The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Bury)/Volume 1

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J. B. BURY, M.A.









New Edition



It is not my intention to detain the reader by expatiating on the variety, or the importance of the subject, which I have undertaken to treat; since the merit of the choice would serve to render the weakness of the execution still more apparent, and still less excusable. But, as I have presumed to lay before the Public a first volume only[1] of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, it will perhaps be expected that I should explain, in a few words, the nature and limits of my general plan.

The memorable series of revolutions, which, in the course of about thirteen centuries, gradually undermined, and at length destroyed, the solid fabric of human greatness, may, with some propriety, be divided into the three following periods:

I. The first of these periods may be traced from the age of Trajan and the Antonines, when the Roman monarchy, having attained its full strength and maturity, began to verge towards its decline; and will extend to the subversion of the Western Empire, by the barbarians of Germany and Scythia, the rude ancestors of the most polished nations of modern Europe. This extraordinary revolution, which subjected Rome to the power of a Gothic conqueror, was completed about the beginning of the sixth century.

II. The second period of the Decline and Fall of Rome, may be supposed to commence with the reign of Justinian, who by his laws, as well as by his victories, restored a transient splendour to the Eastern Empire. It will comprehend the invasion of Italy by the Lombards; the conquest of the Asiatic and African provinces by the Arabs, who embraced the religion of Mahomet; the revolt of the Roman people against the feeble princes of Constantinople; and the elevation of Charlemagne, who, in the year 800, established the second, or German Empire of the West.

III. The last and longest of these periods includes about six centuries and a half; from the revival of the Western Empire till the taking of Constantinople by the Turks and the extinction of a degenerate race of princes, who continued to assume the titles of Caesar and Augustus, after their dominions were contracted to the limits of a single city; in which the language, as well as manners, of the ancient Romans had been long since forgotten. The writer who should undertake to relate the events of this period would find himself obliged to enter into the general history of the Crusades, as far as they contributed to the ruin of the Greek Empire; and he would scarcely be able to restrain his curiosity from making some enquiry into the state of the city of Rome during the darkness and confusion of the middle ages.

As I have ventured, perhaps too hastily, to commit to the press a work, which, in every sense of the word, deserves the epithet of imperfect, I consider myself as contracting an engagement to finish, most probably in a second volume,[2] the first of these memorable periods; and to deliver to the Public the complete History of the Decline and Fall of Rome, from the age of the Antonines to the subversion of the Western Empire. With regard to the subsequent periods, though I may entertain some hopes, I dare not presume to give any assurances. The execution of the extensive plan which I have described would connect the ancient and modern history of the World; but it would require many years of health, of leisure, and of perseverance.

Bentinck Street,
February 1, 1776.

P.S.—The entire History, which is now published, of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in the West abundantly discharges my engagements with the Public. Perhaps their favourable opinion may encourage me to prosecute a work, which, however laborious it may seem, is the most agreeable occupation of my leisure hours.

Bentinck Street,
March 1, 1781.

An Author easily persuades himself that the public opinion is still favourable to his labours; and I have now embraced the serious resolution of proceeding to the last period of my original design, and of the Roman Empire, the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, in the year one thousand four hundred and fifty-three. The most patient reader, who computes that three ponderous volumes[3] 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 expatiate with the same minuteness on the whole series of the Byzantine history. At our entrance into this period, the reign of Justinian and the conquests of the Mahometans will deserve and detain our attention, and the last age of Constantinople (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 facts as may still appear either interesting or important.

Bentinck Street,

March 1, 1782.


Diligence and accuracy are the only merits which an historical writer may ascribe to himself; if any merit indeed can be assumed from the performance of an indispensable duty. I may therefore be allowed to say that I have carefully examined all the original materials that could illustrate the subject which I had undertaken to treat. Should I ever complete the extensive design which has been sketched out in the preface, I might perhaps conclude it with a critical account of the authors consulted during the progress of the whole work; and, however such an attempt might incur the censure of ostentation, I am persuaded that it would be susceptible of entertainment as well as information.

At present I shall content myself with a single observation. The Biographers, who, under the reigns of Diocletian and Constantine, composed or rather compiled, the lives of the emperors, from Hadrian to the sons of Carus, are usually mentioned under the names of Ælius Spartianus, Julius Capitolinus, Ælius Lampridius, Vulcatius Gallicanus, Trebellius Pollio, and Flavius Vopiscus. But there is so much perplexity in the titles of the MSS., and so many disputes have arisen among the critics (see Fabricius Biblioth. Latin. 1. iii. c. 6) concerning their number, their names and their respective property, that for the most part I have quoted them without distinction, under the general and well-known title of the Augustan History.


The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is now delivered to the public in a more convenient form. Some alterations and improvements had presented themselves to my mind, but I was unwilling to injure or offend the purchasers of the preceding editions. The accuracy of the corrector of the press has been already tried and approved; and perhaps I may stand excused if, amidst the avocations of a busy writer, I have preferred the pleasures of composition and study to the minute diligence of revising a former publication.

Bentinck Street,
April 20, 1783.


I now discharge my promise, and complete my design, of writing the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, both in the West and the East. The whole period extends from the age of Trajan and the Antonines to the taking of Constantinople by Mahomet the Second; and includes a review of the Crusades and the state of Rome during the middle ages. Since the publication of the first volume, twelve years have elapsed; twelve years, according to my wish, "of health, of leisure and of perseverance". I may now congratulate my deliverance from a long and laborious service, and my satisfaction will be pure and perfect, if the public favour should be extended to the conclusion of my work.

It was my first intention to have collected under one view the numerous authors, of every age and language, from whom I have derived the materials of this history; and I am still convinced that the apparent ostentation would be more than compensated by real use. If I have renounced this idea, if I have declined an undertaking which had obtained the approbation of a master-artist,[5] my excuse may be found in the extreme difficulty of assigning a proper measure to such a catalogue. A naked list of names and editions would not be satisfactory either to myself or my readers: the characters of the principal Authors of the Roman and Byzantine History have been occasionally connected with the events which they describe; a more copious and critical enquiry might indeed deserve, but it would demand, an elaborate volume, which might swell by degrees into a general library of historical writers. For the present I shall content myself with renewing my serious protestation, that I have always endeavoured to draw from the fountain-head; that my curiosity, as well as a sense of duty, has always urged me to study the originals; and that, if they have sometimes eluded my search, I have carefully marked the secondary evidence, on whose faith a passage or a fact were reduced to depend.

I shall soon visit the banks of the lake of Lausanne, a country which I have known and loved from my early youth. Under a mild government, amidst a beauteous landskip, in a life of leisure and independence, and among a people of easy and elegant manners, I have enjoyed, and may again hope to enjoy, the varied pleasures of retirement and society. But I shall ever glory in the name and character of an Englishman: I am proud of my birth in a free and enlightened country; and the approbation of that country is the best and most honourable reward for my labours. Were I ambitious of any other Patron than the Public, I would inscribe this work to a Statesman, who, in a long, a stormy, and at length an unfortunate administration, had many political opponents, almost without a personal enemy: who has retained, in his fall from power, many faithful and disinterested friends; and who, under the pressure of severe infirmity, enjoys the lively vigour of his mind, and the felicity of his incomparable temper. Lord North will permit me to express the feelings of friendship in the language of truth: but even truth and friendship should be silent, if he still dispensed the favours of the crown.

