Page images
PDF
EPUB

yersant with such subjects, and thinks them well deserving of a free, liberal, and accurate discussion.

In regard to the Dissertations, few of our Readers, we apo prehend, will agree with Mr. Taylor, in what he says of the Millennium, &c. though they will be pleased to see what so abie a Writer advances in support of his opinions.

ART. XV. Conclufion of ihe Account of Mr. Gibbon's History of

be Decline and Fall of tbe Roman Empire. IN consequence of our having so long delayed concluding our

account of Mr. Gibbon's History, we are enabled to communicate to our Readers a piece of intelligence, which, we have every reason to believe, will be as acceptable to them as it is agreeable to us. It is contained in the Preface to the last edition of the History.

• An Author (says Mr. Gibbon) easily perfuades himfeif that the public opinion is lill favourable to his labours; and I have now embraced the serious resolution of proceeding to the last period of my original defign, and of the Roman Empire, the taking of Conftan.inople by the Turks, in the year 1453. The most pacient Reader, who computes that three ponderous volumes have been already employed on the events of four centuries, may, perhaps, be alarmed at the long prospect of nine hundred years. But it is not my intention to expaciate with the same minuteness on the whole series of the Byzantine history. At our entrance into this period, the reign of Justinian, and the conquells of the Mahometaos, will deserve and detain our attention, and the last age of Conttaotinople (the Crusades and the Turks) is connected with the revolutions of modern Europe. From the seventh to the eleventh century, the obscure interval will be supplied by a concise narrative of such fails, as may still appear either interesting or important.'

Every candid Reader, who is acquainted with Mr. Gibbon's merit as an Historian, and a competent judge of his abilities, will, we are persuaded, join his fincere wilhes to ours, that nothing may happen to prevent his carrying his design into execution.

We now proceed to the 32d Chapter of his History, which contains an account of the reign of Arcadius ; the administration and disgrace of Eutropius ; the revolt of Gainas ; the Perfian war; the division of Armenia, &c. together with an impartial and judicious view of the character and conduct of Chryfoftom, Pulcheria, and the Empress Eudocia.

In the 330, 341h, 35th, and 30th Chapters, we have an account of the death of Honorius ; the administration of Placidia; the conquest of Africa by the Vandals; the character, conquests, and court of Attila, King of the Huns; the death of Theodosius the younger ; the elevation of Marcian to the empire of the East; the invasion of Gaul by Attila; the fack of Rome by Genseric, King of the Vandals ; the total extinction

of

he divifio Eutropius en of Arcadinhis Hiltor

of the Western empire, and the reign of Odoacer, the firft Bar. barian King of Italy. It is imposible to read these chapters with the attention they deserve, without entertaining a very high opinion of the industry, accuracy, and discernment of the Historian, who has formed to agreeable and interesting a narrative from such scanty and imperfect materials. The characte: which Mr. Gibbon gives of the Marquis Scipio Maffei may, with great justice, be applied to himself-viz. That he is equals: capable of enlarged views and minute disquisitions.

"The indissoluble connection of civil and ecclefiaftical affairs, he says, has compelled and encouraged him to relate the progress, the persecutions, the establishment, the divisions, the final triumph, and the gradual corruption of Christianity; and he has purposely delayed the confideration of two religious events, interesting in the study of human nature, and important in the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire ; 1. The inftitution of the monastic life; and, 2. The conversion of the Northera Barbarians. These important events are the subject of the 37th Chapter, which is introduced in the following manner:

• Prosperity and peace introduced the distinction of the vulgar aod the Afcetic Christians. The loose and imperfect pradice of religion fatisfied the conscience of the multitude. The prince or magiftrate, the foldier or merchant, reconciled their fervent zeal, and implicit faith, with the exercise of their profession, the pursuit of their interest, and the indulgence of their paffions: but the Afcetics, wbo obeyed and abused the rigid precepts of the gospel, were inspired by the savage enthufarm, which reprefents man as a criminal, sod God as a tyrant. They seriously renounced the business, and the pleasures, of the age ; abjured the use of wine, of Aeth, and of mar. siage; chattised their body, mortified their affećtions, and embraced a life of misery, as the price of eternal happiness. In the reign of Constantine, the Ascetics fled from a profane and degenerace s orld, to perpetual solitude, or religious fociety. Like the firft Chritiani of Jerusalem, they resigned the use, or the property, of their te. poral pofleflions ; eltablihed regular communities of the same sex, and a similar dispofition; and affumed the names of Hermits, Morli, and Anachorets, exprellive of their lonely retreat in a natural or art. ficial desert. They soon acquired the respect of the worl!, which they despised ; and the loudeit applause was bestowed on this DIVING PHILOSOPHY, which surpassed, without the aid of science or reason, the laborious virtues of the Grecian schools. The monks might indeed contend with the Stoics, in the contempt of fortune, of pain, and of death: the Pythagorean Glence and lub million were revived in their servile discipline ; and they disdained, do firmly as the Cynia themselves, all the forms and decencies of civil society. But the rotaries of this Divine Philosophy aspired to imitate a purer and more perfect model. They trod in the foo:{teps of the prophets, "wna retired to the desert; and they restored the devout and contempla tive life, which had been infticored by the Essenians, in Pater: "** and Egypi. The philofophic eye of Pliny had surveyed with a touch

