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In the general calamities of mankind
, the death of an individual, however exalted, the ruin of an edifice
, however famous,
are passed over with careless inattention
. Yet we cannot forget that the temple of Diana
, after having risen
with increasing splendor
from seven repeated misfortunes, 128
was finally burnt by the Goths
in their third naval
invasion. The arts of Greece
, and the wealth of Asia, had conspired to erect that sacred and magnificent structure. It was
supported by a hundred and twenty-seven marble columns of the Ionic
order. They were the gifts of devout monarchs,
and each was sixty feet high. The altar
was adorned with the masterly sculptures of Praxitele
s, who had, perhaps,
selected from the favorite legends of the place the birth of the divine children of Latona
, the concealment of Apollo
the slaughter of the Cyclops
, and the clemency of Bacchus
to the vanquished Amazons. 129
Yet the length of the
temple of Ephesus
was only four hundred and twenty-five feet, about two thirds of the measure of the church of St.
's at Rome. 130
In the other dimensions, it was still more inferior to that sublime production of modern
. The spreading arms of a Christian cross require a much greater breadth than the oblong temples of the
Pagans; and the boldest artists of antiquity
would have been startled at the proposal of raising in the air a dome of the
size and proportions of the Pantheon
. The temple of Diana
was, however, admired as one of the wonders of the world.
Successive empires, the Persian
, the Macedonian
, and the Roman
, had revered its sanctity and enriched its splendor.
But the rude savages of the Baltic were destitute of a taste for the elegant arts, and they despised the ideal terrors
of a foreign superstition
Footnote 128: Hist. Aug. p. 178. Jornandes, c. 20.
Footnote 129: Strabo, l. xiv. p. 640. Vitruvius, l. i. c. i. praefat l vii. Tacit Annal. iii. 61. Plin. Hist. Nat. xxxvi. 14.
Footnote 130: The length of St. Peter's is 840 Roman palms; each palm is very little short of nine English inches. See
Greaves's Miscellanies vol. i. p. 233; on the Roman Foot. Note: St. Paul's Cathedral is 500 feet. Dallaway on Architecture - M.
Footnote 131: The policy, however, of the
Romans induced them to abridge the extent of the sanctuary or asylum, which by successive privileges had spread itself
two stadia round the temple. Strabo, l. xiv. p. 641. Tacit. Annal. iii. 60, &c.
Footnote 132: They offered no sacrifices to the Grecian gods. See Epistol Gregor. Thaumat.
Another circumstance is related of these invasions, which might deserve our notice, were it not justly to be suspected as
the fanciful conceit of a recent sophist
. We are told, that in the sack of Athens
had collected all the libraries,
and were on the point of setting fire to this funeral pile of Grecian learning, had not one of their chiefs, of more refined
than his brethren
, dissuaded them from the design; by the profound observation, that as long as the Greeks were
addicted to the study of books, they would never apply themselves to the exercise of arms.133
(should the truth of the fact be admitted) reasoned like an ignorant barbarian
. In the most polite and powerful
of every kind has displayed itself about the same period; and the age of science has generally been the
age of military virtue and success.
Footnote 133: Zonaras, l. xii. p. 635. Such an anecdote was perfectly suited to the
taste of Montaigne. He makes use of it in his agreeable Essay on Pedantry, l. i. c. 24.
IV. The new sovereign of Persia
, Artaxerxes and his son Sapor, had triumphed (as we have already seen) over the
house of Arsaces
. Of the many princes of that ancient race. Chosroes
, king of Armenia
, had alone preserved both his life
and his independence
. He defended himself by the natural strength of his country; by the perpetual resort of fugitives and
malcontents; by the alliance
of the Romans, and above all, by his own courage.
in arms, during a thirty years' war, he was at length assassinated by the emissaries of Sapor, king of Persia
The patriotic satraps of Armenia
, who asserted the freedom
and dignity of the crown, implored the protection of Rome
in favor of Tiridates
, the lawful heir. But the son of Chosroes
was an infant, the allies were at a distance, and the Persian
monarch advanced towards the frontier at the head of an irresistible force. Young Tiridates
, the future hope of his
country, was saved by the fidelity
of a servant, and Armenia continued above twenty-seven years a reluctant province of
the great monarchy
of Persia. 134
Elated with this easy conquest, and presuming on the distresses or the degeneracy of
Sapor obliged the strong garrisons of Carrhae
and Nisibis *
, and spread devastation
terror on either side of the Euphrates
Footnote 134: Moses Chorenensis, l. ii. c. 71, 73, 74. Zonaras, l. xii. p. 628. The
authentic relation of the Armenian historian serves to rectify the confused account of the Greek. The latter talks of the
children of Tiridates, who at that time was himself an infant. (Compare St Martin Memoires sur l'Armenie, i. p. 301. -
Footnote *: Nisibis, according to Persian authors, was taken by a miracle, the wall fell, in compliance with the prayers
of the army. Malcolm's Persia, l. 76. - M
The loss of an important frontier
, the ruin of a faithful and natural ally, and the rapid success of Sapor's ambition, affected
Rome with a deep sense of the insult as well as of the danger. Valerian
flattered himself, that the vigilance
lieutenants would sufficiently provide for the safety of the Rhine
and of the Danube
; but he resolved, notwithstanding his
advanced age, to march in person to the defense of the Euphrates
During his progress through Asia Minor, the naval enterprises of the Goths were suspended, and the afflicted province
enjoyed a transient and fallacious calm.
