the proscribed faith.
by the spirit of sceptical tolerance, and the spirit of old

Eoman
"

has

"Each nation," says Symmachus,


The Great
own gods and peculiar rites.

conservatism.

its

6
Mystery cannot be approached by one avenue alone.
But use and wont count for much in giving authority to
a religion.
Leave us the symbol on which our oaths of

were in a majority.
But, if so,
why did they not prevent the
appeal to the Emperor ? and why
were even the Christian members
of the Consistorium in favour of
yielding?

Cf.

Rauschen,

who deals
arbitrary way with
n.

10,

cf.

Boissier,
1

me

ii.

315

Ambros. Ep.

p.

119,

a rather
the evidence ;
in

Gibbon,

17, 10,

Sanctus Damasus

c.

28.

misit ad
libellum

quern Christiani senatores dederunt,


etc.

Sym. Ed.

3,

secuta est hoc

factum fames publica.


3
See the references to the 0. Th.
in Seeck, Iv.
4

Sym. Eel

Ib. 3.

21.

6
Uno itinere non potest percf.
veniri ad tam grande secretum
a similar liberal tone in the letter
of Maximus to S. Augustine, Ep,
4
16,
;

CH.

ii

ITS

LAST CONFLICTS WITH THE EMPIRE

31

allegiance have been sworn for so many generations.


Leave us the system which has so long given prosperity
A religion should be judged by its utility
to the State.
Years of famine have been the
to the men who hold it.

The treasury should not be


punishment of sacrilege.
of
the
wealth
the sacred colleges, but by
replenished by
And the venerable form of
the spoils of the enemy."

Kome

is

introduced,

in

of

piece

pleading for reverence for her

many

powerful rhetoric,

centuries of

life,

for

leave to follow her immemorial customs and traditions,


and the faith which had kept the Gauls and Hannibal at

According to

bay.

had a powerful
2

the

Consistory.

own

his

more

its

S.

effect

Ambrose, the oratory of Symmachus


even on the Christian members of

-Nor does the

admiration for
arts

and

its

energy

skill

great bishop

gained

disguise

But once

and power.
victory

for

the

Church.
Yet, in

spite

Symmachus and

of

of

intervals

imperial

displeasure,

kinsman Flavianus continued to


hold high place.
Flavianus was Pretorian prefect in
391, and in the same year Symmachus rose to the
Once again Symmachus was commissioned
consulship.
by the Senate

his

to ask for the restoration of the altar of

But Theodosius was thoroughly mastered by


Victory.
the powerful will of S. Ambrose, and the chief of the
pagan party was hurried from the imperial presence, and
3
set down at the hundredth
milestone from Milan.
Another effort, and the last, was made in 392.
The
Consistory again would have yielded, but the young
Valentinian stood firm, although this time
was absent from the field.

Romam mine putemus adsistere

atquehisvobiscumageresermonibus
reverenuni annos ineos. ...
.

Ambrose

The law which definitely prohibited pagan worship


West was published in the year of the consulship

the
1

S.

Ambros. Ep.

18,

2;

in
of

de Obit.

Valent. 19.
3

Prosper, de Promiss. et Praedict


Dei, iii. c. 38 ; S. Ambros. Ep. 51.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

32

Symmachus. (
mined attitude

Down

BOOK

to 39.1, notwithstanding the deter-

of Gratian, the legitimate practice of the


ancient rites in the Western provinces was little interfered

'But the law of Theodosius and Valentinian

with.

forbids absolutely the offering of sacrifices,


Heavy fines are
bing of temples.

JI.

and even the


imposed on

governors and officials of every degree who shall infringe


the law, or connive at its infringement.
The law of 3 9 2
is addressed to a prefect of the East, but it is evidently

intended for the whole

Roman

No

one,

ever highly placed in respect of birth, fortune, or


is to

presume

to disobey

it.

most
how-

It is of the

world.

2
sweeping and uncompromising character.

office,

The most private worship

of the household gods, by incense, lights, or garlands, is


8
And every other mode of heathen worship
interdicted.

All
forbidden in a long and exhaustive enumeration.
and
curials
of
bound
under
cities
are
defensors,
governors,
is

heavy penalties to see to the observance of the law.


Yet the victory of the Church was not so secure as
the confident tone of legislation might seem to proclaim.
In the very year when the first of these laws was
published a votary of Mithra within the walls of Rome
received

"

the

new

birth to

eternal life

cleansing rites of the

Taurobolium.

cant

many

is

the fact that

"

through the

Even more

signifi-

persons of rank and dignity


Christian fold, and lapsing into

were deserting the


Jewish or Manichaean or pagan superstitions.
There is
no more remarkable chapter in the Code than that which
deals with apostasy. 5
Constantine and Constantius had
found it necessary to threaten severe penalties against
1

C. Th. xvi. 10, 10.


2
Ib. xvi. 10, 12, nullus omnino,
ex quolibet genere, ordine hominum,
dignitatum, vel in potestate positus,
vel honore perfunctus, etc.
3

Vel secretiore piaculo, Larem


mero Genium, Penates nidore
veneratus, acceudat lumina, im-

igne,

ponat tura, serta suspendat.

4
C.I.L. vi. 736, arcanis perfusionibus in aeternum renatus tauro-

bolium crioboliumque

fecit.

The

of the consuls are made out


to be those of 391, Tatianus and

names

Symmachus.
6

C. Th. xvi. tit. 7.

CH.

ITS

ii

LAST CONFLICTS WITH THE EMPIRE

who

33

Christianity to join the Jews or


The law of the elder Theodosius in 381
is the first in the Code directed against the tendency of
2
Between
nominal Christians to relapse into heathenism.
381 and 396 the Code contains six enactments, denounc-

those

forsook

Manichaeans.

of increasing severity those who have


their
baptism and betrayed the faith of Christ
profaned
to
a
return
idolatry, and withdrawing from them the
by

ing

in

tones

3
rights of bequest or inheritance.
dignity are to be degraded and

Apostates of rank and


branded with perpetual

4
and all hope of restoration by penitence is
infamy,
refused to the renegade.
Thirty years later, Valentinian
III. thought it necessary to repeat the previous edicts,

and even to add to their emphasis. 5


That men should abandon the religion

of the State in

the face of such trenchant legislation is a proof, not only


of the force of old religious associations, but also of a

paganism was not


was
the
confidence
;Nor
altogether unyet hopeless.
in
foremost
the
men
reasonable.
The
who,
place and
certain confidence that the cause of

station,~~still

ancestors,

clung

obstinately

to

Symmachus, Flavianus,

seen the reign of Constantius.


they had beheld the Church torn

which Christian charity and

the

faith

of

their

Praetextatus, had
In their early youth
or

by

conflicts, in

fierce

common humanity were

forgotten in a controversy about what to them seemed


barren verbal subtleties.
They had seen the bishops of

one another, and men of lofty


character driven into poverty and obscure exile for years,
rival sects anathematising

G. Th. xvi. 8, 1

and 7

cf.

xvi. 7,

habeant factionem
tate succedant

See Godefroy's Paratitlon.

3.

sulship of his friend


0. Th. xvi. 7, 4, testamenti

non

nulli in heredi-

a nemine scribantur

Ib. xvi. 7, 8.

Symmachus.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

34

BOOK

while the military and administrative force of a govern-

ment, nominally Christian, lent itself to satisfy the


rancour of theological hatred.
They might well feel, with
1

the honest pagan Ammianus Marcellinus, that no savage


beasts could equal the cruelty of Christians to one
another.

[On the

391, had; in

to

other hand, their

own

religion,

dawn

respects, enjoyed practical tolerastill free to worship in his own

many

Every one was


fashion.
There was no interference with conscience or
the expression of opinion?) Seven Christian emperors had
2
In the
accepted the pontifical robes on their accession.
on
his
visit
to
had
shown
Rome,
year 356 Constantius,
3
in
the
of
old
interest
He
Rome.
religion
extraordinary
from
and
funds
the
allotted
had
granted
priesthoods,
Attended by the
treasury for the sacred ceremonies.
he
had
the
round
of
the
ancient temples,
Senate,
gone
in
a
their
shown
and
legends and
sympathetic curiosity
of
The
revival
Julian, brief and
pagan
antiquities.

tion.

j|

illusory as it was, may well


more enduring restoration.

have encouraged hopes of a


When he granted universal

martyrs of the Arian persecutions,


and
and preached peace
goodwill to an assembly of
to
he
seemed
for_tiie
bishops,
give paganism or Hellenism
""

toleration, recalled the

moment

position of Info&i

Yet Julian

superiority.

himself discerned keenly the real weakness of paganism


in the absence of a dogmatic system and moral discipline,

and

thp.m. 4
Charity and the pastormust no longer be a monopoly of the
The priest was to instruct his people, instead

TiftjArnvft_tQ_ai].pp1y

ate of souls

Galileans.

merely performing a part in theatrical ceremonies


The cruelties of the amphitheatre and
the obscenities of the stage were no longer to be coun-

of

before the altar.

Amm.

Marc.

xxii.

5,

hominibus bestias

nullas

sunt
sibi ferales plerique Christianorum
cf.
xxi.
for
the
16, 18,
expertus ;
historian's opinion of the theologiinfestas

lit

cal disputes of the time,


2
Ib. xvi. 10 ; Sym. Ep. x. 54.
3
4

Sym.

Eel.

Jul.

Ep. 52

Hertlein's ed.

iii.

i.

Fragm. Ep.

in

pp. 387, 389, 391.

CH.

ii

LAST CONFLICTS WITH THE EMPIRE

ITS

35

man who
tenanced by true votaries of the Sun-god.
had lived through such a period, and who had, under
Christian emperors, with impunity served as pontiff and
been consecrated publicly in the Taurobolium, might well
doubt whether the power, so often asserted and so con-

was destined finally to


The murder of Valentinian II.
1
and
machinations of Arbogastes,
Eugenius to the purple, seemed for
stantly defied,

triumph.
by the
the
a

hand

or

elevation

of

moment

to offer

Buried in his country

a chance of realising such dreams.

and professing to be satisfied with rural pleasures,


In spite
Flavianus was really a man of great ambitions.
of his paganism, he was a favourite at the court, and rose
Yet under all his apparent
to the highest offices.
seat,

epicurean indifference, or his study of imperial favour,


Flavianus nursed, more than any of his contemporaries,
the dream of restoring the religion and spirit of ancient

Kome.

We

pathy,

united

cannot help imagining him a man who


a crust of half melancholy, half conunder
suppressed,
temptuous pessimism, the fire of an energy which in
earlier times might have done great service to the State.
A fascinating charm, which disarmed theological antiregime,

to

burning

commanding

hatred of the

combined

ability

Christian

with

hopeless

probably the secret of his strange and tragic


He threw himself into a movement which

illusions, are

career.

seemed
pagan

for a

moment

reaction.

to promise the chance of a real


Eugenius, a Christian in name, was a

Hellenist in cultureZ-and^eadily_sanctiQned the repeal of


laws.
At the instance of Flavianus, 3 the
the^ anti-pagan

alar of Victory was once more restored to its place, the


expenses of heathen rites were once more borne by the
1

Zos. iv. 54

vii. 22.

Cf.

Socr. v. 25 Sozom.
Rauschen, Jahrbucher
;

der Chr. KircJie, pp. 362-363, for a


discussion of the authorities.
2
Ib. iv. 54
cf.
Seeck's Sym.
;

cxviii.

Sozom.

vii. 22,

TIS

E^i/tos

ofy tyiws duucel/twos


doyjjui r&v XpiffTiavui'.
3

Paulin. mt. Ambros.

nepi

26.

84

T&

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

36
State,

and

play.
conflict

all

Two

BOOK

the curiosity of divination was allowed free


years were spent in preparations for the

On

on which so much depended.

both sides the

leaders strove to fortify the courage of their party by


Theodosius sent one of his eunuchs
prophecy or oracle.
to consult a solitary of great age
1
depths of the Thebaid.

and famous sanctity in the

Flavianus was no less active in


of the success

supernatural assurance

securing

cause, and an oracle was

circulated,

of his

which seemed

to

predict the final overthrow of the Christian faith in the


As consul of 394,
very year of the impending struggle.
he celebrated the festivals of Isis and Magna Mater

under the eyes of the usurper. 3 The pagan party were


When Arbogastes and
full of hope and confidence.
to
Milan
the
meet
army of Theodosius,
Eugenius quitted
would
return
to
that
stable their horses
boasted
they
they
Within a few days these
in the Christian basilica. 4
hopes were crushed in the battle on the Frigidus.
Flavianus by a voluntary death refused to witness the
victory of the cause he hated, or to accept the probable
The triumph of Christianity
clemency of the conqueror.

seemed complete and

Serena, the wife of Stilicho,


one of the generals of Theodosius, in the presence of the
last Vestal Virgin, took the necklace from the throat of
final.

The
Mother, and placed it on her own.
a
to
within
few
minds,
was,
sacrilege
pagan
years terribly
the

Great
6

avenged.

X^Even yet the pagan cause evidently did not seem to


In spite of the defeat
/its adherents to be hopelessly lost.
of Eugenius, the mass of the Sena^ff, were still obstinately

X>" ~-N]
>

^*VV
^- *S

a^ac ^ e(^ to the faith


-

2
8

J^ttWlw^-?"^-

J1

Claudian, in Eutrop. i. 312.


Aug. de Civ. Dei, xviii. 53.
Rutin. Hist. Eccl. ii. 33 ; Carm.

Paris.
p.

which had kept the city unravaged


*'
of the last acts- -of
\ And one
*

~aTithousand years."

fo
*

"

368

cf.

Pauliii. vit.

Zos. iv. 57.


II. v. 38.

Rauschen, Jahrbiicher,
p.

t'

Ib. iv. 59

299, n.

4.

Ambros.

but

cf.

31.

Rauschen,

CH.

/r5

ii

LAST CONFLICTS WITH THE EMPIRE

37

was to convoke the conscript fathers ancT\-\


them to abandon their errors^ and to accept the \
which promised absolution from all sin and impiety. /

Theodosius

...

.,...-....

..

jf* y*^.

4L

appeal to
faith

According to Zosimus, the homily produced no effect, and


the Emperor had even to listen to arguments in favour of

the ancient religion of the State.


In the year following the victory

over

Eugenius,

Honorius and Arcadius found it necessary to repeat their


2
But the student
father's prohibition of all heathen rites.
in
which made
discover
this
law
the
cause
may easily
such constant iteration necessary.

It is directed speci-

and their officials,


against governors
offences against previous edicts. 3
Neglect
on the part of the inferior officers to carry out the
of provinces

ally

who condoned

4
Emperor's commands is now made a capital offence.
Theodosius had shown a similar distrust of his subordi-

nates in the law of 392. 5

And

it

appears again and

again in the legislation of this period. ( In the province


of Africa the leaders of the Church complained of the
slackness of the provincial officers in giving effect to the

We

6
may compare the
penal laws against paganism.
the Emperor in securing obedience to his
!

difficulties of

laws against heathen rites with the apparently insuperable obstacles which the government had to encounter

hundred and

fifty years, in its efforts to purge the


the
of
financial
In both cases, the
service. 7
corruption

for a

prohibitions are repeated with wearisome frequency, and


But the
pointed by threats of the severest punishment.

Emperor was met by a dead weight of official resistance


or negligence, which
apparently rendered legislation
almost nugatory.
The provincial governor and his staff
1

Zos. iv. 59,

/j.v]8evt>s

St ry irapa-

K\r)<rei ireurdfrros, K.T.\.


a

0.

Th. xvi. 10, 13.

autem

moderatores provmciarum nostrarum et his apparitio obsecundans,

etc.

Ib.

xvi.

10,

13,

sciant

Ib. xvi. 10, 13,

supplicio
cenda.

insuper capitali
officia

judicamus
L

Aug. Ep* 91
See book iii.

coer-

12
8

>

c.

cf.

97.

2 of this work.

*"""

'

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

38

BOOK

were often in sympathy, or in league, with the offenders.


knowledge of the history and opinions of the official to
whom the law is addressed will often explain the reason
of the necessity for its repetition.
For instance, the law
1
of 3 9 1, against the apostasy from the Christian faith of

of high birth or official rank, is addressed to


Flavianus, then Pretorian prefect, the man who, within
three years, was to be a leader in the great pagan reaction under Eugenius.
law of 40 9 2 directed another

persons

Pretorian prefect, Jovius, to take the severest measures


against those renegades who were adopting the superstition of the Heaven-worshippers.
It may well be doubted

whether Jovius, who, if he had any serious policy or faith,


believed in the tolerant policy of Stilicho, and in astrology,

was likely to display much zeal in enforcing the will of


Emperor against such heretics.
On the other hand, the pagan sentiment or the taste
of many officials sometimes influenced the Government to
restrain the fanatical Vandalism which, both in the East
and the West, was making havoc of the temples and their
It was probably the pagan author of the
treasures of art.
Saturnalia who evoked the edict of 399, 3 forbidding the
destruction of such masterpieces in Spain and Gaul, f In
the years which followed the death of Theodosius, there is
a marked effort to check the desecration of the ancient
shrines by greed or fanaticism.
S. Jerome and S. Augusthe

fir-

tine exult over the ruin of the temples of the false gods.
And there is no doubt that the Destructive energy of men
like Theophilus of Alexandria, 5 S.

Marcellus

in

Syria, had

C. Th. xvi. 7, 5.

Ib. xvi. 8, 19.

But the

imitators.

cooperta sunt

On these

colaev. Godefroy's note,


i

TL
i A
e
Ib. xv. 10, 15.

Hieron. Ep. 107,

t. 6,

Coelip. 258.

-i

squalet Capitolium.

many

Martin of Tours, and

1,

auratum

Fuligine et

aranearumtelisonmiaRomae templa

;
3,
Aug. Ep. 232,
videtis certe simulacrorum templa
sine
partim
reparatione collapsa,
partim diruta, partim clausa, etc. :
Gregorovius, pp. 58-60.
5
Sulp. Sev. vit. S. Mart. c. 13 ;

Sozom.

vii.

15

cf.

Godefroy's note

to C. Th. xvi. 10, 16.

CH.

ii

LAST CONFLICTS WITH THE EMPIRE

ITS

39

emperors had no wish to see the demolition of costly and


1
They might still be used as places

beautiful buildings.

meeting and resort, or consecrated to Christian


The tumultuous gatherings, headed by monks,
worship.
which wrought such deplorable havoc in the East, were
of public

by Arcadius

prohibited

2
;

and there

is

evidence that

governors of taste and sentiment seconded the imperial


will.
The Christian poet Prudentius makes Theodosius

recommend

to the Senate the preservation of the temple


marbles, as monuments of national greatness and master3
In the reign of the younger Theodosius
pieces of art.
nearly 300 temples of the gods were still standing,
although their ornaments and plates of gold had been

ransom demanded by Alaric. Many


were buried and forgotten, in the terrors of
4
But in the time of Honorius,
persecution or invasion.
and even in that of Justinian, immense numbers of them
were still preserved, both in the open spaces of the city
and in the halls of the nobles. 6
JFrom the death of Theodosius till 408, although the
torn off to swell the

works of

art

religious

conflict

was

was controlled

fierce, it

to

some

extent by the moderating influence of Stilicho.^ It is not


our purpose to disentangle the perplexed story of those
puzzling and disastrous years.

side were the


[On the one
backed by some of the great ngbles^and the
officers^Eoman or barbarian, of the elder Theodosius, the
party which had already won a great, though not yet
decisive victory. ) On the other was the mass of the senatorial class, with a crowd of Arians, Jews, Manichaeans,
and philosophic freethinkers, who, though divided in

bishops,

1
C. Th. xvi. 10, 15, volumus
publicorum operum ornamenta ser-

vari
2

cf.

xvi. 10, 3.

Ib. xvi. 10, 16.

Contra Sym. i. 501.


Inscriptions show that in 483 statues of
Minerva were restored by the Urban
prefect.

(7.7.

L. vi. 526, 1664.

Gregorovius,

i.

78, n. 3.

In the time of Justinian, 3785


statues remained in the city.
Gregorov. i. 79 ; cf. Notitia Ocdd. c. iv.
The curator statuarum was an officer
under the Praef. Urb. ; see Bocking's ed. p. 201.

^/r
-

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

40

BOOK

were united by old patriotic associations,


Stilicho, who
by the hatred of a njenacmg theocracy.
was left guardian of the young emperors,. was, or gave

religious belief,

or

himself out to be, the depositary of the last wishes of


He
Theodosius on the religious problem of the time.
1

interpreted his commission to be one of toleration, to


In
hold the balance even between the opposing factions.
the year 3 9 5 an amnesty was proclaimed, 2 and the brand

attached to

of ignominy,
obliterated.

the party of Eugenius, was


festivals in Africa received

Ancient pagan
8

The judicial power of the episcopate was


and the Senate, which was the stronghold of
pagan sentiment, was accorded an authority which it had
not enjoyed for many ages. Yet the anti-pagan laws still
in theory retained their force, and the crowd of pagans
and heretics were, at least nominally, kept in bounds. 5
Amid the fury of party feeling and fanaticism, the cool,
and probably sceptical, statesman succeeded in satisfying
neither Christian nor pagan, and'was finally execrated by
The ominous advent of Alaric and Radaboth alike. 6
Then
gaisus stimulated still further the war of religions.
legal sanction.

limited,

began

that

melancholy

of

strife

efficacy of the old gods or the

new

sophistry, as to the
to protect and prosper

their worshippers, which was only closed by the genius


of S. Augustine.
Every fluctuation of fortune was eagerly

seized upon, and skilfully used, to discredit or to glorify


What we are chiefly concerned to
Jupiter or Christ.
I

notice

time.

^
I

the force and fervour of pagan sentiment at this


Never in the early days of Borne was superstition

is

At the first tidings of the


apparently more rampant.
coming of the Gothic hosts, all the old omens of the

\^days

of the Samnite

and Carthaginian wars reappear.

Ambros. de

0. Th. xv. 14, 12.


Ib. xvi. 10, 17.
Cf. Godefroy's

Obit. Theod. 5.

23, 41.

Ib.

xvi.

11,

cf.

xvi. 2,

12,

Ib. xvi. 5, 37, 38, 39.

38

note.
4

Rutil.
;

cf.

Namat.

ii.

41

Oros.

vii.

Rauschen, Jahrbiicher der

Christ. Kirche, p. 558.

CH.

LAST CONFLICTS WITH THE EMPIRE

H ITS

The

41

terror of the time can still be felt thrilling in the


Men talked of dreams, of strange

verses of Claudian.

of birds, of comets and eclipses, of showers of


1
and
stones,
unearthly sounds in the silence of the night.
They watched the settling of swarms of bees, and turned
2
the leaves of the Sibylline books of fate.
They recalled
the flight of the twelve vultures which had crossed the
flights

gaze of Romulus, and, in defiance of chronology, abridged


3
When Eadagaisus
the years portended by their flight.

with his host of 200,000 Goths descended from the Alps,


the old pagan feeling defied all restraint, and the cries of
its panic and regret reached the ears of the Bishop of
4

\^

ever appeared

men said, was a diligent votary of his strange


northern gods ; and the sons of old Eome were deprived
of the help of their ancient deities, to whom they were

The most

Hippo.

terrible invader

who had

in Italy,

Meanwhile^
forbidden to offer a grain of incense.
the feeling of suspicion towards Stilicho was deepening
The clergy did not
into hatred on the Christian side.
find in him the facile instrument of persecution that they \

now

They exalted the piety and

desired.

virtues of the

weak

and worthless Honorius at the expense of the man without whose guidance Honorius was a mere cipher. 5
They circulated the myth, which was accepted also by the
6
pagan Rutilius, that Stilicho had let loose the hordes of
barbarism on the Empire, with the deep purpose of reestablishing the pagan religion, and that his son Eucherius
1

Claud, de Bell. Get. 227-247.


Ib.

231

fatidico custos
3

Ib.

tune

265

quid carmine poscat


Romani carbasus aevi.

posset ab eis, qui talia diis Romanis


sacra non facerent nee fieri a quo-

quam

reputant

et opitulantibus, quibus immolare


cotidie ferebatur, vinci omnino non

annos,

interceptoque

vultois^ciduntproperatissaeculametis.

permitterent.

Aug. Ep. 97 Hieron. Ep. 123,


7 <l uo d non vitio pnncipum, qui
;

>

.
.
\
vel reliffiosissimi sunt. sed scelere

credere, spargere, jactare paganos,

quod

ille diis

amicis protegentibus

Rutil.

Namat.

ii.

46.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

42

BOOK

The
with
and
was
statesman
slackness
great general
charged
and perfidy in his campaigns against Alaric. 2
The
to
at
Pollentia
was
attributed
supernatural aid, in
victory
was

to be the Julian of another religious reaction.

spite of the sacrilegious violation of the holy time of


With reckless inconsistency the men who
Easter.

lauded the Christian clemency and reverence of Alaric,


as treachery and
the other hand, the old Eoman party still
more heartily detested the man who had borne a part in
4
the victory over Eugenius, and who relied on those
vilified

Stilicho's policy of conciliation

weakness.

On

German captains and soldiers who were now the main


The ignoble triumph of the motley
defence of Rome.
combination which overwhelmed Stilicho has been often

and need not be repeated here. The hypocritical


5
Olympius, who owed his first rise to Stilicho, attained a
brief ascendency, amid the blessings and congratulations
And the Church took
of the dignitaries of the Church. 6
an ample revenge for the interval of clemency.
The last
endowments of the old religion were withdrawn, 7 the
images of the gods were pulled down, the temples were
either confiscated or destroyed, the banquets and games
were prohibited. [All enemies of the Catholic Mth_ \geje
The feigned enthubanished from the imperial service?
told,

siasm of Olympius^obtamed for the bishops that civil


9
jurisdiction which had been strictly limited by Stilicho.

And,
1

rege

to ensure the victory, the bishops themselves

Oros. vii. 38,


Ib. vii. 37, 2,

taceo de Alarico

cum Gothis

suis saepe victo,

virfaeive 66.va.Tov.

1.

saepe concluso seraperque dimisso.


8
Ib. vii. 39 ; de Civ. Dei, i. 1.
4

Zos. iv. 57, 59

Rutil.

Namat.

Zos.

Aug. Ep. 96, temporali vero


ad aeterna lucra te prudenter usurum minime dubitamus.
Written in 408 to Olympius.

felicitate

41.

ii.

v.

32, tv

were

Tfl

<f>aivofj^vg

0. Th. xvi. 10, 19.


Ib. xvi. 5, 42. This

mischievous
enactment, which, deprived Rome of
the services of some of her best

TUV 'Kpia-Ttavuv evXa^elg. iroXXty diroOf.


Kptirruv iv tavT$ irov-ripLav.
2, tuauphvy Kal diravOlympiod.

soldiers, is referred to in Zos. v. 46.


It was issued within three months

0p6ir<t) ffirovdfi '0\v/jnrLov 6v cuJrds T<$


ltpovs
/3a<n\et irpoffyKctoxre rbv 5id

after the death of Stilicho.


9
Ib. xvi. 10, 19 ; xvi. 2, 39.

CH.

ITS LAST CONFLICTS

ii

WITH THE EMPIRE

43

charged with the congenial duty of enforcing the laws/

which the milder or

less conscientious lay-governor

had

often allowed to sleep.


Another short-lived

and impotent pagan

reaction

occurred in 409, when Alaric, with the approval of the


Senate, set up a rival emperor to Honorius in the person
2
The leading members of this
of the dilettante Attalus.

Lampadius,
government belonged to the pagan party.
the Pretorian prefect, was an avowed believer in divination and its kindred arts, and had been honoured with a
letter from S. Augustine on the subject of this super3

Marcian, the prefect of the city, had, during


4
the brief ascendency of Eugenius, been guilty of apostasy.
Tertullus, the consul of 410, was a declared pagan of the
stition.

old school,

who

to express a

did not hesitate, in addressing the Senate,


hope that the ancient pontificate would be

revived in himself.

The treacherous or

fickle

Jovius,

6
Attalus raised to the prefecture, was a free-thinker
7
of the type common in those days of fluid convictions.

whom

Under such patronage, the Chaldaean


diviners, who had been banished by
renewed their

activity.

For the

fortune-tellers

so

many

and

emperors,

time since the

first

days of Constantine, the Ldbarum disappeared from the


1
The African bishops in October
of 408 sent a deputation to demand
the enforcement of the laws against

pagans and heretics, and S. Augusbacked up their demands by a

tine

private letter to Olympius (Ep. 97).


At the same time the pagans, on the
death of Stilicho, clamoured for the
repeal of these laws, on the ground
that they had emanated from Sti-

That they were not vigor-

licho.

enforced during Stilicho's


ascendency seems implied in the
words omnia quae in Donatistas,
Manichaeos, sive Priscillianistas,
vel in Gentiles a nobis decreta sunt
non solum manere decernimus,
verum in executionem plenissimam

ously

effectumque deduci (C. Th. xvi. 5,


Stilicho's death took place 10
the laws excluding
Kal. Sep. 408
pagans from the army, and enforcing
penalties against heretics, are dated
See
18 and 17 Kal. Dec. 408.
Godefroy's note to C. Th.xvi. 10, 19.
43).

^os. vi. 7.

Aug. jfy 246.


t

'

s procos.
'

>

^;.

42

Zos. vi. 8.
Paulin. Nol. Ep. 16.

Sozom.

ix.

otfre

Oft

8,

^dvrea-i. dt

'AXaplxv

vvaxOds,

1uoted39^

>

'

O ros vn
-

r
of Africa in

78
<**"* Pa
gee
n 588
Se eck

ivcl<r(hi.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

44

BOOK

Attalus, in a speech of ornate rhetoric, charmed


the Senate with the picture of a reunited empire of both
coins.

East and West, and held out the hope of a speedy restoration of the festivals and temple services of their ancestors.
It was the last attempt of the old pagan. spirit to assert

openly in the Empire of the West. ) jt was made


Attalus
with the support of a German and Arian chief
had, in deference to Alaric, received baptism at the hands of

itself

Sighe-Sar, an Arian bishop.


the head of a party, some of

Yet he was for the moment


whom dreamed of a return

to the tolerant policy of Constantine or of Valentinian I.,


with the support of the Gothic power; while others may
have even nursed the hope that the hated faith was already
doomed.
Attalus was a worthy representative of such
And the great chief, who had been his sole
illusions.

was within a few months laid


4
grave in the bed of the Busentus.
stay,

to rest in the secret

With

Stilicho probably fell his friend and brilliant


the
He had, beyond a doubt, a
eulogist,
poet Claudian.
in
that
of
which
he is the sole literary
society,
high place
glory.
last

Yet

man

it

is

of letters,

curious that, about the history of the


who has something of the manner and

He had,
inspiration of the great age, so little is known.
5
in his days of prosperity, assailed in a biting epigram
the cupidity of an Egyptian compatriot, who rose high in
the imperial service, and became Pretorian prefect after
6
can only conjecture the fate of the
Stilicho's death.

We

7
poet, from an epistle addressed to this dignitary, imploring his mercy by an appeal to the examples of pity consecrated in Grecian legend,
blaudian's great crime waa
"
a most obstinate
that, in the words of Orosius, he was

Eckhel, Doctr.

Num.

(quoted

2
,
3

Zos. vi. 7

Sozom.

ix.

8 and

Sozom.

ix. 9.

Jordan, de Reb. Get. 30.

Claud. JBpigr.

3^5

insomnia Pharius sacra, profana rapit.

in Thierry's Alaric, p. 413).

6
9.

0. Th. xv. 14, 13.


n. 944

Sym. clxxxvi.
4 | 0>

^ Ep'\.

Of. Seeck'a
;

Teuffel,

ii.

CH.

ii

ITS

pagan."

LAST CONFLICTS WITH THE EMPIRE


What

his

religious convictions really

45

were we

can never know.

Probably his deepest religious attach"


ment was to Eoma dea, the mother of arts and arms,"
who has gathered the vanquished into her bosom, who
has given her citizenship to the world, whose dominion
1
Born on the banks of the Nile,2 he
shall have no end.
was yet a Eoman of the Komans, and had a mingled
hatred and contempt for the new Borne on the Bosphorus,
3
The
with its mushroom and effeminate civilisation.
.

verve of Juvenal reappears in his bitter raillery of the


eunuch minister of the Eastern Empire, and of the cring4

It is little wonder
ing servility of the Byzantine nobles.
5
that Claudian was the favourite of the Eoman Senate,

pagan to the core, and profoundly jealous of the


His powers were lavished on the achievements of Stilicho, whose policy was to humour the Senate
still

Eastern capital

by a

politic

deference

to

its

antiquated

prerogatives.

and patroness,6
and is said to have arranged a wealthy match for the
On all this circle he expends the traditional ornapoet.
ment of Greek and Eoman mythology. Nor does he
hesitate to do the same for the Christian princes, Theodosius and Honorius, who were pledged to the extirpation
There is hardly a hint in Claudian that
of Paganism.
the Eoman world has officially adopted a faith hostile to
Serena, Stilicho's wife,

was

his great friend

He appears placidly unconscious


pagan dreams.
the great revolution, and recalls Honorius to the
7
Penates of the Palatine, as if Borne was still the Borne
all his

of

of Augustus.

few years

after the eclipse

1
Oros. vii. 35, 21, poeta eximius
sed paganus pervicasissimus ; Aug.
de Civ. Dei, v. 26 ; Gesner's Prol.
to Claud, v. ; Rauschen, Jahrbucher
der Christ. Kirclie, pp. 555-9 ; cf.
Claud. de Cons. Stil. iii. 136-160
de Bell. Get. 50 sqq.
2
Claud, ad Oennad. 3, et nostro
;

of Claudian,

cognite Nilo ; cf. Ep.


* Claud.
inEutrop.
4
6

Ib.

ii.

we have

1, 56.
ii.

326-341.

137.

an inscription dedicated
poetarum
pepraegloriosissimo
See

tente Senatu, C.I.L. vi. 1710.


6
Claud. Ep. 2.
7
Ib. de VP Cons. Honor. 407.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

46

glimpse for a
/

who

is

now

BOOK

of another pagan man of letters,


known,\but who is the last genuine

moment
little

representative of the old pagan tone in literature.


Kutilius Namatianus was one of the Gallic aristocracy
who had remained untouched by the great Christian

His father l had held


2
high imperial office, and he himself had been Urban
8
prefect in 414, only six years after the trenchant law
had been published, which condemned to final ruin the
He had lived in
temples and images of the old gods.
intimate friendship with the greatest Eoman nobles and
the fragment of his poem which we possess comes to us
enthusiasm aroused by

S.

Martin.

It is
as a solitary revelation of their deeper feelings.
the tale of his homeward voyage to Gaul in the year
4
416, when he was reluctantly compelled, by the ravages
which his paternal estates had suffered from the invaders, 5
to leave the city, to whose gilded fanes he looks back
with religious veneration and patriotic regret.
The poem has great interest from a purely literary
But we are at present concerned only
point of view.
Brief
with the author's attitude to the opposing creeds.
and fragmentary as it is, it discloses more of the inner
pagan sentiment of the aristocratic .class than the much
more voluminous poetry of Claudian. Cdaudian's paganism

more purely

is

Virgil,

as

literary

He

supremacy.
if

Symmachus

Eoman
1

has the air of an^unchallenged


if he belonged to the age of

had never existed. On the


time he shows the calm reticence

Christianity

religious conflict of his

of

it

writes as

Namat.

i.
595 cf. 575
been consularis Tusand Praef. Urb. (G. Th. vi.

Rutil.

He had

sqq.
ciae,

26, 8).
2

lb.

Ib.

i.

He

or Macrobius.

pride to recognise the

157, 473.

L 157-160, 473 cf. C. Th.


xiii. 5, 38, which is addressed to
Albinus, Praef. Urb. in 416.
;

new
4

is

either too full of

faith, or too cultivated

This

Namat.

i.

is

inferred

135

from Rutil.

quamvis sedecies denis et mille peractis


annus praeterea jam tibi norms eat

The capture of
(i.e. 1169 A.U.C.).
Toulouse is mentioned in i. 496.
5
Rutil. Namat. i. 25
:

praesentes lacrimas tectis debemus avitia.

'

CH.

ii

ITS

to hate

LAST CONFLICTS WITH THE EMPIRE

it.)

Eutilius

is

man

of different mould.

47

He

lets us see plainly the working of his own mind on religious subjects, and the feelings of his class towards

those

who

rejected the old religion of their country.

\That

%.,

such^ a poem should_have_ been published under the


Christian empire, and that its author should have held
the highest office, is a startling proof of the persistence of
the old Koman practical toleration of freedom of
thought.^)
Kutilius is faithful to the old religion, but he is not
1

Sometimes he will uphold the literal truth of


Sometimes he will use the language of Euhemerism or Deism. ('He displays in fact that mixture of
scepticism and credulity, of conformity and free thought,
which characterised the cultivated pagan for many ages
But there is no hesitation in the tone
before his time.
In
in which he speaks of the enemies of Paganism.
some scathing lines, 2 he gives vent to the concentrated
hatred which was felt by his caste for the memory of
Stilicho.
The impious traitor, who burnt the Sibylline
its slave.

a myth.

books and, for his

own

selfish ends, laid

and citadel of the Empire to the

open the hearth

tribes of the North, is

Nothing
consigned to the lowest depths of Tartarus.
could surpass the almost brutal contempt which Eutilius
3
feels for the Jews, with one of whom he had an encounter
in his wanderings ; for their obscene rite of initiation, for
the listless sloth of their Sabbath, spent in commemoration of a

God who was weary

But when he speaks


its

conquerors,"

of

"

of his

work

of creation.

the conquered race that crushes


little doubt that he has in

there can be

The
view the religion which was crushing out his own.
islands of the Tuscan Sea, which he passed in his voyage,
1

Kutil.

Namat.

i.

255

cf. i.

73.

Ib.

septima quaeque dies turpi damnata

Ib. IL 41.

Ib.

veterno,

tamquam
i.

384-398

humanis animal

dissociale cibis.

Ib. \.

lassati mollis

398

imago Dei.

victoresque suos natio victa premit.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

48

BOOK

who had forsaken family


and public duty for a life of prayer and solitary asceticism.
The monks in those days were hardly judged even by
swarmed with monkish

their

own

exiles,

the daughter of a great

At the

co-religionists.

Eoman

funeral of Blaesilla,
house, who had with-

drawn from the world and was believed

have shortened
broke into
shouts of execration against what they regarded as an

her

by her austerities, the

life

inhuman

mob

The aversion

fanaticism.

man

of

to

Eome

to the ascetic

life,

is expressed in
by
more urbane form by Ausonius in his letters of expostuBut that feeling probably never
lation to S. Paulinus.
found more pointed utterance than in the lines of Kutilius

the cultivated

felt

of the world,

In the eyes of the pagan


they are wretches who wish to

on the hermits of Capraria.

Koman

noble and

patriot,

screen themselves from too observant eyes, who make


themselves miserable to avoid misery, who, while they
flee from the ills of life, are incapable of enjoying its
8
Eutilius had little conception of the force
and destiny of the movement which he derided.
In the practice of those arts which professed to control nature and to forecast the future, in the excitement
or obscenity of the theatre and the circus, the heathen
spirit found a shelter long after its public ritual had

blessings.

ceased.

The belief in the arts of magic, divination, and astrology was probably the most living and energetic force in
These practices had
the pagan sentiment of the time.
4
The culalways been suspected by Eoman statesmen.
under
the
severest
of
tivation
them was condemned
1

Rutil.

Namat.

i.

440:

se Capraria tollit.
squalet lucifugis insula plena viris.

jam

Hieron.

dolet
(mater) filiam jejuniis interfectam.
Quousque genus detestabile

Ep.

39,

Of. the reference (518) to a friend

who has become a recluse, "perditus


hie vivo funere civis erat."

Monachorum non urbe


3

5,

quaenamperversi rabies tamstultacerebri,


dum mala formides nec bona P SSe pati '

Rutil.

Namat

445

pellitur
:

sqq.

See Maury's

La

Magie, p. 70

CH.

ii

ITS

LAST CONFLICTS WITH THE EMPIRE

49

by the legislation of the fourth and fifth cenYet it was never really suppressed, and, in its
strange terrors and seductions, it perpetuated the power
penalties
turies.

of heathenism far into the Christian ages.


Its fascim
cultivated
and
both
over
the
class
the
tion,
vulgar, was

never more powerful than in the first decade of the fifth


There is no more singular episode, in that tiim
century.
,

and uncertain party lines, than that in


the year 408, when some Tuscan adepts in the secret
arts offered their services to Pompeianus, prefect of Rome,
8
to save the city from the Goths.
They told the prefect
of unstable beliefs

how, a short time before, they had by their spells called


down the lightning, 4 and driven the Goths away from the

The prefect consulted the


and
was
pontifical books,
evidently inclined to try the
effect of the ancient arts.
But the practice of them was
5
and
a recent law had laid a special
sternly prohibited,
on
the higher magistrates, and on the
responsibility
walls of a beleaguered town.

bishops, to enforce the prohibition.


Pompeianus in his
difficulty sought the advice of Innocent, Bishop of Eome.

who was also a great patriot,6 did


oppose his own opinion to the wishes of

This great pontiff,

not

see

the

fit

to

people at such a crisis, but he stipulated that the magic


rites should be performed secretly.
The Tuscans, however, insisted that the ritual would only be efficacious if
publicly performed on the Capitol and in the open spaces
of the city, in the presence of the Senate.
It has been

suggested that Innocent, foreseeing this, gave his consent


under a legally impossible condition, to save the Christian
cause from an outburst of popular hatred.
How the

matter ended
1

C.

Th.

Maury,
3

is

uncertain.

ix. tit. 16.

pt.

i.

c.

The Christian

Ib. v. 41 ; Sozom. ix. 6.


The
name of the place appears variously

by

conjec-

ture, Narnia.
,
tf

Zos. v. 41.

historian says

as Neveia, Larnia, and,

&

tfi,irpo<r6V

ix> 16> 3>

rty
T?}S

rrjs

7r6Xews

oliceias

ffwryplav

jrot'riffdfj.evos

Sbfrs \dOpq. tyrjKf-v ay-rots icoulv aVe/>


?<ra<rw.
Zos. I.e.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

60

BOOK

that the rites were performed, but that they proved un1
The pagan Zosimus affirms that the aid of the
availing.

/IQ&

Tuscans was declined.

Jn any

case, the incident^eveals

the persistent force of pagan superstition.


The proposal of Pompeianus was a gross violation of
2

The conlaws, from the time of Constantine.


sultation of a seer, diviner, or any professor of the magic

many

was made by Constantius an offence punishable by


8
A similar penalty was denounced against the
tribe of Eastern fortune-tellers
by Valentinian and
art,

death.

Valens,

and, in spite of the general toleration of heathen

worship which characterised the rule of these Emperors,


a ruthless war was waged with the secret arts, which

were suspected as lending themselves to conspiracy


5
One law especially of that time,
against the Emperor.
6

relating to offenders of the senatorial class, reveals what


was probably a real political danger. The persecution to
which philosophers and professors of Hellenism were

subjected in the reign of Valens may have had some


connection with the later Neoplatonic cultivation of

magic and dark

superstitions.

condemned the magic

arts.

The
But it

earlier
is

well

Alexandrines

known

that,

in the later stages of Neoplatonism, the power to wield


the forces of nature, and to predict the future, was more
Fasting, prayer, and mystical
elation were thought to bring the votary into communicaThe influence of the
tion with the supernatural powers.

and more openly claimed.

stars

on the fortunes of human

life,
5

which was denied by

Amm.

Sozom. ix. 6 ; cf. Zos. v. 41.


G. Th. ix. 16, 1 and 2.
Constantine, however, permitted public

13 gives an idea of the grounds of


the Emperor's suspicion of these

sacrifices of divination

practices.

qui vero id
vobis existimatis conducere, adite
aras publicas atque delubra.
3

lo.

ix.

perpetuo

16,

4,

sileat

divinandi

Etenim supplicium

omnibus

'

ix

toribu s m&le
7

curiositas.

capitis
gladio ul tore prostratus, etc.
4
Ib. ix. 16, 8.

Q Th

Marc. xxvi.

feret
ii.

{i

Maui7> La

3.

Zos. iv.

16 10 "de Sena
^3.'''

Ma9,

P- 121.

Vacherot, L'tfcoled'Alexandrie,
p. 115, where the opinions of

Porphyry are

set forth

cf.

ii.

147-

CH.

ii

LAST CONFLICTS WITH THE EMPIRE

ITS

51

became an article of faith with many of his


1
In the hands of Maximus and Chrysanthius,

Plotinus,

successors.

and the men who surrounded Julian, Neoplatonism lost


2
philosophic purity and elevation, and tended more
and more to absorb the more materialistic conceptions of
8
The theurgic virtues, miracle and magic,
paganism.
overshadowed the detached and lofty idealism of the
4
S. Augustine,
with his keen
earlier Alexandrines.
its

sense,

practical

strikes

at

degraded Platonism as

this

the very heart of the heathen position, and particularly


at its doctrine of daemons, which was the founda-

and magic.
The
between
the gods, who dwell apart in the highest heaven, and
5
mortal men.
Along with certain divine qualities, the
daemons have all the passions of humanity; 6 they are
irritated by neglect, or soothed and propitiated by gifts
and sacrificial rites. 7 From them comes the knowledge
of the future by augury and dreams, and the power to
command the elements, by occult arts, songs, incantations,
The noteworthy thing is that, in conand potions.
baleful
this
superstition, the Christian often
demning
showed that he had quite as much faith in daemonic
tion

the

of

belief

in

incantations

daemons were the powers acting

Macrob. Somn. Scip. i. 19, 27,


pronunciat nihil
vi vel potestate eorum hominibus
et Plotinus

evenire.
2

Vacherot,

ii.

145,

where the

as mediators

where lamblichus is said to have


10 cubits from the earth
In the
during prayer (cf. p. 15).
life of Maximus, an image of Hecate
breaks into smiles under the influrisen

logical development of the belief


in magic arts, etc., is traced from

ence of incantation

the fundamental principles of the


school ; Plotinus and Porphyry
recoiled from these consequences.
But the doctrine of the universe,
as a "sympathetic whole" bound

Vacherot,
Magie, p. 87.

together

by

affinities,

inevitably

led to theurgy on the one hand


and magic on the other (Vach. ii.
8

Ib. ii. 148 ; cf. Eunap. vit.


Tamblich. p. 13 (Boissonade's ed.),

De

(p. 51).
Civ. Dei, viii. 14 sqq.

De

ii.

Civ. Dei,

127

viii.

Maury,
14,

La

habent

enim cum diis communem immortalitatem corporum,

cum hominibus
7

^i

animorum autera

passiones.

/j
dicit (Platonicus)
a d eos pertinere divinationes augurum, aruspicum, vatum atque
somniorum, ab his quoque esse
miracula magorum.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

52

BOOK

1
Constantius threatens with
powers as the pagan had.
death those who dare to disturb the elements, or to call

the

forth

spirits

of

the

dead

by magic

spells.

S.

Augustine regarded these beings as spirits banished from


heaven for unpardonable sin, who, by diabolic deceit, had
8
persuaded men to give them divine honours.
The law of 409, ordering the expulsion of the
Mathematici from Eome, and all cities of Italy, was
4

probably suggested by Pope

Innocent,

to

prevent

repetition of that painful scene of superstitious observance


at which he may have had to connive.
But the threats
5

may have driven many of the


and sorcerers into remote country
places, utterly failed to extinguish the superstition, and
men even in high station Ion? continued to practise the
forbidden rites with impunity. ) The leading members of
the government, established by the order of Alaric, were
of Honorius,

crowd

of

while they

diviners

Attains, the new Emperor,


nominal Christianity; but he
belonged to the crowd of sceptics, whose only real faith
When
was in Hellenism and astrology or magic.
Alaric wished to send troops over to Africa in order

devoted to the black

was ready

arts.

accept a

to

crush Heraclian, the adherent of Honorius, Attalus


more on the promises of diviners, 6 who told him
that he could become master of Africa without a conto

relied

flict,

than on the counsels of a serious statesmanship.

Lampadius, the Pretorian prefect in this singular government, was, as we have seen, the friend and correspondent
1

p.

Maury,

458.

p.

99

Friedlander, iii.
doctors were

The Christian

only following the Hebraic tradition


a

on this subject.
C. Th. ix. 16, 5,

in hoc sibi congrao velut


carcere praedamnati sunt.
4
Zos. v. 41.
Ib. ix. 16, 12
sionis

multi magicis

artibus ausi elementa turbare, vitas


insontium labefactare non dubitant,
etc.

Th.

0.

Zos.

vi.

merito

/t&os, K.T.\.

/cal

T&

7,

\Tti<riv

d/tax^ri

transgres-

non solum

12,

Roma,

De Civ. Dei, viii. 22, quia de


caeli superioris sublimitate dejecti
inregressibilis

16,

sed etiam omnibus


civitatibus pelTi decernimus.

urbe

fjtAvT<nv

ix.

rats

tirl

eavrbv

irepnroLyaeadai
irepl

At/Jifyv HiravTa.
Sozom. ix. 8.

rots

CH.

ii

ITS

LAST CONFLICTS WITH THE EMPIRE

53

of S. Augustine, who laboured to convert him from his


1
mass of the Koman aristocracy,
belief in astrology.

(The

with the illustrious exception of the great Christian


2
house of the Anicii, rejoiced in the advent to power of
strange alliance of Arian Christianity, dilettante
Hellenic culture, and Chaldaean superstition. I Doubtless,
as we shall see in a later page, there was a purer and
more respectable element in the force of the last pagan

L^

this

There was a real patriotic feeling, a real


and a philosophic theology, which,

reaction.

religious

devotion,

however arid and,

to our minds, uninspiring, yet enabled


the nobler sort to maintain their hold on the faith of the

past, while

they put out of sight

its

grosser elements.

But the baser form of ancient superstition was' probably


the most tenacious and energetic.
No penal legislation
could eradicate the belief, held alike by the most_ediicated
and thejnost ignorant, that there was a lore which could
control_the operations of nature, and compel the future to
unveil its_secets. In the very year when the last of th
anti-pagan laws was published, Litorius, the lieutenant of
Actius, in his conflict with the Visigoths, was led to his
destruction under the walls of Toulouse by trusting (to
use the words of the Chronicle) " in the responses of seers
and the monitions of daemons." 3
Only a year or two
4
before the fall of the Western Empire, Lampridius, an
accomplished man of letters at Bordeaux, and one of the
most admired and trusted friends of Sidonius, the bishop
of Auvergne, consulted a troop of African sorcerers as to
the hour of his death.

In the cruel sports of the arena and the impurities of


the stage the Christian Fathers for ages recognised that

paganism had
the

people.

Aug. Ep. 146.

Zos vi 7

Prosp.

its

S.

Chron. ad

strongest and most enduring hold on


Cyprian said that "idolatry was the

a.

439,

dum

aruspicum responsis et daemonum


significationibus fidit, pugnam cum
Gothis imprudenter conseruit, etc.
4
Sid. Ep. viii. 11.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

54

BOOK

Diana presided over the hunting


scenes, the god of war was the patron of the gladiatorial
1
combats.
When the bloody strife had closed, a figure,
representing the powers of the under world, gave the
finishing stroke to the wretches who were still lingering.
The Eomans, under the most Christian Emperors
Theodosius and Honorius, were still gloating over
spectacles which their ancestors established to do honour
2
to the manes of departed relatives.
The amphitheatre
mother

of

games."

gave a sort of consecration to the old savage instinct for


cruelty,
desires.

the theatre gratified the pruriency of low


It is difficult for us to conceive the fascination

as

which those awful holocausts of human life exercised, not


only on characters hardened by voluptuousness, but on
8
A philosophic friend of
the cultivated and humane.
4
S. Augustine, who was half inclined to be a Christian,
and who on principle detested such spectacles, once
At
allowed himself to be drawn into the fatal circle.
first he resolved to close his eyes to the ghastly horrors
of the scene.
Presently, at the applause raised by some
crisis in the conflict, his eyes opened and would not be
withdrawn.
The fumes of the carnage seemed to
intoxicate his senses
he lost his identity, and became
one of the bloodthirsty crowd.
He went away eager to
;

return.

Men

can

find a justification for any established


and
these cruel displays were defended, even
institution,
and
eminent men, 5 as the virile amusements of a
by good

No
warlike race, accustoming it to make light of death.
such defence was possible in the last years of the Empire,
when the Roman army was
1

Tertull. de Spectaculis, 9, 10 ;
Apol. 15, 12 ; cf. Friedlander, ii. p.
216.
2
Suet. Jul. 26 ; Valer. Max. ii.
4, 7 ; Liv. Epit. 16.
8
Plin. Panegyr. Traj. 33, visum
est spectaculuni inde non enerve

recruited and
nee

fluxum,

officered

nee

quod

by

animos

virorum molliret et frangeret, sed


quod ad pulcra volnera contemp-

tumque mortis
4
5

Aug. Con/,

Plin.
41.
17,

accenderet.
vi. 8.

Traj. 33

Cic. Tusc.

ii.

CH.

LAST CONFLICTS WITH THE EMPIRE

77^

II

55
1

Germans and when Eomans would mutilate themselves,


and bury themselves in any retreat to escape military
;

service.

YeMbhijLnerveless
been indulged by successive emperors with these revolt^

Even the greatest and best princes had


ing atrocities.
to satisfy the cravings of a proletariat, which probably
had more of "the ape and tiger" than any that ever
Trajan, with the approval of the
his Dacian victories, sent

existed.

after

had,

the

into

gladiators

arena.

M.

humane Pliny,
down 10,000
in the per-

Aurelius,

4
formance of social duty, gave gladiatorial shows himself,
and attended them, though in a prefunctory and reluctant
But the people were offended when he turned
fashion.

away to read or pen despatches in the amphitheatre;


and when he enrolled the gladiators for the Marcomannic
war,

men

with a sneer, that he had diminished the


people in order to convert them to

said,

of the

pleasures

The Emperor Constantine, in the year of


philosophy.
6
the Council of Nicaea, restrained, by an ambiguous edict,

amusement in the Eastern Empire. But in


went on almost unchecked. Valentinian,
forbade Christians to be condemned to the

this

cruel

the

West

indeed,

it

gladiatorial school as a punishment for crime.


367, members of the Palatine service were also

And, in

exempted
But the elder Theodosius did not
9
abolish the inhuman spectacle, when he interdicted the

from this

fate.

peaceful worship of the pagan temples.


In_Jbhe last
10
fourth
of
the
years
century
Symmachus had, at great
1

Th.

O.

Murcis"

vii.

12, 3.
2
0. Th. vii. tit.
3

Dion

13,

Amm.

cf.

Cass.

10,

" de

Marc.

xv.

c.

M. Ant. 6
Capitolin.
Capitolin. Ant. P. c. 12;
5

c.

'

15,

ical

cf.

Vop.

33.

M. Ant.

23,

.'

'

quod populum

Aurel.

quiete non placent.


7
7&. ix. 40 8.

IS passim.

Ixviii.

6
O. Th. xv. 12, 1, cruenta spectacula in otio civili et domestica

See Godefroy s refutation of


Baronius on this subject, in the
note to xv. 12, 1.
10

On

sublatis voluptatibus vellet cogere

Ixxii.

ad philosophiam.

place

the date, see Seeck's Sym.

The games did not take


till

401.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

56

BOOK

and expense, 1 arrangedjfor a gladiatorial combat


at the games which were to celebrate his son^^preetbrship.
But the band of Saxons who had been brought from the

' trouble

shores

of the Baltic

gratify the

mob

refused

the festival,

to grace

to

of Koine

by a public exhibition of their


preferred a quiet death in their

powers, and
In the year 404, the inauguration of the sixth
cells.
consulship of Honorius was to be celebrated by the

fighting

customary

Prudentius pleaded with the

sacrifice of life.

Emperor to abolish the ghastly rite, as his father had


The poet's
stopped the sacrifice of animals at the altar.
prayer was answered, not by the will of Honorius, but by
the martyrdom of the heroic monk, who flung himself

and died amid the curses of the mob,


whose cruel pleasures he had dared to interrupt.
But even when the cruelties of the arena were
abolished, the circus and the theatre maintained for a

into the arena,

long time their dangerous attractions. iThe Eoman passion


The
for these spectacles was of marvellous intensity.
austere pagan,

Ammianus

Marcellinus, relates that, at a

when famine was threatening, and when foreigners,


including the "professors of the liberal arts," were
ordered to withdraw from the city, three thousand dancing
time

were allowed to remain. Long after the time of


which Ammianus wrote, the passion for the lubricity of
the stage defied all the authority and moral influence of
Orosius and Salvianus regarded
the Christian Church. 4
the theatre as a more serious danger than even the invaS. Augustine had to complain
sions of the barbarians.
that the African churches were often emptied by the attracgirls

tions of these spectacles.


1

Sym. Ep. ii.


Contra Sym.

6
Sidonius, late in the century,
B

46.
ii.

1124

v.

illeitrbemvetuittaurorum sanguine tingi;


tu mortes miserorum liominum prohibeto

Amm.

Salv. de Gub. Dei, vi.

Marc. xiv.

seu

Carm.

xxiii.

264

sqq., esp.

Ledam quis
ephebum

agit

Phrygemque

aptans ad cyathos facit Tonanti


suco nectaris esse dulciorem.

litari.

Sid.

286

6, 19.

88.

Cf. Tertull. de

Sped. 10, 17.

CH.

ii

ITS

LAST CONFLICTS WITH THE EMPIRE

57

describes the doubtful exhibitions of mythological pantoas if they were still in full life and vigour.

mime

of the imperial legislation with regard to


at once the degradation of the Eoman stage
stubborn attachment of the people to the

The whole
actors

shows

and the

indescribable enormities perpetrated in the name of art.


The worst social curse of the Lower Empire, the heredi-

tary character of nearly all callings, had left perhaps its


Treated as the
deepest brand on the actor's profession.
of mankind, yet the indispensable minister to the
pleasures of the people, he was chained to his calling
from generation to generation. 1
The Church fought one
vilest

unhappy slaves of a
and the hand of S. Ambrose is

of its noblest battles to release these

cruel

voluptuousness;

some of the laws issued during his


The bishops of Africa, where the
great episcopate.
8
allurements of the theatre were most powerfully felt,
never failed to press the claims of humanity and morality
But their efforts seem to have
on the stolid Honorius.
distinctly seen

in
2

been ill rewarded, for, in 413, the Emperor orders the


"
"
at Carthage to recall to their
Tribune of Pleasures
wretched trade the actresses who had, by " imperial kind4
From the time of
ness," been previously released.
Valentinian I. (371) the Church had indeed gained a
5
The actress who, in articulo mortis, asked
great victory.
for, and received, the last sacraments, was not to be
dragged back again, in case of recovery, to her hateful
life.
But the operation of the law is guarded by careful
provisions to prevent a feigned conversion depriving the
6
Even the law, which was
people of an attractive artiste.
extorted
the
probably
by
energy of S. Ambrose in 380,

provides that actresses,


1
0. Th. xv. 7, 4 ;
Paratitlon and notes

L'Esclavage,
2

v.
;

who have not professed Christianity,

Godefroy's

of.

Wallon,

Salv. de Gub. Dei, vi.


n Thtl' XV 7'' 1L6q

'

69.

'

iii.

See Godefroy's note to 0. Th.

xv. 7, 4.

4
5

&-

See Godefroy's note, t

xv.

7, 1.

v. p. 412.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

58
shall

mands

have no
that

if

And

release.

an

actress,

law

the

of

BOOK

381 com-

professing Christianity, has


but has relapsed into vice,

by

secured her

emancipation,
she shall be recalled to theatrical servitude for ever; and
the cold, cruel, hardness of the language of this law

whom

shows an inhuman contempt for a class


doomed to vice, and punished for being
would be amusing, if it were not painful,
care with which the Emperor regulates
2
with but little care for their
actresses,
they can steal into the Church by means

society

vicious.

It

to notice the

the dress

of

morals, unless
of the sacra-

The Emperor's sense of dignity, or perhaps a


ments.
3
lingering consciousness of divinity, causes him, in 394,
to banish all pictures of theatrical performers from the
"

"
But the
sacred
statues.
neighbourhood of his own
theatre and the circus were too dear to the people to be
sned by any authority but the growing"power of the
And even the' Church found it a Mrd task to
Church.

crush them.
pris.

and he has a parti


of notorious fact his testimony
And he assures us that Christians

Salvianus

is rhetorical

But on matters

must be

accepted.

were indulging in the madness of the circus and the


wantonness of the theatre, when the arms of the Vandals
were ringing round the walls of Carthage and Cirta and
that the applause of the spectators was mingled with the
4
groans of the dying and the battle-cries of the besiegers.
;

1
G. Th. xv. 7, 4, given at Milan ;
see Godefroy's note.
Ib. xv. 7, 8,
detracta in pulpitum sine spe absolutionis ullius ibi eousque permaneat donee anus ridicula, senectute deformis, nee tune quidem

absolutione potiatur, cum aliud


quam casta esse non possit ; cf.
Rauschen, Jahrliicher der Christ.

Kirche, pp. 68, 91.


2
C. Th. xv. 7, 11, his quoque
vestibus noverint abstinendum quas

Graeco nomine a Latino


vocant, etc. ;
adjicimus ut

cf.

xv.

mimae

7, 12,

Crustas
his illud

publico habitu

earum virginum quae Deo dicatae


sunt non utantur.
8

lb xv
-

,_
'

7 > 1Z

"

De Gub.

Dei, vi.
69, 71,
fragor, ut ita dixerim, extra muros
et intra muros praeliorum et ludi-

crorum, confundebatur vox morieii-

tium voxque bacchantium

CHAPTEE

S.

III

AUGUSTINE AND OROSIUS ON THE CAPTURE OF ROME

HITHERTO we have been occupied with the efforts^ of \


legislation, often baffled for more than a hundred yjarg^
to suppress the

open practice of heathen

Persecu-

rites,
j

any opinion or religious practice, however false,


sheer force, is not a pleasant subject of contemplation

tion of

by

to the

that

And

modern mind.

we

it is

with a feeling of

relief

turn from the threats of exile and death in the

anti-pagan laws, to the more potent efforts of Christian


dialectic to conquer the ingrained moral and intellectual
habits of so

many

generations of pagan devotion.

We

may think that in this controversy rhetoric sometimes


does duty for logic, that the reasoning is often sophistical,
that the facts of history are coloured and perverted to
serve a controversial purpose. \ Yet
a religious struggle, when the

in

rather than to mere force

a great advance
appeal is to reason

it is

and we may well believe that

the City of God, and even the treatise of Orosius, had an


influencejm many pagans who were obdurate in the face
of threatening edicts.

_)

The Emperor might compel a per-

functory conformity to the will of the State ; S. Augustine


probably won many a wavering, restless spirit to the ideals
of the

Church which was

to

dominate the future.

capture of Eome by Alaric produced a profound


on the minds both of Christian and pagan. 1

IThe
effect
1

S.

For

its effect

on Christians see

Jerome's Ep. 126,

2,

Ezechielis

volumen olim aggredi volui


sed in ipso dictandi

exordio

ita

,-,

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

60

BOOK

Following so soon upon the confiscation of the temples


and sacred revenues by Honorius, it gave fresh poignancy
to the feelings of numbers who were still attached to the
old faith,

who had

and many

of

suffered in fortune

whom

had

fled

by the invasion,
1
into remote exile.
The
|

bitterness of the religious conflict was intensified, and


the causes of the unexampled catastrophe became the

subject of the last great controversy between the opposing


\ From the time of M. Aurelius, the pagan con-

\^

creeds.

were in the habit of attributing public


2
calamities to apostasy from the national faith.
On the
occurrence of a famine or pestilence, the mob broke into

7troversialists
(

threats

and execrations against the Christians. The war


had gone on, with ever varying subtlety,

of sophistry

according to the fortunes of the Empire at the time.


inclined to judge a religion by Jts
8
material results.
His gods were expected to be of use

The true Roman was

who purchased their help and favour


by sacrificial gift and observance. He could not under4
.Ntand the Christian theory, that calamity might be sent
Hence, he
Jay Heaven for thft good of the flufforgr.
to their worshipper,

^naturally attributed the growing troubles of the Empire


to neglect

of

the

ancient rites;

and,

when

the

last

the sack of the city, which


unimaginable horror came,
he fondly believed to be destined to endless dominion,
the votary of the old gods found an irresistible argument
against the pestilent superstition which had first suppressed
his worship,

and so soon afterwards had, by

its

impiety,

brought the imperial city to the dust.


It is perhaps difficult for us to conceive the impression
animus meus

occidentalium provinciarum, et maxime urbis Romae


vastatione confusus est, ut, juxta
vulgare

quoque
diuque

proverbium,
proprium
vocabulum
ignorarem
:

tacui,

sciens

lacrimaram.
1
Hieron. Ep. 128,

esse

4,

tempus

proh nefas,

orbis terrarum ruit. . .


Urbs
inclyta et Romani imperil caput uno
hausta est incendio.
Nulla est
regio quae non exules Romanes
habeat.
.

2
8
4

Tertull. Apol. 40.


Zos. iv. 59 ; Sym. Eel. 3.
De Civ. Dei, i. 8.

CONTROVERSY ON CAPTURE OF ROME

CH. in

61

which the capture of Borne made on both the heathen


and the Christian world.
Even the rude barbarian,
bred on the Danube or amid the forests of Thuringia, felt
a strange awe of that city, so distant, yet so omnipresent
in its power, which to his imagination, in her world- wide

dominion and marvellous

We

force.

know how

drawn on by an

vitality,

Alaric,

irresistible

was

while

he

superhuman
felt

himself

spell to sack the Eternal


1

City, still almost trembled at the prospect of success,


and how, as he drew near Eome, his Goths were scattered

by the lightnings that shot round the walls of


The barbarian was impressed chiefly by the
power of Eome in imposing her laws on the world. But
to~the Koman, whether "^Christian or pagan, she was also
the heir of Greece, the seat of culture and letters, of all
humanising influences for more than five centuries./ She
was to Prudentius and Orosius, as well as to Claudian
and Eutilius, the beneficent power which had been the
mother of peaceful arts, which had made of so many
warring races one country, which had spread peace and
in panic

Narnia.

order wherever her eagles flew.

And

the belief in her

bficome^an^ unquestioned article of

eternityjbad

faith.

The uniformity of law, language, and administration,


which spread with such quiet power over all geographical
barriers, seemed to have become part of the order of
nature, as irresistible and as enduring as the laws of the
material world.
|

\To the minds therefore both of Christian and pagan,''-,


the news of the capture of Eome by Alaric came as a
great moral shock.) (in the sack of the city Christians
had fared no better than unbelievers. 4 /Their houses had
1

Sozom.

ix. 6

Socr. vii. 10

cf.

Claud, de B. Get. 507.


1

Zos. v. 41.
Prudent, contra

Oros.
Stilich.

v.
iii.

2,

154

ii.
640 ;
de Cons.
Rutil. Nainat. i.

Sym.

Claud,

63, 83, 133 ; cf. S. Jerome's outburst on hearing of the capture of


Rome, Ep. 127,
12, capitur urbs
quae totum cepit orbem ; cf. Fried-

lander,
4

De

ii.

p. 4.

Civ. Dei,

i.