In a remote solitude, vanity may still whisper in my ear that my readers, perhaps, may enquire whether, in the conclusion of the present work, I am now taking an everlasting farewell. They shall hear all that I know myself, all that I could reveal to the most intimate friend. The motives of action or silence are now equally balanced; nor can I pronounce, in my most secret thoughts, on which side the scale will preponderate. I cannot dissemble that twelve ample octavos must have tried, and may have exhausted, the indulgence of the Public; that, in the repetition of similar attempts, a successful Author has much more to lose, than he can hope to gain; that I am now descending into the vale of years; and that the most respectable of my countrymen, the men whom I aspire to imitate, have resigned the pen of history about the same period of their lives. Yet I consider that the annals of ancient and modern times may afford many rich and interesting subjects; that I am still possessed of health and leisure; that by the practice of writing some skill and facility must be acquired; and that in the ardent pursuit of truth and knowledge I am not conscious of decay. To an active mind, indolence is more painful than labour; and the first months of my liberty will be occupied and amused in the excursions of curiosity and taste. By such temptations I have been sometimes seduced from the rigid duty even of a pleasing and voluntary task: but my time will now be my own; and in the use or abuse of independence I shall no longer fear my own reproaches or those of my friends. I am fairly entitled to a year of jubilee: next summer and the following winter will rapidly pass away; and experience only can determine whether I shall still prefer the freedom and variety of study to the design and composition of a regular work, which animates, while it confines, the daily application of the Author. Caprice and accident may influence my choice; but the dexterity of self-love will contrive to applaud either active industry or philosophic repose.

Downing Street,
May 1, 1788.

P.S.—I shall embrace this opportunity of introducing two verbal remarks, which have not conveniently offered themselves to my notice. 1. As often as I use the definitions of beyond the Alps, the Rhine, the Danube, &c., I generally suppose myself at Rome, and afterwards at Constantinople: without observing whether this relative geography may agree with the local, but variable, situation of the reader or the historian. 2. In proper names of foreign, and especially of Oriental, origin, it should be always our aim to express in our English version a faithful copy of the original. But this rule, which is founded on a just regard to uniformity and truth, must often be relaxed; and the exceptions will be limited or enlarged by the custom of the language and the taste of the interpreter. Our alphabets may be often defective: a harsh sound, an uncouth spelling, might offend the ear or the eye of our countrymen; and some words, notoriously corrupt, are fixed, and, as it were, naturalized in the vulgar tongue. The prophet Mohammed can no longer be stripped of the famous, though improper appellation of Mahomet: the well-known cities of Aleppo, Damascus and Cairo, would almost be lost in the strange descriptions of Haleb, Demashk and Al Cahira: the titles and offices of the Ottoman empire are fashioned by the practice of three hundred years; and we are pleased to blend the three Chinese monosyllables Con-fû-tzee in the respectable name of Confucius, or even to adopt the Portuguese corruption of Mandarin. But I would vary the use of Zoroaster and Zerdusht, as I drew my information from Greece or Persia: since our connexion with India, the genuine Timour is restored to the throne of Tamerlane: our most correct writers have retrenched the Al, the superfluous article, from the Koran; and we escape an ambiguous termination by adopting Moslem instead of Musulman, in the plural number. In these, and in a thousand examples, the shades of distinction are often minute; and I can feel, where I cannot explain the motives of my choice.

Contents of the First Volume[edit]


The Extent and Military Force of the Empire, in the Age of the Antonines

Introduction 1
Moderation of Augustus 1
Imitated by his Successors 3
Conquest of Britain, the First Exception to it 3
Conquest of Dacia, the Second Exception to it 5
Conquests of Trajan in the East 6
Resigned by his Successor Hadrian 7
Contrast of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius 7
Pacific System of Hadrian and the two Antonines 8
Defensive Wars of Marcus Antoninus 8
Military Establishment of the Roman Emperors 9
Discipline 10
Exercises 11
The Legions under the Emperors 12
Arms 12
Cavalry 13
Auxiliaries 14
Artillery 15
Encampment 15
March 16
Number and Disposition of the Legions 16
Navy 17
Amount of the whole Establishment 18
View of the Provinces of the Roman Empire 18
Spain 19
Gaul 19
Britain 20
Italy 20
The Danube and Illyrian Frontier 21
Rhætia 22
Noricum and Pannonia 22
Dalmatia 22
Mæsia and Dacia 22
Thrace, Macedonia, and Greece 23
Asia Minor 23
Syria, Phœnicia, and Palestine 24
  Egypt 25
Africa 25
The Mediterranean with its Islands 26
General idea of the Roman Empire 26

Of the Union and Internal Prosperity of the Roman Empire in the Age of the Antonines

Principles of Government 28
Universal Spirit of Toleration 28
Of the People 28
Of Philosophers 30
Of the Magistrates 31
In the Provinces 32
At Rome 32
Freedom of Rome 33
Italy 34
The Provinces 35
Colonies, and Municipal Towns 35
Division of the Latin and the Greek Provinces 37
General Use of both the Greek and Latin Languages 39
Slaves 35
   Their Treatment 39
   Enfranchisement 39
   Numbers 39
Populousness of the Roman Empire 42
Obedience and Union 43
Roman Monuments 43
Many of them erected at Private Expense 43
Example of Herodes Atticus 45
His Reputation 45
Most of the Roman Monuments for Public Use 46
Temples, Theatres, Aqueducts 46
Number and Greatness of the Cities of the Empire 48
In Italy 48
Gaul and Spain 48
Africa 49
Asia 49
Roman Roads 50
Posts 50
Navigation 51
Improvement of Agriculture in the Western Countries of the Empire 51
Introduction of Fruits, &c. 52
   The Vine 52
   The Olive 52
   Flax 53
   Artificial Grass 53
General Plenty 53
Arts of Luxury 53
  Foreign Trade 54
   Gold and Silver 55
General Felicity 56
Decline of Courage 56
——— of Genius 57
Degeneracy 58

Of the Constitution of the Roman Empire, in the Age of the Antonines

Idea of a Monarchy 59
Situation of Augustus 59
He reforms the Senate 60
Resigns his usurped Power 60
Is prevailed upon to resume it under the Title of Emperor or General 61
Power of the Roman Generals 62
Lieutenants of the Emperor 63
Division of the Provinces between the Emperor and the Senate 63
The former preserves his Military Commands, and Guards, in Rome itself 64
Consular and Tribunitian powers 64
Imperial Prerogatives 65
The Magistrates 66
The Senate 67
General Idea of the Imperial System 68
Court of the Emperors 68
Deification 68
Titles of Augustus and Cæsar 70
Character and Policy of Augustus 70
Image of Liberty for the People 71
Attempts of the Senate after the Death of Caligula 71
Image of Government for the Armies 72
Their Obedience 72
Designation of a Successor 73
Of Tiberius 73
Of Titus 73
The Race of the Cæsars, and Flavian Family 74
96 Adoption and Character of Trajan 74
117 Of Hadrian 75
Adoption of the elder and younger Verus 75
138-180 Adoption of the two Antonines 76
Character and Reign of Pius 76
————————— of Marcus 77
Happiness of the Romans 78
Its precarious Nature 78
Memory of Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, and Domitian 79
Peculiar Misery of the Romans under their Tyrants 79
Insensibility of the Orientals 79
Knowledge and free Spirit of the Romans 80
Extent of their Empire left them no Place of Refuge 81

The Cruelty, Follies, and Murder of Commodus—Election of Pertinax—His attempts to reform the State—His Assassination by the Prætorian Guards

