Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/655

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587

ANTONINUS


587


ANTONmnS


toninus was afterwards proconsul in Asia, where his remarkable administrative qualities attracted the attention of the Emperor, who admitted him to the "Consilium Principis" on his return to Rome. After the death of Lucius -I'^lius Commodus Verus, Hadrian adopted Antoninus as his successor, on condition that he, in turn, would adopt as his sons and suc- cessors M. Annius Verus (Marcus Aurelius) and yElius Lucius Verus. On his adoption (2.5 February, 1.38) .\ntoninus changed his name to Titus ^Elius Hadrianus .Vntoninus. He shared the imperial power with Hadrian until the death of the latter, 10 July. 13S, when he became .sole ruler. Historians, generally speaking, are unanimous in their praise of the character of Antoninus and of the success and blessings of his reign (for a rather unfavourable estimate, see Schiller, Geschichte der rom. Kaiser- zeit, n, 138). His conception of the duties of his office was liigh and noble, and his exercise of the almost unlimited power placed in his hands marked him as a man thorouglily devoted to the interests of humanity. In his private life and in the manage- ment of his court he followed true Stoic simplicity, entirely removed from excess or extravagance. His reign was unquestionably the most ix'accful and the most prosperous in the historj' of Kome. No wars were undertaken, except those necessary to guard the frontiers of the Enipire against invasion or to suppress insurrections. The conflicts with the Berbers in .\frica and some of the German and Tauro-Scythian tribes on the Danube were merely punitive expeditions to prevent further encroach- ments on Roman soil. The short-lived insurrection in Egypt and that of the Jews in Armenia and Pales- tine were quickly suppressed. For years the Pax Romana prevailed over the entire Empire, and brought blessings and happiness to probably 150,000,000 people, whose interests ana whose safety were safeguarded by an army of SoO.tXX) soldiers. The only extension of the Roman territory in the reign of .\ntoninus was in Britain, where a new wall was Duilt at the foot of the Caledonian moun- tains between the Forth and the Clyde, considerably farther north than the wall of Hadrian.

The internal peace and prosperity were no less remarkable than the absence of war. Trade and commerce flourished; new routes were opened, and new roads built throughout the Empire, so that all parts of it were in close touch with the capital. The remarkable municipal life of the period, when new and flourishing cities covered the Roman world, is revealed by the numerous inscriptions that record the generosity of wealthy patrons or the activity of free burghers. Despite the traditional hostility of Rome to the formation of clubs and societies, guilds and oripanizations of all conceivable kinds, mainly for philanthropic purposes, came into existence evcrj-where. By means of these associations the poorer classes were in a sense insured against poverty and had the certainty that thev would receive decent burial. The activity of the Emperor was not con- fined to merely official acts; private movements for the succour of the poor and of orphans received his unstinted support. The scope of the alimentary institutions of former reigns w;us broadened, and the establishment of charitable foundations such as that of the " Puella? Faustiniana; " is a sure indication of a general softening of manners and a truer sense of humanity. The |)criod was also one of consiiler- able literary and scientific activity, though the gene- ral artistic movement of the time was clecidedly of the "Rococo" tj-pe. The most lasting influence of the life and reign of .Vntoninus was that which he exercised in the sphere of law. Five great Stoic jurisconsults. Viniilius Verus. Salvius V.alens. Volu- sius Miccianus, ITpius Marcellus, and Diavolenus, were the constant advisers of the Emperor, and.


under his protection, they infused a spirit of leniency and mildness into Roman legislation which effectu- ally safeguarded the weak and the unprotected, slaves, wards, and orphans, against aggressions of the powerful. The entire system of law was not re- modelled in the reign of .\ntoninus, but an impulse was given in this direction which produced the later golden jieriod of Roman jurisprudence under Sep- timius Scverus, Caracalla, and Ale.xamler Severus.

In religion .\ntoninus was deeply devoted to the traditional worship of the Empire. He had none of the scepticism of Hadrian, none of the blind fanati- cism of his successor. Perhaps as a consequence superstition and the worship of new deities multi- plied under his administration. In his dealings with the Christians Antoninus went no further than to maintain the procedure outlined by Trajan, though the unswerving devotion of the Emperor to the national gods could not fail to bring the conduct of the Christians into unfavourable contrast. Very few indications of the Emperor's attitude towards his Christian subjects are to be found in contemporary documents. The most valuable is that of the Chris- tian Bishop Melito of Sardes (Eusebius, Hist. Eccles., IV, xxvi, 10). In his ".Vpologj'" to Marcus Aurelius he speaks of "letters" addressed by Antoninus Pius to the Larissaans. the Thessalonians, the .Athe- nians, and to all the Greeks, forbidding all tumultuous outbreaks against the Cliristians. The edict found in Eusebius (op. cit.. IV, 13) is now looked on by most critics as a forgerj' of the latter half of the second century. In the past, Tillemont, and in the present, Wieseler stand for its genuineness. "It speaks in admiring terms of the innocence of the Christians, declares unproved the charges against them, bids men admire the steadfastness and faith with which they met the earthquake and other calamities that drove others to despair, ascribes the persecutions to the jealousy which men felt against those who were truer worshippers of God than themselves." This temper of mind was entirely in conformity with the spirit of the existing legislation as laid down by Trajan and interpreted by Hadrian: that extra- judicial action on the part of the people against the Christians should not be tolerated by the authorities. The death of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, which took place in lo.') or 156, shows how a Roman pro- consul, tliough he knew his duty, still permitted himself to be swayed by popular clamour. In the case of the proconsul Prudens (Tertull., Ad. Scap., ix) we see how ineffectual popular outcries were in the face of strong administration, and how efficiently the interests of the Cliristians were safeguarded, except in the case of actual evidence in an open court. There can be no doubt, however, that per- secution did take place in the reign of Antoninus, and that many Christians did suffer death. The pages of the contemporary apologists, though lack- mg in detail, are ample proof that capital punishment was frequently inflicted. The passive attitude of Antoninus had no small influence on the internal de- velopment of Christianity. Heresy was then ram- pant on all sides; consequently, in order to strengthen the bonds of discipline and morality, and to enforce unity of doctrine, concerted action was called for. The tolerant attitude of the Emperor made possible a broad and vigorous activity on the part of the Christian bishops, one e\ndence of which is the insti- tution of s^Tiods or councils of the Christian leaders, then first held on an extensive scale, and ilcscribcd at some length by Eusebius in his Church History. In this way. it may be .said, the Emperor contributed to the development of Christian unity.

The knon'n dcUiils of the hfe of Antoninujt Piu? are found in the Scriptorra ItiaturitT Au^juatT (e<t. Pktkr), and in .\rRE- LU's Virroit. MfditatitifiK of MarcuM Aurehua. and the source.* UHually found in oil hi.sloriej* of the perioii. e. a. OlimoN. De- clim and Fali of (At- Kunuin Empire (&a overarawn, but elo-