9.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

62

BOOK

been burnt or pillaged, their daughters violated l many


of the churches had been despoiled of their sacred
;

treasures. 2

The

faith

of

Christians

many

[But far more crushing was the

shaken.

was rudely
effect

of the

calamity on those to whom Eome was the hearth of the


old religion, attachment to which was identified with
patriotism.
They had again and again warned the
Emperor of the danger of forsaking the gods under whose

Eome had

protection

Now
x

such

enjoyed

long

prosperity.

and warnings had been terribly confirmed.


"Eome had perished in the Christian times."}/
The State had forfeited the protection of the gods, or was
iThe cultivated epicurean,
suffering from their anger.
who had little sympathy with either pagan or Christian
their

fears

enthusiasm, contributed his doubts to the cause of the


If he believed in any gods at all, he
ancient religion,
f
did not believe that they interfered in the affairs of men.

Eoman, he may have thought the new


which made men indifferent
to the earthly commonwealth, and in a world of fierce passions and wild forces acted up to the ideal of the Sermon on
8
the Mount, was responsible for the national humiliation.
The province of Africa was still, in spite of its long
But

as a patriotic

spirit of Christian renunciation,

Christian tradition, a stronghold of heathen superstition *


or "cultivated scepticism,6 which not all the eloquence

and energy
force

of S. Augustine,6

of the

invasion of

backed by the persecuting


had been able to overpower/ The
Alaric and the capture of the city drove

crowds of the

towns

of

State,

Eoman

Africa. 7

aristocracy to seek a refuge in the


It may readily be imagined how,

De Civ. Dei, i. 16.


AS to the precise amount of
damage done see Gregorovms, Eome

in the Middle Ages, i. 159.


3
Cf. the letter of Marcellinus to
S.

2.
Augustine, Ep. 136,
4
Aug. Ep. 232 ; cf. 0. Th. xvi.

10, 20.

Aug. Ep. 16, 234.


93
97 cf

^^^ ^cok E

note

43 of
7

See the description of the

way

which they were received by


Count Heraclian in Hieron. Ep

in

130,

7.

CH. in

CONTROVERSY ON CAPTURE OF ROME

when they

63

arrived with their excited tales of the desecra-

tion of the imperial city by the Goths, grief and indignation broke forth, how old hatred, terrified into silence,

would be kindled once more, how sceptical acquiescence


in the new regime would have its old doubts revived.
1

Volusianus, one of the great family of the Albini, a son


of that old heathen pontiff described by S. Jerome, and

himself a pagan of the gentler sort, was in 412 in a


company in which the discords of philosophy and the
claims

of Christianity were canvassed.

In particular

Volusianus proposed the question, 2 whether the precept


about turning the other cheek to the smiter could be
reconciled with the policy of a dominant state, whether,
in fact, Christianity was not the cause of the decadence

Eome. The discussion was reported to S. Augustine


by Marcellinus, a friend of Volusianus, and drew from
3
The letter in which
the bishop an elaborate reply.
Augustine strove to remove the doubts of Volusianus and
of

his friends has a great interest as containing the

germ

of

famous work which Augustine commenced in the


The Gospel, he says in effect, is
following year.*
So far
opposed to war waged justly and mercifully.
from its doctrines being hostile to the stability of the
State, if they were practised by public servants and
citizens of every degree, they would prove the salvation

the

of the State.

The decay

of the

Eoman commonwealth

began long before the coming of Christ in the decay of


the old Eoman morality, in the spread of venality and
licence, which are described in scathing terms by heathen

and

moralists

this tide of

human

Whither, he asks, might not


depravity have borne us if there had

satirists.

not been planted above


1

Seeck's

Ep. 107,
8
3
4

Sym.

clxxix.

it

Hieron.

1.

2.
Aug. Ep. 136,
Ib. 138,
16.
Ebert, Lit. des Mittelalters,

all

the Cross,

by

clinging to

223.
Its composition occupied the
years 413-426 ; cf. Aug. detract, ii.
43, 1.
5

i.

He

quotes Sail. B. Jug.

urbem venalem,

etc.

c.

35,

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

64

BOOK

/ which we might save ourselves from being swept into


/ abyss ?
In this morass of vice, this decay of
{

the
the

ancient discipline, there was need for authority from on


high to bring home the lesson of voluntary poverty,
chastity, benevolence, justice, concord, real piety, all the
brightness and strength of virtue ; and that not merely
conduct of this life, nor to secure com-

for the virtuous


\

plete

harmony

obtain

eternal

commonwealth which
^citizenship we
So, as long as

commonwealth, but

in the earthly
salvation and

admission

know no

shall

to

end,

also to

celestial

to

whose

are joined by faith, hope, and charity.


we are strangers and sojourners, we must

endure, if we cannot amend, those who wish to establish


the State on the foundation of an impunity of vice
.

whereas the early Kornans founded and gave it greatness


by their virtues. They did not indeed possess a knowledge of the true God, to guide them to the Eternal City.
Yet did they hold fast to a certain inbred probity, which

might

suffice to

glory and

establish the earthly city, and give it


God thus desired to show in the

safety.

wealthy and glorious empire of Kome how much availed


the civic virtues, even without true religion, in order to

'

V\\

make men understand that, when that was added, men


might become citizens of another state, of which the king
is truth, the law is love, and eternity the bourn.
s
The City of God dedicated to Marcellinus, wasJbegun
/ in 413, and not finished till 426, 1 fouiTyears before the
It has some of the faults which we
V flTrfchpr'a dp.ath.
\might expect from what S. Augustine tells us of the
distractions of his daily life

2
;

but

vastness of range

its

and conception gives us the measure, not only of the


writer's genius,

thrown.
1

Retract,

All
ii.

43.

but of the force of the enemy to be overthat wealth of learning and subtlety of
teret et me prius ad solvendum

quod opus per aliquot annos


me tenuit, eo quod alia multa intercurrebant, quae differre non oporI.e.

cf. Possid. vit. Aug.


and Serm. 302, quoted in

occupabant
c.

19,

Hurter's ed.

CONTROVERSY ON CAPTURE OF ROME

CH. in

65

would not have been wasted by a busy and


in trampling out the embers of an exploded
practical
So far as the work is polemical, it is an
superstition.
first place, upon the political view of the
in
the
assault,
Eoman religion, and, in the next, on the philosophical
The circumstances which
attempt to rehabilitate it.
in its opening pages,
the
work
are
described
suggested
from which we can easily revive the debates which the
disquisition

man

humiliation of the great city excited. ^The fall of Eome,


exclaims S. Augustine, due to Christianity ?
Why, the

conqueror was a Christian, and respected the altars of


1
the Christian basilicas;
whereas your great poet describes Priam slaughtered at the shrine, which could not
2

have the Christians suffered as well


3
Because suffering is a
you ask ?
a Christian and a pagan. 4>\ To the one

Why

protect him.
as the pagans, do

different thing to
grievous, to the other it

it is

ment

may

be joyous, a chastise-

The history of Eome is full of crimes


which the gods have either caused or

for his good.

and calamities

How have the old gods guarded Eome ? 5


permitted.
Do the memories of the Caudine Forks and Cannae, and
another day of calamity and despair, suggest no
doubts about their power or will to guard her ?
The
6
truth is that the old religion did not give real prosperity,

many

elements which were fatal to character


And conquest, unsupported by justice,
and happiness.
7
Yet here S.
may be only brigandage on a large scale.
Augustine seems guilty of a patriotic inconsistency. JSe

for it contained

is,

flft.P.r

a.1],

fr-np.

He

T?.mnan at heart.

isjyroud of the

Eome, and

of the qualities which had given


her her place in^ the world. 8
God made choice of the

great past of

De

Civ. Dei,

39.
2
3
4

6
6

i.

cf.

Oros.

vii.

stint
?

Ib.

i.

2.

cinia

Ib.
Ib.
Ib.

i.

9.

Oros. v.

i.

10.

iii.

17,

Ib. iv. 26.

remota itaque justitia


regna nisi inagna latroiv. 3, 15 ; iii. 10
cf.

Ib. iv. 4,

quid

cf.

1, 4.

omnibus artibus
tamquam vera via nisi sunt ad
honores imperium gloriam . .
Ib. v. 15, his

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

66

BOOK

Latin race to establish an empire which should weld the


nations of the world into one people.
The Latin race
chose honour and dominion for

its portion, and they had


purely civic virtue deserved.
But the heathen daemons had never brought good to
Eome, as they had never warded off evil from her.

the reward which

They aided the

their

cruel Marius to reach a seventh consul-

they allowed the pious Eegulus to be put to the


2
If they did not save the city
extremity of torture.
ship

from being taken by the Gauls, 8 when


at

its

highest point,
neglect of their rites

why

Eoman

virtue

was

that

the

we fancy

should

has caused the capture

by the

And yet S. Augustine attributes to these


Goths ?
daemons vast powers for evil, while he will not allow
them any power for good. They promised success to
Sulla,

but they never, with their powers of prevision,


avert his crimes.
Their power or example

to

tried

Eoman

corrupted the ancient virtue of the


6

legends,

which were lessons in cruelty and

people by
Their

lust.

worship has created the horrors of the amphitheatre and


In their name the empire of Eome has been
the stage. 6
swelled to an unwieldy bulk by incessant wars.
During
the centuries from the peaceful reign of Numa to the
accession of Augustus, a single year in which the gates

war were closed is noted as a miraculous event. 7


While Augustine was engaged in preparing this final
8
assault on pa^ganism, his fifth book being completed, a
young Spanish priest arrived at Hippo about 414. His
native country was being devastated by the Sueves and
of

imperil sui leges imposuerunt multis


gentibus
Perceperunt mereedern suam ; cf. v. 21.
.

De

&

Ib.

num

Civ. Dei,
i-

ii.

ii.

22, sed

Ib.

Ib

ii.

capta et

24.

'

cf'
ij-

prava

5'

docent, turpibus gaudent.

15.

tamen haec numi-

cum, longe
corrumperentur

turba ubi

antequara

23.

Roma

a Gallis
incensa est ?
antiqui,

mores

erat,

lbt
Ib.

ii.

iii.

25

Up. 169,

same

of.

ix

6, ix. 3.

9.

letter,

13

cf.

and Ep. 166,

1 of the
2.

CH. in

CONTROVERSY ON CAPTURE OF ROME

67

He

escaped from their snares or violence, and


sought a refuge in Africa, which as yet was considered
safe from the invaders.
S^Augustine was struck with"
Vandals.

zeal, readiness, and enthusiasm, and determined to


engage him in a historical composition which should
serve as a kind of supplement to the City of God. <^The

his

task which was assigned to Orosius was to refute, by an


examination of history, the pagan assertion that the fall
of

Eome was

old

religion.^)

a consequence of her abandonment of her


Home has been taken by a barbarian chief,
ief,

said the pagans ; her prosperity has for the first time met
with a disastrous check.
Under her old gods she had an

unbroken career of success, resulting in the establishment


of equal laws, and a serene and bountiful civilisation
among scores of peoples who in former ages were degraded
and desolated by continual feuds. It is only a few years
since the religion of the Nazarene was made binding on
and within fifteen years from the death of
all Eomans
;

Theodosius, the destroyer of the ancient faith, the hitherto


inviolate seat of Eoman government has been desecrated.
"

Kome

has perished in the Christian times."


of Orosius had a great popularity in the

The work

Middle Ages, 3 and from some modern critics it has received


too flattering notice as the first attempt to found a philoThis description of it can only be
sophy of history.
if
the
words "philosophy of history" is
accepted,
by
meant an arbitrary and uncritical handling of the facts to
suit an a priori theory, or a temporary theological purpose. ( Orosius himself would hardly have claimed for
his work any such character.
His researches were not
His
authorities
are probably limited to
very profound.
the Bible, Livy, Tacitus, Suetonius, Justin, Eutropius, and
1
Idat. Chron. ad a. 410, debacchantibus per Hispanias barbaris,

etc.
2

Oros,

iii.

20, 5, 0.

See the Prol. of Orosius.

King Alfred had Orosius transThe MSS.


from the seventh century are numelated into Anglo-Saxon.
rous, v. Teuffel,

ii.

p. 475.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

68

BOOK

He
perhaps S. Jerome's version of Eusebius's Chronicle.
was not writing for a remote generation, with a theory of
human evolution which would stand the test of scientific
criticism.

He was

convinced

of

his

man

thesis

of his

before

own

his

age, thoroughly

researches

began,

He cares
thoroughly practical, and not over-scrupulous.
for
of
historical
the
inner
movements, so
nothing
springs
|

far as

The chain

they are merely human.

His eye

causes has no interest for him.

is

of natural

fixed

on the

external fortunes and vicissitudes of the great races who


have occupied the stage of history.
It is fixed also
rather on their calamities and reverses than on anything
which might mitigate the tale of " mourning, lamentation,

and woe," which has been the portion of the human race
before the coming of Christ.
His business was to collect
in an ordered narrative from the annals of the past, before
the final triumph of the Cross, all the tales of misery
from war, famine, and pestilence that the human race had
suffered, all that

and volcanic

He

was

fires,

all

and desolating in

startling

floods

the horrors of monstrous crime.

convinced that the carnage and ravages of war, the


stress of plague and dearth, the convulsions of nature,
is

were more tremendous in the pagan times. 2


Nature her8
like
of
the
the
has
self,
Goths,
temper
grown milder with
the advent of a purer faith among men Lin the process,
!

of proving his thesis, Orosius treats


same respect as authentic history.

Amazons

mere legend with the


The exploits of the

are as useful for his purpose as the invasion


In the long catalogue of
Gauls of Brennus.
of the slain, and
wars
he
numbers
the
deadly
magnifies
seems almost to exult in the carnage of pre-Christian
of

the

1
He mentions other writers, but
probably only at second hand. He

knew

little

of Greek authorities

Morner, de Oros. vita, p. 50, and


Peter's Die Geschichtliche Ltit. ilber

cf.

die

R&m,

Kaiserzeit,

ii.

158, 255.

The world in
Ores, iv. Praef.
is as it were only nocturnis pulicibus titillatus
414

..

Jb

'

Ib.

" 14 3
i.

15,

4.

...
'

'

1O
19

CH. in

CONTROVERSY ON CAPTURE OF ROME

69

He has seldom a word to say of the objects


which the victims fell.
The glories of peaceful times
have no interest for his determined, historical pessimism.'
There is not a word of the splendour of the age of
1
Pericles.
Demosthenes is only referred to as an orator
battlefields.

for

It is difficult to conceive
purchased by Persian gold.
that such a collection of the gloomiest episodes in history
or myth, selected for a single controversial purpose which
is

everywhere apparent, should have influenced any mind


and cultivated circle of the pagan friends

in the learned
of

Symmachus.

[Orosius constantly complains of the double exaggeration! by which the


pagans magnified the prosperity and

own

glory of past ages, and the disasters of their

day.

The charge is probably true. The immediate effects of


the invasion may have easily been painted in too sombre
colours.
The capture of Eome^so disordered men's
J
imaginationsTand awoke such bitterness of
that a calm estimate of the facts was hardly possible.
Orosius^ however, is guilty of the grossest exaggeration
on the__other_-^ide.
In his retrospect he surveys the
history of the world from the creation, with a determina-

tion to see nothing that does not lend itself to his controIt is characteristic of the peculiar
purpose.

versial

method and

fairness of this

work

that, in painting the

bloody wars of the regal period, the name of Numa is


never mentioned.
The sack of the city by Brennus 5 was

more

terrible and destructive than her capture by


Hardly a Eoman senator escaped the violence of
the Gauls.
Hardly one lost his life at the hands of the
6
Goths.
In old times Sicily was constantly laid waste
far

Alaric.

mentioned once as

general, along with Sophocles, i. 21,


15 ; cf. a somewhat similar and

to the great age


of Greece in Prosp. Chron.
2
Oros. iii. 16, 1.

Pericles is

amusing reference

e.g.

i.

Ib.

ii.

Oros,
Ib.

21, 17

4
ii.

ii.

iv.

Morn.

Praef.

p. 37.

19.

19,

13, ibi

vix

quam inventum Senatorem,

quem-

qui vel
absens evaserit, hie vix queniquam

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

70

BOOK

by the convulsions of nature and the ravages of war. In


the present quiet and prosperous times, even Etna, which
once spread ruin in field and city, sends up only a column
of harmless smoke to remind the world of its former
1
Eome was founded in bloodshed, and her career
energy.
There is
has corresponded to the omens of her birth.
2
hardly a break in the monotonous tale of incessant wars,
until the universal peace of the reign of Augustus was
In like
given to the world by the coming of Christ.
fall of Athens, the overthrow of Spartan
8
supremacy, the conquests of Philip and Alexander, are
described with a determined exaggeration of the slaughter

manner, the

The absurdity, perhaps,


culminates, when Orosius inveighs against those who
complain that a cowardly brigand (it is thus that Alaric

and misery which they caused.

described) has outraged a single corner of a world


4
The
is enjoying generally a secure tranquillity

is

which

author occasionally shows some flashes of insight into the


position of Eome, and her relation to the barbarian races,
to

which we

But as to
shall refer in another chapter.
it is difficult to acquit him of

the main drift of his book

a deliberate distortion of the facts of history.

These two works, of such unequal merit, are noticed


here chiefly for the purpose of showing the latent force
of the pagan sentiment which they were intended to
S. Augustine and Orosius are
magnitude of their task, and of the
It was not the ignorant superstistrength of the enemy.

disarm and
.

silence.

Both

fully conscious of the

tion of the masses, blindly clinging to the religious usages


of their ancestors, which they set themselves chiefly to
require, qui forte ut latens perierit ;
cf. de Civ. Dei, iii. 29 ; Socr. Hist.

Ecd.

vii. 10, says that many senators were tortured and slain.
1

Oros.

tune

ii.

cum

14,

Aethna ipsa, quae


urbium atque

excidio

agrorum crebris eraptionibus aestuabat, nunc tantum innoxia specie

ad praeteritorum fidem fumat


2
3
iii.

11.

iii.

8.

2b. iii. 14 : ii. 16, 13 ; iii. 2, 10 ;


13, 11.
Ib. iii. 20, 9, et nos perpetuae

haesurum putamua
recordationi
quod plurima orbis parte secura
unum angulum fugax latro violavit.

CH. in

CONTROVERSY ON CAPTURE OF ROME

discredit

hayp

and overthrow.

seen, in a

company

The controversy began,

71

as

we

of lettered rnen7whose smoulder-

ing doubts about the policy of the religious revolution of


Theodosius, flashed out and found expression on the
capture of Eome in 410. j Both works are addressed to

the educated

class,

who

still

clung to paganism, either as

the ancestral faith of Eome, under the protection of which


her great mission had been accomplished, or as enshrining
the venerable and imaginative symbols of the lofty and
comprehensive theory of God and the Universe, expounded

<j

The Cityyf God assails the


by the school of Alexandria.
paganism both of the patriot and the philoso^Eerr^^is
addressed to a class capable of following the most subtle
reasoning, acquainted with the history and antiquities of
Eome, or saturated with the metaphysics of Plotinus and
The_ tr^a^ise_jiLJIkQsiiia..is addressed only to
Porphyry.
the anxious patriot, and it has none of the depth and
range and subtlety of S. Augustine's great work.. Yet
even Orosius could hardly have been read by any one
who had not been trained in the higher discipline of the

Eoman schools.
From this point

of view the controversy has a profound interest for the historian. It is true that the voices
of the champions of paganism reach us only, as it were,
by echoes from the pages of their assailants. Hardly a

word has come

to us directly

from that crowd of philo-

sophic sceptics, conservative dreamers, or devotees, who


call
called forth the full strength of the great bishop of Hippo,
/Itiis admitted that the City of God dealt a deathblow at
I

the cause of paganism, and, by its learning and dialectic,


ftf\YY\
completed the work of anti-pagan legislation. ' Its occasional sophistry, which may irritate the modern reader,

would probably, in the heat of


to the

enemy

be as damaging
If its

appeals

show the helplessness of the gods to protect


worshippers from evil fortune often seem to us

to history to

their

conflict,

as its sounder arguments.

THE TENACITY OF PAGANISM

72

BOOK

unfair and weak, its exposure of the moral evil in the


ancient cults is irresistible.
absence of the moral

|The

corruption of Eoman
character by the games and festivals which were sanctioned
or enjoined by the old faith, is S. Augustine's most
powerful reply to the argument that Eome owed her
influence

paganism, and the

in

material success to her gods. [^Julian saw the mojral


helplessness of the system, to which he gave a momentary
and illusive revival in the years when S. Augustine was
But Julian's life was short, and it may be
an, infant.

doubted whether, if it had been longer, his efforts to effect


a moral and philosophic renovation of paganism could
have given real life to that which was rotten at the
root.

Yet,

when we

look merely at the narrower issue, on


controversy began, there is a

which the momentous

strange feeling of pathos in reading the often sophistical


recriminations as to the supernatural causes of a world-

wide convulsion.
The ancient majesty of the imperial
city had been violated, and the magic of that great name
was vanishing amid agonies of regret.
Some of the
fairest provinces of the "West had been occupied by the
German invaders.
Four years after the completion of
S. Augustine's great work, the Vandals will have overrun
Koman Africa, and the saint's last hours will be disturbed
1
The
by the roar of battle under the walls of Hippo.
mutual recriminations of Christian and pagan as to the
causes of the great catastrophe may to some
seem small and frivolous, in comparison with the interests
which were at stake; to others perhaps rather coarse and
materialistic in their conception of the office and value of
"We have been trained to seek for the causes
religion.

religious

of the fall of
class

under

Eome

fiscal

in the exhaustion of the municipal

burdens, in bad and cruel administra-

tion, in the decline


1

of public spirit
Possid. vit.

Aug.

c.

and courage.
29.

Some

CH. in

CONTROVERSY ON CAPTURE OF ROME

73

even those bred in the traditions of the

historical critics,

Catholic Church, are almost ready to take the pagan side


in the quarrel, and to find the causes of the collapse in
the ascetic spirit, which, by contemning wealth and
refusing to bear the burdens of civil society, undermined
1
The controversial
its economic and political stability.

part of the City of God will probably have the fate of all
polemics inspired by the needs or passions of the moment.

But

and constructive

its spiritual

side,

which

lies

beyond

the scope of this work, will be a permanent possession of


It lifts the eye from the mundane level on
the race.

which the
are

relative material advantages of opposing creeds


or fiercely contrasted.
\Eternity__ia__jiot

balanced

promised by the Christian's God to anything earthly.


The spiritual city alone does not pass away. It has no
frontiers, it draws its citizens from all races and peoples,
it

embraces

death.

all

the faithful on either side of the river of

Fundamenta
1

ejus in

montibus

Renan, Marc. Aurtle,

sanctis.

p. 603.

/A
*
^ C**"'"tfW*S
&><&aM 7
i*o- M&*i
v *
-^ *
X-1

iur*

~t

*****

^^ d **#

v>

< j

*44+us

,a

^i

^
'
\

CHAPTEE

IV

SOME CAUSES OF THE VITALITY OF THE LATER PAGANISM

THE

dialectic of S.

Augustine is regarded asJijaYing_comoverthrow of the pagan cause.


Yet his

pletedthe

the old State religion of

are directed^ against

assaults

than against those cults of Egypt and


Eome,
l
which
had, for more than two centuries, practically
Syria
rather

From a controovershadowed the religion of Numa. 2


versial point of view S. Augustine was right.
Although
the native gods of Latium no longer inspired much
devotion, they were the recognised protectors of the old
Koman state.
Their cults were intertwined with the
whole fabric of public and private life.
Even the
Christian emperors, till the time of Gratian, assumed the
/

Pontifex Maximus.
The old sacred colleges still
3
for ceremonial functions in the reign of Theodosius.
festival of the Lupercalia, which was traced back

office of

met
The

to the

Arcadian Evander, was, with

savage

ritual, celebrated

down

all

its

coarse

and

to the last years of the

fifth

century.
In the fourth century the ancient religion of Latium,
while revered and defended as the symbol of national

greatness

by the conservative

He

however, to the cult

refers,

of Mater
2

Deum,

But the old

i.

c.

rites

den Sev.

3
4

5.

and festivals,
e.g. the Lupercalia and Ambarvalia,
were sedulously kept up cf. ReVille,
Rel. unter

patriot, supplied little nutri-

p. 26.

viii.

Sym. Ep. i. 51.


Gibbon, c. 36.
343.

It

Of. Virg. Aen.


was revived by Augus-

tus (Suet. Octav. c. 31). Luperci are


found in Inscriptions of Mauretania,

O.I.L.

viii.

9405, 9406.

SOURCES OF ITS VITALITY

CHAP, iv

ment

for the devotional cravings

Roman

75

of the age.

/ The

old

theology was a hard, narrow, unexpansive system

and personification, which strove to reprePantheon the phenomena of nature, the relations
of men in the state or the clan, every act and feeling and
of abstraction

sent in

its

incident in the life of the individual.


But, unlike the
mythologies of Hellas and the East, it had no native
principle of growth or adaptation to altered needs of
It was also
and the individual imagination.
The
in
and
awe
religious
mystery.
wanting
singularly
spirit which it cultivated was formal, timid, and scrupu1
lous.
It was bound up with the everyday business and
sacred colleges were not,
practical life of society,
jits
of
the
in
case
set apart from the
the
vestals,
except
world; they were simply a kind of magistracy for the
exact performance of certain sacred rites and functions.
When the ceremony was over, the celebrant returned to
ordinary civic life. |The old Roman worship was business2
The gods were partners in a contract
like and utilitarian.
with their worshippers, and the ritual was characterised
by all the hard and literal formalism of the legal system
of Rome?
Trie Worshipper performed his part to the

society

with the scrupulous exactness required in plead8


before
the praetor. \ To allow devotional feeling to
ings
transgress the bounds prescribed by immemorial custom
letter

"

Such a religion was little calculated


who had come under the spell of
Greek philosophy and the mysticism and ecstatic devotion

was

superstitio."

to satisfy generations

of the East.
(

case
1

c.

The conservative and patriotic spirit which, as in the


of_Sjmmachus and jFlavianus, clung__to_tbe old

Boissier, La Eel.
Preller, Mythol.
;

"iiier, m.
22
cf.

Rom. Introd.
Rom. (Dietz),

om i. pp. 21,
Mommsen, Rom. Hist. i. 182
.

Nat. Dear,

versum

i.

41),

as justitia ad-

deos.

PrellCT- P- 102

Bdssier

qq '

Cicero's definition of pietas (de

Boissier,

i.

p. 23.

THE LA TER PAGANISM

76

BOOK

national faith, as inseparable from the safety and dignity


of Home, was undoubtedly a serious obstacle to the final

But he would

triumph of Christianity.]
of

interpret the
confine his

ill

who should

the time

history
attention to the official paganism.

religious

which
JThe paganism
and
influenced
really living,
Jt came
souls, was that neither of Latium nor of Hellas.
from the East from Persia. Syria, "Egypt the homes of

which

was

stirred devotion

a conception of religion which was alien to the native


1
These Oriental cults
spirit both of Greece and Rome.
satisfied

emotional cravings, which found no stimulus for

devotion in the arid abstractions of the old Latin creed,


or in the brilliant anthropomorphism of Greece.
They

aroused and cultivated, often to a dangerous degree,


their mysteries, if they
intense and ecstatic feeling.
did not teach a higher moraHty, they raised the worshipper
above the level of cold, conventional conformity, and

^In

some way the longing for communion with


assurance of a life beyond the grave,
and
deity,
of appeasing the troubled conscience
had
their
modes
"""ley

satisfied in

the

expiation, by ascetic abstinence, by the baptism of


In the sacred corporations, 2 such as the Isiaci
blood.

by

and 'Pastophori, they provided, what was the great want


of the times, social help and mutual encouragement, the
stimulus or the consolation of common interests and
enthusiasms.

fWhoever

will cast his eyes over the in-

scriptions of ihe closing years of the fourth century will


be struck by the number of dedications to deities of foreign
to Isis, the Sun,

origin
all, to

Mithra. )

of the

greatest

Clodius

He

Mater, and Attis, above

Magna

on these

find

will

tablets

names among the Roman


3

Hermogenianus,

Boissier, Eel. Horn. i. pp. 396


Eel. zu Eom. unter
den Sev. c. ii. Duruy. Hist. Eom.
v. 739
Friedlander, iii. p. 444.
2
Kenan, H. Aurlle, p. 577

sqq. ; R6ville,

Flavianus,

Boissier,

i.

G.I.L.

Ib

'

"

Venustus,

417.
vi.

499, a.p.C. 374.

501 > a'P' C 383 '


'

some

aristocracy,

Ib. vi. 503, a.p. C. 390.

SOURCES OF ITS VITALITY

CHAP, iv

77

a Volusianus, a Vettius Agorius Praetextatus.


If he
looks into the inscriptions of the provinces, he will discover that these worships have been carried by Roman
2

travellers or soldiers to

Gaul, Spain, Britain, to remote


of
on
the
the
African desert, or on the Ehine
camps
edge
and the Danube.
He will notice on many of these

monuments

that

the

commemorated has held

person

sacred office in a great number of these cults, that he has


been priest of Mithra the unconquered, priest of the Sun,
3

priest of Isis, and that he has performed the Taurobolium.


He will observe with interest that there is a tone of

moral and devout feeling which he had not expected to


find in a pagan epitaph.
The famous monument erected
4
Fabia
Aconia
Paulina
to her husband Praetextatus,
by
after recording his many secular and sacred honours, and
celebrating his birth, learning, and culture, speaks of his

contempt

for these transient distinctions,

And

of a blessed reunion after death.


in her gratitude for the love

and the hope

Paulina

is

fervent

and confidence with which

made her a partner in all sacred things.


Praetextatus, in a companion inscription, commemorates
his wife as the sharer of his inmost secrets, devoted to

her husband has

the temple service, a friend of the gods, pure in

body, benevolent to

These

cults,

mind and

all.

which were the

vital centre of the last

generation of paganism in the West, had found their way


to Rome long before the imperial period.
The Eastern
conquests of the Republic made the maintenance of old-

Roman

exclusiveness impossible.
In a city which was
the meeting-place of so many races, it was hopeless for
1

ib.

C.LL. vi. 512, a.p.C. 390; cf.


736, 755.
9
Ib. xii. 405, 1311 (Mater deum),

xii.

2706, 1535 (Mithra),

xii.

734,

The Taurobolium
(Isis).
appears in an immense number of
Gallic inscriptions in C.LL. xii.
cf. Renan, M. Aurde,
See
p. 579.

the provincial inscriptions to Mithra


collected in Cumont's Monuments
figures

1562

relatifs

Mithra,
3

nef
C

'

to >

i.

aux Mysteres

de

pp. 129-171.
,

,.,

several of the Inscr. referred


vi. 504.

and Particularly C.LL.


4
C.LL. vi. 1778-79.

THE LATER PAGANISM

78

BOOK

the most vigilant conservatism, however much inspired


with a suspicion of exotic modes of devotion, finally to

The attempt was made again and again,


and as often defeated.
Foreign traders, foreign slaves,
travellers, and soldiers returning from long campaigns
in distant regions, were constantly introducing religious
novelties which fascinated the lower class, always the
most susceptible of religious excitement, and then peneThe Great
trated to the classes of culture and privilege.
Mother of Pessinus found a home at Eome in the second
Punic war. 2 The Pastophori of Serapis were established
shut them out.

as early as the days of Sulla.


After repeated attempts
on the part of the government to exclude Egyptian
4
worships, the triumvirs, in 42 B.C., founded a temple of

and Serapis in the Campus Martius. 5 |The worship


of Mithra. the_solar cult which was destined to_ Jbe jth
most formidable rival of Christianity in its last struggle
with heathenism, was introduced in 70 B.C. after the
Isis

overthrow of the Cilician piratesJby_JPpmpey. 6


Under
the Flavian dynasty the religions of the East had special
7

But the Eastern cults had their great


triumph in the age of the Antonines, and under the
prominence.

Oriental princes of the third century.


of dedications to Sol Invictus,

considerable

number

and
Mithra belong to the reigns of M. Aurelius and Cornmodus. 8
Antoninus Pius erected a temple to Mithra at
9
and Commodus had a fancy to be initiated in
Ostia;
Serapis,

the Isiac mysteries, and actually took the tonsure of that


1

Boissier,

Rom.

La, Eel.

i.

Liv. xxix. 10.


3

Dion

Plut.

p.

384<

W0pav

Preiler, p. 479.
II. p. 479.
Cf. the picture of

Virg

Aen

Pomp.

ical

'

g ue t. Vesp.
Cf c- L
-

omnigenftraque deftm monstra et latmtor


Anxibis, etc.

c.

24,

Sevpo

ftfypi

AcaraSetxtfetcra TrpcDro*/
rSav ireipaT&v).
(*

the Egyptian gods arrayed against


>

Cass. xlvii. 15.

'

54

1 "*

e/cetVwi

c. 7.

vi

723 ' 727

746

8>v ij roO
8uurd>erai

VTT'

263

Rdville, p. 81.

'

>

74

SOURCES OF ITS VITALITY

CHAP, iv

79

Caracalla and Alexander Severus both added


worship.
2
to the splendour of the temple service of Isis.
Aurelian,

whose mother was a

priestess of the Sun, attributed his


to the god's favour, and built a
Zenobia
over
victory
at Eome, enriched with the spoils
him
for
stately temple

of

B almyra. 3

and pre-eminently that of Isis/


( The Egyptian cults,
had an immense Jnjnp.nnft nn jJTg _jRmria^
the whole imperial period. ( Isis was a deity with many
4
She was the goddess
'functions and many attractions.
of the springtime and of the fruitfulness of nature.) She
was the guardian of those whose life is on the sea. She
had a special care of women in the troubles of motherShe lighted souls into the world beyond death.
hood.
The ceremonies of her worship, which in many respects
-

show a singular rapprochement to those of the Catholic


Church, had a powerful effect on the imagination and the
There is a sacerdotal class set apart for spiritual
feelings.
functions and the guidance of souls, and distinguished by
There are baptismal
the tonsure and a peculiar dress. 5
of

rites

initiation,

for

which

abstinence

ascetic

is

In Egypt, on the very ground


necessary preparation.
which in the fourth and fifth centuries was to be the

home

of Christian

ascetic

monks, there was long before them the


cloister devoted to the worship of

of the

life

6
The ritual has many traces of our modem
Serapis.
of
ideas
devotion, and foreshadows in some respects that

Lamprid. Com. c. 9, sacra


ut et caput raderet et

Isidis coluit

Anubin
2

Id.

Carac.
3

portaret.

A.

Sev.

c.

26

Ael. Spart.

c. 9.

Flav'Vrm
Aiir
blav. Vop. Aur.
Preller, p.

unter den Sev.

477

o 4,
4
c.

31
31,

3Q
M

Reville, Rel.

p. 53.

cinctum pectoralem adusque vestigia strictim inject! .


capillum
derasi funditus, vertice praenitentes.
Cf. Pint, de Is. et Osir. 4 <?0' 8r V
.

rf*XK
^ vS>s tffOrfr**
r

LS

<-

f P ei s

uvorivamu

Kal

<t>opov<rtJ>.

Qhaeremon, quoted by Porphyr.

de Abstin. (Frag. Hist. Or.


497), fat8o<rw 8\ov rbv plov

edw

Oeupig. K al 8ed<rei

Apul. Met. xi. c. 10, antistites


candido linteamine
sacrorum .

tirerrjdevffav

Kal

Kar

^/cpdrctd*' re Kal Kaprepiay.

iii.

rr,

p.

TWV

THE LATER PAGANISM

80

BOOK

There are matins and vespers


which white-

of the Catholic Church.

to rouse the goddess or to lay her to rest, at

1
robed priests officiate.
Women receive a prominence
which was denied them under the old religion, and their

devotion to the ritual of Syria and Egypt was a social


2
characteristic of the early Empire as it was of the closing
3

There was indeed much


years of paganism in the West.
in these cults calculated to have a special charm for
It is a common characteristic of some
female sensibility.
of the most popular of them that the interest centres on

a divine death and resurrection.

There

is

the alterna-

tion of the passionate se'nse of loss with the passionate


joy of recovery, and the emotions, as in the mysteries of

an

earlier

time, were

scenic effects.

old

Kome

The

probably stimulated by striking

cold, calm, rigidly formal religion

of

has given place to ecstatic devotion, and the

sense of sin and error finds relief in penitential discipline

and solemn cleansing.


lln the last struggles of paganism with the Christian
Church, the cult which exercised the most, pow-erful
It gave expression to
attraction was_jtbat of Mithra.*
5
to
and to the craving
monotheism,
growmg tendency

the

support, purification, and comfort through


which
became more and more imperious in the
religion,
\ third and fourth centuries. It was at first a sun-worship
^
But its early character was greatly
of Persian origin.
for

moral

by syncretism, by accretions from other, especially


Phrygian, worships, and by natural development to meet
the devotional and moral wants of the times. jThe
altered

Apul. Met.

xi. 20.

528

/&SiS&
1532, 396! (Narbonne)

C'- L

'h
2630
u
in

vin
Devotion to Isis

(Numidia).
the time of Catullus and Tibullus
seems to have been compatible with
Catull. x. 26 ;
very loose morals.
Tibull.

i.

3,

23.

Cumont,

i.

178,

denies that women were admitted


to the mysteries of Mithra.

C.I.L.

^ville Eel.
prell

1779, 1780.

vi.
>
'

*J

U6

unter den Sev. pp.


490
8

jg

Aur&e p 676
6
See the centralisation of many
worships in tho temple of the Sun
attempted by Elagabalus, Lamp rid.
c.

cf.

c. 7.

SOURCES OF ITS VITALITY

CHAP, iv

81

worship of the Sun was the central force in Julian's


attempt to remedy the dogmatic and moral weakness of
'

In the fourth century the ancient god of


paganism.
1
the supreme Power, who is all-seeing,
has
become
light
all-pervading, who is the lord and giver of life, the
from

sin, the protector of the miserable, the


daemons and death, who assures to his
of
evil
conqueror
The
faithful worshippers the hope of immortality.

cleanser

monuments

Mithra

of
2

Koman

in

world,

all

have been found


the

of

all

over the

Italy, in

regions
Spain,
the provinces bordering on the Danube
and the Ehine, in Gaul, and in Britain.
Nothing is

Africa,

and

all

more familiar than the group in which the young warrior,


wearing a Phrygian cap and short tunic, and mantle
blown back by the wind, kneels on the back of a bull
and buries his poniard in its throat, surrounded by the
3
His worship
mystic beasts and the two Dadophori.
in
was conducted
underground grottoes, brilliantly lighted
and adorned with symbolic figures. The symbolism of
his ritual has exercised and puzzled the ingenuity of
modern archaeologists. 4
Probably it conveyed many
meanings to the devotee but the central idea in the
end seems to have been that of a Power who conquers
the spirits of darkness, leads souls from the underworld,
and gives peace by purification. The ritual was comThere was a kind of baptism
plicated and impressive.
of neophytes, confirmation, consecration of bread and
water, cleansing of the tongue with honey, and other
ablutions.
The great festival of the god was celebrated
;

p.

ments figures,
Orientaux,

i.

88

Cumont, Monu-

de Mithra, Textes
pp. 1-6. Of. Porphyr.
etc.

In his
book on Neoplatonism,
p. 56, Dr. Bigg says that the re" the
ligion of Mithra was
purest
and most elevated of all nonquoted

ib.

pp. 39, 40, 41.

interesting

Biblical religions."
2
Preller, p. 496

C.I.L.

viii.

8440

(Sitifis

in Mauretania), 9256,

1535 (Gallia Narb.) 2706,


807, 809 (Aquileia), 4283.

xii.

Cumont,

i.

v.

Of.

pp. 87-171.

See the representation of the


Vatican group in Durny, v. p. 748
;

Cumont,

cf.

ii.

iii.

passim.
cf. the
Reville, pp. 89, 90-94
materials accumulated in Cumont,
4

ii.

and

iii.

'

THE LATER PAGANISM

82

BOOK

25th of December. 1 His mysteries created a


powerful bond of union, and in this respect satisfied one
of the most urgent needs of society under the later
The initiated formed a close guild or corporaEmpire.

on the

tion presenting

many

points

resemblance to

of

Free-

The novice had to submit to a series of


masonry.
severe ordeals and ascetic exercises, prolonged fasting,
There
flagellation, passing through water and flame.
were many degrees of initiation bearing fantastic titles,8
and culminating in the dignity which bore the title of
Whatever the real moral effect of initiation may
Pater.
have been, there can be no doubt that it developed a

warm

devotion and faith in that future


to the

promised

life

which

it

pure worshipper.

The most impressive

Mithra- worship was the

rite in

baptism of blood, called the Taurobolium.

This ceremony
was apparently a sacramental repetition of the symbolic
It was
slaughter of the bull by the god himself.

and

Mother,

monuments
times,

it

earliest

the Phrygian ritual of the Great


connected with her name on many

of

part

originally

is

*
;

the religious fashion

after

but,

of

the

had been absorbed by the cult of the Sun. The


trace of the Taurobolium in the West is found

on a Neapolitan monument of the last years of Hadrian's


5
It spread far and wide through the provinces,
reign.
and traces of it are found near Lyons as early as
184 A.D. 6 The ceremonial has been described in a well1
i.

p.

Re'ville. p. 95.

But

cf.

Cumont,

* Preller,
p. 497 ; Re'ville, p. 97.
On the ordeals of initiation, see

Cumont,
3

i.

p. 27.

'ad
2,
Ep. 107,
Laetam,' where the titles of them
are given, Corax, Gryphus, Miles,
Leo, Perses, Heliodromus, Pater
v.
Cumont, i. 18, n. 1. See the
title Pater in 504, 1778 of C.I.L. vi,
4
Re'ville, p. 66; C.I.L. vi. 505,
Hieron.

506, 508,

4325.
6

68 n.

iii.

5524,

xii.

357, 1222,

Boissier, Eel. Rom.


0.1. L. xii. 1782.

i.

p. 412.

This taurobolium lasted from the 20th to the


23rd of April.
At Orange (in
Gallia Narbonensis) an inscription
was found commemorating a taurobolium pro salute Imp. M. Aurel.

Commodi, C.I.L.

xii.

1222.

taurobolium of 245 A.D. in Gall,


Narb. was performed for the imperial house on 30th Sept. xii. 1567;
cf. viii. 5524, 8263 (African Inscr.),

SOURCES OF ITS VITALITY

CHAP, iv

known

83

passage of Prudentius, and the inscriptions of his


2

The penitent was placed in


age frequently refer to it.
a trench covered over with planks having apertures
bull was led on to this platform, and
between them.

8
conducted by the priests, was
ceremonial,
slaughtered so that the blood streaming from its throat

due

with

might bathe the votary below. It was esteemed a matter


of great importance that not a drop should be wasted,
and the subject of the rite used all his efforts to enjoy
The ceremony was a
the full benefit of the sacred flood.
long and costly one, attended by great crowds, with the
Its effects were supposed to
magistrates at their head.
4
It
last for twenty years, when it was often repeated.
was believed to work some sort of spiritual cleansing and
reform, and the man who had enjoyed such a blessing
left the record of it on stone, often concluding with the
striking phrase, in aeternum renatus?
\ This
religion was the focus of the real devotion of the
It

of paganism.
last^age

was supported with

zeaT by some oFlhe greatest senatorial houses, and


offered the most stubborn resistance to the anti-pagan
6
laws. ) The dedications to Mithra are most numerous in

when the Christian Empire was destroying


M. Eenan has declared his belief 7 that, if
the growth of Christianity had been checked by some
mortal weakness, Mithraism might have become the
With a true instinct,
religion of the Western world.
the very years
his grottoes.

the Christian controversialists, from the second century,


recognised in this cult the most dangerous spiritual foe
1
Prad. Peristeph. x. 1011.
See
a sketch of the scene in Duruy, v.

743.
2
3

C.I.L. vi. 499, 504, 509, 511.


Jb. xii. 1782 1567.
.
'

TV f ^(iterate
anrns expletis),
502.

,.

vigmti

Ib. vi. 510.


8

Ib.

vi.

751,

These
510, 500, 504, 511.
belong to the years 376-387
cf. Hieron. Ep. 107,
2, ante paucos
annos propinquus vester Graccus
cum praefecturam gereret urbanam
nonne specum Mithrae
subvert it, fregit,
excussit.
This refers
*
to the
g 76>
But cf note
ia
1778,

inscr.

'

Mine's
752,

753,

754,

'

ed. col. 868.

M. Aurtte,

p. 579.

~\v

deiiantT

/\''

THE LATER PAGANISM

84

of the
ritual

BOOK

Church, and ascribed its similarity to Christian


1
In its
the malign ingenuity of daemons.

to

expiation for sins by bloody baptism, its ascetic preparation for the holy mysteries, its oblation of the consecrated
its symbolic teaching of the resurrection, they
well
see a cunning device of the Evil One to find
might
a false resting-place for souls who were longing for the

bread,

light.

Whether such worships as we have been describing


aroused or satisfied a genuine devotional feeling in our
modern sense, is a question which it is difficult to
But

answer.

the

thoughtful

student

will

probably

he answers in the negative.


The gulf
which separates us from the world of heathen imagination is so wide, the influence
of custom and old
hesitate before

'

association in

matters

of

t/

we may

religion

is

so powerful, that

easily do injustice to the devout sentiment of

paganism.
Grotesque or barbarous religious symbols,
even those tainted in their origin with the impurity

^i^ attaching
,>.

to

nature- worship,

often

sloughed

off

their

baser elements, and, with the development of a more


3
sensitive morality, and a higher conception of the divine,
may have become the vehicles of a real religious emotion,

What

the worshipper will find in a worship depends


The same symbol or rite
greatly on what he brings.
will

have various meanings and effects to different minds.


to which it is strange, it may seem to have

To the mind

no meaning at all
1

The mystery

Prud. Peristeph. x. 1008 Terde Cor. c. 15 ; de Praescrip.


;

tull.

Haeret. 40, Mithra signat illic in


frontibus milites suos ; celebrat et

panis oblationem, et imaginem resurrectionis inducit, etc. ; S. Paulin.

Nol. Poem.

Ult. 112-117.
2
The initiation of Commodus in
the mysteries of Isis and Mithra,
and the devotion of Elagabalus to

sun-worship

make one

suspicious.

of the

death of a

But there is a long interval between


these monsters and the apparently
blameless devotees of the reign of
Gratian ; cf. Lamprid. Com. c. 9 ;
Elagdb. c. 3, and C.I.L. vi. 1778,
1779.
3
Note the horror with which
the infamies of Elagabalus were
regarded by all classes, Lamprid.
El. c. 17
cf. Boissier, Rel. Rom. ii.
pp. 419 sqq.; Friedlander, iii. p. 611.
;

SOURCES OF ITS VITALITY

CHAP, iv

divine

descent to the

being, his

underworld, and his


of many of the

joyful restoration,
cults which most

was the central idea

The
antiquity.
would
expression

ritual

influenced

to

in

us

85

the

religious

which

that

of

feeling

feeling

now appear perhaps

found

shocking,

The drama of the


perhaps grotesque and absurd.
Eleusinian goddesses, if we could witness it, would
probably be a poor and tasteless show, with no spiritual
1
Yet there is no doubt that it produced a
contents.
on the devotee, and Pindar gave voice
effect
profound

when he said, 2
Happy he who has seen the spectacle he knows the
Even among
bourn of life, he knows its divine source."
those who hold the same central truths of the Christian
faith, how hard it is for the member of one sect to join
the universal sentiment of Greece

to

"

in the

ritual of

The Puritan, accustomed

another.

to

express his devotion in bare and simple forms consecrated


to him by the memories of early religious emotion, is

unable to conceive the awe and tenderness which the

Mass
its

excites in the devout Catholic,

who has

witnessed

ceremonial from infancy.

It is fortunate that we have preserved to us in the


pages of Apuleius an invaluable description of an initiation into the mysteries of Isis, which, though the scene
is laid in the reign of Marcus Aurelius, was probably

often reproduced in the closing years of paganism.


The people of Corinth are about to celebrate

the

spring festival of Isis, and the opening of the busy traffic


on the Aegean, by a religious procession to the shore,

and the offering

who

of a consecrated vessel to the goddess

cares for the toilers of the sea.

Lucius,

who

been imprisoned by evil arts in the forms of an


1

340
112

Maury, Eel. de la
;
;

Grece,

ii.

p.

Lob. Aglaoph, i. pp. Ill,


Gard. and Jevons, Greek

Antiq. p. 283.

has

ass, is

2
Find. Frag. 137 (Christ)
Soph. 0.0. 1051 Frag. 753
<i 5

iceivoi
..

_'\

fyorStv

ot TO.VTO.

^ "Aifiov.

cf.

Tp i s 5\j8ioi

Sepx0eVrs

T'Aif

THE LATER PAGANISM

86

BOOK

awaked by a dazzling light, and in a fit of devotion


cries to the Queen of Heaven, worshipped under many
In answer to
names, to deliver him from his cruel fate.
his prayer, there rose from the moonlit sea a divine and
awful form, 1 which no words could shadow forth.
Her
long rich tresses were crowned with flowers, and with a
radiant moonlike disc upheld by arching snakes on either
side.
Her robe of glistening white now changed to
saffron,

now

Her mantle

flushed into rose-like flame.

of

deepest darkness was bordered with the bickering light


"
"
of stars.
in answer to
Lo, I come," the vision said,

thy prayers, I Nature, mother of

all

things, mistress of

the elements, the primal birth of all the ages, supreme


divinity, Queen of the world of shades, first of the
inhabitants of heaven, in whom all gods have their
all

One Power adored by all the


unchanging type.
world under many a name and with many rites.
Dry thy tears and assuage thy grief: already by my
providence the dawn of a saving day is breaking. Attend
my solemn festival and await the touch of my priest
which shall set thee free. Become my servant, and live
.

by constant devotion and steadfast purity to see


glory in the world to come."
Lucius awoke with a strange gladness in the freshness

in hope

my

of the morning.
The birds are singing under the inspiration of the spring, hymning the mother of the stars
and the ages, the mistress of the universe. 2 The young
foliage is rustling in

asleep,

hardly

splendour of heaven

A
in

the southern breeze.

disturbed

great procession is
various character

by

ripple.

The sea is
The naked

not veiled by a single cloud. 8


forming, a picturesque masquerade
is

and

costume.

First

come the

belted soldier, the hunter with short tunic and hunting


1

Apul. Met.
76. xi.

parentem
totius

c.

affamine.

xi. cc. 3-6.


7,

roatrem siderum,

temporum,

orbisque

dominam blando mulcentes

Ib.,

caligine

caelum
disjecta

autem nubilosa
nudo sudoque

luminis proprii splendore candebat.

SOURCES OF ITS VITALITY

CHAP, iv

87

an effeminate figure wearing jewels and false hair,


Another
a gladiator with helmet, sword, and greaves.
follows with the well-known mantle, beard, and sandals
spears,

of the wandering philosopher.

a matron's

litter.

An

ass,

flanks, carries a feeble old

and Pegasus
robes

mixed

bear is borne along in


with wings fastened to its
to represent Bellerophon

man,

Women

to the laughing crowd.

in white

Then follows a
scatter flowers along the route.
crowd of men and women and youths in snowy

vestments, bearing torches and candles, and chanting a


Next comes the
sacred poem to the melody of flutes.

men and women, of every age


and rank, clad in white, and the priests with shaven

throng of the initiated,

1
Last of all are
heads carrying the sacred symbols.
borne the images of the great Egyptian gods, and the pix
2
On the approach of the
containing the holy mysteries.

chief priest, Lucius was restored to humanity by a magic


garland, and the miracle is made the subject of an

which he dwells on the power and the


8
"Behold," he says, "ye
goodness of the goddess.
Behold
impious doubters, and recognise your errors.
address,

in

one who has by the grace of


his

woes."

And

Lucius,

Isis

been delivered from


life may be

that his future

shielded from the cruelty of Fortune, is exhorted to join


in the holy warfare and put on the yoke of a willing
4
service.
The procession, with the favoured Lucius in
5
There
margin of the sea.
a sacred bark, resplendent with white sails and ensigns
of gold, and pictures of strange Egyptian legend, was

their midst, soon reached the

1
Apul. Met. xi. c. 7, sed antistites
sacrorum, proceres illi qui candido
linteamine
cinctum
pectoralem
ad usque vestigia strictim inject!
deum
potentissimorum
proferebant

insignis exuvias.
2
Ib. o. 11, ferebatur ab alio cista
secretorum capax, penitus celans

operta magnificae religionis.


3
Ib. c. 15, videant irreligiosi,

et erroreiu
4

Ib.,

suum

recognoscant.

tibi

quo

tamen

tutior sis

atque munitior, da nomen huic


sanctae militiae
et ministerii
subi voluntarium.
jugum
5
Ib. c. 16, uavem faberrime
.

factam, picturis miris Egyptiorum


circmnsecus variegatam summus
sacerdos .
deae nuncupavit
.
.

dedicavitque.

THE LATER PAGANISM

88

BOOK

consecrated with mystic ceremonies and solemn prayer.


Fragrant odours filled the air, libations were poured upon

The holy

which was to win the prowas launched before


and the crowd watched its voyage till it

the waves.

vessel,

tection of the goddess for the sailor,

a gentle breeze,
faded in the distance.

Then opens another scene in the drama. The procession returns to the temple.
The images and symbols
of the gods are placed in the sanctuary.
Then, standing
on the steps, the scribe summons the sacred Guild of the
vowed

Pastophori,

to the service of the deity, to a

solemn

He

reads a prayer, for the mighty prince, the


meeting.
the
Senate,
knights, the whole people of Kome, for all
the
sea, for the wealth and prosperity of all subjects.
upon
3

And

the congregation is dismissed with a solemn form,


which in its Latin equivalent remains embedded in the

name

of the

most sacred

rite

of

the Catholic Church.

Full of the thought of his former misery, and of the joy


of deliverance, the neophyte is lost in devotion. .He

remains in constant attendance before the image of the


He
loving power which has wrought his salvation.

makes her temple

his home.

Day and

night without a

He is filled with
pause are spent in prayer before her.
full
of
communion
for
the
which has
longing
supreme joy
been promised him

yet he cannot escape from the anxious


may be unable to keep the

thought that his feeble virtue


law of this spiritual service. 4

Another vision from the

goddess quiets his distrust, and stimulates his longing.


He rushes to the temple as the offices of the early morning
1

Apul. Met.

unter den Sev. p. 57.

xi. c. 16.

Cf.

note in

2*3
reguntur,
*

Aaols

etc.
&<J)<TIS.

Reville,

Rel.

etc.

abstinen tiam

'

satis

arduam>

SOURCES OF ITS VITALITY

CHAP, iv

89

The white veils of the holy image are


The holy water from the secret spring is
The litauy of the dawn is performed at the
sprinkled.
He is more fervent than ever, and begs the
altars.
But the
pontiff to admit him to the crowning rite.
are beginning.

drawn

aside.

venerable

man

gently moderates his too eager impatience.


of hell and of the path of

The goddess holds the keys


salvation, and all must wait

1
signal of her will.
He who will enjoy her secret communion must die a
voluntary death, that her grace may recall him from the

for the

very confines of death and life by a new birth, as it were,


to run a new course of salvation.
The votary must await
in patient humility the signs of her will, and

meanwhile

prepare himself for the holy mysteries by long abstinence.


At last the sign comes in the silence of the night.

dawn and

presents himself before


the priest who, having laid his hands on him, leads him
into the sanctuary.
After the morning sacrifice, the sacred

Lucius

rises before the

unknown tongue, and


2
covered with hieroglyphic symbols, are brought out.
The

books, containing a liturgy in an

is bathed and baptized, and


receives secret instructions as to his further preparation.
Ten days more he spends in fasting. And then at vespers

neophyte after solemn prayer

came the hour which was to crown his longings. The


him clad in linen vestments into the holy
What he saw and heard could never be fully
place.
All that he could tell the world was that he drew
told.
nigh the bounds of Death, and returned across the
elemental spaces.
"At midnight he saw the sun in his
priest leads

1
Apul. Met. c.21, nam et infernm
claustra et salutis tutelam in deao

maim

posita, ipsamque traditionem


ad instar voluntariae mortis et pre-

cariae salutis celebrari : quippequum


transactis vitae temporibus jam in

ipso finitae lucis limiiie constitutos .


numen deae soleat elicere
et sua providentia quodam modo
.

renatos ad novae

reponere rursus

salutis curricula,
2

sacrilicio,

22, ac matutino peracto


de opertis adyti profert

quosdam

libros, litteris ignorabili-

bus

Ib.

c.

praenotatos,

partim figuria
cujuscemodi animalium, concept!
sermonis compcndiosa verba sug
gerentes, etc.

THE LA TER PA GANISM

90

BOOK

most dazzling splendour, and came into the presence


the Powers who rule in Heaven and Hell."

of

The following morning, Lucius, dressed in gorgeous


robes embroidered with dragons and griffons, was exhibited
an admiring multitude. Yet his own
humble gratitude for the favour of the goddess was paid
in prostration before her altar and constant prayer.
Nor
to the eyes of

could he tear himself

from the scene of these sacred

without an agony of regret. 2


His feelings, as
he left the scene of his second birth, are embalmed in a
prayer which throws a curious light on the inner spirit
emotions

"

of the later paganism.


Holy one, constant saviour of
the race of men, so bountiful in cherishing them, so tender

the mother's love which thou dost bestow

in

on

the

Nor day nor night, nor shortest moment passes


unmarked by thy benefits, without the help of thy protection for men on sea and land, without thy succouring hand
outstretched to ward off the storms of life.
Powers above
and powers below alike wait on thy will.
Thou makest

wretched.

the world to revolve, thou givest his light to the sun, thou
art ruler of the universe, thou dost tread Tartarus under

thy

feet.

To thee

are due the

harmony

of the spheres,

the return of the seasons, the gladness of the gods, the


obedience of the elements.
At thy bidding the breezes
blow, the clouds gather, seeds germinate and grow. Birds

which pass across the sky, beasts which wander on the


serpents which lurk underground, the monsters
which swim the deep, all tremble before thy majesty.
But I am too feeble in mind to speak thy praise, too poor
in worldly goods to pay thee sacrifice
nor have I wealth
hills,

of utterance to tell all that I feel of thy grandeur.


thousand lips, a thousand tongues, an unbroken eternity
1

Apul. Met. xi. c. 24, inexplivoluptate simulacri divini


perfruebar, irremunerabili quippe
cabili

beneficio pigneratus.
3

...

provolutua

denique ante

conspectum deae

et facie

mea

diu

detersis
lacrimis
ejus,
vestigiia
obortis singultu crebro sermonem
interficiens . . . et verba devorans,
aio.

SOURCES OF ITS VITALITY

CHAP, iv

of unfailing praise

would not

avail.

91

What

the pious

though poor withal, may do, that will I perform.


The features of thy holy godhead will be treasured in the
thoughts of my inmost soul for ever more."
|Knsjnay_not be the expression of a modern piety.
Yet he must bo a hard and unsympathetic critic who does
soul,

not catch in this prayer the ring of a genuine religious


emotion.
When we read of the passionate devotion
aroused in Lucius by the Isiac rites, we begin to under-

stand the fervour with which Aconia Paulina, herself a


priestess of Isis, speaks, in the famous inscription on the

monument

her husband's contempt


honours of the world in comparison with

of Praetextatus, of

for the fleeting

his religious privileges,

and records her gratitude

for his

having made her a partner in his religious life.


But there is earlier evidence than Apuleius that the
worship of Isis, though unfortunately often combined
with very lax morality, was the source of real devotional
Three hundred years before
feeling in purer souls.
2

Aconia Paulina, the priestess of Hecate and Isis, breathed


8
her last in her palace on the Esquiline, Plutarch devoted
a long essay to the discussion of the ritual, and the
physical

and

and moral significance of the worship of Isis


{This treatise shows the same spiritual and

Osiris.

monotheistic tendency, the same elastic variety of physical and moral interpretation applied to the ancient

myths, the same rejection of impure tales of the gods by


a higher moral intuition, which are characteristic of the
last efforts

of pagan
Plutarch's many allegortheology.)
of the Egyptian myths may seem to

ical interpretations

modern rather wearisome. But in a passage towards


the end the very spirit of the Phaedo seems to emerge.
Men are disturbed, says Plutarch,4 when they are told, in
a

veiled priestly allegory, that Osiris rules over the dead,


1

C.I.L. vi. 1779.


fb. vi. 1780.

Seeck's Sym. Ixxxvi. n. 386.


Plut. de Is. ct Osir. 78 ; cf. 67.

9/

\<

ptf

THE LATER PAGANISM

92

BOOK

by the thought that the holy and blessed God really


dwells among the bodies of those who have passed away.
"
But He himself is far removed from earth, pure, stainand unpolluted by any nature that is liable to
less,
The spirits of men here below,
corruption and death.
encumbered by bodily affections, can have no intercourse
with God, save only as by philosophic thought they may
Him as in a dream. But when they are

faintly touch
released,

and have passed

into the world of the unseen,

God

the pure, the passionless, this

shall be their guide

and king, who depend on Him, and gaze with insatiable


longing on that beauty which may not be spoken by the
man."
(The higher devotional feeling which characterised the
paganism of the educated class from the second century
was, as we can see in the passage of Plutarch, accompanied by a decided tendency to monotheism. / iThis movement was, as we shall discover, partly due to Platonic
1
influences, partly to the chaos of religions, in which
a few of the more commanding and attractive absorbed or
assimilated the rest, and glrew men's minds to one or two
lips of

/
JK~

*>i

/ Thus in the vision seen by


which
we
have
Lucius,
described, Isis reveals herself as
a universal Power, supreme, all-pervading, worshipped
under many names. 2
"The Phrygians call me the
Mother of the Gods at Pessinus the Athenians Cecropian
Minerva; I am Paphian Venus in Cyprus; Diana

great objects of devotion.

Dictynna

to the archers of Crete, the Stygian Proserpine


To
I am the ancient Ceres at Eleusis.
;

to the Sicilians

some I am Juno, to others Hecate. Only the Ethiopians


and Arians, illumined by the sun's dawning light, and
Egypt powerful in her ancient lore, honour me with the
ritual proper to me, and call me by my true name, Queen
Isis."

In the Saturnalia
1

Rcville, Eel. wtfer

of Macrobius, a purely

den

Sev. p. 42.

pagan work

Apul. Met.

xi. c. 5.

SOURCES OF ITS VITALITY

CHAP, iv

of the

first

quarter of the

fifth

century, there

93
is

a passage

1
which applies the same syncretism, in rather a crude

"

If," Praetextatus is made to say,


form, to sun-worship.
"the sun is the ruler of the other lights of the heavens,

and

if

must then

these orbs control our destiny, the sun

be the lord and author of

simply the various

all.

The

lesser deities are

or potencies of this supreme


of
the
power.
gods, whom we reverence, are
of
different
departments of His governonly descriptions
And so
ment, who gives life and order to the universe."
2

effects

The names

one deity glides into another, as we find that his name or


attribute is only, as it were, a ray of the light which
"
Apollo is the great power who repels
lighteth all men."
3
"
And the
Healer."
disease, and is hence called the
identity of Apollo with

Loxias,

epithets
4

Pythius.

which

Delius,

the sun-god

Phoebus,

proved by the
Lycius, Nomius, or
is

To take one example, the epithet Pythius,


myth of the slaughter of the

carries in itself the

5
Python, merely describes the effects of the sun's rays
on the mists of earth.
Hence too Apollo is called
Hecebolus, the Far-darting.
By the same method, he
6
is identified with Liber or Dionysus,
who is in the

nocturnal hemisphere what Apollo is in the sphere of


Indeed the very name Dionysus (Ato? 1/01)5) shows
light.
his identity with the sun, who is the mens mundi.
7
Mercury again must be another name for the sun, if
only because, in works of art, Mercury is represented
with wings, which indicate the velocity of light.
So
8
must
be
identified
with
because
Aesculapius
Apollo,
they
have an equal claim to the sign of the serpent and to the
1
Macrob. Sat. i. 17. Thismethod
of dealing with the myths of course
is a very old one ; cf. Cic. de A'at.
Deor. ii. 23, 24, and S. Augustine's
refutation, de Civ. Dei, iv. 11 ; cf.
Lob. Aglaoph. i. p. 598.
2
Ib.i. 17. 4, diversae rotates
solis nomina dis dederunt.

8
4
6

Ib.
n, '

Ib-

i.

17, 14-16.
QI ^ '
dl

IT

;
'

i-

Sqq

17>

17, 50 sqq.

/^ ^

T
A l~
Ib
L ,19
>

'

Ib.

i.

jg, 1-15.
-

20, 1-5.

'

THE LATER PAGANISM

94

BOOK

Hercules,* the glory of Hera, the


power of divination.
power of the air, is the valour of the gods who crushed
the impious race that denied their divinity, (The myths
2
3
of Venus and Adonis, Cybele and Attis, Isis and Osiris,
In each case
receive the same physical interpretation.

the myth is the imaginative expression for the facts of


the changing seasons, or the sadness of the shortening
In each case we arrive
days, or the gloom of winter.

once more at the central worship of the


4

Finally,

sun.j

the king of the gods, who goes to visit the blameless


Ethiopians, and on the twelfth day returns to Olympus,
is

plainly the sun in his diurnal course, whilst the gods


attend him are the stars which, in their rising and

who

motion of the heavens.


For more than three centuries syncretism and the
It has been
tendency to monotheism were in the air.
setting, follow the daily

said of the

pagan theology of the third century that it


one colossal syncretism. 6 [Among the countless cults
which found a centre in the Borne of the imperial period,
there was no strife or repulsion.
They rested on myth,
is

the imaginative expression of men's feelings towards


nature or the mystery of life and death, not on dogma.

And
ways.

the myths could be interpreted in many different


(The age when each city and district had its

gods, the sectarian age of heathendom, had


passed away with the absorption of so many nationalities
in a world-wide Empire.
Travel or conquest had made

peculiar

Romans acquainted with a host of new divinities


whose attributes seemed to fill a gap in their own
system, and whose ritual stimulated devotion or aesthetic
Men from the provinces flocked to Rome,
sensibility.
bent on business, pleasure, or advancement, and prepared

the

to

reverence
1

2
*

the

Macrob. Sat.
Ib.

i.

Jb.

i.

i.

21, 1.
21, 7 s&.

gods
20, 10.

of

the
4
B

102.

imperial

city.

Ib. i. 23, 1.
Reville, Eel. unter

Julius

den Sev.

p.

SOURCES OF ITS VITALITY

CHAP, iv

95

Caesar found the deities of Gaul the same as those of


1

and the Gauls erected altars to Jupiter and


Vulcan beside those of their own Esus and Tarvus and
Nemausus, or combined the names of a native and a
Italy,

The
foreign deity as in that of Apollo-Belenus.
soldiers were the great apostles of syncretism.
as they

Eoman

Prone
were to superstition, exposed to constant danger

on the march or in distant quarters, the ingrained Eoman


of the unknown divinity made them ready to invoke
the help of the guardian gods of the regions where they
found themselves, and innumerable inscriptions remain

awe

the liberality of their faith or the blindness


8
The worship of each new god who
of their devotion.

to attest

Eoman seemed

attracted the

another avenue of approach

dim and awful Power, inaccessible Himself to


human voice and thought, but revealed and adored in
manifestations of His will and attributes
different
(numina). lln truth, the old Eoman religious spirit,

to that

which combined the most rigorous formalism with the


personification of abstractions, to which no myth or
dogma of any kind attached, lent itself better than any
other

universal

to

tolerationTI

It

invented

genii

for

emperor, the guild, the


city,
everything,
the
for
act,
every
thought, or incident of
camp,
legion,
human life. 4 Piety consisted in a scrupulous observance
for

the

the

5
of the prescribed ceremonial, not in definite beliefs or
elevation of feeling.
Many of its objects of devotion
1

De

Gall.