Indulgence of Marcus 83
   To his wife Faustina 83
   To his son Commodus 84
180 Accession of the Emperor Commodus 84
Character of Commodus 85
His Return to Rome 85
183 Is wounded by an Assassin 86
Hatred and cruelty of Commodus towards the Senate 87
The Quintilian Brothers 87
186 The Minister Perennis 88
Revolt of Maternus 89
The Minister Cleander 89
His Avarice and Cruelty 90
189 Sedition and Death of Cleander 91
Dissolute Pleasures of Commodus 92
His Ignorance and low Sports 92
Hunting of Wild Beasts 93
Commodus Displays his skill in the Amphitheatre 93
Acts as a Gladiator 94
His Infamy and Extravagance 95
Conspiracy of his Domestics 96
192 Death of Commodus 96
Choice of Pertinax for Emperor 96
He is acknowledged by the Prætorian Guards 97
193 And by the Senate 98
The Memory of Commodus declared infamous 98
Legal Jurisdiction of the Senate over the Emperors 99
Virtues of Pertinax 99
He endeavours to Reform the State 100
His Regulations 100
His Popularity 101
Discontent of the Prætorians 101
A Conspiracy Prevented 101
193 Murder of Pertinax by the Prætorians 102

Public Sale of the Empire to Didius Julianus by the Prætorian Guards—Clodius Albinus in Britain, Pescennius Niger in Syria, and Septimius Severus in Pannonia, declare against the Murderers of Pertinax—Civil Wars and Victory of Severus over his three Rivals—Relaxation of discipline—New Maxims of Government

Proportion of the Military Force to the Number of the People 103
The Prætorian Guards 103
Their Institution 103
Their Camp 104
  Strength and Confidence 104
Their specious Claims 105
They offer the Empire to Sale 105
193 It is purchased by Julian 106
Julian is acknowledged by the Senate 106
Takes possession of the Palace 107
The public Discontent 107
The Armies of Britain, Syria, and Pannonia, declare against Julian 108
Clodius Albinus in Britain 108
Pescennius Niger in Syria 109
Pannonia and Dalmatia 111
193 Septimius Severus 111
Declared Emperor by the Pannonian Legions 111
Marches into Italy 112
Advances towards Rome 112
Distress of Julian 113
His uncertain Conduct 113
Is deserted by the Prætorians 113
Is condemned and executed by Order of the Senate 114
Disgrace of the Prætorian Guards 114
Funeral and Apotheosis of Pertinax 115
193-197 Success of Severus against Niger and against Albinus 115
Conduct of the two Civil Wars 116
Arts of Severus 116
   Towards Niger 116
   Towards Albinus 117
Event of the Civil Wars 118
Decided by one or two Battles 118
Siege of Byzantium 119
Death of Niger and Albinus 120
Cruel Consequences of the Civil Wars 120
Animosity of Severus against the Senate 120
The Wisdom and Justice of his Government 121
General Peace and Prosperity 121
Relaxation of Military Discipline 122
New Establishment of the Prætorian Guards 122
The Office of Prætorian Præfect 123
The Senate oppressed by Military Despotism 124
New Maxims of the Imperial Prerogative 124

The Death of Severus—Tyranny of Caracalla—Usurpation of Macrinus—Follies of Elagabalus—Virtues of Alexander Severus—Licentiousness of the Army—General State of the Roman Finances

Greatness and Discontent of Severus 126
His wife the Empress Julia 126
Their two sons, Caracalla and Geta 127
Their mutual Aversion to each other 127
Three Emperors 128
208 The Caledonian War 128
Fingal and his Heroes 129
Contrast of the Caledonians and the Romans 129
Ambition of Caracalla 130
211 Death of Severus, and Accession of his two sons 130
Jealousy and Hatred of the two Emperors 130
Fruitless Negotiation for dividing the Empire between them 131
212 Murder of Geta 132
Remorse and Cruelty of Caracalla 133
Death of Papinian 134
213 His Tyranny extended over the whole Empire 135
Relaxation of Discipline 136
217 Murder of Caracalla 137
Imitation of Alexander 138
Election and Character of Macrinus 138
Discontent of the Senate 139
————— of the Army 140
Macrinus attempts a Reformation of the Army 140
Death of the Empress Julia 141
Education, Pretensions, and Revolt of Elagabalus, called at first Bassianus and Antoninus 141
218 Defeat and Death of Macrinus 142
Elagabalus writes to the Senate 143
219 Picture of Elagabalus 144
His Superstition 144
His profligate and effeminate Luxury 146
Contempt of Decency, which distinguished the Roman Tyrants 147
Discontents of the Army 147
221 Alexander Severus declared Cæsar 147
222 Sedition of the Guards, and Murder of Elagabalus 148
Accession of Alexander Severus 148
Power of his Mother Mamæa 149
His wise and moderate Administration 150
Education and Virtuous Temper of Alexander 150
Journal of his Ordinary Life 151
222-235 General happiness of the Roman World 152
Alexander refuses the name of Antoninus 152
He attempts to reform the Army 153
Seditions of the Prætorian Guards, and Murder of Ulpian 153
Danger of Dion Cassius 154
Tumults of the Legions 155
Firmness of the Emperor 155
Defects of his Reign and Character 156
Digression on the Finances of the Empire 157
Establishment of the Tribute on Roman Citizens 157
Abolition of the Tribute 158
Tributes of the Provinces 158
——— of Asia 159
——— of Egypt, Gaul, Africa and Spain 159
——— of the Isle of Gyarus 160
Amount of the Revenue 160
Taxes on Roman Citizens instituted by Augustus 160
   I. The Customs 161
     II. The Excise 162
   III. Tax on Legacies and Inheritances 162
Suited to the Laws and Manners 163
Regulations of the Emperors 164
Edict of Caracalla 164
The Freedom of the City given to all Provincials, for the purpose of Taxation 164
Temporary Reduction of the Tribute 165
Consequences of the universal Freedom of Rome 165

The Elevation and Tyranny of Maximin—Rebellion in Africa and Italy, under the Authority of the Senate—Civil Wars and Seditions—Violent Deaths of Maximin and his Son, of Maximus and Balbinus, and of the three Gordians—Usurpation and Secular Games of Philip

The apparent Ridicule and solid Advantages of hereditary Succession 167
Want of it in the Roman Empire productive of the greatest Calamities 168
Birth and Fortunes of Maximin 169
His Military Service and Honours 169
235 Conspiracy of Maximin 170
Murder of Alexander Severus 170
Tyranny of Maximin 171
Oppression of the Provinces 173
237 Revolt in Africa 174
Character and Elevation of the two Gordians 175
They solicit the Confirmation of their Authority 176
The Senate ratifies the Election of the Gordians 177
Declares Maximin a public Enemy 178
Assumes the Command of Rome and Italy 178
Prepares for a Civil War 178
237 Defeat and Death of the two Gordians 179
Election of Maximus and Balbinus by the Senate 180
Their Characters 180
Tumult at Rome 181
The younger Gordian is declared Cæsar 181
Maximin prepares to attack the Senate and their Emperors 182
238 Marches into Italy 183
Siege of Aquileia 183
Conduct of Maximus 184
238 Murder of Maximin and his son 185
His Portrait 185
Joy of the Roman World 186
Sedition at Rome 186
Discontent of the Prætorian Guards 187
238 Massacre of Maximus and Balbinus 188
The third Gordian remains sole Emperor 189
Innocence and Virtues of Gordian 189
240 Administration of Misitheus 190
242 The Persian War 190
243 The Arts of Philip 191
244 Murder of Gordian 191
Form of a Military Republic 192
Reign of Philip 193
248 Secular Games 193
Decline of the Roman Empire 193

