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By seizing the fleet of Boulogne
had deprived his master of the means of pursuit and revenge. And when, after a vast
expense of time and labor, a new armament was launched into the water, 29
troops, unaccustomed to that
element, were easily baffled and defeated by the veteran sailors of the usurper. This disappointed effort was soon productive of
a treaty of peace. Diocletian
and his colleague, who justly dreaded the enterprising spirit of Carausius, resigned to him the
sovereignty of Britain
, and reluctantly admitted their perfidious servant to a participation of the Imperial honors. 30
adoption of the two Caesars restored new vigor to the Romans arms; and while the Rhine
was guarded by the presence of
Maximian, his brave associate Constantius assumed the conduct of the British war. His first enterprise was against the important
place of Boulogne. A stupendous mole, raised across the entrance of the harbor, intercepted all hopes of relief. The town
surrendered after an obstinate defense; and a considerable part of the naval strength of Carausius
fell into the hands of the
besiegers. During the three years which Constantius employed in preparing a fleet adequate to the conquest of Britain
secured the coast of Gaul
, invaded the country of the Franks, and deprived the usurper of the assistance of those powerful
Footnote 29: When Mamertinus pronounced his first panegyric, the naval preparations of Maximian were completed; and the orator presaged an assured victory. His silence in the second panegyric might alone inform us that the expedition had not succeeded.
Footnote 30: Aurelius Victor, Eutropius, and the medals, (Pax Augg.) inform us of this temporary reconciliation; though I will
not presume (as Dr. Stukely has done, Medallic History of Carausius, p. 86, &c) to insert the identical articles of the treaty.
Before the preparations were finished, Constantius received the intelligence of the tyrant
's death, and it was considered as a
sure presage of the approaching victory. The servants of Carausius imitated the example of treason which he had given. He was
murdered by his first minister, Allectus
, and the assassin
succeeded to his power and to his danger. But he possessed not equal
abilities either to exercise the one or to repel the other.
He beheld, with anxious terror, the opposite shores of the continent already filled with arms, with troops, and with vessels; for
Constantius had very prudently divided his forces, that he might likewise divide the attention and resistance of the enemy. The
attack was at length made by the principal squadron, which, under the command of the praefect Asclepiodatus
, an officer of
distinguished merit, had been assembled in the north of the Seine. So imperfect in those times was the art of navigation, that
orators have celebrated the daring courage of the Romans, who ventured to set sail with a side-wind, and on a stormy day. The
weather proved favorable to their enterprise. Under the cover of a thick fog, they escaped the fleet of Allectus
, which had been
stationed off the Isle of Wight
to receive them, landed in safety on some part of the western coast, and convinced the Britons,
that a superiority of naval strength will not always protect their country from a foreign invasion
. Asclepiodatus had no sooner
disembarked the imperial troops, then he set fire to his ships; and, as the expedition proved fortunate, his heroic conduct was
universally admired. The usurper had posted himself near London, to expect the formidable attack of Constantius
commanded in person the fleet of Boulogne; but the descent of a new enemy required his immediate presence in the West. He
performed this long march in so precipitate a manner, that he encountered the whole force of the praefect with a small body of
harassed and disheartened troops. The engagement was soon terminated by the total defeat and death of Allectus
; a single
battle, as it has often happened, decided the fate of this great island; and when Constantius
landed on the shores of Kent
found them covered with obedient subjects. Their acclamations were loud and unanimous; and the virtues of the conqueror may
induce us to believe, that they sincerely rejoiced in a revolution, which, after a separation of ten years, restored Britain to the
body of the Roman empire
Footnote 31: With regard to the recovery of Britain, we obtain a few hints from Aurelius Victor and Eutropius.
had none but domestic enemies to dread; and as long as the governors preserved their fidelity, and the troops their
discipline, the incursions of the naked savages of Scotland
could never materially affect the safety of the province.
The peace of the continent, and the defence of the principal rivers which bounded the empire, were objects of far greater
difficulty and importance. The policy of Diocletian
, which inspired the councils of his associates, provided for the public
tranquility, by encouraging a spirit of dissension among the barbarians, and by strengthening the fortifications of the Roman limit.
In the East he fixed a line of camps from Egypt
to the Persian dominions, and for every camp, he instituted an adequate number
of stationary troops, commanded by their respective officers, and supplied with every kind of arms, from the new arsenals
which he had formed at Antioch
, and Damascus
Nor was the precaution of the emperor less watchful against the well-known valor of the barbarians of Europe. From the mouth of the Rhine
to that of the Danube
, the ancient camps, towns, and citadels, were diligently reestablished, and, in the most exposed places, new ones were skillfully constructed: the strictest vigilance
was introduced among the garrisons of the frontier, and every expedient was practiced that could render the long chain of fortifications firm and impenetrable. 33
A barrier so respectable was seldom violated, and the barbarians often turned against each other their disappointed rage. The Goths
, the Vandals
, the Gepidae
, the Burgundians
, the Alemanni
, wasted each other's strength by destructive hostilities: and whosoever vanquished, they vanquished the enemies of Rome. The subjects of
Diocletian enjoyed the bloody spectacle, and congratulated each other, that the mischiefs of civil war
were now experienced
only by the barbarians. 34
Footnote 32: John Malala, in Chron, Antioch. tom. i. p. 408, 409.
