CHAPTER XI. THE FALL OF THE EMPIRE.
The empire is again united under Constantine, after bloody civil wars, A.D. 324, thirty-four years after Diocletian had divided his power and provinces with his associates. He renews the war against the Goths and Sarmatians, severely chastises them as well as other enemies of Rome, and dies leaving the empire to his son, unequal to the task imposed upon him. The inglorious reigns of Constantius and Gallus only enabled the barbarians to renew their strength. They are signally defeated by the Emperor Julian, A.D. 360, who alone survives of all the heirs of Constantius Chlorus. The studious Julian, who was supposed to be a mere philosopher, proves himself to be one of the most warlike of all the emperors. He repulses the Alemanni, defeats the Franks, delivers Gaul, and carries the Roman eagles triumphantly beyond the Rhine. His victories delay the ruin of the empire; they do not result in the conquest of Germany, and he dies, mortally wounded, not by a German spear, but by the javelin of a Persian horseman, beyond the Tigris, in an unsuccessful enterprise against Sapor, A.D. 363.
[New invasions of barbarians.]
After his death the ravages of the barbarians became still more fearful. The Alemanni invade Gaul, A.D. 365, the Persians recover Armenia, the Burgundians appear upon the Rhine, the Saxons attack Britain, and spread themselves from the Wall of Antoninus to the shores of Kent, the Goths prepare for another invasion; in Africa there is a great revolt under Firmus. The empire is shaken to its centre.
Valentinian, a soldier of fortune, and an able general, now wears the imperial purple. Like Diocletian, he finds himself unable to bear the burdens of his throne. He elects an associate, divides the empire, and gives to Valens the eastern provinces. All idea of reigning in peace, and giving the reins to pleasure, has vanished from the imperial mind. The office of emperor demands the severest virtues and the sternest qualities and the most incessant labors. "Uneasy sits the head that wears a crown," can now be said of all the later emperors. The day is past for enjoyment or for pomp. The emperor's presence is required here and there. Valentinian rules with vigor, and gains successes over the barbarians. He is one of the great men of the day. He reserves to himself the western provinces, and fixes his seat at Milan, but cannot preserve tranquillity, and dies in a storm of wrath, by the bursting of a blood-vessel, while reviling the ambassadors of the Quadi, A.D. 375, at the age of fifty-four.
[Disasters of Valens.]
His brother, Valens, Emperor of the East, had neither his talents nor energy; and it was his fate to see the first great successful inroads of the Goths. For thirty years the Romans had secured their frontiers, and the Goths had extended their dominions. Hermanric, the first historic name of note among them, ruled over the entire nation, and had won a series of brilliant victories over other tribes of barbarians after he was eighty years of age. His dominions extended from the Danube to the Baltic, including the greater part of Germany and Scythia. In the year 366 his subjects, tempted by the civil discords which Procopius occasioned, invaded Thrace, but were resisted by the generals of Valens. The aged Hermanric was exasperated by the misfortune, and made preparations for a general war, while the emperor himself invaded the Gothic territories. For three years the war continued, with various success, on the banks of the Danube. Hermanric intrusted the defense of his country to Athanaric, who was defeated in a bloody battle, and a hollow peace was made with Victor and Arintheus, the generals of Valens. The Goths remained in tranquillity for six years, until, driven by the Scythians, who emerged in vast numbers from the frozen regions of the north, they once more advanced to the Danube and implored the aid of Valens. [Footnote: See Ammianus Marcellinus, b. xxi., from which Gibbon has chiefly drawn his narratives.] The prayers of the Goths were answered, and they were transported across the Danube - a suicidal act of the emperor, which imported two hundred thousand warriors, with their wives and children, into the Roman territories. The Goths retained their arms and their greed, and pretended to settle peaceably in the province of Mosia. But they were restless and undisciplined barbarians, and it required the greatest adroitness to manage them in their new abodes. They were insolent and unreasonable in their demands and expectations, while the ministers of the emperor were oppressive and venal. Difficulties soon arose, and, too late, it was seen by the emperor that he had introduced most dangerous enemies into the heart of the empire.
[Fritigern, leader of the Goths.]
[Death of the Emperor Valens.]