Larger font
Smaller font
The Two Republics, or Rome and the United States of America - Contents
  • Results
  • Related
  • Featured
No results found for: "".
  • Weighted Relevancy
  • Content Sequence
  • Relevancy
  • Earliest First
  • Latest First
    Larger font
    Smaller font


    the commander of the imperial body-guard, was proclaimed emperor by the troops September 17, 285. He organized a system by which he wished to give to the office of emperor a tenure more secure than that allowed by the licentious caprice of the soldiery. He reigned alone only about six months, when—April 1, A. D. 286—he associated with himself in the office of emperor, Maximian. Six years afterward, March 1, A. D. 292, he named two other associates, Galerius and Constantius, though in inferior stations. Diocletian and Maximian each bore the title of Augustus, while Galerius and Constantius each bore that of Caesar. Both these Caesars were already married, but each was obliged to put away his wife and be adopted as a son, and marry a daughter, of one of the Augusti. Galerius was adopted as the son of Diocletian, and married his daughter; Constantius as the son of Maximian, and married his step-daughter. The empire was then divided into four principal parts, each to be governed by one of the four emperors. Diocletian retained as his part, Thrace, Egypt, and Asia. To Maximian was given Italy and Africa. Upon Galerius was bestowed what was known as the Illyrian provinces, bounded by Thrace, the Adriatic, the Danube, the Alps, and the Rhine; while to Constantius fell all that was west of the Rhine and the Alps; namely, Gaul, Spain, and Britain.TTR 168.1

    It appears to have been Diocletian’s intention that whenever the place of either of the two Augusti became vacant, it should be filled by one of the Caesars, whose place in turn should be filled by a new appointment, thus securing a permanent, peaceful, and steady succession to the imperial authority. Nor did the division and distribution of the offices stop here. It was extended in regular gradation to the smallest parts of the empire. Diocletian fixed his capital at Nicomedia; and Maximian his at Milan, which under his care assumed the splendor of an imperial city. “The houses are described as numerous and well built; the manners of the people as polished and liberal. A circus, a theater, a mint, a palace, baths, which bore the name of their founder Maximian; porticoes adorned with statues, and a double circumference of walls contributed to the beauty of the new capital.... By the taste of the monarch, and at the expense of the people, Nicomedia acquired, in the space of a few years, a degree of magnificence which might appear to have required the labor of ages, and became inferior only to Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, in extent or populousness.”—Gibbon.3[Page 169] Id., chap. xiii, par. 28. And with the exception of the short reign of Maxentius, from the day when these two emperors made these two cities their capitals, no emperor ever dwelt in Rome.TTR 168.2

    Diocletian and Maximian also established each a court and a ceremonial modeled upon that of the king of Persia. Whoever would address the emperor must pass a succession of guards and officers, and “when a subject was at last admitted to the imperial presence, he was required, whatever might be his rank, to fall prostrate on the ground, and to adore according to the eastern fashion, the divinity of his lord and master.” The two emperors assumed not exactly crowns, but diadems, the first that had been worn by Romans since the abolition of the kingly office. “The sumptuous robes of Diocletian and his successors were of silk and gold, and it is remarked with indignation, that even their shoes were studded with precious stones.”TTR 169.1

    It is, however, as the author of the last and most terrible persecution of Christianity by Pagan Rome—the last effort of the pagan State against the freedom of thought and of worship taught by Christianity—that Diocletian is chiefly known to the world, though strictly speaking he was not the author of it.TTR 169.2

    Diocletian and Constantius were both friendly to the Christians, and had many professed Christians in public offices. In considerable numbers they were employed in Diocletian’s palace; but Galerius and Maximian were savagely opposed to every form of the Christian name. Galerius urged upon Diocletian the issuing of a decree condemning Christianity. Diocletian hesitated, but agreed to prohibit any Christian from holding any public office or employment, and spoke strongly against the shedding of blood. Galerius persuaded him to allow the calling of a council of the officers of the State, the outcome of which was that on February 24, A. D. 303, a “general edict of persecution was published; and though Diocletian, still averse to the effusion of blood, had moderated the fury of Galerius, who proposed that every one refusing to offer sacrifice should immediately be burnt alive, the penalty inflicted on the obstinacy of the Christians might be deemed sufficiently rigorous and effectual.TTR 170.1