Footnote 33: Zosim. l. i. p. 3. That partial historian
seems to celebrate the vigilance of Diocletian with a design of exposing the negligence of Constantine; we may, however, listen
to an orator: "Nam quid ego alarum et cohortium castra percenseam, toto Rheni et Istri et Euphraus limite restituta." Panegyr.
Vet. iv. 18.
Footnote 34: Ruunt omnes in sanguinem suum populi, quibus ron contigilesse Romanis, obstinataeque feritatis poenas nunc sponte persolvunt. Panegyr. Vet. iii. 16. Mamertinus illustrates the fact by the example of almost all the nations in the world.
Notwithstanding the policy of Diocletian, it was impossible to maintain an equal and undisturbed tranquillity during a reign of
twenty years, and along a frontier of many hundred miles. Sometimes the barbarians suspended their domestic animosities, and
the relaxed vigilance of the garrisons sometimes gave a passage to their strength or dexterity
. Whenever the provinces were
invaded, Diocletian conducted himself with that calm dignity which he always affected or possessed; reserved his presence for
such occasions as were worthy of his interposition, never exposed his person or reputation to any unnecessary danger, insured
his success by every means that prudence could suggest, and displayed, with ostentation
, the consequences of his victory. In
wars of a more difficult nature, and more doubtful event, he employed the rough valor of Maximian
; and that faithful soldier was
content to ascribe his own victories to the wise counsels and auspicious influence of his benefactor. But after the adoption of the
two Caesars, the emperors themselves, retiring to a less laborious scene of action, devolved on their adopted sons the defence
of the Danube
and of the Rhine
. The vigilant Galerius was never reduced to the necessity of vanquishing an army of barbarians
on the Roman territory. 35
The brave and active Contsantius delivered Gaul from a very furious inroad of the Alemanni; and his victories of Langres and Vindonissa appear to have been actions of considerable danger and merit. As he traversed the
open country with a feeble guard, he was encompassed on a sudden by the superior multitude of the enemy. He retreated with
difficulty towards Langres
; but, in the general consternation, the citizens refused to open their gates, and the wounded prince
was drawn up the wall by the means of a rope. But, on the news of his distress, the Roman troops hastened from all sides to his
relief, and before the evening he had satisfied his honor and revenge by the slaughter
of six thousand Alemanni. 36
From the monuments of those times, the obscure traces of several other victories over the barbarians
might possibly be collected; but the tedious search would not be rewarded either with amusement or with instruction.
Footnote 35: He complained, though not with the strictest truth, "Jam fluxisse annos quindecim in quibus, in Illyrico, ad ripam
Danubii relegatus cum gentibus barbaris luctaret." Lactant. de M. P. c. 18.
Footnote 36: In the Greek text of Eusebius, we
read six thousand, a number which I have preferred to the sixty thousand of Jerome, Orosius Eutropius, and his Greek
The conduct which the emperor Probus had adopted in the disposal of the vanquished, was imitated by Diocletian and his
associates. The captive barbarians, exchanging death for slavery, were distributed among the provincials, and assigned to those
districts (in Gaul, the territories of Amiens
, and Troyes
, are particularly specified 37
) which had been depopulated by the calamities of war. They were usefully employed as shepherds and husbandmen, but were denied the exercise of arms, except when it was found expedient to enroll them in the military service. Nor did the emperors refuse the property of lands, with a less servile tenure, to such of the barbarians as solicited the protection of Rome
. They granted a settlement to several colonies of the Carpi
, and the Sarmatians; and, by a dangerous indulgence
, permitted them in some measure to retain their national manners and independence. 38
Among the provincials, it was a subject of flattering exultation, that the barbarian
, so lately an object of terror, now cultivated their lands, drove their cattle to the neighboring fair, and contributed by his labor to the public plenty. They congratulated their masters on the powerful
accession of subjects and soldiers; but they forgot to observe, that multitudes of secret enemies, insolent from favor, or
desperate from oppression, were introduced into the heart of the empire. 39
Footnote 37: Panegyr. Vet. vii. 21.
Footnote 38: There was a settlement of the Sarmatians in the neighborhood of Treves, which seems to have been deserted by
those lazy barbarians. Ausonius speaks of them in his Mosella: - "Unde iter ingrediens nemorosa per avia solum, Et nulla humani spectans vestigia cultus; Arvaque Sauromatum nuper metata colonis.