Of the State of Persia after the Restoration of the Monarchy by Artaxerxes

The Barbarians of the East and of the North 195
Revolutions of Asia 195
The Persian Monarchy restored by Artaxerxes 196
Reformation of the Magian Religion 197
Persian Theology, two Principles 198
Religious Worship 200
Ceremonies and moral Precepts 200
Encouragement of Agriculture 201
Power of the Magi 201
Spirit of Persecution 203
Establishment of the Royal Authority in the Provinces 203
Extent and Population of Persia 204
Recapitulation of the War between the Parthian and Roman Empires 205
165 Cities of Seleucia and Ctesiphon 205
216 Conquest of Osrhoene by the Romans 207
230 Artaxerxes claims the Provinces of Asia, and declares War against the Romans 208
233 Pretended Victory of Alexander Severus 208
More probable Account of the War 209
240 Character and Maxims of Artaxerxes 211
Military Power ofthe Persians 211
Their Infantry contemptible 211
Their Cavalry excellent 212

The State of Germany till the Invasion of the Barbarians, in the Time of the Emperor Decius

Extent of Germany 213
Climate 214
Its Effects on the Natives 215
Origin of the Germans 216
Fables and Conjectures 217
The Germans ignorant of Letters 218
—————————— of Arts and Agriculture 218
—————————— of the Use of Metals 220
Their Indolence 221
Their Taste for Strong Liquors 222
State of Population 222
  German Freedom 223
Assemblies of the People 224
Authority of the Princes and Magistrates 225
More Absolute over the Property, than over the Persons of the Germans 225
Voluntary Engagements 226
German Chastity 227
Its Probable Causes 227
Religion 229
Its Effects in Peace 229
———— in War 230
The Bards 230
Causes which checked the Progress of the Germans 231
Want of Arms 231
——— Discipline 232
Civil Dissensions of Germany 233
Fomented by the Policy of Rome 233
Transient Union against Marcus Antoninus 234
Distinction of the German Tribes 235
Numbers 236

The Emperors Decius, Gallus, Æmilianus, Valerian, and Gallicnus—The General Irruption of the Barbarians—The Thirty Tyrants

248-268 The Nature of the Subject 237
The Emperor Philip 237
249 Services, Revolt, Victory, and Reign of the Emperor Decius 238
250 He marches against the Goths 239
Origin of the Goths from Scandinavia 239
Religion of the Goths 240
Institutions and Death of Odin 240
Agreeable, but uncertain Hypothesis concerning Odin 241
Emigration of the Goths from Scandinavia into Prussia 241
————— from Prussia to the Ukraine 242
The Gothic Nation increases in its March 243
Distinction of the Germans and Sarmatians 244
Description of the Ukraine 244
The Goths invade the Roman Provinces 245
250 Various Events of the Gothic War 246
251 Decius revives the office of Censor in the Person of Valerian 247
The Design Impracticable, and without Effect 248
Defeat and Death of Decius and his Son 249
251 Election of Gallus 250
252 Retreat of the Goths 250
Gallus purchases Peace by the Payment of an annual Tribute 250
Popular Discontent 251
253 Victory and Revolt of Æmilianus 251
Gallus abandoned and slain 252
Valerian revenges the Death of Gallus 252
Is acknowledged Emperor 252
Character of Valerian 253
253-268 General Misfortunes Of the Reigns of Valerian and Gallienus 253
Inroads of the Barbarians 254
Origin and Confederacy of the Franks 254
They invade Gaul 255
Ravage Spain 256
Pass over into Africa 256
Origin and Renown of the Suevi 257
A mixed body of Suevi assume the name of Alemanni 257
Invade Gaul and Italy 258
Are repulsed from Rome by the Senate and People 258
The Senators excluded by Gallienus from the Military Service 258
Gallienus contracts an Alliance with the Alemanni 259
Inroads of the Goths 259
Conquest of the Bosphorus by the Goths 260
The Goths acquire a Naval Force 261
First Naval Expedition of the Goths 262
The Goths besiege and take Trebizond 262
The Second Expedition of the Goths 263
They plunder the Cities of Bithynia 263
Retreat of the Goths 265
Third Naval Expedition of the Goths 265
They pass the Bosphorus and the Hellespont 265
Ravage Greece, and threaten Italy 266
Their Divisions and Retreat 266
Ruin of the Temple of Ephesus 267
Conduct of the Goths at Athens 268
Conquest of Armenia by the Persians 268
Valerian marches into the East 269
260 Is defeated and taken prisoner by Sapor, King of Persia 269
Sapor overruns Syria, Cilicia, and Cappadocia 270
Boldness and Success of Odenathus against Sapor 272
Treatment of Valerian 272
Character and Administration of Gallienus 273
The Thirty Tyrants 274
Their real Number not more than nineteen 275
Character and Merit of the Tyrants 275
Their obscure Birth 276
The Causes of their Rebellion 276
Their violent Deaths 277
Fatal Consequences of these Usurpations 277
Disorders of Sicily 279
Tumults of Alexandria 279
Rebellion of the Isaurians 280
Famine and Pestilence 281
Diminution of the Human Species 281

Reign of Claudius—Defeat of the Goths—Victories, Triumph and Death of Aurelian

268 Aureolus invades Italy, is defeated, and besieged at Milan 283
Death of Gallienus 284
Character and Elevation of the Emperor Claudius 285
268 Death of Aureolus 286
Clemency and Justice of Claudius 287
He undertakes the Reformation of the Army 287
269 The Goths invade the Empire 288
Distress and Firmness of Claudius 289
His Victory over the Goths 289
270 Death of the Emperor, who Recommends Aurelian Successor 290
The Attempt and Fall of Quintilius 291
Origin and Services of Aurelian 291
Aurelian's successful Reign 292
His Severe Discipline 292
He concludes a Treaty with the Goths 293
He resigns to them the Province of Dacia 294
270 The Alemannic War 295
The Alemanni invade Italy 297
They are at last vanquished by Aurelian 297
271 Superstitious Ceremonies 298
Fortifications at Rome 299
271 Aurelian suppresses the two Usurpers 300
Succession of Usurpers in Gaul 300
271 The Reign and Defeat of Tetricus 301
272 Character of Zenobia 302
Her Beauty and Learning 302
Her Valour 303
She revenges her Husband's Death 303
She reigns over the East and Egypt 304
272 The Expedition of Aurelian 305
The Emperor defeats the Palmyrenians in the Battles of Antioch and Emesa 305
The State of Palmyra 306
It is besieged by Aurelian 307
273 Aurelian becomes Master of Zenobia and of the City 307
Behaviour of Zenobia 308
Rebellion and ruin of Palmyra 309
Aurelian suppresses the Rebellion of Firmus in Egypt 309
274 Triumph of Aurelian 310
His Treatment of Tetricus and Zenobia 311
His Magnificence and Devotion 312
He suppresses a Sedition at Rome 313
Observations upon it 313
Cruelty of Aurelian 314
275 He marches into the East, and is Assassinated 315

Conduct of the Army and Senate after the Death of Aurelian.—Reigns of Tacitus, Probus, Cams and his Sons