    “It was enacted that their churches in all the provinces of the empire should be demolished to their foundations, and the punishment of death was denounced against all who should presume to hold any secret assemblies for the purpose of religious worship. The philosophers, who now assumed the unworthy office of directing the blind zeal of persecution, had diligently studied the nature and genius of the Christian religion; and as they were not ignorant that the speculative doctrines of the faith were supposed to be contained in the writings of the prophets, of the evangelists, and of the apostles, they most probably suggested the order that the bishops and the presbyters should deliver all their sacred books into the hands of the magistrates, who were commanded under the severest penalties, to burn them in a public and solemn manner. By the same edict the property of the church was at once confiscated; and the several parts of which it might consist, were either sold to the highest bidder, united to the imperial domain, bestowed on the cities and corporations, or granted to the solicitations of rapacious courtiers.TTR 170.2

    “After taking such effectual measures to abolish the worship and to dissolve the government of the Christians, it was thought necessary to subject to the most intolerable hardships the condition of those perverse individuals who should still reject the religion of nature, of Rome, and of their ancestors. Persons of a liberal birth were declared incapable of holding any honors or employments; slaves were forever deprived of the hopes of freedom, and the whole body of the people were put out of the protection of the law. The judges were authorized to hear and to determine every action that was brought against a Christian. But the Christians were not permitted to complain of any injury which they themselves had suffered; and thus those unfortunate sectaries were exposed to the severity, while they were excluded from the benefits, of public justice.”—Gibbon.4[Page 171] Id., chap. xvi, par. 45.TTR 171.1

    The attack upon the church buildings began the day before this decree was published. Then, “at the earliest dawn of day, the Praetorian praefect, accompanied by several generals, tribunes, and officers of the revenue, repaired to the principal church of Nicomedia, which was situated on an eminence in the most populous and beautiful part of the city. The doors were instantly broke open; they rushed into the sanctuary; and as they searched in vain for some visible object of worship, they were obliged to content themselves with committing to the flames the volumes of Holy Scripture. The ministers of Diocletian were followed by a numerous body of guards and pioneers, who marched in order of battle, and were provided with all the instruments used in the destruction of fortified cities. By their incessant labor, a sacred edifice which towered above the imperial palace, and had long excited the indignation and envy of the Gentiles, was in a few hours leveled with the ground.”—Gibbon 5[Page 172] Id., par. 44.TTR 171.2

    The decree had hardly been posted up in the most public place in Nicomedia, when a professed Christian, whose zeal outran his good sense, pulled it down, and tore it to pieces. It had been now more than forty years since the decree of Gallienus had legally recognized Christianity. In this time of peace the churches had become filled with a mass of people who were Christians only in name. Large church buildings were built in all parts of the empire. The genuine faith and discipline of the church had been seriously relaxed long before that, and now in this time of peace, and through the vast numbers that united themselves with the name of Christianity, there came the natural result—violent contention and ambitious aspirations. Quite a striking picture of the churches in this time is given us in the following extract, by one who was there at the time:—TTR 172.1

    “When by reason of excessive liberty, we sunk into negligence and sloth, one envying and reviling another in different ways, and we were almost, as it were, on the point of taking up arms against each other and were assailing each other with words as with darts and spears, prelates inveighing against prelates, and people rising up against people, and hypocrisy and dissimulation had arisen to the greatest height of malignity, then the divine judgment which usually proceeds with a lenient hand, whilst the multitudes were yet crowding into the church, with gentle and mild visitations began to afflict its episcopacy, the persecution having begun with those brethren that were in the army. But as if destitute of all sensibility, we were not prompt in measures to appease and propitiate the Deity; some, indeed, like atheists, regarding our situation as unheeded and unobserved by a providence, we added one wickedness and misery to another. But some that appeared to be our pastors, deserting the law of piety, were inflamed against each other with mutual strifes, only accumulating quarrels and threats, rivalship, hostility, and hatred to each other, only anxious to assert the government as a kind of sovereignty for themselves.”—Eusebius. 6[Page 172] “Ecclesiastical History,” book viii, chap. 1.TTR 172.2

    When the decree was issued for the abolition of Christianity, vast multitudes of these formal professors turned back again with the same readiness and with the same selfish motives with which they had joined the church; and as is always the case, their easy rejection of the faith made the persecution so much the more severe upon those refusing to yield.TTR 172.3

