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The emperor Gallienus, who had long supported with impatience
the censorial severity
of his father and colleague,
received the intelligence of his misfortunes with secret pleasure and avowed indifference. "I knew that my father was a
mortal," said he; "and since he has acted as it becomes a brave man, I am satisfied." Whilst Rome lamented the fate of
her sovereign, the savage coldness of his son was extolled by the servile courtiers as the perfect firmness of a hero and a
It is difficult to paint the light, the various, the inconstant
character of Gallienus
, which he displayed without
, as soon as he became sole possessor of the empire. In every art that he attempted, his lively genius enabled
him to succeed; and as his genius was destitute of judgment
, he attempted every art, except the important ones of war
and government. He was a master of several curious, but useless sciences, a ready orator, an elegant poet, 153
gardener, an excellent cook, and most contemptible prince. When the great emergencies of the state required his
presence and attention, he was engaged in conversation with the philosopher Plotinus
wasting his time in trifling or
licentious pleasures, preparing his initiation to the Grecian mysteries, or soliciting a place in the Arcopagus
profuse magnificence insulted the general poverty; the solemn ridicule of his triumphs impressed a deeper sense of the
public disgrace. 155
The repeated Intelligence
of invasions, defeats, and rebellions, he received with a careless smile;
and singling out, with affected contempt, some particular production of the lost province, he carelessly asked, whether
Rome must be ruined, unless it was supplied with linen from Egypt, and arras cloth from Gaul
. There were, however, a
few short moments in the life of Gallienus
, when, exasperated by some recent injury, he suddenly appeared the intrepid
soldier and the cruel tyrant; till, satiated with blood, or fatigued by resistance, he insensibly sunk into the natural mildness
and indolence of his character. 156
Footnote 152: See his life in the Augustan History.
Footnote 153: There is still extant a very pretty Epithalamium, composed by Gallienus for the nuptials of his nephews: -
"Ite ait, O juvenes, pariter sudate medullis Omnibus, inter vos: non murmura vestra columbae, Brachia non hederae, non
vincant oscula conchae."
Footnote 154: He was on the point of giving Plotinus a ruined city of Campania to try the experiment of realizing Plato's
Republic. See the Life of Plotinus, by Porphyry, in Fabricius's Biblioth. Graec. l. iv.
Footnote 155: A medal which
bears the head of Gallienus has perplexed the antiquarians by its legend and reverse; the former Gallienoe Augustoe, the
latter Ubique Pax. M. Spanheim supposes that the coin was struck by some of the enemies of Gallienus, and was
designed as a severe satire on that effeminate prince. But as the use of irony may seem unworthy of the gravity of the
Roman mint, M. de Vallemont has deduced from a passage of Trebellius Pollio (Hist. Aug. p. 198) an ingenious and
natural solution. Galliena was first cousin to the emperor. By delivering Africa from the usurper Celsus, she deserved the
title of Augusta. On a medal in the French king's collection, we read a similar inscription of Faustina Augusta round the
head of Marcus Aurelius. With regard to the Ubique Pax, it is easily explained by the vanity of Gallienus, who seized,
perhaps, the occasion of some momentary calm. See Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres, Janvier, 1700, p. 21 -
Footnote 156: This singular character has, I believe, been fairly transmitted to us. The reign of his immediate successor
was short and busy; and the historians who wrote before the elevation of the family of Constantine could not have the
most remote interest to misrepresent the character of Gallienus.
At the time when the reins of government were held with so loose a hand, it is not surprising, that a crowd of usurpers
should start up in every province of the empire against the son of Valerian. It was probably some ingenious fancy, of
comparing the thirty tyrants of Rome with the thirty tyrants of Athens, that induced the writers of the Augustan History to
select that celebrated number, which has been gradually received into a popular appellation
But in every light the
parallel is idle and defective. What resemblance can we discover between a council of thirty persons, the united
oppressors of a single city, and an uncertain list of independent rivals, who rose and fell in irregular succession through
the extent of a vast empire? Nor can the number of thirty be completed, unless we include in the account the women and
children who were honored with the Imperial title. The reign of Gallienus, distracted as it was, produced only nineteen
pretenders to the throne
, and Zenobia
, in the East; in Gaul
, and the western
, and his mother Victoria, Marius
, and Tetricus
; in Illyricum and the confines
of the Danube, Ingenuus
, and Aureolus
; in Pontus, 158 Saturninus
; in Isauria
; and Celsus
To illustrate the obscure monuments of the life and death
of each individual, would prove a laborious task, alike barren of instruction and of amusement. We may content
ourselves with investigating some general characters, that most strongly mark the condition of the times, and the manners
of the men, their pretensions, their motives, their fate, and their destructive consequences of their usurpation. 159
Footnote 157: Pollio expresses the most minute anxiety to complete the number.