Extraordinary Contest between the Army and the Senate for the Choice of an Emperor 317
275 A peaceful Interregnum of Eight Months 318
The Consul assembles the Senate 319
Character of Tacitus 319
He is elected Emperor 320
He accepts the Purple 321
Authority of the Senate 321
Their Joy and Confidence 322
276 Tacitus is acknowleged by the Army 323
The Alani invade Asia and are repulsed by Tacitus 323
276 Death of the Emperor Tacitus 324
Usurpation and Death of his Brother Florianus 324
Their Family Subsists in Obscurity 325
Character and Elevation of the Emperor Probus 326
His Respectful Conduct towards the Senate 326
Victories of Probus over the Barbarians 328
277 He delivers Gaul from the Invasion of the Germans 329
He carries his Arms into Germany 330
He builds a Wall from the Rhine to the Danube 331
Introduction and Settlement of the Barbarians 332
Daring Enterprise of the Franks 333
279 Revolt of Saturninus in the East 334
280 —————of Bonosus and Proculus in Gaul 335
281 Triumph of the Emperor Probus 335
His Discipline 336
282 His Death 336
Election and Character of Carus 337
The Sentiments of the Senate and People 338
Carus defeats the Sarmatians and marches into the East 339
283 He gives Audience to the Persian Ambassadors 339
283 His victories and extraordinary Death 340
He is succeeded by his two Sons, Carinus and Numerian 341
284 Vices of Carinus 341
He celebrates the Roman Games 343
Spectacles of Rome 343
The Amphitheatre 344
Return of Numerian with the Army from Persia 346
Death of Numerian 347
284 Election of the Emperor Diocletian 348
285 Defeat and Death of Carinus 349

The Reign of Diocletian and his three Associates, Maximian, Galerius, and Constantius—General Re-establishment of Order and Tranquillity—The Persian War, Victory, and Triumph — The New Form of Administration—Abdication and Retirement of Diocletian and Maximian

285 Elevation and Character of Diocletian 350
His Clemency in Victory 351
286 Association and Character of Maximian 352
292 Association of two Cæsars, Galerius and Constantius 353
[293] Departments and Harmony of the four Princes 354
Series of Events 355
287 State of the Peasants of Gaul 335
Their Rebellion 356
And Chastisement 356
287 Revolt of Carausius in Britain 357
[286] Importance of Britain 357
Power of Carausius 358
289 Acknowledged by the other Emperors 358
294 [293] His Death 359
296 Recovery of Britain by Constantius 359
Defence of the Frontiers 360
Fortifications 360
Dissensions of the Barbarians 361
Conduct of the Emperors 361
Valour of the Cæsars 361
Treatment of the Barbarians 362
Wars of Africa and Egypt 363
296 Conduct of Diocletian in Egypt 363
[295] He suppresses Books of Alchymy 365
Novelty and Progress of that Art 365
The Persian War 366
282 Tiridates the Armenian 366
286 His Restoration to the Throne of Armenia 367
State of the Country 367
Revolt of the People and Nobles 367
Story of Mamgo 368
The Persians recover Armenia 368
296 War between the Persians and the Romans 369
Defeat of Galerius 369
His Reception by Diocletian 370
297 Second Campaign of Galerius 371
His Victory 371
His Behaviour to his Royal Captives 371
Negotiation for Peace 372
Speech of the Persian Ambassador 372
Answer of Galerius 373
Moderation of Diocletian 373
Conclusion of a Treaty of Peace 373
Articles of the Treaty 374
The Aboras fixed as the Limits between the Empires 374
Cession of five Provinces beyond the Tigris 375
Armenia 375
Iberia 376
303 Triumph of Diocletian and Maximian 376
Long Absence of the Emperors from Rome 377
Their Residence at Milan 378
—————at Nicomedia 378
Debasement of Rome and of the Senate 379
New Bodies of Guards, Jovians and Herculians 379
Civil Magistracies laid aside 380
Imperial Dignity and Titles 381
Diocletian assumes the Diadem, and introduces the Persian Ceremonial 382
New Form of Administration, two Augusti and two Cæsars 383
  Increase of Taxes 384
Abdication of Diocletian and Maximian 385
Resemblance to Charles V. 385
304 Long Illness of Diocletian 386
His Prudence 386
Compliance of Maximian 387
Retirement of Diocletian at Salona 387
His Philosophy 388
313 His Death 389
Description of Salona and the adjacent Country 389
Of Diocletian's Palace 390
Decline of the Arts 391
—————of Letters 391
The new Platonists 392

Troubles after the abdication of Diocletian—Death of Constantius—Elevation of Constantine and Maxentius—Six Emperors at the same time—Death of Maximian and Galerius—Victories of Constantine over Maxentius and Licinius—Reunion of the Empire under the Authority of Constantine

305-323 Period of Civil Wars and Confusion 394
Character and Situation of Constantius 394
Of Galerius 395
The two Cæsars, Severus and Maximin 395
Ambition of Galerius disappointed by two Revolutions 397
274 Birth, Education, and Escape of Constantine 397
306 Death of Constantius and Elevation of Constantine 399
He is acknowledged by Galerius, who gives him only the Cæsar, and that of Augustus to Severus 400
The Brothers and Sisters of Constantine 400
Discontent of the Romans at the Apprehension of Taxes 401
306 Maxentius declared Emperor at Rome 402
Maximian reassumes the Purple 403
397 Defeat and Death of Severus 403
Maximian gives his daughter Fausta, and the Title of Augustus to Constantine 404
Galerius invades Italy 405
His Retreat 407
307 Elevation of Licinius to the Rank of Augustus 407
Elevation of Maximin 408
308 Six Emperors 408
Misfortunes of Maximian 408
310 His Death 410
[311] Death of Galerius 410
His Dominion shared between Maximin and Licinius 411
306-312 Administration of Constantine in Gaul 412
Tyranny of Maxentius in Italy and Africa 412
312 Civil War between Constantine and Maxentius 414
Preparations 415
Constantine passes the Alps 417
  Battle of Turin 417
Siege and Battle of Verona 418
Indolence and Fears of Maxentius 420
312 Victory of Constantine near Rome 421
His Reception 423
His Conduct at Rome 424
313 His Alliance with Licinius 425
War between Maximin and Licinius 426
The Defeat of Maximin 426
His Death 426
Cruelty of Licinius 426
Unfortunate Fate of the Empress Valeria and her Mother 427
314 Quarrel between Constantine and Licinius 429
First Civil War between them 430
314 Battle of Cibalis 430
Battle of Mardia 431
Treaty of Peace 432
315-323 General Peace and Laws of Constantine 432
322 The Gothic War 435
323 Second Civil War between Constantine and Licinius 436
Battle of Hadrianople 437
Siege of Byzantium and Naval Victory of Crispus 438
Battle of Chrysopolis 439
Submission and Death of Licinius 440
324 Reunion of the Empire 441

Introduction by the Editor[edit]



Gibbon is one of those few writers who hold as high a place in the history of literature as in the roll of great historians. He concerns us here as an historian; our business is to consider how far the view which he has presented of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire can be accepted as faithful to the facts, and in what respects it needs correction in the light of discoveries which have been made since he wrote. But the fact that his work, composed more than a hundred years ago, is still successful with the general circle of educated people, and has not gone the way of Hume and Robertson, whom we laud as "classics" and leave on the cold shelves, is due to the singularly happy union of the historian and the man of letters. Gibbon thus ranks with Thucydides and Tacitus, and is perhaps the clearest example that brilliance of style and accuracy of statement—in Livy's case conspicuously divorced—are perfectly compatible in an historian.

