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The victory of Claudius
over the Goths
, and the success of Aurelian
against the Alemanni
, had already restored to the arms of
Rome their ancient superiority over the barbarous nations of the North. To chastise domestic tyrants, and to reunite the
dismembered parts of the empire, was a task reserved for the second of those warlike
emperors. Though he was acknowledged
by the senate
and people, the frontiers of Italy
, and Thrace
, confined the limits of his reign. Gaul
, and Asia Minor
, were still possessed by two rebels, who alone, out of so numerous a list, had hitherto
escaped the dangers of their situation; and to complete the ignominy
, these rival thrones had been usurped by women.
A rapid succession of monarchs had arisen and fallen in the provinces of Gaul
. The rigid virtues of Posthumus
served only to
hasten his destruction. After suppressing a competitor, who had assumed the purple at Mentz
, he refused to gratify his troops
with the plunder of the rebellious city; and in the seventh year of his reign, became the victim of their disappointed avarice
The death of Victorinus
, his friend and associate, was occasioned by a less worthy cause. The shining accomplishments 47
that prince were stained by a licentious passion, which he indulged in acts of violence, with too little regard to the laws of
society, or even to those of love. 48
He was slain at Cologne
, by a conspiracy of jealous husbands, whose revenge would have
appeared more justifiable, had they spared the innocence of his son. After the murder of so many valiant princes, it is
somewhat remarkable, that a female for a long time controlled the fierce legions of Gaul, and still more singular, that she was
the mother of the unfortunate Victorinus. The arts and treasures of Victoria
enabled her successively to place Marius
on the throne, and to reign with a manly vigor under the name of those dependent emperors. Money of copper, of
silver, and of gold, was coined in her name; she assumed the titles of Augusta
and Mother of the Camps: her power ended only
with her life; but her life was perhaps shortened by the ingratitude of Tetricus. 49
Footnote 46: His competitor was Lollianus, or Aelianus, if, indeed, these names mean the same person. See Tillemont, tom.
iii. p. 1177. Note: The medals which bear the name of Lollianus are considered forgeries except one in the museum of the
Prince of Waldeck there are many extent bearing the name of Laelianus, which appears to have been that of the competitor of
Posthumus. Eckhel. Doct. Num. t. vi. 149 - G.
Footnote 47: The character of this prince by Julius Aterianus (ap. Hist. August. p. 187) is worth transcribing, as it seems fair
and impartial Victorino qui Post Junium Posthumium Gallias rexit neminem existemo praeferendum; non in virtute
Trajanum; non Antoninum in clementia; non in gravitate Nervam; non in gubernando aerario Vespasianum; non in Censura
totius vitae ac severitate militari Pertinacem vel Severum. Sed omnia haec libido et cupiditas voluptatis mulierriae sic perdidit,
ut nemo audeat virtutes ejus in literas mittere quem constat omnium judicio meruisse puniri.
Footnote 48: He ravished the wife of Attitianus, an actuary, or army agent, Hist. August. p. 186. Aurel. Victor in Aurelian.
Footnote 49: Pollio assigns her an article among the thirty tyrants. Hist. August. p. 200.
When, at the instigation of his ambitious patroness, Tetricus assumed the ensigns of royalty
, he was governor of the peaceful
province of Aquitaine
, an employment suited to his character and education. He reigned four or five years over Gaul, Spain, and
Britain, the slave and sovereign
of a licentious army, whom he dreaded, and by whom he was despised. The valor and fortune of
Aurelian at length opened the prospect of a deliverance. He ventured to disclose his melancholy situation, and conjured the
emperor to hasten to the relief of his unhappy rival. Had this secret correspondence reached the ears of the soldiers, it would
most probably have cost Tetricus his life; nor could he resign the sceptre
of the West without committing an act of treason
against himself. He affected the appearances of a civil war, led his forces into the field, against Aurelian, posted them in the
most disadvantageous manner, betrayed his own counsels to his enemy, and with a few chosen friends deserted in the
beginning of the action. The rebel legions, though disordered and dismayed by the unexpected treachery
of their chief,
defended themselves with desperate valor, till they were cut in pieces almost to a man, in this bloody and memorable battle,
which was fought near Chalons in Champagne
The retreat of the irregular auxiliaries, Franks and Batavians, 51
whom the conqueror soon compelled or persuaded to repass the Rhine
, restored the general tranquillity, and the power of Aurelian
was acknowledged from the wall of Antoninus to the columns of Hercules
Footnote 50: Pollio in Hist. August. p. 196.