Note: Compare a dissertation of Manso on the thirty tyrants at the end of his Leben Constantius des Grossen. Breslau,
1817. - M.
Footnote 158: The place of his reign is somewhat doubtful; but there was a tyrant in Pontus, and we are acquainted with
the seat of all the others.
Footnote *: Captain Smyth, in his "Catalogue of Medals," p. 307, substitutes two new names
to make up the number of nineteen, for those of Odenathus and Zenobia. He subjoins this list: - 1. 2. 3. Of those whose
coins Those whose coins Those of whom no are undoubtedly true. are suspected. coins are known. Posthumus.
Cyriades. Valens. Laelianus, (Lollianus, G.) Ingenuus. Balista Victorinus Celsus. Saturninus. Marius. Piso Frugi.
- M. 1815 Macrianus. Quietus. Regalianus (Regillianus, G.) Alex. Aemilianus. Aureolus. Sulpicius Antoninus
Footnote 159: Tillemont, tom. iii. p. 1163, reckons them somewhat differently.
It is sufficiently known, that the odious appellation of Tyrant
was often employed by the ancients to express the illegal
seizure of supreme power, without any reference to the abuse of it. Several of the pretenders, who raised the standard of
rebellion against the emperor Gallienus
, were shining models of virtue, and almost all possessed a considerable share of
vigor and ability. Their merit had recommended them to the favor of Valerian
, and gradually promoted them to the most
important commands of the empire. The generals, who assumed the title of Augustus
, were either respected by their
troops for their able conduct and severe discipline
, or admired for valor and success in war, or beloved for frankness
and generosity. The field of victory was often the scene of their election
; and even the armorer Marius, the most
contemptible of all the candidates for the purple, was distinguished
, however by intrepid courage, matchless strength, and
blunt honesty. 160
His mean and recent trade cast, indeed, an air of ridicule on his elevation; *
but his birth could not
be more obscure than was that of the greater part of his rivals, who were born of peasants, and enlisted in the army as
private soldiers. In times of confusion, every active genius finds the place assigned him by nature: in a general state of
war, military merit is the road to glory and to greatness. Of the nineteen tyrants Tetricus
only was a senator; Piso alone
was a noble. The blood of Numa, through twenty-eight successive generations, ran in the veins of Calphurnius Piso,
who, by female alliances, claimed a right of exhibiting, in his house, the images of Crassus
and of the great
His ancestors had been repeatedly dignified with all the honors which the commonwealth
and of all the ancient families of Rome, the Calphurnian alone had survived the tyranny of the Caesars. The personal
qualities of Piso added new lustre to his race. The usurper Valens, by whose order he was killed, confessed, with deep
remorse, that even an enemy ought to have respected the sanctity of Piso; and although he died in arms against Gallienus
, with the emperor's generous permission
, decreed the triumphal ornaments to the memory of so virtuous a
See Roman Coins: From The British Museum. Number four depicts Crassus.
Footnote 160: See the
speech of Marius in the Augustan History, p. 197. The accidental identity of names was the only circumstance that could
tempt Pollio to imitate Sallust.
Footnote *: Marius was killed by a soldier, who had formerly served as a workman in his shop, and who exclaimed, as
he struck, "Behold the sword which thyself hast forged." Trob vita. - G.
Footnote 161: "Vos, O Pompilius sanguis!" is Horace's address to the Pisos See Art. Poet. v. 292, with Dacier's and
Footnote 162: Tacit. Annal. xv. 48. Hist. i. 15. In the former of these passages we may venture to
change paterna into materna. In every generation from Augustus to Alexander Severus, one or more Pisos appear as
consuls. A Piso was deemed worthy of the throne by Augustus, (Tacit. Annal. i. 13;) a second headed a formidable
conspiracy against Nero; and a third was adopted, and declared Caesar, by Galba.