Bell.

vi.

17,

deum

niaxime Mercurium colunt.


Post hunc Apollinem et Martem
.

Jovem et Minervam. De his


eandem fere quam reliquae gentes

et

habent opinionem.
2

C.I.L.

Nemauso;

xii.

4316,

Jovi
et
Herculi Ilunno

3070,

Andose

3077 ; cf. viii. 9195. Jovi,


;
Silvano, Mercurio, Saturno, etc.
Diis Mauris
viii.
4578, Jovi,
,

Junoni,
Herculi,

Minervae, Soli Mithrae,


Marti, Mercurio, Genio

Diis
Deabusque omnibus,
Jupiter and Serapis are united,
viii. 2629
Jupiter, Juno, Minerva,
Sol, Mithras, Hercules, Genius loci,
viii. 4578 ; cf. Friedlander, iii. p.
444 sqq.
8
C.I.L. viii. 2623, 2639-2641
8834
(Dis Mauris), 9195, 8435,
(lemsal is a god's name).
4
ReVille, p. 41
Preller, p. 387
C.I.L. viii. 2529, 6945 ; xii. 1282.
5
Cic. de Nat. Deor., est enim

loci,

pietas justitia

adversum

deos,

THE LATER PAGANISM

96

BOOK

were mere names, and the same god could be addressed


under many names, or under any name which pleased
him.

(The Empire, by drawing together so many peoples


with their peculiar worships, might seem to have pro-

In reality the very multitude


duced a spiritual chaos.
and variety of these religions, combined with the spiritual
tendencies of the age, by comparison, assimilation, identito lead to unity. j
old gods seemed to

fication,

^The

welcome alien worships, and borrowed their symbols


and the ritual of their mysteries.
Altars to many deities
were gathered under one roof. 2
The worshipper was
to
from
cult
what
satisfied devout
any
ready
accept
and
or
taste
Men
made
dedications to
feeling
fancy.
)

a host of deities of every clime.


They sought initiation
in all the mysteries, those of the Eleusinian goddesses, of
4
Isis, and Mithra.
They accumulated priesthoods in
the most various cults.

If different deities

had similar

symbols or functions, the tendency was to identify them,


or to subordinate the less vigorous cults under one of
popularity. \The masses, by a blind instinct,
sought from any quarter satisfaction for vague religious
cravings, which become more and more imperious in the
second and third centuries, for moral support and puri-

greater

fication,

and

assurance of immortality.
The cultivated
found pleasure and excitement in the

for

indifferent

splendour

or

novelty of foreign

ritual,

as

a modern

an aesthetic pleasure in the ceremonial


sceptic may
of the Mass.
The general drift of serious minds was
spiritually towards more personal relations with God,
and intellectually towards a vague monotheism or
The many- coloured worships, which offered
pantheism.
find

their

symbolism to devotion, were,


1

C.l.L. vi. 110, 111.


Luc. de Syr. Dea, 35.
C.l.L. viii. 4578, 9195, 6955.

to some, clues to the

Ib. vi. 504, 1779.

Lamprid. Com.

c. 9.

SOURCES OF ITS VITALITY

CHAP, iv

97

Great Mystery, to others, distant and indistinct adumbraThe religious attitude of many devout pagans
tions of it.
in the third

and fourth centuries

in a letter of

1
Maximus, a grammarian

probably described

is

of

Madaura, to

S.

Maximus professes his


Augustine, about the year 390.
sure and certain belief in one Supreme God, the great
and

glorious

Father.

His

virtues,

diffused

throughout

we adore under many names, since his


name
we
know not. God belongs to all religions.
proper
And hence, while we address separate parts of Him in
our various supplications, we are really worshipping the
the universe,

whole, under a thousand names in a harmonious discord.


It was the task of the Neoplatonic philosophy to crystallise

formulae the vague fluid instincts of the mass of


and
to try to find a secret harmony in the discord.
men,
In the three centuries between Plutarch and Macrobius the great aim of philosophy is to reach the
intellectual ground of truth underlying the crowd of
worships which gave expression to the religious instinct
of humanity, and faith in the Unseen.
The father of
this movement is the pious and cultivated sage of
2
Chaeronea, who is probably the highest and purest
in

its

character ever produced in a heathen environment.


He
in philosophy an eclectic Platonist; but he is really
far more a moralist and theologian than a philosopher.

is

He

believes emphatically in one great, central Power, 3


who is sometimes spoken of, in Platonic language, as the
Infinite

God, sometimes as the Father of

dom and

all,

whose wis-

providence controls the universe.

Plutarch

Aug. Ep.
equidem unum
esse deum, summum, sine initio,

monotheistic tendency in the later


paganism (Neoplatonism, pp. 52,

sine

53).

16,

prole

magnum

naturae,

ceu

patrem

atque magnificum, quis


tarn demens, tarn mente captus
neget esse certissimum.
Hujus
nos virtutes per mundanum opus
diffuses, multis vocabulis invocaraus.
This letter seems to render
doubtful Dr. Bigg's denial of a real

2
ReVille, p. 112 ; Zeller, Phil.
der Or. 3rd part, pp. 141-182 ; cf.
Bigg's Neoplatonism, pp. 88-91.
*
De Is. et Osir. 67, 78 ; de Sera
Num. Vind. 5, 18 ; cf. de Pyth. Or.
21 ; on the evil principle in the
world v. de Is. 45.

THE LATER PAGANISM

98

BOOK

has a horror of the superstition which fears the wrath of


1
God, and of the atheism which denies His existence.

The gods worshipped by the various

called

by many

men are to
Maximus of Tyre,

races of

Plutarch, as they are to Celsus and


the subordinate representatives of the

names, honoured in

Supreme Governor,

many

fashions,

but

pointing the pious soul to the central object of devotion.


In his doctrine of daemons Plutarch found a refuge for
all

worship, and an explanation of oracular


He is a distant progenitor of the Neoplatinspiration.
onism of the fourth century.
polytheistic

was the great intellectual jsupport of the


^goplatonism
n spirit in the last two centuries of the Empire.
The germ of its doctrine was introduced into Eome in
time of the Antonines, and the force of that strange
mixture of superstition with lofty speculation, which
characterised the later Neoplatonism, was so enduring
and intense that S. Augustine devoted to it some of the
most powerful chapters of his City of God? The rhetor,
Apuleius, of Madaura, who had been initiated in all the
8
mysteries, and who posed as an apostle of Platonism,
harangued great audiences both in Eome and the pro"
Platonism half
fascinated them by a
vinces, and
Plotinus,
understood, mixed with fanciful Orientalism."
\

the

244.

greatest of the Alexandrians, arrived in


Crowds of senators, magistrates, and

Kome
women

in
of

high rank came to listen to the obscure eloquence of the


Egyptian mystic, who summoned them, in words which
moved the admiration of S. Augustine, " to flee to the
dear fatherland of souls, where the Father dwells."
l

But

superstition, as degrading
he regards as the
worse ; cf. Nee Posse Suav. Viv. 20,
21.
On Plutarch's belief in genii
or daemons v. Gre'ard's Morale de

the character,

Plutarque,
lander,

iii.

pp.
p.

299-304;
430 sqq. ;

ffeoplatonism, p. 95.

Fried-

Bigg's

De

Civ.

Dei,

viii.

18.
Ep. 138,
8
Apol. 55.
4
Porph. vit. Plotin.
5

De

Civ.

Dei,

ix.

14

sqq.

c. 3,

"

17,

cf.

7, 9.

ubi est

illud Plotini, ubi ait:


Fugiendum
est igitur ad carissimam patriam,
et ibi pater, et ibi onmia."

CHAP,

SOURCES OF ITS VITALITY

iv

99

The success of Plotinus was so great that he had a


dream of obtaining a settlement from the Emperor
Gallienus and founding a city in Campania, which should
1
the ideal polity of Plato.
Porphyry, a Syrian,

realise

the

of

greatest

his

and

disciples,

declared foe

of

Christianity, carried on his tradition into the first years


With lamblichus the Neoplatonic
of the fourth century.
It abandoned the
system underwent a great change.
2
detached and disinterested mysticism of its prime.
The persecution of Diocletian revealed the inextinguish-

and the danger of a


was inthrew
itself
Philosophy

force of the Christian faith,

able

religious

The

revolution.

of the schools

fate

volved in that of the temples.


without reserve into the conflict.

The great Alexandrines,


while ready to admit a kernel of truth under the husk of
3

mythological symbols, made no profession of religious


faith in them.
Their successors of the age of Julian
sank the philosopher in the ardent devotee,4 believed in
sacrifice

and

theurgic

arts.

stains

and practised magic and the


must always contract some

divination,

The

idealist

when he descends

into the arena of practical

life.

|And Neoplatonisni, while nerving paganism for its last


battle, lost much of the moral purity and grandeur of
Plotinus. | Yet an unsympathetic
critic
may easily
exaggerate the degradation
winking Madonnas and
of
will
miracles
Lourdes
not blind a candid man to the
;

And we

should not forget


Julian deluged the altars with the blood of
that,
5
victims, and countenanced the superstitious absurdities
of men like Maximus, he strove to correct vices in the
better side of Catholicism.
if

pagan system

A
1

2
8

in

one

worse than slavish superstition.


sense, he was also a daring

Porph. vit. Plotin. c. 12.


Bigg, Ncoplatonism, p. 305.
Cf.

vi. 9,

8.

infinitely

reactionary

Plotin.

9; v.

1,

Ennead,
7

iii.

6,

v.

19

8,
;

v. iv. 3,

11

cf.

Porph. de Abst.

ii.

41-43.

10

iii.

4
;

5,

For his cautious view of magic

Vacherot,

tEcoU

d'Alcx.

141.
5

Amm.

Marc.

xxii. 12, 6.

ii.

p.

THE LATER PAGANISM

100

It

innovator.

was

no

BOOK

man who dreamt

ordinary

of

regenerating the ancient worship by borrowing a dogmatic


theology from Alexandria, an ecstatic devotion from
Julian exerted his
Persia, a moral ideal from Galilee.
pontifical authority to elevate the priestly character and
make it a pattern to the people. 1 The ministers of the
gods were to be regular in their devotion, pure in mind

and body, tender in relieving the poor and


are to avoid

seen

in

all

taverns

and theatres

outcast.

They

they must never be


and they must exhort

tainted literature

and charitable. The


Sun -king are to prepare themselves for
This
the holy mysteries by fasting and contemplation.
heroic attempt to breathe a new life into paganism was
doomed to failure. But it is a narrow and hide-bound
criticism which refuses to see great qualities in the
defender of a bad cause, and which will not admit that
their

flocks to be chaste, devout,

worshippers of the

superstition

may sometimes

be united witfrCJofty moral

The effort of Neoplatonic philosophy jx^jsave poly|


theism in the fourth century is a curious chapter in the
history of opinion, f In spite of some serious metaphysical
differences, there might seem to be many affinities between Neoplatonism and Christianity in their common
of the unity of God, and their moral and

doctrine

spiritual

idealism.

On

the other hand, there might

appear at first sight an irreconcilable opposition between


the Hellenic cult of nature and sense, and a system the

was the doctrine of the Infinite and


The explanation lies in the sympathetic attachment of religious and philosophic systems to
their ancestry. (Neoplatonism could no more forget its
Hellenic origin than the Christian Church could forget
sources in the religion of Israel.
its
The school of
centre

of which

Unknowable One.

1
Frag. Ep. ed. Hertlein, rol.
Vacherot, ii. 165.

ii.

p.

385

sqq.

Ep. 62; Duruy,

vii.

341;

SOURCES OF ITS VITALITY

CHAP, iv

101

Alexandria, essentially eclectic and conservative, was


bound by a continuous chain of thought and feeling to
the whole past culture of Hellas, of which the greatest
glory in art and letters was derived from Greek legend.
their great master, while he claimed that the

Plato,

moral sense might correct the errors of licentious fancy,


never abandoned the mythology of his race.
He had
used

as he used the ancient Orphic traditions, to


it,
adorn or enforce his philosophic teaching.

Moreover, any system of philosophy which deserves jj*


name must guard its freedom. Paganism had no '

the

rigid system of dogma. Formed by the rude superstitious


fancy, and endlessly varied and glorified by the genius of
poetry, the legends of Hellas belong to a totally different

order of thought from the definitions of Christian councils^


They_were_jfoqd_fgr_ Jhe_imagination or emotions ; they

were never

articles of faith,

From

the sixth century the


3

Pindar, Plato,
greatest minds, Xenophanes, Aeschylus,
had treated them with great freedom of interpretation
and criticism, and Euripides had, year after year at a
great religious festival, for more than half a century
exerted with impunity all the subtlety of his art to lower

the dignity and

dim the splendour

of the great figures

Greek legend.
But the Christianity of the fourth
was
a
century
system complete, well articulated, demandentire
submission
of the reason.
It would not treat
ing
with philosophy even on equal terms.
Its truths must
be accepted in the form in which generations of controversy and the decisions of councils had finally left them.
of

If its dogmas did not square with philosophy, philosophy


must yield.! A system like the Neoplatonic, with its roots in
the old world, whose best thought it strove to fuse into a
whole, could not come to terms with an
1

Athen.

Ritter
2

and

Aesch.

Prof.

xi. 462,

Frag.

1.

21

cf.

Preller, Hist. Phil. p. 82.


See
Agam. 55, 160.

Murray's Ancient

Oh

Litera-

ture,

"

pp. 223, 224

of.

Hellenica,

Aeschylus," p. 16.
8
Find. 01. i. 45-85.
4
Rep. ii. p. 378 Euihyphr.
;

c. 6.

THE LATER PAGANISM

102

which claimed^ the monopoly of truth.


separating itself from paganism, while it strove
religion

BOOK

In not

to inter-

in a higher sense, the Neoplatonists were


merely treading in the footsteps of their great master.
Might it not be possible to find a niche for each of these

pret the

myths

countless gods in the temple of the inscrutable

One

religion, without any dangerous


breach with the past, be reconciled with a pure theism ?
Might not a warm devotion and assiduous attention to

Might not the popular

the ancient ritual be found compatible with the ecstatic


2
vision of God, who is in Himself inaccessible to prayer
or sacrifice, inconceivable
effort of

reason

by imagination or the highest

Neoplatonism had some advantages over Stoicism in


attempt to support or to restore the forces of
Stoicism gave philosophic expression to the
paganism.
But under the later
religious feeling of old Home.
old
as
we
have
the
seen,
Empire,
gods had fallen into
the shade, and cults of Eastern origin had acquired an
The tendency to
extraordinary power and fascination^
monotheism in some of these systems was very marked
and the ascetic preparation for their mysteries, together
with the ecstatic tone of devotion which they encouraged,
had a certain attraction for the Pythagorean and Platonic
schools.)* The Platonist Apuleius lived in an atmosphere
of magic and mystery, 8 and in his travels sought initiation in all sorts of strange cults, which stimulated
The
emotion, or promised glimpses of the unseen world.
later Alexandrians of the time of Julian found in sun[

the

4
worship the highest symbol of their esoteric doctrine.

But the great means of accommodation lay in the


1

See the exposition of the treatise


Mysteriis" in Vacherot, ii. p.

" De

121 sqq.

Apul. Apol. 55, sacrorum initia


in Graecia participavi, multijuga

sacra et plurimos ritus et varias


cerimonias studio veri et officio erga
deos didici ; cf. Bigg's Neoplatonism,
, Or. liL 2,
Julian, Or. iv, Kal ydp elju
TOU /SaoriX^wj <57ra56$ 'HXlov.
p.

629

SOURCES OF ITS VITALITY

CHAP, iv

principle of emanation.

103

enabled the Neoplatonist to

It

chasm between the one pure abstraction, 2


absolutely simple, not to be grasped by any act of thought
nor described by any attribute, and the worlds of spirit
and sense. 3 Each unity in the scale gives birth from its *\
\
inner essence to another more complex, and therefore
bridge over the

From the purely abstract One there is a


inferior.
4
graduated scale of being, unity, mind, soul, the universe
of sense, each successively engendered out of the inner
Into such a
essence of the higher and simpler form.
the gods of mythology. 6
^/
true that there are wide differences between the
it

system
It is

was not hard

and

earlier

to

fit

later Neoplatonists in their attitude to the

popular religion. Plotinus is much more of a philosopher


than a theologian,6 and while he tries to find a hidden
7
meaning in the myths, in an unsystematic way, he makes
no allusion to theurgy, and deals rather ambiguously

with the external forms of devotion. 8

Porphyry,

So, too,

while his system enabled him to find a metaphysical


content in legend, has no sympathy with the materialism

He

of worship.

holds firmly that the Supreme cannot

be approached by any avenue of sense, by sacrifice, or


God is honoured most by reverent
formal prayer.
silence

and purity

Him

To become

For the sense in which Plotinus


held this v. Zeller, die Phil, d&r
iii.
iii.

iii.

pp. 451-453.
454.
2, p. 549.

doctrine of Plotinus
;

offer

JEnnead,

cf.

Zeller,

Zeller,
;

Zeller,

iii.

2, p.
v. 8, 13.

560

Ennead,

pp. 562, 563

iii.

iii.

2,

563.
9

iii.

vi. 5, 4.

''See the elaborate system


Sallust in Vacherot, ii. p. 124 ;
Zeller, iii. 2, p. 557.
6
Vacherot, ii. p. 108.

of
/ The whole forces

v. 1, 4, 7

2,

2, p.

Macrob. Som. Scip. i. 17, 12,


gives a simple statement of the
453

11

2, p.

and

is

logians than pure philosophers.

Griech.
2
Ib.
3
II.

like

the acceptable sacrifice. (But the


of the fourth century are much more theo-

ourselves to
Platpnists

of heart. 10

of
cf.

Vacherot, ii. pp. 112-116 ; Zeller,


pp. 599-601, where the doubts

iii. 2,

of Porphyry are expounded,


10
De Abstin. ii. 34, Sea 5
KaQapfis Kal rCiv irepl avrov
tvvoiQv dp-tie Ke6o/j.ev avrbv.

Vacherot,

Porphyre

la

sans reserve

ii.
119, apres
p.
philosophie embrasse
polytheisme.

le

THE LATER PAGANISM

104

/Q

/ j

BOOK

the ancient schools were gathered up and employed to


The
give system and a rational basis to the old religion.
fictions of mythology were justified by the example of
1

who

Nature,

her secrets from

veils

the vulgar

gaze.

The Supreme One indeed, the fountain of being, must


not be profaned by human fancy.) But the lower powers
may be dimly revealed to the multitude by allegory or
fanciful tale. 2
The world itself is a great myth, which
once hides and reveals the mystery of the Divine,
^at
id the philosopher proceeds to classify the myths
According to the nature of the inner truth which they
8
Some convey the deepest theological, or, as
contain.

we should

For example, Saturn


say, metaphysical truth.
devouring his children is intelligence returning upon
4
itself.
Others of these fictions are imaginative expressions of the facts of nature.
is

the sun drawing

The names

of

Apollo slaying the Python

pestilential fogs of the marshes.


deities are simply names of natural

up the

many

5
Juno is the air, at once sister and
objects or powers.
wife of Jupiter, the lord of the upper sky.
Isis is the
earth, Osiris the sun, or the moist germ which fecundates.

6
gods
corresponding to the
hierarchy of being, and to the faculties of the human
above all is the Supreme One, the Good, to
soul.
/ High
be approached only in ecstasy,7 an effort of the soul far

^There

is

of

hierarchy

transcending any exertion of the highest reason, in which


God is the object of an immediate vision or intuition,

and the sense of personality

is lost

and swallowed up in

the rapture of union with the Divine.


Then there are
the gods of the intelligible world, transcending the world
of sense, and having no point of contact with it.
Lower
1

Vacherot,

ii.

p. 121.

Macrob. Som. Scip. i. 2, 7-19,


sciunt inimicam esse naturae apertain
etc.

the
744.

nudamque expositionem
Cf.
fifth

sui,

the views of Proclus in


century, Zeller,

iii.

2,

p.

Zeller,

iii.

Neoplatonism,
4
Vacherot,
6

2, p.

628

ii.

Ib.

ii.

p. 123.

Ib.

ii.

p.

finnead,

Bigg's

p. 122.

126

Zeller,

628.
7

cf.

p. 306.

vi. 7, 34, 35.

iii.

2, p,

SOURCES OF ITS VITALITY

CHAP, iv

105

powers of the sensible universe,


and
Lastly there are
preserving.
creating, life-giving,
1
the daemons and heroes, more nearly akin to the world
of sense, and acting as intermediaries between it and the
sphere of pure intelligence, in which reside those powers,
far above the region of the sensible, who cannot come to
in the scale there are the

us, although,
rise to

through the divine element in

us,

A
|

we may

them.

Between the pure mysticism of Plotinus and the


fanaticism and superstition of the Neoplatonists of the
fourth and fifth centuries, who justified or practised

magic, and theurgy,


But the
an
there might seem
impassable gulf.
of
which
was
the unapproachable
great system, the centre
One, really contained the germs of the most thoroughgoing superstition that the world has probably ever
The theory of emanations necessarily involved
seen.
a belief in secret sympathies and affinities, linking
Man himtogether all parts of the universe of being.

heathen

sacrifices, divination, oracles,

to be

through his various faculties and capacities, is in


touch with every link in the chain.
If, by an almost
self,

superhuman
he can

effort,

rise in

transcending any effort of the reason,


an immediate vision of the

ecstasy to

inscrutable One, he can also

communicate with, and act

And he
upon, the lower powers and forms of existence.
finds allies in the invisible world in the daemons, who
mediate between the world of pure intelligence and the
world of sense.
Thus the Neoplatonists of the fourth \.
century, having found a place in their system for the
ancient gods, found no difficulty in communicating with
them by prayer, oracle, or oblation, and even believed

themselves capable

wielding the forces of nature.


to
the old mythology,
origin
in
last
the
abandoned
the reserve of
Neoplatonism
age

Committed from

p.

\
/

of

its

Aug. de Civ. Dei, viii. 14 ;


510 Friedlander, iii. p. 432.
;

cf.

Vacherot,

ii.

p.

127

Zeller,

iii.

2,

THE LATER PAGANISM

106
its

BOOK

youth, adopted the whole pagan system, and, in an

inevitable decline, lent even the forces of philosophy to


deepen the superstition of the age.) There is a certain

sadness in thinking that Proclus, 1 the last great member of


the school, a man of high intellect and almost saintly life,
all the feast-days in the Egyptian calendar, and believed himself able to call down rain in a time of drought.

kept

(Yet it may be doubted whether, even in the last age


paganism, the purer and more elevating side of
Neoplatonic speculation had lost all influence, and been
of

completely obscured,

We

have seen evidence that there

was an enlightened class who, while they refused to


abandon the religion of their ancestors, were penetrated
with the loftier conceptions of the divine nature, which
for a thousand years Greek philosophy had kept before
Such men, repelled by the
the minds of its disciples.
baser element in heathenism, yet bound by loyalty and
to the past, might readily accept a
which
could
reconcile a belief in the meaning
system
and sanctity of ancient legend with a lofty moral tone
and a faith in the Infinite Father. Fortunately we have

old

associations

preserved to us,

among

the debris of the fifth century, a

book which shows that there were pagans who still drew
from the system of Plotinus a real moral and spiritual
support.
of Macrobius on Cicero's Dream of
dates
Scipio
probably from the end of the first quarter
of the fifth century. _) It is a curious mjxture of old

The commentary
2

Eoman

feeling with the best results of Neoplatonic


It is a devotional treatise, with a certain
speculation-!

Yet here and there, in discourses of


tinge of mysticism.
an ethical or mystical tone, we light upon purely physical
or mathematical disquisitions which have a flavour of
1

Zeller, die Phil, der Gr.

iii.

2,

Bigg, pp. 319-321.


It is best known as having
preserved to us the Somnium
p.

709

Sdpionis from bk.

vi.

of Cicero's

Republic.

On the philosophical and other


sources of the work v. Jan, Prol. xi.
8

SOURCES OF ITS VITALITY

CHAP, iv

Pythagoreanisrn.

reward awaiting

From a contemplation
virtue, we suddenly pass

107

of the heavenly
to a chapter on

point, line, superficies, and solid, and the manifold mean2


of the number seven.
ing, in man's life and destiny,

The Milky Way is the home


But it is apparently of equal
according

to

Theophrastus,

of the blessed after death.

interest to decide whether,


it

is

juncture of two

the

hemispheres, or whether Democritus is right in regarding


with stars that their
it as a tract so thickly sown
are obliterated, and they present a uniform
luminous surface to the distant gazer. After a statement
4
of the doctrine of emanation, we are launched upon a
intervals

discussion of the planetary motions and the order of the


6
The question of the influence of the heavenly
spheres.

human

mixed up with calculations


and the sun. 6 The
moon marks the limit of air and ether, of the divine and
the perishable and in the next sentence we are reminded
that our souls are of celestial origin, and that we are
bodies on

destiny

is

as to the relative size of the earth

exiles here below.

The book

is

a singular mixture of physics, morals,


is much which harmonises with the

There

metaphysics.
best Christian sentiment, side

by side with cold statements of what we should regard as scientific theory, but
which the author conceives as a theology. 8 Yet the
main purpose is to fortify virtuous purpose by the
prospect of the reward after death, and the contemplation
of the divine origin and the divine destiny of the human
The dimensions of the sun and his orbit, the
soul.
1

Macrob. Som. Scip.


Ib.

i.

45,

6,

i.

5, 5.

nam

primo

omnium hoc numero anima mundana generata

est

sicut

Timaeus

Platonis edocuit. For the references


of Macrobius to this part of the
Timaeus v. Grote's Plato, iii. p.

252

n.

Macrob. Som. Scip.

Ib.

i.

17, 12.

i.

15, 1-10.

6
7

Ib.
Ib.
Ib.

i.

18.

i.

19, 19.

i.

17

cf.

i.

21,

34,

ita

antmorum

origo caelestis est sed


lege temporalis hospitalitatis hie
exulat.
8
Ib. i. 14, 5, nunc qualiter nobis
animus id est mens cum sideribus

communis
disseramus.

sit

secundum theologoa

THE LATER PAGANISM

108

BOOK

periods of the planetary revolutions, the position of the


earth in the solar system, may seem to us subjects
strangely out of place in a treatise apparently intended

We

to stimulate devout feeling and virtuous conduct.


are conscious of a kind of chill in being asked to consider

the relations of numbers, or the vast spaces between the


heavenly spheres, side by side with lofty theories of our
origin, and earthly discipline, and our future in another

Yet the apparent incongruity may be explained.


To Macrobius and his class the Mundus, with all its
spheres, was divine, the efflux of the inscrutable Essence
which, by successive stages of generation, was the source
world.

of the orbs of the sky, of the soul of man, of the meanest


creature possessed of life. It needs an effort of sympathy

and imagination

to enter into the spirit of

any outworn

To understand that expounded by Macrobius,


theology.
must
look
you
up into the depths of the heavens on a
summer night, and try to believe that your particular

down

spark of soul has travelled


spheres from

to earth

through

all

the

source in the divine ether, and that after


its escape from the earthly prison-house it may return
again to its distant birthplace.
to

its

The commentary on the Dream of Scipio enables one


how devout minds could even to the last

understand

remain

attached to paganism.
It presupposes rather
than expounds the theology of Neoplatonism.
Its chief
motive is rather moral or devotional than speculative.

The One, supreme, unapproachable, ineffable, residing in


the highest heaven, is assumed as the source of mind and
1

penetrating all things, from the star in the highest


ether to the lowest form of animal existence.
The

life,

universe

is

God's

temple,

filled

with

The unseen, inconceivable Author


1

cf.

Macrob. Som. Scip.


i.

17, 12

14, 4.

2b.

what

i.

i.

14,

2.

may remind

And
us

he adds,
of

some

His

created

presence.

from His

phrases of S. Paul, sciatque quisquis in usum templi hujus inducitur ritu sibi vivendum sacerdotis.

SOURCES OF ITS VITALITY

CHAP, iv

109

In
pure mind, in the likeness of Himself.
1
with matter, mind degenerates and becomes

essence
contact

In the scale of being the moon marks the limit


soul.
between the eternal and the perishable, and all below
the moon is mortal and evanescent except the higher
2
principle in man.
Passing from the divine world
3

through the gate of Cancer, mind descends gradually, in


a fall from its original blessedness, through the seven
spheres, and, in

its

the divine and universal

passage,

element assumes the various faculties which make up


the composite nature of man.
In Saturn it acquires the
reasoning power, in Jupiter the practical and moral, in
Mars the spirited, in Venus the sensual element. But
in the process of descending into the body, the divine
part suffers a sort of intoxication and oblivion of the

world from which


in

others.

forms

Thus

comes, in some cases deeper than


the diffusion of soul among bodily

it

a kind of death

and the body

only a prison,
or rather a tomb, which cannot be quitted save by a
second death, the death to sin and earthly passion. 6
is

is

The soul must not terminate


flesh

by any voluntary

act,

its imprisonment in the


but purify itself, and await

the appointed hour when its release will come.


7
is not only rebellion
against the Great Master,

Suicide
also

it is

an act of passion, and the soul,8 as Plotinus teaches,


which quits this moral life with the soilure of sin upon
it, falls into an abyss from which it may not rise again.
Moreover, the heavenly reward is proportioned to the
1

Macrob. Som. Scip.

Ib.

Ib.

i.

i.

i.

14, 16.
12, 1 ; cf. Plotin.

14, 4-7.

Ennead,

iv. 3, 15.
4

Ib. i. 12, 8, unde et comes


ebrietatis oblivio illic animis incipit

jam
6

latenter obrepere.
Ib. i. 10, 9.
Cf. the

phrase
400 c
vi.

cny/xa
;

734.

rb

o-wjua,
B.

Phaed. 62

PL

6
Macrob. Som. Scip. i. 13, 6,
mori etiam dicitur cum anima adhuc

in corpore constituta corporeas inlecebras philosophia docente contemnit.


This, however, is an old
Cf. PI. Phaed. 67 D, rb
thought.
/ueX^nj/ia rGsv

Orphic
Crat.

Virg. Aen.

<f>i\o<r6<f)(i)i'

xupurfjibs tyvxfn*

fab

X&ns

(rcfytaroj

Ep. 24, ad fin.


7

Ib.

jb.

i.
i.

13, 8.

13, 9

cf.

i.

13, 16.

Kal

Sen.

THE LATER PAGANISM

110

BOOK

1
degree of perfection which we attain here below, and
therefore the mortal term should not be cut short while

our probation

is

incomplete, and so long as any


It is true that the soul

still

be made.

improvement may

should always strive to remember the source from which


2
3
Desprang, and regard the body as a sort of hell.

it

graded souls who have neglected their time of probation


4
cling to the mortal element after death, and, instead of
ascending again to the divine world, are doomed to be

imprisoned in brutish forms, and

heavenly
virtue.

origin.

Scipio's

eternal

felicity

to

who have

those
state.

utterly forget their


eternal happiness is

The only hope of


dream promised

But

protected, or saved, or aggrandised the


there are higher degrees of virtue than that

and self-sacrificing citizen.


While civic
and controls the passions, the cleansing
7
the saintly and mystic
virtues may eradicate them,
of the heroic

virtue moderates

may attain to complete forgetfulness of their


8
allurements, and, in a last victorious effort, we may even
rise to entire absorption in the Divine.
Thus, though

virtues

man will perform the duties of his earthly lot,


he will realise that the earth is but a point in the
the good

that it is the sphere of the


mortal and the transient, and he will be ready to turn
an ear to any echo which recalls the eternal harmonies of
infinitude of the universe,

the heavens.

10

Hence he

will

Macrob. Bom. Scip. i. 13, 15,


cum constet remunerationem animis
illic
esse tribuendam pro modo
perfectionis ad quam in hac vita

una quaeque pervenit


2

Ib.

jj ^ jo

Of. PI.
'

light of glory,
How near this comes

platonic ecstasy, Zeller,


549, 745.
Ib.

i.

Phaed. 81 D. B

Zeller,

6, (terra)

2,

Macrob Som Scip i. 8,


solae facmnt virtutes beatum.

quae tota

3,

'

>

6
7

Ib.

Ib.

i.
i.

4, 4.

passiones ignorare
con vincere ut nesciat irasci, cupiat
8,

9,

pp.

Ib n> 3 7 >
ma
corP us
l
defert memoriam musicae cujus
in
j
caelo fuit conscia
On tne music
of the splieres cf Ennead fr. 4f 8
'

"

16,

iii.

puncti locum pro caeli magnitudine

17.

and

mhil.
to the
Christian ascetic ideal of that age.
8 Ib. i.
Of. on the Neo8, 9.

9, 3.

i.

2 530

jjj

11

make

/A&OS

A>

ap^oviq,.
u Ib.

ii.

g.ffeiav

10,

iv

<j>v<riKr)

nvi

SOURCES OF ITS VITALITY

CHAP, iv

111

aim only

at the approval of conscience.


For of this
small spot in the universe, how small a part does our
race possess
The fame of Eome has not passed beyond
1
and the most splendid
the Ganges or the Caucasus;
!

fame

is

short

but

is

universe

Since

brief.

duration

the

may

all

of

human
any

be eternal, but

tradition

shows how

The
period.
flood, in regular

historic

fire

and

prevail and sweep into oblivion man and


all his works, save in a few sheltered homes of immealternations,

morial culture, like Egypt, which maintain the continuity


of the race.
In this scene of mortality and short-lived
hopes, the only

wisdom

is to

nourish the hope of a

life

to

4
come, to do one's duty to the fatherland on earth, while
ever mindful of the true fatherland of souls, which is

"

eternal in the heavens."

Itjnay be said that the commentary on the Dream of


Kt^rn^ Tp.prp.sp.nfa t,he mysticism of a small circle of philo-.
sophic dreamers, and not a general state of moral feeling.
/

Andcertainlv_the seeker

for hisJ&iical ._ truth .should, not

exaggerate the influence of ideals which in every age are


It is, however, an even
the, juide..of._Qnly a minority.
graver fault to fix one's gaze on the baser side of past
ages, and to ignore whatever there is of hope and promise in the slow and painful development of humanity.

Such

is

spirit.

not the habit of a sound and scrupulous historical


Nor is it the attitude of a truly religious mind.

shows but

the Father of all souls to


whole generations of His children
merely to the worship of devils, without any glimpse of
Himself, and to dwell on their blind aberrations of superIt

believe that

little faith in

He consigns

stition in groping
1

towards the

Macrob. Som. Scip.


Ib.

ii.

10, 9, res vero

maxima
manente nmndo et

ex parte

ii.

10, 3.

humanae

saepe occidunt
rursus oriuntur
vel eluvione vicissim vel exustione
redunte.
3 Ib.
ii. 12, 1.

light,

and on their frantic

Ib.

Aug. de

ii.

17.

Civ. Dei, ix. 17, illud


' '
:
Fugiendum est

Plotini ubi ait

igitur ad carissimam patriam, et ibi


Cf. Macrob,
pater, et ibi omnia."
in Som. Scip. i. 9, 3.

THE LATER PAGANISM

112
efforts

to

inspired

BOOK

terrors and the longings which are


the ineradicable faith in a world beyond the

calm the

by

Eather should we welcome indications that God


never utterly forsakes the creatures of His hands, and,

grave.

decay of ancient heathenism there was a


moral and spiritual life, which was to be nourished in an
that in the

unending future by the divine ideals of

Galilee.

Ni

BOOK H
SKETCHES OF WESTERN SOCIETY
FKOM SYMMACHUS TO SIDONIUS

CHAPTEK

THE INDICTMENT OF HEATHEN AND CHRISTIAN MORALISTS


FEWJnquiries should be more interestingjbhan the attempt
tojorm a conception of the inner tone and life of society
in Western Europe on_.thfi- p.vft of its collapse.
^Was
it
been
as
and
effete
as
has
represented ?
corrupt
society

Were

its

vices,

as Salvianus insisted, the cause of the

triumph of the barbarians ? The judgment of the enthusiastic ascetic of Marseilles has been reproduced by successive generations of moralists

have been vehement and


direct

self-defence

and

And

pitiless.

and

The accusers
hardly a word of

historians.

from all that


and polished
It is easy to frame

self - exculpation

crowd of stately nobles, keen dialecticians,


litterateurs,

has come

down

to us.

such wholesale indictments against the silent generations


of a long past age.
It is not so easy to perform the more
useful task of realising how they actually lived, and what
answer, could they defend themselves, they might make
to their accusers.

It is never safe to trust sweeping censure of the morals

of a whole age or people.

time

What

a picture of our

might be drawn by some acrid

or

own

enthusiastic

moralist of the thirtieth century, who should dress up all


the scandals of fashionable life hinted at in society
all the tales of ruin on the Turf, all the
unsavoury revelations of our police courts and divorce
courts, and present them to his readers as a fair sample of

journals,

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

116

BOOK

II

which the English people were living in the


of
the reign of Victoria
,Yet this is the
years
fashion in which satirists or moralists have treated the

the

way

in

last

first

The
|
x

century and the last of the society of the Empire.


the reign of Domitian has left us pictures

satirist of

of depravity and extravagant self-indulgence which are


more revolting than anything in the pages of S. Jerome
or Salvianus.
If society at large had been half as corrupt
as it is represented by Juvenal, it must have speedily
Yet when Juvenal died the
perished of mere rottenness.
Roman world had entered on a period of almost unexampled peace and prosperity, a period of upright and
beneficent administration and high public virtue, culmiAn
nating in the reign of the saintly Marcus Aurelius.
of
was
hitherto
to
devotion,
it,
giving a
intensity
strange
fresh life to Eoman paganism.
was
diffusing
Philosophy
more spiritual conceptions of God, and a humaner charity
in the relations of life.
The inscriptions, the letters of
the younger Pliny, and even the pages of Tacitus, as
|

'

<

severe a moralist as Juvenal, reveal to us another world


from that of the satirist, a world of severe and elevated
virtue, in

which the men and women sustain one another

in adherence to high principle, in the pursuit of lofty


ideals of public duty, or of literary and philosophical
1
If we shudder at the enormities of Tigellinus and
studies.

Messalina, we should always remember that the same age


produced a Thrasea and a Corbulo, an Arria and a Paulina.

Roman

was perhaps the strongest and most


But its
department of Roman literature.
original
of
reserve.
must
with
a
be
taken
deal
judgments
good
It was frank and outspoken about deeds of darkness,
over which our more timorous delicacy is inclined to
throw a veil.
It was sometimes almost puritanical in its
The
moral tone and the fierceness of its censures.
moralist represents the old Eoman spirit, and draws his
1

satire

Duruy, Hist. Rom.

v.

pp. 662 sqq.

Boissier, Eel.

Rom.

ii.

p. 195.

CH.

ITS

PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CENSORS

117

ideal from an age of simple habits before Eome was corrupted by the arts of Greece and the luxury of the con1
He is apt to forget that luxury is not a
quered East.

and that a softened tone need not imply


more apt to forget that a whole
should not be made responsible for the folly and

synonym

for vice,

effeminacy.
class

He

is still

He strikes at the monsters of


always appear so long as wealth and
luxury abound, and he leaves the impression that these
are not abnormal specimens, but types.
He ignores 2 the
mass of quiet good sense, wholesome feeling, and selfintemperance of a few.
vice,

who

will

shadow behind glaring


and shameless profligacy.
^Jgpve all, the very violence
and bitterness with which the moralist lashes the vices of
control, which, in every age lies in

his

time

is

a proof that his society

corrupt as he

depicts

it.

He

is

is

not so hopelessly

fighting for an ideal

which cannot be a ^monopoly of his own.

And when he

laments the degeneracy of his contemporaries from the


purer manners of a remote, and perhaps mythical, past, he
is often
only expressing personal contempt for the softer
habits of increasing refinement, or else he is speaking as
the organ of a quickened moral sense among the very

men whom he

judges so hardly.

y The modern inquirer needs even greater caution

in

accepting contemporaneous judgments of the character of


society in the fourth and fifth centuries than in thp. first.

In the one case an age of splendid public virtue, of great


material advancement, of higher moral ideals, succeeded an
age which we are asked to believe was a period of selfishness, frivolous extravagance, and frantic and unbridled
The Empire was never so beneficent and
debauchery.
so adored by its remote subjects 8 in many lands as it was
under the sons and grandsons of the men who are repre1

2
3

Of. Friedlander, bk.


Juv. xiii. 26.

iii.

p. 15.

See the inscriptions laboriously

collected on this subject in Fustel


de Coulanges, La GauURom. p. 177
sqq.

\
I

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

118

sented as the vilest of mankind.

It

was

still

BOOK n

proud and

erect ten generations after Juvenal and the objects of his


loathing were in their graves. (But the fifth century

Home in the West. The most spotmost heroic energy, would have availed
nothing against the forces which had undermined the
civilisation of twelve hundred years.
There can be little
doubt that there were in the last pagan generation men
who held a more spiritual creed, and had aspirations for
closes the career of

less virtue, the

a higher moral

life,

than their ancestors who conquered

Carthage and Macedonia.


the

But they represent a

failing

of a retreating host,
they
hard
the
victorious
pressed
by
energy of the Church,
which, conscious that the future belonged to it, was not
always able to do justice to the regime which was passing

are

cause;

rere- guard

away. \ It is so easy to attribute failure and calamity to


moral causes ; and Christian controversialists often failed

remember the Master's saying about those on whom


Tower of Siloam fell. {Moreover, even within their
own ranks, the new spirit of asceticism, which could find

to

the

salvation only by fleeing from the world, and which, in


the recoil from vice, set up a standard of superhuman
virtue,

was not always charitable in

of Christians,

its judgments even


who, remaining in the world to bear its

Thus that old society


burdens, did not__ejca2e_its_stains.
had not only to endure its own self-reproachful doubts
and questionings in the face of ruin, but the fierce, inj

which could often


commonwealth in the raptures

tolerant criticism of the younger society,


to the earthly

its

forget
duty
of a mystic devotion, or in the effort to escape from
temptations which may be as powerful in the wilderness
as in the

crowded

city.

And the anchoret who

thundered

against the vices of his age had been bred in the Roman
schools.
He had been nourished in his youth on Juvenal

and Persius and


literary

skill,

Tacitus.

If

he

he had within him a

had not

all

fiercer hatred

their

and

CH.

ITS

PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CENSORS

119

men than even


him
the
natural
were
to
They
offspring
1
of the daemons of the old mythology, who had, with
hellish ingenuity, corrupted whatever of natural probity
and goodness there was in the old Eoman character.
The Christian controversialist could do justice to the
of
his remote ancestors who
virile
qualities
great,
2
and
Venus.
He could hardly believe
worshipped Jupiter
aversion for the sins and weaknesses of

Juvenal had

felt.

in the virtue of contemporaries who refused to accept the


faith of Christ.
The Christian controversialists un-

doubtedly did a great service to humanity when they


held up to loathing the obscenities of the Floralia and
8

But it
the theatre, and the cruelties of the arena.
should be remembered that some of the better pagans
4
looked with little approval on these corrupting displays.

(Men

bad religion, just


below the standard of a good one. ) v

will often rise above the level of a

,s~they constantly fall

The severest censors of the morality of the fifth century


And we shall see in the
are S. Jerome and Salvianus.
sequel that the heaviest condemnation of both falls on

populations nominally Christian, or even on classes who


\
When
professed to aspire to a peculiar sanctity of life.
we read these things we ask ourselves, Can the religion
of the Cross

And

have

left

men no

better than

it

found them

we may

reasonably distrust the unmeasured


invective of a Christian writer against his co-religionists,
if

there are even stronger grounds for hesitating to accept the

judgment of an enemy, in a period of fierce controversy,


on the moral state of heathendom. ^In this chapter we shall
see what the accusers, whether heathen or Christian, have
1

vii.
2

Aug. de

Civ. Dei, viii. 14, 16, 22,

33.
Ib.

13,

i.

15.

Cf. S.

Jerome's

Ep. 60, 5, quid meinorem Romanes


duces quorum virtutes quasi quibusdam stellis Latinae micant historiae
3

dent.

c.

Sym.

i.

378

Tertull. de

cf.

Spectac. 10, Apol. 38.


ii.

Aug.

de.

Civ. Dei,

ii.

4,

27

Pru-

Sen. Ep. 7 and 95

Amm.
26, 7,

Juv. vi. 63
;
Marc, xxviii. 4, 29 xiv. 6,
304
3
Julian. Fraym. Ep.
;

(Hertlein's ed. ii. 389)


lander, ii. p. 243.

cf.

Fried-

o
"*

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

120

BOOK n

and then proceed to lay before the reader the


life, which can be gathered from the
of
remains
the
literary
century, extending from the reign
Gratian to the last years of ;the Western
Empire.*}
The worst that a severe pagan moralist had to say of
the moral character of society at the beginning of our
period, may be gathered from Ammianus Marcellinus.
He was born at Antioch, entered the army at an early
age, and had seen great campaigns both in the East and
West.
He fought under Julian against the Alemanni,
and he served in the expedition against the Persians in
which that Emperor met his end.
In his later years he
to allege,

actual facts of social

settled down at Rome to compose a history extending


from the principate of Nero to the death of Yalens. 1
Ammianus was an honest, high-minded man of the old

He

school.

real creed

adhered to the old religion of Rome, but his


was probably a vague monotheism with a more

decided tendency to

fatalism.

He

be

could

fair

to

Christianity, and he evidently disapproved of Julian's

exclusion

of

Christian

teachers

from

the

Schools.

equally fair to Roman society may be


has the peculiar virtues of the military
character along with its narrowness and hardness.
A
life of hardship spent on the Rhine and the Euphrates
"\Vhether he

/^questioned.

is

He

was not calculated to make a man a very indulgent,


perhaps hardly even a just critic of the splendid, but
luxurious and un warlike society among which he found
himself on his return to Rome. Ammianus has left two
elaborate pictures of the society of the capital in his
4
time.
What strikes a modern student most about them
is
i

that they might have been composed with equal truth


* ne reign of Nero or Domitian.i
The Roman noble

lias

e
2

changed

little

in three hundred years.

Peter, Die GeschichtL Litt. uber


Kaiserzeit, ii. p. 121.

Amm.

It does not

Ib. xxi. 16, 18

xxr.

Rom.

Marc,

xxiii. 5, 5.

2b. iv. 6, 7

xxviii. 4.

4,

CM.

77*5

PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CENSORS

121

surprise us to hear that the masters of the world are


possessed of vast domains in every province, from the
rising to the setting sun.
Although they have no longer

the political power of their ancestors, they have the


vanity of a pampered caste, and they wish to prolong an
inglorious name by gilded statues which commemorate
.

nothing.
They ride through the streets in lofty carriages,
adorned with a vulgar splendour of dress, which is not
redeemed even by its ingenuity.
In their progresses they
!

are attended or preceded by an army of slaves, clients,


and eunuchs. Their choicest pleasures are in swift horses,
hurrying through the streets with the speed of the post

on the great roads or in long and elaborate banquets,


which the size and weight of fish or game are recorded,
;

at

as in

Their

Juvenal's day, as a matter of historical interest.


libraries are opened as seldom as their funeral

but they rave about music and theatrical perform3


Hydraulic organs, and lyres as large as carriages,
minister to a degraded taste in music.
In a time of
vaults,

ances.

famine, when all foreigners, including the professors of


the liberal arts, were expelled from Eome, three thousand

dancing

girls

If the great

with their teachers were allowed to remain.

man

visited the public baths,

he would salute

effusively some slave of his vices, whom all decent people


would avoid. His only friendships are those of the
If a respectable man from provincial parts
gaming table.

ventures to call on the great personage, he is received at


first with effusive civility.
If the visit is repeated in all
honest confidence, he will find that his very name and
existence have been forgotten.
The effeminate noble who
takes a journey to visit a distant estate will plume him-

on the effort as if he had performed the marches of


an Alexander or a Caesar.
He will order a slave to
receive three hundred lashes for bringing him his hot water
self

Juv.

iv.

Cf. Sen.

129.

Ep. 44

Juv.
3

viii.

1-20.

Of. Sueton.

Ner.

c.

41.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

122

BOOK n

These men, who have not a particle of religious

late.

belief, are the slaves of anile superstition.


bathe or breakfast or start on a journey

They

will not

they have
consulted the calendar to find the position of a planet.
\lThe vulgar crowd of the days of Marcellinus is the
till

)same in character that it had been for four hundred


years. I Duos tantum res anxius optat, Panem et circenses.
But it was even more pampered in the reign of Honorius

The emperors of the third


oil, and pork to the dole of
little
doubt that this mass of

than in the time of Juvenal.


century had added wine,
corn.

There can be

deserters from the ranks of honest industry, maintained


in idleness by the State, was a hotbed of vice and cor-

All the social sewers drained into

its depths.
2
successive
emperors from
by
Nero to Diocletian, offered their spacious luxury at all
hours of the day to the mongrel crew who bred and

ruption.

Magnificent baths, erected

festered in the slums of the great capital of the world.


The hours that were not spent in taverns and low haunts of

debauchery were given to idle gossip about the favourites


3
in the games and races.
The energy of the once sovereign
people exploded in fierce wrangling as to the chances of
on whose success the fate of the common-

rival charioteers

wealth seemed to depend.

Probably the

mob were

never

so innocently excited as when they were backing with


hoarse cries their favourites in the race.
The obscenities
tales of abnormal depravity were
the
life,
slaughter and sufferings of the
gladiatorial combats, gratified, if they could hardly intensify, the instincts of lust and cruelty in a populace which for

of pantomime, in

which
4

reproduced to the

centuries had been


1

Spart. Sev. 23; Lamprid. Alex.

Sev. 26

35

x.

17

the State.
systematicallyjsorrupted by

cf.

Vop. Aurel. 48 Sym. Ep.


G. fh. xiv. 15, 3, xiv. tit.
Marquardt, Rom. Stoats-

132.
Lamprid. Alex. Sev. 25 ;
14
x.
Th.
C.
xiv. 5 (de
;
Ep.

verwalting,
2

cipibus
3

ii.

p.

Sym.
Man-

Themnarum).

Amm.

Marc. xiv.

6,

26

xviii.

29-32.
Suet. Nero, c. 12
Juv. vi. 63
Prudent. Peristeph. x. 221 ; Sidon.
Carm. xxiii. 281 cf. Friedlander,
ii. p. 285.

4,

CH.

77-5

PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CENSORS

123

Roman

by

The_ picture,

Yet

it

is

of

the

aristocrat

given

certainly not a pleasant one.


not so dark as the pictures of upper class life

Ammianus

Marcellinus

is

Nay,
in_the days of Lucullus. or in the days of Nero.
in many of its features it is hardly worse than might be

drawn
George

of English society in the reigns of George II. and


III.
Mutato nomine de te Fdbula narratur. ^The

which excited the disgust of the hardy

faults or vices

veteran are those of an old society, rendered vain and


effeminate by wealth, and served by an army of slaves, a
society

j/

which was not sobered by any discipline of labour,

nor elevated by public interests. /

We

may also suspect


that the description is to some extent coloured by the
temperament and habits of the old soldier, whose life had
been passed in frontier camps.

An

Indian veteran,

who

day should settle in London, after thirty


hard
service,
might not be more indulgent to our
years'
own luxurious classes. And Aminianus may have been
at the present

wounded by the haughty

indifference of one of the

exclusive castes that the world has ever seen.


society

is

most

Worldly

no time very appreciative of unostentatious

at

And Ammianus probably knew the


world
chiefly by the vulgarity and frivolity of its
great
Had he been admitted to the
least estimable members.
circle of the Symmachi and Albini, he would hardly have

merit or service.

accused a

class,

which regarded devotion

to letters as the

highest distinction of their order, of never entering their


libraries.
darker, if not truer picture of _foa^socjety
f

in the__y_ears_ when
is

given by

S.

Ammianus was composing

his history

*"

Jerome.

/S. Jerome outlived Ammianus Marcellinus probably


twenty years but they must have been at Rome about
in the middle of the reign of Theodosius. /
the same time,
J"
The saint received his education under Donatus, probably
in the reign of Julian
and, after visiting Gaul and the
;

deserts of Syria, he returned to the capital at the time

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

124

when the Church was on


;

He was
Damasus,

the eve of

its

BOOK n
final victory.

secretary and intimate friend of Pope


and for a time was one of the most influential

the
1

Kome.
He saw the inner life of the
and of those great aristocratic houses, on

of

ecclesiastics

higher clergy,
which, since the visit of S. Athanasius, the ascetic ideal
2
of the Christian life had cast its spell.
Jerome became
the director in study and devotion of a remarkable group

women Paula, Lea, Asella, Marcella, and many


who were of the very cream of the Eoman
nobility, but who deliberately cut themselves off from
of

others,

and in almost conventual seclusion


themselves to prayer and the study of the
3
Some of them were accomplished Greek
Scriptures.
and Hebrew scholars, 4 and, in their minute and careful
worldly
devoted

society,

study of the sacred books, they often taxed the erudition


5
of the great scholar to reply to their curious questions.
hear but little of their husbands and male relatives.

We
[

The majority of the Boman Sp.na.te, even so late as the


6
reign of Theodosius, was clearly pagan in sentiment, if
not in belief. There can be little doubt that the husband
was often a cultivated sceptic or pagan, while his wifejor
sister was a Christian devotee.
Moving in such a circle,
S. Jerome must have acquired a thorough knowledge of
the tone and morale of the upper class in that period of
religious transition which has been described in the first
chapter.

His evidence as

time would be invaluable


1

Ep. 123,

S. Jer.

i.

10

cf.

to the
if

Collombet's

p. 326.

2
Hieron. Ep. 127,
5 ; for the
influence of S. Athanasius's Life of
Antony, cf. S. Aug. Conf. viii. 6.
8
Hieron. Ep. 127,
7 ; cf. Ep.

24.
4
6

/&. 108,
26, 28.
Ib. 30, 34.

The

on Prud.

opposite view
c. Sym. i. 566,

is

founded

and on the

we

moral condition of his

could trust the coolness

words in Ambros. Ep. 17,


9, cum
curia Christianorum

majore jam

numero

sit referta.
But, if so,
did they not attend and prevent the Senate from petitioning
the Emperor ? If Zosimus (v. 49)
is to be believed, the Senate, even
after the defeat of Eugenius, were
still obdurate.
Cf. Seeck's Sym.
liv. and, for the
opposite view,

why

Rauschen, Jahrbucher,

p. 119.

CH.

ITS

PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CENSORS

125

and fairness of his judgment as much as his knowledge.


He was a tremendous and beneficent force in the cause
of truth and purity, and he must always be regarded
with reverence alike by the student and by the devout
In his fearless determination to ascertain the
Christian.
precise meaning of the sacred text, he offers a splendid
In his
example of rare candour and patient industry.
still more fearless denunciation of moral evil, even in the
classes with whom he was most closely associated, and
with the risk of ruin to his own reputation, he did a
service to the cause of human progress of which the
value can hardly be exaggerated. 1 /But S. Jerome is a
Eoman satirist who is sometimes carried away by the
love of startling effect and vivid phrase.
He is also the
ascetic, tortured by the consciousness of human frailty,
and again almost intoxicated with the vision of God. /
The views which S. Jerome held as to the ideal of
virtue, and especially of sexual virtue, are of the extreme^
monastic type. To him, as to so many others in that day,
the world ITso full of allurements, the flesh is so weak
and sensual, the devil is so cunning in laying snares for

the soul, that the only chance of escape lies in absolute


renunciation.
The Greek ideal of moral perfection, as a

middle state between excess and defect of passion, seems


to the ascetic impracticable or unworthy.
Avarice can
only be conquered by selling all one's possessions and
2
giving to the poor.
Luxury in dress and food must be
replaced by sackcloth and herbs, and an avoidance of the
1

Ep. 112,
;

53,

7,

20 of. JEp. 104 ; 57,


nee scire dignantur,
;

quid Prophetae, quid Apostoli senserint


sed ad sensum incongrua
:

aptant testimonia
quasi grande
sit, et non vitiosissimum docendi
:

genus, depravare sententias, et ad

voluntatem suam Scripturam

tra-

here repugnantem.
In replying to
a charge of favouring the heretical
views of Origen, he announces a
principle which, in theological con-

troversy,

is

rarely obeyed

Nee

bonis adversariorum, si honestum


quid habuerint, detrahendum est,
nee amicorum laudanda sunt vitia,
2.
For S. Jerome's
Ep. 83,
defence of his character, v. Ep. 45,
For the secret of the bitter2.
ness with which he was assailed,
v. Sulp. Sev. Dial. i. 9,
4, oderant

eum

clerici,

quia vitam eorum

sectatur et crimina.
2

Ep. 108,

19.

in-

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

126

bath.

The pleasures of love, which


must be utterly rejected

merely sensual,
the elect soul.

BOOK n

are

treated

as

as debasing to

Honourable marriage ranks below the


and the recovered chastity of

purity of intact virginity,

widowhood. 2
Nothing can exceed the extravagance
with which S. Jerome, who was an experienced man of
the world, celebrates the self-devotion of Demetrias to
state.
Her family, like so many others of the
had been ruined by the invasion of
Koman
houses,
great
3
Alaric.
Kome had been given up to fire and sword.

the virgin

The

fairest

provinces

Sueves and Goths.

were

The fame

already overrun by the


of a world-wide empire

and the hopes of


immemorial antiquity, were vanishing
amid an agony of regret, all the more pathetic, because
Yet the
hardly a voice from it comes down to our ears.
and

civilisation, the splendid traditions

senatorial houses of

devotion of Demetrias to the virgin state, according to


her eulogist, exalts her family to a higher pinnacle than
long line of consuls and prefects have ever reached
a consolation for a Eome in ashes ; Italy puts off its
mourning at the news ; the villages in the farthest

its

it is

Some of this
provinces are beside themselves with joy.
is no doubt mere rhetoric, but it is the rhetoric of a man
whose own passions had been conquered only by flight to
Syrian desert, by incessant vigils, by fasting and
4
And the whole letter to Eustochium, in which
prayer.
that well-known passage occurs, suggests other considerations which should be kept in view in reading the
criticisms of ancient moralists on their own times.
the

Probably every modern reader of that letter


1

is

Ep. 107,
Ib.
felix

9,

10

xxiii.

2.

Her father
morte sua qui non vidit

130,

3,

patriam corruentem

5.

immo

felicior

The best passage is


19.
22,
11, sufficit tibi quod primum
123,

perdidisti

virginitatis

is

lost in

gradum,

et

tertium venisti ad secundum,


id est, per officium conjugale, ad
viduitatis continentiam.
per

cf.

Ep. 22,

7.

CH.

ITS

PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CENSORS

127

it could have been possibly addressed


young woman belonging to one of the
It handles, without the
greatest families at Eome.
slightest restraint or reserve, sins and temptations of the
It is absolutely
flesh to which we now hardly allude.

astonishment that

by any man

to a

inconceivable that any moralist or preacher of our times,


however earnest or fanatical, should address a woman in
1

such a

This

style.

not said with any intention of

is

depreciating S. Jerome, whose character emerged unstained from the fiercest ordeal of malignant calumny in

own

and has borne the scrutiny of fifteen


a daring man who would charge
But we may fairly say that
S. Jerome with pruriency.
the writer of the letter to Eustochium is likely to let us
know the very worst of his generation, and that he will
not throw the veil of conventional ignorance over deeds
of darkness, which our more timorous delicacy has been
his

time,

centuries.

He would be

accustomed, at any rate until lately, to treat as nonexistent.


Whether unflinching candour or studied
|
the best tone to adopt with regard to moral
a question which need not be discussed.
But
that_ difference of tone between the ancients and our-

reserve

is

evil, is

selves..

never

should

be

forgotten

in

studying

By keeping it in mind
from Pharisaism and from an
ungenerous judgment of times which have made a selfrevelation of which we should be incapable.
(When we come to examine what S. Jerome has told
us of the moral condition of his time, we are struck with
the fact that his heaviest censure falls on those who, at
least in name, had separated themselves from the world,
the monks and the secular clergy of Eome.
It is true
that he consigns Praetextatus, the votary of Isis and
character of

a distant past.

we may be saved

alike

outer

Mithra, to
1

Ep. 22, esp.


Ib.

23,

3,

jf

the

darkness.

7, 13.
ille

quern

ante

But Praetextatus

is

paucos dies dignitatum


culmina
praecedebant

not

omnium

...

ad

~s.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

128

BOOK n

condemned on moral grounds^ but as the enthusiastic


champion of the old gods.) (On the other hand, the
pontiff Albinus, a staunch though tolerant pagan, is
1
treated by Jerome with marked respect. ) His unbelief

His wife
even made the subject of gentle raillery.
His daughter Laeta, who had succeeded
Christian.

is

was a

in converting her young husband Toxotius, was a devotee


S. Jerome speaks of Albinus as
after S. Jerome's heart.
K

a candidate for the faith," and would have hopes that


hymns to Christ, as she sits on

his little granddaughter's

the old man's knees, might win

Another great magnate,


official

great

Cerealis,

wished

distinction,

him from
a

man
to

his

errors.

of the world, of

marry one of

S.

said of the religious


views of Cerealis, but the very silence on the subject
Yet
probably shows that they were not very decided.

Jerome's ascetic friends.

Nothing

is

Jerome describes him as a man of

S.

spotless character.

Olybrius, another member of the noble class, was probably


a Christian, but like his father Probus, the great prefect,
was probably not a very ardent one. Along with his

brother Probinus, he was celebrated with all the pomp


His virtues
of pagan mythology by the poet Claudian.
as a son, a husband,

and a

citizen are not less emphatically


8
IThe saint professed to

extolled in a letter of S. Jerome.

from which
desert,

wjien

Eome

regard

as the mystic Babylon of the Apocalypse,


the true followers of Christ should flee to the

"blossoming with the flowers of Christ."

we

look for details,

we

cujus interitum urbs universa commota est, nunc desolatus et nudus,


lacteo caeli palatio, ut uxor
mentitur infelix, sed in sordentibus
tenebris continetur ; cf. c. Johann.
Hierosol. 8, miserabilis Praetextatus
homo sacrilegus, et idolorum
.
.
The condemnation of
cultor.

non in

Praetextatus

is

expressly on

the

ground of his heathen superstition.

The

inscriptions (G.I.L. 1779), in


which he and his wife Aconia

find little

&

__Yet-

Jerome

to

commemorate one

Fabia Paulina

another's virtues, reveal a religious


which explains S.
Jerome's bitterness ; cf. Seeck's

enthusiasm

Symmachus,

on the whole

Ixxxiii.

career of Vettius
textatus.

Agorius

Hieron. Ep. 107,

Ib. 127,
Ib. 130,

cv.
4

Prae-

1.

2.

3 ; cf. Seeck's Sym.


Claud. Cons. Prob. et Olyb.

Ib. 46,

11.

CH.

PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CENSORS

ITS

men

lead us to believe that the

129

of the great families,

with

whom~Paula, Marcella, and Melania associated, fell below


the moral standard of their ancestors or even below the
level of worldly respectability in our. own time.
Christian asceticism, however, like every other great

movement which has disturbed the

routine of

life,

had

its

{There were serious perils to virtue in the


household life of the fourth and fifth century, which S,
Jerome has laid bare with an unsparing frankness, though
probably also with some exaggeration.
Among .these
raison

d'etre.

the system of domestic slavery was the most fruitful ol


1
In the days of Salvianus, as in the days of
corruption.

Horace, the attractive slave-girl too often was the easy


prey of her master's lusts and amours of this kind were
;

regarded even in

Christian

families

with-

-a

tolerance

which astonishes modern sentiment. 2 V Perhaps even


more insidious was the influence of female slaves on
their

the

young

Eoman

mistresses.

The attendants who surrounded

lady at her elaborate

toilet,

and decked her

out in her silks and jewels, were often not the safest
Their class
companions for inexperienced innocence.

had often a bitter hatred of the Christian faith, 3 and


spread the most malignant rumours about its professors.
They flattered with the ease and familiarity of privileged

\T^Q picture of the greed, lubricity, and


4
spitefulness of this chattering crowd, who surrounded
the lady of noble rank, was probably a much -needed

favourites.

revelation of one of the worst

Koman

cankers at the root of

society.

IS. Jerome, like Ammianus Marcellinus, was


disgusted
with the display of wealth, which seems to have become

more ostentatious and vulgar,


decayed.

But

as artistic skill

in S. Jerome's pages

and

feeling

women arejhe

great

contentus domus inlecebris famulantibus uti.


3
Hieron. Ep. 54,
5.

Hieron. Ep. 54,


5, 6 ; cf. 107,
4
cf. Wallon, Hist, de I'Esclav.
ii.
pp. 325 sqq. ; Friedlander,i.p.328.
1 Paulinus
Pellaeus, Euch. 166,
;

Ib. 117,

8.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

130

BOOK n

Their gaudy turbans and elaborate coiffures,

offenders]

silks and liberally applied cosmetics, and


blazing wealth of jewels, are described with a scorn which
makes the minute observation of detail somewhat surpris-

their

costly

The saint often warns his female disciples against


the danger of appearing among the fashionable and showy
2
crowd.
The danger to female innocence seemed to him

ing.

so great that the only safety for a woman lay in cutting


It is hard to
herself off absolutely from the world.

believe that the reserve

and delicacy of so many generahave grown so helpless in


the warm imagination of S. Jerome

tions of social culture should

the face of

And

evil.

If we may believe
has probably exaggerated the peril.
him, the curled and essenced fop was almost irresistible
8
in those days.
touch of his hand and a glance from

have placed young women of rank and


There is probably better ground
breeding at his mercy.
for the disgust with which the appearance of the fashion4
able matron in the streets is described.
She takes her
airing in a litter surrounded by a great troop of slaves
and eunuchs, and closely attended by some foppish majordomo or favourite domestic, whose pampered air and easy
familiarity sometimes cast a shade of suspicion on his

his eye

seem

But

fame.

the

was the

mistress's

fair

banquet.

Difficile inter epulas servatur pudicitia.

hard for us
polished

Yet S
,>

to

now

danger

to realise that this should

an

with

society
in

.JprrmiAj

great

hi

It is

be true of a

ancient tradition of dignity.


a.a the

ardft^r for the agcetifi life

only path of salvation for frail humanity, places his ban


on what we should regard as innocent enjoyment of a
hospitable table. J The description of the effects, on the
hot blood of the south, of rich wines and delicate meats
1

127,
2
7.
8

Hieron. Ep. 54,

108,

15

13

107,

3.

Ib. 130,

18

54,

batulus

quilibet manum, sustentabit lassam ; et pressis digitis, aut

tentabitur aut teiitabit.


4

Ib.

117,

6,

dabit tibi bar-

Ib. 54,
Ib. 117,

13.

107,

8,

CH.

ITS

PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CENSORS

131

many courses, with the accompaniments of voluptuous


music and suggestive dancing, may represent the tone of
It would be certainly true of
certain circles of his age.
in

many

in the time of Cicero.

