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In the age of the Antonines, the Goths were still seated in Prussia. About the reign of Alexander Severus, the Roman province of Dacia had already experienced their proximity by frequent and destructive inroads. 19 In this interval, therefore, of about seventy years, we must place the second migration of about seventy years, we must place the second migration of the Goths from the Baltic to the Euxine; but the cause that produced it lies concealed among the various motives which actuate the conduct of unsettled barbarians. Either a pestilence or a famine, a victory or a defeat, an oracle of the gods or the eloquence of a daring leader, were sufficient to impel the Gothic arms on the milder climates of the south. Besides the influence of a martial religion, the numbers and spirit of the Goths were equal to the most dangerous adventures. The use of the round buckler and short sword rendered them formidable in a close engagement; the manly obedience which they yielded to hereditary kings, gave uncommon union and stability to their councils; 20 and the renowned Amala, the hero of that age, and the tenth ancestor of Theodoric, king of Italy, enforced, by the ascendant of personal merit, the prerogative of his birth, which he derived from the Anses, or demi gods of the Gothic nation. 21
Footnote 19: See a fragment of Peter Patricius in the Excerpta Legationum and with regard to its probable date, see Tillemont, Hist, des Empereurs, tom. iii. p. 346.
Footnote 20: Omnium harum gentium insigne, rotunda scuta, breves gladii, et erga rages obsequium. Tacit. Germania, c. 43. The Goths probably acquired their iron by the commerce of amber.
Footnote 21: Jornandes, c. 13, 14.
The fame of a great enterprise excited the bravest warriors from all the Vandalic states of Germany, many of whom are seen a few years afterwards combating under the common standard of the Goths. 22 The first motions of the emigrants carried them to the banks of the Prypec, a river universally conceived by the ancients to be the southern branch of the Borysthenes. 23 The windings of that great stream through the plains of Poland and Russia gave a direction to their line of march, and a constant supply of fresh water and pasturage to their numerous herds of cattle. They followed the unknown course of the river, confident in their valor, and careless of whatever power might oppose their progress. The Bastarnae and the Venedi were the first who presented themselves; and the flower of their youth, either from choice or compulsion, increased the Gothic army. The Bastarnae dwelt on the northern side of the Carpathian Mountains: the immense tract of land that separated the Bastarnae from the savages of Finland was possessed, or rather wasted, by the Venedi; 24 we have some reason to believe that the first of these nations, which distinguished itself in the Macedonian war, 25 and was afterwards divided into the formidable tribes of the Peucini, the Borani, the Carpi, &c., derived its origin from the Germans. * With better authority, a Sarmatian extraction may be assigned to the Venedi, who rendered themselves so famous in the middle ages. 26 But the confusion of blood and manners on that doubtful frontier often perplexed the most accurate observers. 27As the Goths advanced near the Euxine Sea, they encountered a purer race of Sarmatians, the Jazyges, the Alani, !! and the Roxolani; and they were probably the first Germans who saw the mouths of the Borysthenes, and of the Tanais. If we inquire into the characteristic marks of the people of Germany and of Sarmatia, we shall discover that those two great portions of human kind were principally distinguished by fixed huts or movable tents, by a close dress or flowing garments, by the marriage of one or of several wives, by a military force, consisting, for the most part, either of infantry or cavalry; and above all, by the use of the Teutonic, or of the Sclavonian language; the last of which has been diffused by conquest, from the confines of Italy to the neighborhood of Japan.
Footnote 22: The Heruli, and the Uregundi or Burgundi, are particularly mentioned. See Mascou's History of the Germans, l. v. A passage in the Augustan History, p. 28, seems to allude to this great emigration. The Marcomannic war was partly occasioned by the pressure of barbarian tribes, who fled before the arms of more northern barbarians.
Footnote 23: D'Anville, Geographie Ancienne, and the third part of his incomparable map of Europe.
Footnote 24: Tacit. Germania, c. 46.
Footnote 25: Cluver. Germ. Antiqua, l. iii. c. 43.