    Within fifteen days after the publication of the edict, a fire broke out twice in the emperor’s palace at Nicomedia, and although it was quenched both times without doing any material damage, as it was attributed to the resentment of the Christians, it caused their suffering to be yet more severe. “At first, indeed, the magistrates were restrained from the effusion of blood; but the use of every other severity was permitted, and even recommended to their zeal; nor could the Christians, though they cheerfully resigned the ornaments of their churches, resolve to interrupt their religious assemblies, or to deliver their sacred books to the flames.”—Gibbon 7[Page 173] “Decline and Fall,” chap xvi, par. 48.TTR 173.1

    As they refused to discontinue their meetings or to burn the Scriptures, another edict was shortly passed, commanding that all the bishops, presbyters, readers, and exorcists should be punished. Another edict soon followed, commanding the magistrates everywhere to compel all these to renounce the Christian faith and return to the worship of the gods by offering the appointed sacrifice. This again was soon followed by an edict, the fourth in the series, including the whole body of the Christians within the provisions of the edicts which had preceded. Heavy penalties were pronounced against all who should attempt to shield the Christians from the force of the edicts.TTR 173.2

    “Many were burnt alive, and the tortures by which the persecutors sought to shake their resolution were so dreadful that even such a death seemed an act of mercy. The only province of the empire where the Christians were at peace was Gaul, which had received its baptism of blood under Marcus Aurelius, but was now governed by Constantius Chlorus, who protected them from personal molestation, though he was compelled, in obedience to the emperor, to destroy their churches. In Spain, which was also under the government, but not under the direct inspection of Constantius, the persecution was moderate, but in all other parts of the empire it raged with fierceness, till the abdication of Diocletian in 305. This event almost immediately restored peace to the western province, but greatly aggravated the misfortunes of the Eastern Christians, who passed under the absolute rule of Galerius. Horrible, varied, and prolonged tortures were employed to quell their fortitude, and their final resistance was crowned by the most dreadful of all deaths, roasting over a slow fire.TTR 173.3

    “It was not till A. D. 311, eight years after the commencement of the general persecution, ten years after the first measure against the Christians, that the Eastern persecution ceased. Galerius, the archenemy of the Christians, was struck down by a fearful disease. His body, it is said, became a mass of loathsome and fetid sores—a living corpse, devoured by countless worms, and exhaling the odor of a charnel-house. He who had shed so much innocent blood, shrank himself from a Roman death. In his extreme anguish he appealed in turn to physician after physician, and to temple after temple. At last he relented towards the Christians. He issued a proclamation restoring them to liberty, permitting them to rebuild their churches, and asking their prayers for his recovery.”—Lecky. 8[Page 171] “History of European Morals,” chap. iii, par. 3 from the end.TTR 174.1

    The edict of Galerius here referred to was as follows:—TTR 174.2

    “Among the important cares which have occupied our mind for the utility and preservation of the empire, it was our intention to correct and re-establish all things according to the ancient laws and public discipline of the Romans. We were particularly desirous of reclaiming, into the way of reason and nature, the deluded Christians, who had renounced the religion and ceremonies instituted by their fathers; and presumptuously despising the practice of antiquity, had invented extravagant laws and opinions according to the dictates of their fancy, and had collected a various society from the different provinces of our empire.TTR 174.3

    The edicts which we have published to enforce the worship of the gods, having exposed many of the Christians to danger and distress, many having suffered death, and many more who still persist in their impious folly, being left destitute of any public exercise of religion, we are disposed to extend to those unhappy men the effects of our wonted clemency. We permit them therefore freely to profess their private opinions and to assemble in their conventicles without fear or molestation, provided always that they preserve a due respect to the established laws and government. By another rescript we shall signify our intentions to the judges and magistrates, and we hope that our indulgence will engage the Christians to offer up their prayers to the deity whom they adore, for our safety and prosperity, for their own, and for that of the republic.” 9[Page 175] Eusebius’s “Ecclesiastical History,” book viii, chap. xvii. I adopt Gibbon’s translation, “Decline and Fall,” chap. xvi. par. 56.TTR 175.1