But

to believe

it is difficult

that the high-minded, stately, and cultivated ladies, so


1
many of whom are known to us, had been exposed to
the contamination of such grossness in their youth, or

that they could not observe the limit between harmless

natural enjoyment and sensual indulgence. f*The truth is


that S. Jerome is not only a monk but an artist in words;

and his horror

of evil, his vivid

imagination,

and his

him beyond
was much to amend in
the region of sober fact.
^Jhere
But we must not take
the morals of the Eoman world.
passion for literary effect occasionally carry

the leader of a great moral reformation as a cool and dispassionate observer.


About the time

when

this letter of S.

Jerome was

penned, Macrobius represents the leading members

of

the_pagan_aristocracy, Symmachus, Albirms7~Tlavianus,


Praetextatus, as spending the days of the Saturnalia
The mornings were given up to learned distogether.

In the
subjects.
and gayer conversation at
dinner; and our attention is expressly drawn to the
elegant moderation of that day in food and drink, and to
the banishment of the dancing girl and the buffoon from
2
the banquet.
The evidence of Macrobius, who is writing
without any parti pris, is worth at least as much as that of
S. Jerome on such a point.
And if such was the tone of
cussions on antiquarian and literary

evening they met

for lighter

the pagan aristocracy, can we believe


Christian houses would be more lax ?
1

Paula, Hieron. Ep. 108; Serena,


Claudian. Laus Serenae ; Fabia
Aconia Paulina, C.I.L. vi. 1779
Blaesilla, Hieron. Ep. 39 ; Laeta,

Zos. v. 39.
2

Macrob. Sat.

ii.

1,

iii.

13.

that

the

great

Compare with this S. Jerome's Ep.


6.
117,
Although Praetextatus
is one of the party in the Saturnalia, the scene is laid in some
year after his death in 385, as
5.
appears from the passage i. 1,

l>

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

132

But

BOOK n

Jerome deals hardly with the vices of the


worldly classes, he is perhaps even more merciless to
and it is to
those of the professedly strict and religious
the credit of his candour and sincerity that he lays bare
with such an unsparing hand the corruption in Christian
In some
society, even in the inner circles of asceticism.)
of his descriptions of ecclesiastical worldliness and corrup\

if

S.

1
And his
tion the very spirit of Juvenal is upon him.
consuming zeal for a great cause probably made him less
merciful to the failings of his own class than a man of

the world would have been.

the picture
far

away

We

freedmen and obscure

known

to

Yet, after all allowances,

feel that we are


not a pleasant one.
from the simple, unworldly devotion of the
is

the

toilers

whose existence was hardly

great world before the age of the


who lived in the spirit of the Sermon on

Antonines, and
the Mount and in constant expectation of the coming of
The triumphant Church, which has brought
their Lord.
paganism to its knees, is very different from the Church

The Bishop of
and the persecutions.
Eome has become a great potentate surrounded by
worldly pomp, and with a powerful voice in the councils
8
In the reign of Valentinian (367) the
of the State.
rival factions of Damasus and Ursinus had convulsed the
in one
city in their struggles for this sjfcid#l prize, and
on
left
day one hundred and thirty-seven corpses were
4
Ammianus
the pavement of one of the churches.
of the catacombs

Marcellinus, who describes the conflict, thinks it natural


that men should so contend for the chance of being
enriched by the offerings of Eoman matrons, of riding in
elegant apparel through the streets, and giving banquets of
more than regal splendour. The pagan Praetextatus used to
1
For the satiric vein in S.
Jerome, cf. the sketch of Gninnius,
the impotent critic, Ep. 125,[ 18 ;

and the great lady at


Basilica,

22,

32.

S.

Peter's

Kenan, AL Aurble, p. 447 cf.


pp. 55, 56; cf. Friedlander, iii. p.
533.
3
Zos. v. 41.
;

Amm.

Marc, xxvii.

3, 12.

CH.

/r5

PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CENSORS

133

say jestingly to Pope Damasus, that he might be tempted to


1
become a Christian by the prospect of being Bishop of Rome.

/" Among

ranks of the clergy corruption prevailed.

all

and captation became so grave


2
the
in
addressed
to Pope Damasus,
an
edict
that,
I. sternly prohibited monks and
Valentinian
\Emperor
ecclesiastics from entering the houses of widows or
orphan wards, and made illegal both donatio inter vwos
and testamentary bequests in favour of the Church. / It
may be doubted whether the law was strictly obeyed.
\The higher clergy generally seem to have lived in very
3
They often
im-evangelical worldly state and luxury.
entertained at sumptuous feasts great magistrates and
The clerical epicure, brought up in a hovel and
prefects.
4
fed on milk and black bread in his boyhood, develops an
/The

He
extraordinary delicacy of taste in his later years.
has the nicest judgment in fish and game, and the provinces are distinguished

by their ability to satisfy his


become
the passport to social
palate.
Holy
distinction and dangerous influence.
The doors of great
houses opened readily to the elegant priest whose toilet
was managed by a skilful valet. The clerical profession,
Orders

from imposing

so far

The

intrigue.

superstitious

women

restraint,

furnished

was admitted

priest

of the

for

facilities

to the intimacy of

world, which was

pleasant

but perilous to virtue. 6


The supple and
accomplished ecclesiastic has a great advantage among the
crowd of morning callers on the rich young matron, who
repays his flattering attentions with a present of whatever

and

lucrative,

his

covetous

wealtfr

invaded

facite

episcopum

et

all

mo Romanae

ecclcsiae

ero protinus

Chris-

tianus.
1

Th. xvi. 2, 20.


Hieron. Ep. 52,
11

far

lighted on.
[T]IP. paapirm
ranks of the clergy.
Many were

Hieron. c. Johann. Hierosol. 8,


solebat ludens beato papae Daraaso
dicere

have

eyes

evils of seduction

G.

cf.

Sulp.

Sev. Dial.
4
5

i.

21, 3.

Hieron. Ep. 52,

Ib. 52,
6
Ib, 22,

6.

5.

16,

clerici ipsi

extenta manu, ut benedicere eos


putes velle, pretia accipiunt salutandi ; and 28.

^5^

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

134

BOOK

II

1
engaged in amassing fortunes in trade. They will perform
the most disgusting and menial offices for some heirless

lady on her deathbed.

Even

the

monk

in the Nitrian
8

infected with the universal contagion, and piles


a secret hoard which his brethren are sorely troubled

desert

up

is

dispose of at his death. \ If we believe S. Jerome,


of these clerical and monkish impostors became

to

numbers

far richer than they could have been, if they had


4
remained in the world. /They go about asking for alms
to be distributed to the poor, but secretly enrich them-

making a parade of their bare feet, black cloaks,


and long unkempt hair, they creep into houses and
"
6
deceive silly women laden with sins."
Pretending to
selves

live in the greatest austerity,

they spent their nights in

and sensuality.
The picture which S. Jerome draws of female society
is so repulsive that we would gladly believe it to be
But if the priesthood with its enormous
exaggerated.
influence was so corrupt, it is only too probable that it
debased the sex which is always most under clerical
That clerical concubinage, under the pretence
influence.
of the severest sanctity, was common, cannot be doubted
secret feasting

by any one acquainted with the writers of the time. ( S.


Jerome is perfectly explicit on the subject. ^Men and
women, vowed to perpetual chastity, lived under the
same roof, 6 brazening out the miserable imposture of
1

Hieron. Ep. 52,


5 125,
16,
negotiatorem clericum, et ex inopi
divitem, ex ignobili gloriosum,
;

quasi
2

quandam pestem

Ib. 52,

ipsi

fuge.

apponunt ma-

tulam, obsident lectum, purulentiam stomach!


maim propria
Pavent ad introitum
suscipiunt.
medici trementibusque labiis an
.

commodius
.

habeant sciscitantur
simulataque laetitia mens in-

trinsecus avara torquetur.


3

Ib.

22,

33,

centum

solidos

quos lino texendo acquisierat dereliquit, etc.


4

Ib. 125,
16, non victum et
vestitum, quod Apostolus praecipit,
sed majora quam saeculi homines
emolumenta sectantes ; Ep. 60, 11,
sint ditiores monachi quam fuerant

saeculares.
6
Ib. 22,

28, et quasi longa


jejunia, furtivis noctium cibis pro-

trahunt.
6

Ib. 22,
14, eadem domo, uno
cubiculo, saepe uno tenentur lectulo;
cf. Sulp. Sev. Dial. i. 8, 4 ; i, 9, i.

CH.

ITS

PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CENSORS

135

superhuman purity under impossible

conditions.
There
Jerome's to a young lady of
written at the instance of her brother,

a curious letter of

is

S.

position in Gaul,
which is a singular illustration of the union of superstition and licence.
She makes a profession of leading a
Christian life, yet she has separated from her mother,

and has

who

installed, as

apparently, and

is

master of hei house, a


is

as equally master of her

"

brother

"

regarded by the neighbourhood,


house and of her virtue. 2

On a not much higher level are those virgins of the


8
Church, whose peculiar dress is their only title to the
name which they disgrace, and who strut about the
nodding and

streets,

In

leering.
"

so-called Christian

many
" *

who would laugh at


supple
virgin
jests of doubtful freedom, and who had a relish for spite"
ful gossip, was much more popular than the
rough and
circles the gay,

rustic

"

person whose religion was not a fraud.

Many

other sketches of female character have been left us

by

the pencil of S. Jerome


the sot who justifies her love of
wine with a profane jest,5 the great lady puffed up by
the honours of her house, and surrounded by a herd of

sycophants, the great lady who passes through S. Peter's,


attended by a crowd of eunuchs, doling out alms with
equal parsimony and ostentation, and repulsing the

importunate

blows. 6

widow with

Such

and

scenes

characters, like those in the Sixth Satire of Juvenal, one

would gladly believe

to

be

and imaginative

brilliant

If
pictures of an exceptional degradation of character.
it
becomes
a
like
tone,
they represent anything
general
1

Hieron. Ep. 117.


JJ. 117,

9.
..

M- 117'* 7 ; xxl1 l hae sunt


?\
quae per publicum notabiliter mce(hint; et furtms oculorum nutibus adolescentmm greges post se
'

Non ut ilia horrida,


siinplicitas.
turpis, rusticana, terribilis, et quae
ideo forsitan maritum non habuit,
quia invenire non potuit.
*
.
22
se mero in .
13

gurgi&veriiit, ebrietati sacrilegium


*
e a
Absit ut ego
opfllantes
Even
Christ! sanguine abstineam
worse precedes,
'

Ib.

ecoe vere
ancilla Christi, dicentes, ecce tota
22,

24-29,

Ib. 22,

32.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

136

BOOK

II

easy to understand the exodus from the second Babylon,


and the charm of the hermitage in the desert 1 "from
which are drawn the stones whereof is builded the city
of the Great King." ( It would seem that the Church, in
conquering the citadel of the Empire, had lost the freshIt had vanquished
ness and purity of its early days.
the external power of heathenism it had still to subdue

V/

It is at all
the forces of corruption within its own pa?e.
times hard for mediocre character to sincerely embrace a
lofty ideal, and the spectacle of grovelling worldliness

and materialism

tone

affecting

the

unknown

in later days.

an

of

elevated

But in the
fourth century there was found a remnant ready to

/'""spirituality is

sacrifice

not

everything at the

summons

of

'

an

imperious

The members of the proudest houses sold all that


they had, and turned their backs upon state and luxury, in
faith.

order to spend the remainder of life in works of mercy


And in reading the letters of S. Jerome we
I
prayer.

should never forgeF that he is of that elect company,


that he regards Roman society in the high light shining
from the Cross, and that the Cross to him is not the

mere symbol of a lightly held creed, but an imperious


power, demanding a surrender of will and earthly passion
The glory of
.as complete as the Great Sacrifice of all.
that age is the number of those who were capable of
such self-surrender jan d an age should be judged by its
ideals, not by the mediocrity of conventional religion

Thiss we
wj3 have always
^masking worldly self-indulgence.
with us ; the other we have not always.
ays.

The

More than

have passed away.


fifty years
of
barbarism
has
fallen on the West.
cataclysm
vinces have been ravaged, splendid cities have

been

desolated, and the imperial power has been shaken

to its

Ep. 14, 10,


floribus vernans,

desertum Christi
solitude in qua

illi

nascuntur

civitas

magni

lapides de

Pro-

quibus

regis extruitur.

CH.

base.

ITS
S.

PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CENSORS

137

Jerome, on the news of the earliest disasters

him, exclaimed, "The barbarians are strong


1
through our vices." \A.nd this is the text on which another
in
great preacher calls the Eoman world to recognise
reaching

their calamities the righteous punishment for their sins^


Salvianus. a presbyter of Marseilles, must have seen

Bom

probably at
century. )
Cologne, and educated in the School of Treves, he had
witnessed in his early youth the horrors of the great
almost the close of the

fifth

invasion which laid the cities of the Ehiueland in ashes.

From

these troubles he sought refuge in the south of


Gaul, where he lived in intimacy with some of the great
S. Eucher and S. Hilarius, and the
bishops of the time,
scholarly

and

Le'rins its

home.

iiery

ascetic

He

temperament,

society
is

man

full of

which made the Isle of


of keen sympathies and

the ascetic ideals of his time.

burning indignation against the selfishness of


yle
the wealthy and official class, and an equally passionate
feels a

in
pity for the poor and oppressed, which, had he lived
the nineteenth century, would certainly have made him

a Socialist of the extremest type. 4 ! The thesis of the


5
treatise entitled de Gubernatione Dei is very simple.
r*The unbelieving Epicureanism of the day saw in the
'

calamities of Gaul only a proof of the indifference_of_the


6
Salvianus saw in them
Deity to the fortunes of men.
1

17, nostris peccatis


Ep. 60,
nostris vitiis
Barbari fortes sunt
:

Roinanus superatur exercitus.


* Gennad. de
Scrip. EccL c.

doubts about this section

cf.

avarice

against
iii.

especially

49,

pauper

cf.

beati-

tudinem emit mendacitate, dives


67,

Ebert,

P<
'

Salv.'^. 1, adolescens quern ad


vos misi Agrippinae captus est et
de quo aliquid fortasse amplius
nisi
dicerem,
propinquus meus
esset.
4

JEcclesiam,

See passim the four books ad

supplicium

^
is

by

facilitate.

^ Romans

not alluded to

and V i8 ig ths

'

6
The effect of the calamities
shaking men's faith in Providence
may be seen in the poem de Prov.

Div. (wrongly attributed to Prosper

Aq.) vv. 25-85.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

138

the

of His

evidence

clearest

BOOK n

providential government,
to the appropriate

by leaving the sinner

punishing sin

consequences of his misdeeds. (The Koman world has


deserved its fate by its injustice and oppression, its
cupidity, its lack of hardy public spirit, its foul and
l
have
universal licentiousness.
Prefects and governors

been venal and cruel

more

The

so.

the minor

curiales, the

officials

have been even

governing

of the

order

municipalities, have been so many tyrants, laying on and


levying taxes of which the heaviest burden falls on those

them.

least able to bear

themselves to a

by imperial grace, these


not the poor, but the richest
Even those who have devoted
If,

exactions are lightened, it


8
class, who feel the relief.

is

spiritual life are tainted by the


They will be guilty of the grossest
4
If they have
they get the chance.

strict

universal contagion.

oppression when
wealth they are as ready as the most cynical worldling
to hoard their money instead of giving it to Christ's
poor, and they will actually pretend that their sacred
profession exempts
fice.

them from the duty


the

wearing

They,

dress

asceticism, will plead that Christ has


5

who

Christ,

gifts

makes

infinite pity

the

is

Him

of

such a

an

of

universal

sacri-

ostentatious

no need of their
Sufferer, whose

sharer in all the sufferings

of

His servants.

Christ, exclaims the preacher in a passage


of rhetorical power, is the most needy in the universe,

because

He

feels

|
I

the needs of

all.

doubt that the hardened venality


of the financial service, and the greed and rapacity of the
There can be

De Gub.

little

Dei, v. 25, iv. 21,

vii.

91.
2

Ib. v. 18, ubi non quot Curiales


fuermttottyrannisunt?

Ib

v.

Th.

see C.
ix.

10

35

xii.

also C.

cf. v.

1,

30 decernunt

117

Th.

xiii.

Sym. Ep.
10, 1,

on

the shifting of fiscal burdens from


potentes by collusion of the Tabulani.
4

^^

n(m fadunt

r
ant a rapma>
5

Salv.

B1 .

Hcita

et micita committlint

ad Secies,

iv.

CH.

PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CENSORS

ITS

great

landowners^jsEBie

Koman

Greek

viees

which did -most

to

a succeeding chapter, ample proofs from


^But Salvianus, like some of the old

'shall furnish, in

the

the

139

Code.

regarded the love of pleasure as


with
linked
the love of gold. ) The populations
inevitably
of the great towns, the men who were continually growing richer and more powerful by the impoverishment of
philosophers,

their neighbours,
1
able sensuality.

were

The

all alike

theatre

sunk in the most abominand the circus had been

the great corruptors of the Eoman


in spite of the thunders of the Church, and
the calamities of the times, these schools of cruelty and
lust retained all their old fascination far into the fifth
for

centuries

five

But

world.

Apollinaris Sidonius, about 460, describes, as


3
flourishing at Narbonne, that degraded pantomime,

century.
still

which the foulest

in

tales

of the old mythology were

represented in speaking gesture. The games of the circus


were held at Aries as late as 461, in honour of Majorian. 4
It

is

true

owing

that,

these

municipalities,
ceased to be held

growing poverty of the

to the

had in many places


and a self-complacent optimism took
exhibitions

credit for this as a sign of a higher moral tone.

Salvianus ruthlessly exposes the pretence.

he maintains,

character,

longer

has

means

the

is

still

of

unaltered,
its

gratifying

(But

The Koman
but
base

it

no

tastes/

Wherever, as at Home or Kavenna, the public amusements can still be kept up, the people will flock, as in
old

to

times,

renounce

"

all

The baptismal vow

witness them.

these works of the devil

?.

for

the

On the corruption

de Gub. Dei,
a

Ib. vi. 49.

Carm.

feverish

of Aquitaine,

vii. 16.

xxiii.

is

forgotten by
churches are emptied,

a nominally Christian people. The


the holy mysteries of the altar are
deserted

to

"

283

sqq.

excitement
4

contemptuously
of

the

circus.

Fauriel, Hist, dela Gaule Rom,


i.
394 ; Chaix, Apollin. Sid. i.
135.
6
Salv. de Gub. Dei, vi. 49, 50.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

140

Even the apparition

BOOK n

of the invaders could not abate the

rage of the populace for its accustomed indulgence.


Christians of Cirta and Carthage were cheering

The
rival

charioteers, or revelling in the turpitudes of the theatre,


1
their walls were surrounded by the Vandals.

when

Like the plague of Athens, 2 or the plague in the Middle


3

Ages,

the disasters and confusion of the

made men

reckless

citizens 4

and prone

fifth

century

to frantic excesses.

The

Treves, a city which bore the first


leading
and fiercest onslaught of the invaders, and was four
times, within a few years, given up to fire and sword,
of

were revelling in a frenzy of drunken debauchery when


enemy were at their gates. Scenes such as these
Salvianus had seen in his boyhood.
They had burnt
themselves into his memory, and the recollection of them
the

accounts for the almost ferocious energy and persistent


which he denounces the self-indulgence of

iteration with
his time.

But although we may believe that overwhelming


may have driven men here and there to drown
their sorrow in wild and vicious excitement, it is difficult
to credit the charge of universal and shameless immorality
which Salvianus makes against the men of his province.
disaster

That the slave-system


masters

is

dangerous

is dangerous to the morals of the


the experience of all ages.
But what is
to some, need not be fatal to all. f Yet

Salvianus makes no exception in his impeachment of


the morals of Southern Gaul.
Every estate is a scene of
5

prostitution.

^A^quitaine

is

&
T&

Salv. de Gub. Dei, vi. 69.


2
Thuc. ii. 53, irpdrbv re ^/>e KO!
r&\\a T-Q 7r6Xet irl ir\ov avopias
v6<ri}/ji.a.

Introd. to Boccaccio's Decameron.


4
Salv. de Gub. Dei, vi. 72.
Salvianus seems to have witnessed
some of these scenes with his own

eyes (vidi ego ipse, etc. ).

one vast lupanar.


6

Ib.

vii.

16,

ac divitum non

Conjugal

quis poteutum
in luto libidinia

paene unum lupanar omnium


The conquest of Spain by
the "imbelles Vandali" is accounted for solely by the imvixit

vita.

the conquered (vii.


sensuality of Koman
Africa is described in even stronger
language (vii. 70), video quasi

morality
27).

of

The

CH.

/r5

PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CENSORS


unknown.

faithfulness is

who had taken

vow

the

141

(Except in the ranks of those


of renunciation, Salviajius will
Tit is, of

not allow the existence of a decent virtue.

course, never possible to_say_ how a whole populatiojLhas


lived fTiut this is equally true of the attack aa of t.hp.

defence

moral

of

We

character.

can

only. form.,

.a

hesitating judgment on the scanty evidence which has


come_dawn_to^ usT^and on general probability-based

The indictment of
on_experience of human nature.
Salvianus ca^oT~Be~reconciledr^witn the contemporary
which WP. ImvA in thft letters of
picture of
society

And

the Church
mass of the Gallic
There must have been no mean
people to a higher life,
between the small class who renounced fortune and
family ties at the call of Christ, and the monsters of
cruel rapacity and unbridled lust described by Salvianus.
We know minutely the state of the society of Bordeaux l
In
sixty years before the de Gubernatione Dei appeared.
Sidonius.

if

must have utterly

Salvianus

be

accurate,

failed in raising the


i

the cultivated circle there, there is


Christian belief.
Yet there is also

little

trace of ardent

little

trace of shame-

mm ar.hu a

j^he contemporary society of Sy


Rome, was severely respectable in spite of

less vice,

at

its

pagan
Aquitanian morals, in the time of
Salvianus, were so thoroughly corrupt, then, in spite of
r

If

sympathies.

the spiritual triumphs of S. Martin, in spite of the efforts


of a highly organised church, ruled by many bishops of
saintly character and great popular influence, the tone
of provincial

society

Ausonius and his

must have

fallen below the level of


and of those grave and strict

friends,

provincial senators who, ten generations before Ausonius,


were regarded by Tacitus 2 as the salt of the Eoman
scaturientem vitiis civitatem
.
cunctos vario luxus marcore per.

ditos.
illo

fuit

And

numero lam
?

quis in
innumero castus

again,

vii. 75,

Sec

Ann.

3 of this book.

c.

55, simul novi homines


e raunicipiis et coloniis atque etiain
iii.

provinciis

domesticam

in

senatum adsumpti
inparsimoniam

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

142

BOOK n

world. I Salvianus, like S. Jerome, judged the men of his


/time by a standard which might bear hardly on the most

/ respectable societies of modern Christendom/] ftalvianus


But the preacher, from his
a preacher.
is_ essentially

and

in proportion
to
his enthusiasm for
a
cannot
be
dispassionate observer. \ His
righteousness,
\ raison d'etre is to edify, not to describe or analyse with
vocation,

accuracy. ^>He will seldom refer to virtues


he will exaggerate faults which he wishes
;

Miistorical

won

already
to eradicate

he will blacken even his own past to exalt


and he will be equally

the grace that has saved him


merciless to the sins of those
raise to

a higher

The
was as

life.

whom

he is striving to
of
Salvianus, while
society
little inclined as modern

nominally Christian,
society to carry out in daily practice precepts which interfere with material success.
The men who did so then lost
)

caste, and were regarded by the polished and selfish


world very much as Horace Walpole l would have treated
an aristocratic friend who had turned Methodist.
On

the

other

hand,

the

man who

has

marl a

f,hp,

g^-at.

apt to treat the worldly class as worse


it
ia.
Its placid materialism, its bourgeois
really
for
all
ideal
f contempt
aims, irritate to madness the soul
renunciation

to

whom

is

death and the Great Judgment and the

life to

are the only realities. ( The grosser sins of a small


minority are regarded as the natural product of that

come

absorption in the things of the perishing world which is


the choice or the necessity of the mass of men at all

But the monsters

times.

of depravity in every age are

And
probably as rare as the paragons of saintly virtue.
we need not take too literally
mot of Salvianus that

te

"

the

Eoman world was

laughing

tulerunt of. xvi. 5.


The opinion
which Tacitus held, as to the
severity of morals in the provinces,
is confirmed by the picture which
;

when

it died."

Ausonius gives of his family circle


in the Parentalia.
1

p.

H. Walpole's Letters, voL


191 (to J. Chute).

iii.

CHAPTER
TEE SOCIETY OF

II

AURELIUS SYMMACHUS

Q.

'

"

-*i

._

'

"

'
_

'

L'

'

ii

__

we have reviewed the adverse


some contemporary moralists on the state
the fourth and fifth centuries.
But__ we

IN the preceding chapter


I

judgments

'

of

of

society in

*c

fortunately possess, in the other literary remains of that


age, materials for forming an estimate independent of

The letters of Q.
the
of
Aurelius Symmachus,
poems
Ausonius, and the
to
us
the life of the
Macrobius
Saturnalia of
either

Christian

or

pagan censors.
1

cultivated

upper

class,

[reveal
in

both

the

capital

and the

provinces, in the years immediately preceding the first


shock of the great invasions^jThei_pp? g P n ^ vnlimm'Tinna
correspondence of Apollinaris Sidonius form an invalur

able storehouse of information as to the tone and habits

Gallo-Eoman society, in the. years when the


shadowy emperors were appearing and disappearing

of

last

like

puppets in rapid succession at the beck of a German


master of the forces, and when a Visigothic government

had

been organised in A^uitaine. l Symmachus and


Macrobius, although they witnessed tne final triumph
of the Church, belonged to the ranks of that conservative
paganism which made a last stand in defence of the
)

old system of religion,


1

Q.

Aurel.

Symmachus

and nourished
was

probably bom not long after 340,


and died not long after 402 (Seeck,
xliv.
i.

31).

Peter, GeschicMl. Litt.


Apollinaris Sidonius was

cf.

their patriotic

and

born about 430 (he was adolescens


in the year 449, Ep. viii. 6), and
was alive " three olympiads " after
his consecration
as
bishop of
Auvergne in 472 (Ib. ix. 12).

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

144

BOOK

II

pride with the dreams of a past that was


ever.V Sidonius represents a society which,
though obstinately Eoman in culture and sentiment, had
been nominally Christian for two generations, was living
aristocratic

gone

>'

for

in close contact with the

German invaders, and was becom-

order was passing away.


ing dimly conscious that the
Q. Aurelius Symmachus belonged to a"IamiIy~wTucEr
held a foremost place in the last quarter of the fourth

oQ

was not equal

century, but

some others

to

in wealth

and

His grandfather was consul in the


antiquity.
1
His father had been prefect
reign of Constantine.
of the city in the reign of Valentinian I., and, after
holding

all

The

the high

offices,

survived in the year

still

was prolonged through a succession of


Symrnachi appear in the
distinguished descendants.
A female descendant
Fasti as consuls in 446 and 485.
of the orator was the wife of the great Boethius, and
2
the mother of the two consuls of 522.
Q. Aurelius
382.

line

Symmachus, the author

of the letters, married a daughter

Memmius

Vitrasius Orfitus, who was Urban prefect in


the reign of Constantius.
He was trained in speaking,
as so many young Komans of that age were, by a Gallic
of

and in his early youth he formed


professor of rhetoric ;
a close friendship with the poet Ausonius at the court of
4
His earliest efforts in oratory
Valentinian on the Khine.
were panegyrics on that Emperor, and on Gratian,
delivered at Treves during the campaigns against the
Alemanni.
The oratory of Symmachus was greatly

admired by his contemporaries, 5 and he was repeatedly


1
Seeck's Sym. xli.
For the
career of L. Aur. Avianius Symmachus see O.I.L. vi. 1698.
2
Rusticiana, the wife of Boethius,
boars the name of her great-greatgrandmother, the wife of Q. Aure-

liua

Symmachus
Symmachi

of the

Sym. Ep.

cf.

the

Stemma

in Seeck, xl.

ix. 88.

lb.

xvii.,

Ep.

dum

i.

in

32
Auson. Ep.
comitatu degimus
;

ambo.
6
He was entrusted with the
choice of a professor of rhetoric for
Milan ; his choice fell on S. Augus-

23 ;
Aug. Conf. v. c. 13,
Macrob. v. 1, 7 ; Prudent, c.

tine.
cf.

Sym.

i.

632.

CHAP,

THE SOCIETY OF SYMMACHUS

ii

145

to put before the Emperor the views of the


Senate on questions of the day. His speech on the
removal of the Altar of Victory is not unworthy of his

selected

and has acquired additional interest from the


of his kinsman Ambrose and the poet Prudentius.

fame,
replies

dedicated by Q. Fab. Memmius


inscription
the
to
memory of the great senator recites a
Symmachus

The

long

which he had

of offices

list

held.

He

had been

governor of several provinces, prefect of the city, pontiff


He was admittedly the chief of the Senate.
and consul.

/Yet probably no public


I

collection of letters of so

man

ever left behind

him

In an

general interest.
age of great conflicts and great changes, it is startling
to find

to his correspondents
Either the government was very

Symmachus complaining

lack of

of

little

matter.

or

reticent,

Symmachus

and

his

unobservant or careless of public

circle

affairs.
|

were

very

The Senate

treated by the emperors with ceremonious


and possessed many valuable privileges.
But
after the great reorganisation by Diocletian, it had ceased
to have any share in the government. ( Like the consulship, it remained as one of those dignified fictions by
which the Koman disguised the vastness of the change
It was
which separated him from the days of freedom.
indeed part of the policy of Stilicho to consult and pay
deference to the Senate, and in the troubled years of
Alaric's invasions that body appeared more than once to
But these were
exercise some independent authority.
only the illusions of a moment.
Occasionally the

was

still

respect,

Emperor condescended

men

of which, to

like

to send it a despatch, the arrival


of the

Symmachus, was an event

That not a moment might be lost, the


importance.
august body would sometimes be summoned before dawn

first

C.I.L.

Ep.

parentes

vi.

10
etiam

iii.

quae nunc angusta vel nulla sunt,

1699.

in familiares paginas conferebant.


3
On this government monopoly

35, at olim
patriae negotia,

cf. ii.

of

news

v.

Peter Gesch. Litt.

i.

363.

-**

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

146
to

BOOK n

hear the formal words of some despatch which may


1
little deserved such eager haste.
To be chosen to

have
read

assembled nobles was a coveted honour,

to the

it

and Symmachus,

to

whom

the task often

fell, is

full

of

gratitude at being made the interpreter of the "divine


2
But all this was purely formal Eomejbad
words."
j

Not a
long ceased to be the real seat of government.
single rescript in the time of Symmachus is dated from

When

Home.

Honorius paid his triumphal

visit in

403,

the palace of the Caesars at Eome had been practically


deserted for a hundred years.
While couriers were
arriving day and night at Milan or Eavenna,
imperial council were deliberating on the latest

and the
demands

City, the hearth of the Kornan


of its gods, in whose name the whole vast

of Alaric, the Eternal


race, the

home

system was carried on, had almost as

little

influence on

the course of government as Tibur or Praeneste.


Now
and then a feeling of neglect and desertion breaks out, as
in the appeal of Claudian to the Emperor to return to his
true

home on

the Senate

the Palatine.
soothed, as

is

Occasionally the pride of


it was consulted about

when

the war with

Gildo.

moment when

the barbarian

hopes were

Its

roused

for

conqueror raised Attains


6
to the purple.
But, as a rule, a dull, gray atmosphere
seems to brood over the high society of Eome, and we
cannot

how men

help wondering

like

Probus,

after

governing provinces larger than any kingdom of modern


Europe, could be content with the frigid dignity and the
emptiness of their lives in the capital.
1

Sym. Ep. i. 13,


albente concurrittir.
2

Ib.

i.

95.

He

nondum

asks

caelo
to

Syagrius
thank the emperors " qui humanae
voci divinas literas crediderunt."
s De
ro
7>, Sexto
e w/, Cons.
^/vc Honor.
TT
QQ 53.
39,

of the

year

397, consult! igitur in senatu

more

Sym. Ep.

iv.

5,

majorum, ingenti

causae

sententiis satisfecimus.
5
Zos. vi. 6, 7.
6
Sex. Petr. Probus

devotis

had

been

procons. of Africa, 357-58 ; praef.


Praet of Ital7> Etyn&, and Africa,
68 _ 76
of ^aul, 380 ; of Italy
C.LL. vi.
again, 383-84, and 387.
1752, 1753.
-

CHAP,

THE SOCIETY OF SYMMACHUS

ii

147

Senate no doubt was impotent and ill-informed.


Yet the calm silence of Symmachus in the face of dangers
IfThe
and calamities, which must have struck the most unobis

servant,
of the

very puzzling.^ It

member

in a confidential

peril

It

Eome

of

letter,

be the proud reserve


which will not hint, even

may

of a great race,

that

the

commonwealth

is

in

may be also that unshaken faith in the destiny


which, only a few years after her capture by

Alaric, inspired the last true poet of Eome to celebrate


her beneficence and, clemency, and to predict for her an
1
feeling was shared to some extent
unending sway,

|The
2
even by Christian writers like S. Augustine and Orosius.
(There is a tendency on all sides to treat- t-Th Q ^^fl^ing.
troubles of the time as only a passing cloud, as necessary
incidents in an imperial career, not worse than Rome had

often surmounted in past ages.

Yet, in spite of these


a letter from Symto
read
startling
to his son in the year 402, the year of the great
it is

considerations,

machus

battles of Pollentia

the invaders.

to

nouncement

and Verona, which makes no allusion

He

confines himself to the bare an-

owing to the unsafe state


he has had to make a long detour in order
reach the Court at Milan.
There are a good many glimpses of the state of Eome
of the fact that,

of the roads,
to

But we
during the anxious years of the G-ildonic revolt.
learn more from Claudian than from Symmachus about
the meditated transfer of the African provinces to the

Eastern Empire.

/Symmachus

is

concerned chiefly with

the dignity of his order and the condition of the capital.

was a proud day when Stilicho had to report the


4
opinion of the Senate on the conduct of Gildo, and when
more majorum the traitor was voted to be a public
It

We

enemy.
1

Rutil.

have

Namat.

i.

many

illustrations of Claudian's

47-140.

'

Orosius,

ii.

2, 6.

Sym. Ep. vii. 13 cf. Seeck,


Ixiii.
The detour was made by
;

com-

Ticinum, which lay on the west, to


avoid the eueiny coming from the
east.
4

Sym. Ep.

iv. 5.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

148
1

"pascimur

plaint,

arbitrio Mauri."

BOOK

II

The African corn-

ships ceased to reach Ostia with their wonted regularity,


and the terror of famine spread among the mob of Rome. 2

The masses were becoming sullen and dangerous.


were all the signs of a coming storm.
Numbers

There
of the

higher families were flying to the safe seclusion of their


country seats, and Symmachus prepared to send away his
children from the capital.

As

the chief author of the

condemnation of Gildo, he had himself to withdraw for a


4
while to one of his villas.
The distress was temporarily
relieved by an oblatio of twenty days' supplies made by
the Senate.

And

again

Symmachus

describes the delight

on the Tiber, he saw the corn


6
arrive.
But there are few indications that he realised the grave social and economic
dangers which are revealed by the Theodosian Code.
He once casually mentions that he is debarred from the
with which, from his
fleet from Macedonia

of

enjoyment
7

his

There

villa

country seat by the prevalence of


is a slight touch of feeling in a

brigandage.
reference to the gloomy appearance of the country which
met his eyes in one of his excursions. 8 Yet one would

never gather from the passage that hundreds of thousands


of acres in once smiling districts had returned to waste.

The

letters of

Symmachus,

if

they had told us more of

public events, might have been among the


documents in historical literature.
As it

their chief

what they rather stintedly reveal of the


and tone^pf the class to which Symmachus be-

value
life

most precious
is,

lies

in

we see it for the last time apparently


the possession of enormous wealth, great administrative power, and exquisite social culture, seem-

longed.
secure

De

"Here

latrociniis suburbanites.

Bell. Gildon. v. 70.

Sym. Ep.
Ib.
Ib.
Ib.
Ib.
Ib.

vi.

14

cf. vi.

18,

ii.

8 Ib. v. 12.

6,

It should be said that he appears


have appended to some of his

vi. 26, 66, 21.


vi. 66.

to

vi. 12, 26.

letters a separate bulletin, contain-

ing the news of the day

in. 55, 82.


ii.

22, sed

nunc intuta

eat

ii.

25.

cf.

Ep.

CHAP,

THE SOCIETY OF SYMMACHUS

ii

149

ingly without a thought of the storm which was about to


break. )

The

senatorial order

was

essentially a wealthy_jcJaaL..

considerable prohad_pjoe_to include nearly all the


1
in
and
the
And, as we shall
prietors
Italy
provinces.
It

see in another chapter, the wealth and social


as what may be

members were increasing

power

of its

called

the

rapidly declined in numbers


and pecuniary independence.
Of course there were many
of
in
ranks
of the senators. I That
the
degrees
opulence

middle

class (the curiales)

some were comparatively poor is evident from the fact


that a certain number were relieved of the full weight of
2
But we have express testimony, apart
imperial imposts.
from indirect evidence, that the wealth of others was
3
A senatorial income of the highest class,
enormous.
exclusive of what was derived from the estates in kind,
4
sometimes reached the sum of
180,000, and that at a
time when the ordinary rate of interest was 12 per cent.
More moderate incomes, such as_that of Symmachus,
Symmachus had at least
am^untedjbg^6. QJljQILa^ear.
three great houses in Eome or the suburbs, and fifteen
5
He had
country seats in various districts of Italy.
The
large estates in Samnium, Apulia, and Mauretania.
tenure of a great office in the provinces gave a man the
chance of acquiring such domains.
Ammianus Marcellinus speaks of the estates of Sex. Petron. Probus as
6
scattered all over the Empire, and he broadly hints that
1

Th.
2

ii. 38
cf. Duruy, vii.
and Godefroy's Paratitlon to

Zos.

176,

p.
0.

vi. tit. ii.

0.

Th.

44

(Miill.

4
Marq. Rom. Alt. ii. p. 55; cf.
Duruy, v. p. 598, on the fortunes of
the earlier Empire.
Pallas, the
freedman of Claudius' reign, had
ef.

Friedlander,

i.

>

vi. 2, 4, 8.

Olympiod. ap. Phot.

300,000,000 sesterces =

For the various seats of Symmachus u Seeck, xlvi. some may


have come to him by his wife from
Or fit us

3,

p. 192.

200, 000,

Amm.

Marc. xxvu. 11, 1, opum


amplitudine cognitus orbi Romano,
per quern universum paene patrimonia sparsa possedit, juste an secus

non judicioli est nostri. Pliny (H.


N. xviii. 35) alleges that half of
Roman Africa was owned by six persons.
For a description of such an
estate v. Boissier, UAfr.Rvm. p. 150.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

150

BOOK n

that great noble had not always acquired them by the


means.
The elder Sallustius, when he was

fairest

vicarius of Spain about 364, probably acquired the property in that province which his son enjoyed a generaThe wealth of
tion later, in the time of Symmachus.

who abandoned it all to accompany S. Jerome


2
Bethlehem, of S. Paulinus, and many others of the
Roman nobility, is known to us from Christian sources.
Paula,

to

The fervour of asceticism may have led S. Jerome to


overdraw his picture of Eoman luxury. But there is one
department of expenditure in which the letters of Symmachus reveal an almost reckless profusion. The praetorwhich every young senator of the highest r.laaa had
8
was one of the heaviest burdens on the senatorial class, so heavy that some of them preferred to
ship,
\

to assume,

It had, like
resign their order rather than undertake it.
the consulship, long ceased to confer any power or

authority. ( It remained as a disguised form of taxation


for the pleasures of the mob of the capital. ) The younger

Symmachus was still a mere boy in the hands of a tutor,


when he was designated for this expensive honour of
The games which the
amusing the rabble of Eome.
young praetor had to provide cost his father a sum equal
4
to
So far from complaining of
90,000 of our money.
the expense, his father

is

eager to seize the opportunity

1
C.l.L.vi. 1729. The monument
records the gratitude and admiration of the Spaniards.
It is dated
in the consulship of Jovianus Aug.
and Varronianus (364). Flav. Sallustius had been cons. ord. in 363,
and praet. praef. 361-3 ; cf. Amm.

Marc. xxi.

The herds

8,

1.

Sym. Ep.

clvi.

neiP

"SS;P

qU

Greg. Tur. de Glor.


the wealth of Paula

On

Hieron. Ep. 108,

v.

0.

Th.

5.

vi. tit. iv.

with the Para-

titlon.
4
.

Seeck,

xlvi.

Probus,

shortly

after the death of


;

Honorms, in spite
enormous losses caused by the
Gothic invasion, is said to have
expended 54,000 on a similar occa*

'

2
The wealth of Paulinus
alluded to in Aus. Ep. xxiv. 115

v.

Conf. 107.

v. 56.

of horses referred to were

on the Spanish estates, Seeck,


cf. Sym. Ep. ix. 12

His wife Therasia was enormously


wealthy,

is
:

mUm lacerateque

perdominosveterisPaulliniregnafleamus.

^ ne

sion.

Maximus spent

Olympiod.
ii.

p. 21.

44;

cf.

180.000.

Friedlander,

CHAP,

THE SOCIETY OF SYMMACHUS

ii

of gaining popularity with the crowd,


His time
scorn any idea of parsimony.

151

and rejects with


and energies are

devoted for several years to the preparations for the


spectacle which is to usher his son into the career of
life.
Symmachus, in everything a devotee of the
was nowhere more conservative than in his belief
in the ancient games.
He had put aside the conventional tone of servility in demanding from the reluctant
Theodosius the performance of what he regarded as an
3
But when the
imperious duty to the commonwealth.
occasion arrived he was ready to act up to his own prin-

public
2

past,

Many of his letters are full of the coming games.


appeals to his friends in all parts of the world to
assist him.
Lions and crocodiles from Africa, dogs from
ciples.

He

Scotland, horses from the famous studs of Spain, are

all

and the most anxious provision is made for


4
their conveyance from these distant regions.
(The gladiatorial shows had not yet been suppressed by Christian
sentiment, and Symmachus was determined to have a
band of Saxons, 5 to crown the success of his games.) He
sought

for,

puts as much seriousness into the business as if it affected


the very existence of the State. 6
His anxiety is over-

In spite, however, of all his care and profupowering.


sion, there were many accidents and disappointments.
Some of the animals arrived half dead from the hardships
of their long journey.
Many of the splendid Spanish
had either perished by the way, or were hope-

coursers

lessly disabled.

The

would not eat and had

crocodiles

to be killed.
Sicily,
1

Chariot-drivers and players, expected from


were, in spite of all searches along the coast,

Sym. Ep.

ii.

78.

Cf. ix.

126;

78.

ii.

For an example of his conservatism v. ii. 36, opposing a decision


of the pontifical college to allow the
Vestals to erect a statue to Praetex-

sed ea

misit.
4
jj 't

77 .
6 ,/
lb

'

tatus.
3

lb.

vestri

Ed.

6,

beneficia

numinis

populus Romanus expectat

jam quasi debita repetit

quae aeternitas vestra sponte pro-

9
7

^-

Cf. ltd. 9.
j v>

j x>'
..

'

58 . 60> 63
132.

AR
46

iv - 8

'

>

lb. v. 56.

60

ix>

12

75

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

152

nowhere

to be heard of.

The most

cruel

BOOK n

blow

of all

was

the loss of the Saxon gladiators, who, declining to make


sport for the rabble of Kome, strangled one another before
the hour of their humiliation in the arena arrived.
I

This

is

Symmachus

the most interesting passage in the life of


The world he
as revealed in his letters.

was the slava of old tradition and conventionality, and, with all its splendour, must have
suffered from ennui.] The great man's day, just as in
Pliny's time, was filled by a round of trivial social
observances, which were as engrossing and as obligatory
8
as serious duties.
The crowd of morning callers and
/
All the
had
to
be received as of old.
dependants
anniversaries in the families of friends had to be duly
If a friend obtained from
remembered and honoured.
belongs to

the Emperor the distinction of one of the old republican


magistracies, it was an imperative social duty to attend
his inauguration. 4
The service of the Sacred Colleges
was another social obligation, 5 although Symmachus hints
broadly that some of his colleagues in the pontifical

were inclined to flatter the Court by absenting


6
and even Flavianus and Praetextatus, who
were pagans of the pagans, sometimes excused themselves

college

themselves

country seats or at some pleasure


In nothing \verp thfl demands o
Campania.
more
etiquette
imperious than in letteirwritinff.
Again
K'and again Symmachus recalls the rule of "old-fashioned

by absence

at

their

resort in

manners," that the friend who goes from home should be


the first to write. 8
It matters not whether he has any1

2
8

JEp. yi. 42.

Ib.

ii.

Two

46.

generations

later

than

si fors Laribus egrediebantur, artabat clientum praevia


circumfusa
pedisequa
populositas,

que quidem,

Sid.

Ep.

i.

9, 3.

Sym. Ep.
jb i 47
,,'

'.

i.

-->

101.

48.

at

T I* imini
4/, 51; 11. 53,
tmimmunusinjungis: frueredehciis
nos mandata curabimua.
copiosis
;

8 2b.
vi. 60.

CHAP,

THE SOCIETY OF SYMMACHUS

ii

153

Indeed, it is hard to see why a great


thing to say.
of these letters should have been written at all.

many

are about as interesting as a visiting card, and seem


have had no more significance than a polite attention.
The stiffness of etiquette, which was introduced into
official life by Diocletian, and which invaded the legal

They
to

style of the imperial rescripts, reigns in the correspondence


of the period, even between near relations.
The con-

servatism of Syrnmachus, indeed, revolts against the newfangled habit of prefixing titles to a friend's name in a
familiar letter. 1

Still,

his

own

son

"

amabilitas tua,"
That there were warm

"

is

and his daughter domina filia."


and a kindly unselfish nature behind

affections

artificial stiffness in

With him and

afterwards.

Symmachus we

the case of

all

this

shall see

his caste the habit of social

observance,
complicated and engrossing, had
become a second nature, without always freezing the

however

springs of natural kindliness.


Yet the cold dignity of the

life

in those palaces on

and Aventine, with its endless calls to


frivolous social duties, and its monotony of busy idleIt was not,
ness, must have grown irksome at times.
the

Caelian

the

coolness

of

Praeneste,

perhaps,

altogther

abandon

of Baiae, or the boar-hunting in the

the gay
woods of

Laurentum, that tempted the fashionable world away


from the attractions of Rome,
Symmachus loves Eome,
with all its turbulence, even in times of scarcity and
8
on the
tumult, and he will linger in a suburban villa
chance of being summoned to a meeting of the Senate
but even he feels the need of repose and emancipation
from the tyranny of society. ) At one of his country
j

houses, he

man

is

will ever

happy as such a stately self-contained


show himself, looking after the making of

as

Sym.J^p.iv.30,itaneepistularum

nostrarum simplex usus

interiit,

ut

paginis tuis lenocinia aevi praesentis


anteferas? redeamus quin ergo ad

infucatos
2

nominum

titulos.

60, 80
Ep. i. 6, 7, 10, 11, 13.
8
Ep. ii. 57, vii. 21.

II. vii.

6, vi.

cf Ruric,

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

154

BOOK n

and wine, laying down a fresh mosaic, receiving a


friend or two, or drinking in the quiet freshness of the

his oil

Laurentine woods that overhang the sea. 1


There is no
2
trace in his letters that nature has for him any of the

romantic charm which

Ausonius and Eutilius.


sportsman even in his youth.
its stillness and repose, for the
relief it gave from the monotonous strain of social duty
which was doubly oppressive to his kind and conscientious
nature.
Above all, it gave him leisure for converse with
it

had

for

He was not much of a


He loved the country for

old favourites of his library.


Among^ the best men of the pagan or semi -pagan
aristocracy of that time the passion for literature or
^

erudition was absorbing.


With many of them it took
the place of interest_in public affairs.
The company
whom Macrobius brings together in his Saturnalia were

Koman

the leaders of

Praetextatus, Flavianus,

society

two members
himself.

of the great house of the Albini, Symmachus


They are joined by other guests of lower social

rank, but equals in the literary brotherhood, Eustathius,


a Greek professor of rhetoric, and Servius, the prince
of Roman critics.
Praetextatus, the arch-hierophant,
initiated

in

all

the cults

of

and Egypt,

Syria

Flavianus is
exponent of priestly lore.
that augural art which led him to his

is

the

the master of

doom when he

espoused the cause of Eugenius and paganism against the


Church.
The Albini enlarge on the antiquarian exactness
3
of Virgil.
There was no originality in the literary

enthusiasm of these men.

It

was an enthusiasm which

force in preserving and appreciating what the


spent
of
creation
and inspiration had left behind. 4 Praeages
its

J^p.

in otio

ii.
26 iii. 23, nunc hie
nisticamur et multimodis
;

autnrnnitate defrummr
vii. 15, 18 ; vi. 44.
2
.

cf.

vii.

31

112 sqq.
Macrob. L 17, 1
4
On the tastes
3

Ib. v. 78, agri quiete delector


.
saepe oculos pasco culturis ;
Plin. Ep. i. 9 ; Friedlander, ii.

p.

labours

i.

24, 17-19.

and

learned

of

this circle cf. Peter,


Gesch. Litt. iller die Horn. Kaiserzeit^

p. 137
xxii. sqq.

i.

Jan, ProL ad Macrob.

CHAP,

ii

THE SOCIETY OF SYMMACHUS

155

textatus, besides giving much attention to the emendation


of the classics, translated the Analytics of Aristotle. 1

Flavianus was

an erudite historian, and


volume of Annals 2 dedicated to Theodosius.

composed a
His transla-

tion of the Life of Apollonius of Tyana by Philostratus


was in vogue in the time of Sidonius, and fragments of
his de Doymatibus Philosophorum were still read in the
Middle Ages. 3
Sallustius, another great person of the
circle of Symmachus, is known to have emended the
4
text of Apuleius.
A great noble in Spain, who had a
famous stud, from which Symmachus drew a contribution for his son's games, seems to have combined in a

rare fashion a taste for horse-breeding with a taste for


and begs the orator for a copy of his speeches. 5

literature,

Symmachus had many literary friends in Gaul, most of


them mere names to us now. Among them were three
&
brothers who had been trained in the great school of
Treves.
One of them had the honour of receiving the
dedication of Claudian's

Rape of Proserpine?

Another,

Protadius, affects a great taste for sport, but is really a


litterateur, with an ambition to write the history of his
province.
Symmachus, in his friendly way, helped him

with advice and some materials from his library. 8


If the
history of Protadius was ever written, it shared the fate
of many another work of that age of which the
cruelty
or contempt of time has not left even a trace.
There
was no doubt much vanity and love of mutual admiration under all this literary activity.
But in our own

day the apotheosis


1
.

Sym. Ep.
.

libris

libenter

i.

of self-advertising mediocrity is

53, remissa

veterum

tempera
ruminandis

cf.
C.I.L. vi.
expendis
1779, d, vel quae periti condidere
carmina, vel quae solutis vocibus
aunt edita, meliora reddis quam
Seeck's Sym.
legendo sumpseras.
Ixxxvii. n. 394.
2
G.I.L. vi. 1783 ; cf. 1782, histori co disertissimo.
;

Sid.

Ep.

viii.

cf.

not

Seeck,

cxv.
4

note to the Laurentian


of Apuleius quoted in Seeck,
clvi. ; Hildebrand's Prol. ad Apv.1.
Cf. the

MS.
Ixi.
B

Sym. Ep.

iv. 60, 63, 64.

lb. iv. 18-56.

'

De Haptu Proserp.

Sym. Ep.

iv. 18.

ii.,

praef. 50.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

156

BOOK n

What literary clique can cast


altogether unheard of.
the first stone ?
And, after all, it is better to be vain of
knowledge and literary facility than of wealth or birth.
The very weakness shows a deference for ideals which
rise above the level of bourgeois self-complacency, or of
the stolid pride of inherited rank.
/
Symmachus was a good man according to his lights,
And one of his
but he was not a very strong man.
/

t^

He evidently took
weaknesses was literary affectation.
enormous pains with these letters. ) He had, as he confesses, little to say but he says if in the most elaborate
Yet he
and ingenious style of which he ia napablf*
and
of
talent
more
than
for
his
once
poverty
apologises
that
falsehood
the
and
he
of
is
amusing
phrase,
guilty
his style is unstudied. 1
To one of his correspondents
he appeals to keep the letter for his own reading, yet
in the same letter he admits that his secretaries, "per
examinis ignorantiam," are preserving copies of what he
2
writes.
Perhaps, however, this was not all vanity and
It is possible to have a modest conception
affectation.
f

of one's native talent, along with the ambition that the


fruits of elaborate care and cultivation should survive.

true
le

past,

Ghelive
)

Eoman, who reverenced the great memories of


had a passionate, though often a futile, desire

in the

memory

The

of

coming

ages.

which

in

conversations

literary
intimate friends of

some

of

the

Symmachus take part in the Saturnalia of Macrobius (although the matter is often borrowed
from Gellius and

earlier writers)

probably give a fairly

correct idea of the literary tone and interests of that


The subject will be dealt with at length in
circle.

another chapter.

For the present

1
Ep. i. 14 iv. 27, sum quidem
pauper loquendi.
2
Ib. v. 85, quare velim tibi habeas quae incogitata proferimus.
Of. his advice to his son to culti;

it

is sufficient

to say

vate a certain negligence of style


in his letters, a precept which
Symmachus did not enforce by

example,
*

vii. 9.

Peter, Gesch. Liit.

i.

p. 143.

CHAP,

ii

THE SOCIETY OF SYMMACHUS

157

that the literary criticism iu Macrobmsjis^ far from con-

temgtiHe^^ The minute antiquarianism, indeed, may seem


But to a Eoman, like
us sometimes rather trifling.
Praetextatus, who was still loyal to the faith of his
ancestors and to the past, every scrap of the ancient
And in the minute and
lore of his race was precious.
to

often delicate appreciation, not only of the learning, but


of the literary beauties of Virgil, we are compelled to
forgive and almost to forget the blindness and perversity
of a generation who admired the great masters, and yet

wrote in a style which they would have thought utterly


And it must be confessed that there is much
grotesque.

Equipped by the study of the great masterand


the
most elaborate training, they yet came
pieces
to write a style which is in many cases a mixture of
imitation, affectation, and barbarism. \Ingenuity took
the place of originality, extravagance and exaggeration
of real force.
Style, in fact, became a mere "jargon of
the initiated were never weary of ex\And
experts."
In a letter to
the
most
fulsome flattery.
changing
his friend Ausonius about his poem on the Moselle,
Symmachus, while he gently ridicules the minute description of the fishes of that river, yet has no hesitation
1
in ranking his friend with Virgil.
The poet returned
to forgive.

by attributing to the oratory of Symforce and graces of the oratory of


2
In the year 3*78
Isocrates, Demosthenes, and Cicero.
8
a Greek rhetorician named Palladius arrived in Some.
The fashionable and cultivated world were carried away
the compliment
machus all the

"

by his declamation, his wealth of invention, his dignity


and brilliance of diction." If we are inclined to despise
such unreal displays, and such extravagant eulogy, it is
well to remember that admiration for mental power, even
1

i. 14,
ego hoc tuum carmen
Maronis adjungo.
Auson. Ep. xvii.

Ep.

libris
*

ccii.

Sym.

i.

15,

ix.

cf.

Seeck,

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

158

BOOK n

when

misapplied, is better than a Philistine contempt


for things of the mind. [.The aristocratic class in the
last age of the Western Empire had many faults, but

they treatejMadeSt and culture as at least the equals


of wealth and rank j^ and there has seldom been an

(<>

when

and culture received higher rewards.


Symmachus recommended the brilliant rhetor to the
notice of Ausonius, who was then Pretorian prefect.
rPalladius was readily enrolled in the ranks of the
imperial service, and within three or four years had
1
In
risen to the great place of master of the offices.
the same year Marinianus, another literary friend of
Symmachus, who was a professor of law, rose to the
age

talent

,?

of vicar

of

the Spanish province.

/The poet
the most brilliant example in that age of
the recognition of literary eminence by the State.
It
dignity

Ausonius

is

has been said with some truth that the reign of Gratian
was quite as much the reign of Ausonius.
Originally
jf

a humble grammarian in the school of Bordeaux, he was


Ausonius
appointed by Valentinian his son's tutor.
possessed the gifts which were then the most admired
infinite facility, the power of giving novelty and importance to trifles by ingenious tricks of phrase, the art of
flattering

'

The young Emperor

with literary grace.

re-

paid the care and recognised the talents of his teacher


8
by raising him to the quaestorship, the prefecture of the
and
in
to
the
illustrious
379
Gauls,
dignity of the consul-

ship as the colleague of Olybrius, a scion of one of the


,

proudest houses in the


1

Th.

Eoman

4 (382).
23-29.
Marinianus is the governor to whom
Gratian's constitution of 383 is
addressed (0. Th. ix. 1, 14).
He is
2

also

0.

vi. 27,

Sym. Ep.

iii.

probably the "viearius"

re-

ferred to in Sulp. Sev. CJiron. ii.


49, 3, as being preferred by the
Priscillianist heretics to Gregory

The

aristocracy.

relatives

Hence it has been


the prefect.
concluded that Marinianus was a
pagan.
3
ii.

Auson.
11,

te

Grat.

ac

Act.

patre

pro Cons.
principibus

quaestura communis et tui tantum


beueficii,
praefectura
Schenkl, Prooem. ix.

etc

cf.

CHAP,

THE SOCIETY OF SYMMACHUS

ii

159

and friends of Ausonius shared in his advancement.


For two or three years nearly all the great prefectures
and governorships were held by members of the poet's
1
He has also left marks of his ascendency on
family.
the Code.
Ausonius, at the height of his power and his
renown, was faithful to the system of culture which had
And the famous rescript of 3V6, 2 which
moulded him.
provides for the payment of fixed stipends to the teachers
of grammar and rhetoric, was undoubtedly suggested by
the

old

There

professor of Bordeaux.

is

little

in the

which a modern reader

literary productions of that age

can admire, and they are only the wreckage of a great


mass of probably even less merit.
Yet the literary
brotherhood, of which Symmachus and Ausonius were
leaders, did a

service to humanity by their worship of


an kleal which their own productions seldom approach.
Flf the letters c^_Symmachus are to be taken as a fair
picture of the moral tone oThis class, we are bound, with
some reservations, to form a far more favourable opinion
of the state of Eoman society than that which is suggested
by S. Jerome or Ammianus Marcellinus. There are, it is
true, glimpses in

Symmachus

Koman cruelty,
common people,8 of

of the old

contempt for slaves and the


selfishness, and lack of public
of

The Saxons,
spirit.
brought at great expense from
the far north for his gladiatorial shows, killed one another

whom Symmachus had

or

the

committed
arena

suicide

arrived. 4

the

before

And

combat in

of

day

kind-hearted

the

usually
narrates the tragedy with a few words of
He and his friends fought hard to
contempt.

Symmachus
bitter
1

Seeck's

Sym.

Ixxiv.

Schenkl,

x.
2

C. Th. xiii. 3, 11.


The law
addressed to Antonius, which
a
for
mistake
Scaliger thought
Ausonius. Godefroy in his Com-

is

meutary refutes this conjecture.


Antonius was a correspondent of

Symmachus,

Ep.

i.

89-93.

Cf.

Seeck's Sym. cix.


'

Sym. Ep. vi. 8, ut est servis


familiaris improbitas.
But this
censure was probably deserved ; cf.
Salv. de Gub. Dei, iv.
26, c. 5 ;
Hieron. Ep. liv.
4

Sym.

Ib.

ii.

46.

* sfi&uy

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

160

BOOK n

avoid the levy of recruits from their estates at the crisis


and actually succeeded in arranging
1
for a composition in money.
They also showed what
of the Gildonic war,

seems an unworthy timidity in the riots caused by the


failure of the corn supplies from Africa.
They removed
their families to the country, and
preparations made for sending his

The same

selfish

wards in the

weakness

is

flight of the

Symmachus had all


own children away. 2

revealed a few years afterwealthy classes, when the


8

There is
troops of Alaric were closing round the city.
that
is
or
much, too,
revolting
contemptible in the
conduct of public men revealed in the chronicle of those

The cruelty and greed of Heraclian in his


treatment of the refugees who landed in his province of
Africa would be almost incredible if we had not the
fatal years.

of S. Jerome.
The party, led by
carried out the Catholic reaction against
the policy of Stilicho, seem to have been at once cruel,
It is difficult to say
incompetent, faithless, and corrupt.

express testimony

Olympius, who

whether blindness or perfidy

more conspicuous in the

is

Hondealings of the Eoman government with Alaric.


orius is probably responsible for some of this baseness
But the great officials who lent themstupidity.
selves to such a policy, if they did not prompt it, cannot
be acquitted.
The Gothic king was as much superior to
and

his

opponents in sincerity and insight as he was

in

material force.

Yet these vices and weaknesses


should not

in the official class

make us unjust

to that societylis" a whole.


Salvianus says that his generation flattered i'ift?f -on the
The guests in the Saturnalia of
purity of its morals?
1

Ep.
7;.

1001
Zl,

10. vi. 14,

Rutil.

tec

vi. 64.
-

Namat.

i.

331

multos lacera suscepit

fugatos.

Hieron. Ep. 130, 7. Heraclian


tlie assassin of Stilicho and the
friend Qf Olympius cf< the S pie n did
contrast of the charity of Laeta,
widow of Gratian, Zos. v. 39.
B
Salv. de Gub. Dei, vi.
44.

was

aa
99.

ab

urbe

CHAP,

THE SOCIETY OF SYMMACHUS

ii

161

Macrobius claim that their society is free from many of


the grosser forms of luxury and dissipation which pre1

The menu of the pontiff's


which Lentulus, Lepidus, Caesar, and the
Vestal Virgins were present, is treated as disgraceful in
2
Peacocks' eggs are not
its costly and fantastic variety.
8
There are no censors and
now even in the market.
consuls, like Hortensius and Lucullus, who spend a
fortune in stocking a fish pond, and who mourn the
The
death of a muraena as if it were a daughter. 4
vailed

among

their ancestors.

banquet, at

insanity

now

is

whichjansackedUand anj. sea foi^jiaw-iMnliiei


So far from buying them, we
quite unknown.

You will never see a


have forgotten their very names.
man now reeling drunk into the forum,5 surrounded by
loose companions, nor a judge on the bench so overcome
6
At
by wine that he can hardly keep his eyes open.
whose dinner party will you now ever see the dancing

?
Still less will persons of decent
themselves
breeding
indulge in that rage for the dance
which disgraced even the matrons of noble houses in the

introduced

girl

times of the Punic wars.

ment

in

There

the tone about the

the same improve-

is

actor's

profession,

even Cicero did not regard as disgraceful. 8


would nowadays associate on friendly terms

which

No

one

with

It is possible that this may be


a
the picture only of
more fastidious and refined circle,

Koscius, as Cicero did.

and that there were great houses where the festivities


were not so innocent as those described in the Saturnalia.
the testimony of Macrobius deserves at least to be
sighed
eut

against the invective of S. Jerome.

(The contempt for slaves expressed by


1

Macrob. Sat.

iii.

33

cf. iii.

II.
5
II.
8 Ib.

17,

12.
a

11-13, ipsa vero


eduliura genera quam dictu turpia ?
Ib.

iii.

13,

iii.

iii.
iii.

S.

Jerome and

15, 4.
16, 14.
16, 16,

vixprae vino

sus-

tinet palpebras.
1
Ib. iii. 14, 3-7 ; cf. ii. 1, 7.
8 Ib.
iii. 14, 11 ; cf. Friedlander,

Ib. iii. 13, 2, ova pavonum ...


quae hodie non dicam vilius sed
omnino nee veneunt.

ii.

p. 295.

,/

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

162

BOOK n

Salvianus 1

is not shared by the characters of JViacrobius.


certain Euangelus in the Saturnalia jeers at the notion
He is
that the gods should have any care for slaves. 2

taken to task by Praetextatus, the great pagan theologian


of the party.

Slaves, Praetextatus says, are

men

like

There is nothing in the name of slavery to


We are all the slaves of
excite horror and contempt.

ourselves.
.

God

The greatest in earthly state, the


Fortune.
The
in
have had to bear the yoke.
wisdom,
highest
slave is really our fellow servant, made of the same
or

elements, subject to the same chance and change, often


The real
with the spirit of the free man in his breast. 8
slave

is

the

servitude

man who

can

is in bondage to his passions.


be so shameful as that which is

No
self-

4
You should treat your slave as a man, even
imposed.
It is far better that he should love than
as a friend. 6

that he should fear you.

And how

often have these

despised wretches shown the noblest devotion to their


masters, in spite of all the cruelty and contempt with

which they have been treated

slave

has been

known

to personate his master who was in hiding, and


to submit to the stroke of the executioner in his place. 7

The

slave-girls of

Eome

once saved the honour of their

mistresses at the peril of their own, and were commemorated for ever in the Nonae Caprotinae. 8 It is quite true,
of course, that these ideas are not peculiar to the fourth
or the fifth century.
They can be traced back in some
form to Seneca, to Plato, to Euripides. 9 But they are
expressed with a sincerity and good feeling in Macrobius
1
Hieron. Ep. 54,
5; Salv. de
Gub. Dei, iv. 26, praecipitantes
nobilium
matrimoriiorum in
fastigia
cubilia obscena servarum
cf. iv.

Ib. i.
servi
amici.
47,

14.

Macrob. Sat. i. 11, 1, quasi


vero curent divina de servis.
8
4

Ib.
Ib.

turpior

i.
i.

11, 6-8.
11, 8, certe nulla servitus

quam

voluntaria.

/^

sunt?

Sen. Ep.

humiles

^^^

77i

*?'

1 1

"'

"i

36 '40.

ft

!'

** L
9

Cf.

immo

12.

11,

777 Eurip. Ion,


Helen, 730 ; cf. Boissier, Ed
Rom. ii. p. 363 Wallon, iii. p. 22.
854

PI. Leges, vi. p.

CHAP,

THE SOCIETY OF SYMMACHUS

ii

163

which leave the impression that they are the convictions


and most thoughtful men of his time.
\ There is
nothing brighter and pleasanter in the Letters
of Symmachus than the tenderness of his family affections.
It is true that, with his ingrained conservatism,
he clings to the old Eoman idea of the womanly character.
The Koman matron from the earliest times had
secured to her by family religion a dignified and respected
She was to some extent the equal of her
position.
But the
husband in the management of the household.
of the best

sentiment of ancient

Eome

forbade her the lighter graces

She was expected to be grave,


self-contained, chiefly concerned with household duties,
In the
and the nurture of a sturdy and intrepid race.
early years of the Empire the ideal of woman's position
and character underwent a profound change.
The
change gave rise to many misunderstandings which were
the food of satire.
Biif. hp.r status, froth in law and in
and accomplishments.

fact, really rose^

There can be no doubt that the Eoman


sort, without becoming less virtuous

lady of the better

more accomplished and athad greater charm


and influence.
She became, more and more, the equal
and companion of her husband, and her influence on
The wife of the
public affairs became more decided.
and respected, became

With fewer

tractive.

far

restraints, she

1
younger Pliny, to take a typical instance, is the partner
in his -studies, she knows his books by heart, she shares

all his

there

thoughts, lln the last age of the


no deterioration in the .position

is

Western Empire
and influence of

In Christian families they cultivate sacred


and take the lead in works of charity and

sacomen^
learning,

Furiola founded a hospital. 2


Laeta, the widow
of Gratian, fed the starving populace of the Capital

mercy.
1

Pliii.

iv.

