Page:Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire vol 1 (1897).djvu/252

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178
THE DECLINE AND FALL

each other? why hesitate? Maximin is a public enemy! may his enmity soon expire with him,[1] and may we long enjoy the prudence and felicity of Gordian the father, the valour and constancy of Gordian the son!"[2] The noble ardour of the consul revived the languid spirit of the senate. and declares Maximin a public enemyBy an unanimous decree the election of the Gordians was ratified; Maximin, his son, and his adherents were pronounced enemies of their country, and liberal rewards were offered to whomsoever had the courage and good fortune to destroy them.

Assumes the command of Rome and ItalyDuring the emperor's absence a detachment of the Prætorian guards remained at Rome, to protect, or rather to command, the capital. The præfect Vitalianus had signalized his fidelity to Maximin by the alacrity with which he had obeyed, and even prevented, the cruel mandates of the tyrant. His death alone could rescue the authority of the senate, and the lives of the senators, from a state of danger and suspense. Before their resolves had transpired, a quæstor and some tribunes were commissioned to take his devoted life. They executed the order with equal boldness and success; and, with their bloody daggers in their hands, ran through the streets, proclaiming to the people and the soldiers the news of the happy revolution. The enthusiasm of liberty was seconded by the promise of a large donative in lands and money; the statues of Maximin were thrown down; the capital of the empire acknowledged, with transport, the authority of the two Gordians and the senate;[3] and the example of Rome was followed by the rest of Italy.

and prepares for a civil warA new spirit had arisen in that assembly, whose long patience had been insulted by wanton despotism and military licence. The senate assumed the reins of government, and, with a calm intrepidity, prepared to vindicate by arms the cause of freedom. Among the consular senators recommended by their merit and services to the favour of the emperor Alexander, it was easy to select twenty, not unequal to the command of an army and the conduct of a war.[4] To these was the defence of Italy intrusted. Each was appointed to act in his respective department, authorized to enrol and discipline the Italian youth, and instructed to fortify the ports and highways against the impending

  1. [The Latin text has a confident future; di facient ut esse iam desinat. Gibbon renders it as if it were faciant.]
  2. This spirited speech, translated from the Augustan historian, p. 156 [xx. 11], seems transcribed by him from the original registers of the senate.
  3. Herodian, l. vii. p. 244 [6].
  4. [Compare Herodian, viii. 5, 5, with Zosimus, i. 14, and Hist. Aug. xxi. 10.]