    Shortly after Diocletian issued the last of the four edicts against Christianity, and in the twenty-second year of his reign, he abdicated the empire, May 1, A. D. 305. By previous arrangement Maximian on his part also abdicated the imperial authority at his palace in Milan. “The abdication of Diocletian and Maximian was succeeded by eighteen years of discord and confusion. The empire was afflicted by five civil wars; and the remainder of the time was not so much a state of tranquility as a suspension of arms between several hostile monarchs who, viewing each other with an eye of fear and hatred, strove to increase their respective forces at the expense of their subjects.”—Gibbon. 10[Page 175] Id chap. xiv, par. 1.TTR 175.2

    Galerius and Constantius immediately succeeded to the places of these two, each assuming the title of Augustus. Galerius at once assumed to himself the authority to appoint the two Caesars, without waiting to consult Constantius. As a matter of course he appointed those whom he could use to promote his own ambitious designs to secure to himself the supreme authority in the empire. One of these was his own nephew, Maximin, who was given command of Syria and Egypt. The other was one of his own subordinate officers, Severus, who was sent to Milan to succeed Maximian.TTR 175.3

    Thus Galerius virtually held control of three fourths of the empire, and only waited a good opportunity to lay claim to the rest. This opportunity he supposed was given him when, July 25, A. D. 306, Constantius died in Britain; but he was disappointed, for as soon as Constantius was dead, the army proclaimed Constantine Augustus and emperor, and a messenger was sent to Galerius to announce to him the fact. Such a proceeding had not been included in his plans, and Galerius threatened to burn both the letter and the messenger who brought it. Constantine, however, at the head of the legions of Britain, was in a position not to be despised. Galerius, therefore, decided to make the best of the situation. He recognized Constantine as the successor of Constantius in that division of the empire, with the title of Caesar, but fourth in rank, while he raised Severus to the dignity of Augustus.TTR 176.1

    Just at this time there was another important move upon the stage of action. The people of the city of Rome were greatly offended at the action of Diocletian in removing the capital, and Galerius now took a step that deepened their sense of injury. A general census was begun to list all the property of the Roman citizens for the purpose of levying a general tax. Wherever there was any suspicion of concealment of any property, the citizen was tortured to compel an honest statement of his possessions. Rome had been exempt from taxation for nearly five hundred years, and when the census takers began their work there, the injury which the people felt that they had already suffered by the removal of their capital, was so deepened, that they broke out into open revolt, and proclaimed Maxentius emperor, October 28, A. D. 306. Maxentius was the son of Maximian. “The praefect of the city and a few magistrates, who maintained their fidelity to Severus, were massacred by the guards; and Maxentius, invested with the imperial ornaments, was acknowledged by the applauding Senate and people as the protector of the Roman freedom and dignity.”—Gibbon. 11[Page 176] Id., chap. xiv. par. 10.TTR 176.2

    At the invitation of Maxentius and the Senate, Maximian gladly left his place of retirement, and again assumed the position of associate emperor. Galerius ordered Severus, who was stationed at Milan, to march to Rome and put down this rebellion. But when he reached the city, he found it so well fortified and defended against him that he dared not attack it. Besides this, a large number of his troops deserted him to their old commander Maximian, and he was compelled, if he would save his life, to march back again as fast as he could. He stopped at Ravenna, which was strongly fortified, and where he had a large fleet. Maximian soon came up and began a siege. Severus had found so little favor among the people of Italy, and had been deserted by so large a number of his troops, that Maximian found it an easy task to convince him that there was a plan formed by the city of Ravenna also, to betray him and deliver him up. By this means, and the positive assurance that his life would be preserved, Severus was persuaded to surrender. But no sooner was the city secured, than he found that the only liberty that was left him was to kill himself.TTR 177.1

    February A. D. 307, Maximian went to Milan, took possession of his former capital, and without waiting, crossed the Alps to meet Constantine, who was then at Arles in Gaul. March 31 an alliance was formed. Constantine married Maximian’s daughter Fausta, and Maximian gave him the title of Augustus. Galerius himself now undertook to punish the Romans for their rebellion; but his experience was identical with that of Severus, only that he was fortunate enough to escape with his life and some of his troops. In his retreat, the enmity of the Romans was yet more deepened by the desolation which his legions left in their train. “They murdered, they ravished, they plundered, they drove away the flocks and herds of the Italians; they burnt the villages through which they passed, and they endeavored to destroy the country which it had not been in their power to subdue.”—Gibbon 12[Page 177] id., par. 14.TTR 177.2