19.

He

says of his

wife, Calpurnia, accedit his

studimn

litterarum, quod ex mei

caritate

concepit.

Meos

libellos

habet,

ediscit

lectitat,

lander,
2

i.

etiam

p. 353.

Hieron. Ep. 77,

6.

cf.

Fried-

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

164

BOOK n

Serena, the
by the forces of Alaric.
wife of Stilicho, was an accomplished scholar, and was
regarded both by friends and enemies as a serious force
2
in politics.
Placidia, the mother of Valentinian III.,

during

its

siege

Gothic

after all her vicissitudes as the wife of a

chief,

probably wielded greater influence in her son's councils


than any statesman of the time.
On the pagan side,
Praetextatus has

left

an eternal memorial

an ideal

of

wedded union,

in which the wife gives not only love, but


intellectual support and sympathy to her husband. 8

The old-fashioned Symmachus would probably have


objected to his female relatives taking a prominent part
in any public movement.
He stoutly resisted the proof
the
vestals
to
a monument to his bosomraise
posal
4

He praises his daughter, when she


sends him a present of wool-work, for her likeness to the
Eoman matron of the great age, who sat among her
friend Praetextatus.

maids, directing

Symmachus,

them

for

all

at the spindle or the loom. 5


But
the
is
most
affectionate
of
that,

He

never forgets a birthday. 6


His daughter's
him
the
most
acute
gives
anxiety amid all his
cares.
her
He
sends
advice
for the care of
public
her health. 7
The nursery troubles of his little grandfathers.

illness

daughter occupy a good


solicitude

and

of his letters. 8

many

affection for his son are

But

his

even more marked.

When

the boy's first tutor dies, Symmachus takes endless


to
obtain one of equal merit, if possible a man who
pains

had been trained in the Gallic schools


1

Zos. v. 39.

Claudian, Laus Serenae, 147,

229

rV

"2,fp"f)va.v rj

Zos.

pdpovs /card

v.

pietate matris, conjugal! gratia,

38,

nexu

viro^lq.
Xa/3e
yepovcrla ola TOI)S /Sap-

TTJS 7r6\ecoj

dyayovvav.

36

Ib. vi. 67.


2b. vi. 79,

Paulina nostn pectons consortio


fomes pudoris, castitatis vinculum.

80

Ib. vi. 58;

i.

11

of. vi.

4;

vi.

48 49.

v. 33.

20. VI. 32.


'*-

dec-rum, qui maritalem torum


nectunt araicia et pudicis nexibus,

sororis, filiae modestia, etc.

*& "

fr

munus

He

of rhetoric. 9

Ep.

ix. 88.

chus had

Sy

fc
Himselff a Gallic
tutor

01,

CHAP.

THE SOCIETY OF SYMMACHUS

II

sets himself to

165

rub up his own Greek in order to help


and he reluctantly declines an

1
his son in his reading,

invitation to the inaugural ceremony of a friend's consul2


ship, that the boy's studies may not be interrupted.

When

on a mission from the Senate to the Court


a time when the Goths were ravaging
Gaul,
Cisalpiue
Synimachus never fails on every oppor4
to
his son at Rome.
to
write
There is a pathetic
tunity
5
interest about one of these letters, which was probably
he

is

at

Milan,

at

when Synimachus was

trying, by a devious route,


Milan without encountering the barbarian
6
He was in bad health,7 and engaged on a
cavalry.
The letter contains not a
perilous and anxious mission.

written

reach

to

single reference to public or private affairs, but advises


the boy to correct a too solemn sententiousness in his

by putting into it more life and graceful


The
writer died soon afterwards,8 and almost
negligence.
his last wish for his son was that he might be richly
endowed with that literary culture which was the
epistolary style,

strongest passion of

Symmachus.

Symmachus may

not be a very interesting character,

are

certainly dull reading. fYet their


their tone of conventional etiquette

js

letters

v
v

polished brevity and


are apt to make us unjust to the writer. \ Wedded to a
past which was gone for ever, absorbed in the cold and
stately life

of a

class

which was doomed

to

political

impotence, struggling
ignore the significance of a
religious revolution which was already triumphant before
to

Ep. iv. 20, repuerascere enim


Cf.
Sidonius
jubet pietas.
reading Menander with his son (Ep.
iv. 12), and the advice addressed

nos

his

to

3
4
5

Ib. v. 96.

Symmachus was tor-

(vi.

4,

16;

vi.

73),

renum

dolore

discrucior.
8

Ib. v. 5.
Ib. vii. 13 ; cf. v. 94-95.
Ib. vii. 10, 14.
Ib. vii. 9.

Seeck's Sym. Ixxiii.


Peter (ii.
I
31) puts his death about 404.
cannot understand Teuffel's calculations in
How could
418, n. 3.
Symmachus have been Corrector
Lucaniac in 365 if he was born ID

Ib. vii. 13.

350

grandson

by

Ausonius,

Idyl. iv.
2

tured with gout and renal disease

Cf. Seeck, xliv.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

166

BOOK n

he may appear, to a careless reader, a mere


a shadowy and feeble representative of an effete
order. (jYet the man's very faithfulness to that order
his death,

fossil,

And his faithfulness, and


gives_him aL pathetic interest.
tEatof the scEobno~wt[ich he belonged, is the sign of a
So far as
certain strength and elevation of character.
the imperial despotism permitted him, he did his duty to

He was

the State.

the most loyal and helpful friend,

always ready with influence or advice, and always mindful to "keep his friendships in repair." I His friends

Eoman society, Christian or


of
barbarian generals,
provinces,
great
pagan, governors
of
and
men
letters.
struggling
lawyers,
They all
were among the leaders of

regarded him as the chief ornament of the senatorial


order, the greatest orator of his time, a paragon of all
1
the virtues.
Commanding such universal respect, and

surrounded by family

affection,

Symmachus enjoyed

subdued happiness. fHe was the witnaaa indp.P.d


of great changes, which shocked and wounded old conservative and patriotic feeling,
gut he never lost his
of
Kome.
faith
in
the
destiny
placid
/Although he was a
devoted pagan, he would not deny that his Christian
another avenue to "the Great
friends had found
certain

\And a true charity will not refuse to him


the same tolerant hope, [lie is almost the last Eoman of
the old school, and, as we bid him farewell, we seem to
Mystery."

be standing in the wan, lingering light of a late autumnal


sunset.">
1
Alison. Ep. xvil, quid enim
aliud es quam ex omni bonarum

1699

artium ingenio collecta perfectio ?


Prudent, c. Sym. i. 632 ; G.LL. vi.

Eel. 3, uno itinere non potest


perveniri ad tarn grande secretum.

5.
2

cf.

Apoll. Sidon. Ep.

ii.

10,

CHAPTEE

III

/P
THE SOCIETY OF AQUITAINE IN THE TIME OF AUSONIUS

Koman society which we have to


to
the
reader
the scene is changed, but hardly
present
the time.
from
the society of Symmachus to
pass

FIN the next view of

We

the

society

friend

his

of

Bordeaux.

of

Ajisonius

Bordeaux was remote from the seat of Empire, but it


had a university, which in the fourth century was one
of the most famous in the Eoman world, and it was also
a great centre of commerce^ Aquitaine must have
suffered much, like the rest of Gaul, in the invasions and
1
But all traces of them
confusions of the third century.
had vanished, and men had almost forgotten that evil
In the poems of Ausonius Aquitaine is a land of
time.
and
peace
plenty, of vineyards and yellow cornfields, and
The poet can bestow no higher
palatial country seats.
on
the
of
Moselle than to compare its
the
praise
valley
charms to the richness and beauty of his native Garonne. 2
The characteristics of the old Celtic or Iberian stocks in
8
The
south-western Gaul were still strongly marked.
ancient language had been spoken by the grandfathers
4
of Ausonius and his friends.
Yet the Aquitaine of
|

o.

Vop. Aurel.
13,

cum

c.

Vop. Prob.

...

(barbari)
per
omnes Gallias securi vagarentur.
The ruins of Ilerda in Spain (Auson.
Ep. xxv. 58) are thought to be
results of the invasion.
2
Idyl. x. 160.

8 Alison.
4

Parent, iv.

Auson. Idyl.

promptus Latio
Dial.

i.

27,

ii.
;

tu

9,

sermone im-

Sulp. Sev.
vero vel Celtice
cf.

aut, si mavis, Gallice loquere ; cf.


Fauriel, i. p. 434 ; F. de Coulanges,

La

Gaule

Rom.

pp.

128-130;

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

168

BOOK n

Ausonius was thoroughly Eomanised.


Its Latin was
the purest spoken in Gaul.
Its school of rhetoric had
great renown, and sometimes furnished a professor to the
1
schools of Eome and Constantinople.
Its most brilliant
had
won
his
to
the
professor
consulship and the
way
of the West.
The most intimate rewere maintained between the academic society
Bordeaux and the literary nobles of the Capital.

great

prefecture

lations

pf
llf

aith in the stability of the

is

perfectly untroubled.

Empire and Eoman culture

There

is

not a hint of those

dim

hordes, already mustering for their


within twenty years will be established

advance,

who

on the banks

of the Garonne.

The poems

Ausonius are of priceless value to one


the tone and manner of provincial
^
li&T~m the last age of the W estern Umpire.
And the
all
with
his
a
is
~Efmseli,
faults,
poet
very interesting
He often wastes his skill on unworthy subperson.
He is vain, and will flatter extravagantly the
jects.
vanity of others. \ Paying a cold and conventional
deference to the Christian faith, 2 he is still a literarypagan, incapable of understanding any one who yields to
the higher mystic and spiritual
impulses^i The charm
of society and of literature satisfies all his longings.
But he has many virtues. Beginning life as a humble
teacher, he rose to the highest place which any subject
wishes to

of the

of

know

Empire could

attain.

Yet he remained true

to

his profession and proud of it.


There is no such gallery
of academic portraits in literature as he has left us.
The

honours of the great world never for a moment shook his


And he is also most
supreme attachment to letters.
Jullian, Ausone, p. 9. Fauriel and
de Coulanges differ as to the inter-

pretation of the passage in Sulp.


Sev. ; cf. Apoll. Sid. Ep. iii. 3,
sermonis Celtici squamam depositura nobilitas.
1
Auson. Parent, iii. 1C
Prof.
;

Burdig. i. 3 Jullian, Ausone, p. 92.


2
Ephemeris, Idyl. i. 16 cf. his
doubts about personal immortality,
Praef. Prof. Burdig. xxiii. 13
;

Parent, xv. 11.


3
See his letters to S. Paulinas,
especially E\>. xxv. 50 sqq.

THE SOCIETY OF A USONIUS

CHAP, in

169

He

blood and old friendship.

faithful to the ties of

has

immortalised a family circle who, but for him, would


have never emerged from the dim crowd of provincial

The portraits
coteries, who vanish and leave no trace.
1
of his grandfather, the last of the old Aeduan diviners,
2
of his father, the Stoic physician of Bordeaux, of that
throng of female relatives, wanting, perhaps, in brightness
and

grace, but with a strong

charm

of

masculine

force, of

detachment, and seriousness, may seem worthless to the


literary trifler, but are pure gold to the student of the
The author of the poem on the
history of society.
Moselle will live as almost the only Eoman poet who has
transferred to verse the subtle and secret charm which
nature has to modern eyes. 8
He deserves quite as much
to live as the painter of an obscure phase of social life,

which in every age

condemned

is

to obscurity

by

its

very

virtues.

The Parentalia 4
interest

greater

of

than

Ausonius have perhaps an even


poems on the Professors of

his

Bordeaux. (Ausonius, like his friend Symmachus, has


the virtue of loyalty to old associations. ) No one who
has ever loved him, helped him, or shared his fortunes is

The years of power and splendour at the


Gratian left him unspoilt and unchanged.
Clever, versatile, and ambitious as he was of the honours
of the great world, yet when the prize was won, Ausonius
forgotten.)
court of

to the scene where he had taught


5
raw
grammar
boys, and to the society of his family
and academic friends.
Like others of his house, he lived
6
to a great age.
His wife had died in the early years of

gladly

returned
to

Parent,

2
3

had been dead "nine Olympiads"

iv.

Parent,

Idyl.

ii.

Mr.

Mackail

nsnal

(i*-

i.

'

snro

f
judgment of

has shown his

lifprarv

this

QPIIUA

in

T !
poem, Lat.

hio
T- v

Lit.

p. 266.
4

Composed

in 379 (iv. 32),

8)

Schenkl, Prooem. xvi.


"

multos lactentibus annis


iP se alui gremioque fovens et munnura
>

solvent
eripui

after his consulship


and when his wife

cf.

IdV L iv 66

till

tenerum blandis nutricibus aevum.

He must have
A.D.

390.

lived at least

For

the Ludut

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

170

their union,

him.

With

and most
old

of his

Eoman

relatives

piety,

and in a

BOOK n

had gone before


strain far more

pagan than Christian, he has commemorated their virtues,


and saved them from oblivion. Few of his circle were
more important in their day than the forgotten worthies
who sleep in any of our country churchyards. But
their portraits enable us to imagine how quiet people
were living in the last years of Theodosius.

The grandfather of the poet, by his mother's side,


was a member of one of the noblest Aeduan houses in
In the confusion of the reign of
the territory of Lyons.
Tetricus he had to go into distant exile and poverty.
He was an adept in astrology and other superstitious
arts of his heathen ancestors, and among his papers
was discovered the horoscope of his grandson, predicting
2
For his father the poet
the famous consulship of 379.
8
had a profound reverence.
Born to modest fortune,
which gave him a place in the municipal councils of
Bazas and Bordeaux, he practised as a physician for the
greater part of his life, till, on his son's advancement, he
was suddenly raised to the prefecture of the Illyrian
fee was probably a philosophic pagan, a Stoic
province,
of the type of M. Aurelius, whom he resembles in many
Yet he had many virtues which we are accustomed
traits.
to regard as pecliarly_jCEnstiaECl He attained the highest
medical skill possible inTtEose days, and gave his advice

Careless
without fee or reward to the poor and afflicted.
of money, yet frugal without meanness, he neither added
Like the sages
to nor impaired his moderate fortune.

whom

he followed, he found the true wealth in regulation


but he added to this ideal a warmth of charity,
and a certain serenity and sweetness, which softened his
of the desires,

Septem Sapientium is dedicated to


of
Pacatus,
Drepanius
procos.
Africa in that year, C. Th. ix. 2,
His father lived to about ninety
4.
years, Parent. I 4 ; Idyl. ii. 61
;

Schenkl's

cf.

Ausonius,

vii.
1

2
3

Parent,

ix. 8.

2b. iv. 17-22.


Ib. i. ; Idyl. ii.

Prooem.

CHAP, in

THE SOCIETY OF AUSONIUS

Stoicism.

Holding

aloof

from

scenes

of

171
strife

and

the great,
rivalry, and the treacherous friendships
closing his ears to all spiteful rumour, leading a life of
of

dignified contentment and quiet beneficence/he_sfifims an


almost flawless character, one of those saintly souls who
"reach" a rare moral elevation without support or

from

impulse

religious. Jiaith.

The women of the family were one and all of a


masculine and almost puritanical type, reminding one, by
a certain quietude and grave purity, of what we have

New England women two or three generations


In their untiring industry and anxious care of the
household, they realise the old Koman ideal of woman's
read of
ago.

The poet's grandmother, the wife of the old


astrologer, although venerated for her spotless character,
1
had left memories of stern rebuke among her descendants.
office.

His mother was a model housewife with a mingled


2
One of his aunts stands out
sweetness and gravity.
from all the women of the circle. Ausonius remembered
But she had
her love and kindness to him as a boy.
8
conceived a hatred of the ordinary female life of her
time, rejected with scorn all thoughts of marriage, and
His sister,
devoted herself to the study of medicine.

a widow, combined the same masculine strength


Of all the
with the peculiar virtues of her own sex.
circle, she is the only one who is described as a religious

left early

devotee.

Ausonius

dedicated to her

enduring
1

Wanda
2
8

2b

'

ii

memory

affection,

Parent, v. 10

lost his wife

and a

and the verses


and
5
The
memory
regret.
early,

are the expression of deep


life-long

austeris imbuit imperiia.

6"

.'

Arborius, Praef. Urb. 379, 380


C. Th. vi. 35, 9 ; Sulp. Sev. Dial.
10 ; cf. Rauschen, Jahrbucher,
ii.
pp. 44, 64 ; Schenkl, Prooem. xiv.
6
Parent, ix. 10-16

foeminei sexus odium tibi semper.


*

Ib. xii. 7

unaque cura
nosse Deurn.

She was the mother of Magnus

volnus alit, quod muta domus silet et


torus alget,
quod mala lion cuiquam, non bona
participo.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

172

BOOK

II

pure love and sympathy, the long years which, as they


pass over the silent house, make solitude and the pain
of loss only deeper, have seldom been pictured with

of

and more real affection. When we read these


sketches, which hear all the marks of minute faithfulness
and sincerity, we can understand the feeling of Tacitus
1
about the gravity and severity of provincial character.
These people seem to have had little of definite
I
None of them certainly were carried
Christianity.
the
ascetic
away by
spirit whicl^ withdrew their friend
But they are industrious and
Paulinus from the world.
greater

high-minded they take life almost too seriously they


have a certain distinction of hereditary virtue. \
/Ausonius himself, although he has a genuine admiration for the virtues of his family, and really possesses
2
many of them, was also the most brilliant child of that
Gallic renaissance of the fourth century which extended
"
from Constantine to Theodosius. A It was a kind of Indian
summer," a long pause of tranquillity between two periods
;

The
But it was an age of illusions.
its
which
to
have
seemed
strength,
regathered
Empire,
was mined by incurable disease. There was a great
energy of academic life, but Eoman culture had worked
The
itself out and was living on its past accumulations.
of convulsion.

terror of the barbarians

who

threatened the frontier of

Yet the camand Valentinian, although victorious,


had revealed the unexhausted strength of the enemy.
the Ehine seemed for a time to be laid.

paigns of Julian
1

Ann. iii. 55 xvi. 5.


The personal character of Auson:

ius appears to

have been without

re-

But he sometimes shows


proach.
a lamentable pruriency, as in the
'
Cento nuptialis" Idyl. xiii. Ausonius lays the blame on Valentinian
who ordered this miserable desecra" vates sacer."
tion of
He may
well say, piget Virgil iani carminis
'

dignitatem tarn joculari dehonestasse materia.


Yet the morality

of Valentinian seems to have been


as irreproachable (Amm. Marc. xxx.
9, 2) as Ausonius asserts that his
own was : lasciva est nobis pagina,
Cf.
H. Nettleship,
vita proba.

and Essays, 2nd series, p.


Referring to the coarseness of
Latin satire, Mr. Nettleship says,
" I should be
disposed to refer this
fact not to the moral obliquity of
these writers, but to the conventional traditions of their art."

Lectures
39.

THE SOCIETY OF AUSONIUS

CHAP, in

173

Ausonius, however, in the remote tranquillity of Aquitaine,


had no thoughts of these ominous contrasts. His early
years were passed

in the

some

class-rooms of

of

the

professors to whom his pen has given an immortality of


His uncle, Arborius, a
which they never dreamed.
professor at Toulouse, whose brilliant rhetorical accomplishments were rewarded by a high place in the capital of

him a
more than

the East, roused his ambition and predicted for

splendid future.

But

this

ambition had for

thirty years to be satisfied with the limited opportunities


of a provincial university, and perhaps a seat in the

It is needless to imagine, as some


Municipal Council.
have done, that the brilliant professor chafed at the reAusonius
straints and dulness of his humble sphere.
had the sanity and strength of a stubborn race. /'He had
also early caught that passion for Graeco-Koman
culture^
which in receptive spirits had all the force of religion, j
The worship of the Boeotian Muses was in men of
2

type a dangerous rival to the worship of Christ.


Ausonius was a teacher of grammar at twenty-five ; he
was only a teacher of rhetoric at fifty-five. 3 Yet it
his

be doubted whether he regarded the long interval


monotonous and inglorious toil. Ausonius
In the poem
was not bourgeois in his tastes and ideals.

may

as a period of

addressed to his namesake and

although he
shows a natural pride in the prefecture and consulship
which he has won, he would have the boy face all the
troubles of school life, and love his Homer and Menander,
his Horace and Virgil as his grandfather had loved them.
The lives of some of his professors were humble and
obscure.
But he retained a high opinion of the dignity
of the teacher, and he looks back with pride on the
1

Parent,

Prooem.

iii.

16

cf.

Schenkl,

viii.

Ep. xxv. ad Paulinum,

v. 73.

See Schenkl's Prooem.

viii. ix.

grandson,

for the dates in the career of Ausonius.


He was probably appointed
r to Gratlan between 363 and

^
4

Idyl. iv. 46.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

174

BOOK n

whom

he had handed on the sacred


remembered that Ausonius, like
some of his professors, lived on equal terms with the
1
local aristocracy.
His wife, Attusia Lucana Sabina, was
hundreds of pupils to
fire.

It should also be

the magnates of Aquitaine, of an


His father, the Stoic physician,
must have had weight and dignity in a society so sound
and healthy as we believe that of Bordeaux to have
the daughter of one of
2
old senatorial stock.

been in his day.


Even surrounded by the most extra8
vagant pretensions of new wealth, Ausonius would
not have been a mere cipher, f And in the Bordeaux of
Ausonius wealth was not new birth was respected more
than wealth and literary eminence perhaps more than
;

either.

The
f
had

life of Ausonius in his green old age, when he


returned from the Imperial Court, to spend his remaining years among his friends, is very much the kind

we

of life which

shall find the nobles of Aquitaine


after his death,

Auvergne leading nearly a century

Eoman

has been often repeated that


last essentially

urban in

its tastes

and
fo

was to the
and character, and that
society

the love of the country came in with the German invaders.


4
Down to the
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
great

invasions

of

the

third

century the

Gauls were

passionately fond of city life, in which they seemed to


But in the
find the finest essence of Roman civilisation.

fourth century there are obvious signs of a change of


In the age of the Antonines the towns were
feeling.

open, spreading capriciously with ample spaces, liberally


embellished with theatres, temples, triumphal arches, all

the buildings which could satisfy taste, or minister to


1

in which Paulinus
of him in his Poems,
Paulinus was one of
xi. 8, x. 96.
the greatest nobles of his province.

of

Of. the

way

Nola speaks

Parent.in. 5

not

unknown then

riches were
cf.

Auson,

Epigr. xxvi.
quidam superbus opibus et fastu tumens,
tantumque verbis nobilis, etc.
:

4
:

uobiles a proavis et origine clara senatus.

Yet the nouveaux

F. de Coulanges,

pp. 207, 209.

La Gaule Rom.

THE SOCIETY OF AUSON1US

CHAP, in

175

In the reign of Gratian and


convenience or luxury.
Valentinian many of them had become fortresses, with
lofty walls built of blocks which had been often quarried
out of the ruins of the theatres and basilicas of an earlier

The space within the walls is cramped, the


and dark.
Everything is sacrificed

age.

are narrow

streets

to the

necessity for military strength.

Ausonius must have spent

many

years in Bordeaux

But, when he was


toiling as a professor.
and had attained distinction and wealth, he

when he was
emancipated

life of the town during a short


with
the crowds and noises and
disgusted
of its narrow streets, and longs for the spacious

could barely endure the


visit.

He

2
|

sordid life

is

freedom of the country where you can do what you please


This love for tranquillity and ease* for tjie
undisturbed.
I

fresh beauty^oLruial scenery and the


estate^ breathesi_ through his poems.

abundance of a great
There can be little
"
doubt that the " life of the chateau towards the end of
the fourth century has thrown the brilliant city life of the
ancient world into the shade. The young noble may pass a
few years at Lyons or Bordeaux to attend the lectures of the
In later years he may visit the neighbouring
professors.
3

city to take part in a festival of the Church, or to attend


But his heart is in the country,
a meeting of the Curia.

and there the best part of his life is spent.


I As the life of the towns becomes more
squalid and
sombre, the life of the upper class on their rural estates
becomes more attractive. / There are indeed shadows on
the landscape of Ausonius.

Brigands are heard of now

and then, 4 and years of scarcity are not unknown. 5


1

C. Jullian,

Ausone

et

Bordeaux,

p. 116.

Ep.

revocant qula nos


Paschae.

instantis

Idyl.

iii.

30

Ep.

x.

18 sqq.

The same feeling comes out again


and again in the letters of Symmachus Ep. i. 3, v. 78, agri quiete
;

delector,

vi

66, vii. 31.

cf. x.

Yet

viii. 9.

16

sollennia

nos etenim primis sanctum post Pascha


diebus
s a
um visere'
ave
*
6

# "\28.
xxn.
Ib.

21, 42; Idyl.

iii.

27.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

176

BOOK n

in spite of an outburst of pessimism which seems to be a


1
reminiscence of Sophocles, the life of Aquitaine in the

was apparently bright and happy, with no


the storm which was to burst upon it
foreboding
before a generation had passed awayA Skilful culture
had developed the natural wealth and onarm of a favoured
region.
Stately country seats, on which the accumulating
wealth of generations had been expended in satisfying
poet's days

of

luxurious or artistic taste, rose everywhere along the


banks of the Garonne.
The cold of winter was the great

But these houses had apartments


plague of country life.
to
suit
the
arranged
varying temperature of the seasons.
furnished
with luxurious baths and wellwere
They
stocked

Their

libraries.

granaries

were

senators had several such estates.

with

stored

The richer
The names and sites

ample supplies against a stinted harvest.

of two or three belonging to Ausonius have been as3


certained by antiquarian care.
The great man of course
had his anxieties.
His vineyard and corn-land and mea-

dow, which were the sources of his wealth, could not be


left entirely to

the

now and then

management

of the procurator.

We

bad year when supplies had to


be brought up from near and far, 5 and when the
difficulties of transport were severely felt.
But the note
of Ausonius is gaiety and contentment.
He seems to
have suffered little from the ennui of provincial life, after
all the excitement and splendour of his years of office.
The tedium of one estate could be escaped or relieved by
passing on to another, or by receiving friends and visiting in
hear

return.

of a

Travelling by river or road in Aquitaine in those


easier and quicker than it was for the

days was probably


1

Idyl. xv. 48

1225,

\bryov K.T.\.
2

cf.

rbv

<f>vvai

Soph. 0. C.
d-rravra

viKq.

&

i
dv i ;;;
m. 07
wyi.

conduntur fructus geminum mihi semper


in

annum.

Lucaniacus,

xxii.

Ep.

13

Pauliacus, Ep. v. 16.

EP,-,

...

XX1L Slves a

of one of thege
*

1-1
llvelv

bailiffg>

Auson. Ep. xxn.

P lctura

THE SOCIETY OF AUSONIUS

CHAP, in

English squire in the last century.

177

Couriers passed to

and as
carrying friendly letters, trifling presents,
and
there
of
the
S.
Martin
teaching
trifling poetry.
(Here
had begun to detach an accomplished and wealthy aristo-

and

fro,

crat

from the worldly

life of

But

his order.

part the order remained, in spite of

its

for the

most

Christian con-

formity, essentially worldly or pagan in tone and habits,


enjoying wealth and the sense of irresponsible ease and
2
freedom which wealth can give, and expending its energy
in rural sports or business, in a round of social engage-

ments, or in studying and imitating the great classics


which were the strongest link with the past. ((Society in

Aquitaine

is

much

very

the same as

tions afterwaroTs7~~wh en

Sidonius

it

was two genera-

visited his friends

at

Bordea/uxT~

^Ausonius and his

circle of course represent the

more

Just as in
refinfid-and cultivated section of that society.
the times of Sidonius, there were some who fell short of

There
highest standard of their order.
an eccentric character named Theon, to

the

stance,

is,

for in-

whom

the

Theon had an
estate among the sands of Me'doc, looking out on the
3
Atlantic.
His establishment was rather mean, and he
carried on a despicable trade with the peasants of his

poet addressed

district.

His

cattle

his

were

epistles.

sometimes

carried

off

by

but, like the lowland farmer in the days of


Eoy, Theon had little taste for extreme measures,
came to an amicable composition with the freebooters,

brigands

Eob

some of

and
on which Ausonius rallies him. 5
Yet he is a daring
sportsman, and will follow the wild boar with a reckless
ardour, which sometimes brings him and his friends into
6
At first one cannot help wonderdanger of life or limb.
ing what sympathy there could be between this eccentric
1

Auson. Ep.
remo aut rota
;

x.

12,

cf.

ib.

Friedlander, ii. p.
2
Parent, viii. 8

citus
viii.

veni
;

cf.

8.
;

Ep.

iv. 30.

Ep.

iv. 3.

Ib. iv. 16.

Ib. iv. 24.

Ib. iv. 30.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

178

and

rather

man and

BOOK n

boorish character and the polished literary


The link between them was a taste

courtier.

Theon seems to have been a sorry


1
of a plagiarist.
His conand
somewhat
verse-writer,
At any
versation may have been better than his verses.
rate, Ausonius reproaches him with not having paid him
2
a visit for three months, and promises to forgive him a
for poetry, although

he will only visit Lucaniacus.


society of Bordeaux, in the old age of Ausonius, is
known to us from another source than his poems\ In the
debt
\

if

The

year of the poet's consulship, his son Hesperius. who had


been vicar of Macedonia, proconsul of Africa, and Pretorian prefect of Italy, returned to his native place.
The son
8

of Hesperius, Paulinus Pellaeus, as he is called from the


place of his birth, has left us a curious autobiographical

written in his old age, which has a great value both


as a picture of the life of a young noble of the time, and
Paulof the first appearance of the Visigoths in Gaul.
He had Greek and
inus was trained in the usual way.

poem

4
His
he read the great authors.
in
a
which
combined
the
was
circle
youth
passed
highest
official experience with the highest literary culture.
Yet

Latin tutors, with

whom

no one would recognise in Paulinus the grandson of the


tutor of Gratian, or the son of the prefect of Italy.

We

cannot help feeling, as we read the Eucharisticos, that,


although Paulinus may be a better Christian than
Ausonius, in other

respects

the

race

of the poet has

may have known Greek well,


degenerated
from the accident of his birth in an eastern province, but
his limping hexameters, and pointless, colourless style,
fast.

would
1

have

Paulinus

ruffled

even the placid good-nature of his

iv. 10.

Ep.

M'

The

K
v< 5

*M'

precise relationship of
Pauliuus to the poet is a matter of

Seeck (Ixxviii.) maintains


that he was son of Thalassius and a
dispute.

Brandes
daughter of Ausonius.
(ProL p. 267) holds that the father
of Paulinus was Hesperius, the
Of. Ebert,
Allgem.
poet's son.
Gesch. der Lit. des Mittelalters,
;
Schenkl, Prooem. xiv.

409
4

Euchar.

v. 72,

117.

i.

p.

THE SOCIETY OF AUSONTUS

CHAP, in

179

The gloss
grandfather, if he had lived to read his verses.
of humane culture has worn off, and there is revealed a
rather sordid and materialised character, the product of
without higher interests, and wealth without a

leisure

sense of public duty.


A ^ gaming
rip.ap.p.nfla,fii-. nf
JT]ip
word
about
has
a
to
and
literature
hardly
Hesperius
say
f

politics.

Yet, as the revelation of the interior of a great house


in the last quarter of the fourth century, the Eucharisticos
has no mean value.
It is perfectly frank and artless.
Paulinus recalls with gratitude the anxious care of his
1

parents to protect his youthful innocence, but confesses


that, although he avoided scandalous amours, he yielded

which a system of household slavery


His
always
early studies were interrupted by ill2
his
doctor's
health, and, by
orders, he devoted himself to
field sports, which his father, who had given them up,
Henceforth his
resumed, in order to bear him company.
whole taste was for fine horses with splendid trappings,
tall grooms, swift hawks and hounds, and the most
3
His tennis balls had to
foppish and fashionable dress.
be sent for to Eome. 4
of
Some
his amusements were
not quite so innocent, 5 and in his twentieth year his
parents arranged for him a marriage with the daughter of
6
a noble house, whose estates had been impoverished by
Paulinus resigned his freedom not without
neglect.
to the temptations
offers.

regret.

He

management

industriously devoted himself to reform the


7
of his wife's
roused up the
property,

laggards, renewed the exhausted vines, improved


culture of the fields, and paid off the fiscal debts.

the

For

the next ten years he led a life of luxurious repose.


He
plumes himself on being unambitious and fond of ease
and quietness.
He is completely satisfied with the
1

Euchar.

v. 154, 166.

ft. v. 166.

Ib. v. 194,

**

:::'!
4

Ib. v. 146.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

180

BOOK n

enjoyment of his great house, with its ample and elegant


rooms adapted to the varying seasons, his crowds of
young and handsome slaves, his artistic plate and furni1
He was,
ture, his crowded stables and stately carriages.
2
"
and
as he describes himself, a
sectator deliciarum,"
with
more.
This
contentment
the
self-centred
|
nothing
material pleasures of life, this rather vacant existence,
gliding away in ease and luxury, and a round of trivial

engagements, not the frantic debauchery described

social

by Salvianus, is the real reproach against the character


of the upper class of that age.
The luxurious repose of
Paulinus and his kind was soon rudely disturbed by the
apparition of the Goths of Ataulphus.
\ The society of Ausonius seem to be calmly confident
01 the permanence of their ideals of culture, and hardly
conscious of the great movement which was setting
Ausonius
towards the life of prayer and

renunciation^
3
indeed disturbed by the retirement of S. Paulinus, his
favourite pupil, from the world of refinement and social
is

but his feeling seems to be purely personal,


that his friend, so richly endowed, with the promise of
such a brilliant life before him, should forget his tradidistinction

and his worldly hopes, and bury his gifts in the


The work of S. Martin was done when these
Yet S. Martin is never mentioned.
letters were written.
Probably Ausonius had as little conception of the range
and force of the movement as the great senator of Nero's
court had of the world-wide revolution which was to be
tions

cloister.

the result of the preaching of S. Paul.


Yet the impulse to asceticism, originally propagated
from the Eastern deserts, and stimulated by the preaching and magnetic influence of S. Martin in Gaul, had
gained extraordinary momentum in the last years of
Ausonius.
The tales of wonder and miracle which
.

v.

Ib. v. 216.

205

sqq.
4

Auson. Ep. xxiv.-xxv


Ib.

xxv. 50.

THE SOCIETY OF AUSONIUS

CHAP, in

181

rapidly clustered round the name of the great preacher


are the surest proof of the power with which his mission

His Life, by Sulpicius


was widely read in
had
found
and
its
Gaul, Italy, Illyria,
way even to the
1
S. Pausolitaries in the deserts of Egypt and Cyrene.
2
linus, who introduced the book to Eoman readers, was
affected the popular imagination.

Severus, within two or three years

one of the

He

gave up

first-fruits

his wealth

of the great religious awakening.

and consular rank, and the charms

of his great estate on the Garonne, and, after some years


8
of retreat in Spain, finally settled at Nola.
His example

of renunciation created a

West.

It

profound sensation

was followed by many

of his

over the

all

order.

And

these, Sulpicius Severus, an advocate, and


man of fortune, we have the fullest record of the moveHe was a dear friend of S. Paulinus, with whom
ment.
from his retreat in Gaul he constantly corresponded.
But Paulinus, from some cause, could never succeed in

from one of

5
drawing Sulpicius to the monastery of Nola.
Sulpicius makes no concealment of the forces which

were arrayed against the ascetic movement. The sceptical


or indifferent scoffed at the miracles of S. Martin.
The
polished

mourned

man

of the world, according to his temperament,


or ridiculed the blind fanaticism which could

and easy-going self-indulgence


6
and
Even
the solitude
austerity of the hermitage.

desert the ranks of culture


for

1
S. Paulin. Nol.
Ep. xi. 11 ;
Snip. Sev. Dial, i. c. 23, ii. 17 ; cf.
Patrol.
Ixi.
Prol. c.
Lot.
Migne,
;

xxx.
2

Sulp. Sev. Dial.

i.

S.

Paulinus met

S.

c.

23,

4.

Martin once

at Vienue (Ep. 18,


S. Martin
9).
cured him of some affection of the
eyes (Sulp. Sev. vit. S. Mart. c. 19,
For the circumstances of his
3).
conversion cf. Prol. cc. iv. v. in
As to the precise
Migne, t. Ixi.
time of his stay at Barcelona, and
the relation of his Poems x. xi. to

Auson. Ep. 23, 24, 25, cf. Schenkl,


Prooem. xi. sqq. Rauschen, Jahr;

backer,
297.

Exc. xxiii.

Ebert,

i.

p.

5 ; Hieron. Ep.
Aug. Ep. 31,
5 ; Sulp. Sev. Dial. iii. c. 17,
118,
3
Ambros. Ep. 58.
On Sulp. Sev. and his relations
with S. Paulinus, cf. Gennad. dt
;

Scrip. Eccl. c. xix.


1 ; xi. 6 ; v.
xxiv.

Paulin, Ep.
13 ; i.
10,

5,

11.
6
iii.

Sulp. Sev. Dial. ii. c. 13,


4
S. Paulin. Ep. xi.

c. 5,

3.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

182

BOOK n

the bishops and secular clergy, who tried to ignore the


great saint and missionary, looked with ill-disguised suspicion on an enthusiasm which had no respect for ecclesi1
But nothing could check the eager
astical routine.

passion for a spirituality unattainable in the world of


Towards the end of the
culture and conventionality.
fourth century, great religious houses, for common studies

and devotion, began to be founded in Southern Gaul, and


the famous monasteries of S. Victor and Le'rins date from
the early years of the

fifth

Numbers buried

century.

themselves in secluded hermitages among the woods and


rocks, and reproduced in Gaul the austerity and the

marvels of the anchoret

life of

the Thebaid.

The East had sent the first call to the life of renunciation, and it was from the East that a second powerful
When S. Jerome in 386 retired to the
impulse came.
monasteries of Bethlehem, he became famous over all the

Koman

world.

His great personality stood out as promi-

nent and as attractive as even that of

S.

Augustine.

He

added to the monastic life fresh lustre by his vivid intellectual force, and his contagious enthusiasm for the study
of Holy Writ.
His letters on questions of casuistry or
biblical interpretation flew to the remotest parts of the
The charm which his descriptions threw around
Empire.

Holy Places drew numbers of pilgrims, even from the


2
British Isles, to visit the scene of the Nativity, where
the greatest doctor of the Church was with vast labour
the

striving to make clear to himself and to posterity the real


Before the end of the fourth
meaning of the sacred text.

century, the resources of the monastery at Bethlehem


could hardly cope with the numbers who thronged thither

from the farthest West.

And

each pilgrim on his return,


2

3,
Sulp. Sev. Dial. i. c. 24,
inter clericos dissidentes, inter episcopos saevientes ; c. 26,
3, soli
ilium clerici, soli nesciunt saccrdotes ; cf. vit. S. Mart. c. 27.

Hieron. Ep. 66,

14; 46,
10,
Britannus

divisus ab orbe nostro


.

quaerit locum fama sibi tantum

etScripturarum relatione cognition;


cf.

58,

4.

THE SOCIETY OF AUSONIUS

CHAP, in

by the

183

what he had seen and heard, roused the


make the same journey. We have

tales of

ardour of others to

description of such a scene in the Dialogues of


1
In a hermitage in Southern Gaul, a
Sulpicius Severus.

the

monk named Postumianus

gives an animated account of

He had
his pilgrimage to the East to eager bystanders.
2
crossed the sea in five days to Carthage, and spent a
week among the sands

of

Gyrene with a hermit who had


8

erected in the waste a tiny chapel roofed with boughs.


In Egypt he found a conflict on the orthodoxy of Origen

and the monks, 4 and the


Postumianus seem to be with the suspected

raging between the bishops

sympathies of

A journey

father.
cell

Jerome

of

of sixteen stages brought him to the


5
Postumianus has the
at Bethlehem.

greatest admiration for the prodigious learning and industry of the saint, but the brother to whom he is telling
his adventures has a grudge against Jerome for his attacks
Jerome's writings had
on the monastic character,

p.

already a wide circulation in Gaul, and his pictures of


monkish avarice, vanity, gluttony, not to speak of graver
faults, have offended all the more deeply because they

seem

be

to

true.

w Postumianus

on his return visited

Egypt, the land where the ascetic ideal was highest, and
where solitary perfection had worked its greatest wonders.

The Nile was lined with monastic retreats 7 as many as


3000 monks were gathered in one community. There
the natural waywardness of the human will was crushed
in a terrible novitiate, in which unquestioning faith was
One novice had passed
often rewarded by miracle.
;

8
3

Sulp. Sev.
Ib.

i.

c. 3.

Ib,

i.

c. 5.

Ib.

i.

c.

Dial

6.

i.

c.

1.

Sulpicius himself

was hardly orthodox.

His sym-

pathies in his old age were Pelagian ; cf. Gennad. de Scrip. Ecd.
xix., hie in senectute sua a Pelagianis deceptus.

Ib.

i.

c. 8.

c. 8, 9 ; ii. 7, 8.
Of. S.
Jerome's tale of the monk who had
hoarded money Ep. 22,
33 ; cf.
16 52,
3.
Ep. 125,
7
Sulp. Sev. Dial. i. c. 10, 17, ad

Ib.

i.

Nilum flumen

regressus, cujus ripas


frequentibus monasteriis consertaa
ex
utraque
parte lustravi.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

L84

BOOK n

1
through a furnace unhurt.

Another had been ordered


water of the Nile two miles
2
a dead stick till it broke into leaf.

for three years to bear the

distant, to irrigate

Others had tamed the beasts of the wilderness

till

they

acquired the feelings and sympathies of man, including


even remorse for sin 8
Tales like these, falling on ears
1

marvels of the power of sanctity, drew many


another wanderer from Gaul to the mysterious East.
eager for

These pilgrimages, however, served a more useful purThe


pose than that of satisfying a love of marvels.

from the holy places was often charged


with letters of inquiry or instruction on questions of
Christian conduct and belief.
S. Jerome had many

traveller to or

who communicated with him in


and
of
some
his
most interesting letters were
way,
written in reply to them.
In the early years of the fifth
century a young priest named Apodemius was setting out
to visit the Holy Places, and a Gallic lady named
Hedibia 4 seized the opportunity of sending S. Jerome a
list of questions on theological or practical difficulties.
Hedibia belonged to the same family as Euchrotia and
5
Procula, who imperilled their fair fame by allowing
correspondents in Gaul
this

themselves

to

be

carried

away by the

arts

or

the

enthusiasm of the sectary Priscillian.


She was of an
ancient Druidic house, which had been connected by
6

hereditary ties with the temple of Belen at Bayeux.


The Celtic god was discovered by the accommodating
theology of Eome to be the counterpart of the Phoebus

Apollo of Greek legend, and the double name ApolloBelenus figures on many inscriptions of the imperial
times.
The names Phoebicius, Delphidius, and Patera,
borne by male members of the house, have a hieratic
meaning or association. When the Druid superstitions
1

Dial

Sulp. Sev.

Ib.

i.

c.

Ib.

i.

c.

19,
14,

3.

5.

i.

c.

18,

4.

*
6

Hieron. Ep. 120.


Sulp. Sev. Chron.

ii.

Auson. Prof. Burdig.

48,

3.

iv. 9.

THE SOCIETY OF AUSONIUS

CHAP, in

185

were dying away, the family devoted itself to the arts of


poetry and eloquence connected with the name of their
divine patron.
One member rose to eminence as a
teacher of rhetoric at

Two

Rome

in the reign of Constantino.

had a provincial reputation about the same

others

time in the school of Bordeaux.

Another, in the following

named

generation,
Delphidius, after a troubled career in
the reigns of Constantius and Julian, ended his life in the
same university, and has a place among the Professors of

Hedibia had the mental energy of her race,


without any of that tendency to a merely emotional religion which wrecked the peace and tarnished the character
Ausonius.

The bent

of her Priscillianist relatives.

of her

mind was

evidently towards a careful and honest exegesis of the


Bible.
She begins with the practical inquiry, How can
perfection be attained, and how should a widow left childless devote herself to God ?
But the majority of Hedibia's

questions relate to apparent discrepancies in the Gospels,


especially in the narratives of the Eesurrection, and to
difficulties in the interpretation of some passages in S.
Paul's Epistles.

Apodemius was

also the bearer of a letter of the

kind from a lady named Algasia,2


lived in the diocese of Cahors.

who seems

Algasia asks,

to

same
have

Why

did

John the Baptist send his disciples to ask " Art thou He
which should come ? " when he had previously said of
Jesus " Behold the
of the text

himself

"

is

If

any

Who

mended by
there

"

Lamb

of

will

Ib.

come

one which has a pathetic

me,

the meaning

let

him deny

habes

istic

sanctum

human

interest,

because

virum Alethium Presbyterum qui


posset solvere quae requiris.
probably the Alethius, bishop
of Cahors, addressed by S. Paulin.
Nol. Ep. xxxiii. ; v. Greg. Tur. Hist.

He

01

121,

What is

after

the steward of unrighteousness comthe Lord ?


But in her list of difficulties

Hieron, Ep. 120, praef. ; Auson.


cf. Thierry's S. Jerome,
;
77,

"

is

Prof. iv. v.
412.
2

God

is

Fratic.

ii.

13.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

186

seems to

it

refer to the

BOOK

11

rumours, growing more and more

distinct in the year in

which the

was written,
The writer asks

letter

barbarian movements in the north.

of
S.

an interpretation of the ominous saying


"
S.
Matthew, Woe to them that are with
reported by
"
and
child and to them that give suck in those days
"
nor
on
the
in
the
that
be
not
winter,
Pray
your flight
Sabbath."
S. Jerome of course interprets the words as
l
referring to the coming of Antichrist and the cruelties
But Algasia's appeal seems to thrill with
of persecution.
the shuddering anxiety of a mother who had heard the
tidings that the Sueves and Vandals had passed the

Jerome

for

Rhine.

On

last

letter to Algasia v. Praef. in

Ep. 121, c. iv.


According to Prosp. Chron. the
Vandals crossed the Rhine in the

t.

days of 406.

Ixxxvi.

the date of the

Migne,

,""*"'
/-

CHAPTEE

IV

sp*^

w~

THE SOCIETY OF APOLLINARIS SIDONIUS


-

I FOR more than a generation after the period described in


the ISucharisticos the condition and tone of Eoman society

in obscurity.
iJutTwhen
in__theJWesjb_Jies
middle of the fifth century we suddenly

we reach

the

emerge into

under the guidance of Apollinaris


no relic of that age so precious to
Sidonius.\Jhere
the historian of society as the wprks of the bishop and
daylight ^-again,

is

grand seigneur of Auvergne. ( He does for the social


history of the second half of the fifth century what
Symmachus and Ausonius do for the closing years of the
fourth.

Apollinaris Sidonius was probably born


in
the
Lyons
year 431, and belonged to one of the
1
most influential and distinguished families in Gaul.

Caius

Sfollius

at

His ancestors

for generations

had held the highest

offices

in the imperial hierarchy. 2


His grandfather, distinguished
both as a jurist and a soldier, had been prefect of the
Gauls under the usurper Constantine. 8
His father held
1

For his proper name see Carm.


For his
;
Fertig. i. p. 5 n.

ix. 1

birthplace, Chaix. S. Sid. Apoll. i.


p. 10 ; Sid. iv. 25 (caput civitati

nostrae per sacerdotium) ; Carm.


xiii. 23.
See also Germain's Apoll.
Sid. Exc. 1.
For the date of his
birth, v. Ep. viii. 6, in which he
was adolescens in the consulship of
Asturius (449 Idat. Chron.).
The

of adolescens for that age


inferred from Jordanes, Get.
55, Theodoricus jam adolescentiae

meaning

may be

annos contingens

octavum

decimum peragens annum.


Fertig,
2

i.

See

p. 6.

Ep. i. 3, cui pater, socer, avus,


proavus praefecturis urbanis, prae
torianisque, etc., micuerunt.
8
Ib. v. 9; iii. 12.

l<

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

188

BOOK n

1
His mother
under Valentinian III.
2
his wife
and
of
to
the
Avitus,
Papianilla
family
belonged
was a daughter of that great noble who was one of the
Sidonius was educated at
last emperors of the West.
3
the school of Lyons, which still in his time retained
some of its old celebrity. During his years of academic

the

same

life,

he formed a

men

office

lifelong friendship with many young


4
The
leading families of the province.
of his father-in-law Avitus to the imperial

the

of

elevation

throne, in 455, introduced Sidonius at an early age to


His Panegyrics on that
the society of the capital.
emperor, and on Majorian and Anthemius, gave him a

and for
great reputation as a poet and a man of letters,
the last he was specially rewarded with the prefecture of
Five years afterwards, he was chosen bishop
the city.
of Auvergne, at the time when it was making a last
stand against the Visigoths.

He

lived probably about

and passed away amid the passionate


to whom he had been a friend and

fifteen years longer,

grief of his flock,


protector in all their troubles.

The

of Sidonius were published at intervals,


life.
They are in all 147,

letters

towards the close of his

divided into nine books, according to ancient models; 6


but there were many more which he could not recover. 7
[Sidonius

intended his letters to be read^by^jgosterity, 8

1
Ep. viii. 6 ; v. 9 in the consulship of Asturius, 449.
;

Ib.

Carm.

iii.

other authority
Scrip.

Eccl.

xcii.

is
:

Gennadius, de
tem-

floruit ca

pestate qua Leo et Zeno

1.

Romania

But

310.
Hoenius was
his teacher in rhetoric and poetry,
Eusebius in philosophy, Ep. iv. 1.

this does not


give any certain clue to the year of
his death.
See Germ. Sid. Apoll.

*
Avitus the younger, Ep. iii. 1 ;
Probus, Carm. xxiv. 90 Faustinus,
See Chaix. Sid. Apoll.
Ep. iv. 4.
i. p. 23
Fertig, i. p. 7.
*
The date of his death is doubtIn Ep. ix. 12 he says that he
ful.

Exc.

ix.

had been bishop for "three olympiads," which would show that he
was living in 482 for 484). The

imperabant.

ii.

Ep. ix. 1. Pliny left ten books,


but the tenth is addressed exclu-

Symmachus left
sively to Trajan.
nine books of private letters ; another contains Relationes to the
Emperors.
7
8

Ib. vii. 18.


Ib. viii. 2.

CH. iv

SOCIETY OF APOLLINARIS SIDONIUS

189

and he retouched and elaborated his style, especially in


2
It is
with a view to publication.
thi-T earlier letters,
hardly~conceivable""triat, in their present form,
them should have been addressed to private

They were probably given


and 48 3.

many

of

friends.

the world between 47*7

to

the three generations between the consulship of


jln
Ausonius and the episcopate of Apollinaris Sidonius, we
shall find that the upper class of Gallo-Koman society
has changed but little in its ideals and aspirations, or
even, in spite of great public calamities, in its external
fortune.
Yet_in__t,hat interval events of great historic
The fabric of the Western
moment had occurred.

Empire had been shaken to its base. Ausonius had seen


3
the AJemanni hurled across the Khine by Valentinian,
and chased into the recesses of their forests. In the
poems of his tranquil old age the names of the barbarians
are hardly ever mentioned.

Before the birth of Sidonius

they had swept from the Ehine to the Pillars of Hercules.


In his early youth Visigoth and Eoman had met on many
a field in Aquitaine,4
the hordes of Attila
later

and as allies they had rolled back


on the plains of Ch&lons. [in his
manhood, the Western provinces were practically

lost_to__the

lower Ehine.

Empire. J_The__Frank8_had_occupied the


The Visigoths were masters of nearly all

The Burgundians
Western ^Gaul south of the_Loire.
were securely seated on the upper Ehine and theJRhone.
Eoman dominion in Spain had been reduced by the
Sueve and Vandal inroads to a mere corner in the northeast of that great province.
The Vandals in North
Africa had almost crushed the Eoman administration
and the Catholic faith, had captured Eome itself, and
commanded the Mediterranean with their fleets.
The
1
Ep. i. 1. He also urged
friends to do the same.
Of.

16;
2

his
viii.

3
Auson. Idyl. x. Mosella
422; cf. Amm. Marc, xxvii. 10.
;

v.

viii. 1.

Ib. vii. 18.

Prosp. Ohron.

a.

436, 439, 451

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

190

BOOK n

bishop of Auvergne lived to see his diocese, almost the


last patch of territory in Gaul left under imperial sway,
ceded to the Visigoths, and the last emperor of the West

by a German king of Italy. \The Theodosian


Code reveals the progress of an internal decay which was
even more serious than the onslaughts of the
invaders.)
Every branch of the imperial service was becoming disorganised.
Corruption was everywhere rampant, and
The weight of taxation was
authority was paralysed
growing heavier, while the municipal taxpayer was
becoming impoverished, and seeking any refuge from a
system which oppressed the poor and was defied by the
rich.
JYet, in spite of these great changes and this
collapse of authority, the similarity between the__w_Qrld of
Ausonius and that of Sidonius is very remarkable.
Even
in their material condition, the dralBc aristocracy seem to
have suffered little from the^general disorganigatk>n.
Within a period of thirty years Narbonne had been at
1
least twice besieged by the Goths.
Yet in the letters of
Sidonius there is no sign that the tranquil and luxurious
lives of his friends there have been disturbed.) The
replaced

villa of Consentius, in
still

raised its elegant


2

olives,

the neighbourhood of the town,


and lofty pile among vines and

with equal charms for the student and the lover


Its master enjoyed his old wealth and luxury,

of nature.

and dispensed hospitality to troops of guests. \Even_jn


hy the Germans, the wealth and status
ofjfre upper classes appear to be unimpaired. Namatius,
a Gallo-Roman, who was one of the admirals of Euric,
with the special charge of warding off the Saxon pirates
from the coast of Aquitaine, when he is not on duty,
leads the placid life of the country gentleman,8 occupied
1
In 436 and 4 62. Prosp. Chrvn.
andldat; cf.3idon.(7an.xxiiL60:

ed per semirutan superbo* arcea


ortenden* rctei i* decn* dnelli,
qoajwato* gerfs ictibn* mobm,
Uodandis pretiortor minis.

4,

Sid. Carm. rriii. 37; Ep. viii.


ad hoc agria aquisque, vinetis

atque olivetis, restibtdo carapo calle


amoenissimus.
3

Ep. viii 0.

SOCIETY OF APOLLINARIS SIDONIUS

CH. iv

191

with building, hunting, and

literature. (^In the territory


the
of the Burgundians
fortunes^pf jthe_uppejL_class. seem
little
as
to have been
Altered.
Bishop Patiens and

Ecdicius, the brother-in-law of Sidonius, must have drawn


Yet
a great part of their revenues from that district.

we shall see Ecdicius able to provide subsistence for


4000 starving people in a season of famine. 1 And the
good bishop, who was a man of private fortune, in a
2
period of similar distress, organised, at his own expense,
a system of wholesale relief, not only for the population
along the Ehone and the Saone, but 9 also for places far
beyond the limits of his diocese. [There is no sign that
the great Roman proprietor, so far as the material conditions of his_jifewere conceTriec[,~was worse off
the German chief than under thejmpemTjprefect.

under

/That the lower and middle classes suffered cruelly is


on their condition and feelings

tolerably certain, but

Sidonius has

little to tell

us in his

letters,

As

a bishop,

courageously stood by his people in the hour of


danger, defended their rights, and was full of pity for
their sufferings.
His princely charity was long a

he

fBut as the great noble, composing


elaborate letters to his friends, which he intended for the
tradition in Gaul.

eyes_pJLj3pjiejity^.he is. almost entirely occupied with the


daily life, the peculiar tastes and ambitions of his own

Only here and there do we meet with a

order.

slight

reference to the burden of the taxpayer, the flight of a


4
All
colonus, the obscure hardships of the petty trader.

the suffering and

reverses

fortune

of

in

the

classes

beneath him, which must have resulted from a great


economic revolution, from the oppression of the treasury
official,

or

from the invasions, seem to have had but

frumenta

ApolL Sidon.

Grog. Tur. Hist. Franc, ii. 24.


Sid. Ep. vi. 12, post Gothicam
depopulationem, post segetes inccndio absumptas, peculiari snmptu
inopiae

communi

gratuita

misisti, etc.

p. 319.
Greg. Tur. ii. c. 22.
4
Sid. Ep. ii. 1 ; v.

cf.

Chaix,

i.

vi. 8.

19

vi.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

192

BOOK n

whose eyes the men who were


who had read
Homer and Menander, Virgil and Pliny, together at
Lyons or Bordeaux, were the only interesting part of
1
the Koman world.
(This class, separated from the
masses by pride of birth and privilege and riches, was
interest for one in

little

descended from prefects and consuls, and

off from them by its monopoly of culture.


however long his pedigree, however broad
would have hardly found himself at home in
of Sidonius if he could not turn off pretty

even more cut

An

aristocrat,

his acres,

the circle
vers

de

soctitt,

or

letters

fashioned in

which centuries of
style
\The members
elaborated.

by the

to one another

by common

that euphuistic

had
bound

rhetorical

discipline

that

were

of

class

tradition of ancestral friendships,


and pursuits, but not least by

interests

2
academic companionship, and the pursuit of that ideal
of culture which more and more came to be regarded as

the truest
rank.

title to

How

the

name

Koman, the

of

real

stamp

of

often does Sidonius remind a friend of the

days when they had threaded the mazes of Aristotelian


3
or mastered the technique of Latin rhetoric
dialectic,

under the same professor at Lyons.

For the

stability of

the material fortunes of his order he betrays no anxiety.


If he has a dim consciousness of decadence, it is of a
4

literary decadence, a failure of industry in the noble


and lettered class, a failure in devotion to the ancient

models, and in the fastidiousness of the literary sense,


The crowd who had no tincture of that lore, who knew

language of the initiated, were not


perhaps despised by such a perfect gentleman, but they
not the esoteric

Symmachus

Senate

as

speaks

"melior pars

the

of

generis

humani."
2 a,vi

KT
Sid. Ep.

iii.

1.

The

best illustration, per-

haps, of aristocratic brotherhood is


in the letter to Aquilinus, v. 9
c
Chaix. i. 23.
;

m.

v. 9.

Ib. iv. I, tu sub


Eusebio
nostro inter Aristotelicas categorias
artifex dialecticus atticissabas
cf.
;

y>

>

granditer laetor saltim in inlustri


pectore tuo vanescentium littcrarum remansisse vestigia ; cf. ii. 10.

SOCIETY OF APOLLINARIS SIDONIUS

CH. iv

193

were regarded with that blank uninterested gaze which


in the vulgar only a dim and colourless mass.
Sidonius feeb a_certein_dis_gust. even _ior_theL.best of his
sees

German

neighbours.-

(They

are coarse in their habits,

they are ignorant and brutish, and have nothing of that


elasticity of mind and delicacy of taste which, even at its

We

worst, the training of the Eoman schools imparted. /


shall hardly be wrong in supposing t-hftt b,J8 nomparfttivfi
silence about the lower orders of his own countrymen

covers a like repugnance. The ferocious punishment which


he dealt out to the boors, who were quite innocently
2
trenching over the soil of his ancestor's grave, displays
all the contempt of the mediaeval baron for his serfs.

p?he letters of Sidonius describe the life and feelings


of only a single class orEoman society^Jbut tney describe
that class with a Jaithfulness which leaves little to be

He professed himself an imitator of Symdesired.


8
machus, but in his delineation of the men with whom he
lived, and of the scenery and background of their lives,
|

Sidonius

far

surpasses

in

Symmachus

minuteness

of

drawing and in depth of colour.


Symmachus cultivates
and
a
reserve
as
matter
of
taste and etiquette.
brevity
He seems almost determined not to be satisfying and
The faults of Sidonius are all on the other
interesting.
With perhaps no great powers of reflection, with
side.
no abundant stock of ideas, he is yet a minute observer,
and has a positive delight in amplifying all the results
of observation by means of an enormous, and often
barbarous, vocabulary, and by all the arts of a perverted
rhetoric, which often puts a strain on language that it
will not bear.

Let any one read the description of the

4
appearance and habits of Theodoric, of the means by
1

JEp.

iv.

1,

bestialium rigidar-

ego etiamsi boni.

Ib.

iii.

Ib.

i.

12.

2.

<

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

194

which the

parvenu

Paeonius

the

before

himself

raised

accession

BOOK n

of

to

the

of

the

Majorian,
2
Lyons, of the delators who surrounded
4
8
of Vectius the ascetic country gentleman,
Chilperic,
and, while he will find much to offend a sensitive taste,
he will not complain of any want of vividness and colour.
prefecture
parasite of

a critic should, in other sketches of Eoman


in
Gaul, discover a certain sameness and lack of
society
the imagination, it would be well for him
to
seize
power
If such

to reflect

materials.

what he himself could have done with similar


The life of a rich, secure, and highly con-

ventional society does not lend itself to descriptions


which enthral the imagination, and satisfy the love of

When

and the picturesque.

the various

the Gallo-

Eoman

noble had completed his brief career of imperial


"honours," the years of an unruffled and stately life
fleeted away in a colourless and monotonous flow.
The

calm dignity of those great houses, with endless


to frivolous social duties, and a routine of busy
idleness, must surely have made the nobler spirits sometimes long for the more strenuous and stormy life of
cold,
calls

As we turn

their ancestors.

seem

to feel the

still,

the pages of Sidonius, we


languid oppressiveness of a hot,

vacant noontide in one of those villas in Aquitaine or


The master may be looking after his wine
Auvergne.

and oil, or laying a fresh mosaic, or reading Terence or


Menander in some shady grotto his guests are playing
;

or

rattling the dice-box, or tracking the antiof Virgil to its sources.


lore
The scene is one
quarian

tennis,

of tranquil content, or even gaiety.


But over all, to our
broods
the
shadow
which
haunts
the life that is
eyes,

nourished only by memories, and to which the future


sends no call and offers no promise.
It

be

may
1

doubted,

Ep.

i.

Ib.

iii.

whether

however,

n.

11.
13.

v. 7.

Ib. iv. 9.

Sidonius

SOCIETY OF APOLL1NARIS SIDONIUS

CH. iv

195

He may have
regarded his society in any such way.
noticed and lamented in his later years a failure of
1

energy, a less delicate sense for what he reas


garded
purity of Latin style ; ( but for the greater part
of his life the circle of nobles to which he belonged were
literary

enjoying undisturbed the plenty and elegance of their


country seats, and were as devoted as himself to the

And

art.

literary

include' his letters

almost be said to
Gaul, from

jr

If we
was very wide.
2
to bishops and churchmen, it may
have embraced the greater part of
his circle

If

Soissons to Marseilles.

we

confine our

attention to his secular friends, it certainly covered all


Gaul south of the Loire. 8 The energy with which he
cultivated his friendships or acquaintanceships is truly

admirable. (^Indeed the best thing about Sidonius is his


genius for friendship. His letters range in all directions,
to Bourges, to Bordeaux, to Marseilles, to Narbonne, to
Lyons, and to many an estate or bishop's house beyond

or within

that

circle.

In the

last

of

his poems,

he^V

sends the volume forth to travel along a winding path to


Narbonne, each stage being marked by some great house

where he, on a similar journey, had spent pleasant days.


The book on its first stage is to brave the criticism of
Further on in
Domitius, the grammarian of Auvergne.

journey it is to visit the seat of Ferreolus, father of


Tonantius Ferreolus, a great prefect of Gaul and ancestral
its

I,

It is next to cross the Tarn, and


friend of the poet.
at
itself
Voroangus, the seat of Apollinaris, who
present
had sat on the same benches with Sidonius at the school

Lingering awhile among the gardens and


grottoes on the Garden, it passes on, from one friend to
another, till it reaches the stately home of Magnus at
of

Ep. v.
honorant
;

10,
of.

pauci studia nuno


viii.

6,

ii.

10, iv. 3

ad fin.

merates seventeen bishops with


whom Sidonius corresponded.
* The
Syagrius of v. 5 lived near
Soissons

Lyons.

Germ., Apoll. Sid.

p. 136,

enu-

cf.

Greg. Tur.

Carm. xxiv.

ii.

18, 27.

/
/

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

196

BOOK

11

Narbonne, whose son was linked to Sidonius alike by


ties of marriage and by memories of college life.
It would be a wearisome and fruitless task to carry
the reader in detail through the long list of the friends
1
of Sidonius.
They are now mere shadows. The circle
in Narbonne and its neighbourhood was specially brilliant
Sidonius in one of his
in the eyes of contemporaries.
2
poems has described this crowd of prefects, consuls,
jurisconsults, adepts in every branch of literature, even
rivals of the great masters ; yet not a name in the long
But although
list is known to us from other sources.

may seem

insignificant and uninteresting,


he represents deserves Study; and the
features of the senatorial class were strongly marked.
In more than one of his letters 8 Sidonius sums up
his ideal of the Eoman noble, the ideal which he would
"
with the help of Christ," to
like his son, as he says,
He should, as an almost religious duty, repay
attain.

the individual

whom

the class

by adding to the list of family


some great magistracy in the imperial service.

the debt of noble birth


"

"

honours

He

should, without reducing himself to the level of a

a money-grubber, attend to the management


4
Some of his superfluous wealth may be

bailiff or

of his estates.

spent in additions to his country seat, or redecorating


and saloons with fresh frescoes and marbles.
He will be a keen sportsman,5 after the manner of his
his baths

Celtic ancestors.
all

his

energy.

But these pursuits should not absorb


The noble class, the salt of Eoman

1
The task has been piously performed by the Abb6 Chaix, t. i. I. 5.

Carm. xxiii. 435; cf. Ep. viii.


Chaix, Apoll. Sid.\ p. 241.

He

scripsi

cf.

and Carm.
ea

debe
5

iii.

6,

vii.

12, viii.

7,

vii.

158, quos quippe


praefecturas constat

^
et

writes to tell
Papianilla of her brother's elevation
to the patriciate.
Note the words
qua de re propitio deo Christo ampliatos prosapiae tuae titulos ego

ludo
equus
cf.
Carm. vii. 183, where
the exploits of Avitus in the chase

festinus

are idealised.

Ep.

v.

16.

gratatoriis

apicibus

in-

Ib.

venatu
cipiter
fuere ;

iii.

3,

nemora
canis,

flumina
fregisti

natatu,
.

arcus

ac-

SOCIETY OF APOLLINARIS SIDONIUS

CH. iv

197

society, is a great^brotherhood, bound together^ by the


traditions of hereditary friendship and a common culture
The true descendant of a great race
of priceless value.

same arts and accomplishments


1
He will also,
which moulded his ancestors and himself.
by scrupulous attention to correspondence and social
duties, keep warm the feelings of friendship and interest
will train his son in the

common

Sidonius, at any rate towards the


was a devout and pious churchman.
to the last, the "aiceti?rid6als of men like S. Jerome
[But
and S. Paulinus seem never in his mind to have obscured
the ideal of the wealthy and studious country gentleman,
with a wholesome well-balanced nature, fond of sport
and farming, proud of his family, devoted to his friends,
and above all penetrated with a sense of the obligation
To be false to
to carry on the tradition of culture.
letters was to be false to family honour and to Eome.
Pride of birth was one of the strongest feelings in the
Gallo-Eoman aristocrat.
Nor was this much abated by
in

end

of

his

studies.

life,

On a remarkable
the profession of a severe Christianity.
occasion Sidonius was asked by the people of Bourges
to nominate a bishop.
He delivered an address to justify
and in recommending a certain Simplicius

his choice,

for

their suffrages, he lays the greatest stress on his high


2
So in the lives of the saints and great churchdescent.
men of that age, 8 the biographer never fails to record

the fact of their being of senatorial birth.