Footnote *: The Bastarnae cannot be considered original inhabitants of Germany Strabo and Tacitus appear to doubt it; Pliny alone calls them Germans: Ptolemy and Dion treat them as Scythians, a vague appellation at this period of history; Livy, Plutarch, and Diodorus Siculus, call them Gauls, and this is the most probable opinion. They descended from the Gauls who entered Germany under Signoesus. They are always found associated with other Gaulish tribes, such as the Boll, the Taurisci, &c., and not to the German tribes. Afterwards they reappear under the Ostrogoth, with whom they were probably blended. Adelung, p. 236, 278. - G.
Footnote 26: The Venedi, the Slavi, and the Antes, were the three great tribes of the same people. Jornandes, 24. Note Dagger: They formed the great Sclavonian nation. - G.
Footnote 27: Tacitus most assuredly deserves that title, and even his cautious suspense is a proof of his diligent inquiries.
Footnote !!: Jac. Reineggs supposed that he had found, in the mountains of Caucasus, some descendants of the Alani. The Tartars call them Edeki-Alan: they speak a peculiar dialect of the ancient language of the Tartars of Caucasus. See J. Reineggs' Descr. of Caucasus, p. 11, 13. - G. According to Klaproth, they are the Ossetes of the present day in Mount Caucasus and were the same with the Albanians of antiquity. Klaproth, Hist. de l'Asie, p. 180. - M.
Part II.

The Goths were now in possession of the Ukraine, a country of considerable extent and uncommon fertility, intersected with navigable rivers, which, from either side, discharge themselves into the Borysthenes; and interspersed with large and leafy forests of oaks. The plenty of game and fish, the innumerable bee-hives deposited in the hollow of old trees, and in the cavities of rocks, and forming, even in that rude age, a valuable branch of commerce, the size of the cattle, the temperature of the air, the aptness of the soil for every species of gain, and the luxuriance of the vegetation, all displayed the liberality of Nature, and tempted the industry of man. 28 But the Goths withstood all these temptations, and still adhered to a life of idleness, of poverty, and of rapine.
Footnote 28: Genealogical History of the Tartars, p. 593. Mr. Bell (vol. ii. p 379) traversed the Ukraine, in his journey from St. Petersburg to Constantinople. The modern face of the country is a just representation of the ancient, since, in the hands of the Cossack, it still remains in a state of nature.
The Scythian hordes, which, towards the east, bordered on the new settlements of the Goths, presented nothing to their arms, except the doubtful chance of an unprofitable victory. But the prospect of the Roman territories was far more alluring; and the fields of Dacia were covered with rich harvests, sown by the hands of an industrious, and exposed to be gathered by those of a warlike, people. It is probable that the conquests of Trajan, maintained by his successors, less for any real advantage than for ideal dignity, had contributed to weaken the empire on that side. The new and unsettled province of Dacia was neither strong enough to resist, nor rich enough to satiate, the rapaciousness of the barbarians. As long as the remote banks of the Niester were considered as the boundary of the Roman power, the fortifications of the Lower Danube were more carelessly guarded, and the inhabitants of Maesia lived in supine security, fondly conceiving themselves at an inaccessible distance from any barbarian invaders. The irruptions of the Goths, under the reign of Philip, fatally convinced them of their mistake. The king, or leader, of that fierce nation, traversed with contempt the province of Dacia, and passed both the Niester and the Danube without encountering any opposition capable of retarding his progress. The relaxed discipline of the Roman troops betrayed the most important posts, where they were stationed, and the fear of deserved punishment induced great numbers of them to enlist under the Gothic standard. The various multitude of barbarians appeared, at length, under the walls of Marcianopolis, a city built by Trajan in honor of his sister, and at that time the capital of the second Maesia. 29 The inhabitants consented to ransom their lives and property by the payment of a large sum of money, and the invaders retreated back into their deserts, animated, rather than satisfied, with the first success of their arms against an opulent but feeble country. Intelligence was soon transmitted to the emperor Decius, that Cniva, king of the Goths, had passed the Danube a second time, with more considerable forces; that his numerous detachments scattered devastation over the province of Maesia, whilst the main body of the army, consisting of seventy thousand Germans and Sarmatians, a force equal to the most daring achievements, required the presence of the Roman monarch, and the exertion of his military power.