    Galerius, not willing to recognize either Maxentius or Maximian, appointed Licinius to the office of Augustus, November 11, 307, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Severus. Maximin, governor of Syria and Egypt, with the title of Caesar, no sooner heard of the appointment of Licinius to the title of Augustus, than he demanded of Galerius the same honor; and the demand was made in a tone which in the existing condition of things Galerius was compelled to respect. Thus at the beginning of the year 308, “for the first, and indeed for the last, time the Roman world was administered by six emperors.”—Gibbon. 13[Page 178] id., par. 15.TTR 178.1

    It was not however the purpose of these six emperors to administer the Roman world together. Each one was determined to administer it alone. Each one was jealous of all the others, and narrowly watched them all, ready instantly to grasp and make the most of whatever opportunity might present itself. The first two of the emperors between whom this mutual jealousy produced an open quarrel, were Maximian and Maxentius. Maxentius refused to acknowledge himself subordinate to his father, and his father insisted that it was by his ability as a commander that Maxentius was made secure in his claim to the dignity of emperor. The difference between them was submitted to the troops for decision. They decided in favor of Maxentius. Maximian left his son and Italy, and went to his son-in-law Constantine, in Gaul, and there a second time he abdicated the imperial dignity; but only that he might the more securely contrive new mischiefs.TTR 178.2

    Not long afterward an invasion of the Franks called Constantine and his troops to the Rhine north of the Moselle. A report of the death of Constantine was hastily seized upon by Maximian as the truth, and he assumed the position of emperor; took the money from Constantine’s treasury, and distributed it among the soldiers; and began overtures for an alliance with Maxentius. Constantine heard of Maximian’s movements; marched quickly from the Rhine to the Saone; took some boats at Chalons; and with his legions so unexpectedly arrived at Arles that Maximian considered it his only safety to take refuge in Marseilles. Constantine followed and attacked the city. The garrison gave up Maximian, who, like Severus, was allowed the choice of killing himself or of being put to death.TTR 178.3

    Galerius died in the month of May, A. D. 311. Four of the six emperors now remained, and another apportionment of the eastern dominions was made between Licinius and Maximin. With the latter Maxentius formed an alliance which drew Constantine and Licinius together on the other side. “Maxentius was cruel, rapacious, and profligate,” “a tyrant as contemptible as he was odious.” In him it seemed as though the times of Commodus and Elagabalus were returned.TTR 179.1

    In A. D. 308, Marcellus was elected bishop of Rome. “This new bishop wished to avail himself of the calm which religion enjoyed, at the commencement of his pontificate, to ordain rules and re-establish in the church the discipline which the troubles [of the Galerian persecution] had altered. But his severity rendered him odious to the people, and caused divisions among the faithful. Discord degenerated into sedition, and the quarrel terminated in murder.” Maxentius blamed Marcellus as being the chief cause of these disturbances, “and condemned him to groom post-horses in a stable on the high-road.”TTR 179.2

    After about nine months of this service, some priests succeeded in carrying Marcellus off. They concealed him in the house of a Roman lady named Lucilla. When the officers would have taken him again, the faithful assembled under arms to defend him. Maxentius ordered out his guards and dispersed them. He then commanded that Lucilla’s house should be converted into a stable, and obliged Marcellus to continue in the office of groom. In January, A. D. 310, Marcellus died, and was succeeded by Eusebius, whom Maxentius banished to Sicily. He died there after a few months, and was succeeded by Melchiades, in the same year, A. D. 310.TTR 179.3

    In A. D. 311, Melchiades wrote a letter to Constantine, and sent it by a delegation of bishops to him at Treves in Gaul, inviting him to come to the relief of the church, and the conquest of Rome. Constantine deliberated, and Maxentius became more and more tyrannical. In A. D. 312, an embassy from Rome went to Constantine at Arles, and in the name of the Senate and people requested him to deliver the city from the despotism of the tyrant. Constantine gladly embraced the opportunity thus offered, and quickly set out toward Rome. 14[Page 180] De Cormenin, “History of the Popes,” Marcellus, Eusebius and Mel chlades; Bower “History of the Popes,” Liberius par. 16; Gibbon, “Decline and Fall,” chap. xiv, par. 20.TTR 180.1