This class,
*
the time of Constantine, included all tEe

since
1

Ep.

iv.

picture

of

12 gives a pleasant
the bishop reading

Terence and Menander with his


son ; legebamus, pariter laudabamus jocabamurque of. the care
of Ausonius for his grandson's

aut

education, Idyl,

iv.,

and Sym. Ep.

v. 5.
2

aut

cathedris

tribunalibus

Uxor illi
praesederunt .
Palladiorum stirpe descendit.
.

de

Greg. Tur. S. Julian, prosapia

illustris
vit. Patrum, c.
sanctus Gregorius ex senatoribus
?uidem
primis Hist. Fr. vi. 39, est enim
;

Sidonius gives the


address in full which he delivered
on the occasion
Parentes ipsius
Ib. vii. 9.

vir valde nobilis,


primis senatoribus Galliarum ;

(Sulpicius)
vit.

Patrum,

c.

8, 16,

20.

de
cf.

f<

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

198

BOOK n

It had become in
landed proprietors of the provinces.
of
force
not
enactment, chiefly hereditary.
fact, though
by
But admission to its ranks was from time to time
1
obtained by the favour of the Emperor, or by the tenure
The rank
of some of the offices in the Palatine service.

^.M^,
\l

which the founder of a family had won by


his descendants strove to dignify
2
place in the imperial hierarchy.

official service,

by attaining still higher


With the mass of the

senatorial class, the ambition of office sprang rather from


personal or family vanity than from the desire of real

was a great potentate 8


wielding a far greater power than the monarch of the
Yet the consulship,
largest modern European State.
which had for many ages been a purely ornamental
power.

The

dignity,

ranked,

prefect of the Gauls

in

virtue

of

ancient

its

glories,

far

above the greatest prefecture; and the son of a prefect


thought that he was at once honouring and surpassing
his father,
ship.*

by gaining the shadowy dignity of the consul-

Yet

it

may be doubted whether

the assertion

is

absolutely true that all capacity for government in the


5
know little of the actual
upper class had died out.

We

on government exercised

even by the great


But
we
can form some
of
the
fifth
prefects
century.
of
of
their
duties from
the
and
nature
conception
range

influence

the Imperial Code.

and

financial
1

The

prefect of the Gauls had the


of three great

administration

judicial

Th. vi. 2, 2, si quis senatorium consecutus nostra largitate


Cf.
fastigium vel generis felicitate.
Godefroy's Paratitlon to yi. 2. In
vi. 3, 2 and 3, the distinction is

sharply drawn between senatorial

and

curial

estates.

Cf.

La Gaule Rom.
Duruy. vii. p. 176.
2
iii. 6.
Ep. i. 3
Coulanges,

de
180

F.
p.

this

C.

It should be

remembered that

prefecture included Britain


as well as Gaul proper.

and Spain

G.

Th.

vi.

6,

1,

diversa cul-

mina dignitatum consulatui cedere


... decernimus ; cf. Auson. Ad.
Grot, ad
sicut

ut

fin.

nos

Sidon. Ep. v. 16,

4,

utramque familiam

nostram praefectoriam nancti etiam


patriciam reddidimus, ita ipsi quam
suscipiunt patriciam faciant con.
sularem ; cf. Friedl. i. p. 206.
8
De Coulanges, L'Inv. Germ. p.
220, la classe se'natoriale elle-meme
manque de 1'esprit de gouvernemerit.

CH. iv

SOCIETY OF APOLLINARIS SIDONIUS

199

countries in his hands, and the control of a numerous


body of officials. Although, from the time of Constantine,

the prefect had no military command, he had to provide


the commissariat of the legions quartered in his

for

He had

province.
roads and

also the superintendence of the great


He had to advise subpostal service.

the

on questions of difficulty, and to


Above all he exercised
hear appeals from their decisions.
enormous powers over the levying of taxes and the whole
ordinate magistrates

financial service.

and regular
It was also

It

was
and

his duty at once to secure full

to check venality or oppression.


his business to give due publicity to all edicts
collection,

Emperor, and in the framing of these edicts there


no doubt that the suggestions and advice of a governor
had great weight.
The vast machine had to be kept
running, and any defect in its working had to be brought
to the notice of the Emperor.
In the fifth century the
limits of the great prefecture of the West were steadily
retreating from the Atlantic towards the Mediterranean.
Yet the anxieties of its ruler must have increased as the
times grew darker.
In the career of Tonantius Ferreolus,
one of the friends of Sidonius, we have an example of a
public-spirited noble, and a benevolent and vigorous
governor.
Along with Avitus, he bore a foremost part
in organising the united resistance of Goth and Eoman to
the Hun invasion in 451.
And he signalised his tenure
of office in 453 by lightening the burden of taxation in
2
those disastrous years.
The later Eoman Code bears
of the

is

witness to the strenuous efforts of

many high-minded

prefects to check the growing disorganisation of society.


There can be little doubt, however, that in the
1
On the powers of the Pretorian
.Th.
prefect see Godefroy's ed. of

vol.

vi.

pt.

Praefectorum

ad

ii.

"
;

cf.

init.

GauU

"Notitia

Notitia Dig.

Booking, t. ii. 13, 14, and 166,


where the Formula Praef. Praet.
ed.

given ; Fauriel, Hist, de la


Mfrid. i. p. 351.

is

Ep.

vii.

12

Carm. vii. 315


Gaule Mtrid.

Fauriel, Hist, de la
i.
p. 227.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

200

11

between Ausonius and Sidonius the love of


had increased, and public spirit or ambition

interval

life

country

was

BOOK

Many

declining.)

of the hi__

mere_jfarmers on a large scale, and cared for little else


than their flocks and vineyards.
Sidonius, who had an
almost religious faith in his order, and who regarded
himself as the guardian of Latin culture in an age of
decadence, was revolted by this return to the rude and
solitary rusticity of an earlier time. ) He was also
alarmed by the passion for money-making which often
Several of his letters are
accompanied such tastes.
written to recall these degenerate nobles to their true life
and vocation. 1 And one in particular deserves notice

from the birth and rank of the person to whom it is


2
addressed.
Syagrius belonged to one of those Gallic
families in which high office was practically hereditary.

He was
in 381,

great-grandson of that Syagrius who was consul


who was a correspondent of Symmachus,8 and

from whose daughter Tonantius Ferreolus, 4 the greatest


of Gallic nobles, was descended.
The Syagrii were connected with the district of Lyons, and their family estate

somewhere near Autun, in the neighbourhood of the


The Syagrius of the time of Sidonius had
Burgundians.
fallen away from the example of his ancestors, and from
lay

that ideal of aristocratic

Trained in

describe.

he had

schools,

life

which we have attempted

to

the literary arts of the Gallic


stooped to learn the language of the
all

conquerors, in which he had acquired a facility which


1

Ep.
2&.

ii.

14

viii.

vii.

8.

15

The

and Chaix

6.

estate

of

a
Sym.

In the Index to Luetjohann's


ed. of Sidonius, the Syagrius of v.
5 is said to be father of the
Syagrius in

viii.

8.

But Migne

(i.

178,

189) are pro-

^ably right in treating the letters

ex.

Rauschen, Jahrb.

p.

85

Sid. Ep. v. 17, conditorium Syagrii


consulis.
4
Sid. Ep. i. 7, Afranii Syagrii
consulis e filia nepos ; ii. 9 ; vii. 12.

SOCIETY OF APOLLINARIS SIDONIUS

CH. iv

moves the sarcasm


lower than

this.

But he had sunk even

of Sidonius.

He had

201

forgotten the long line of his

ancestral dignities and his duty to his country, and


buried himself in his rural property, with no ambition
beyond that of growing fine crops and increasing his

income.

but

it

may have been

Syagrius
is

also possible that

a degenerate noble,

he was a shrewd, sensible

man, who saw the hollowness of the so-called ambition


"
"
honours of a power
of his class, who rated cheap the
no longer able to defend its citizens, and who thought
that his energy might be more usefully expended in
cultivating the friendship of his German neighbours, and
in the management of a great estate, with its crowd of
serfs and dependants, than in playing ball and dice,
exchanging repartees, or applauding with grotesque
exaggeration a literary neighbour's feeble imitations of
Statius or Lucan.
!|

It

him

would be

unfair, however, to Sidonius to represent


commonplace duties of a great

as indifferent to the

landholder.

Indeed, the villa or senatorial estate must

have demanded some attention from any prudent owner.


or procurator was often a man of servile
and
the
Theodosian Code leaves the impression
origin,
1
that these agents had to be carefully watched.
Although
the senatorial estates in Gaul were probably never equal
in extent to those vast latifundia Which were the ruin of
2
Italian husbandry, yet they were ordinarily of considerable acreage.
Ausonius had a patrimonial estate near
Bazas, which he describes in modest terms as a villula
or herediolum?
Yet it consisted of more than 1000
acres, of which 200 were arable land, 100 vineyard, 50

The

villicus

meadow, the

The

rest being woodland.

estates of the

of Sidonius were probably of far larger extent


than that of the poet of Bordeaux. The nearest approach

friends

0. Th. ix. 30, 2

ii.

30, 2.

Auson. Idyl.

iii.

Plin.

10.

H.N.

xviii. 35.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

202

BOOK n

any indication of their size is contained in a letter


1
describing the domains of Apollinaris and Ferreolus.
They adjoin one another, and the distance between the
two mansions is rather long for a walk, but rather short
for a ride on horseback.
The great noble, both in Gaul
and Italy, often possessed many of these estates in
The
different districts, or even in different provinces.
lands of S. Paulinus, which Ausonius describes as
"
realms," were widely scattered, and when, on his
"
adoption of the ascetic life, they were sold, they would
pass," according to Ausonius, "into the hands of a
hundred masters." 2
( It is characteristic of Sidonius that, while he has left
us several pictures of great mansions, he never gives even
a glimpse of the organisation of an estate. T Yet the
population of these domains formed in itself a complete
and almost self-sufficing community. 8 The great house
had in its immediate neighbourhood villages which were

to

slaves or
occupied by dependants of various grades
of
coloni
and
free
some
them
tenants,
freedmen,
ordinary
labourers, others paying for their holdings both in money

and a stipulated amount of labour. The buildings for


the slaves, the stables, and granaries, the mill, the olive
and wine-presses, with the workshops, must have formed,
on an estate of any magnitude, a little town, demanding
a good deal of management and careful superintendence.
The superfluous income of the rich man could, in those
days, find investment only in loans on mortgage, or in
the purchase of other properties, or in additions to the
4
residence of the family.
Building was one of the
1
Ep. ii. 9, praediorum his jura
domicilia
contermina,
vicina,
quibus interjecta gestatio peditem

lassat
2
3

neque sufficit equitaturo.


Auson. Ep. 24, 115.
F. de Coulanges, L'Alleu, pp.

The law discouraged trading

in

0.

Th.

xiii.

cum potiorum quisque

aut
miscere se negotiation! non debeat,
aut pensitationem (i.e. lustralis
collatio) quod honestas postulat
1,

5,

primus agnoscere. Of. xiii. 1, 8,


which fenera tores are brought
under the lustralis collatio (v.

In

87, 88.
4

the senatorial class,

SOCIETY OF APOLLINARIS SIDONIUS

CH. iv

passions of the Eoman aristocrat.


architecture of the fortifiedlown,

On

repelled him.

his

own

The

203

stern, utilitarian

noise and squalor,


lands he gave a free rein to
its

The sites of these


beauty or luxury.
ancient country houses seem to have been generally
chosen for some natural beauty, on the wooded banks of
his

taste

for

a river or a lake dotted with islands, or at the foot of a


sloping hill, with a prospect of forest, meadow, or rich
Sidonius, imitating one of his favourite
models, has left us elaborate word-pictures of some of
these great houses, in Auvergne, on the Garden, at
His
Narbonne, or in the neighbourhood of Bordeaux.
cultivated plain.

own

house, which came to him by his marriage with the


daughter of the Emperor Avitus, is delineated with a
minute care which reveals in every line a passionate love
of the delights of rural life and scenery. 2
Dornitius, a
professor in the neighbouring college
invited to leave the hot class-room

Even

streets.

on

"
fire

fissures,

in

of Auvergne,

is

and the narrow

umbrageous Auvergne, "the world

is

the ground is seamed and scarred with gaping


;
the mud is hardening in the bed of the river,

whose failing, languid stream hardly drags itself along.


But in the retreat of Avitacum there is the spreading
coolness which the builder's and the gardener's arts can
win from nature even in the dog-days. The mansion
has a broad frontage both to the north and the south.
A glen, flanked by two lines of hills, opens on the
southern lawn before the vestibule.
At the southwestern corner are the baths close under a woodclad
height,

from which the

mouth

of

along the

felled timber drops at the

the furnaces.
walls

by leaden

Godefroy's note, and Sid. Ep. iv.


Of. G. Th. ii. 33, 4, limiting
the rate of interest which senators
could exact.

24).

Ep.

v. 11.

The heated water

Building with dis-

is

There are

pipes.

very

carried
all

the

is one of the laudable occupations of the noble ; cf. Fried-

cretion
lander,
2
ii.

iii.

Sid.
17.

p. 76.

Ep.

ii.

2.

Cf.

Plin.

Ep.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

BOOK n

apartments for luxurious bathing, brilliantly lighted, with


walls of gleaming whiteness and domed roofs resting on
graceful columns, ending in the piscina, where, through
from
curiously-sculptured heads of lions, the cold water

the

hillside

rushes tumultuously.

On

no
some

these walls
see

wantonness is figured, although you may


"
epigram neither good enough to make you read it again,
Hard
nor so bad as to disgust you with the reading."
of
the
by are the ladies' room and the spinning-room
tale of

After these you find yourself in a long colonnade looking out on the lake, which lies on the eastern
side, embosomed in woods.
Passing through a long
maids.

gallery on the south you would reach the winter diningroom, with a cheerful blaze in the vaulted chimney.

And from

you may enter a smaller saloon, with a


broad staircase leading up to a verandah which overhangs the lake, where the guest, as he cools his thirst,
may watch the fisherman buoying his nets. Or you may
take a siesta in a chamber screened from the southern
heats, where the cicala in the hot noontide, or the
that

nightingale on summer evenings, will lull you to sleep,


while the sheep-bell and shepherd's pipe sound from the
hillside.

Sidonius, with all his conventionality, cannot

repress a natural delight in this fairyland of woodland,


it is so green and cool, a paradise
lake, and bosky islet
:

of

idyllic

tranquillity.

And

yet he describes

it

in a

euphuism, probably the most curiously artificial, in which


The master of that
genuine feeling was ever encased.
domain, of which he sees the inmost charm, sits in his
verandah above the lake, coining phrases which he
intended to excite the admiration of posterity, butjwhich
would have moved, the ridicule or disgust of the masters

he adored. /teM/lt'*
O ne f 'these country seats was very much like
another.
They all have apartments for summer and
winter, baths, galleries, libraries.
Sometimes, as in the

SOCIETY OF APOLLINARIS SIDONIUS

CH. iv

205

case of the Burgus of Leontius, they are strongly fortified


It is clear, from the
with all the art of the engineer.

arrangement of these houses, as well as from the general


tone of the literary remains of the period, that their
But
owners passed their lives chiefly in the country.
solitude was broken by constant correspondence,
Even in the troubled years
and by frequent visits.
which followed the accession of Euric, 2 although the
3
roads were not always safe for couriers and travellers,
who were liable to be stopped and questioned, communication among the members of the Gallo-Eoman
The
aristocracy was never completely interrupted.
which
the
from
the
first
roads,
up
opened
country
great
their

But
century, could be traversed rapidly by carriages.
the grand seigneur of the time generally preferred to
travel on horseback with a numerous suite.
Starting in
the cool of the morning, he would halt at noon in some
shady spot beside a stream where his servants, sent on

had pitched his tent and prepared the midThe inns were probably few, and, according
5
but the aristocratic traveller
Sidonius, they were bad

in advance,

day meal.
to

could easily arrange, as a rule, to break his journey at


The imagined
nightfall at the house of some friend.
6

route of the bishop's poems from Auvergne to Narbonne,


following a wavering line of country seats, probably
1

Carm.

Sid.

non

aries,

xxii.

non

non

illos

117

machina muros,
proximus

alta strues vel

Apoll. Sid. i. 222 ; Luetjohann's ed.


of Sidon. Ind. Pers. s.v.
2

agger,

non quae stridentes torquet catapulta

466,

molares,
sed nee testudo nee vinea nee rota currens

Cf.

jam

positis

scalis

unquam

quassare

valebunt

Pontius Paulinus, who had been


Pretorian prefect in the reign of
Constantine (v. Jullian's Ausone,
He was
p. 128), was the builder.
probably the father of S. Paulinus
of Nola, who also bore the name of
Pontius cf. Auson. Ep. 24, 103
;

Migne, Prol.

t. Ixi. c. 1,

Chaix,

He

succeeded Theodoric

and lived
Fauriel,

till

483,

II. in
or 485.

347; Luetjohann's

i.

Sidon. p. 418.
8
Ep. iii. 4 ; ix. 5 ; v. 12.
4
Such a day's travelling is
described Ep. iv. 8. For travelling
by river see viii. 12 ; cf. Auson.

Ep.
5

viii. 5.

Ib.

viii.

11,

ne

si

destituor

domo negata moerens ad madidas


earn tabernas, etc.
p. 23.
6

Carm. xxiv.

cf.

Friedl.

ii,

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

206

On

a tour of visits

many

represents

BOOK n

made by

the author.

one of these excursions Sidonius found himself once

two great villas of Voroangus


and Prusianum on the banks of the Garden, near Mines.
Their owners, Tonantius Ferreolus and Apollinaris, were
among his dearest friends. The estates adjoined one
1
another at the distance of a short ride.
Apollinaris and
Ferreolus detained their friend for a week, and had an
It was
amicable conflict each day for his company.
difficult to decide between the attractions of these two
The gardens of Apollinaris were of
princely seats.
almost fabulous beauty, and might have rivalled the
most delicious scenes in the world of legend or romance. 2
The gardener's skill had trained the foliage into enchanting bowers, where you might dream away the hot hours
in the neighbourhood of the

On

noon.

of

the other hand, the

home

of

Ferreolus

offered powerful attractions of a higher kind.


Its owner,
the descendant of the great Syagrius, and admittedly by

and official rank the foremost of Gallic nobles,


combined remarkable political experience with wide
culture.
Though now withdrawn from the great world,
he had borne a splendid part in repelling the Hun
invasion.
He had earned the reputation of being a
humane and enlightened prefect, and he was chosen to
represent his province at the famous prosecution of the
4
His library was amply
corrupt governor Arvandus.
stocked with all the literature of pagan antiquity, along
with the newer literature of the Church; and he was
not one of those senators, described by Ammianus, who
birth

entered their libraries as seldom as their family vaults.


1

Ep.

Ep.

ii.

ii.

Chaix.
9,

i.

210

nativam dare porticum laborans


non lucum arboribus facit, sed antrum.

sqq.

Aracynthum

et

celebrata poetarum carminibus juga, censeas ; Carm. xxiv.

Nysam,
54-74
seu

ficto potius specu quiescit


collis margine, qua nemus reflexum

8
Ep. i. 7, Tonantius Ferreolus
was Pretorian prefect in 453.
4
Arvandus was Pretorian prefect
of Gaul in 469 and impeached at
Rome for treacherous communica-

tions with Euric.

Sid Ep.

i.

7.

SOCIETY OF APOLLINARIS SIDONIUS

CH. iv

207

The daily life at Prusianum, as depicted by Sidonius,


shows us the charm and also the weakness of aristocratic
1
It is very pleasant, but it
society in the fifth century.
When
seems somewhat self-indulgent and frivolous.
Sidonius arrives in the morning, some of the guests are
in the tennis-court, others are eagerly engaged in a game
of dice, the more sedate are reading Horace or Varro in

The
the library, 2 or discussing the theology of Origen.
at
o'clock
"after
the
eleven
senatorial
was,
dejeuner
ample meal ; and the guests, as they
over their wine, were amused by the recitation of
The hours of the afternoon were spent on
lively tales.

fashion," a short but


sat

The baths of Ferreolus seem


have been then in the builder's hands, and the company extemporised a bath by the side of a rivulet. A
trench was dug along the bank and roofed over with
hair-cloth stretched on a framework of branches.
Heated
stones were flung into the hollow, and a jet of cold water
turned on the glowing heap and the bathers, having
horseback or in the bath.
to

enjoyed the vapour for a time, braced themselves by a


The evening closed with a
plunge in the cool stream.
luxurious banquet.

In this pleasant life one hears little of the women of


the household, and this silence has been interpreted as a
sign that they were ignored and had a humble place in
the family.
Yet it is hardly probable that, in the full
light of Christianity, the position of women was lower

than

it

was in the days of the pagan Pliny or of the semi-

8
pagan Ausonius.

The

references to

women

in Sidonius

are indeed scanty, but they show that the ideal of female
virtue and culture was high.
In a letter to a friend

about to be married,4 he points out, by a long series of


1
Of. the day at the villa of Consentius, Sid. Carm. xxii. 487.
2
On libraries in the country
see Sid.
Ep. v. 15 ; viii. 11 ;

viii. 4.

Plin.

Ep. Calpumiae,

vi.

26

5 ; Auson. Parent, xii. 5 ;


F. de Coulanges, L'lnv. Germ,
212.
*
Sid>
iit 10

vii.

Et

cf.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

208

BOOKII

how women may

help to sustain the


In the family of
literary ambition of their husbands.
both pious and
ladies
were
Magnus of Narbonne the
ancient examples,

accomplished, and Eulalia, a cousin of Sidonius, who was


married to a son of the house, is described as a very
1
In the library of Prusianum there were
Minerva.
shelves

stocked

intended for the

with

women

literature
religious
2
of the household.

which are
In another

an elegy on the virtues of


8
of
matron
a young
Lyons, whose early death was a
and
mourned
with every demonstration of
public event,
whole
the
community.
grief by
There is hardly a trace in the works of Sidonius of
that looseness of morals with which Salvianus charges
his contemporaries in that very province to which so
There is
many of the friends of Sidonius belonged.
4
rather
startles
tone
of
which
us in
the
one
indeed
letter,
letter Sidonius sends a friend

It refers to the irregular connection of a


a bishop.
The mistress is treated
noble
with a slave girl.
young

loathing and contempt, but the young man is


absolved rather easily on the score of morals, and commended for having thrown the girl over, and so consulted

with

His marriage with a lady of


his reputation and fortune.
noble birth seems, in the eyes of the bishop, to atone
"
Such rare glimpses of self-indulgence
error."
for his

and luxurious caste, with


and
surrounded by crowds of
hardly any public interests,
But the picture of
much
do
excite
not
slaves,
surprise.
abnormal and universal debauchery given by Salvianus
in the

members

of a rich, idle,

absolutely unconfirmed
Sidonius.

is

Carm. xxiv. 95

hic saepe Bulaliae meae legeris,


cujus Cecropiae pares Minervae
mores et rigidi senes et ipse
quondam purpureus socer timebant.
2

ii. 9, sic tamen


quod qui
matronarum cathedras codices

Ep.

inter

in the pages of

by anything

erant, stilus his religiosus inveniebatur, etc.


lb.
4

11.

8.

/^ j x

^ e passage in the

EucUaristicos, where PaulinSs speaks


of a similar error of his youth in

the same tone, v. 165,

CH. iv

SOCIETY OF APOLLINARIS SIDONIUS

209

debauched parasite in
a specimen of physical and
If
moral degradation which excites horror and disgust.
the bishop ever gave his flock in the cathedral of
In

the

Sidonius,

description

the

of

we have indeed

Auvergne a sermon in the same style, it must have had


It is composed with the object of
a powerful effect.
of the horrors of the abyss into
a
relative
young
warning
which his life might plunge, if he neglected the old rules
Yet in reading the piece, one cannot help
of conduct.
that
the
literary spirit, the spirit of Juvenal and
feeling
It is in
the school rhetoric, has possessed the writer.
some respects a powerful piece, but the power is that of
a master of words and phrases, who exults in his com-

mand

of them.

There

is

no

and shade

light

the whole

black with the smoke of the infernal streams. 2

There
there
Komans
have
been,
were,
probably
degenerate
may
who, in an age of violent and sudden change, lost all
sense of self-respect, all feeling of Kornan dignity and
Christian duty, and who determined to make the best, in
a sensual way, of an age of convulsion, to sell their
compatriots, to flatter their new masters, and to purchase
All
gross pleasure with the wages of their treachery.
this is probable.
Yet we may well doubt whether, even
in the most disorganised society, such specimens of utter
moral and physical wreck were often seen as the loathsome wretch whom Sidonius has described for edification
and warning. The love of word-painting is too evident
the strain and staring contrast of verbal antithesis are too
marked to give one confidence in the fidelity of the
The body, deformed in every line and feature
portrait.
bloated
with luxury, and enervated by excess,
by vice,
is described with disgusting and exaggerated emphasis
The
as the fit dwelling of a fouler and uglier soul.
is

Sid. Ep.

iii.

bras

13.

lamina gerit
.
lumine carentia quae Stygiae vice
paludis volvuut lacrimas per teneEp.

iii.

13,

per

horas

larvalibus.

facies ita pallida veluti

umbris

maestificata

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

210

BOOK n

whispered slander, the gross innuendo, the affectation oi


vivacity without wit, of importance without dignity, the

hungry eagerness

for a hospitable invitation,

combined

with feigned shyness in accepting, the gross and bestial indulgence, the ravenous throat and the venomous tongue
all this, with many traits we have suppressed, is a picture

which we may hope had few counterparts in real life.


Such characters rarely meet us in the pages of
His world was probably quite as Christian in
Sidonius.
It inherited also, as
sentiment and conduct as our own.
a social and literary tradition, a profound veneration for
the virtues of the old
all,

Koman

a society dominated

by

character.

I^jsaa^-a^oye

pride, respect for class-feeling,


If to the pride and fastidi-

anoTimperious good taste.


ousness of the polished noble you add the restraints of a
collective Christian sentiment, you have a social tone
which is not likely in general to be prone to gross

There is no trace of lubricity on the walls


indulgence.
of the mansions, or in the entertainments described in
1

Like the guests in the Saturnalia of


Sidonius
Macrobius,
congratulates his generation on being
more decent than their ancestors. N"o wanton frescoes,
these

letters.
2

no suggestive dances and songs, would be tolerated.


friends

The

of

Sidonius, Ferreolus, Ecdicius, Consentius,


Lampridius, Apollinaris, and a host of others, seem to be,
on the whole, as regards private virtue, perfectly regular

and unexceptionable in their

lives.

It

is

possible that

class feeling or the reticence of

may

good nature or good taste


have led Sidonius sometimes to cast a veil over the

and pleasant friends of his youth. Yet


one cannot help having the impression that his silence
about evil is due to its absence, at least in any gross
faults of the dear

form,

among the people with whom he

1
Ep. ii. 2, non hie per nudam
pictorum corporum pulchritudinem
turpis prostat historia, quae sicut

associated.

ornat artem devenustat artificem.


2

Saturn,

ii.

1. 6.

SOCIETY OF APOLLINARIS SIDONIUS

CH. iv

The
tion

was not

real canker at the root of that society

but class-pride, want of public

gross vice,

the

in

vanities

of

sterile

211

spirit,

absorp-

cultivated

culture,

It is difficult for a modern man to conceive


bounded view of society taken by people like Symmachus and Sidonius, the cold, stately self-content, the
selfishness.,

the

absence of sympathy for the masses lying outside the


charmed circle of senatorial rank, the placid faith in the

permanence of privilege and wealth, the apparent inability


to imagine, even in the presence of tremendous forces of
disruption, that society should ever cease to

move along

The bureaucratic system

of govern-

the ancient lines.

ment

in public affairs in the natural


Masters of vast domains, yet excluded,

stifled all interest


class.

governing

as an order, from real political power, the great


the senatorial class were condemned to a sterile

mass of
life

of

fantastic luxury, literary trifling, or sullen reserve.


They
had little care for any but their own caste and family,
1
as the representatives of Graeco-Eoman culture.
With

what was regarded


"

honours

"

the study

seemed

to

as a laudable ambition to

add to the

of the family, and a strenuous devotion to


and imitation of the great authors, there

the stately noble no reason why the calm


life should not go on for ever.

ceremonious senatorial

The aim

of all true

Eomans was

to reproduce in succes-

sive generations the forms and ideas of the great past,


undisturbed by any hope or ambition of ever excelling it.
To such a condition of death-like repose or immobility

had the imperial system reduced the most intelligent


class in the Koman world.
Faith in Eome had killed all
faith in a wider future for humanity.
Society had been
and
As a rule,
elaborately
deliberately stereotyped.
whatever a man's energy or ambition, he was doomed to
1
Sidon. Ep. viii. 2, nam jam
remotis gradibus dignitatum, per
quas solebat ultimo a quoque sum-

mus quisque

discerni,

solum

erit

posthac nobilitatis indicium litteras


nosse.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

212

work out his


had followed.

life

on the precise

lines

which

BOOK n
his ancestors

All ideas of improvement were nipped in


the bud, blasted by the stifling atmosphere of a despotism
which, with whatever good intentions, received no

guidance or inspiration from the thoughts or needs of


the masses, and spent all its strength in maintaining
unchanged the lines of an ancient system, instead of
openings

finding

for

fresh

development.

The

same

immobility reigned in the education of the privileged


class.
They felt no material need to stimulate invention

and practical energy, and their academic training only


deepened and intensified the deadening conservatism of
Their training was
unassailable wealth and rank.
its
sole
object was to make masters
exclusively literary
of phrase, rhetoricians, skilled and successful imitators of
;

the great masters of the literary

art.

Mere

style,

apart

It
from real knowledge or ideas, was its great aim.
the
before
the
pupil's gaze
mythological
persistently kept
As the
fancies and literary finesse of the great ages.

material force of the Empire slowly waned, the loftier


spirits clung all the more tenaciously to the literary

and Kome, as to a
There was no
unapproachable perfection.
no
of
love
scientific
no
curiosity,
hope of further
inquiry,
All that was best in the possible achievements
advance.

heritage from the past of Greece

standard

of the

of

human

spirit

haze of a heroic age.

lay behind, steeped in the golden


In front stretched a gray, flat pro-

spect of cultivated mediocrity. It is hardly too much to say


that the despotism of the school tradition was as stifling and
fatal to progress as the bureaucratic

of

despotism of Diocletian.

In the time of Ausonius we have caught some glimpses


the ascetic and the intellectual side of the Christian

in Gaul, revealing a spiritual movement in striking


contrast to the polished worldly society of the senatorial
order, in which class-pride had taken the place of high

life

public

spirit,

and a

dilettante

culture

had frozen the

CH. iv

SOCIETY OF APOLLINARIS SIDONIUS

springs of moral enthusiasm and energy.

213

The majority

Ausonius was in his


Yet here
grave, resembled him rather than S. Paulinus.
and there in the letters of Sidonius we meet with a man

two generations

of this class,

after

who remained

in the world, yet was not of it, who, without acting literally on the command to forsake all things
for Christ, strove to live in the spirit of the Sermon on

the Mount.

The character

of one of these hidden saints,

might have been drawn by the author


He was a man of illustrious rank
and great fortune, but he had learnt the secret of " using
He has all the spirit of
the world as not abusing it."
an anchoret under the soldier's cloak, and regards his
2
The spirit of
position as a trust rather than a property.
their master had spread among his serfs and clients.
They
are as obedient and dutiful as he is gentle and considerate.
He has still all the tastes of the noble of his time ; he
a certain Vectius,

of the

Seriom

Call.

wears the proper dress of his rank he has a pride in


horse and falcon and hound, and the stately serenity of
wealth.
He maintains a severe but clement dignity.
;

He joins the hunt, but he does not eat the game. His
hours are often spent in reading the Scriptures and chantAn only daughter, whom he tends with
ing the Psalms.
a mother's tenderness, consoles

him

in his widowhood.

Sidonius adds that, with all deference to his own order,


if he could find such graces in his friends, he would prefer
the priestly character to the priest.
Sidonius, although

he did not withhold his admiration from the monastic


3
life, and wrote an elegy on Abraham, the Eastern solitary
who settled in Auvergne, was, after all, one of that class
of prelates who, having been trained in worldly society,
believed in a Christianity which kept in touch with the
world, to renovate it and to govern it.
1

Sid. Ep. iv. Ct.

Call, c. 8.
2
Sid. Ep. iv.

Law's Serimis

priam

domum non

potius adininistrare.
9,

putes

eum

pro-

Ep.

vii. 17.

possidere, sed

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

214

BOOK n

Apollinaris Sidonius had reached his forty-second


l
year when, by the popular voice, he was called to under2
take the episcopal oversight of the diocese of Auvergne.

He had been till then the most typical representative of


the aristocratic caste, Christian in profession, but pagan
in sentiment and training.
He had considered it his
mission to deepen the pride of rank and the pride of
He became suddenly one of the most devoted
culture.
pastors and spiritual governors, sharing the dangers and
miseries of his flock in the Yisigothic invasion, imprisoned

lamented by his
no record of the circum8
Yet the contrast between
stances of this great change.
the life of the worldly aristocrat and the Christian bishop
We have seen the pictures of daily life
is very marked.
Far different was
at the great senator's country seat.

by Euric

for his devotion, passionately

people after his death.

the

life

There

is

of the chiefs of the Church.

The bishop

lived

town of his diocese, with doors always open.


In the early morning hours he received all comers, heard
complaints, composed differences, performed many of the
6
duties of a civil magistrate.
He celebrated Mass, preached
and taught the people in church.
He had important
If
functions in connection with the municipal council.

in the chief

his episcopal seat lay near the court of a German prince,


the bishop had the task of conciliating the new barbarian
6
power, and of maintaining good relations between
1
The year 472 or 471 for the
commencement of his episcopate is

est

inferred from a passage in Ep. vi.


1, to Lupus of Troyes ; the letter,
written evidently soon after the
ordination of Sidonius, speaks of
Lupus as having completed novem
quinquennia ... in apostolica sede.
Lupus became bishop in 427. Cf.
Luetjohann's ed. of Sid. Ind Pers.
Germain's Apoll. Sid. p. 19 n. ;
Chaix, i. 439.
2
Ep. v. 3, utpote cui indignissimo

tantaeprofessionispondusimpactum

iii. 1 ; vi. 7.
;
8 v.
Fertig, Apaitt.

it

Sid. Abth.

and

ii.6.

Guizot, Civ. en France, i. 102.


F. de Coulanges, L'Inv. Germ.
Fauriel, i. 376 ; cf. Nov.
36, 38
Maj. tit. xii. ; C. Th. xvi. 10, 19,
xv. 8, 2. For multifarious business
brought before bishops cf. Sid. Ep.
c

vi. 2, 4, 9, 10.
6
Ep. vi. 12,

the Burgundian
king used to praise the dinners oi
Bishop Patiens cf. Ampere, Hist.
Lit. ii. 202 on the relations of S.
Avitus with the Burgundians.
;

SOCIETY OF APOLLINARIS SIDON1US

CH. iv

215

He
the Gallo-Eornan population.
cultivation of the lands of his see,

had to superintend the


and sometimes he even
The narrow space
worked on them with his own hands.
left hy these active occupations would, if he were a
scholar and a thinker, be devoted to the theological or
philosophical discussions of the time, and he might, in that
age of controversy, have to define his position in some
treatise on free-will and grace, or on the nature of the
1
soul.
The real leader of the municipal community in
the fifth century, alike in temporal and in spiritual things,
was often the great Churchman. The power of the senatorial class, with all their broad lands and culture, did
not extend usually beyond the serfs of their estates.
There were two distinct classes of bishops in the Gallic

Church of the fifth century, the monastic and the aristoand the special qualities of both were needed
The monasteries of
by the circumstances of the time.
Southern Gaul were not only devoted to an ascetic
religious life, but to learning and theological inquiry.
They were the real centres of the intellectual movements
of the age
and the great house of Lerins 2 had a special
fame not only for its sanctity but for its dialectic.
Its
atmosphere seems to have been favourable to freedom
of thought on the great questions which then agitated
Western Christendom. It was the home of a Pelagian
or semi-Pelagian school of thought which long repelled
cratic,

the extreme Augustinian views on the relation of Divine

And it gave many eminent prelates


grace to human will.
3
4
to the Gallic church, Faustus
of Eiez, Lupus of Troyes,
Eucherius

of Lyons,

1
Cf. Ep. of Faustus of Klez,
printed before the de Statu An. of
Claud. Mamert.
2
For an account of Levins and

its

foundation, cf. Fertig, Apoll.


Sid. ii. 46, 47
Guizot, Civ. en
France, i. 121, 165
Chaix, Apoll.
;

Sid.

i.

419

Fauriel,

i.

403.

and Hilary
3

liv.

of Aries.

Krusch. Praef. in Faustum,


;

Sidon. Garm.

xvi.

p.

Genuad.

de Scrip. Eccl. 85.


4

Carm. xvi. Ill Ep. vi.l.


Carm. xvi. 115 Gennad. de

Sid.

Scrip. Eccl. 63.


Carm. xvi.
fl

Scrip. Eccl, 69.

115

Gennad.

dt

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

216

BOOK n

But the aristocratic bishop was perhaps even more


needed at that time of social and political disorganisation.
He was often very imperfectly equipped with theological
But he had other qualifications which the
learning.
people of a diocese in the path of the invaders might
He had wealth for
naturally consider more valuable.
1

sacred or charitable objects, to build or renovate churches,


to redeem the captive among the barbarians, to relieve
the miseries of the lower classes who were suffering from

the disorder and insecurity caused by the invasions.


He
also the authority derived from rank, and the social

had

which made him able to defend his

tact

violence of the

German

flock against the

chiefs, or the not less dreaded

Eoman

Sometimes a highfrom a sense of


to
the
whom
he
lived.
Someduty
population among
times it was forced upon him by their clamour. 2
But
the correspondence of Sidonius leaves no doubt that the
episcopal chair was often an object of ambition and
At an election to the vacant
intrigue of the lowest kind.
see of Ch&lon in 4*70, there were three candidates sup3
One was a man of no charported by rival factions.
Another was an Apicius
acter, but of ancient lineage.
who had bought the support of a party by the skill of
his cook.
A third had promised his supporters, in case
of his election, their reward out of the estates of the see.
oppression of the

minded

aristocrat

officials.

might accept the

office

Although the election of a bishop in those days was

still

in theory

by the popular voice, the presiding bishops of


the province exercised a preponderant influence and in
this case, to the confusion of the rival
partisans, Patiens
;

and

his episcopal colleagues braved all clamour,

their

and laid
hands on the Archdeacon John, a modest man, who

1
As Patiens of Lyons did, Sid.
Ep. ii. 10; cf. Fertig, iii. p. 36, and
Perpetuus of Tours, Sid. Ep. iv. 18 ;
cf. Greg. Tur. ii. 14.
The latter^
gives the dimensions of the Basilica

minutely.
2 pf q ,
f S' d

-.

'

'

&**.

24

Ambrose b7 Paulmus,
8

Sid. Ep. iv. 26.

c.

.,

Life of

m.

&c

SOCIETY OF APOLLINARIS SIDONIUS

CH. iv

217

had no support, except from his own blameless character.


At another election, to the see of Bourges, Sidonius himself
1
He found a great number of rival candidates,
presided.
claims the people were hopelessly divided,
whose
among
and one of whom had actually used bribery to gain supAt their request he undertook to nominate a
port.
for
the sacred office, and he justified his choice in
person
a harangue which is a very valuable relic of the times.
Sidonius, putting aside all the popular candidates, gave
who was not then in

his voice for a certain Simplicius,

Holy Orders, but a soldier, and a man of great official


rank and wealth, whose character was highly respected,
and who had proved his devotion by munificence in the
cause

the Church.

of

The nominee

of Sidonius

was

accepted apparently without a murmur.


The aristocratic bishop may not have been a learned

showed himself the man for the


by great qualities of leadership and by princely

theologian, but he often


times,

Sidonius himself,

generosity.

as bishop

of Auvergne,

more than atoned by his courage and devotion for the


The Gothic
literary vanity and frivolity of his early life.
had
closed
round
his
native
which
district,
power
proudly
maintained a hopeless resistance. 8
Ecdicius, a son of
and
brother-in-law
of
the
Avitus,
bishop, raised and

equipped an armed force at his own expense, and performed prodigies of valour against the Goths.
But the
attacks were renewed again and again. The walls of the city
of

Auvergne were crumbling, and famine was threatening


4
While Ecdicius headed the sorties against

the defenders.

1
Sid. Ep. vii. 9. Note the words
neque enim valuissemus aliquid in
:

commune

consulere, nisi judicii sui


faciens plebs lenita
sacerjacturam,
dotali se potius judicio subdidisset.
2

hie vobis ecclesiam


extruxit.
Ib. iii.
3 ; the character of
Ecdicius is one of the noblest of his
Ib.

vii.

9,

juvenis miles
8

He had not only a high mili-

class.

tary spirit which was rare among


the nobles of the period, but he was
a man of lavish generosity.
Like
Bishop Patiens he fed the starving
people of Burgundy at his own expense v. Greg. Tur. ii. 24.
;

Ep.

liatorea.

vii. 7,

macri jejuniis prae-

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

218

BOOK n

the enemy, Sidonius by his high spirit and his eloquence


sustained and animated the courage of his flock.
As a
Catholic, no doubt he was fighting to ward off the en-

croachments of intolerant Arianism. 1

But the indignant


tone in which he upbraids the bishop who finally surrendered the liberties of Auvergne to Euric, reveals the
passionate patriotism of the Celt and the pride of the

Koman

Gregory

of

His generosity was equal to his courage.


Tours had heard a tale of the good bishop

noble.

selling his silver plate to relieve the necessities of his


flock.

Another bishop, Patiens of Lyons, was famous

in

his time throughout all Gaul for his princely


liberality.
the crops in his diocese had been burnt up in the

When

4
ravages of the Goths, he sent supplies, at his own cost,
among the famishing population. His waggons, laden
with grain, crowded all the roads, and his barges were

seen everywhere along the Saone and the Ehone. 5


Aries
and Riez, Avignon and Orange, Viviers and Valence, were

He was also, like Perpetuus of


supported by his bounty.
6
Sidonius has
Tours, a great church builder and restorer.
celebrated the splendour of marbles and gold which he

lavished on his

The

new

basilica at Lyons.

Gallic bishops

day were not

of that

less

dis-

tinguished for learning and eloquence than for munificence


1
For the massacre or expulsion
lar generosity of Patiens the bishop,
of Catholic bishops by Euric see Sid.
Gregory gives a larger place to
Ecdicius.
Ep. vii. 6, regem Gothorum quam6
Sid. Ep. vi. 12, vidimus angusquam sit ob virium merita terribilis,
non tarn Romania moenibus quam
tas tuis fragibus vias.
legibus

pavesco
2
Ep.

Christianis insidiaturum
Greg. Tur. H. Fr. ii. 25.
vii. 7, to Graecus,
bishop

of Marseilles.
This letter shows
Sidonius at his best, both in spirit
and in style; cf. Fertig, Sid. ii. p.
11.
8
Hist. Franc, ii. 22.
4
Sid. Ep. vi. 12 ; cf. Greg. Tur.
Hist. Fr. ii. 24.
Fertig (ii. 25)

points out that Gibbon notices the


charity of Ecdiciua in this famine,
but makes no mention of the simi-

Ib.

ii.

10.

On

Perpetuus

cf. iv.

18.
7

See also the verses composed by


Sidonius on the new basilica at
Tours, built by Perpetuus, Ep. iv.
18; and its description, Greg. Tur. ii.
14
1 1 is uncertain to whom Patiens
dedicated his church at Lyons.
Cf.
.

Chaix, Apoll. Sid. i. 32 ; Migne's


note to ii. 10. Patiens built churches
in many other places, Sid. Ep. vi.
12, omitto per te plurimis locia
basilicarum fundament* consurgere.

CH. iv

SOCIETY OF APOLLINARIS SIDONIUS

219

and power of leadership.


The pulpit in the fifth century
was a great force, and the great prelates were generally
great preachers.

time was

S.

Not the

least celebrated orator of his

Eemi, the apostle of the Franks, whose style

Sidonius praises in language of ingenious and alliterative


exaggeration, and whose declamations were eagerly read
and transcribed in Auvergne. 1 The rhetoric of the great
bishop of Eheims is known to us only by the words of
his

famous appeal to Clovis at his baptism. 2

fate has befallen the writings

of

similar

Euphronius of Autun,

who had a great reputation for theological learning, and


was the author of a memoir on the prodigies of the
8

No prelate of that age


rendered more various and splendid service than Lupus
4
of Troyes, in his episcopate extending over half a century.
terrible year of Attila's invasion.

He
the

rose to be abbot of Le*rins in his early manhood.


In
first years of his episcopate he accompanied S. Ger-

manus on
5

mission against

the

Pelagian

heresy in

was believed that his sanctity and dignity


had saved Troyes from the fury of Attila. He was also
a student with a fine library, and Sidonius had a great
His eloquence seemed
respect for his literary judgment.
Britain.

It

to his contemporaries to recall the golden age of Gallic


6
rhetoric.
Faustus of Eiez was the greatest and the most
thinker
daring
among the Churchmen of his time. Like

was a native of Britain. 7 From his early


youth he was devoted to the study of philosophy, nor
did he abandon it when he became a monk of Le*rins.
After being head of that community, he succeeded
Pelagius, he

Sid. Ep. ix. 7.


An Arvernian
on a visit to the north had managed
to bring a copy of S. Remi's Declamotions back from Rheims, and pre1

sented it to his bishop, who read it


aloud to an admiring circle.
2
Greg. Tur. ii. 31, adora quod
incendisti ; incende quod adorasti.
Gregory notices the rhetoric.
8
Sid. Ep. ix. 2
cf. Chaix, Sid.
;

ii.
p. 75 ; Idat. Chron. ad a. 451.
Sid. Ep. vii. 13 ; viii. 11.
6
S. Jul. quoted in Index
Pers. to Mommsen's ed. of Sidonius,

Ap.
4

Ada

p.

429

Sid.

11. ix. 9, legi

Ep.

Riochatus
te reportat
cf.

Prosp. Chron. ad

cf.

viii. 11,

v.

a.

429.

2.

volumina tua quae


Britannia tuis pro
Krusch. Praef. liv. ;

Gennad. de Scrip.

Eccl. 85.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

220

Maximus,

his

BOOK n

predecessor in the abbacy at Le'rins, as


He was a man of the most saintly life,

bishop of Kiez.
and in his days of

fame and power he never relaxed the


1

abstinence and austerity of the monastic discipline.


His
at
the
at
consecration
of
the
new
basilica
sermon,
Lyons,
his audience.
Yet he was the great heretic
and the recognised leader of the powerful
His work on
semi-Pelagian school in Southern Gaul.
Free Grace was assailed with ferocious clamour, and was
condemned by Pope Gelasius. 2 But his aberrations from
the strict line of orthodoxy were even more serious.
He

carried

away

of the day,

maintained, in a work published anonymously, that the


soul was a corporeal substance, and that to attribute an
it was to invest it with a quality
which belongs only to God.
This heresy was indeed not
4
a novelty.
It had been expounded by Tertullian
it
had found support from S. Jerome 5 and Cassian, 6 and it
seemed to S. Augustine to demand a serious and elaborate
7
refutation.
The treatise of Faustus drew forth a reply
from Mamertus Claudianus, which, in its subtlety and
formal elaboration of proof, has the tone and atmosphere
of the scholastic theology of the Middle Ages.
Claudian's
treatise de Statu Animae was dedicated to Sidonius, and
the honour was acknowledged in a letter 8 which leaves a
grave doubt whether the good bishop understood the

immaterial nature to

question

Mam.

at

He

issue.

absurd extravagance.
1

has a genuine admiration for

Claudianus, although

cum novae digniobtentu rigorem veteris disci-

plinae non

relaxaveris.
2
Krusch. Praef. lix. For specimens of his preaching, v. Sermones

ad Monachos, Migne,
ii. and iv.

t.

Iviii.,

esp.

Ep. prefixed to Mam. Claudian. de Statu An. ; Ep. xx. in the


collected Ep. of Faustus.
4

Sid. Ep. ix. 3,

tatis

it is

v.

Tertull. de

An.

c.

5, 7.

expressed in language of
is not a hint in his

But there

en i

Hieron. Com. in Libr. Job, 25.


Cassian, Collat.

vii.

13,

licet

pronuntiemus nonnullas esse


sp iritales naturas, ut sunt angeli
e tc., ipsa quoque anima nostra vel

cert a aer iste subtilis,

tamen

incor-

poreae nullatenus aestimandae sunt.


. >T
_, <7
,
,
r
7
Noumsson, La Philosophu d*
_
t.
i.
170.
^ugustin,
p.
.

&

Sid. Ep. iv. 3.

SOCIETY OF APOLLINARIS SIDONIUS

CH. iv

221

he regarded Faustus with any feeling but that


It must be said to
of the greatest esteem and affection.
the honour of Sidonius, that he chose and loved his
friends for their character, quite apart from their opinions ;
letters that

to have had an impartial regard for both


the combatants in this controversy.
great value of Sidouius to the historical studen,t

and he seems

/The

is_

that he

is

so broad

and

tolerant,

and that

his charity

embraces so manyjnen of various character and .Ideals.


(lie has even a good word for the Jews, as men and apart
from their faith. 1
His own associations would naturally
incline him to admire the prince bishop, with noble
/

ancestry and a taste for letters. |But he has a profound


reverence for the ascetic fervour of those who withdrew

from theworld to the monastic

life,

or to the greater

lonelinesajif the hermitage in the forest.

He

had

visited

and seen with admiration the spirit


In one of his poems
and discipline of that great society.
he celebrates that lona of the Mediterranean, as we may
call it, whose arid sands had been the home of HonoFaustus at Le'rins,

Eucher, and Hilary, all great luminaries of the


Church of Gaul in his early youth. 8 He sends an account
4
of an episcopal election to Domnulus, who had retired to
one of the monasteries in the Jura.
In another letter
he acknowledges the affectionate sympathy of an abbot
named Chariobaudus, 5 and sends him a cowl to protect

ratus,

him
his

Close to
against the chills of the midnight service.
episcopal town of Auvergne, a solitary from the

own

East had settled in a hermitage. 6


1

Sid. JEp.

iii.

4,

Gozolas nations

Judaeus, cujus mihi quoque esset


persona cordi, si non esset secta
Gozolas
carried his
despectui.
letters
2

cf. iv. 5.

3 ; v. Germain's Sid.
Apoll. p. 148, n. 5.
Ib.

ix.

Carm. xvi. 91. Honoratus and


Hilary became bishops of Aries, and
Eucher, bishop of Lyons.

He had

suffered per-

Ep. iv. 25, nunc ergo Jurensia


remittunt jam monasteria, in

si te

quae solitus escendere jam caelestibus supernisque praeludis habitaculis, etc. ; cf. Greg. Tur. vit. Patrum,
For the monasteries in the Jura,
i.
cf.
6
6

Fr.

Chaix, ii. 218.


Ep. vii. 16.
Ib. vii. 17 ; Greg. Tur. Hcsi
ii.

21,

and

vit.

Patrum,

iii.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

222

BOOK n

secution in his native country on the Euphrates


thence
he had passed into Egypt, and lived among the hermits
;

of the Thebaid.
He was a man of superhuman sanctity,
and men believed that he had superhuman powers. He
could put demons to flight, give sight to the blind, heal
His powerful personmarvellously inveterate disease.
drew
others
like-minded
to
him.
A monastery was
ality
built which became the centre of high religious feeling in
Thither came the bishop for calm and mediAuvergne.

tation in the tempest of the G-othic invasion.


When
had
to
the
thither
came
Euric's
Goth,
Auvergne
yielded

governor, the Count Victorius, and on high festivals the


monastery offered its modest hospitality to the great

nobles and

But the good abbot


was at length worn out with care and austerity, and when
he was on his dying bed, Victorius the governor bent
officials of

the

district.

over him weeping, to close his eyes.


His bishop wrote
his elegy, in which, through all the pedantry, we catch
the tones of a real reverence and affection for a saintly
life,,
I

This

is

not a

Our main theme

of the religious life of the time.


history
is rather the manners and Tone of the

who thought

more of Virgil and Statius than of


Yet it would be a very maimed and
misleading view of the age of Sidonius which confined
itself to the gay nmintry.. hi^ ]jfo pf Aylt-^um or Prusianum, and ignored the great spiritual movements, the
caste

John

S.

far

or S, 5aj&L_

<

fearless quest "of truth, the world-forgetting piety, which,

when

society

promise of a

seemed sinking into

new and

tjie abyss, were the


better time. /In"Sidonina the 'old

and the new order meat.


of the

Romans, the

culture threatened
1

He

thought himsp.lf a Roman


champion of an immemorial

last

by the

rising tide of barbarism?

Greg. Tur. vit. Patrum, iii.


Gregory narrates how, on one of
these occasions, the guests were
miraculously supplied with wine.

He

Sid. Ep. ii. 10, tantum increbuit multitude desidiosorum, ut,

quique meram
proprietatem de

nisi vel paucissimi

Latiaris

linguae

SOCIETY OF APOLLINARIS SIDONIUS

CH. iv

ended

his life as a

devoted Christian pastor

who

223
still

clung to the great traditions of ancient Rome, but had


learned to believe in the grander mission of the Christian

Church.
trivialium barbarismorum rubigine
vindicaveritis, earn brevi abolitam

defleamus interitamque

sic

omnoa

nobilium sermonum purpurae per


inouriam vulgi decolorabuntur.

BOOK HI
THE FAILUKE OF ADMINISTRATION, AND
THE RUIN OF THE MIDDLE CLASS,
AS REVEALED BY THE THEODOSIAN
CODE

CHAPTEK

THE DISORGANISATION OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE

[WE have

hitherto been occupied with the condition of


Eornan society in the West as it is revealed to us in its

But Syminachus. Ausonius, Sidonius


throw little light on the condition of
other classes than their own, or on the deep-seated and *%
inveterate diseases which for generations had been underliterary

remains.

andtheir

class

mining the strength of the imperial system. The general


tendency of modern inquiry has been to discover in the
fall of that august and magnificent organisation, not a
cataclysm, precipitated by the impact of barbarous forces,
(but a process slowly prepared and evolved by internal

and economic

causes. } It is provable that the barbarian

invasions of the Jifth century were not more formidable


than those of the .third, which were triumphantly^repelled
fourth,

by the Ulyrian Caesars, or than those of the


which were rolled back by the genius of Julian

and the ferocious energy

of Yalentinian. (The question


the invasions of the fifth century succeeded, while
the earlier failed, is best answered by an appeal to the

why

In the voluminous enactments issued


ImperialCode.
from Constantine to Majorian, the student has before

him a melancholy

diagnosis of the maladies which, by a


slow and inevitable process of decay, were exhausting
the strength of Koman society.
He^will see municipal
liberty and self-government dying out, the upper class

v
(

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

228

BOOK in

cut off from the masses by sharp distinctions of wealth


and privilege, yet forbidden to bear arms, 1 and deprived
of all practical interest in public affairs.
He will find
that not only has an Oriental monarchy taken the place
of the principate of Augustus, but that an almost

Oriental system of caste has made every social grade


and every occupation practically hereditary, from the
senator to the waterman on the Tiber, or the sentinel at
a frontier post; and that human nature is having its
revenge in wholesale flight from a cruel servitude and

the chaos of administration.

It will be seen that in a

almost branded with infamy, 2


poverty is steadily increasing and wealth becoming more
insolent and aggressive ; that the disinherited, in the face
society in

which poverty

is

of an

omnipotent government, are carrying brigandage


even up to the gates of Eome that parents are selling
;

into slavery ; that public buildings are


into
decay that the service on the great post
falling
their children

roads

is

frontier

becoming disorganised. ) 4JL a JJJgQ when every


was threatened, it will be found that the frontier

posts are" bemg Itbandoned, that therais wholesale desertion from the ranks of the army ; while in the failure of
ree recruits, the slaves
lie

unscientific

and

have to be called to arms.


financial

inefficient

system

But
will

the notice of the historical inquirer.


The
llection of imposts in kind opened the door to every
Still more fatal to pure adminisies of corruption.
iefly attract

was the system which left to the municipal class


assessment and collection of the revenue in their

,tion
3

'district.
/

That doomed order are at once branded as the

worst oppressors, and invested with the melancholy glory


3
of being the martyrs of a ruinous system of finance.
1
Aurel. Viet, de Caes. c. 33, Gallienus : primus ipse, metu sacordiae

ne
nobilium
suae,

imperium

ad

optimos

trans ferretur, senatum


militia vetuit, etiam adire exer-

citum

O. Th. xv. 15, 1.


See M. Duruy's Menioire on
Honestiores and Humiliores in the
:

later
8

Empire, in Hist. Rom. vi. 643.


dt Gub. Dei^ v. 18 c'f.

Salv.

CH.

DISORGAN1SA TION OF P UBLIC SER VICE


192

229

a tragedy
prolonged through more than five generations, is one of
the most curious examples of obstinate and purblind
legislation, contending hopelessly with inexorable laws of

Their lingering

fate,

recorded in

edicts,

'

society and human nature. /In that contest the middle


or bourgeois class was
almost extinguished, Roman
financial administration was paralysed, and at its close

the real victors and survivors were the great landholders,

A volume
surEounded_by ^tJbeir_serfs_a,iid dependants.
might be written on the corruption and cruel oppression
the officials of the treasury, servile to the great,
tyrannical to the poor, and calmly defying all the
menaces of the emperor in their unchecked career of
of

rapacity. yThe last and deepest impression which the inquirer will carry with him, as he rises from a study of the

(Theodosian Code, is that fraud and greed are everywhere


triumphant, that the rich are growing richer and more
powerful, while the poor are becoming poorer and more
helpless,

and that the imperial government, inspired with

lost all^qntrol
ofj^e_vast machine,
the perverse errors of legislation and the
hopeless corruption of the financial service, the candid
reader of the Code cannot help feeling that the central

th&best intentions, has

Yet amid

all

authority was

keenly alive to its duties, and almost


overwhelmed by its
It is a superficial
responsibilities.)
view of the time which dwells on the weakness of a
Honorius, a Valentinian, or an Anthemius.
JThe

Emperor was, indeed, in theory omnipotent but as a


matter of fact he had to depend on his officials, both to
;

advise
assisted

decisions and to carry them out.


He was
a
council
of
of
men
by
experienced
high official

his

50. M. F. de Coulanges (L'Jnv.


Germ. p. 58, D. 1) says: On
remarquera que Salvien accuse
moins les fonctionnaires imp^riaux
que les magistrats municipaux.
Yet cf. de Gub. Dei, iv. 21, quid
iii.

est aliud

quorundam, quos

taceo,

praefectura quain praeda ? v. 25,


quibus enim aliis rebus Bacaudae
facti

sunt nisi

judicuin, etc.
l
C. Th. xii.

tit.

improbitatibus
i.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

230

BOOK

some of whom had probably governed great


provinces, and who knew the Eoman world, if any men
rank,

did.

Moreover,

it

is

plain,

from the very wording of

2
many of the rescripts, that they were suggested by the
prefect or governor to whom they are addressed ; and

one can hardly be wrong in believing that in


these last efforts of

many

of

Eoman

statesmanship, so sympathetic,
so strangely rhetorical, so full at times of honest indignation, we may have the report of a conscientious governor

returned to him in the imperative form of an edict.


The minute and circumstantial description of oppression
and wrong could hardly have come from any one who
had not heard the tale from the sufferers themselves. 8
Occasionally, though too seldom it is to be feared, such
complaints came directly to the ears of the Emperor. The

mass of legislation for the relief of the province of Africa


in the reign of Honorius was the result of at least two
deputations commissioned to represent
and so determined was the Emperor

abuses complained

experienced and

of,

its

grievances
to remedy the
;

that he appointed two of the most

ex-prefects with full powers


with the disorders of the province. 8
f The Eoman world had for
ages regard^jheJEmperor
6
as an earthly Providence
and to the end such was the
illustrious

to deal

The Council was


the members
tprium,
siliarii,

Th.
t.

iii.

proceres, conconsistoriani.
C.

comites

xi. 39,

p.

ix.

108.)

called consis-

14, 3 (Godefroy
cf.

Spartian

vit.

Hadrian, c. 18 Amm. Marc. xv.


xxxi. 12, 10
C. Th. vi.
5, 12
12 ; cf. F. de Coulanges, L'lnv.
Germ. p. 13 Duruy, vi. 574.
2
We frequently meet such phrases
;

Sublimis
Excellentiae
tuae
saluberrimam suggestionem secuti
cf. Nov. Th. 45, 47.
3
Cf. several of the Novellae addressed to Albinus, e.g. Nov. Th.
as

22,

The emperors Gratian


Valentinian permitted the

Campania,
6

Nov. Valent.

of
7.

the

discussores,

395

in

..
n V1L
A
QQ
20
4 66
'

and the description of the fraud

and violence

and

provinces, after duo deliberation, to


send three delegates to represent
their case to the government, G.
The Curiales and
Th. xii. 12, 7.
Defensores sometimes tried to prevent the appeal of the provincials,
ix. 26, 2, with Godefroy's
xi. 8, 3
The deputation from Africa
note.
Cf. xii.
is mentioned, xii. 1, 166.
iv.
46, recoin6, 27 ; Sym. Ep.
mending a similar deputation from

'

C.

Th.

See F. de Coulanges,
pp. 177 aqq.

Rom.

xi. 28, 2.

'

La Gaule

CH.

DISORGANISA TION OF P UBLIC SER VICE

231

conception of their office which was entertained even by


the weakest emperors. Valentinian III. proclaims that it is
"
his business to
provide for the peace and tranquillity
"

Anthemius says that he is called


of the provinces ;
2
"
"
It
to face the storms of overwhelming calamities."
8 "
to provide for
our care," says the Emperor Martian,
the welfare of the human race." Yet there are in the later

is

edicts

many

Their tone

signs of conscious weakness.

frequently argumentative and

There

rhetorical.

is

is

an

absence of the trenchant brevity with which Constantine


or the elder Valentinian were wont to declare their will.
is singular to find an edict against Jews, Samaritans,
and pagans opening with an argument for the being of a
4
God.
Elsewhere we meet with philosophical reflections
on the innate criminal tendencies of human nature, 6 the
6
hopeless selfishness of the rich, or on the functions
of government.
The Emperor Majorian in one law
with
describes,
great vividness and passionate force,

It

as

for

if

and

the

of these

posterity,

hopeless
edicts

crushing weight of taxation


7
Many
position of the farmer.
the

betray the style of the school rhetor-

in many of them the ring


is
ician, and yet there
of genuine sympathy for misery, which the imperial
author more than half confesses that he is impotent
to relieve.
It is impossible to read some of these laws
in which the Emperor describes "the agitations and
anxieties of his

serene mind,"

Nov. Valent. tit

Leg. Anthem,

Nov. Mart, ii., curae nobis est


huinani generis providere

viii.

ad

init.

tit. i.

utilitati

nam

die ac nocte prospicimus


ut universi qui sub nostro imperio
id

vivunt et armanim
hostili

praesidio ab
in
ac securitate

6
Nov. Valent. v., noxiae mentes
caeco semper in facinus furore rapiuntur.

e
Nov Th. xxi, domesticis tanturn compendiis obscquentes bonum
commune destituunt.
.

enim

tarn

Nov Mt*'
'

impetu muniantur, ao

otio
pace libero
potiantur.
4
Nov. Th. iii. quis
mente captus, etc.

without a feeling that

...

ilt ' 1V *

Nov. Th. and Valent. 51, quae


ergo his angustiis remedia providenda aunt men s nostrae Serenitatis
exaestuat.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

232

he

is

probably

man most

the

be

to

BOOK in
in

pitied

the

Empire.

Of all departments of administration, probably none


caused the Emperor greater anxiety than that concerned
To provide corn,
with the food-supplies of the capital.
1

pork, wine, and oil for the populace had for ages been
1
How dangerone of the first tasks of the government.
ous any failure in this_department might be to the peace
of the city,

and the safety

of the

upper

we can

classes,

2
While the
Symmachus.
Goths were marching through Samnium and Bruttium,

see

clearly

in the letters

of

or Gildo or Heraclian were stopping the corn -fleets, or


the Vandals were occupying the ports of Africa, the

government had

to provide for the daily subsistence of a


An army of public servants incorpopulation.
porated in hereditary guilds, Navicularii, Pistores, Suarii,
Pecuarii, were charged with the duty of bringing up

great

and preparing them for consumption. 3 It is


4
evident, from the legislation of Honorius, that the stress
on this department was very severe in the early part of
supplies

owing to the troubles of the Gildonic revolt in


and again from the famine of 410. But the
difficulty reappears more than once in the laws of
his reign,

Africa,

subsequent years.

One

of

the hardest tasks

of

the

government was to prevent the members of these guilds


from deserting or evading their hereditary obligations.
It is well

known

that the tendency of_the^ later Empire

Marq. Horn. Stciatsverwaltung,


The chief authorities for
133.
the distribution of oil, wine, and
flesh-meat are Aug. Hist. vit. Sep.
Sev. 23, Alex. Sev. 22, 26, Aurdian,
ii.

48, C. Th.
froy's notes
2

xiv. 24,
;

C.

1,

with Gode-

Th. xiv.

4, 3.

Syni. Ep. vi. 18, 26, 12.


Id. Rel. 14, noverat (Aeternitas
vestra) horum corporum ministerio
tantae urbis onera sustineri.
Hie
lanati pecoris in vector est, ille ad
3

victum populi cogit annentum, hos


tenet functio, pars
lavacris ligna conportat,
etc.
Of. Paratitl. of Godefroy to
C. Th. xiv. tit. 2 and 4 ; Wallon,
suillae carnis

urenda

Hist, de V Esdavage,
4

173.

iii.

Th. xiii.5, 34, 35 Zos. vi. 11,


describes the effect of the closing of
the African ports by Heraclian, X
frfoicrjif/e rg ir6\ei x a ^ 67r re/)OS
G.

'*'

irportpov.
5

Nov. Th. 39, 40.

CH.

DISORGANISATION OF PUBLIC SERVICE

233

to stereotype society, by compelling men to follow


the occupation of their fathers, and preventing a free

was

circulation among different callings and grades of life.


The man who brought the grain of Africa to the public
for

who made it into loaves


who brought pigs from

Ostia,

the

baker

distribution,

the

butchers

at

stores

Sainnium, Lucania, or Bruttium, the purveyors of wine


oil, the men who fed the furnaces of the public

and

bound

baths, were
to

another.

from one generation


rural serfdom
the
[it^wafl-^rincjple^oj^

to their callings

Every avenue

applied to social functions.


closed.

father's

Ajnan

of escape

was

was bound

to his calling not only by his


2
were not
mother's condition.