megt

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

ment a solitary people, who dwelt among the palm-trees near the Dead Sea; who subsisted without money, who were propagated without women; and who derived from the disgust and repentance of mankind, a perpetual supply of voluntary associates.'

Mr. Gibbon concludes this very curious and interesting chapter with what follows:

• As soon as the Barbarians withdrew their powerful support, the unpopular heresy of Arius sunk into contempt and oblivion. But the Greeks still retained their subtle and loquacious disposition : the establishment of an obscure doctrine suggested new questions, and new disputes; and it was always in the power of an ambitious prelate, or a fanatic monk, to violate the peace of the church, and, perhaps, of the empire. The historian of the empire may overlook chose disputes which were confined to the obscurity of schools and synods. The Manichæans, who laboured to reconcile the religions of Christ and of Zoroafter, had secretly introduced themselves into the provinces : but chese foreign sectaries were involved in the com. mon disgrace of the Gnostics, and the Imperial laws were executed by the public hatred. The rational opinions of the Pelagians were propagated from Britain to Rome, Africa, and Palestine, and filently expired in a superstitious age. But the East was distracted by the Neftorian and Eutychian controversies; which attempted to explain the mystery of the incarnation, and haltened the ruin of Christianity in her native land. These controverfies were first agitated under the reigo of the younger Theodofius: but their important consequences extend far beyond the limits of the present volume. The metaphya fical chain of argument, the contests of ecclesiastical ambition, and their political influence on the decline of the Byzantine empire, may afford an interesting and instructive series of history, from the gederal councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon, to the conquest of the Eaft by the fucceffors of Mahomer.'

The 38th Chapter contains the history of the reign and conversion of Clovis, the establishment of the French monarchy in Gaul, the state of the Romans, and the conquest of Britain by the Saxons. Mr. Gibbon concludes his third volume with some general Observations on the fall of the Roman empire in the West:

" The rise of a city, says he, which swelled into an empire, may de.. serve, as a fingular prodigy, the refe&ion of a philofophic mind. But the decline of Rome was the natural and inevirable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the causes of destruction multiplied with the extent of conqueft; and as soon as time or accident had removed the artiñcial supports, the ftupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight. The story of its ruin is fimple and obvious; and instead of enquiring wby the Roman empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had sublifted (o long. The victorious legions, who, in diftant wars, acquired the vices of Itrangers and mercenaries, fieft oppressed the freedom of the republic, and afterwards violated the majeity of the Purple. The emperors, anxious for their personal salety and the public peace, were reduced to the base expedient of corrupting the discipline which ren.

dered

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

dered them alike formidable to their sovereign and to the enemy; the vigour of the military government was relaxed, and finally dila folved, by the partial inititutions of Constantine; and the Roman world was overwhelmed by a deluge of Barbarians.

