Page:Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire vol 1 (1897).djvu/405

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331
OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE

territory. He even entertained some thoughts of compelling the Germans to relinquish the exercise of arms, and to trust their differences to the justice, their safety to the power, of Rome. To accomplish these salutary ends, the constant residence of an Imperial governor, supported by a numerous army, was indispensably requisite. Probus therefore judged it more expedient to defer the execution of so great a design; which was indeed rather of specious than solid utility. [1] Had Germany been reduced into the state of a province, the Romans, with immense labour and expense, would have acquired only a more extensive boundary to defend against the fiercer and more active barbarians of Scythia.

He builds a wall from the Rhine to the Danube Instead of reducing the warlike natives of Germany to the condition of subjects, Probus contented himself with the humble expedient of raising a bulwark against their inroads. The country which now forms the circle of Swabia had been left desert in the age of Augustus by the emigration of its ancient inhabitants.[2] The fertility of the soil soon attracted a new colony from the adjacent provinces of Gaul. Crowds of adventurers, of a roving temper and of desperate fortunes, occupied the doubtful possession, and acknowledged, by the payment of tithes, the majesty of the empire.[3] To protect these new subjects, a line of frontier garrisons was gradually extended from the Rhine to the Danube. About the reign of Hadrian, when that mode of defence began to be practised, these garrisons were connected and covered by a strong intrenchment of trees and palisades. In the place of so rude a bulwark, the emperor Probus constructed a stone wall of a considerable height, and strengthened it by towers at convenient distances. From the neighbourhood of Neustadt and Ratisbon on the Danube, it stretched across hills, valleys, rivers, and morasses, as far as Wimpfen on the Neckar, and at length terminated on the banks of the Rhine, after a winding course of near two hundred miles.[4] This

  1. Hist. August, p. 238, 239 [ib. 14, 15]. Vopiscus quotes a letter from the emperor to the senate, in which he mentions his design of reducing Germany into a province.
  2. Strabo, 1. vii. [p. 290]. According to Velleius Paterculus (ii. 108) Maroboduus led his Marcomanni into Bohemia: Cluverius (Germ. Antiq. iii. 8) proves that it was from Swabia.
  3. These settlers, from the payment of tithes, were denominated Decumates. [Tacit. Germania, c. 29.]
  4. See notes de l'Abbe de la Bléterie à la Germanie de Tacite, p. 183. His account of the wall is chiefly borrowed (as he says himself) from the Alsatia Jllustrata of Schœpflin. [For the Germanic limes see Appendix 21.]