Vopiscus in Hist. August. p. 220. The two Victors, in the lives of Gallienus and Aurelian. Eutrop. ix. 13. Euseb. in Chron. Of all
these writers, only the two last (but with strong probability) place the fall of Tetricus before that of Zenobia. M. de Boze (in the
Academy of Inscriptions, tom. xxx.) does not wish, and Tillemont (tom. iii. p. 1189) does not dare to follow them. I have been
fairer than the one, and bolder than the other.
Footnote 51: Victor Junior in Aurelian. Eumenius mentions Batavicoe; some critics, without any reason, would fain alter the
word to Bagandicoe.
As early as the reign of Claudius
, the city of Autun, alone and unassisted, had ventured to declare against the legions of Gau
After a siege of seven months, they stormed and plundered that unfortunate city, already wasted by famine
. 52 Lyons
, on the
contrary, had resisted with obstinate disaffection the arms of Aurelian. We read of the punishment
of Lyons, 53
but there is
not any mention of the rewards of Autun. Such, indeed, is the policy of civil war; severely to remember injuries, and to forget
the most important services. Revenge is profitable, gratitude is expensive.
Footnote 52: Eumen. in Vet. Panegyr. iv. 8.
Footnote 53: Vopiscus in Hist. August. p. 246. Autun was not restored till the reign of Diocletian. See Eumenius de
had no sooner secured the person and provinces of Tetricus, than he turned his arms against Zenobia, the celebrated
queen of Palmyra
and the East. Modern Europe has produced several illustrious women who have sustained with glory the
weight of empire; nor is our own age destitute of such distinguished characters. But if we except the doubtful achievements of
is perhaps the only female whose superior genius broke through the servile indolence imposed on her sex
by the climate and manners of Asia
She claimed her descent from the Macedonian kings of Egypt
equaled in beauty her ancestor Cleopatra
, and far surpassed that princess in chastity 55
and valor. Zenobia was esteemed the most lovely as
well as the most heroic of her sex. She was of a dark complexion, (for in speaking of a lady these trifles become important.) Her
teeth were of a pearly whiteness, and her large black eyes sparkled with uncommon fire, tempered by the most attractive
sweetness. Her voice was strong and harmonious. Her manly understanding was strengthened and adorned by study. She was
not ignorant of the Latin
tongue, but possessed in equal perfection the Greek
, the Syriac, and the Egyptian languages. She had
drawn up for her own use an epitome of oriental history, and familiarly compared the beauties of Homer
tuition of the sublime Longinus
Footnote 54: Almost everything that is said of the manners of Odenathus and Zenobia is taken from their lives in the
Augustan History, by Trebeljus Pollio; see p. 192, 198.
Footnote *: According to some Christian writers, Zenobia was a Jewess. (Jost Geschichte der Israel. iv. 16. Hist. of Jews, iii.
175.) - M.
Footnote 55: She never admitted her husband's embraces but for the sake of posterity. If her hopes were baffled, in the
ensuing month she reiterated the experiment.