Footnote 163: Hist. August. p. 195. The senate, in a moment of enthusiasm, seems to have presumed on the
approbation of Gallienus.
The lieutenants of Valerian
were grateful to the father, whom they esteemed. They disdained to serve the luxurious
of his unworthy son. The throne of the Roman world was unsupported by any principle of loyalty; and treason
against such a prince might easily be considered as patriotism
to the state. Yet if we examine with candor the conduct of
these usurpers, it will appear, that they were much oftener driven into rebellion by their fears, than urged to it by their
ambition. They dreaded the cruel suspicions of Gallienus
; they equally dreaded the capricious violence of their troops. If
the dangerous favor of the army had imprudently declared them deserving of the purple, they were marked for sure
destruction; and even prudence would counsel them to secure a short enjoyment of empire, and rather to try the fortune
of war than to expect the hand of an executioner
When the clamor of the soldiers invested the reluctant victims with the ensigns of sovereign
authority, they sometimes
mourned in secret their approaching fate. "You have lost," said Saturninus, on the day of his elevation, "you have lost a
useful commander, and you have made a very wretched emperor." 164
Footnote 164: Hist. August p. 196.
The apprehensions of Saturninus
were justified by the repeated experience of revolutions. Of the nineteen tyrants who
started up under the reign of Gallienus
, there was not one who enjoyed a life of peace, or a natural death. As soon as
they were invested with the bloody purple, they inspired their adherents with the same fears and ambition which had
occasioned their own revolt. Encompassed with domestic conspiracy
, military sedition
, and civil war
, they trembled on
the edge of precipices, in which, after a longer or shorter term of anxiety, they were inevitably lost. These precarious
monarchs received, however, such honors as the flattery of their respective armies and provinces could bestow; but their
claim, founded on rebellion
, could never obtain the sanction of law or history. Italy
, and the senate, constantly
adhered to the cause of Gallienus
, and he alone was considered as the sovereign of the empire. That prince
condescended, indeed, to acknowledge the victorious arms of Odenathus
, who deserved the honorable distinction, by
the respectful conduct which he always maintained towards the son of Valerian. With the general applause of the
Romans, and the consent of Gallienus, the senate conferred the title of Augustu
s on the brave Palmyrenian;
to intrust him with the government of the East, which he already possessed, in so independent a manner, that, like a
private succession, he bequeathed it to his illustrious widow, Zenobia. 165
Footnote 165: The association of the brave
Palmyrenian was the most popular act of the whole reign of Gallienus. Hist. August. p. 180.
The rapid and perpetual
transitions from the cottage to the throne, and from the throne to the grave, might have amused an indifferent philosopher;
were it possible for a philosopher
to remain indifferent amidst the general calamities of human kind. The election of these
precarious emperors, their power and their death, were equally destructive to their subjects and adherents. The price of
their fatal elevation was instantly discharged to the troops by an immense donative, drawn from the bowels of the
exhausted people. However virtuous
was their character, however pure their intentions, they found themselves reduced
to the hard necessity of supporting their usurpation by frequent acts of rapine and cruelty. When they fell, they involved
armies and provinces in their fall. There is still extant a most savage mandate
to one of his ministers, after
the suppression of Ingenuu
s, who had assumed the purple in Illyricum
"It is not enough," says that soft but inhuman prince, "that you exterminate such as have appeared in arms; the chance of
battle might have served me as effectual. The male sex of every age must be extirpated; provided that, in the execution
of the children and old men, you can contrive means to save our reputation. Let every one die who has dropped an
expression, who has entertained a thought against me, against me, the son of Valerian
, the father and brother of so many
Remember that Ingenuus was made emperor:
tear, kill, hew in pieces. I write to you with my own hand,
and would inspire you with my own feelings." 167
Whilst the public forces of the state were dissipated in private
quarrels, the defenseles
s provinces lay exposed to every invader. The bravest usurpers were compelled, by the
perplexity of their situation, to conclude ignominious treaties with the common enemy, to purchase with oppressive
tributes the neutrality or services of the barbarians
, and to introduce hostile and independent nations into the heart of the
Roman monarchy. 168
Footnote 166: Gallienus had given the titles of Caesar and Augustus to his son Saloninus, slain at Cologne by the
usurper Posthumus. A second son of Gallienus succeeded to the name and rank of his elder brother Valerian, the brother
of Gallienus, was also associated to the empire: several other brothers, sisters, nephews, and nieces of the emperor
formed a very numerous royal family. See Tillemont, tom iii, and M. de Brequigny in the Memoires de l'Academie, tom
xxxii p. 262.