His position among men of letters depends both on the fact that he was an exponent of important ideas and on his style. The appreciation of his style devolves upon the history of literature; but it may be interesting to illustrate how much attention he paid to it, by alterations which he made in his text. The first volume was published, in quarto form, in 1776, and the second quarto edition of this volume, which appeared in 1782, exhibits a considerable number of variants.Changes in the second edition of the first volume  Having carefully collated the two editions through-out the first fourteen chapters, I have observed that, in most cases, the changes were made for the sake not of correcting mis-statements of fact, but of improving the turn of a sentence, rearranging the dactyls and cretics, or securing greater accuracy of expression. Some instances may be interesting.


  First edition. Second edition.
P.2. Instead of exposing his person and his legions to the arrows of the Parthians, he satisfied himself with the restitution of the standards and prisoners which were taken in the defeat of Crassus. Instead of exposing his person and his legions to the arrows of the Parthians he obtained, by an honourable treaty, the restitution of the standards and prisoners which had been taken in the defeat of Crassus.
P.10. The peasant or mechanic, imbibed the useful prejudice… that, although the prowess of a private soldier, might escape the notice of fame, it would be in his power to confer glory or disgrace on the company, the legion, or even the army, to whose honours he was associated. The peasant, or mechanic imbibed the useful prejudice… that although the prowess of a private soldier must often escape the notice of fame, his own behaviour might sometimes confer glory or disgrace on the company, the legion, or even the army, to whose honours he was associated.
P.52. The olive, in the western world, was the companion as well as the symbol of peace. The olive, in the western world, followed the progress of peace of which it was considered as the symbol.
P.59. The general definition of a monarchy seems to be that of a state, &c. The obvious definition of a monarchy seems to be that of a state, &c.
P.62. On the most important occasions, peace and war were seriously debated in the senate. The most important resolutions of peace and war were seriously debated in the senate.
P.87. The present greatness of the Roman state, the corruption of manners, and the licence of the soldiers, added new weight to the advocates of monarchy. The present greatness of the Roman state, the corruption of manners, and the licence of the soldiers supplied new arguments to the advocates of monarchy.
P.70. However the latter [i.e. the name Cæsar], was diffused by adoption and female alliance, Nero was the last prince who could claim so noble an extraction. However the latter was

diffused by adoption and female alliance, Nero was the last prince who could allege any hereditary claim to the honours of the Julian line.

P.73. Which… had just finished the conquest of Judaea. Which… had recently achieved the conquest of Judaea.
P.106. To ascend a throne streaming with the blood of so near a relation. To ascend a throne polluted with the recent blood of so near a relation.
P.110. Severus, who had sufficient greatness of mind to adopt several useful institutions from a vanquished enemy. Severus, who afterwards displayed the greatness of his mind by adopting several useful institutions from a vanquished enemy.

These are a few specimens of the numerous cases in which alterations have been made for the purpose of improving the language. Sometimes, in the new edition, statements are couched in a less positive form. For example:—

P 9. The legions themselves consisted of Roman citizens. The legions themselves were supposed to consist of Roman citizens.
P.77. And he even condescended to give lessons of philosophy in a more public manner than suited the modesty of a sage or the dignity of an emperor. And he even condescended to give lessons of philosophy in a more public manner than was perhaps consistent with the modesty of a sage or the dignity of an emperor.
There are also cases, where something is added which, without changing the general sense, renders a statement fuller, more picturesque, or more vivid. Thus:—
  First edition. Second edition.
P.24. A sandy desert skirted along the doubtful confine of Syria, from the Euphrates to the Red Sea. A sandy desert, alike destitute of wood and water, skirts along the doubtful confine of Syria, from the Euphrates to the Red Sea.
P.48. The spirit of improvement had passed the Alps and been felt even in the woods of Britain. The spirit of improvement had passed the Alps and been felt even in the woods of Britain, which were gradually cleared away to open a free space for convenient and elegant habitations.
P.57. The sciences of physic and astronomy were cultivated with some degree of reputation; but if we except the inimitable Lucian, an age of indolence passed away without producing a single writer of genius, who deserved the attention of posterity. The sciences of physic and astronomy were successfully cultivated by the Greeks; the observations of Ptolemy and the writings of Galen are studied by those who have improved their discoveries and corrected their errors; but if we except the inimitable Lucian, this age of indolence passed away without having produced a single writer of original genius, or who excelled in the arts of elegant composition.

Gibbon's autograph annotations to the first chapter of his work It may be noticed in this connexion that at a later period Gibbon set to work to revise the second edition, but did not get further than p. 32 of the first volume.[6] His own copy with autograph marginal notes was exhibited last year, on the occasion of the Gibbon Centenary, by the Royal Historical Society, and is to be seen in the British Museum. The corrections and annotations are as follows:—

"To describe the prosperous condition of their empire." Read times for empire.

"And afterwards from the death of Marcus Antoninus." The following note is entered: "Should I not have given the history of that fortunate period which was interposed between two iron ages? Should I not have deduced the decline of the Empire from the Civil Wars that ensued after the Fall of Nero, or even from the tyranny which succeeded the reign of Augustus? Alas! I should: but of what avail is this tardy knowledge? Where error is irreparable, repentance is useless."

"To deduce the most important circumstances of its decline and fall: a revolution which will ever be remembered, and is still felt by the nations of the earth." These words are erased and the following are substituted: "To prosecute the decline and fall of the empire of Rome: of whose language, religion and laws the impression will be long preserved in our own and the neighbouring countries of Europe". To which an observation is appended: "N.B. Mr. Hume told me that, in correcting his history, he always laboured to reduce superlatives, and soften positives. Have Asia and Africa, from Japan to Morocco, any feeling or memory of the Roman Empire?"

On the words "rapid succession of triumphs," note: "EXCURSION I. on the succession of Roman triumphs".

On "bulwarks and boundaries," note: "Incertum metû an per invidiam (Tacit. Annal. i. 11). Why must rational advice be imputed to a base or foolish motive? To what cause, error, malevolence, or flattery shall I ascribe the unworthy alternative? Was the historian dazzled by Trajan's conquests?"

"On the immortality and transmigration of soul" (compare footnote). Note: "Julian assigns this Theological cause, of whose power he himself might be conscious (Cæsares, p. 327). Yet I am not assured that the religion of Zamolxis subsisted in the time of Trajan; or that his Dacians were the same people with the Getae of Herodotus. The transmigration of the soul has been believed by many nations, warlike as the Celts, or pusillanimous like the Hindoos. When speculative opinion is kindled into practical enthusiasm, its operation will be determined by the praevious character of the man or the nation."

P. 7—6 "On their destroyers than on their benefactors." Note: "The first place in the temple of fame is due and is assigned to the successful heroes who had struggled with adversity; who, after signalizing their valour in the deliverance of their country, have displayed their wisdom and virtue in foundation or government of a flourishing state. Such men as Moses, Cyrus, Alfred, Gustavus Vasa, Henry IV. of France, &c."

"The thirst of military glory will ever be the vice of the most exalted [characters . . . but he] lamented with a sigh that his advanced age, &c." All included within the brackets is erased, and the following substituted: "the most exalted minds. Late generations and far distant climates may impute their calamities to the immortal author of the Iliad. The spirit of Alexander was inflamed by the praises of Achilles: and succeeding Heroes have been ambitious to tread in the footsteps of Alexander. Like him the Emperor Trajan aspired to the conquest of the East; but the Roman lamented with a sigh," &c.