Footnote 29: In the sixteenth chapter of Jornandes, instead of secundo Maesiam we may venture to substitute secundam, the second Maesia, of which Marcianopolis was certainly the capital. (See Hierocles de Provinciis, and Wesseling ad locum, p. 636. Itinerar.) It is surprising how this palpable error of the scribe should escape the judicious correction of Grotius. Note: Luden has observed that Jornandes mentions two passages over the Danube; this relates to the second irruption into Maesia. Geschichte des T V. ii. p. 448. - M.
Decius found the Goths engaged before Nicopolis, one of the many monuments of Trajan's victories. 30 On his approach they raised the siege, but with a design only of marching away to a conquest of greater importance, the siege of Philippopolis, a city of Thrace, founded by the father of Alexander, near the foot of Mount Haemus. 31 Decius followed them through a difficult country, and by forced marches; but when he imagined himself at a considerable distance from the rear of the Goths, Cniva turned with rapid fury on his pursuers. The camp of the Romans was surprised and pillaged, and, for the first time, their emperor fled in disorder before a troop of half-armed barbarians. After a long resistance, Philoppopolis, destitute of succor, was taken by storm. A hundred thousand persons are reported to have been massacred in the sack of that great city. 32 Many prisoners of consequence became a valuable accession to the spoil; and Priscus, a brother of the late emperor Philip, blushed not to assume the purple, under the protection of the barbarous enemies of Rome. 33 The time, however, consumed in that tedious siege, enabled Decius to revive the courage, restore the discipline, and recruit the numbers of his troops. He intercepted several parties of Carpi, and other Germans, who were hastening to share the victory of their countrymen, 34 intrusted the passes of the mountains to officers of approved valor and fidelity, 35 repaired and strengthened the fortifications of the Danube, and exerted his utmost vigilance to oppose either the progress or the retreat of the Goths. Encouraged by the return of fortune, he anxiously waited for an opportunity to retrieve, by a great and decisive blow, his own glory, and that of the Roman arms. 36
Footnote 30: The place is still called Nicop. D'Anville, Geographie Ancienne, tom. i. p. 307. The little stream, on whose banks it stood, falls into the Danube.
Footnote 31: Stephan. Byzant. de Urbibus, p. 740. Wesseling, Itinerar. p. 136. Zonaras, by an odd mistake, ascribes the foundation of Philippopolis to the immediate predecessor of Decius. Note: Now Philippopolis or Philiba; its situation among the hills caused it to be also called Trimontium. D'Anville, Geog. Anc. i. 295. - G.
Footnote 32: Ammian. xxxi. 5.
Footnote 33: Aurel. Victor. c. 29.
Footnote 34: Victorioe Carpicoe, on some medals of Decius, insinuate these advantages.
Footnote 35: Claudius (who afterwards reigned with so much glory) was posted in the pass of Thermopylae with 200 Dardanians, 100 heavy and 160 light horse, 60 Cretan archers, and 1000 well-armed recruits. See an original letter from the emperor to his officer, in the Augustan History, p. 200.
Footnote 36: Jornandes, c. 16 - 18. Zosimus, l. i. p. 22. In the general account of this war, it is easy to discover the opposite prejudices of the Gothic and the Grecian writer. In carelessness alone they are alike.