He passed the Euphrates, encountered the Persian
monarch near the walls of
, was vanquished, and taken prisoner by Sapor. The particulars of this great event are darkly and imperfectly
represented; yet, by the glimmering light which is afforded us, we may discover a long series of imprudence
, of error, and
of deserved misfortunes on the side of the Roman emperor
. He reposed an implicit confidence in Macrianus
That worthless minister rendered his master formidable only to the oppressed subjects, and
contemptible to the enemies of Rome. 136
By his weak or wicked counsels, the Imperial army was betrayed into a
situation where valor and military skill were equally unavailing. 137
The vigorous attempt of the Romans to cut their
way through the Persian host was repulsed with great slaughter; 138
and Sapor, who encompassed the camp with
superior numbers, patiently waited till the increasing rage of famine
had insured his victory. The licentious
murmurs of the legions soon accused Valerian
as the cause of their calamities; their seditious clamors demanded an
. An immense sum of gold was offered to purchase the permission of a disgraceful retreat. But the
Persian, conscious of his superiority
, refused the money with disdain; and detaining the deputies, advanced in order of
battle to the foot of the Roman rampart, and insisted on a personal conference with the emperor. Valerian
to the necessity of intrusting his life and dignity to the faith of an enemy. The interview ended as it was natural to expect.
The emperor was made a prisoner, and his astonished troops laid down their arms. 139
In such a moment of triumph,
the pride and policy of Sapor prompted him to fill the vacant throne with a successor entirely dependent on his pleasure.
, an obscure fugitive of Antioch
, stained with every vice, was chosen to dishonor the Roman purple; and the will
of the Persian victor could not fail of being ratified by the acclamations, however reluctant, of the captive army. 140
Footnote 135: Hist. Aug. p. 191. As Macrianus was an enemy to the Christians, they charged him with being a
Footnote 136: Zosimus, l. i. p. 33.
Footnote 137: Hist. Aug. p. 174.
Footnote 138: Victor in Caesar. Eutropius, ix. 7.
Footnote 139: Zosimus, l. i. p. 33. Zonaras, l. xii. p. 630. Peter Patricius, in the Excerpta Legat. p. 29.
Footnote 140: Hist. August. p. 185. The reign of Cyriades appears in that collection prior to the death of Valerian; but I
have preferred a probable series of events to the doubtful chronology of a most inaccurate writer
The Imperial slave
was eager to secure the favor of his master by an act of treason
to his native country. He conducted Sapor over the
, and, by the way of Chalcis, to the metropolis
of the East. So rapid were the motions of the Persian cavalry
that, if we may credit a very judicious historian, 141
the city of Antioch
was surprised when the idle multitude
fondly gazing on the amusements of the theatre
. The splendid buildings of Antioch, private as well as public, were either
pillaged or destroyed; and the numerous inhabitants were put to the sword, or led away into captivity
The tide of
devastation was stopped for a moment by the resolution
of the high priest
of Emesa. Arrayed in his sacerdotal robes, he
appeared at the head of a great body of fanatic peasants, armed only with slings, and defended his god and his property
from the sacrilegious hands of the followers of Zoroaster. 143
But the ruin of Tarsus
, and of many other cities, furnishes
proof that, except in this singular instance, the conquest of Syria
scarcely interrupted the
progress of the Persian arms. The advantages of the narrow passes of Mount Taurus were abandoned, in which an
invader, whose principal force consisted in his cavalry, would have been engaged in a very unequal combat: and Sapor
was permitted to form the siege of Caesarea
, the capital of Cappadocia
; a city, though of the second rank, which was
supposed to contain four hundred thousand inhabitants. Demosthene
s commanded in the place, not so much by the
commission of the emperor
, as in the voluntary defense of his country. For a long time he deferred its fate; and when at
was betrayed by the perfidy of a physician
, he cut his way through the Persians, who had been ordered to
exert their utmost diligence
to take him alive. This heroic chief escaped the power of a foe who might either have
honored or punished his obstinate valor; but many thousands of his fellow-citizens were involved in a general massacre
and Sapor is accused of treating his prisoners with wanton and unrelenting cruelty. 144
Much should undoubtedly be
allowed for national animosity
, much for humbled pride and impotent revenge
; yet, upon the whole, it is certain, that the
same prince, who, in Armenia
, had displayed the mild aspect of a legislator, showed himself to the Romans under the
stern features of a conqueror
. He despaired of making any permanent establishment in the empire, and sought only to
leave behind him a wasted desert, whilst he transported into Persia the people and the treasures of the provinces. 145
Footnote 141: The sack of Antioch, anticipated by some historians, is assigned, by the decisive testimony of Ammianus
Marcellinus, to the reign of Gallienus, xxiii. 5..