    At Turin he met and destroyed a strong body of the troops of Maxentius; and at Verona after, a considerable siege of the city, and a hard-fought battle in the field, which, beginning in the afternoon, continued through the whole of the following night, he vanquished quite a formidable army. Between Verona and Rome there was nothing to check the march of Constantine. Maxentius drew out his army, and met Constantine on the banks of the Tiber, nine miles from Rome. He crossed the Tiber and set his army in battle array, with the river in his rear. The battle was joined. Maxentius was soon defeated; and his army, broken to pieces, attempted to escape. In the confusion and by the terrible onslaught of Constantine’s veterans, thousands of the soldiers of Maxentius were crowded into the river and drowned. Maxentius, endeavoring to escape on his horse across the Milvian bridge, was crowded off into the river, and being clothed with heavy armor, was drowned, October 28, A. D. 312.TTR 180.2

    In the month of March, 313, Constantine and Licinius met in Milan. Constantine’s sister Constantia was given in marriage to Licinius as a bond of friendship between the two emperors. Maximin, on hearing of the death of Maxentius, declared war against Licinius, and started with an army from Syria toward Europe. He crossed the Bosphorus, captured Byzantium, marched onward and took Heraclea. By this time Licinius himself had arrived within eighteen miles of that place, and April 30 a battle was fought, and Maximin was defeated. He himself, however, escaped, and in the month of the following August, his life ended in a manner not certainly known.TTR 180.3

    The edict of Galerius restoring to the Christians the right to worship had had little or no effect upon Maximin. In his dominions and by his direction the persecutions had continued. Before Constantine and Licinius had separated, after their meeting at Milan in March, they jointly issued the celebrated edict of Milan, which acknowledged the right for which Christianity had contended for two hundred and fifty weary and painful years, by confirming “to each individual of the Roman world the privilege of choosing and professing his own religion.” That edict is as follows:—TTR 181.1

    “Wherefore, as I, Constantine Augustus, and I, Licinius Augustus, came under favorable auspices to Milan, and took under consideration all affairs that pertained to the public benefit and welfare, these things among the rest appeared to us to be most advantageous and profitable to all.TTR 181.2

    “We have resolved among the first things to ordain those matters by which reverence and worship to the Deity might be exhibited. That is, how we may grant likewise to the Christians, and to all, the free choice to follow that mode of worship which they may wish. That whatsoever divinity and celestial power may exist, may be propitious to us and to all that live under our government. Therefore, we have decreed the following ordinance as our will, with a salutary and most correct intention, that no freedom at all shall be refused to Christians, to follow or to keep their observances or worship. But that to each one power be granted to devote his mind to that worship which he may think adapted to himself. That the Deity may in all things exhibit to us his accustomed favor and kindness.TTR 181.3

    “It was just and consistent that we should write that this was our pleasure. That all exceptions respecting the Christians being completely removed, which were contained in the former epistle that we sent to your fidelity, and whatever measures were wholly sinister and foreign to our mildness, that these should be altogether annulled; and now that each one of the Christians may freely and without molestation pursue and follow that course and worship which he has proposed to himself: which, indeed, we have resolved to communicate most fully to your care and diligence, that you may know we have granted liberty and full freedom to the Christians, to observe their own mode of worship; which as your fidelity understands absolutely granted to them by us, the privilege is also granted to others to pursue that worship and religion they wish. Which it is obvious is consistent with the peace and tranquility of our times; that each may have the privilege to select and to worship whatsoever divinity he pleases. But this has been done by us, that we might not appear in any manner to detract anything from any manner of religion, or any mode of worship.” 15[Page 182] Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History,” book x, chap. v.TTR 181.4

    If all the professors of Christianity had been content with this victory, and had held the tide of events steadily to the principles of this edict,—the principles for which Christianity had so long contended,—the miseries of the ages to come would never have been.TTR 182.1

    Yet in order that we may enter upon the direct history of the perversion of this victory, in such a way that it may be best understood, it is essential that we trace two other lines of events that culminate in Constantine, and which gave the most material force to that important series of movements which made the papacy a success.TTR 182.2

    Larger font
    Smaller font