At the same time when Decius was struggling with the violence of the tempest, his mind, calm and deliberate amidst the tumult of war, investigated the more general causes, that, since the age of the Antonines, had so impetuously urged the decline of the Roman greatness. He soon discovered that it was impossible to replace that greatness on a permanent basis, without restoring public virtue, ancient principles and manners, and the oppressed majesty of the laws. To execute this noble but arduous design, he first resolved to revive the obsolete office of censor; an office which, as long as it had subsisted in its pristine Integrity, had so much contributed to the perpetuity of the state, 37 till it was usurped and gradually neglected by the Caesars. 38 Conscious that the favor of the sovereign may confer power, but that the esteem of the people can alone bestow authority, he submitted the choice of the censor to the unbiased voice of the senate. By their unanimous votes, or rather acclamations, Valerian, who was afterwards emperor, and who then served with distinction in the army of Decius, was declared the most worthy of that exalted honor. As soon as the decree of the senate was transmitted to the emperor, he assembled a great council in his camp, and before the investiture of the censor elect, he apprised him of the difficulty and importance of his great office. "Happy Valerian," said the prince to his distinguished subject, "happy in the general approbation of the senate and of the Roman republic! Accept the censorship of mankind; and judge of our manners. You will select those who deserve to continue members of the senate; you will restore the equestrian order to its ancient splendor; you will improve the revenue, yet moderate the public burdens. You will distinguish into regular classes the various and infinite multitude of citizens, and accurately view the military strength, the wealth, the virtue, and the resources of Rome. Your decisions shall obtain the force of laws. The army, the palace, the ministers of justice, and the great officers of the empire, are all subject to your tribunal. None are exempted, excepting only the ordinary consuls, 39 the prefect of the city, the king of the sacrifices, and (as long as she preserves her chastity inviolate) the eldest of the vestal virgins. Even these few, who may not dread the severity, will anxiously solicit the esteem, of the Roman censor." 40
Footnote 37: Montesquieu, Grandeur et Decadence des Romains, c. viii. He illustrates the nature and use of the censorship with his usual ingenuity, and with uncommon precision.
Footnote 38: Vespasian and Titus were the last censors, (Pliny, Hist. Natur vii. 49. Censorinus de Die Natali.) The modesty of Trajan refused an honor which he deserved, and his example became a law to the Antonines. See Pliny's Panegyric, c. 45 and 60.
Footnote 39: Yet in spite of his exemption, Pompeii appeared before that tribunal during his consulship. The occasion, indeed, was equally singular and honorable. Plutarch in Pomp. p. 630.
Footnote 40: See the original speech in the Augustan Hist. p. 173-174.
A magistrate, invested with such extensive powers, would have appeared not so much the minister, as the colleague of his sovereign 41Valerian justly dreaded an elevation so full of envy and of suspicion. He modestly argued the alarming greatness of the trust, his own insufficiency, and the incurable corruption of the times. He artfully insinuated, that the office of censor was inseparable from the Imperial dignity, and that the feeble hands of a subject were unequal to the support of such an immense weight of cares and of power. 42 The approaching event of war soon put an end to the prosecution of a project so specious, but so impracticable; and whilst it preserved Valerian from the danger, saved the emperor Decius from the disappointment, which would most probably have attended it. A censor may maintain, he can never restore, the morals of a state. It is impossible for such a magistrate to exert his authority with benefit, or even with effect, unless he is supported by a quick sense of honor and virtue in the minds of the people, by a decent reverence for the public opinion, and by a train of useful prejudices combating on the side of national manners. In a period when these principles are annihilated, the censorial jurisdiction must either sink into empty pageantry, or be converted into a partial instrument of vexatious oppression. 43 It was easier to vanquish the Goths than to eradicate the public vice; yet even in the first of these enterprises, Decius lost his army and his life.
Footnote 41: This transaction might deceive Zonaras, who supposes that Valerian was actually declared the colleague of Decius, l. xii. p. 625.
Footnote 42: Hist. August. p. 174. The emperor's reply is omitted.
Footnote 43: Such as the attempts of Augustus towards a reformation of manness. Tacit. Annal. iii. 24.

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To cite original text:

Gibbon, Edward, 1737-1794. The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. 1st ed. (London : Printed for W. Strahan ; and T. Cadell, 1776-1788.), pp. 247-253.

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