Footnote 142: Zosimus, l. i. p. 35.
Footnote 143: John Malala, tom. i. p. 391. He corrupts this probable event by some fabulous circumstances.
Footnote 144: Zonaras, l. xii. p. 630. Deep valleys were filled up with the slain. Crowds of prisoners were driven to
water like beasts, and many perished for want of food
Footnote 145: Zosimus, l. i. p. 25 asserts, that Sapor, had he not preferred spoil to conquest, might have remained
master of Asia.
At the time when the East trembled at the name of Sapor
, he received a present not unworthy of the greatest kings; a
long train of camels, laden with the most rare and valuable merchandises. The rich offering was accompanied with an
, respectful, but not servile, from Odenathus, one of the noblest and most opulent senators of Palmyra. "Who is
," (said the haughty victor, and he commanded that the present should be cast into the Euphrates,) "that he
thus insolently presumes to write to his lord? If he entertains a hope of mitigating his punishment
, let him fall prostrate
before the foot of our throne, with his hands bound behind his back. Should he hesitate, swift destruction shall be poured
on his head, on his whole race, and on his country.
The desperate extremity
to which the Palmyrenian was
reduced, called into action all the latent powers of his soul. He met Sapor; but he met him in arms.
Infusing his own spirit into a little army collected from the villages of Syria 147
and the tents of the desert, 148
hovered round the Persian host, harassed their retreat, carried off part of the treasure, and, what was dearer than any
, several of the women of the great king; who was at last obliged to repass the Euphrates with some marks of
haste and confusion
By this exploit, Odenathus laid the foundations of his future fame and fortunes. The majesty of
Rome, oppressed by a Persian, was protected by a Syrian or Arab of Palmyra.
Footnote 146: Peter Patricius in Excerpt. Leg. p. 29.
Footnote 147: Syrorum agrestium manu. Sextus Rufus, c. 23. Rufus Victor the Augustan History, (p. 192,) and several
inscriptions, agree in making Odenathus a citizen of Palmyra.
Footnote 148: He possessed so powerful an interest among the wandering tribes, that Procopius (Bell. Persic. l. ii. c. 5)
and John Malala, (tom. i. p. 391) style him Prince of the Saracens.
Footnote 149: Peter Patricius, p. 25.
The voice of history, often little more than the organ of hatred or flattery
, reproaches Sapor with a proud abuse
of the rights of conquest. We are told that Valerian
, in chains, but invested with the Imperial purple, was exposed to the
multitude, a constant spectacle of fallen greatness; and that whenever the Persian monarch mounted on horseback
placed his foot on the neck of a Roman emperor
. Notwithstanding all the remonstrance
of his allies, who repeatedly
advised him to remember the vicissitudes
of fortune, to dread the returning power of Rome, and to make his illustrious
captive the pledge of peace, not the object of insult, Sapor still remained inflexible
. When Valerian sunk under the weight
of shame and grief, his skin, stuffed with straw, and formed into the likeness of a human figure, was preserved for ages in
the most celebrated temple of Persia
; a more real monument of triumph, than the fancied trophies of brass and marble so
often erected by Roman vanity
The tale is moral and pathetic, but the truth !
of it may very fairly be called in
question. The letters still extant from the princes of the East to Sapor
are manifest forgeries; 151
nor is it natural to
suppose that a jealous monarch should, even in the person of a rival, thus publicly degrade the majesty of kings.
Whatever treatment the unfortunate Valerian
might experience in Persia
, it is at least certain that the only emperor of
Rome who had ever fallen into the hands of the enemy, languished away his life in hopeless captivity
Footnote 150: The Pagan writers lament, the Christian insult, the misfortunes of Valerian. Their various testimonies are
accurately collected by Tillemont, tom. iii. p. 739, &c. So little has been preserved of eastern history before Mohammed,
that the modern Persians are totally ignorant of the victory Sapor, an event so glorious to their nation. See Bibliotheque
Note: Malcolm appears to write from Persian authorities, i. 76. - M.
Footnote !: Yet Gibbon himself records a speech
of the emperor Galerius, which alludes to the cruelties exercised against the living, and the indignities to which they
exposed the dead Valerian, vol. ii. ch. 13. Respect for the kingly character would by no means prevent an eastern
monarch from ratifying his pride and his vengeance on a fallen foe. - M.
Footnote 151: One of these epistles is from
Artavasdes, king of Armenia; since Armenia was then a province of Persia, the king, the kingdom, and the epistle must
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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. 272-277.