Men

but by his

If the daughter
marry out of their guild.
permitted
of one of the baker caste married a man not belonging to
to'

Not
her husband was bound to her father's calling. 4
even a dispensation obtained by some means from the

it,

5
6
imperial chancery, not even the power of the Church
could avail to break the chain of servitude.
The cor-

porati, it is true,

privileges, exemptions, and


of some of the guilds might be

had certain

allowances, and the heads


"

But their property, like


Count."
was at the mercy of the State. 8 If they
parted with an estate, it remained liable for the service
with which the vendor was charged.
To maintain such a system, and to counteract the
endless attempts at evasion and corruption to which its

raised to the rank of


their persons,

galling restraints gave rise, required constant vigilance,


1

0. Th.
quos naviculariae conditioni obnoxios invenit
"VVallon,

xiii. 5,

iii.

p.

174.

35, universes

antiquitas,
praedictae
conveniet famulari.
2

C.

Th.

xiv.

4,

8,

functioni

pristinum revocentur,
qui
paterno quam materno genere inveninntur obnoxii.
4

Ib. xiv. 3, 21.


76. xiv. 3, 14.

elicuerit, etc. ; cf. 1. 21, etiamsi


nostra elicita fuerint aliqua subreptionc rescripta cf. xiv. 3, 4.
Ib. xiv. 3, 11
cf. Nov. Th. 26.
7 Ib. xiv. 2
v. Paratitlon.
;
;

ad munus
tarn

6
Ib. xiv. 3, 20, si quo casu, vel
occultis vel arnbitiosis hoc precibus

Ib.

xiii.

6,

6;

cf.

1.

9,

which

recalls a navicular property to the


function, even when the sale took

place twenty years before.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

234

BOOK in

The navicularii seem


which was as constantly defeated.
to have exceeded the very liberal allowance of time for
their voyage, which was, under special circumstances,
While the city was on the
extended to two years. 1
verge of famine, or when supplies were urgently needed
for the

on any

in Gaul, the captains often lingered in port


2
of
pretext, or made circuitous voyages in pursuit

army

And

the government was obliged to


order greater despatch, and to prohibit the practice of
private trading in which captains engaged, to the dis-

own

their

profit^

Sometimes the captains


organisation of the service.
under
another
entered their ships
name, probably that of
in
order
to
some person of influence,
escape their respon-

whose duty it was to


to
wink at malversation
bribed
were
expedite transport,
function were withfor
the
liable
or neglect.
Estates
6
In the year 45 O 6
sales.
fraudulent
drawn from it by
sibilities.

The

functionaries,

the guild of navicularii had been so reduced in numbers


by the desertion of its members to other callings that

Emperor was obliged to order the restoration of all


persons and estates to the function from which they
had been withdrawn. Another edict of 455 orders the
the

return to their various guilds of all corporati who have


deserted their proper duties, in order to enter the army

or the church. 7

similar

command had been

412
governors of provinces to
of all guildsmen of the city of Borne
to all

from

issued in

compel the return

who had migrated

refers not to the stealthy

This law, however,


Italy.
evasion of onerous functions, but to the wholesale flight
1

0.

n.

76.

Th.

xiii.

xiii. 5,
xiii.

5,

26

cf.

1.

21.

34, a. 410.

5,

33,

The penalty

Wa s * eath
4

:.

II.

xm.

7, 2,

nmlti naves suas

diversorum (Potentum) nomimbus


et tituhs tuentur.
5

Ib.

xiii.

6,

wh

conveyed the supplies up the

^j^V

26

C.'Th. xiv. 2, 4; cf. xiv. 7, 2,


of the game
ordering the return of the nemes i a ci, signiferi,
cantabrarii, guilds connected with
or pagan rites and
See Godefroy's note.
processions.

amusements

1.

Nov. Th. 38.

amnici referred to were the boatmen

The

navicularii

CH.

DISORGANISA TION OF P UBLIC SER VICE

235

which had taken place during the invasion


and of which we have such vivid accounts from
1
S. Jerome and Kutilius Namatianus.
The effects of the Gothic invasion of Italy in the
eaIy~~~years of the_fifth_cei]tury have left many deep
of all ranks,
of Alaric,

We can almost hear the distant


on f5e Code.
sound of the advancing hordes in some of the enactments
There
issued during the years of Stilicho's ascendency.
traceg

are laws relating to every part of the military system,

and every part

is

revealing

weaknesses.

During the

period of the later Empire, landed proprietors had to


2
furnish recruits in proportion to the size of their estates.

These must have been drawn from the class of coloni,


since the strictly servile class was excluded from the
The Code in these years shows that
Eoman army. 8
recruits

were urgently needed, not even the Emperor's

own estates being exempted from the


know that, at the time of the Gildonic

Yet we

jevy.
war, the senators

exerted their whole strength as a body to resist the call


And the result of their efforts is seen
of the Emperor. 5

397, which gave them the option


paying twenty-five solidi for each recruit for whom
6
they were liable. I The exclusion of senators from the

in the enactments of
of

army, and the prohibition of ordinary citizens to carry


The military
arms, had produced-their inevitable result.
The army
spirit had almost died out among Eomans.
was_sw..elled
1

by corps of barbarian mercenaries,yancl th^

Hieron. Ep. cxxvii.


Rut. Nam. It. i. 331

4 ; cxxx.
Claudian.

de Bell. Get. 217.


2
F. do Coul. L'Inv. Germ. p.
145; G. Th. vii. 13, 7, of the year
375.
3

C.

Th.

vii.

13, 8.

They

are

coupled in this exclusion with cauponae, coqui, pistores, and persons


employed in famosae tabernae.
4
vii.
Ib.
13, 12, ideoque ne
patrimonium quidem nostrum a
praestatione

(i.e.

tironum)

immune

esse patimur.
6

Sym. Ep. vi. 62, legati ordinia


ex usu actis omnibus reverterunt.

Nam

et tironum conquievit indictio


etargenti nobis facta gratia est; cf.
Ep. vi. 64.
In the law
C. Th. vii. 13, 13.
of Valens and Gvatian of 375 the

pretium tironis was fixed at thirtysix solidi.


The pretium fixed in
the edict of 410, calling for recruits
from the officialesjudicurn of Africa,
is

thirty

C.

Th.

vii.

13, 20.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

236

BOOK in

highest military commands were held by Germans.


Ever since the third century the military profession^ had"
1
Eecruits were
been declining in the public esteem.
\

branded on entering the service, as if they were slaves in


an ergastulum. 2 The aversion to military service appears

have been^grewjrig.

to

Towards the end

fourth

of the

century thepractice of self-mutilation to escape service


had become so common that it had to be checked by the
most cruel punishments. 8
In the years between 396

and 412, Honorius issued nine

on desertion and
to have
prevailed in all parts of the Empire, but to have been
The agents of
specially rampant in Gaul and Africa.
and
the
smaller
farmers were evidently
great proprietors
glad, even in the face of very severe penalties, to shelter
the absconding soldier on their estates for the sake of
5
his labour.
Honorius does not, like his predecessors
in 382, threaten to burn the offender alive. 6
But the
of
his
laws, together with the organincreasing emphasis
ised search which he instituted, indicates the magnitude
and inveteracy of the evil. 7 Apparently proprietors or
their agents were not deterred even by the danger of
For
confiscation from disobeying laws so often repeated.
in i40, when the growth of the Vandal power in Africa
urgently demanded an increase of the army, Theodosius
and Valentinian III. were compelled to make the offence
the concealment of deserters. 4

concealing recruits or deserters

of

punishable by
1

Duruy,

vii. p.

death. 8

G.

Th.

203.

254.

the frontiers

coloni
of the

vit. Pesc. Nig. c. 3, desertores


qui time innumeri Gallias vexabant,

etc.

vii. 13,

4 and

5.

That

words, dommus ejus qui non prohibet gravi condemnatione feriatur.


Ib. vii. 18, 9-17.

Gaul at an

by agents or

Spart.

the proprietor from whose estate


the recruit came was sometimes a
party to the crime is implied in the

all

Along

Godefroy's Paratitlou to C. Th.

vii. t. 2, p.
8

in

edicts

The crime seems

For deserters

earlier

period

cf.

B
c. Th. vii. 18, 12, actorem conscium severe supplicio damnandum

esse censemus.
,
lg

n ^

^ uniantu*
7 Ib vn 18 13
-

Nov. Th. 44.

fl

scelera

CH.

DISORGANISATION OF PUBLIC SERVICE

237

Empire forts and castles had for centuries been erected,


1
which were garrisoned by troops called burgarii, who,
like the guilds of the capital, were held in a species of
Towards the end of the fourth
hereditary servitude.
these
frontier
sentinels, especially in Gaul and
century
their
services
were soon to be urgently
where
Spain
It is difficult to discover
to
melt
needed, began
away.
But in the
the influences which led to their dispersion.
an
and
Honorius
409
enactment
of
Theodosius
year
discloses in a startling way the denuded state of the
frontier.

In ordinary times slaves, along with tavern keepers,


cooks, bakers, and persons following certain infamous
3
It must have
callings, were excluded from the army.

been a dire extremity which forced the Emperor, contra


hostiles impetus, to call the slaves to arms by the offer of
4
In the
a bounty and the promise of emancipation.

same year the free provincials everywhere are appealed


to, by their pride in liberty and love of country, to take
5
It was the year in which Kadagaisus with his
arms.
Gothic army of 200,000 men swept down from the
Alps on Lombardy and Tuscany.
Only once before had
Kome been driven to put arms in the hands of her
slaves, to repel the advance of Hannibal after the battle
The urgency of the crisis is also seen in a
of Cannae. 6
law of 404, peremptorily requiring

all possessores to
contribute their share to the preparation and transport of

On

the fortification of the limes


on the dec. 12
fence of the Gallic frontier by
Amm.
Marc,
xxviii.
Valentinian,
on the Limitanei Milites,
2, 1
with lands granted on condition of
cf. vit.

Hadrian,

to the year 406, as the names of


the Coss. Arcadius and Probus

On the date of the invasion


show.
of Radagaisus cf. Godefroy on C.
Th. vii. 13, 16
Gibbon, c. 30
Prosp. Chron. Zos. v. 26.
;

Th
n

591.

'

vii '

d ten

fo b

13

Ib.

vii.

13,

16.

This belongs

>

solidi

offered

.,
4

Liv. xxii. 57,

".

They

p acatis

are

r * biis

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

238

BOOK

supplies for the army, under a penalty of four times the

amount due by them, without any exemption even

for

own estates. 1
when the rapid movement

the Emperor's
At a time

of troops and
was a matter of the first importance,
the great roads and the posting service seem to have
2
There are more than
been getting into a bad state.
8
In
ten edicts of Honorius on this subject from 395.
another passage of the Code the Emperor says that the
ruinous condition, into which the highways of the
Italian prefecture have fallen, demands the exertions
4
of all classes for their repair, and he withdraws the
immunity from this burden which former laws had
conferred on the officials of "illustrious" rank.
The
regulations for the use of the imperial post had received
5
A special
close attention from Julian and Theodosius.
corps of imperial officers called curiosi were charged with
6
the duty of seeing that these rules were not infringed.
But successive edicts show the difficulty of enforcing
Honorius had once more to prohibit the abuse of
them.
Even officers of illustrious rank had the
the service.
privilege of using the cursus publicity withdrawn from
7
them, unless they were specially summoned by the
The magistri militim are warned that without
Emperor.

government

officials

8
special leave they will usurp the privilege at their peril.
The prefect of the city who has done so is told not to
9
The use of imperial post-horses on
repeat his offence.
1
C. Th. vii. 5, 2, in excoctione
bucellati (soldier's bread), in translatione etiam annonae nullius excipiatur persona, videlicet ut ne
nostra quidem Doinus
ab his
habeatur hmmmis ; a. 404.

vastitates viarum, certatim studia

cunctorum ad reparationem publici


a. 399.
aggeris volunms festinare
;

viii.

/j y^
T1
10
Ib v
"

4 Ib.

xv.

viii. 5,

3, 4,

53-65.

propter imraensas

tit.
-'

.'..

'

viii.

5,

46

^;.

Ib.

29.
"

4t

'

bus accito.
3
C. Th.

12-16

5,

sqq.

Yet Apollinaris Sidonius traveiled easily by the public service


in the year 455
Ep. i. 5, publicus
cursus usui fuit utpote sacris apici-

21.

viii.

5) 56>
5,

55.

Florentinua

was one of the friends of Symmachus Ep. iv. 50, 50 ; Seeck.


;

cxli.

CH.

DISORGANISA TION OF PUBLIC SERVICE


1

cross roads is prohibited under a heavy fine.


words of the law of 401, this was evidently

239

From

the

becoming a
to
the
burden
and
a
heavy
provincials,
grievous abuse,
who had to provide additional horses to meet the strain. 2

One can

imagine that, in those troubled years,


persons hurrying to remote districts, to look after their
well

private affairs, would by bribes, or by the illegitimate


influence of rank, obtain from the officials of the post
facilities of travelling which were fatal to the regularity
of the government service, and onerous to the provincials.
At the same time there are indications that the efficiency

An edict of 404 implies


was declining.
that there was a failure in the supply of servants and
of the service

on the great roads. 3


In Gaul and Spain the
4
muleteers were being stealthily withdrawn or liberated
by the higher officials from the function to which they
were bound. 5
The animals in the public stables were
officials

not being properly fed, owing to the dishonesty of those


6

/
Corruption had crept into every grade of
the service, and in one law the heads of the department
are ordered to cease from their exactions and conform to

in charge.

the rules of the ancient jiiscipline. 7

The body of

civil

servants styled curiosi, as we have said, had as their


chief function the superintendence of the posting service
on the great roads, 8 specially with the object of prevent-

ing the abuse of the privilege of

evectio.

In addition to

they were expected to visit remote districts, and


keep the government informed of any suspicious move-

this,

0. Th. viii. 5, 59.


Ib. viii. 5, 03, quoniam multos

perspeximus inlicita praesumptione


paraveredos vel parangarias postutare, etc.
8

Ib. viii. 5,

65.

The mancipes

cursus publici, by a law of Gratian,


could be absent from their station
only for thirty days in the year,
viii. 5, 36
cf. 1. 51.
They were
;

servi publici, viii. 5, 58,

*
5

Ib. viii. 5, 50, 58.


Ib. viii. 5, 58, ideoque

Judex

qui sibi hoc vindicaverit, ut servum

publicum liberet, imam lib. auri


homines singulos, officium
per
quoque ejus, si legem supprimendo
consenserit, simili poena inultetur.
6

Ib. viii. 5, 60.


Ib. vi. 29, 9.
Ib. vi. 29, 6, in
functions are defined.
7

which

theii

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

240

BOOK in

It is evident that a police


ments among the population.
of this kind in times of confusion was open to dangerous
abuse. As a matter of fact these officers became so venal
and oppressive that they had to be removed at one stroke
1
from the province of Africa in 414.
The withdrawal of the curiosi from Dalmatia and the
2
adjoining regions in 41 5 throws an interesting light on

the state of the country and the public service.


During
the stormy years of Alaric's incursions, numbers of

people in the districts through which he passed were


Some fled to less disturbed
driven from their homes.
and
the
of
put themselves under the proprovince,
parts
tection of the great proprietors, by whom they were
3
Others took
often detained in a species of servitude.

refuge in the islands which dot the upper part of the


4
the Emperor Theodosius,
In the year 41
Adriatic.
of
a
in
compact with Honorius,
pursuance
probably

ordered a strict watch to be kept in all the ports of


Dalmatia, to prevent any person not provided with

from the Koman government from entering his


This measure was taken expressly on
account of the usurpations of Attalus and Constantine,

letters

dominions.

and the occupation


6

of

To make

the Western

provinces by the

Honorius
points of comalong
munication between East and West, and these officers
grossly abused their power by preventing people from
barbarians.

distributed

this

embargo

effectual,

the various

curiosi

seeking places of greater security, or by extorting bribes

The evil became so intolerable


do so.
415
of
the curiosi were peremptorily
an
order
by
removed from the districts which were plagued with such
for permission to

that

dangerous surveillance.

C. Th. vi. 29, 11.


Ib. vi. 29, 12. On the importance of Dalmatia at this time
2

see

an excellent note of Godefroy's

on

this law.

Cf. ib. v. 5, 2.

Ib. vii. 16, 2.


Ib. vii. 16, 2, hoc enim ettyrannici furoris et barbaricae feritatis
occasio persuadet ; v. Godefroy.
8
Ib. vi. 29, 12 ; v. Godcfroy'a
note.
6

CH.

DISORGANISATION OF PUBLIC SERVICE

241

Brigandage had long been a menacing evil in the


Even in the middle of the fourth

Western world.

century the country districts of Italy had become so


unsafe that throughout seven provinces the use of
horses was forbidden, 1 not only to coloni and shepherds,

but to proprietors, with specified exceptions, and their

At

agents.

all

times

the

of

shepherds

Samnium,
2
race, and

Picenum, and Apulia were a wild and lawless

easily passed into the ranks of the banditti who pillaged


the remote sheep -farms or infested the high roads leading
And the bailiffs of the great estates
to the capital.
been
to
have
often in league with the brigands,
appear

whose

spoils
for

facilities

and

they shared,
concealment.

them with "flammae

whom

to

law

of

they

gave

383

threatens

In 391

ul trices" for this crime.

the right of using arms, which by earlier laws was denied

In

was granted

to all persons against brigands.


5
a letter of Symmachus about this time, he tells a

to civilians,

friend that his usual migration to his country seat in


Campania was prevented by the prevalence of brigandage
6

In an edict of 3 9 9
in the neighbourhood of Kome.
Honorius refuses the right of using horses, so necessary
to

their

occupation,

The

Picenum.
shepherd's

life

to

feeling

is

the shepherds

about

this

curiously illustrated

which warns

of

Valeria

temptation

of

and
the

7
by a law of 409,
and possessores

all curiales, plebeians,


against sending their sons to be nursed among shepherds.
The terms of the edict imply that shepherd and brigand

had come to be almost synonymous.


But the bands of
outlaws were recruited in Italy and Gaul from another
1

C.

Th.

ix. 30, 1

and

(filios suos), societatem


videbitur confiteri.
3
C. Th. ix. 29, 2.

2, a. 364.

Brigandage existed in Aquitaine in


the time of Auaonius (Ep. iv. 23).

Of. Sym. ii. 22, sed mine intuta


est latrociniis suburbanitas.

Ib. ix. 14, 2.


Ep. ii. 22.
C. Th. ix. 30, 5
on this law.
7
Ib. ix. 31, 1.
5

Cf. ib.

qnisqnam

ix.

31, 1, si vero

nutriendos

latronum

...

pastoribus

v.

Godefroy

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

BOOK

III

whom

something has already been said. \The


country districts seem to have been infested by men \tfho
had deserted from the standards, and who, in hiding from
class, of

the officers of the law, betook themselves to plunder for


Full power to crush these dangerous criminals
support.
1
given to the provincials in a law of 403, which classes
and
the
edict
of
40 6 2 orders
with
deserters
latronps ;

is

the Pretorian prefect to

inflict

capital

punishment on

fugitive soldiers who have betaken themselves to this life


From some later parts of the Code, which are
of crime.

supported by other authorities, there can be no doubt


that the barbarian invasions let loose a great mass of
desperadoes on the countries through which the invaders
Poor men who had lost everything were almost
passed.
forced to join the gangs of marauders who swept over the
8
To open a way for such persons to return to
country.
an orderly life, the Emperor in 41 6 4 proclaimed a

general amnesty for all this class of offences, for which he


finds an excuse in the overwhelming calamities of the time.

In general the signs of growing impoverishment


become more and more frequent, and the tone of the
later edicts shows how deeply the Roman statesmen
were impressed by the, misery of the lower classes.? * A
terrible famine, which raged throughout Italy in 450,
had actually driven many of the poor to sell their

An edict, issued on the suggescancelled all such contracts, on repay-

children into slaverv.1


tion of Aetius,

1
C. Th. vii. 18, 14, cuncti etenim
adversus latrones publicos deser-

toresque militiae jus sibi sciant pro


quiete comrauni exercendae publicae
ultionis indultum.
This law is a
great confession of weakness in the

government,
2

Ib.

vii.

cf.

ix. 14,

2.

18, 15.

Gub. Dei, v.
24,
c.
Apoll. Sid. Ep. vi. 4,
where a woman has been carried off
by the Vargi. For brigandage in
Gaul in 369 cf. Amm. Marc, xxviii.

10 ; and Oros. vii, 25, 2.


the Scamarae
in
Noricum

2,

cf.

cf.

The
Bagaudae in Gaul and Spain had
rather a different character and
The authorities are given
origin.
Eugipp.

De

in

vit.

S. Sev.

c.

x. 2.

Coulanges, L' Inv. Germ. p.


1 ;
cf.
Fauriel, i. 186

n.

102,

Cf. Salv. de

On

on,

163

Idat. Chron.

ad

a.

p.

441,
I, 443,

449.
4

C.

Nov.

Th. xv. 14, 14.


Falent.

11,

notum

est

CH.

DISORGANISATION OF PUBLIC SERVICE

ment

243

the purchaser of the price which the parents

to

had accepted, with an addition of 20 per cent.


The
plunder of tombs for the sake of the costly marbles they
1
contained seems to have become a common offence.
The
edict of Valentinian III. on this subject is full of old
Roman sentiment about the dead, and strangely resembles
in tone that of Julian in which he deals with the same
2
crime.
Its enormity, and perhaps its frequency, are
indicated by the heavy penalties which were imposed,
death,

torture,

or confiscation,

according

to

the social

Other indications of failing


resources may be seen in the laws relating to public
works and buildings. 8 Already in the reign of Constangrade

of

the

criminal.

4
Emperor complains of the neglect which was
The
allowing them in many places to fall into decay.
authorities are required by Gratian and Theodosius to

tine,

the

repair ancient buildings before undertaking the erec5


tion of new ones.
Honorius forbids the alienation, on
pretext, of municipal funds
allocated to the restoration or

any

which have been long

decoration of public
the repair of ancient buildings, fallen into a ruinous state, is provided for out of
the income of the public lands. [ It would appear that
edifices.

In another

edict,

the municipalities found an increasing difficulty in meet-

such expenditure^ i The appropriation by private


persons of public spaces and edifices is dealt with in

ing

several laws of the

period.
Thejiblic officials
in
lax
or
very
corrupt
pp-rmitting the demolition

became

of structures

which were often interesting from ancient

famera per totam


Italiam desaevisse coactosque homines filios et parentes vendere, ut
discrimen instantis mortis effugerent.
Of. 0. Th. iii. 3, 1.
1
Nov. Valent. 5, qtiisquis ex his
quaelibet marmora aut saxa sustulerit paenaemox habeatur obnoxius.
The clergy were the greatest

obscenissimam

offenders

same

cf.

Gregorovius, Hist, of

City of Rome, i. 226.


2 C.
Th. ix. 17, 5. There are seven
enactments on this subject in the
fourth century.
3
Ib. xv. tit. 1.
4
Ib. xv. 1, 2.
5
6
7

Ib.

1.

21.

Ib.

1.

48.

Ib.

1.

32

Ib. xv.

11.

34, 35.
40, 41.

cf.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

244

BOOK in

associations or artistic beauty.


in his too brief reign, exerted

He

and

vandalism

The Emperor Majorian,


himself to

denounces,

check this

with

greed.
genuine
indignation, the criminal negligence which had long permitted the beauty of the venerable city to be defaced in
order to provide cheap materials for mean private build1
ings.
Any magistrate for the future conniving at an

infringement of this law

is to be punished by a fine of
and
subordinate official similarly
any
fifty pounds
*,*'
is
to
be
and
have
both his hands cut off.
.V
flogged
guilty
\j^*
Here and there we get a glimpse of the ruin which the
Vjfc*
confusion of the time brought suddenly on a once prosIn the reign of Valentinian III., among
perous class.
the crowds who were driven from their homes in Africa
by the Vandal invasion, there were many men of rank
and education who found their way to Italy, and some of
them applied in their distress for leave to practise as
The Emperor granted
advocates in the Italian courts.

,^

iiV

^c

of gold,

1;VX

their request in a rescript repealing the constitution of

442, which

limited

the

number

of

those

who were

2
allowed to plead before the provincial magistrates.
The
later pages of the Code will often suggest similar pictures

of

many an

obscure tragedy to the imagination of the


Famine and invasion took their

sympathetic student.
usual tale of victims.

But their worst ravages are


usually soon obliterated or repaired by the kindly forces
of Nature.
The overwhelming tragedy of that age was
|
the result not of violent and sudden calamities it was
;

prepared By the slow, merciless action of social" and


economic laws, and deepened by the_j)erverse energy of
government, and tHe cupidity and "cruelty of the rich and

In the following chapter we shall try


magnitude and to discover its causes.

highly ^placed^
realise its

to

X
1

N<yo.

parvum

Maj.

6,

antiquarum aediuni dissipatur spcciosa constructio et ut


2
Nov. Th. 50 cf. 34.
magna dirunntur.

aliquid reparetur

CHAPTER

II

THE DECAY OF THE MIDDLE CLASS AND THE


AGGRANDISEMENT OF THE ARISTOCRACY

THE evidence adduced

in the previous chapter as to


the disorganisation of important branches of the public
service, and the spread of poverty and lawlessness, is
sufficiently

ominous.

Such disorders

strike the eye at

once and impress the imagination. [VA


are, they are not^so serious jts_,Qthe__and less patent
maladies, which_had been long eating out the strength of'

Roman

In this chapter we shall try to discover


society,
the more deep-seated causes
far more than the
wjiich,
violent intrusion of the German_invflfter.% prnrln<Wl f.Vip.
collapse of society which is known as the fall of the
j

Empire of theJWest

careful study of the

Code

will

a popular and antiquated misconception of


that great event.
the fact that, long before
(Li, wjj^reyeal
the 'invasions of ttie" reign of Honorius t.hn fabric*. of
correct

many

Roman

jy

,
(

and administration was honeycombed


moral and economic vices, which made the belief in
society

the eternity of Eome a vain delusion.


The municipal
system, once the great glory of Boinau organising power,
had in the fourth century fallen almost into ruin.
The

governing class of the municipalities, called Jwriales). on


whom the burdens of the Empire had been accumulated,

were diminishing in number, and in the ability to bear


an ever -increasing load of obligations.
At the same

C'CfV^i

^^
/

"

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

246

time,

the upper

class

BOOK in

were increasing in wealth and

power, partly from natural economic causes, partly from


a determined effort to evade their proper share of the
imperial imposts, and to absorb and reduce to dependence
In this selfish policy they
their unfortunate neighbours.
were aided by the tyranny and venality of the officials of
the treasury, whose exactions^cEicanery, and corrupt

favouritism seem to have become more~shameless and


cruel in proportion to the weakness of their victims and
the difficulties of the times.) (And while the aristocratic
class were becoming more selfish, and the civil service
more oppressive and corrupt, the central government was
growing feeblej. (It saw the evils which were imperilling
the stability of society, and making provincial administra-

tion a

synonym

for

ments abound with

organised brigand-age.) Its enactand accurate descriptions of these

full

an4 fierce threats of punishment against the


But the endless repetition of commands,
which were constantly disobeyed, was the surest sign of
The decay of the middle class, the aggrandimpotence.
isement of the aristocracy, and the Hp.fi ant fcgranny and
these are the ominous facts
venajitv^of the tax-gatherer
to which almost every
page of the later Code bears
disorders,

criminals,
/

./
'

witness.

Any

one who wishes to understand the meaning of

the great social catastrophe of the fifth century must fix


his attention on the condition and distribution of landed
possessed it. /The fruits
times the great source
of Roman wealth
they were pre-eminently so in the
period with which we are concerned. J It is curious to

property, and on the classes


of agricultural industry

who

were at

all

how small a part of the Theodosian Code is


devoted to the subject of trade and commerce, unless we
comprehend under that head the laws relating to the

notice

hereditary guilds which, under the surveillance of


the State, were engaged in the production and distribu-

many

CHAP,

THE DECA Y OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

ii

tion of commodities.

There

indeed a section dealing

is

with the special tax. on traders


the

247

But

(collatio lustralis).

conimercial_clas3__(negotiatores)

in

were,

the

fifth

century, probably on a much lower social level than the


humblest landed proprietor.
The__seaatoj:ial order were
2
forbidden to engage in trade. fThe curiales^jwho formed

nf

t.hq

municipalities, although
8
traders also,

some

members may have been

of their

essentially a class of landed proprietors, whose position in


4
If
eye of the State was fixed by their acreage.

the

fortunes~"~were accumulated in commerce, they have left


few traces in the pages of the Code.
Sidonius, in the
second half of the fifth century, gives an account of the
The man
trading venture of a merchant at Narbonne.
has, on the credit of his good character, borrowed a little
money from his friends without other security, and is

going to invest it in purchasing some of the cargo of a


vessel which has come into port.
It appears from the
that
the
was
not
description
pursuit
very profitable nor
5

In one of the later edicts we find merchants


from
the greater centres of commerce to remote
retiring
with
the
places,
object of escaping the special tax on
their calling.
It follows either that the impost was very
heavy, or else that the profits of trade were very small.
It has often been pointed out that the wars and social
respected.

confusion of the latter part of the third century gave a


6
In
it never recovered.

shock to commerce from which


1

tit.

C. Th. xiv. tit. 1, 6.


i.

deals with

Bk.

imposed on
good summary in
Marquardt, Rom. Maateverwaltung,
(lustralis

traders

collatio)

v.

ed.,

Of. C.

and

Th.

xiii.

t.

1,

5,

p.

11,

Bitter's

21.

Ib. xiii. 1, 4 ; v. Godefroy's note.


C. Th. xii. 1, 33, ut quicuraque
ultra vigintiquinque jugera privato
4

dominio

Sid, Ep. vi.

pauperem

8,

vitam

actiono sustentat.

Apicum
sola

oblator

mercandi

Notice the con-

for this pursuit expressed in


Th. 51, quos nisi indigna et

tempt
Nov.

pudenda armato nomini negotiatio

230.

ii.

xiii.

the special tax

possidens,
consortio vindicetur.

etc.,

Curiali

aleret vix possent a famis periculo


vindicari.
6

Duruy, Hist. Rom. vi. 378 cf. v.


498 for the state of trade in the
Antonine period. For the shock to
commerce in the third century v. De
;

p.

Coulanges, L'Inv.

Germ-.ipip. 102, 103.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

248

BOOK in

that disastrous time the vast destruction of wealth, the


interruption of free circulation on the great routes, the loss
confidence, and

of

the portentous

depreciation

in

the

currency, must have operated with crushing effect on the


Nor was the fifth century a period more
trading class,
The invasion of Italy by
favourable to their pursuits.
Alaric and Eadagaisus, the invasion of Gaul and Spain by
j

the Sueves__andJVandals, the inroads of the Huns under


Attila, the raids of Saxon pirates on the shores of the

and the presence of the fleets of Genseric in the


Mediterranean, must have made the trader's life one of
great danger and anxiety, and probably curtailed the
volume of commerce tp_an enormous extent.
Law, sentiAtlantic,

ment, the course of events, werejiostile to the prosperity


of a great commercial class. j_The wealth both of the

^y^
^,

middle and of the upper orders was almost entirely in the


and its fruits, and, in the absence of free industrial

soil

development, there was little capital outside the landed


class available for the improvement of agriculture, or for

who had got into difficulties, i


the
three
great classes into which Eoman society
(Of
was divided, the plebeian class, composed of traders, free

the relief of the farmer

3 iO

/SJ

who possessed no property in land, may, for


our present purpose, be left out of consideration.
The
other two classes must, from their ownership of the land,
artisans, etc.,

and from

their relations to one another

engage our sole attention.

and

to the treasury,

Of the tone and character

of

the highest order in the social hierarchy we have attempted


to give some account in a previous chapter.
They have

us literary materials which enable us to form a tolerably clear idea of their spirit and manner of life; but

left

they seldom speak of their material fortunes or of the


classes beneath them, and on these subjects our information
1

ii.

must be drawn

Duruy,
28.

vi.

381

cf.

chiefly

from the Code.

Arnold, Prov. Administration,

p.

173

Marq.

CHAP,

THE DECA Y OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

ii

(The

249

senatorial class in the provinces had, since the


Constantine, grown to enormous dimensions,

of

reign

partly owing to the policy of the emperors, partly from


the efforts of a large number to gain an entrance into the
official

world, by which they secured at once rank and

and exemption from many onerous burdens


2
obligations. y The_order had long ceased to have_any

consideration,

and

connection

with

Hosts of

members had never even set foot in Eome. 3


senator became merely a social badge, imply-

the

of

exercise

senatorial

functions.

its

ghe_title of

ing generally the possession of considerable landed property^ or the tenure of somp. offinp. or dignity, which was

The more amoften_ purely honorary and ornamental.


bitious and distinguished families valued themselves quite
as much on these official distinctions as on their wealth,
and their sons were trained to make

it

a point of honour

to carry on the tradition of official service, and to win, if


fjossible, a higher place than their ancestors had held.

\But the great mass of the senatorial class were merely


landowners on a considerable scale, subject to certain
imposts peculiar to their order, but, on the other hand,
Of these
enjoying certain privileges and exemptions.
which
relieved
the
most
that
was
exemptions
important
4

senators from municipal burdens.


The municipality, in spite of designations which might
1

rets

ii. 38, &Treypd\f/aro 5t


-T&V Xa.fi.TrpoTd.Twi' oixrtas, rtXos

Zosimus,

$
The

aurds tirtdrjKtv
peculiar charges of the
were
:
(1) the
^senator's position
follis glebalis, a land-tax ; (2) aurum
oblatitium, a gift made on certain
anniversaries
(3) the expenses of
the games on the young senator
being nominated to the praetorship
eTTtfleis

6t>o/ma.

Ttvi <p6\\iv

cf.

Godefroy's Paratitlon, C. Th.

vi.

court of five taken by lot, C. Th.


2 ; (4) exemption from the aurum
coronarium, which was an impost
on the curialcs ; (5) exemption from
the onus metati
(6) exemption

ii.

ad opera publica.
Th. vi. 4, 3 and 4. Constantius ordered senators to come to
Rome on the occasion of their games
when they received the office of
from
3

praetor
4

tit. 2.
2

The special privileges of the


senator were: (1) exemption from
(2) exemption
municipal taxes
from torture ; (3) trial by a special
;

collatio

C.

C.

v.

Th.

Duruy,
vi.

3,

vii.

2,
sit

179.
senatoriae

functionis curiacque
nulla cona
1.
3 is even clearer
;
curialibus terris senatoria gleba discreta sit.

junctio

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

250

BOOK in

suggest other conclusions, was not confined to the jjyalls


l
of a town ; it included, besides the town, a wide area of
rural district extending round it, often for many miles.

From

the end of the second century the municipal conas it is described in the Digest and many
2
had undergone serious changes.
In the
inscriptions,
stitution,

century following the reign of Constantine,


into irreparable decay.

The

it

had

fallen

centralisation of

government
and the multiplication of imperial functionaries had extinguished the free civic life, which was in an earlier
The
period the greatest glory of Roman administration.
popular assemblies lost their right of electing to the
*
the local senate, or curia, was
municipal magistracies
no longer composed of men who had held these offices, 5
;

but of the landholders who possessed more than twentyfive jugera.

At

the same time, the curia became less

concerned with the local interests of

its

more and more burdened with duties

municipality, and
to the imperial

Their responsibilities, indeed, as the governof


their
ing body
community, were heavy enough.
They
had the management of its finances, 7 and full liability for

government.

its

debts and

and of

They had the charge of the police,


and public buildings.
They had
connection with the corn supply and the

deficits.

all roads, bridges,

certain duties in

relief of the poor.

When

they rose to the higher local


bear heavy, and sometimes
ruinous, expenses for the amusements of the populace,
8
prescribed by opinion and custom, if not by law.
magistracies, they had

to

(But

heavier and

far

F.

Rom.
2

de

Coulanges,

more crushing than these were


La Gaule

p. 228.

see
Wallori, L'Esdav. iii. 179
i. 464, on the
Inscrip;

Marquardt,

Malaga and Salpensa cf.


Arnold's Rom. Provincial Administration, pp. 225-237.
tions of

3
4

i. 510.
468, 469.

Marquardt,
Ib.

i.

Ib.

G. Th. xii. 1, 33.

i.

their

503.

F. de Coulanges, La, Gaule


Rom,. 244, 251 ; Duruy, Hist. Rom.
Th. xv. 1, 33
v. 379, n. 1 ; O.
(" De Op. Publ.").
8
C. Th. ; F. de Coulanges, La

Gaule Rom. p. 252


Wallon, L'Esdav.

Fauriel,
181.

iii.

i.

372

CHAP,

THE DECA Y OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

ii

Horn an

the

to

obligations

251

State^^_It_was_llie jractice__QjL_ihe
the collection, and.JBYfln

gnvp.rirmftTii^_to_(j|ftvolve

^_

the apportionment of a tax, on the class who paid it.


When the imperial authorities issued their precept for a
certain impost payable by the landholders of a district in

money

or in kind, the

not only to

members

of the local curia

had

the assessment on the proprietors in pro-

fix

portion to their holdings, but they had, through some of


members, the even more invidious task of collecting
2
the amount payable by each. fin addition to all this,
their

and

it

curiales

was a portentous addition in those times, the


were liable personally for the whole amount, and

had to make good any deficiency in the collection.


They
had also onerous liabilities for the military commissariat,
and the maintenance of the posting service on the great
8
nf t.hp.
roads.
impprial
|jn the assessment and collecting
taxes there was room for injustice, venality, and cruelty.
And there can be little doubt that the curiales sometimes
4
"
abused their trust, so that Salvianus could ask ubi non
"
( But fraudulent
quot fuerint Curiales tot tyranni sunt ?
little to alleviate the weight of a
as
time
went on, became more and more
which,
charge
the
.curial class which had to bear
1
Moreover,
crushing.
5
it was chiefly hereditary, as every other class and calling,

gains can have done

6
Men
from the highest to the lowest, tended to become.
with the required minimum of landed property were,

G. Th. xi. 7, 12

Paraiitlon to

Tributis")
a

xi. 1

cf.

Godefroy's

("De Annona

et

cf. xiii. 1, 17.

Ib. xii. 1, 117.

The principals

are threatened with torture for

em-

bezzlement, fraudulent assessments,


and excessive exactions ; cf. 1. 54.
The curia chose collectors of revenue

from among its members, and was collectively liable for their fraud ornegCf. xii. 6, 9 ; Fauriel, i. 362.
ligence.
8
C. Th. viii. 5, 26, G4.
4
De Gub. Dei, v. 18.
5
The class as a whole is described

often in C.

Th.. xii. 1

as originalis,

ex genere Curiali, familia Guriali


Cf.
orti, sanguine C. obstricti, etc.
Godefroy's Paratitlon to xii. 1, t.
4, p.
'

353.

Th. x. 20, 15, where even


female descent binds the children
C.

The Burgarii,
to a corporation.
or guards of the frontier forts, were
practically public slaves, like the
muleteers, etc., of the cursus publicus.

Cf.

with

Godefroy's

L'EscJav.

vii.

iii.

14,

176.

vii.

notes

15,

1,

Wallon,

252

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

from time to

time, compelled

enter

to

BOOK in
1

it.

But the

plebeian class, composed oF'the various corporations of


free labourers, artisans, and petty traders, fenced in and
hampered in all directions by imperial legislation, could

not furnish

The

many

recruits to

fill

the gaps._jn the_curia.

legislation seems to actually discourage the


2
merchant from investing his gains in land, and so belater

We
coming a member of the municipal corporation.
have seen reason to believe that trade in the fourth and
fifth centuries was not prosperous, and the ruinous condition of municipal finance might well deter any one who
had been exceptionally fortunate in commerce from making
an investment which entailed such personal risk and such
incalculable obligations.

The emperors were

fully

aware

of the

importance

of

a class on which had been laid such a weight of responsiNo fewer than 192 enactments in the Theodosian
bility.

Code, together with some of the Novellae, deal with the


The curiales are
position and duties of the curiales.
"
described by Majorian as the nervi reipublicae ac viscera
8
civitatum,"
although successive emperors from Con-

"

sinews
stantine to Majorian had to lament that these
4
of the commonwealth" were daily growing weaker.

Conventional

language or

policy indeed

fiction that the position of the curialis

kept up the
was an enviable

and dignified one.


The municipal body is described in
terms which were originally applied to the Senate of the
5
capital, and which may have had a certain justification
in the days of free municipal life, when a seat in the
was reserved for citizens who had filled the

local Senate

higher magistracies by the choice of the burghers.


1

C. Th. xii. 1, 33
Ib.

xii.

1,

72.

cf. 1.

According

commentary the
Godefroy's
merchant investing in land became
to

liable, as negotiator
curialis.

doubly

and

{When

53.

as

Nov. Maj. 1.
4
0. Th.
xii. 1,
13, quoniam
Curias desolari cognoviinus.
This
is a law of Constantino, dated 326.
5
Nov. Maj. 1, quorum coeturn
recte appellavit antiquitas

Senatuin.

minorem

CHAP,

THE DECA Y OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

ii

253

the curiales were deserting their functions, abandoning


their ruined estates, and trying to hide thp.Tnap.lyp.a among
serfs,

they were loftily reminded by the imperial legislator

of the stain
1

which they were attaching

to

t.TiP.ir

Doubtless the estimate of social rank

origin.

and depends greatly on

associations,

aplpnrMri

is relative,

imagination, and
the member

At one time

the extent of a man's horizon.

of the curia in a flourishing municipality

may have found

and thought he
had attained an enviable place when he rose to be flamen
2
of his native town, or provided games for his fellow3
citizens as aedile or duumvir. /But the growth of the
imperial despotism since Diocletian altered the whole
It was a very different thing
character of municipal life.
to be a decurio in the second century and in the fourth
or the fifth.
From Constantine to Honorius the emperors
were vainly struggling to stop a movement which had
begun long before Constantine, and which threatened the
curial body with utter depletion.
The "flight of the
"
curiales
was quite as menacing a danger of the Jater
his ambition satisfied

Empire

by

local distinctions,

as the inroads of the

fled in all directions,

barbarians.

curiales

(The

and sought a refuge from their

perils

and ruinous obligations in every calling.


Some of the
more wealthy and ambitious managed to get themselves
enrolled on the lists of the Senate by diplomas (codicilli)
J

Numbers procured
surreptitiously or corruptly obtained.
5
admission to some office in the vast Palatine service.
Others enlisted in the army, 6 or took Holy Orders.
1

G.

Th.

xii. 1, 6.

It is a curious

Ib.

xii.

1,

Many
neminem

180, 183,

commentary on these

obnoxium Curiae ad incongruam

to find in C.

sibi

fine phrases
Th. ix. 35, 2, that

not of the highest order,


could be punished by plumbatarum
ictus, i.e. blows of a whip loaded
with lead.
These
punishments
were forbidden by Theodosius, xii.
curiales,

1, 80.
2
Ib. xii. 1, 77.
8

Ib. xii. 1, 169.

fortunam

elicitis

deinceps

aspirare,
clarissimatus,

codicillis

Magnitude tua

perniittat.
22, cum Decurionea
diversas militias confugiant cf.

Ib.

ad
11.

xii.

i.

31, 38, 11, 13, 147

cf.

Arnold's

Prov. Administration, p. 74.


6

C.

others.

Th.

xii.

1,

50,

and many

*-

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

254

of the

humbler

sort

BOOK HI

were willing to exchange their position


1
such as the

for the practical servitude of corporations,

corn-importers or the armourers. (Many more, in sheer


despair, took refuge on some great estate in a dependence
almost amounting to serfdom, 2 and sank even to the de-

gradation of marriage with a


\

the desertion.

described

woman

of the servile class.)

motives which prompted men to forsake their


[The
municipality were very various, and undoubtedly ambition to rise in the world was one frequent cause of
I

Although the position of

by the

"

splendour/' it
senatorial _class^

emperors

"

decurio

"

is

one of "dignity" and

as

was vastly inferior to that of the


The difference between the two orders
(

was much wider than that between a member of Parlia-

ment and a member of a provincial town-council in our


days. ^ The senatorial class had not only the prestige
the greater families had also a practical
8
of
the highest prefectures and offices jrf_sj#te.
monopoly
They were often the descendants of men who had held
of

wealth

from time immemorial.

Tkey became almost


and
consuls, f Their sons were trained to follow them in the
same " career of honours," and had often completed their
such

offices

as a matter of course governors, Pretorian prefects,

term of public life and governed provinces larger than


most modern European kingdoms at an age when a man
of ambition in our days is only getting his foot on the
4
ladder.
The years of later life were passed in dignified
tranquillity, and the enjoyment of that cultivated society,
so stately and so exclusive, but so charming, which has
<

1
C. Th. xii. 1, 149 (navicularii),
62 (collegium fabrorirai).
a
Nov. Maj. i.

.,

T,

Sidon. Ep.
4

v. 9.

Sextus Petr. Probus, born circ.


334, became proconsul of Africa in
356, and Pretorian prefect of Italy,
Africa and Illyricum in 368 (act.

34)

v.

Seeck's

Sym.

cii.

Sym-

340, held his


first office in 365 (Seeck, xliv.).
Olybrius and Probinus were consuls

machus, born

circ.

mere youth8i

Cf Hieron>
Claud, in Cons. Olylr.
Prob. 63.
Sidonius was prefect
of Rome in his thirty-eighth year.
in Sidon. xlviii.)
Praef.
(ilommsen,
Ep. 130, 3

et

CHAP,

ii

THE DECA Y OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

been described in another chapter.

It is little

255

wonder

that the ambitious bourgeois of the curial class should


have struggled at any cost, by intrigue or by bribery, to
raise himself

and

his children

even to the outskirts of

such a rank, from the rather sordid and limited ambitions


If
and the wearing anxieties of his original position.
he remained in it, his highest hope could only be to
reach the duumvirate, and pass into the select class of
1
the principales, after completing the whole round of

duties

and charges incumbent on

But

his order.

before

attaining that not very lofty eminence, he might find his


patrimony eaten away by the claims of his own com-

munity, and the inexorable and insatiable demands of


the imperial treasury. [The numerous constitutions dealing with the migration of curiales into the senatorial
class are the clearest proof, at once of the force of the
tendency, and of the difficulty of restraining it.( In the
earlier part of the fourth century, the emperors appear
not to have opposed insuperable obstacles to such

ambition,

provided
concerned did not

the

finances

of

in

suffer.

(But

the

municipality

the

beginning

of

the fifth century, the rapid depletion of the curiae and


the complaints which reached him caused the Emperor

assume a sterner tone.


The curiales were bluntly
warned not to aspire to senatorial rank. 8 The grant of
codicilli clarissimatus, often obtained, as we have .seen, by

to

1
The principales (also optimatcs,
Sym. Ep. x. 41 summi municipum
;

proceres, Auson. Mosell. 402) were


in some places ten in number,
elected by the curia, after a regular

ascent through all the duties and

honours of their order, and bound


to remain in the performance of
their

functions for

fifteen

years,

Th. xii. 1, 75, 171, 189.


They
were exempt from cruel punishxii.
61.
Cf.
F.
de
Coul1,
ments,
anges, L'Inv. Germ. p. 37.
* (X Th. xii.
A law of
1, 57.
Valens (xii. 1, 69) allows curiales
0.

who have become

senators prema-

turely (ante expleta munera) to


retain the higher position provided

they perform curial duties,


3
C. Tk. xii. 1, 183, neminem
obnoxium Curiae ad incongruam
sibi fortunam deinceps aspirare,
elicitis

codicillis

clarissimatus,

cf.
Magnitude tua permittat
more trenchant
Still
180.
;

Novella
itaque

of

Theodosius

perpetuo

nimus, nullum

valitura

1.

is

lego
decer-

posthac Curialem

sibimet dignitatis senatoriae infulas


usurpare.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

256

BOOK

iia

underhand means, was peremptorily prohibited and no


one, bound to municipal functions, was henceforth to be
raised to senatorial rank until he had passed through all
the grades of his original order, and performed all the
duties which were laid upon it.
Honorius, in a rescript
;

addressed to the prefect of the Gauls in 409, prohibits


the principales, who formed the highest class of the
curial

body, from being released from their functions


had completed a term of fifteen years in their

until they

About the same time all persons of curial


2
descent in the ranks of the army or the Palatine service
were ordered back to their native cities, and any one of

grade.

this class is forbidden henceforth to evade his hereditary


obligations by entering either the military or the civil
It is well to remind
branch of the government service.

ourselves that, at the time

when

gated, a considerable part of

the Germans, and

these laws were promulGaul had been overrun by

we may very

well believe that the

and burdens of the governing class of the municipalities in those regions were becoming more harassing
To be sent back to the prison-house of
and onerous.
curial slavery from some promising career at Eome, and
to see every opening closed to himself and to his sons for
the future, may well have driven many a man of the
duties

doomed order
/

X.

In

to despair.

truth, the curial's position

had become one

of those

forms oFhereditary servitude by which the society of the


Lower Empire was reduced almost to a system of castes.
Introduced into the corporation at eighteen years of age,
he could not, by any effort, legally divest himself of his
inherited position until he had gone the whole round of
The law did not absolutely prohibit a
official duty.
;

C. Tli. xii. 1, 171.

whom

Dardanus,

addressed, was Pretorian prefect again in 413.


to

it is

76. xii.

1,

147.

Tliis

law

in-

eludes all curiales who had entered


the army, the Palatine civil service,
the bureau of the Pretorian prefect,
and all other similar occupations ;
cf. 11.

33, 40, 44.

CHAP,

THE DECA Y OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

ii

curial

made
legal

257

from rising to another grade in society, but


his progress so jjlow and difficult that escape

meansjwas __ppssibi_e ..to very

man had surmounted

Even when

few..

it

by
a*

and become an imperial


1
born before his
his
or
a
senator,
children,
functionary
in
their
were
retained
elevation,
original rank, and his
liable
for
the
remained
municipal charges of his
property
class.

man

;If-.a

deliverance,

all barriers,

q <'*a "

Vn'g

attempted__to_Jia.

by overleaping somjs_of_the_

V\*P )

nr his

ofjaty,
The
conferred by the Emperor himstages

he was sent back to the original ^tarting-^oint.

most splendid dignities


self, which would in other cases raise a man to the
Senate, would not avail for those of curial origin
they
"
as it
are to remain in the bosom of their native place,
were dedicated with sacred fillets and guarding the
eternal mystery, which they cannot abandon without
2
The curial's personal freedom was curtailed
impiety."
on every side. If he travelled abroad, that was an injury
and if he absented himself for five years, his
to his city
3
was
confiscated.
Even for a limited time, and
property
;

a public object, as for example to present himself


before the Emperor, he could not go from home without
4
the formal permission of the governor of the province.

for

He was

forbidden absolutely to reside in the country.

almost needless to say that he had no power to


dispose of his property as he pleased, since the State

It is

regarded his property as security for the full discharge of


all his financial obligations.
He could not sell his estate

without the permission of the governor of the province. 6


1

C.

Th.

69.
122, maneant in
sinu patriae et veluti dicati infulis,
a

Ib.

1,

mysterium perenne custodiant


illis piaculum inde discedere.
Ib. xii. 1, 143,

144, ne

dm

sit

in
fraudem civitatum inunicipes evagentur, etc.
4

xii. 1,

xii.

Ib. xii. 1, 9.

Ib.

xii.

18,

and

2.

These

laws are addressed to the Egyptian


prefect, and they may refer to the
monks and hermits cf. xii. 1, 63,
which treats them with great con;

tempt.
6

Ib. xii. 3, 1 and 2 ; Nov. Maj.


nunquam sine interpositione
decreti Curiales alienent.
1,

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

258

BOOK in

He

could not enter into any contract or business relation


which might conceivably weaken the hold of the State
upon his possessions. He was forbidden, for example, to
1
accept the agency of an estate, or to rent public lands,
2
The curial who had no children
or to farm the taxes.
could dispose only of one -fourth of his estate by will,
8
the remainder being taken by the municipal treasury.
The municipality became the sole heir of an intestate
curial.

place,

If

or

if

his

natural heirs were not citizens of the

his daughter or

widow married a

stranger,

they had to resign one-fourth of the property to the


He could not take Holy Orders without leaving
curia.
6
his curial property in the hands of a proper substitute,
or absolutely abandoning it to the service of the comWe have not by any means exhausted the
munity.
melancholy list of the disabilities and hardships which
were heaped upon this wretched class, but enough has
been said to show the causes of its depletion.
Indeed,
the emperors themselves, while they o^p.asinTifl.lly^npply
which to us now sound like grim

to^it honorific terms,

mockery, had_ really no illusions as to

hopeless con-

its

dition. /Tt Is often described in phrases (nexus, mancipatio)

which seem to reduce it to a species of slavery.


The
curial in one law is denied the asylum of the church,
7
When
along with insolvent debtors and fugitive slaves.
he is recalled from some refuge to which he has escaped,
his worst punishment for disobedience to the law is to
be replaced in his original rank. Nor could the legislator
at one time find a worse fate for certain malefactors than
1

0. Th. xii. 1, 92.

The

in a servile occupation, and renders


himself liable to banishment.
2

Ib.

libus

xii.

97

x. 3,

2,

curia-

omnibus conducendorum Rei-

publicae praediorum ac saltuum


inhibeatur facultas.
3
See note 8 in Wallon, L'Esclav.
iii.

186.

curial is

branded with disgrace for engaging

C. Th. v. 2, 1,

curionum."
6
Cf. Wallon,

" De Bonis De-

186, n. 4.
59, qui partes
ecclesiae eligit, aut in propinquum
6

C.

Th.

iii.

xii.

1,

bona propria conferendo eum pro so


faciat Curialem aut facultatibua
Curiae cedat

and

91
7

quam

98).

Ib. ix. 45, 3,

reliquit (cf.

11.

CHAP,

ii

THE DECA Y OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

to be relegated to the curia.

become an ergastulum, and


all

the energy of

The curia had

all

imperial

259

in truth

the ingenuity of lawyers,

officers,

were occupied for

generations in trying to prevent the escape of the slaves


2
But the cruelty of their position made
of the curia.
them reckless. Many fled to the solitude and hard fare
3

of the hermitage.
Others preferred the servitude of one
of the lower corporations of artisans to the service of the

commune

4
;

they hid themselves even among smiths and


Still more placed themselves under the

charcoal-burners.

protection of a great proprietor, and were only too glad


to bury themselves among the crowd of his cottiers and
serfs,

where

by some slave mother, would


by the ignominy of their birth from

their children,

at least be delivered

their father's hereditary curse.


Whilp. tfrft numbers of the

curial

class

were thus

steadily shrinking, in spite of the cruel determination of


the^ legislator,

the burdens on those

as steadily increasing in severity.


responsible for the collection of taxes

who remained were


The

curiales

were

on landed property,
district were not fully
the
in
assessments
their
and__tf
paid, they had to make good the deficit to the treasury.

Now

is ample evidence that the tax-bearing acreage


end of the fourth century and the beginning of
In Campania alone,
the fifth was rapidly contracting.
once the garden of Italy, more than 500,000 jugera had

there

in the

1
C, Th. xii. 1, 66 and 108. These
laws of Valentinian I. and Theodosius prohibit the consignment to
the curia as a punishment, but the
prohibition proves the existence of
the practice.

Ib. ix. 45, 3, vigore et sollertia


ad pristiiiam sortem
velut manu injecta revocentur.
8
Ib. xii. 1, 63, quidam ignaviae

judicantum

desertis
civitatum
sectatores,
muneribus, captant solitudinem ac

secreta,et specie religionis

cum coeti-

bus Monazonton congregantur. The


law mentions Egypt and the East

as the regions to which it applies


(v. Godefroy's note, iv. p. 434).
4
Ib. xii. 1, 62, 149, 162 ; cf. xiv.
8, 1.
6
cf. 146, multos
Ib. xii. 1, 76
animadvertimus, lit debita praestatione patriam defraudarent, sub
;

umbra Potentium latitare


Omnes igitur quos tegunt

expellant, ne Clementia Nostra ab contumacia dissimulantium in majorein

indignationem

exurgat

11.

179,
189, occultator
flammis ultricibus.
162,
6

Nov. Maj.

ad

inte.

155,

detur

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

260

BOOK

III

1
Symmachus, who was a large
gone out of cultivation.
that
landowner, complains
agriculture was becoming a
2
later edicts frankly admit
The
very expensive luxury.

that over large areas the resources of the landed taxpayer


And the admission is not confined to
were exhausted.

For in 40 8, 8 in 413, and again in 418, relief


from the land-tax was granted to large districts in Italy,
A similar
in one case to as many as seven provinces.
in 410, 4
shown
the
of
was
to
landholders
Africa,
indulgence
in 423, and, in consequence of the Vandal invasion, in 451.
In the meantime the expense of government was probwords.

C ably

Aad^-4flrijag-_to~ the., absence nf- floating


growing.
the
capital,
gQvernm&nii_Quld not as in modern times.
f

throw part of
public_debt.5J
public

burdens on posterity by creating a

its

It

is

administration,

likely that the necessities of the


as the taxable area went on

shrinking, must have caused a more and more exhausting


drain on the resources of those provinces which still

Even

remained solvent.
statements

explicit

and
an over-

in the absence of statistics

on the subject/ there

is

whelming probability in favour of me theory that the


demands of the imperial exchequer on the curial class
were increasing in proportion to the
sources of revenue. 6 7
1

a.

Th.

had been
quatores,

xi.

28,

2.

We

The lands

first

inspected by peraeand ancient documents

consulted (v.
note).
Godefroy's
Referred to in Sym. Ep. iv. 46 ; cf.
v. 12, frustra speravi de peregrinatione solacium, cum omnium locorum maesta facies nullas aegro

animo praestet indutias.


2
Sym. Ep. i. 5, namque hie usus
in nostram venit aetatem, ut rus,
quod solebat alere, nunc alatur.
8

C.

Th.

xi.

28,

4, 7,

12.

The

408 was given immediately


after Stilicho's death, and was derelief in

manded by the devastations

of the
armies of Radagaisus and Alaric,

failure

of former

hear more and more of the


The

senatorial

follis

was

glebalis

included in the remission.


4

n.

J alent.

410

xi.

"ob

28,

ad fin.

13, and Nov.


The remission in

6,

Africae devotionem

"

re-

the resistance of Africa under


Heraclian to the attempts of
Attalus, the Emperor set up by
fers to

Alaric

cf.

Zos. vi. 7.

The government met cases of


financial emergency by superindic6

Cf. G. Th. xi. tit. 16, with


Godefroy's Paratitlon to xi. tit. 6 ;
Paratitlon to xi. tit. 1, and
Duruy, vii. 167 n.
6
F. de Coulanges, L'Inv. Germ.

tions.

cf.

p. 61, disputes this;

but

cf.

c.

17

CHAP,

THE DECA Y OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

ii

261

land-inspectors (peraequatores) whose function it was to


deal with the ownership of waste lands, and the apportionment or remission of the land-tax.
They appear to
2
have been infected with the general venality, and their
peculiar duties gave them opportunities, or offered
3
temptations, to favour the more powerful proprietors, and

same

to enrich themselves at the

be
s

in

forgotten,

forming

an

time.

estimate

Nor should
of

the

it

curial's

economic position, that in the fourth or fifth centuries


there was a.pfofl.Hy and sp.rinna fl.pprpp.ifl.t,inn in gr>1j! 2_fl.TiH
that taxes had to be paid in

ffold,

4
as well as in kind.

In the reign of Valentinian I. the ratio of silver to gold


was 14f to I. 6 In the reign of the younger Theodosius
That is, in less than a
the proportion was 18 to I. 6
quarter of a century the value of gold had risen by more
than a fifth. (Thia_a.pprftfiia.tion involved a corresponding
Increase of taxes payable in gold. /And while the

demands of the exchequer were increasing, the landowner was probably getting less and less for his agricultural products.
And here we touch what was the chief
,

economic cause of the ruin of the

we have

liable

seen,

taxes payable by his district.


of the Decline and Fall, and Apoll.
Sid. Carm. xiii. 19 addressed to

For an

Majorian.
Zos.

ii.

On

earlier

time see

38.

the duties of peraequatores,

denned in the Code, see Gode-

as

froy's Paratitloii to xiii. 11 ; cf. C.


Th. xiii. 11, 14, 15, 16, with GodeThese laws
froy's note on 1. 16.

show at once the fairness of the


government, and the opportunities
for fraud
2

open to the peraequatores.

The corrupt

C. Th. xiii. 11, 10.

peraequatores are heavily fined in


xiii.
3

11, 7.
xiii.

11,

4,

sum

Ib.

xi.

any

He

deficit

was, as
in the

The returns were almost


166.
calculation is based on a
comparison of 0. Th. xiii. 2, 1, with
In the former (A.D.
viii. 4,
27.
397) 1 libra of silver is equal to 5
solidi of gold ; in the latter 1 libra
Cf.
of silver is equal to 4 solidi.
He
Godefroy's notes to both laws.
sums up with the remark: adeo
Cf.
indies auri pretium increvit.
Sym. Rel. xxix., paulatim auri
vii.

Duruy,
6

The

enormitate crescente.
The yield
of the gold-mines seems, from the
following laws, to have been diminishing C. Th. x. 19, 3 (365), for the
:

ut quid remisgratia, quid interceptum fuerit


convincaut
fraude,
Ib.

curiales.

personally for

21,

3;

cf.

xiii.

6,

13;

encouragement of gold mining x.


19, 5, 6, 7, 9 (to keep the aurileguli
Cf. Marq. ii. 43.
to their calling).
;

C.

Th.

viii. 4, 27.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

262

BOOK in

rtainly diminishing ; the government was inexorable,


mass of the curiales were themselves small land-

holders

who were unable

to

compete with the owners

of

great
by the labour of slaves and_
1
colon! /The land was, as a rule, their only source of
income/ As the land became less productive, while the
estates

cultivated

burdens of their position became heavier, the weaker


curialis must either fly from his municipality, as so many
actually did, or else he

must obtain temporary

whatever terms, from the only

capitalist to

relief,

whom

on
he

could apply, the neighbouring large proprietor. J This


absorption of the smaller by the greater landowners, and
the growing power of the latter, is by far the most
interesting

and important feature in the transition of


Lower Empire to the

society from the despotism of the


regime of the feudal lords.

LThe

senatorial

estate

was a community by

itself

own

wants, and furnishing supplies forJbhe


supplying
neighbouring markets or for the government flervioe.
Part of it was cultivated directly for the lord by slaves
its

and the building and carpenter work, the spinning and


Another part
weaving, were also carried on by slaves.
of the estate was cultivated by a class designated by
many names, and occupying different grades of de2
Some of them were strictly s^s^ ascripti
pendence.
glebae, who, on the sale of an estate, passed to the new
owner.
Some were in the position of metayers, paying'
their lord a certain proportion of the produce which they
raised.
In other cases they were men who had become
indebted to their lord and, being unable to pay their
1

Of.

Arnold, Provincial

istration, p. 161.
a
0. Th. ix. 10, 3.

titlonof Godefroyto v.

Admin-

Cf.

the Para-

9,

"DeFugi-

Colonia"; Wallon, L'Esdav.


252; De Coulanges, L'Inv.
Germ, pp. 93, 139. To discuss the
vexed question of the origin and
tivis

iii.

p.

nature of the status of the coloni


no part of the purpose of this
For a review of some of
chapter.
the different theories see Wallon,
L'Esdav. iii., chap, on "Travail
de Campagne." Cf. Arnold, Provincial Administration, pp. 161,
is

162.

CHAP,

ii

THE DECA Y OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

263

on it to cultivate
Sometimes they were broken men,
who had deserted their farms from various causes,

debt,

had given up

their land, remaining

on certain terms. 1

it

poverty, oppression of government officials or powerful


neighbours, or the wish to escape the heavy burdens

2
imposed on the curial class, and who put themselves /
There is C
under the protection of some great proprietor.
no social phenomenon of the time which deserves closer
attention, for many reasons, than the position of these
It is an indication at
free settlers on the great estates.
once of the ruin of the middle class, and of the growing /

power of the aristocracy.


Code gives evidence

For nearly a hundred years

the determination of the


emperors to check the tendency towards this form of
3
Those who sheltered the fugitive curialis are
patronage.

the

of

threatened with punishments of increasing severity,


confiscation, infamy, till the law of Honorius in

fines,

415*

orders the agent or bailiff who connives at the offence to


"
But all the vigour
be given to the avenging flames."

government could not make head against an


In the reign of
tendency of the times.
Valentinian III. and in the reign of Majorian, the
5
The
authorities have to combat the evil once more.
of

the

irresistible

de Gub. Dei, v. 39-44.


distinguishes two classes: (1)
defensoribus suia omnem fere substantiam suam prius quam defendSalv.

He

antur addicunt; (2) cum agellos


suos perdunt
aut deserunt,
fundos majorum expetunt et coloni
divitum fiunt
jugo se inquilinae abjectionis addicunt.
.

n
i

TJ,

^>
On

of patronage
3

i
'

14ft.
'

ATX,,

JrtJ
origin of this form
Wallon, in. p. 271.

th'
the

0. Th. xi. 24,

"De

Patrociniis

the lustralis
24, 2, the patronus
is fined 25 pounds of gold for each
case.
In 399 the fine is raised to

evade

to

influence

By xi.

collatio.

40.
In 1. 5 the offender's whole
On the
property is confiscated.
evasion of tribute in Gaul by

potentes, v. xi. 1, 26.


4
Ib. xii. 1, 179.
5
Nov Valent. 9, advenae plerum-

<J

tenuea

ue

^mdain
J% l

abjectaeque fortunae
*
obsequiis Jjungunt.

se

^ g niud q oque
ut dum

sibi dedecoris addentes,

uti

Vicorum." The subject is included


in this book xi. which deals with
taxation, because patronage was

volunt patrociniis potentum colon arum seancillarumqueconjunctione


polluerint. Farther on the Emperor

exercised to defeat the claims of


the treasury ; cf. xiii. 1, 21, which
shows that negotiatores used this

says

vendunt defugas Curiales et


obnoxios corporatos cum eos occulta
depredatione concusserint.
:

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

264

BOOK

edicts of these emperors describe the condition of such


dependants in a manner which singularly harmonises

with the contemporary picture given by Salvianus.

The
and the venality of tax-gatherers

injustice of governors

have driven
"

many

to

quit

their

native

forgetful of the splendour of their birth

and,
thus the

cities,

"
(it is

perilous rank of the curialis is described), to place themselves under the protection of some powerful patron.

We

need not believe, as Salvianus does, that the rich

proprietor deliberately set himself to reduce his clients to


but it is only too probable that such protege's
;

serfdom

would inevitably sink


\

to the position of coloni.


It was, however, through direct indebtedness

proprietors that

great

independence^

As we

in that age derived

to the

the smaller generally lost their


have seen, there was little capital

from any other

source^

than land

If

a farTnergoTmlo difficulties from bad seasons, oF under


the pressure of taxation and municipal burdens, his
readiest resource

bour.

was

There were

to

many

borrow from some rich neighways by which the great man

could lay his hands on his debtor's land, and the Code
leaves no doubt that the most unblushing oppression and
2
The
chicanery were often employed to dispossess him.

accumulation of arrears of interest led to forced sales or


donations to escape from an intolerable burden.
If a
small estate were put up for sale, the great man had few
competitors, for there was little capital seeking such
investment, and the government actually seemed to discourage a merchant from purchasing land by holding him
1

See an example in Sid. Ep. iv.