^ The decay of Rome bas been frequently ascribed to the translation of the seat of empire; but this history has already shews, that the powers of government were divided, rather than removed. The throne of Constantinople was erected in the East; while the West was ftill pofleffed by a series of emperors who held their relidence in Italy, and claimed their equal inheritance of the legions and provinces. This dangerous novelty impaired the strength, and fomented the vices, of a double reign : the instruments of an oppreffive and arbitrary system were multiplied; and a vain emulation of luxury, not of merit, was introduced and supported between the degenerate fuctes. fors of Theodosius. Extreme distress, which uites the virtue of a free people, embitters the factions of a declining monarchy. The boftile favourites of Arcadius and Honorius betrayed the republic to its common enemies; and the Byzantine court beheld with indifference, perhaps with pleasure, the disgrace of Rome, the misfortunes of Italy, and the loss of the Wea. Under the succeeding reigns, the alliance of the two empires was restored ; but she aid of the Oriental Romans was lardy, doubtful, and ineffectual; and the national schilm of the Greeks and Latins was enlarged by the perpetual difference of language and manners, of interest, and even of religion. Yer the (2. lutary event approved in some measure the judgment of Conftantine. During a long period of decay, his impregnable city repelled the victorious armies of Barbarians, protected the wealth of Afia, ar commanded, both in peace and war, the important freights whics connect the Euxine and Mediterranean seas. The founda:ion of Constantinople more essentially contributed to the preservation of the East, than to the ruin of the West.

• As the happiness of a future life is the great object of religion, we mạy hear without surprise or scandal, that the introduction, or at least the abuse, of Christianity, had some influence on the declice and fall of the Roman empire. The clergy successfully preached the doctrines of patience and pufillanimity; the active virtues of society were discouraged ; and the latt remains of military spirit were buried in the cloyster : a large portion of public and private wealth was confecrated to the specious demands of charity and devotion; and obe soldiers pay was lavished on che useless multitudes of both sexes, who could only plead the merits of abstinence and chastity. Faith, zea, curioficy, and the more earthly pallions of malice and ambition, kia. dled the flame of theological discord; the church, and even che fare, were distracted by religious factions, wbose conflicts were sometimes bloody, and always implacable ; the attention of the emperors was diverted from camps to fynods; the Roman world was oppreffed by a new species of tyranny; and the persecuted seats became the secret enemies of their country. Yet party-spirit, bowever peroicious or abfurd, is a principle of union as well as of diffention. The bishops, from eighteen hundred pulpits, inculcated the duty of pallive obedi ence to a lawful and orthodox sovereign ; their frequent assemblies, and perpetual correspondence, maintained che communion of dutaos

churches

Churches ; and the benevolent temper pf the gospel was strengthened though confined, by the spiritual alliance of the Catholics. The sacred indolence of the monks was devoucly embraced by a servile and e Feminare age; but if superftition had not afforded a decent retreat, the same vices would have tempted the unworthy Romans to desert, from baser motives, the standard of the republic. Religious precepts are eagly obeyed, which indulge and fanctify the natural inclinations of their votaries; but the pure and genuine influence of Christianity may be traced in its beneficial, though imperfect, effects on the Bar. barian profelytes of the North. If the decline of the Roman empire was haltened by the conversion of Conftantine, his victorious religion broke the violence of the fall, and mollified the ferocious temper of the conquerors.

• This awful revolution may be usefully applied to the infru&tion of the present age. It is the duty of a patriot to prefer and promote the exclusive interest and glory of his native country : but a philoso. pher may be permitted to enlarge his views, and to confider Europe as one great republic, whose various inhabitants have attained almost the same level of politeness and cultivation. The balance of power will continue to fiu&tuate, and the prosperity of our own, or the neighbouring kingdoms, may be alternately exalted or depressed; but these parcial events cannot essentially injure our general state of happiness, the system of arts, and laws, and manners, which so advantageously diftinguish, above the rest of mankind, the Europeans and their colonies. The savage nations of the globe are the common enemies of civilized society; and we may enquire with anxious curiolity, whether Europe is still threatened with a repetition of those calamities, which formerly oppressed the arms and infticutions of Rome. Perhaps the same reflections will illustrate the fall of that mighty empire, and explain the probable causes of our actual security.'

The remaining observations, wherewith our Historian closes his third yolume, breathe the same liberal spirit, and thew evidently, to every Reader of taste and judgment, that there are few Writers who are capable of taking so enlarged and comprehenfive a view of a subject as Mr. Gibbon. We cannot take our leave, without returning the Master of the Feast our sincere and hearty thanks for the very elegant and agreeable manner in which he has entertained us, and shall only say to him, at parting, MacTE INGENIO, AÇ YIRTUTE ESTO.

FOREIGN LITERATURE.

& R A N c £. I. T A Theorie des Loix Criminelles : i. c. The Theory of Penal

Laws in criminal Cases. By M. BRISSOȚ De WARVILLE. 2 Yols. 8vo. Paris, 1781.---This Author meriis attention, as his views seem upright and humane, and as the subject he weats is of great consequence to all civilized nations; but we

lee

« PreviousContinue »