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263, a man of energy and talent, having done excellent service against the Goths; but after a great victory over these unwearied enemies, he was seized with a fever, of which he died. Upon his death
Aurelian was acknowledged by all the states of the empire. He was a man of great courage and personal strength, and rapid in his military movements. One of the most noted events of his reign was his subduing and taking prisoner Zenobia, the queen of Palmyra. Longinus, the celebrated author of the treatise on the Sublime, was secretary to Zenobia, and he was by Aurelian's orders put to death. This emperor's severities were at length the cause of his destruction. His own secretary having been threatened by him, formed a conspiracy against him, which succeeded, and he was slain, having reigned five years. After some time, the senate chose
Tacitus, a man of 75 years of age, to succeed him, A. D. 275. He was a man of great merit; no way ambitious of the honors that were offered to him. He began with moderation; but after reigning six months, he was seized with fever and died. After his death his half brother attempted to succeed, but being defeated by Probus, he killed himself.
Probus was then declared emperor; he was bred a soldier, and was noted for his determined bravery. During his reign, every year produced new calamities to the empire, by the incursions of enemies. These he repelled with great energy, being every where victorious, till, as he was marching to Greece, he was slain by his mutinous soldiers. He was succeeded by
Carus, A. D. 282, who associated with him his two sons Carinus and Numerian. Several nations in the west having revolted, he sent his son Carinus against them, and advanced himself against his eastern enemies. He defeated them, but was struck dead by lightning, after having reigned about 16 months. In the midst of the tumult and the attempts of Numerian and Carinus to secure the empire that was occasioned by the death of the emperor,
Dioclesian, one of the ablest generals of his day,
was chosen, A. D. 284. In his time, the northern barbarians having discovered the want of discipline and energy in the Roman legions, poured down in swarms on the devoted territory. The Scythians, Goths, Sarmatians, Alani, Cursii, and Quadi, assailed it along the whole northern frontier. Dioclesian had chosen Maximian as his colleague, and afterwards took two other colleagues, Constantius Chlorus and Galerius, with the title of Cæsars. These emperors gained many victories over the barbarians, but without the slightest effect in putting a stop to their incursions.
Dioclesian has rendered himself notorious by the most furious and persevering persecution of the Christians, which they were called to endure; but, in his effort to crush them, he was as much disappointed, as in his attempts to subdue and restrain the barbarians. At length, being threatened with a civil war, Dioclesian and Maximian resigned the empire, and on the same day, both retired into private stations. Dioclesian lived in his palace near Salona, amusing himself in the cultivation of his garden till he died, either by poison or insanity. After the resignation of Dioclesian and Maximian,
Constantius Chlorus and Galerius, the two Cæsars, were universally acknowledged as their successors. Galerius immediately began to take measures for ultimately centring the sole government in himself; out his arrangements were rendered abortive by the elevation of Constantine, the son of Constantius Chlorus. Constantius died at York, A. D. 306, having appointed his son Constantine as his successor. Galerius died soon afterwards, and his government was distributed between Licinius and Maximian. There were now, therefore, four emperors, Maxentius and Maximian, who had entered into a secret treaty with one another, Constantine and Licinius, who were naturally led to associate for mutual defence against their rivals.
Maxentius was in possession of Rome, and a stedfast supporter of Paganism. Constantine marched against him, and during his march he made a public profession of Christianity. Most of his army, it is said, were
Christians; and his profession of Christianity, not merely attached them the more to him, but procured for him many adherents in all parts of the empire. Maxentius was defeated, and drowned in his flight, while attempting to cross the Tiber. Maximian, who governed in the east, marched against Licinius, but was also defeated, and soon afterwards died.
At this era, the Roman empire still retained its ascendancy; but its armies had lost much of their energy. They had been pampered and ruined by success, and had taken into their own hands the appointment of the emperors. Constantine having built Constantinople, constituted it the capital of the eastern portion of the empire, and thus rent the empire into two parts. He also became professedly a Christian; and his accession drew multitudes into the church, many of whom, in all probability, knew little of Christianity, beyond the name.
Constantine and Licinius thus remained undisturbed possessors of the Roman world. It was not, however, likely that both would be satisfied with only a share of sovereignty, and accordingly, a contest soon arose, which terminated in favour of Constantine.
Constantine thus having become sole monarch, adopted measures for establishing Christianity as the religion of the empire, which was effected, as it would appear, without much difficulty. The battle had already been fought in the diffusion of the truth; so that a
large portion of his subjects were already professing Christians.
Another important change introduced by this emperor was his building Constantinople, and constituting that city the capital of the empire, and removing thither with his whole court. This measure ultimately caused a division of the empire into the western and eastern; the apital of the one being Rome, and that of the other Constantinople. This result was hastened by his dividing his empire among his three sons. Constantine died, A. D. 337, and was succeeded by his three sons,
Constantine, Constantius, and Constans. The weakness produced by this division encouraged the enemies of the empire, who had been restrained by the power and vigour of Constantine, to take up arms. The most remarkable and dangerous of these enemies was Sapor, king of Persia. He was vigorously opposed by Constantius, but with various success, till both parties being wearied with the struggle, and new enemies to each appearing, they concluded a peace.
In the mean while, Constantine attempted to dispossess his brother Constans of his dominions, but perished in the attempt. Constans governed so tyranically, that he provoked an insurrection, headed by Magnentius, who commanded the veteran troops of the west. Constans was unprepared for this insurrection, and fled, but was overtaken and put to death. Magnentius had now to contend with Constantius, the other brother. A decisive battle was fought near the town of Mursa, on the river Drave, and the army of Magnentius defeated, and almost extirpated. This battle was decisive, not only of the fate of Magnentius, who afterwards put himself to death, but of the empire itself. So many well disciplined veterans, as were lost on that fatal day, could never be replaced; and never again did an emperor command an army such as that which fell on the plains of Mursa.
Constantius thus became monarch of the whole Roman empire. But the emergencies of the state compelled him to nominate an associate. Gallus and Julian his cousins, nephews of Constantine the Great,
had been kept in confinement from their childhood. Gallus was now called forth to be associated with Constantius; but conducting himself indiscreetly, he alarmed the jealousy of Constantius, and was put to death. His brother Julian was then chosen, who conducted the affairs of the western empire with much ability. Constantius became jealous of him also, and demanded some of his troops, under pretence that reinforcements were required in the east. The troops refused to march, and Julian, after some delay, sanctioned their disobedience. A civil war was averted by the death of Constantius, when
Julian became emperor A. D. 361. He had been educated in Christianity, but had a strong bias towards the Pagan religion and philosophy. While he was a subject, he continued to profess Christianity, or at least not openly to deny it; but when he attained to supreme power, he openly embraced Paganism. From this circumstance he has acquired the name of the apostate. He did not, however, persecute the Christians. He had observed that persecution only increased their numbers. He therefore attacked them by more subtle means, by fomenting quarrels among them, by discountenancing them, by encouraging and favouring Pagans, and by reviving the Pagan worship, which had fallen into disuse, in all its splendour; also by arguing against Christianity in his writings and conversations. For the purpose of providing such argument, he attempted to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem; but could not succeed. The most respectable writers of his age attribute the defeat of this attempt to a miraculous interposition, which interrupted the workmen, so that they did not dare to proceed with the work. But whether the interposition was miraculous or not, it is agreed on all hands, that the attempt was made by Julian, a monarch of the Roman empire, and that it failed.
The Persians were at this time carrying on war against the Romans with vigour, and Julian marched to oppose them. On his way, he revived the Pagan worship wherever he went, consulted the ancient