Footnote 167: Hist. August. p. 188.
Footnote 168: Regillianus had some bands of Roxolani in his service; Posthumus a body of Franks. It was, perhaps, in
the character of auxiliaries that the latter introduced themselves into Spain.
Such were the barbarians
, and such the tyrants, who, under the reigns of Valerian
, dismembered the
provinces, and reduced the empire to the lowest pitch of disgrace
and ruin, from whence it seemed impossible that it
should ever emerge. As far as the barrenness of materials would permit, we have attempted to trace, with order and
perspicuity, the general events of that calamitous period. There still remain some particular facts; I. The disorders of
Sicily; II. The tumults of Alexandria; and, III. The rebellion of the Isaurians, which may serve to reflect a strong light on
the horrid picture.
I. Whenever numerous troops of bandits, multiplied by success and impunity, publicly defy, instead of eluding the justice
of their country, we may safely infer, that the excessive weakness of the government is felt and abused by the lowest
ranks of the community. The situation of Sicily
preserved it from the barbarians
; nor could the disarmed province have
supported a usurper
. The sufferings of that once flourishing and still fertile island were inflicted by baser hands. A
licentious crowd of slaves and peasants reigned for a while over the plundered country, and renewed the memory of the
servile wars of more ancient times. 169
Devastations, of which the husbandman was either the victim or the
accomplice, must have ruined the agriculture of Sicily
; and as the principal estates were the property of the opulent
senators of Rome, who often enclosed within a farm the territory of an old republic
, it is not improbable, that this private
injury might affect the capital more deeply, than all the conquests of the Goths
or the Persians
Footnote 169: The Augustan History, p. 177. See Diodor. Sicul. l. xxxiv.
II. The foundation of Alexandria was a noble
design, at once conceived and executed by the son of Philip. The beautiful and regular form of that great city, second
only to Rome itself, comprehended a circumference of fifteen miles; 170
it was peopled by three hundred thousand free
inhabitants, besides at least an equal number of slaves. 171
The lucrative trade of Arabia
flowed through the
port of Alexandria, to the capital and provinces of the empire. * Idleness
was unknown. Some were employed in
blowing of glass, others in weaving of linen, others again manufacturing the papyrus
. Either sex, and every age, was
engaged in the pursuits of industry, nor did even the blind or the lame want occupations suited to their condition. 172
But the people of Alexandria, a various mixture of nations, united thevanity
and inconstancy of the Greeks
superstition and obstinacy of the Egyptians. The most trifling occasion, a transient scarcity of flesh or lentils, the neglect of
an accustomed salutation, a mistake of precedence
in the public baths, or even a religious dispute, 173
were at any time
sufficient to kindle a sedition
among that vast multitude, whose resentments were furious and implacable. 174
captivity of Valerian and the insolence of his son had relaxed the authority of the laws, the Alexandrians abandoned
themselves to the ungoverned rage of their passions, and their unhappy country was the theatre of a civil war
continued (with a few short and suspicious truces) above twelve years. 175
All intercourse was cut off between the
several quarters of the afflicted city, every street was polluted with blood, every building of strength converted into a
; nor did the tumults subside till a considerable part of Alexandria was irretrievably ruined. The spacious and
magnificent district of Bruchion
with its palaces and musaeum, the residence of the kings and philosophers of Egypt,
is described above a century afterwards, as already reduced to its present state of dreary solitude
Footnote 170: Plin. Hist. Natur. v. 10.
Footnote 171: Diodor. Sicul. l. xvii. p. 590, edit. Wesseling.
Footnote *: Berenice, or Myos-Hormos, on the Red Sea, received the eastern commodities. From thence they were
transported to the Nile, and down the Nile to Alexandria. - M.
Footnote 172: See a very curious letter of Hadrian, in the Augustan History, p. 245.
Footnote 173: Such as the sacrilegious murder of a divine cat. See Diodor. Sicul. l. i.