This accomplished woman gave her hand to Odenathus
who, from a private station, raised himself to the dominion of the
East. She soon became the friend and companion of a hero. In the intervals of war, Odenathus passionately delighted in the
exercise of hunting; he pursued with ardor the wild beasts of the desert, lions, panthers, and bears; and the ardor of Zenobia in
that dangerous amusement was not inferior to his own. She had inured her constitution to fatigue, disdained the use of a
covered carriage, generally appeared on horseback in a military habit, and sometimes marched several miles on foot at the
head of the troops. The success of Odenathus was in a great measure ascribed to her incomparable prudence
Their splendid victories over the Great King, whom they twice pursued as far as the gates of Ctesiphon
, laid the foundations of
their united fame and power. The armies which they commanded, and the provinces which they had saved, acknowledged not any
other sovereigns than their invincible chiefs. The senate and people of Rome
revered a stranger who had avenged their captive
emperor, and even the insensible son of Valerian
accepted Odenathus for his legitimate colleague.
Footnote !: According to Zosimus, Odenathus was of a noble family in Palmyra and according to Procopius, he was prince of
the Saracen, who inhabit the ranks of the Euphrates. Echhel. Doct. Num. vii. 489. - G.
After a successful expedition against the Gothic
plunderers of Asia, the Palmyrenian prince returned to the city of Emesa in
in war, he was there cut off by domestic treason, and his favorite amusement of hunting was the cause, or at
least the occasion, of his death. 56
His nephew Maeonius presumed to dart his javelin
before that of his uncle; and though
admonished of his error, repeated the same insolence. As a monarch
, and as a sportsman, Odenathus was provoked, took away
his horse, a mark of ignominy among the barbarians, and chastised the rash youth by a short confinement. The offence was
soon forgot, but the punishment was remembered; and Maeonius, with a few daring associates, assassinated his uncle in the
midst of a great entertainment. Herod, the son of Odenathus, though not of Zenobia
, a young man of a soft and effeminate
was killed with his father. But Maeonius obtained only the pleasure of revenge by this bloody deed. He had
scarcely time to assume the title of Augustus, before he was sacrificed by Zenobia to the memory of her husband. 58
Footnote 56: Hist. August. p. 192, 193. Zosimus, l. i. p. 36. Zonaras, l. xii p. 633. The last is clear and probable, the others
confused and inconsistent. The text of Syncellus, if not corrupt, is absolute nonsense.
Footnote 57: Odenathus and Zenobia often sent him, from the spoils of the enemy, presents of gems and toys, which he
received with infinite delight.
Footnote 58: Some very unjust suspicions have been cast on Zenobia, as if she was accessory to her husband's death.
With the assistance of his most faithful friends, she immediately filled the vacant throne, and governed with manly counsels
, and the East, above five years. By the death of Odenathus, that authority was at an end which the senate had
granted him only as a personal distinction; but his martial widow, disdaining both the senate and Gallienus
, obliged one of the
Roman generals, who was sent against her, to retreat into Europe, with the loss of his army and his reputation. 59
the little passions which so frequently perplex a female reign, the steady administration of Zenobia
was guided by the most
judicious maxims of policy. If it was expedient to pardon, she could calm her resentment; if it was necessary to punish, she
could impose silence on the voice of pity. Her strict economy was accused of avarice
; yet on every proper occasion she appeared
magnificent and liberal. The neighboring states of Arabia
, and Persia
, dreaded her enmity, and solicited her alliance.
To the dominions of Odenathus, which extended from the Euphrates to the frontiers of Bithynia
, his widow added the
inheritance of her ancestors, the populous and fertile kingdom of Egypt. 60 *
The emperor Claudius
merit, and was content, that, while he pursued the Gothic
war, she should assert the dignity of the empire in the East. 61
conduct, however, of Zenobia, was attended with some ambiguity; not is it unlikely that she had conceived the design of erecting
an independent and hostile monarchy. She blended with the popular manners of Roman princes the stately pomp of the courts of
Asia, and exacted from her subjects the same adoration that was paid to the successor of Cyrus
. She bestowed on her three
a Latin education, and often showed them to the troops adorned with the Imperia
l purple. For herself she reserved the
diadem, with the splendid but doubtful title of Queen of the East.
Footnote 59: Hist. August. p. 180, 181.
Footnote 60: See, in Hist. August. p. 198, Aurelian's testimony to her merit; and for the conquest of Egypt, Zosimus, l. i. p.