Footnote 39: There was a town of the Carpi in the Lower Maesia. See the rhetorical exultation of Eumenius.
While the Caesars exercised their valor on the banks of the Rhine
, the presence of the emperors was required on
the southern confines of the Roman world. From the Nile to Mount Atlas Africa was in arms. A confederacy
of five Moorish
nations issued from their deserts to invade the peaceful provinces. 40 Julian
had assumed the purple at Carthage
. 41 Achilleus
, and even the Blemmyes, renewed, or rather continued, their incursions into the Upper Egypt
. Scarcely any circumstances have been preserved of the exploits of Maximian in the western parts of Africa; but it appears, by the event, that the progress of his arms was rapid and decisive, that he vanquished the fiercest barbarians of Mauritania, and that he removed them from the mountains, whose inaccessible strength had inspired their inhabitants with a lawless confidence, and
habituated them to a life of rapine
. 42 Diocletian, on his side, opened the campaign in Egypt by the siege of Alexandria, cut off the aqueducts which conveyed the waters of the Nile into every quarter of that immense city, 43 and rendering his camp impregnable to the sallies of the besieged multitude, he pushed his reiterated attacks with caution and vigor.
After a siege of eight months, Alexandria
, wasted by the sword and by fire, implored the clemency of the conqueror, but it
experienced the full extent of his severity
. Many thousands of the citizens perished in a promiscuous slaughter
, and there were
few obnoxious persons in Egypt who escaped a sentence either of death or at least of exile
The fate of Busiris
and of Coptos
was still more melancholy than that of Alexandria: those proud cities, the former distinguished by its antiquity
, the latter
enriched by the passage of the Indian trade, were utterly destroyed by the arms and by the severe order of Diocletian. 45
The character of the Egyptian nation, insensible to kindness, but extremely susceptible of fear, could alone justify this excessive rigor. The seditions of Alexandria had often affected the tranquillity and subsistence of Rome
itself. Since the usurpation of Firmus, the province of Upper Egypt
, incessantly relapsing into rebellion, had embraced the alliance of the savages of
. The number of the Blemmyes, scattered between the Island of Meroe
and the Red Sea, was very inconsiderable,
their disposition was unwarlike, their weapons rude and inoffensive. 46
Yet in the public disorders, these barbarians, whom antiquity, shocked with the deformity of their figure, had almost excluded from the human species, presumed to rank themselves among the enemies of Rome
Such had been the unworthy allies of the Egyptians; and while the attention of the state was engaged in more serious wars, their vexations inroads might again harass the repose of the province. With a view of opposing to the Blemmyes
a suitable adversary, Diocletian persuaded the Nobatae, or people of Nubia
, to remove from their ancient habitations in the deserts of Libya
, and resigned to them an extensive but unprofitable territory above Syene and the cataracts of the Nile
, with the stipulation, that they should ever respect and guard the frontier of the empire. The treaty long subsisted; and till the establishment of Christianity
introduced stricter notions of religious worship, it was annually ratified by a solemn sacrifice in the Isle of Elephantine
, in which the Romans, as well as the barbarians, adored the same visible or invisible powers of the universe. 48
Footnote 40: Scaliger (Animadvers. ad Euseb. p. 243) decides, in his usual manner, that the Quinque gentiani, or five African nations, were the five great cities, the Pentapolis of the inoffensive province of Cyrene.
Footnote 41: After his defeat, Julian stabbed himself with a dagger, and immediately leaped into the flames. Victor in Epitome.
Footnote 42: Tu ferocissimos Mauritaniae populos inaccessis montium jugis et naturali munitione fidentes, expugnasti, recepisti, transtulisti. Panegyr Vet. vi. 8.
Footnote 43: See the description of Alexandria, in Hirtius de Bel. Alexandrin c. 5.
Footnote 44: Eutrop. ix. 24. Orosius, vii. 25. John Malala in Chron. Antioch. p. 409, 410. Yet Eumenius assures us, that Egypt was pacified by the clemency of Diocletian.
Footnote 45: Eusebius (in Chron.) places their destruction several years sooner and at a time when Egypt itself was in a state of rebellion against the Romans.
Footnote 46: Strabo, l. xvii. p. 172. Pomponius Mela, l. i. c. 4. His words are curious: "Intra, si credere libet vix, hominess magisque semiferi Aegipanes, et Blemmyes, et Satyri."
Footnote 47: Ausus sese inserere fortunae et provocare arma Romana.
Footnote 48: See Procopius de Bell. Persic. l. i. c. 19. Note: Compare, on the epoch of the final extirpation of the rites of Paganism from the Isle of Philae, (Elephantine,) which subsisted till the edict of Theodosius, in the sixth century, a dissertation of M. Letronne, on certain Greek inscriptions. The dissertation contains some very interesting observations on the conduct and policy of Diocletian in Egypt. Mater pour l'Hist. Du Christianisme en Egypte, Nubie et Abyssinie, Paris 1817 - M.