Note: The hostility between the Jewish and Grecian part of the population afterwards between the two former and the
Christian, were unfailing causes of tumult, sedition, and massacre. In no place were the religious disputes, after the
establishment of Christianity, more frequent or more sanguinary. See Philo. de Legat. Hist. of Jews, ii. 171, iii. 111, 198.
Gibbon, iii c. xxi. viii. c. xlvii. - M.
Footnote 174: Hist. August. p. 195. This long and terrible sedition was first occasioned by a dispute between a soldier
and a townsman about a pair of shoes.
Footnote 175: Dionysius apud. Euses. Hist. Eccles. vii. p. 21. Ammian xxii. 16.
Footnote *: The Bruchion was a quarter of Alexandria which extended along the largest of the two ports, and contained
many palaces, inhabited by the Ptolemies. D'Anv. Geogr. Anc. iii. 10. - G.
Footnote 176: Scaliger. Animadver. ad Euseb. Chron. p. 258. Three dissertations of M. Bonamy, in the Mem. de
l'Academie, tom. ix.
III. The obscure rebellion
, who assumed the purple in Isauria, a petty province of
, was attended with strange and memorable consequences. The pageant
was soon destroyed by an
officer of Gallienus
; but his followers, despairing of mercy
, resolved to shake off their allegiance
, not only to the emperor,
but to the empire, and suddenly returned to the savage manners
from which they had never perfectly been reclaimed.
Their craggy rocks, a branch of the wide-extended Taurus
, protected their inaccessible retreat. The tillage of some fertile
supplied them with necessaries, and a habit of rapine with the luxuries of life. In the heart of the Roman
, the Isaurians long continued a nation of wild barbarians
. Succeeding princes, unable to reduce them to
obedience, either by arms or policy, were compelled to acknowledge their weakness, by surrounding the hostile and
spot with a strong chain of fortifications, 178
which often proved insufficient to restrain the incursions of
these domestic foes. The Isaurians, gradually extending their territory to the sea-coast, subdued the western and
mountainous part of Cilicia
, formerly the nest of those daring pirates, against whom the republic had once been obliged
to exert its utmost force, under the conduct of the great Pompeii
Footnote 177: Strabo, l. xiii. p. 569.
Footnote 178: Hist. August. p. 197.
Footnote 179: See Cellarius, Geogr Antiq. tom. ii. p. 137, upon the limits of Isauria.
Our habits of thinking so fondly connect the order of the universe with the fate of man, that this gloomy
period of history
has been decorated with inundations, earthquakes, uncommon meteors, preternatural darkness
, and a crowd of
prodigies fictitious or exaggerated. 180
But a long and general famine was a calamity of a more serious kind. It was the
inevitable consequence of rapine and oppression, which extirpated the produce of the present, and the hope of future
is almost always followed by epidemical
diseases, the effect of scanty and unwholesome
causes must, however, have contributed to the furious plague
, which, from the year two hundred and fifty to the year two
hundred and sixty-five, raged without interruption in every province, every city, and almost every family, of the Roman
empire. During some time five thousand persons died daily in Rome
; and many towns, that had escaped the hands of the
, were entirely depopulated. 181
Footnote 180: Hist August p 177.
Footnote 181: Hist. August. p. 177. Zosimus, l. i. p. 24. Zonaras, l. xii. p. 623. Euseb. Chronicon. Victor in Epitom.
Victor in Caesar. Eutropius, ix. 5. Orosius, vii. 21.
We have the knowledge of a very curious circumstance, of some use perhaps in the melancholy calculation of human
calamities. An exact register was kept at Alexandria of all the citizens entitled to receive the distribution of corn. It was
found, that the ancient number of those comprised between the ages of forty and seventy, had been equal to the whole
sum of claimants, from fourteen to fourscore years of age, who remained alive after the reign of Gallienus
this authentic fact to the most correct tables of mortality
, it evidently proves, that above half the people of Alexandria had
perished; and could we venture to extend the analogy to the other provinces, we might suspect, that war, pestilence
famine, had consumed, in a few years, the moiety of the human species. 183
Footnote 182: Euseb. Hist. Eccles. vii.
21. The fact is taken from the Letters of Dionysius, who, in the time of those troubles, was bishop of Alexandria.
Footnote 183: In a great number of parishes, 11,000 persons were found between fourteen and eighty; 5365 between
forty and seventy. See Buffon, Histoire Naturelle, tom. ii. p. 590.
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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. 277-286.