Page:Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire vol 1 (1897).djvu/249

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
175
OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE

honour, and begged with tears that they should suffer him to terminate in peace a long and innocent life, without staining his feeble age with civil blood. Their menaces compelled him to accept the Imperial purple, his only refuge indeed against the jealous cruelty of Maximin; since, according to the reasoning of tyrants, those who have been esteemed worthy of the throne deserve death, and those who deliberate have already rebelled.[1]

Character and elevation of the two GordiansThe family of Gordianus was one of the most illustrious of the character and Roman senate. On the father's side he was descended from the Gracchi ; on his mother's, from the emperor Trajan. A great estate enabled him to support the dignity of his birth, and in the enjoyment of it he displayed an elegant taste and beneficent disposition. The palace in Rome formerly inhabited by the great Pompey had been, during several generations, in the possession of Gordian's family.[2] It was distinguished by ancient trophies of naval victories, and decorated with the works of modern painting. His villa on the road to Praeneste was celebrated for baths of singular beauty and extent, for three stately rooms of an hundred feet in length, and for a magnificent portico, supported by two hundred columns of the four most curious and costly sorts of marble.[3] The public shows exhibited at his expense, and in which the people were entertained with many hundreds of wild beasts and gladiators [4] seem to surpass the fortune of a subject; and, whilst the liberality of other magistrates was confined to a few solemn festivals in Rome, the magnificence of Gordian was repeated, when he was aedile, every month in the year, and extended, during his consulship, to the principal cities of Italy. He was twice elevated to
  1. Herodian, 1. vii. p. 239 [4]. Hist. August, p. 153 [xx. 7].
  2. Hist. August, p. 152 [xx. 3]. The celebrated house of Pompey in carinis, was usurped by Marc Antony, and consequently became, after the Triumvir's death, a part of the Imperial domain. The emperor Trajan allowed and even encouraged the rich senators to purchase those magnificent and useless palaces (Plin. Panegyric, c. 50) ; and it may seem probable, that on this occasion, Pompey's house came into the possession of Gordian's great-grandfather.
  3. The Claudian, the Numidian, the Carystian, and the Synnadian. The colours of Roman marbles have been faintly described and imperfectly distinguished. It appears, however, that the Carystian was a sea green, and that the marble of Synnada was white mixed with oval spots of purple [rose-red]. See Salmasius ad Hist. August, p. 164 [xx. 30]. [The Numidian was a yellow crocus.]
  4. Hist. August, p. 151, 152 [xx. 3 and 4]. He sometimes gave five hundred pair of Gladiators, never less than one hundred and fifty. He once gave for the use of the Circus one hundred Sicilian, and as many Cappadocian horses. The animals designed for hunting were chiefly bears, boars, bulls, stags, elks, wild asses, &c. Elephants and lions seem to have been appropriated to Imperial magnificence.