P. 11—9 "A just preference was given to the climates of the north over those of the south." Note: "The distinction of North and South is real and intelligible; and our pursuit is terminated on either side by the poles of the Earth. But the difference of East and West is arbitrary and shifts round the globe. As the men of the North, not of the West, the legions of Gaul and Germany were superior to the South-Eastern natives of Asia and Egypt. It is the triumph of cold over heat; which may, however, and has been surmounted by moral causes."

P. 15-12 "A correspondent number of tribunes and centurions." Note: "The composition of the Roman officers was very faulty. 1. It was late before a Tribune was fixed to each cohort. Six tribunes were chosen for the entire legion which two of them commanded by turns (Polyt. I. vi. p. 526, edit. Schweighaeuser), for the space of two months. 2. One long subordination from the Colonel to the Corporal was unknown. I cannot discover any intermediate ranks between the Tribune and the Centurion, the Centurion and the manipularis or private leginary [sic]. 3. As the tribunes were often without experience, the centurions were often without education, mere soldiers of fortune who had risen from the ranks (eo immitior quia toleraverat, Tacit. Annal. i. 20). A body equal to eight or nine of our batallions might be commanded by half a dozen young gentlemen and fifty or sixty old sergeants. Like the legions, our great ships of war may seem ill provided with officers: but in both cases the deficiency is corrected by strong principles of discipline and rigour."

P. 17. footnote 53-14. footnote 55 "As in the instance of Horace and Agricola." These words are erased. Note: "quod mihi pareret legio Romana Tribuno (Horat. Serm. I. i. vi. 45), a worthy commander of three and twenty from the school of Athens! Augustus was indulgent to Roman birth, liberis Senatorum . . . militiam. auspicantes non tribunatum modo legionum sed et praefecturas alarum dedit (Sueton. c. 38)."

P. 32, footnote 86-26, footnote 94 "A league and a half above the surface of the sea." Note: "More correctly, according to Mr. Bouguer, 2500 toises (Buffon, Supplement, tom. v. p. 304). The height of Mont Blanc is now fixed to 2416 toises (Saussure, Voyage dans les Alpes, tom. i. p. 495): but the lowest ground from whence it can be seen is itself greatly elevated above the level of the sea. He who sails by the isle of Teneriff, contemplates the entire Pike, from the foot to the summit."

The moral of the Decline and Fall But Gibbon has his place in literature not only as the stylist, who never lays aside his toga when he takes up his pen, but as the expounder of a large and striking idea in a sphere of intense interest to mankind, and as a powerful representative of certain tendencies of his age. The guiding idea or "moral" of his history is briefly stated in his epigram: "I have described the triumph of barbarism and religion". In other words, the historical development of human societies, since the second century after Christ, was a retrogression (according to ordinary views of "progress"), for which Christianity was mainly to blame. This conclusion of Gibbon tended in the same direction as the theories of Rousseau; only, while Rousseau dated the decline from the day when men left Arcadia, Gibbon's era was the death of Marcus Aurelius.

Its contribution to the Philosophy of History We are thus taken into a region of speculation where every traveller must make his own chart. But to attempt to deny a general truth in Gibbon's point of view is vain; and it is feeble to deprecate his sneer. We may spare more sympathy than he for the warriors and the churchmen; but all that has since been added to his knowledge of facts has neither reversed nor blunted the point of the "Decline and Fall". Optimism of temperament may shut the eyes; faith, wedded to some "one increasing purpose" which it shrinks from grasping, may divert from the path of facts. But for an inquirer not blinded by religious prepossessions, or misled by comfortable sophistries, Gibbon really expounded one of the chief data with which the philosophy of history has to reckon. How are we to define progress? how recognize retrogression? What is the end in relation to which such words have their meaning, and is there a law which will explain "the triumph of barbarism and religion" as a necessary moment in a reasonable process towards that end, whatever it may be? Answers have been given since Gibbon's day, engaging to the intellect, but always making some demand on the faith — answers for which he would have the same smile as for Leo's Dogmatic Epistle. There is certainly some reason for thinking these questions insoluble. We may say at least that the meaning of the philosophy of history is misapprehended until it is recognized that its function is not to solve problems but to transform them.

Gibbon's treatment of Christianity But, though the moral of Gibbon's work has not lost its meaning yet, it is otherwise with the particular treatment of Christian theology and Christian institutions. Our point of view has altered, and, if Gibbon were writing now, the tone of his "candid and rational inquiry" would certainly be different. His manner would not be that of sometimes open, sometimes transparently veiled, dislike; he would rather assume an attitude of detachment. He would be affected by that merely historical point of view, which is a note of the present century and its larger tolerances; and more than half disarmed by that wide diffusion of unobtrusive scepticism among educated people, which seems to render offensive warfare superfluous. The man of letters admires the fine edge of subtle sarcasm, wielded by Gibbon with such skill and effect; while the historian is interested in an historical standpoint of the last century. Neither the historian nor the man of letters will any longer subscribe, without a thousand reserves, to the theological chapters of the "Decline and Fall," and no discreet inquirer would go there for his ecclesiastical history. Yet we need not hide the fact that Gibbon's success has in a large measure been due to his scorn for the Church; which, most emphatically expressed in the theological chapters, has, as one might say, spiced his book. The attack of a man, equipped with erudition, and of perfectly sober judgment, on cherished beliefs and revered institutions, must always excite the interest, by irritating the passions, of men. Gibbon's classical moderation of judgment, his temperate mood, was responsible, as well as foreign education and the influence to be partly explained by his temperament of French thought, for his attitude to Christianity and to Mahometanism. He hated excess, and the immoderation of the multitude. He could suffer the tolerant piety of a learned abbé or "the fat slumbers of the Church"; but with the religious faith of a fanatical populace or the ardour of its demagogues his reason was unable to sympathize. In the spirit of Cicero or Tacitus he despised the superstitions of the vulgar, and regarded the unmeasured enthusiasm of the early Christians as many sober Churchmen regard the fanaticism of Islam. He dealt out the same measure to the opposite enthusiasm of Julian the Apostate.[7] His work was all the more effective, because he was never dogmatic His reasonable scepticism himself. His irony should not be construed as insincerity, but rather as showing that he was profoundly — one might say, constitutionally — convinced of the truth of that sceptical conclusion which has been, in a different spirit, formulated precisely by the Bishop of Oxford; "there is no room for sweeping denunciations or trenchant criticisms in the dealings of a world whose falsehoods and veracities are separated by so very thin a barrier".

Thus Gibbon's attitude to religion, while it was conditioned by the intellectual atmosphere of Europe in that age, was also the expression of the man. When Dean Milman spoke Milman's libel of his "bold and disingenuous attack on Christianity,"[8] he made one of those futile charges which it would be impossible to prove and impossible to disprove; such imputations as are characteristic of theologians in the heat of controversy and may be condoned to politicians in the heat of electioneering, but in an historical critic are merely an impertinence.