The needy debtor is paying interest at a rate which will double
the capital lent in ten years
cf.
Permission
Chaix, Sidon. ii. 236.
to senators to lend at 6 per cent
is given in 0. Th. ii. 33, 4 (v. GodeG. Th. ii. 33, 3 allowed
froy).
senators who were minors to lend
24.

at interest.
iii. 1, 8 prohibits secret
sales by fugitive curiales : vendi-

money
2
G.

tiones,

Th.

donationes,

transactiones

quae per potentiam extortae sunt,


praecipimus infirmari cf. ii. 9, 4,
pacta quidem per vim et inetum
apud omnes satis constat cassata
;

viribus, respuenda.

CHAP,

THE DECAY OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

ii

265

not only for the land-tax, but for the lus trails
collatio, for which, as a trader, he was liable before the
1
The terms of one law of Houorius make it
purchase.
liable

probable that mere terrorism exercised by great nobles or


officials, without any legal rights whatever, often compelled the small farmer to part with his land by pre2
tended sale or gift.
The secret sale of property by
curiales flying

from their municipality was also a 'growing


all the obstacles which the law

In spite of

practice.

interposed to prevent the alienation of such estates, there


8
clear evidence that, from the time of Alaric's invasion,

is

had taken place without the

formalities preThe law


a curialis parted with his estate.
of Valentinian III., which deals with such cases, shows a
sales

many

when

scribed

tenderness and consideration

unfortunate
tion

class,

for

the difficulties

an

of

very unlike the spirit of earlier legislaIt maintains the validity of all such

on the subject.
4

when

sales,

effected

under the pressure of extreme necesis passed on men of

But a heavy condemnation

sity.

rank who have abused their power by violence, or


by refusing payment of the purchase money, to inflict
The culprit is compelled
injustice on a needy vendor.
not only to pay the full price, but to reinstate the unwillIt is clear that the class of
ing vendor in possession.
official

small proprietors had little chance of holding their own


in such a time as these laws describe to us.
The Code
frankly admits the overwhelming nature of the burdens
which the State imposed on them. Every year they sank
deeper into debt, and every year they were less and less
1

C. Th. xii. 1,

7h

iii

72

cf. xiii.

1, 4.

decreti interpositio
firmitatera.
6

Nov. Valent. 10, notum est post


fatalem hostium niinam qua Italia
laboravit, etc.
4

Ib.

10,

iniquum

praecedentibus
venditioni ob

est, tarn justis

causis,

hoc

confectae

solum,

quia

Jb.

10,

quod

si

defuit,

adiini

emptor

officio

administratione perfunctus, etc.,


venditori solidorum numerum inet

fera t qu i tabulis continetur, possessionem nihilominus perditurus, ut


ad dominum redeat cui taliter pro-

batur ablata.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

266

meet

BOOK in

They could borrow only


from the very men who were hungering for their land,
The means of comand who desired their extinction.

able to

their liabilities.

passing their ruin lay ready to the hand of a great proprietor, who, if not in office himself, was connected by

freemasonry with the official class, who could prejudice the judge on the bench, or bribe the meaner officers
of the law.
social

It seems

clear,

then, that the

prietors were, from

described, becoming steadily poorer

But while

this

quences to

and

pro-

we have

less

numerous.|
change, fraught with momentous conse-

Eoman

QT^ senatorial class

was

Its affluence

was

in progress, another, in
The upper
observable.
equally
in
not
but in
wealth,
only
growing

society,

the opposite direction,

goweri

smaller landed

the various causes which

is

can be easily estimated from the

bymmachus, from the declamation of Salvianus.


and from the picture of Gallic society which ApoUinaris
S^omug^has lett_jusi Its growing power is written on
many a_page of the Code. In spite of the vast and complicated machinery which had been elaborated by succesletters 01

sive emperors for the administration of the provinces, the


task of governing them with purity, economy, and fair-

more difficult. The


and
were
exerted
greatest vigilance
energy
by the central
ness to all classes became more and

secure the independence of the provincial


to repress the tendency to corruption and
oppression among the collectors of taxes and the inferior
8
officers of the law.
But the very number of edicts

authority to
2

governors, and

1
Nov. Valent. 10. usuris in majorem cumulum crescentibus.
2
C. Th. i. 8, 1.
Honorati are
forbidden to sit with judges on the
bench cf. the whole of tit. 7, "De
;

Officio Rectoris Provinciae."


3

26 and 27, esp. 27, 2, hi


qui in Republica versati sinisterius
sunt, perpetuo sibi omnes dignitates,
Ib. ix.

vel legitimas vel honorarias, sciant

esse praeclusas.

jam

rapaces

Cf.

i.

7, 1,

officialium

cessent

manus,

nam si moniti
cessent, inquam
non cessaverint praecidentur. Note
;

that this
A.D. 831.

is

a law of Constantino,
guilty official was

The

degraded to plebeian rank, became


intestabttis, required to restore fourfold the amount of his illicit gains
(which could be recovered from his

CHAP,

THE DECA Y OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

ii

267

ends discloses the impotence of the


banishment, torture, death, are all
emperor. Heavy
ineffectual to check the inevitable corruption of a bureaudirected

to

these

fines,

government, operating over an area probably the


widest which has ever been ruled directly from a single
cratic

The jdistance__pi__the_seat of government was


undoubtedly the greatest difficulty, and it was_ a_.dinJculty
centre.

by the imperial legislator. With all the


the feoman posting service, it was in many
cases only after a long interval that the complaints of the
The
aggrieved provincials could reach the government.
fully recognised

facilities of

must have inspired corrupt and

of remoteness

sense

with an audacity which they would


their conduct had been liable to more

officials

unprincipled
not have shown

if

instant exposure.
in

Ofcatfl.fi] ft

tlig

most
/But beyond a doubt, the
nf

way

pnrp

and

linn eat

fl.d

serious

mini strati on

In t
was the power of the provincial aristocracy.
middleof the fourth century the patronage which enabled
the smaller~proprietors to evade their share of the taxes
1
At the close of the
was 'severely dealt with by Valeria.

century the threat of


fact that the mischief

heavier penalties reveals the

still

is

still

rampant.

The patronage

was probably paToTTor in a fashion which still further


The upper class
increased the influence of the patron.
or potentes, as they are called, not only engaged in
8
trade themselves, but secured the exemption of the
regular trader from the tax imposed upon his calling.
4
induced
Creditors with usurious or fraudulent claims

lords

great

their

no doubt often

object,
heirs),

to give

names

office for

(See ix. 27,

1, 3, 4,

a second term.

and

ix,

26, 2,

with Godefroy's note.)


1

0.

Th.

xi.

24,

2,
patrociniis agricolae, etc.

abstineant
Cf.

with the

attained, of over-awing or influ-

and prohibited from holding

the same

to the suit,

Amm.

Maro. xxxi. 14 for the character of


Valens as an administrator.

tua

Th.

C.
.

xi.

24,

severiorera

addidisse cognoscat.
3
Ib. xiii. 1, 21 ;

5,

excellentia

poenam nos
cf.

xiii.

1,

6,

which discouraged trading among


potentes.
4
6

Ib. ii. 13, 1 ; cf. xiii. 1, 15.


Ib. xi. 1, 21.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

268

BOOK in

It is needless to say that the rich


encing the judge.
were equally energetic in their own interests. ^ We learn,
both from Salvianus 1 and from the Code, 2 that the

wealthier class in Gaul contrived to shift their share of

And in a law
theirj>oorer neighbours.
of the very next "yeaFwe find that the practice of delay8
had become so general that
ing payment of taxes
the land-tax on

Honorius was compelled


amount on the morator.

to

fine of fourfold the

impose a

But, without any open defiance

of the_government. the upper class had many means of


If, for example, an inspector came
cheating the treasury.
down to revise the land assessment, 4 and to settle the
liability for

waste lands,

it

was not

difficult

for

a great

proprietor to see that the settlement was in his favour.


If he did not himself appear upon the scene, his agent

could refuse information about the rating, or otherwise


impede the inquiry. And unfortunately the inspectors,
like so many of the officials of this period, were easily
accessible to bribes or other forms of corrupt influence.
The procurators of the great estates, who, as a class, were

very corrupt and unprincipled, doubtless did many things


of which their masters might have disapproved.
They
were generally men of low or even servile origin,5 wielding almost uncontrolled power in the absence of the pro-

The government repeatedly shows its distrust of


In the time of the invasions they gave shelter

prietor.

them. 6

De Gub. Dei, v. 28, illud indignius ac poenalius, quod omnium

contumaciam

onus non omnes sustinent, imnio


quod "pauperculos homines tributa
diyitum premunt, et infirmiores

tion of peraequatores.

ferunt sarcinas fortiorum.


2

nullum gratia
nullum iniquae partitionis
vexet incommodum sed pari omnes
C. Th. xi. 1, 26,

relevet

sorte teneantur.
8
4

-f,

Z7

qui

immemor

existimationem suarn servili obsecundatione damnaverit, deporta-

incommodo

E.g.

Peraequatore
misso, aliquis aut Procuratorem
suum retraxerit, aut colonum ad
2,

libertatis et generis

infamissimam suscipiens vilitatem,

'

si

1.

In prohibiting
Ib. xii. 1, 92.
a curialis to become procurator, the
Emperor uses these words : ille vero

tionis

0<7

Ib. xiii. 11,

armaon the corrup-

retractationis

Of.

verit, etc.

ib.

i.

7,

subjugetur.
7,

moderators

Provinciae curam gerere jubemus

quid Potentium Procurators


perperam illiciteve committant.
ne

CHAP,

i!

THE DECAY OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

269

1
with the object of retaining them as slaves.
2
They were in league with brigands, and harboured them
So
on the estates of which they had the management.

to fugitives

become that the procurators in several


3
provinces were specially forbidden the use of horses, and
they were coupled in the prohibition with those wild
herdsmen of Saninium and Apulia who so easily passed
lawless had they

into the ranks of professional robbers.


They are also
associated in several edicts with the crime of concealing

deserters

from the army.

Irijact the__agent jof a-iemote


..

>

.estate^mustkayeL oftenJ^yolyeOis. mswteiLin. thejoesh_es


The procurator seems to have sometimes
pf the law.

gone

so

far

as

to

hypothecate

an estate without his

master's knowledge, and more than one law deals with


this practice, in order to protect at once the owner and
The procurator who engaged
the bona fide mortgagee.

was a man who was probably accu6


a
fortune
of
his own, and this peculium, subject
mulating
to any prior claim of the master, was made liable for the
It may be readily
repayment of unauthorised loans.
in such transactions

believed that such a class as this, often under no control


would exercise their power more unscrupu-

or supervision,

lously and oppressively than even the most tyrannical


aristocrat.
The most serious danger, however, to the
small landowner from the great lords lay in the facilities

which the

latter possessed for corrupting the sources of

The governor, who had to hea.r a case between


justice.
a wealthy man and a poor man, belonged to the senatorial
class, in many cases was a member of the aristocracy of
7
The litigant of
the province in which the case arose.
1

C. Th. v. 5. 2.

The

actores

and

procuratores who disobeyed this law


were to be sent to the mines.
2
Ib. ix. 29, 2, si vero Actor sive
Procurator latronera domino ignorante occultaverit . .
flammis
ultricibus concremetur.
.

Ib. ix. 30, 2.

Ib.

vii.

18,

offending procurator
ally punished.
* Ib.

Ib.

ii.
ii.

30, 2,
32, 1.

and
is

"De

12.

The

to be capit-

Pignoribus."

E.g. Dardanus, Pretorian prefeet of Gaul, 409, 413, the grand-

father of Apoll. Sidonius ( Ep.

iii.

12),

</

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

270

BOOK

own rank could easily bring private pressure to bear


on him to influence his decisions^ Even an upright man

his

like

Symmachus had no

friends about

cases

scrujJle in writing to his official

which were

to

come

before them.

It is to the credit nf the ernpernra that they took_the


The regulaseverest measures to secure judicial purity.

tion against governors having a second term of office in


2
the same province was intended to check the growth of

connections and influences which might prove too strong


for the virtue even of a well-meaning ruler.
The danger

more clearly recognised in the rules which forbade


the admission of any one, rich or poor, to an interview
with a governor after his court had closed at midday, 3

is still

and which enjoined him in his progresses to refuse invitations to "the luxurious quarters" which his wealthy
4
friends were ready to place at his disposal.
Very
explicitly, in the year 408, Honorius forbids Honorati to
6
All causes are to be heard
sit on the bench with a judge.
in open court with the fullest publicity.

A volume

might be written on the subject of financial


in
the last century of the Western Empire.
corruption
When one wanders through the maze of enactments dealing with fiscal oppression, malversation, and evasion, one
knows not whether more to pity the weakness of the
government, or to wonder at the hardened cupidity and

audacity of the classes which were leagued together in


In the
plundering both the treasury and the taxpayer.
of
fifth
the
of
so
the
Africa,
early part
century,
province
essential to the very existence of the capital, yet held by
by deputation to the

so precarious a tenure, appealed


These
Tonantius Ferreolus, etc.
are not mentioned, however, as instances of corrupt administration.
1
Sym. Ep. iv. 68 ii. 41 ii. 87.
2
C. Th. ix. 26, 4, si quis Pro;

consularem aut Vicariam po testatern, etc., iterare

ejus

omne

temptaverit, fisco

patrimonium

sociari

decernimus.
*
4

Ib.

i.

7, 6.

Ib.

i.

7, 4,

non deverticula

deli-

ciosa sectetur.
Any diversoriuru
lent to a judex in the face of this
law is to be confiscated.
B

Ib.

i.

Ib.

i.

8, 1.
7, 2.

CHAP,

THE DECA Y OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

ii

Emperor

for relief

from

its

miseries.

271

'

)The complaints
relate almost- entirely to .oppression and. injustice^ in tke

"

\~\('

The

collection of the various branches_o_t.Vip. rp.vp.miA,

uppelr classes secured immunity from their proper burdens,


or succeeded by unfair assessment in shifting them on
The soldiers and
to the class less able to bear_them.

abused the right of free quarters in mov2


ing through the province. \The various grades of public
8
servants whose business it was to collect the revenue, or
4
5
to press for payment, or to keep the revenue accounts.
officials grossly

were
each

guilty of the grossest fraud, in collusion with


other, or of outrageous terrorism and violence.

all

Alike in Africa and Gaul, the great landowners at this


time, taking advantage of the evident weakness and
of the government, either evaded or delayed
6
In many cases their agents, living in

difficulties

their payments.

remote independence, 7 offered a stolid resistance to the


demands of the treasury, and that at a time when the

utmost despatch was needed to prepare for the storm


which was ready to burst both upon Gaul and Italy,
and when the government had on its hands a troublesome
war in Africa. Not content with this, they shielded by
their patronage weaker men who had perhaps more
8
excuse for falling into arrears.
When corn was urgently
needed to save the city from famine, or to provision the
troops for Gaul, they allowed vessels bound to the trans1

C.

Th.

xii. 1,

166

27

xii. 6,

vii. 4, 33.

Ib.

vii.

summary

8,

10.

For a good

of the sufferings of Africa

at this time from corrupt officials


see Godefroy's note to vi. 29, 11,
the law which orders the curiosi to

be expelled from the province.


8
Susceptores, ib.
Fauriel, i. 362.
4

and cf. 1. 4, vorax et fraudulentum


1.
numerariorum proposition
6,

xii. tit.

cf.

Compulsores, C. Th. xi. 1, 34,


with Godefroy's note ; cf. Amm.
Marc. xxii. 6.
6
Numeraiii, actuarii, C. Th. viii.
See Godefroy's Taratitlon,
tit. 1.

numerarii qui publicas civitatum


ration es versutis fraudibus lacerare
didicerunt, subjaceant tortori.
6

Ib.

xi.

1,

25,

26,

27.

These

laws were issued in 398 and 399.


7
Sym. v. 87, ix. 6, Actores absentium, quibus res longinqua committitur,

tanquam

soluti

legibus

vivunt.
8

C. Th. xi. 24, 4, qui fraudand-

orum tributorum causa ad


solita fraude confugerint
de Gfub. Dei, v. 38.

patrocinia
cf. Salv.

<%

o-

/?/

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

272

BOOK in

They bribed
port service to be entered in their names.
the officers of the census to make false entries of property
and land-inspectors to relieve them of
2
If they purchased
the burden of unproductive estates.
liable to taxation,

an estate from a

man

in difficulties they

would

often,

by

a surreptitious contract, shift the burden of the capitationtax, payable on the coloni of the estate, to the shoulders

needy vendor.

of the

influence or bribes

they induced the book-keepers (tabularii) to cook their accounts

By

in favour of themselves or their clients.


to conceive a powerful

and wealthy

class,

It is difficult

of

many

whose

members must have known the responsibilities of government, and all of whom might have known the overdifficulties

whelming

of the time, so lost to all sense of

public duty,

was the public morality of -the senatorial class,


of treasury officials was not
pfj&e^lowej^ grades
likely to be marked by greater probity or a higher sense
of honour.
It would be difficult, without writing a
treatise on the subject, to give an exact idea of the
various devices by which the army of treasury officials,
If such

theTone

all its many grades, contrived to defraud either


the government or the taxpayer, or both together.
It
would seem that persons of the lowest origin were finding
their way into the ranks of the service by surreptitious

through

means. 6

They

are plainly accused of looking to plunder

1
G. Th. xiii. 7, 2, multi naves
suas diversorum nominibus et titulis

C. Th. xiii. 10, 1

and 8, quoniam

Tabularii per collusionein potenti-

tuentur cf. xiii. 5, 26, 37.


3
Deserta praedia added by the
inspectors to a productive estate
were exempted from the senatorial
land-tax by vi. 2, 13 cf. xiii. 11,

orum sarcinam ad

8 and 12.
The process of &rtjSo\^
or adaequatio is explained in GodeCf. xiii.
froy's notes to these laws.

Agentum in rebus passim plurimi


velut ad quoddam asylum convolav-

11, 10,
11, 16.
3

11).

and Gode froy's notes on

xiii.

ferunt

snpplicium
B

Ib.

vi.

inferiores trans-

Tabulariis erit flamma

cf.

27,

Sym. Ep.
18,

ad

Marquardt,

26

ii.

cf.

231.

Salv. v.

c.

scholam

erunt, quos vita culpabiles et origo


habet ignobilos, et ex servili faece
prorupisse demonstrat cf. vi. 27,
4 for rules of admission to the ser;

xi. 1,

ix. 10.

vice.

CHAP,
for

THE DECA Y OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

ii

the

means

of

buying

advancement

themselves

Their character

273
to

painted in the blackest


2
colours.
They are threatened with every mode and
degree of penalty, heavy fines or wholesale restitution of
higher places.

is

gains, degradation to plebeian rank, death by the


"
3
sword, by torture, by the
avenging flames."
They are
illicit

prohibited from seeking any renewal of their term of


4
office, in language which an honest service would have

an intolerable insult.
Yet no expedient
have been of any avail to check the headlong
The evil, so far as we can judge
cupidity of the time.
from the Code, is as rampant in the reign of Majorian 5
The allurements or the^N
as in the reign of Constantine.
of
the
collusion
of comrades equally 1
the
protection
great,
bent on plunder, remoteness from the seat of empire, the
resented

seems

as

to

dumb

patience of the rustic folk who could not defend


themselves, and whose natural protectors were often in
all these things produced
league with their plunderers
a sense of impunity which the distant sound of imperial
menaces seems to have hardly disturbed for a moment.

The susceptores, who were often taken from the curial


had many opportunities for fraud and oppression. 6
Their business was chiefly to receive the tribute paid in
kind for the support of the troops and government service. 7
class,

Sometimes they did not give receipts at once, 8 or they


gave them in invalid form, without the particulars preSometimes they used false weights and
scribed by law.
1

C. Th. vi. 29, 11, qui ex collects

praeda ad majores
militias festinant.
(It need hardly
be said that militia is applied to
provincialium

Palatine service generally.)


2

Cf.

Amm.

Marc. xvi.

0. Th. ix. 27, 1


Ib. ix. 26, 2.

xiii.

dum quam quod

ipse a possessore
omnis concussionum
susceperit
occasio removeatur
cf. the law of
Constantine in 315, 0. Th. viii.
.

5,

11,

rapere non accipere sciunt agentes


See the terms of opproin rebus.
brium collected in Godefroy, Paratitlon to 0. Th. viii. tit. 1.
3

Nov. Maj. 1, compulsor nihil


amplius a Curiali noverit exigen-

10, 8.

10, 1.
6

Th.
7

v.

Godefroy's Paratitlon to 0.

xii. 6.

Susceptores specierum, G. Th.

xii. 6, 9.
*
Ib, xii. 6, 27.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

274
1

had

so that the unfortunate farmer

measures,

BOOK in
to furnish

his proper quota.


Or, again, they would lend
themselves to tactics by which the validity of a receipt

more than

2
was disputed, and the payment levied a second time.
The accountants of the army stores (numerarii, actuarii)

were also audacious offenders.


They are plainly charged
with falsifying accounts and drawing larger supplies than
8
The actuarii seem to have been
the corps were entitled to.
a particularly troublesome class, and are ordered away
4
from the capital by a law of Arcadius in 398. [But it

was

at the

hands of the various

officials

charged with the

duty of enforcing payment and collecting arrears that


the provincials suffered the worst cruelties!^ There was
arjparently no possible means of restraining them. _ Their
insolence

is

fiercely in

described most vividly and punished most


5
of the latest laws in the Code.
By

some

6
demanding receipts which had been lost, by over-exac8
7
tion, by fraudulent meddling with the lists of the census,
by mere terrorism and brute force, they caused such
9
misery and discontent that the Emperor had more than

once, at all costs to the revenue, to order their removal


from a whole province.
Their exactions and super10
that Theoexactions had reached such a point in 440
dosius and Valentinian issued a rescript which gave the

governors of provinces the power of punishing them withBut the


out any fear of the Counts of the treasury.
effect
1

on the collection of the revenue, and, not

C. Th. xi. 8, 3.

2 Ib.

6,

7 -fo.xi.
o, z.

8 Ib.
xiii. 11,

In the reign
of Constantine their frauds we^e
so enormous that the Emperor
threatens them with tortu^ for
their offences.
4 J.U.
77,
,
;;
i
Ylll. 1)
6

iA
J.4:.

and

10.

a
10 4
scrum genera ex A fncanis pro vmcus
conshtumms pellenda, 412 ; vi. 29,
cu
sos praecepimus
remoyeri,
\
4
Thls also relates *? Afr lca
,
f
f1
f
cf.
the removal of cunosi from
viii

>

>

>

'

-i

-|-.

Nov. talent. 7 Meg. 4 Mart.


(cf. Ainm. Marc. xxx. c. 5).
;

the

O. Th. xi. 26, 2.

26 cf. xii. 1, 185,


semel securitatem de refusione munerum ernissam ab alio Proconsule
xii.

least,

L)alniafcla

10

Nov.

TJi.

45 (1) and

(2).

CHAP,

THE DECA Y OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

ii

"

275

"

officers, whose powers were thus


whose
curtailed,
gains were diminished, compelled
the Emperor two years afterwards to rescind the former

slur

on the
1

illustrious

or

Ijtjs only too evident jhat_the^ Emperor's zeal for


honest administration met with deadening opposition in
law.

the highest as well as the lowest ranks of the service.


7
The " deTensoreif ^ of cities had, as one of their most

important duties, to protect the taxpayers from overYet one can see, from a law of 409, 3 that the
exaction.
The defrauded
protection was often not to be relied upon.
provincial is directed, in the first instance, to appeal to
the defensor, the curia, and the magistrates.
If they
refuse to accept his appeal, he is, as a last resort, in the

and with the cognisance, of the public clerks


and minor officials, to post up his complaint in the more
There surely never
public places of the municipality.
was a more startling confession of impotence made by
presence,

the heads of a great administrative system.


Perhaps even stronger proof of the inability of the

government

to control its servants is to

be found in the

enormities of the discussores, as they are described to us


in some of the later constitutions.
These officials, whose
it was to discover, and call up, all arrears of
were appointed on a regular system and, in
ordinary times, men were not very willing to undertake a
function so invidious.
For the arrears were probably

business
tribute,

1
Nov.
nostra .

Th.
.

45 (2), cum pietas


censuerat ut illustres

viri sacii ac privati aerarii

Comitcs

facultatem condemnandorum Judicum non haberent. In i. 7, 5 the


provincial governors are ordered to
go about and exert themselves to
bring to light frauds of tax-collectors.
But the counts of the
largesses in 452, on the pretext
that the financial service was interfered with, actually succeeded
in terrorising the governors.
2
The powers of the defensor are
defined in the law of 392, 0. Th. i.

11, 2, plebem tautum vel Decurionea


ab omni improborum insolentia et
Of. C. Th.
Nov. Maj. 5 Marquardt,
i. 522
De Coulanges, L'Inv. Germ.
De Coulanges takes a difp. 39.
ferent view of the defensor's office
from most authorities. Cf. Godefroy's Paratitlon to C. Th. i. 11

temeritate tueantur.
xii. 6,

23

Fauriel,
s

/*

i.

375.

TJ,

See Paratitlon of Godefroy to


0. Th. xi. tit. 26, and the notes to

Nov. Patent.

7.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

276

BOOK

quite as often due by the great proprietors as by the


But in the last years of the Empire men seem to
have thrust themselves into the office without any regular
small.

Their object, of course, was mere plunder,


and they had endless opportunities of enriching themselves.
Many proprietors were deeply in debt, not only
to private creditors, but to the treasury.
Estates were
authority.

frequently changing hands, and, in the confusion of a


time of invasion and panic, documents would be lost or

purchases would be made without full knowledge of the


of the vendor.
The discussor, who had ob-

liabilities

intrigue, came
in the
obtained
doubtless
retinue,

tained his office

old

by

receipts,

presenting

which no one could check,

What

down with

a powerful

same way, demanding

mass of cooked

accounts,

least of all the simple farmer.

followed, as described

4
by the Emperor, resembles

the worst scenes in Turkish provincial government, outrage, torture,


imprisonment, murder; and all these

enormities were countenanced, and actively supported, by


officers of the palace and the praetorium, with the aid of
the soldiers of the neighbouring garrison. 5
Who can
wonder that people exposed to such brutality, in the

name

of civilised government, should


6
justice of the Gothic chief ?

Yet

it

welcome the rude

would be unhistorical and unfair to hold the

imperial government responsible for all these horrors.


Almost every page of the Code bears witness to Jihe

and his fimino.il


Indignant energy wit.Vi whir.li t.hft T7.mpp.vor
strove to check the anarchy of the provincial administra1

The

discussores of the reign of

Honorius were quite as corrupt,


Th.
2

C.

xi. 26, 2.

Nov. Valent.

provmciam non
perimus, sed
untur, etc.
8 Ib.

discussores ad
electi, sicut com7,

ambientes

ire

die-

securitates
expetunt
et vetustate conguraptas, quas servare nescit sim7,

annorura serie

plicitas et fiducia nihil debentis.


4
Ib. 7, innumerae deinde caedes,

saeva custodia, suspendiorum crudelitas et universa tormenta, etc.


6
Ib. 7, collega furtorum Palainstat apparitio
tinus hortatur,
turbulenta, urget immitis executio
militaris.
6

o. 8.

Salv. de Gub. Dei,

v.

36, 87,

CHAP,

ii

tion^

THE DECA Y OF THE MIDDLE CLASS


(But,

277

with a high sense of duty and the appearance

of omnipotence, the central authority

had

lost control of

the vast system.) Jhe government wa_s_^g0_wmg weaker


as^ the power of the aristocracy increased, and, as we
have already seen^he power of the aristocracy was being
.

exerted

actually
administration.

hamper and defeat the imperial


The same paralysis is seen in each
to

Jj'or generations there


prefecture and in each province.
had been many governors slow or negligent in executing
the will of the Emperor.
Eepeated" edicts and a rising
But the
scale of penalties~anf a sufficient proof of this.
or
the
however
earnest
and
prefect
governor himself,
was
liable
to
his
be
thwarted
suborddetermined,
by
inates or by the intrigues of the Potentes.
There are few

traces in the fifth century of the grosser forms of corruption or oppression among the higher officials, but there

many proofs of their failure to carry out the intentions


of the Emperor.
This was no doubt sometimes due to
want of a high sense of duty, or of energy, or to

are

illegitimate influence brought to bear

upon them.

But

probably the most potent cause was the contumacy of the


lower members of the service, who had their own ends to
It is certainly significant
gain in maintaining abuses.
that in so many laws, while the governor is to be fined
for disobedience, his
1

penalties,

some

of

staff

them

laid under far heavier


kind which we should de-

are

of a

scribe as savage.
The last edict

which deals with the miseries inflicted


by the tax-gatherer sums up, as it were, the imperial
legislation on this subject for generations, and in its
pessimism sounds the death-knell of provincial
in the West.
Its author was the last
prince of high purpose and capacity who addressed himcandid

administration

Nov. Maj.

6,

ut Judex qui hoc

statuerit 20
librarum auri
illatione feriatur, appari tores vero
fieri

fustuario

supplicio subditos,
amissione trim-

manuum quoque
candos.

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

278

BOOK in

the hopeless task of reforming a vast service which


was honeycombed with corruption. The last Eoman
Emperor of the West from whom, as statesman or soldier,
1
great things were expected, was foiled in his efforts, both
in war and statecraft.
And he found his own nobles and
self to

civil servants as

Vandals.

dangerous enemies of the state as the


wishes, at first hand, to know

[Any one who

the secret of the disease which

was undermining the

strength of the imperial system in the West, should read


the law of Majorian issued in 458/j The fortunes of the
provincials are still being eaten away by extortionate and
The municipalities are being derepeated exactions.
serted by the citizens who have to bear their burdens, but

who prefer to abandon everything rather than endure the


ingenious chicanery or truculent cruelty of the officers of
the treasury.
While the smaller proprietors are being
bled to death, the agents of the great landowner, in the
security of a remote estate, placidly ignore the demands
of the collector.

The provincial governors seem person-

be distrusted by the Emperor indeed they


are charged with the task of
reforming the fiscal system
of their districts.
But even they are apt to be misled or
cajoled by their subordinate officers, who possess a minute
ally not to

of the localities, and whose


audacity is
stimulated by the prospect of enormous gains and the

knowledge

experience of long impunity.


The picture of his times left by Majorian is infinitely
sad, and yet, as we said at the beginning of this chapter,
impossible to ignore the high sense of duty, and the
almost effusive sympathy for the suffering masses, which
mark the last utterances of the imperial jurisprudence.
.Tiiflf-.
rm tfrp. eve of its proscription by the
f^q
it is

pugm-nam

for a moment an elevation and purity


ever reached in the ages of its unchallenged
supremacy, so the imperial government was probably never

State attained

higher than
1

it

Apoll. Sidon. Garm. v. 585.

Nov. Maj.

tit.

i.

CHAP,

THE DECA Y OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

ii

279

so anxious to check abuses of administration, or so compassionate for the desolate and the suffering, as in the yeara
when its forces were being paralysed. It is easy for the

some of these measures of allemore characterised by sympathy than statesman-

cool economist to criticise

viation as

It has been said that the indulgence to debtors


ship.
to the imperial treasury, which was so often granted,

merely threw a heavier load on those taxpayers who


were still able to meet their obligations. 1 But in one
of the later constitutions

it is expressly stated that, if


the treasury insisted in all cases on its full rights, it
would ruin the taxpayer, without benefiting the State. 2

Between 395 and 423, Honorius remitted the taxes over


wide

districts in ten different edicts.

Similar measures

of the most sweeping character are to be found among


4
But in most of these
the enactments of later reigns.
cases, it

is

not

difficult

to

find a justification

for

the

remission in the public calamities, or the cruel superexactions of the agents of the fisc.
Nor did the Emperor
spare the private creditor in emergencies, any more than
own exchequer. In 443, so desperate had the

his

condition of Africa become, that the government felt it


necessary to suspend for a time the right of recovery for
private debts.

fin

number

of

minor measures scattered over the

Cocle the growing spirit of humanity may be observed.


The governors of provinces are called upon to exercise

the utmost vigilance to check the oppression of the poor


by the agents of the great, and to bring to light the mis1

F.

de Coulanges, L'Inv. Germ.

He was a son of Volusianus

clxxix.

who corresponded with S. Augustine,

p. 59.
2

Nov. Th. 51, si a possessore super


quae praestat has expensas,
requirat, ultimas tenuesque ejus

and succeeded Rutilius Namatianus


as prefect of the city, Rutil. Namat.
i.
466.
He was P.P. of Gaul in

vires compulsio talis extinguet.


3
C. Th. xi. 28, 2 sqq.
4
Nov. Th. 22. The Albinus to
whom this was addressed was probably grandson of the Albinus of

440
444

alia,

the Saturnalia.

Cf.

Seeck,

Sym.

seem

man

P.P. of Italy, 443-448

; consul,
The Novellao
patrician, 446.
to show him the great stateaof the time, Nov. Talent. 1,

Nov. Th. 22, 23, 35, 50.


Nov. Th. 22.

2, 4, 5
6

A-

SOCIETY IN THE WEST

280

BOOK in

deeds of the tax-gatherer. 1


It is their duty, along with
the bishops, to visit prisons on the Lord's Day, to receive

any complaints from the prisoners as to their treatment,


and to see that they are sufficiently supplied with food. 2
Stringent enactments require that persons charged with
crime shall be brought up for trial within a year, and that
prisoners
ness.

to

be subjected to unnecessary harsha strict term of prescription, the law strove

shall not

By

restrain

that

noxious

class

who made a

trade

of

property, or the status of persons who


had succeeded in escaping from a servile or dependent
condition.
The evidence of the freedman against his
assailing titles to

6
patron was discredited, and also that of the accused
person who, while confessing his own guilt, attempted
to incriminate another.
There are three or four other

measures to which we

may

refer, as illustrative at

once

misery of the times, and the humanitarian spirit


of the central government.
In the terror caused by the
of the

movements

of the Goths at the beginning of the fifth


century many persons, particularly in the province of
Illyricum, had fled to districts which offered greater

Some had been carried into captivity and


In many cases they had come under
been redeemed.
which
were sometimes enforced in a hard
obligations
and selfish spirit. Where the fugitive owes nothing but
security.

the gift of food and clothing from his host, the Emperor
6
But where he
dismisses the claim for compensation.
has been bought back from the hands of the enemy, his
redemptor, whose motive was sometimes that of acquiring
a useful serf, is ordered to be content with the repayment
of the
service.
1

ransom, or, as an alternative, with five years'


In those same calamitous years there was a

0. Th.

elaborate

7. 5, 7.

Ib. ix. 3, 7.
Ib. ix. 36, 1

Commentary on

C.

Th.

iv. tit. 14.

and 2

cf.

ix. 3,

C.

Th.

iv.

11, 2

ix.

1,

19

ix. 6, 4.

1, sqq.
4

Nov. talent. 8

cf.

Godefroy's

Ib. v. 5,

v.

Godefroy's Com,

CHAP,

THE DECA Y OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

ii

famine in

great

Italy,

and

it

appears

probable

281

that

some masters were tempted to limit the number of


mouths on their estates by exposing the infants of their
The exposed child was sometimes found
female slaves.
and treated with kindly human feeling and the legislator
interposed to prevent the cruel master from reclaiming
to servitude the creature whom he had consigned to
1
The flight of serfs from one estate to another
death.
was evidently very common. The law of 419 fixes the
limit of thirty years, after which the fugitive colonus,
who had found another master, and had probably formed
;

family

ties,

could not be recalled to the servitude from

which he had

fled.

In the case of a female

And

serf,

the limit

before that term, she has married,


in order to prevent the break-up of a home the law enacts
that her second master shall provide a vicaria, presumably
is

twenty years.

if,

who shall satisfy the claim of her former lord.


/These are a few examples of the efforts of government
to alleviate that mass of misery and social injustice
which it wasLJmpotent to cure.
To a sympathetic mind,
there is no more painful reading than the Theodosian
The authors"bT^these laws
Q55ilof__the fifth century!
unmarried,

generally loaded with the double opprobrium of


weakness and corruption.
Les malheureux out toujours
tort.
The system of bureaucratic despotism, elaborated
finally by "Diocletian and "Constantine, produced a tragedy
in the truest sense, such as history has seldom exhibited
in which, by an inexorable fate, the claims of fancied
omnipotence ended in a humiliating paralysis of administration; in which determined effort to remedy social
evils only aggravated them till they became unendurable
in which the best intentions of the central power were,
are

generation after generation, mocked and defeated alike


bv_Jn'esistible laws of human nature, and by hopeless
perfidy
1

C.

Sozom.

and corruption in the servants of government


v. 7, 2.
On the famine of. Jios. vi. 11, OTympiod.

Th.

is. 8.

C. Th. v. 10.

BOOK

IV

THE BARBARIANS AND THE FUTURE


OF THE EMPIRE

CHAPTEE
^

-*'

THE GENERAL CHARACTER OF THE INVASIONS

No

part of the inner life of the fifth century should, in


mind of an intelligent student, excite greater curiosity
than the attitude of the Eomans of the West to the

the

As
invaders, and their ideas as to the future of Rome.
he reads the meagre chronicles of the times, he can
hardly help asking himself, [What did these men think
about the real meaning of the sack of EomeJbyLAlaric
and by Genseric,: of the devastation of the provincesj
of the settlement of Visigoths. Biirgundiana, Suevea, and

Vandals in regionswhich, in spite of jtemjgprary incur"Was


sions, had for centuries enjoyed the Roman peace ?
the end indeed come, the end of so much effort, of so
many glories, of that great history of civil and military
virtue which had given uniform law and culture to the
realms of Alexander as well as to the countries bordering
on the inland and the western seas?
Or, were the
calamities of the time, crushing and calamitous as they
were to individual citizens, only temporary and limited
in their range, such as the Empire had often before
suffered, without serious and lasting effects on the general
'And as to the causes of the
organisation of society ?
calamity, were they the decline of Eonian virtue and
skill in statecraft, or were they the anger of the old gods
of

Rome

ments

for "the deseTti6n~oF~ their altars7or the punish-

sent

by the

Christian's

God

for

luxury and

ROME AND THE BARBARIANS

286

BOOK

IV

Finally, what was to be the


oppression jrf the weak ?
relation of the Empire, if it was to continue, to these
strange immigrants into her territory, and how were they

going to behave to the power which had so long kept

them

at

bay

We

propose to collect, from the literary remains of


But
the period, various answers to these questions.
before doing so, there are some general considerations as
to the character of the invasions of the barbarians in the

century, and their settlement in the provinces, which


bear in mind in the review which

fifth
it

we

will be well to

propose to make.

The modern, who has only the


.

popular conception of the events of that time, is apt to


think that the Western Empire succumbed to an over-

powering advance of whole tribes and peoples, animated


by hatred of Eome, sweeping away the remains of an
effete civilisation, and replacing it, in a sudden and
cataclysmal change, by a spirit and by institutions of a
perfectly different order.
(Yet, if such were a true

account of the

behaviour of

fall

many

of the
of the

Eoman
Eomans

Empire,~the tone and


of that time would be

Here and there there are cries of horror


and slaughter wfoch warp, ramaed by
some violent incursion. And, undoubtedly, the capture

inexplicable}
at the havoc

J,

the

of

the

to

the ancient faith in the

Home.

citv

gave

for

moment

Butthis was only a


sooifTeturnecL
The

strp.ngth

a.

shock

Aerrible

n.nd

stability of

V^

transitory feeling
and regions, which
are said to have been desolated and ravaged, reappear

ffdence

cities

with apparently few traces of any catastrophe.

The

government batmy^__m)__^ign__of--coafusi0a--^ despair.


Individual observers may have their doubts and questionings about the course of events, but few seem absolutely
dismayed, and some display a confidence and hopefulness
which would be quite astonishing, if the old popular
conception of the barbarian onslaughts were the true one,

CHAP,

GENERAL CHARACTER OF INVASIONS

287

very cursory glance at the history of the Empire


reveals the secret of this insouciance,. [The invasions of
century were nothing new, nor was there
in the settlement of fl-p.rmfl.na rm
anything Very startling
Rnma.n pniL f From the times of Marius not a century

the_

fifth

had passed without some violent inroad of German hosts.


The myriads annihilated on the field of Aquae Sextiae
were but the advance guard of a mighty movement,
which was always pressing on to the West or South.
Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, had all to throw back succesMarcus
sive attacks on the frontier of the Ehine.

Aurelius spent eight campaigns in a struggle with a vast


1
In the third century
confederacy on the Danube.

almost every province, and even Italy itself, was ravaged,


and the Goths, 2 a comparatively new horde, who had
worked their \vay from Scandinavia to the Ukraine,

8
swept the Euxine in thousands of vessels, and harried
the towns of Asia Minor and Greece,
In_the reign of
Probus, the Germans captured and pillaged sixty towns
4
in Gaul, and overran the whole_jprovince.
Another
formidable irruption took place in the middle of the
j

Enormous numbers of Franks, Alemanni,


and Saxons passed the Ehine.
great part of Gaul
was overrun, and forty towns along the Khine were
6
invaders wara.. driven back with
sacked.
(Once_more^ft
enormous loss.
1>n
third and fourth finn*- 11
*)
[j?Ke^mvasions of.tfre
respect of the numbers and impetuosity of thjsjiaaailants,
seemTiTus now to have been almost overwhelming. The
Gothic host of tEe~"reign of Claudius is said to have

fourth century.

Jul. Capitol, vit. M. Anton, c.


gen tea omnes ab Illyrici limite
usque in Galliam conspiraverant.
1

22,

Treb.

Poll.

vit.

Claud,

vit.

Gallien.

c.

6,

Zos.

i.

42,

TrXota

/cai

eaKi<rx*\ia
660
^u/3t/3d<ravTe$
ftvpiddas

vit.

ical

Claud,

c.

rotfrotj

r/jid/covra
6, 8.

81.

Gf. Pallmann, die Gesch. der


Volkerwand. i. pp. 49 sqq.; Jordan.

Flav. Vop. Prob. c. 13, cum


per omnes Gallias securi vagarentur.
6
Amm. Marc,
Zos. iii. 1, 3

Get. 17.

xvi. 12.

13;

c.

6; Zos.

i.

30,

ROME AND THE BARBARIANS

288

BOOK

iv

The Germans who spread


numbered 320,000 men.
over the whole of Gaul in the reign of Probus must
have been even more numerous, if that emperor
slaughtered 400,000 of them, as he is said to have
1
done. f Yet it does not appear that, at crises so appalof the safety of the
ling, the Romans ever despaired

The

State.

Probus to the Senate, to which we


expresses an almost exuberant

letter of

have

confidence.

**

rather

referred,
2

^The invaders, however numerous, are

in-

variably driven back, and in a short time there are few


The truth seems to be that,
traces left of their ravages.

however

terrible the plundering

unarmed population, yet

bands might be to the

in a regular battle the

Germans

Koman troops. Ammianus,


were immensely
inferiorjothe
who had* borne a part in many of these engagements, says
that, in spite of the courage of the Germans, their imand
petuous fury was no match for the steady
coolness of troops under
this

Eoman

officers.

moral superiority, founded on a

that the

Eoman

soldier in the

^igcipline
ftThe result of

was

lonpr Tradition,

third^tnd

fourth centuries

any odds, lln 356 an immense


4
multitude of the Alemanni inuncfated Eastern Gaul.
Julian, the future Emperor, who was then a mere youth,
with no previous training in the art of war, was in command of only 13,000 men, of whom few were veteran
6
Yet in a very short time not an enemy was
troops.
left in Gaul, and the victors were carrying the war far
6
There must undoubtedly
into the heart of Germany.

was ready

to face almost

1
Treb. Poll. vit. Claud, c. 8 ;
But
Flav. Vop. vit. Prob. c. 15.
on the credibility of Vopiscus v.
Peter, Gesch. Litt. tiler die Rom.
i.

150

Kaiserzeit,
the carelessness

and

of

281 on

ii.

historians

in

Vit. Prob. c. 15,

omnes penitus

arantur GalGalliae liberatae


nos
licana rura barbaris bubus
.

eorum omnia possidemus.

Amm.

Marc. xvi. 12, 47, Alerobust! et celsiores, milites


illi feri et turdociles
usu nimio
bidi, hi quiet! et cauti.
4
iii.
Zos.
3,
rX$0of Aircipo*
;

tTrepaiAd-r) jBapfidpuv.
6

dealing with numbers.


2

manni

I.e.
6

Amm.
Zos.

Spvpuv

Marc. xvi. 12, 2

iii.

TOI>S

4,

Zos.

axpi rutv 'B/Hcvrfa*

^eityovTas

Katcra/i

CHAP,

GENERAL CHARACTER OF INVASIONS

289

have been much

loss of life and property in some of these


Yet a very few years after the ravages which
were checked by Julian, the valley of the Moselle is
described to us by Ausonius as a paradise which shows
no trace of the hand of the spoiler. 2 Comfortable granges
and luxurious villas look down from every height.
The
vineyards rise in terraces along the banks, and the yellow
corn-lands can vie even with the fertility of the poet's
native Aquitaine.
The population are prosperous and
There
is
even
an air of rustic jollity and gaiety
happy.
over the scene from which all thoughts of past suffering
or coming danger seem to be banished. 8
Of the same character were the great invasions of the
A great army under
opening years of the fifth century.
raids.

Eadagaisus,

which,

according

to

lowest

the

estimate,

numbered 200,000 men, crossed the Alps and penetrated


4
into Etruria.
That the government regarded the danger
as serious, may be inferred from the edict which called
8
the slaves to arms.
Yet Stilicho, with a force of only
30,000 regular troops, and some Hun and Alan
6
auxiliaries, signally defeated that great host, and the
prisoners taken were so many that they were sold for a
aureus apiece. 7
In the beginning of the year
406 a horde of Alans, Sueves, and Vandals crossed the
Ehine, from which the garrisons had been withdrawn to
single
8

meet the danger in Italy. 9 The invaders caused great


consternation, and undoubtedly inflicted much damage
and suffering in their passage through Gaul. 10 But the
1

Zos.

iii.

'

1.

Oros.

vii.

37,

16.

Auson. Idyl. x. v. 156. The


poem on the Moselle was composed
circ. 370
v. Schenkl, Proem, xv.
3
Auson. Idyl. x. v. 165.

Chron., Arcadio vi. et


Probo Coss. Oros. vii. 38 and 40.
9
Claud, de Bell. Get. 421 :

4
Oros. vii. 37,
13, secundum
eos qui parcissime referunt, ducenta
milia hominum.
Of. Zos. v. 26 ;
Marcell. Chron.

excubiis

Prosp.

tutumque remotis
10

Rhenum solo terrore relinquunt.


Carm. de Prov. Div. v. 25,

C. Th. vii. 13, 16.

periere tot urbes (v. 34), Vandalicis


gladiis sternimur et Geticis . . .
ultima pertulimus ; Rutil. Namat.

Zos. v. 26.

i.

27-30

Hieron. Ep. 123,

16.

ROME AND THE BARBARIANS

290

BOOK

iv

and cities, which they are said to have plundered


and destroyed, within a generation are found to be once
more nourishing and prosperous.*
districts

fin the fragmentary annals of the fifth century there


no sign that the generals of the Empire felt any fear
of an overwhelming superiority on the side of the
is

invaders.

a powerful

In 426 the city of Aries was attacked by


but they were compelled
force of Goths
;

2
Two years later,
by Aetius to retire with heavy loss.
the same great general recovered the Khineland from the
8

In 435 he inflicted a crushing defeat on the


4
In
Burgundians, and compelled them to sue for peace.

Franks.

the following year Litorius, the lieutenant of Aetius, by


a rapid movement, relieved the town of Narbonne, when

was hard pressed by famine and the Gothic army.


although Litorius soon afterwards was taken captive
hands of the Goths, the annalist expressly says
the
by
that it was the result of reckless ambition and super6
The
stitious credulity, not of any inferiority of force.
invasion of Attila in 451 was probably the most
appalling danger, in respect to the numbers of his
motley host, which the Eomans had had to face for
6
Aetius had only a handful of troops under his
ages.
7
command, and although he was able to rally to his
support Visigoths, Franks, Burgundians, and Saxons, yet
the credit of defeating that fierce and crafty power, which
had reduced all central Europe to vassalage, must be
In the last
awarded to Koman daring and organisation.
of
the
of
and
of
the
Western
independence
days
Auvergne

it

And

1
This appears to be the case in
Bordeaux, Paulin. Pell. Euch. 240;
cf. 284.
Compare the state of
Rome after the sack by the Vandals,

6
Ib. ad. a. 439, ut nisi inconsideranter proeliansin captivitatem
incidisset, dubitandum foret cui

potius parti victoria ascriberetur.

vu 32
-

n. Felice et Dionysio Coss.


Ib. Theod. xv. and Valent. iv.
Cess.
4

7
Sid. Carm. vii. 329, tenue
rarum sine milite ducens Robur

auxiliis

cf.

Fauriel,

i.

p. 226.

cf-

et
in

CHAP,

GENERAL CHARACTER OF INVASIONS

291

mere handful of troops under the gallant


raised by his own resources, kept the
and
Ecdicius,
Visigothic army for months at bay, and the Koman
showed in this final struggle an almost contemptuous
Empire, a
1

recklessness.

\The Germans then were not superior to the Eogians


Nor were they animated
in_military skill and courage.
or
hatred
of Eome. /Sojar
common
by any
purpose
from Jiaving any common purpose, they were hopelessly
divided among themselves, and are as often found fighting for the Emrjire as against it. /The Franks on the
Ehine were champions of Eome when they were overwhelmed by the invaders in 40 6. 2 / Stilicho had Alan
and Hun auxiliaries in his great battle with Eadagaisus. 8
It was with Hun cavalry that Aetius and Litorius strove
to check the advance of the Visigoths in Southern
4
It was with the aidu oYisigQt>ia Franks, Saxony
Gaul.
and Burgundians that Apitina defeated thn nrmy of
Attila on the Catalaunian_^rjlains.
Again and again the
J

Visigoths

01

Toulouse lent their forces to support the

Eoman power in Spain against the Sueves. 5 The Eomans


of Auvergne, when they were deserted in its weakness
by the imperial government, received help and encouragement in their last struggles against Euric from
the Burgundians.

(it is clear

from these

facts that the

to the barbarians.

they were often

indeed

be

to

eager

and many of their chiefs,


taulphus, had no higher ambition than
ice

Sid.

Ep.

iii.

3,

taceo deinceps

collegisse te privatis viribus publici

exercitus speciem, etc. ; of. Greg.


Tur. Hist. Fr. ii. 24, multitudinem

cum

Oros.
his

vii.

aliae

40,

3,

multaeque
Francos

(gentes)
proterunt. Fauriel, i. 47.
3
Zos. v. 26.

taken
like

Prosp. Chron.
T

ex

a.

or

437, 439.
.

at

its

to be appointed

into

Alaric

HlSpamaS

2Sf*l22
G &OTum
Theodoricus cum
.;

Sid. Ep. iii.


4.
The help
however, was of doubtful value
Chaix, Sid. ii. 164.

ROME AND THE BARBARIANS

292

BOOK

iv

to high^ military command. (On. the other hand, there


was a corresponding readmesT on the itamajTjdde to

empIoyTarbarja.n

fnrfip.a

From

war^

in

the

earliest^ days

of theJEmpire these auxiliaries appear on the army lists.


Germans are_found in the bodyguard of Augustus. 1

They fought under

Vitellius in the foremost ranks

the battle of Cremona.

Vespasian had special

at

confi-

dence in the loyalty of the Sueves, and had two of their


8
chiefs in his service.
Marcus Aurelius formed some
corps of Germans for his war with their countrymen on
4
In the third century, the tendency
the Danube.

becomes even more marked.


Valerian, in a despatch to
Aurelian, describes an army which included troops from
Ituraea, Arabia, and Mesopotamia, and officers bearing
such unmistakable German names as Hariomundus,
8
Claudius II., after the
Hildomundus, and Haldagates.
6
great defeat which he inflicted on the Goths, enrolled a
Probus
large number of them under his standards.
recruited the frontier garrisons with 16,000 from the
wreck of the great host which had devastated Gaul. 7
The army of Constantine, in the battle of the Milvian
Bridge, was chiefly composed of Germans and Celts and
8
Of similar composition was the army with
Britons.
which Theodosius defeated Eugenius at the Frigidus. 9

Some of these barbarian troops took service voluntarily


unctCT^an express agreementTstating thf* nnnrh'tiQTig_rm
which they served.
Others were compelled to join the
I

standards as the result of defeat in battle. 1 "

them received regular pay and


1

2
8
4

21,

Some

of

others received

Suet. Octav. 49.


Tao. Hist. i. 61.
Ib. iii. 5.

7
Flav. Vop. Prob. c. 14, accepit
praeterea sedecim milia tyronum,
quos omnes per diversas provincias

Jul. Capitol, vit. M. Anton, c.


emit et Germanorum auxilia

sparsit, etc.

contra Germanos.
6
Flav. Vop. Aurel.
6

rations

Zos.

i.

c.

^os

*&

11.

46, foot 6t 8uffd>0ii<rca>,

10
1)

rdyfJia<ri 'P<i}fj.al(>}v(rvi>rjpldnr}(rav K.T.\.


Of. Treb. Poll. vit. Claud, c. 8.

v.

ii.

15.

iv. 56.

C.

froy's note
Dedititii.

vii. 13, 16; Godeon the Foederati and

Th.

CHAP,

GENERAL CHARACTER OF INVASIONS

293

held on condition^of^military
grants of land, which were
service, and which passed to their sons on the samp, nnn-

page of the Notitia contains a list of more


than twenty corps of these military colonists, under the
name Sarmatae Gentiles, who were settled at various
dition.

2
Similar German
places from Bruttium to the Alps.
corps, under the name of Laeti, had lands assigned to
them in almost every part of Gaul. 'The Gallo-Eoman

population had been long accustomed to the residence of


these bands on their soil. ) Batavi are found at Arras
;

Franks at Kennes Sueves at Coutances, Mans, Bayeux,


Sarmatians at Paris, Poitiers, and
and Auvergne
Amiens. 3
Occasionally the Laeti proved to be dangerous
Thus we learn from Ammianus Marcellinus
neighbours.
;

that a body of Laeti, in the troubled year 357, attempted


to capture the city of Lyons, and plundered the sur4

Here we have an anticipation in


the fourth century of what happened more frequently in
the fifth, when Burgundians and Visigoths had obtained
a permanent settlement in Gaul.
rounding country.

We^shaJLaeej^in a subsequent

cbapter,_jthaJL-the

establishment of the Germans-in- the south and east of

GauTSisturbed and alarmed the Eomans of the province


far less than we should have expected. /In a short time
the intruders were accepted as more or less friendly
neighbours.

Here again the past history

of the

Empire

found to have prepared men's minds for what,


taken by themselves, would have seemed stupendous
changes. \ Just as there were countless incursions for
will be

Th. tii. 20, 12, with Godenote xiii. 11,9; Amm. Marc.
xx. 8, 13 ; Paneg. Constant, c. 21 ;

Flav. Vop. Prdb.

Zos.

notes, pp. 1044-1080.

O.

froy's

ii.

54.

tiles,
2

Notit.

Dig.

ed.

Booking, p.
121
Cf. the grants of
(c.^ xl.).
terrae limitancae made to veterans

and their sons on military tenure,


4
Lamprid. Alex. Sev. c. 58,

c.

14; 0. Th.

vii.

15, 1.
3
Notit.

Laeti,

Dig. pp. 119, 120 ; cf.


On the Gennot to be confounded with
-u.

pp. 1080 sqq.

cf.

Bum.

Paneg. Const, c. 21; Amm. Marc,


xvi. 11, 4; Zos. ii. 54; F. de
Coulanges, L'lnv. Germ. p. 389.
4
Amm. Marc. xvi. 11, 4.

ROME AND THE BARBARIANS

294

BOOK

iv

plunder before the Sueve and Vandal irruption of 406,


so there were many cases of barbarians seeking and
obtaining a peaceful settlement within the frontier before
the Visigoths settled on the Garonne, and the Burgundiaus
on the Upper Ehine and the Khone.
Augustus, on

the~ submission of the Ubli and Sicambri,


them
lands on the left bank of the Ehine. 1
assigned
Tiberius transported 40,000 Germans into the same
2
The Germans seem to have been seldom unregion.
to
enter the circle of the pax Eomana.
For
willing
receiving

instance the Batavians, driven from their own country


by civil war, crossed the frontier and settled down as

Eome, and for ages the Batavian cavalry had


a brilliant reputation in the Eoman army. 3
In the
third century Probus is said to have Germanised the
subjects of

He

gave a settlement in Thrace to 100,000


Bastaraae, who, we are told, proved themselves loyal

provinces.

similar experiment, in the


subjects of the Empire.
case of the Vandals and Gepidae, seems to have been less

body of Franks, who had obtained from


settlement somewhere in the eastern
5
Mediterranean, proved even less worthy of his generosity.
a
havoc
and
confusion
fleet together, spread
They got
through the whole of Greece, wrought great slaughter in
an attack on Syracuse, and finally, having been repelled
from the walls of Carthage, returned to their home. The
Salian Franks, who had been driven from their old seats
and had occupied the region between the Scheldt and the
Meuse, were, after some hard, fighting, recognised as
Eoman subjects by Julian. 6 J^The most striking example
of the eagerness of the Germ ft11 * tr> bp rpp.ftivnd nn "Rnmnn
successful.

the Emperor a

territory
1

Sueton. Oct.

ib

3
ii.

was the famous petition of the

Tfa

Gt

Amm.

c.

21.

i.
59, iv. 12; Ann.
Marc. xvi. 12, 45.

Tac. Hist.
;

4
Duruy, Hist.
Flav. Vop. Prob.
5
Zos. i. 71.

Amm.

Marc.

(roths to th

Rom.
c.

15

?i.
;

xvii. 8, 3.

513

p.

Zos.

i.

71.

CHAP,

GENERAL CHARACTER OF INVASIONS

295

37j^_to be allowed tp^ place the


broad waters of_the_ Danube between them and" 'tEe
2
terrible Huns whcTwere then advancing from the East.
and
children
were
of
million
men, women,
Probably a
in

Emperor^Yalens
f

transported across the swollen river.


conquerors, but as suppliants for food and shelter, under
No reader of Gibbon needs to
the protection of Eome.

be

the

told

It

migration.

Among

tragic

tale

of

what followed that great

was a turning-point in

the Gothic chiefs

who

history.

are seen in the pages of


a last stand against the

Ammianus Marcellinus making


Huns was one named Munderich. 8

Some years

after-

found in the position of duke on the


Munderich is only one of many of
frontiers of Arabia.
his race who rose under the Empire to high military

wards

this chief is

command and

This was a necessary result of the


office.
which, from the time of Gallienus, practically
excluded the senatorial order from military service. (We

policy

German officers commanding corps^ junder


Valerian in the third century. 4
Magnentius, who rose to
be Emperor on the murder of Constans, was of barbarian
and had once belonged to a corps of Laeti in
Arbogastes, who raised Eugenius to the throne,
was a Frank, 6 who, by military ability and commanding
7
power, obtained the post of master of the forces under
origin,

Gaul. 6

Theodosius

Valentinian.

the

cultivated

intimacy

of

of these barbarian chiefs,8

and one of his principal


many
9
lieutenants, Modares, who rose to be magister militum,
was of Scythian descent. Another barbarian officer, who
bore a great part in the events of that period, was
7
1
Ib. iv. 53.
Amm. Marc. xxxi. 3.
2
Zos. iv. 20 ; Eunap.
42, p.
31 (Mull. Frag. Hist, iv.); Gibbon,

'

Amm.
_.

*"&

Marc. xxxi.
_T

Flav. Vop.
Zos. ii. 42
Ib. iv. 33.

AureL7
;

ii.

54.

iv - 56,

/ScunXefoj/

Ttyds

26
*

els

c.

11.

f^-V"
aXXats
otopecus

<f)i\la.v
1

3, 5.

&fj.a

rip irapa\a,peu>

6eo56<rios
ical

rt/^cras,

pappdpovs
biJ.at'XjiLa.v

TO

?*
etxe

06

fcpwrefc rdtrg xai To> 5 ^CTTTJS


^o^ueVous KO.I T
9
Zos. iv. 25.

/f

/cat e v
<t>v

ROME AND THE BARBARIANS

296

Kichomer. 1

His

career, of

which we possess

BOOK

iv

full details,

a good illustration of the great position which men of


his nationality could attain under the later emperors.

is

Kichomer was a Frank of high

birth, and first appears as


count of the domestics in the reign of Gratian.
He was
sent into Thrace during the troubles with the Goths to

support the Emperor Valens, and shortly afterwards was


After a period
raised to the post of magister militum.
of service in the East, during which he formed a close

was employed by Theodosius


campaign against Maximus.
He had great influence in the imperial counsels, and
lived on terms of intimacy with Symmachus and his
Another Frank chief, Bauto, 2 the father of the
circle.
Empress Eudoxia, is said to have wielded an almost regal
power under the younger Valentinian, and his elevation
to the consulship in the same year with the Emperor
8
ius was celebrated in a panegyric by S. Augustine.
e have taken a few of the more striking examples of
friendship with Libanius, he
in high command in the

the rise of barbarians to r^Tfljnfl/nrh'ng pn^fipna


(Jther
names, such as Fravitta, Gainas, Merobaudes, Stilicho,
will occur readily to any person moderately well read in

the history of the Lower Empire. How many more may


have disguised their nationality under Eoman names no
But German chiefs not only obtained the
one can tell. 4

^reatmilitary commands, they also rose to the consulship,


tkg_highest civilhonour which the Emperor had to
6
6
bestow.
Dagelaephus and Merobaudes were colleagues
of
1

Gratian in this great

Amm.

Marc. xxxi.

7, 4

office.

Theo-

Zos. iv. 33, 53;

Sacrovir (the latter only partially),


Tac. Ann. iii. 40, and Julius (or
Claudius, Hist. iv. 13), Civilis, a
Batavian, Tac. Hist. i. 59.
6 Amm.
Marc. xxvi. 9, 1, a. 366.

55

Seeck's Sym. cxxxv. ;


Godefroy's note to C. Th. vii. 1,
13 ; Rauschen, Jahrbucher, pp. 18,
;

22, 172.
a

of

cf.

iv. 54,

Ambros. Ep.

The question

of his religion
depends on the use of the singular
participle inserviens in Ambros. Ep.
i.
57, 3 ; cf. Seeck, Sym. cxli.
i.

In the reign

Rauschen, pp. 59, 65, 203.


8
Conf. vi. 6.
4 Like
Julius Floras and Julius

Zos.

24.

6
a. 377.
Cf. Rauschen, Jahrbuck, pp. 147, 271.

CHAP,

dosius,

GENERAL CHARACTER OF INVASIONS

297

Merobaudes, Eichomer, and Bauto were consuls

in successive years, and at least five more German names


appear in the reigns of the last emperors of the West.

When

an office, which the Emperor himself was proud to


hold, was given so freely to men of barbarian origin, it is

and
plain that the old exclusiveness had disappeared,
that the Germans had stolen their way into the very

Empire long before

citadel of the

were stormed.

its

distant

outworks

were men of brilliant


To
and noble bearing.
military skill they often added the charm of Koman
culture and a social tact which gave them admission even

/Many

taknts,

of these

German

fascinating

officers

address,

to the inner circle of the

Koman

aristocracy,

Symmachus

writes to Eichomer as to one of his most valued friends.

He

extols his

him,

against
that is best in

many
that

virtues,

he

Eoman

and has only one grudge

cannot

help

monopolising

The friendship

society.

of

all

Bauto

Men like
regards as one of his treasures.
these, great soldiers, and polished men of the world, must
And, indeed,
naturally have had great social influence.
Symmachus

there are signs that even in smaller things, such as toilet


and dress. Germans, at the beginning of tne fifth century,

Three edicts of Honorius,


were setting the fashion.
between 39*7 and 416, forbid the wearing of trousers,
long hair, and fur coats of the barbarian style within the
4
The tone of the law of 416 leaves
precincts of the city.
no doubt that the rage for German fashions was widespread, and that the previous edicts had been disregarded.
In yet another capacity crowds of Germans had been

Eoman territory. Synesius, bishop of


towards
the
close of the fourth century complains
Gyrene,
that every wealthy household is full of Gothic or Scythian
introduced into

Rutil.

Namat.

ii.

50.

Ep, in. 58, ad te migravit quidquid Roinae optimum fuit.

Ib. iv. 15, 16.


C. Th. xiv. 2, 3, 4 ; cf. Claud,
in Ruf. ii. 78 ; Rutil. Namat. ii. 49.
4

ROME AND THE BARBARIANS

298

BOOK

iv

and personal
from the
(
first century enormous numbers of Germans were planted
as coloni on estates over all the provinces. ) Crowds of
Marcomanni were so distributed throughout Italy by
Marcus Aurelius. 1 The great emperors of the third
2
century took untold numbers of prisoners, and flooded
8
the country districts with new tillers of the soil.
In the
words of Probus, the barbarians were ploughing and sowing
slaves, serving as

stewards,, butlers, bakers,

attendants of every grade.

for

Eoman

masters.

Jheodosius, ana
fifty years,

The

We

know

also that

victories of Julian,

Gratian,

gained within a period of


5
further the ranks of rural labour.

Stilicho, all

recruited

still

/It appears then that there was nothing new in the


hostile raids or peaceful settlement, nf thft barbarian a on
* *

Eoman
five

territory in the fifth

^For more_than
resisting the

century.

hundred years the Empire had

bftp.n

pressure of^barbarism, occasionally suffering heavily for a


time, but always in the end triumphant over mere force.

Yetjsach successive victory had admitted in increasing


numbers the barbarian filmnfmt infrn the frontier posts,
the armies, or_the fields and households of Eome,_
highest military

by German

commands had

soldiers

of

for generations

fortune,

who

The_

been held

served the State

kinsmen.
Eoman, who had
in his youth seen the Alemanni driven across the Ehine,
and thousands of Germans serving under the eagles in
loyally evp.n against t.hm'r

Italy, who had found in Eichomer, Bauto, or Stilicho his


most charming and distinguished friends, and had seen
Frank masters of the cavalry sharing the honours of the

consulship with the Emperor, might, even after the scenes


410, have smiled at the suggestion that the Empire

of

was in any serious danger from the Germans.


1

Jul. Capitol, c. 22, accepitque


in deditionem Marcomamios, plurirais in Italiam traductis.
2
Treb. Poll. vit. Claud, c. 8,
6.
3
Ib. c. 9,
4, impletae barbaris

servis

Romanae

provinciaa

etc.
4
5

p
Prob
*

lnw
Flav<

Oros.

vii. 37, 16.

P'

'

, K
n
c ' 15
'

CHAP,

GENERAL CHARACTER OF INVASIONS

299

(jfor were the invasions of the first decade of the fifth.


Qentury of such ajoniform
suggest, even to those who witnessed and_suffered from
them, a single~overwhelming moveme^t^njj^tedJD^ one
spirit jtnd

advancing

to..

one end.

The numbers

of the

invaders do not appear to have approached the mighty


hostswho were defeated by Claudius and Probus in the
1

third

The

century.