At the same time that Diocletian
chastised the past crimes of the Egyptians, he provided for their future safety and happiness by many wise regulations, which were confirmed and enforced under the succeeding reigns. 49
One very remarkable edict which he published, instead of being condemned as the effect of jealous tyranny
, deserves to be applauded as an act of prudence and humanity. He caused a diligent inquiry to be made "for all the ancient books which treated of the admirable art of making gold and silver, and without pity, committed them to the flames; apprehensive, as we are assumed, lest the opulence of the Egyptians should inspire them with confidence to rebel against the empire." 50
But if Diocletian
had been convinced of the reality of that valuable art, far from extinguishing the memory, he would have converted the operation of it to the benefit of the public revenue. It is much more likely, that his good sense discovered to him the folly of such magnificent pretensions, and that he was desirous of preserving the reason and fortunes of his subjects from the mischievous pursuit. It may be remarked, that these ancient books, so liberally ascribed to Pythagoras
, to Solomon
, or to Hermes
, were the pious frauds of more recent adepts. The Greeks were inattentive either to the use or to the abuse of chemistry
. In that immense register, where Pliny
has deposited the discoveries, the arts, and the errors of mankind, there is not the least mention of the transmutation of metals; and the persecution of Diocletian
is the first authentic event in the history of alchemy. The conquest of Egypt by the Arabs diffused that vain science over the globe.
Congenial to the avarice of the human heart, it was studied in China as in Europe, with equal eagerness, and with equal success. The darkness of the middle ages
insured a favorable reception to every tale of wonder, and the revival of learning gave new vigor to hope, and suggested more specious arts of deception. Philosophy
, with the aid of experience, has at length banished the study of alchemy
; and the present age, however desirous of riches, is content to seek them by the humbler means of commerce and industry. 51
Footnote 49: He fixed the public allowance of corn, for the people of Alexandria, at two millions of medimni; about four hundred thousand quarters. Chron. Paschal. p. 276 Procop. Hist. Arcan. c. 26.
Footnote 50: John Antioch, in Excerp. Valesian. p. 834. Suidas in Diocletian.
Footnote 51: See a short history and confutation of Alchemy, in the works of that philosophical compiler, La Mothe le Vayer, tom. i. p. 32 - 353.
The reduction of Egypt
was immediately followed by the Persian war. It was reserved for the reign of Diocletian
to vanquish that powerful nation, and to extort a confession from the successors of Artaxerxes
, of the superior majesty of the
We have observed, under the reign of Valerian
, that Armenia
was subdued by the perfidy and the arms of the Persians, and
that, after the assassination of Chosroes, his son Tiridates
, the infant heir of the monarchy, was saved by the fidelity of his
friends, and educated under the protection of the emperors. Tiridates derived from his exile such advantages as he could never
have obtained on the throne of Armenia
; the early knowledge of adversity, of mankind, and of the Roman discipline. He
signalized his youth by deeds of valor, and displayed a matchless dexterity, as well as strength, in every martial exercise, and
even in the less honorable contests of the Olympian
Those qualities were more nobly exerted in the defence of his benefactor Licinius. 53
That officer, in the sedition
which occasioned the death of Probus, was exposed to the most imminent danger, and the enraged soldiers were forcing their way into his tent, when they were checked by the single arm of the Armenian prince. The gratitude of Tiridates
contributed soon afterwards to his restoration. Licinius was in every station the friend and companion of Galerius
, and the merit of Galerius, long before he was raised to the dignity of Caesar
, had been
known and esteemed by Diocletian. In the third year of that emperor's reign Tiridates was invested with the kingdom of
Armenia. The justice of the measure was not less evident than its expediency. It was time to rescue from the usurpation of the
Persian monarch an important territory, which, since the reign of Nero
, had been always granted under the protection of the
empire to a younger branch of the house of Arsaces. 54
Footnote 52: See the education and strength of Tiridates in the Armenian history of Moses of Chorene, l. ii. c. 76. He could seize two wild bulls by the horns, and break them off with his hands.
Footnote 53: If we give credit to the younger Victor, who supposes that in the year 323 Licinius was only sixty years of age, he could scarcely be the same person as the patron of Tiridates; but we know from much better authority, (Euseb. Hist. Ecclesiast. l. x. c. 8,) that Licinius was at that time in the last period of old age: sixteen years before, he is represented with gray hairs, and as the contemporary of Galerius. See Lactant. c. 32. Licinius was probably born about the year 250.
Footnote 54: See the sixty-second and sixty-third books of Dion Cassius.
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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. 364-372.