Footnote *: This seems very doubtful. Claudius, during all his reign, is represented as emperor on the medals of Alexandria,
which are very numerous. If Zenobia possessed any power in Egypt, it could only have been at the beginning of the reign of
Aurelian. The same circumstance throws great improbability on her conquests in Galatia. Perhaps Zenobia administered
Egypt in the name of Claudius, and emboldened by the death of that prince, subjected it to her own power. - G.
Footnote 61: Timolaus, Herennianus, and Vaballathus. It is supposed that the two former were already dead before the war.
On the last, Aurelian bestowed a small province of Armenia, with the title of King; several of his medals are still extant. See
Tillemont, tom. 3, p. 1190.
When Aurelian passed over into Asia, against an adversary whose sex alone could render her an object of contemp
presence restored obedience
to the province of Bithynia, already shaken by the arms and intrigues of Zenobia. 62
at the head of his legions, he accepted the submission of Ancyra, and was admitted into Tyana, after an obstinate siege, by the
help of a perfidious citizen
. The generous though fierce temper of Aurelian abandoned the traitor to the rage of the soldiers; a
superstitious reverence induced him to treat with lenity the countrymen of Apollonius the philosopher
deserted on his approach, till the emperor, by his salutary edicts, recalled the fugitives, and granted a general pardon to all,
who, from necessity rather than choice, had been engaged in the service of the Palmyrenian Queen. The unexpected mildness
of such a conduct reconciled the minds of the Syrians, and as far as the gates of Emesa, the wishes of the people seconded the
terror of his arms. 64
Footnote 62: Zosimus, l. i. p. 44.
Footnote 63: Vopiscus (in Hist. August. p. 217) gives us an authentic letter and a doubtful vision, of Aurelian.
Tyana was born about the same time as Jesus Christ. His life (that of the former) is related in so fabulous a manner by his
disciples, that we are at a loss to discover whether he was a sage, an impostor, or a fanatic.
Footnote 64: Zosimus, l. i. p. 46.
Zenobia would have ill deserved her reputation, had she indolently permitted the emperor of the West to approach within a
hundred miles of her capital. The fate of the East was decided in two great battles; so similar in almost every circumstance, that
we can scarcely distinguish them from each other, except by observing that the first was fought near Antioch
second near Emesa
In both the queen of Palmyra
animated the armies by her presence, and devolved the execution of her
orders on Zabdas, who had already signalized his military talents by the conquest of Egypt
. The numerous forces of Zenobia
consisted for the most part of light archers, and of heavy cavalry
clothed in complete steel. The Moorish and Illyrian horse of
Aurelian were unable to sustain the ponderous charge of their antagonists. They fled in real or affected disorder, engaged the
Palmyrenians in a laborious pursuit, harassed them by a desultory combat, and at length discomfited this impenetrable but
unwieldy body of cavalry. The light infantry
, in the mean time, when they had exhausted their quivers, remaining without
protection against a closer onset, exposed their naked sides to the swords of the legions. Aurelian had chosen these veteran
troops, who were usually stationed on the Upper Danube, and whose valor had been severely tried in the Alemannic war. 67
After the defeat of Emesa, Zenobia found it impossible to collect a third army. As far as the frontier of Egypt, the nations
subject to her empire had joined the standard of the conqueror, who detached Probus, the bravest of his generals, to possess
himself of the Egyptian provinces. Palmyra was the last resource of the widow of Odenathus. She retired within the walls of her
capital, made every preparation for a vigorous resistance, and declared, with the intrepidity of a heroine, that the last moment
of her reign and of her life should be the same.
Footnote 65: At a place called Immae. Eutropius, Sextus Rufus, and Jerome,
mention only this first battle.
Footnote 66: Vopiscus (in Hist. August. p. 217) mentions only the second.
Footnote 67: Zosimus, l. i. p. 44 - 48. His account of the two battles is clear and circumstantial.
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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. 304-310.