Ulterior purposes and "party spirit" in the writing of history It has sometimes been remarked that those histories are most readable which are written to prove a thesis. The indictment of the Empire by Tacitus, the defence of Cassarianism oratory by Mommsen, Grote's vindication of democracy, Droysen's advocacy of monarchy, might be cited as examples. All these writers intended to present the facts as they took place, but all wrote with prepossessions and opinions, in the light of Arnold's view which they interpreted the events of history. Arnold deliberately advocated such partiality on the ground that "the past is reflected to us by the present and the partyman feels the present most". Another Oxford Regius Professor remarked that "without some infusion of spite it seems as if history could not be written". On the other side stands the formula Ranke's view of Ranke as to the true task of the historian: " Ich will bloss sagen wie es eigentlich gewesen ist". The Greek History of Bishop Thirlwall, the English Constitutional History of Bishop Stubbs himself, were written in this spirit. But the most striking instances perhaps, because they tread with such light feet on the treacherous ashes of more recent history, are Ranke and Bishop Creighton. Thucydides is the most Gibbon's prepossessions ancient example of this historical reserve. It cannot be said that Gibbon sat down to write with any ulterior purpose, but, as we have seen, he allowed his temperament to colour his history, and used it to prove a congenial thesis. But, while he put things in the light demanded by this thesis, he related his facts accurately. If we take into account the vast and accuracy range of his work, his accuracy is amazing. He laboured under some disadvantages, which are set forth in his own Memoirs. He had not enjoyed that school and university training in the languages and literatures of Greece and Rome which is probably the best preparation for historical Imperfect knowledge of Greek research. His knowledge of Greek was imperfect; he was very far from having the "scrupulous ear of the well-flogged critic". He has committed errors of translation, and was capable of writing "Gregory of Nazianzen". But such slips are singularly few. Nor is he accustomed to take lightly quotations at second hand; like that famous passage of Eligius of Noyon — held up by Arnold as a warning — which Robertson and Hallam successively copied from Mosheim, where it had appeared in a garbled form, to prove exactly the opposite of its true meaning.

An emendation in Gibbon's text From one curious inaccuracy, which neither critics nor editors seem to have observed, he must I think be acquitted. In his account of the disturbances in Africa and Egypt in the reign of Diocletian, we meet the following passage (chap, xiii., p. 363): —

"Julian had assumed the purple at Carthage. Achilleus at Alexandria, and even the Blemmyes, renewed, or rather continued their incursions into the Upper Egypt."

Achilleus arose at this time (295-6 A.D.) as a tyrant at Alexandria; but that he made either at this date or at any previous date an incursion into the Upper Egypt, there is not a trace of evidence in our authorities. I am convinced however that this error was not originally due to the author, but merely a treacherous misprint, which was overlooked by him in correcting the proof sheets, and has also escaped the notice of his editors. By a slight change in punctuation we obtain a perfectly correct statement of the situation: —

"Julian had assumed the purple at Carthage, Achilleus at Alexandria; and even the Blemmyes renewed, or rather continued, their incursions into the Upper Egypt".

I have no doubts that this was the sentence originally meant and probably written by Gibbon, and have felt no scruple in extirpating the inveterate error from the text.[9] Gibbon's debt to Tillemont Gibbon's diligent accuracy in the use of his materials cannot be over-praised, and it will not be diminished by giving the due credit to his French predecessor Tillemont. The Histoire des Empereurs and the Mémoires ecclésiastiques, laborious and exhaustive collections of material, were addressed to the special student and not to the general reader, but scholars may still consult them with profit. It is interesting to find Mommsen in his later years retracting one of his earlier judgments and reverting to a conclusion of Tillemont. In his recent edition[10] of the Laterculus of Polemius Silvius, he writes thus: —

"L'auteur de la Notice — peritissimi Tillemontii verba sunt (hist. 5, 699) — vivoit en Occident et ne savoit pas trop l'état où estoit l'Orient; ei iuvenis contradixi hodie subscribo ".

It is one of Gibbon's merits that he made full use of Tillemont, "whose inimitable accuracy almost assumes the character of genius," as far as Tillemont guided him, up to the reign of Anastasius I.; and it is only just to the mighty work of the Frenchman to impute to him a large share in the accuracy which the Englishman achieved. From the historical, though not from the literary, point of view, Gibbon, deserted by Tillemont, distinctly declines, though he is well sustained through the wars of Justinian by the clear narrative of Procopius.

His necessary limitations Recognizing that Gibbon was accurate, we do not acknowledge by implication that he was always right; for accuracy is relative to opportunities. The discovery of new materials, the researches of numerous scholars, in the course of a hundred years, have not only added to our knowledge of facts, but have modified and upset conclusions which Gibbon with his materials was justified in drawing. Compare a chapter or two of Mr. Hodgkin's Italy and her Invaders with the corresponding episode in Gibbon, and many minor points will appear in which correction has been needful. If Gibbon were alive and writing now, his history would be very different. Affected by the intellectual experiences of the past century he could not adopt quite the same historical attitude; and we should consequently lose the colouring of his brilliant attack on Christianity. Again, he would have found it an absolute necessity to learn what he insolently called that "barbarous idiom," the German language; and this might have affected his style as it would certainly have affected his matter. We dare not deplore Gibbon's limitations, for they were the conditions of his great achievement.

His grasp of the unity of history Not the least important aspect of the Decline and Fall is its lesson in the unity of history, the favourite theme of Mr. Freeman. The title displays the cardinal fact that the Empire founded by Augustus fell in 1461; that all the changes which transformed the Europe of Marcus Aurelius into the Europe of Erasmus had not abolished the name and memory of the Empire. And whatever names of contempt — in harmony with his thesis — Gibbon might apply to the institution in the period of its later decline, such as the "Lower Empire," or "Greek Empire," his title rectified any false impressions that such language might cause. On the continuity of the Roman Empire depended the unity of his work. By the emphasis laid on this fact he did the same kind of service to the study of history in England, that Mr. Bryce has done in his Holy Roman Empire by tracing the thread which connects the Europe of Francis the Second with the Europe of Charles the Great.

Gibbon read widely, and had a large general knowledge of history, which supplied him with many happy illustrations. It is worth pointing out that the gap in his knowledge of ancient history was the period of the Diadochi and Epigoni. If he had been familiar with that period, he would not have said that Diocletian was the first to give to the world the example of a resignation of sovereignty. He would have referred to the conspicuous case of Ptolemy Soter; Mr. Freeman would have added Lydiadas, the tyrant of Megalopolis. Of the earlier example of Asarhaddon Gibbon could not have known.

New method of research To pass from scope and spirit to method, Gibbon's historical sense kept him constantly right in dealing with his sources, but he can hardly be said to have treated them methodically. The growth of German erudition is one of the leading features of the intellectual history of the nineteenth century; and one of its most important contributions to historical method lies in the investigation of sources. German "Quellenkritik" scholars have indeed pressed this "Quellenkunde" further than it can safely be pressed. A philologist, writing his doctoral dissertation, will bring plausible reasons to prove where exactly Diodorus ceased to "write out" Ephorus, whose work we do not possess, and began to write out somebody else, whose work is also lost to us. But, though the method lends itself to the multiplication of vain subtleties, it is absolutely indispensable for scientific historiography. It is in fact part of the science of evidence. The distinction of primary and derivative authorities might be used as a test. The untrained historian fails to recognize that nothing is added to the value of a statement of Widukind by its repetition by Thietmar or Ekkehard, and that a record in the Continuation of Theophanes gains no further credibility from the fact that it likewise occurs in Cedrenus, Zonaras or Glycas.

While evidence is more systematically arranged, greater care is bestowed on sifting and probing what our authorities say, and in distinguishing contemporary from later witnesses. Not a few important results have been derived from such methods; they enable us to trace the growth of stories. The evidence against Faustina shrinks into nothing; the existence of Pope Joan is exploded. It is irrelevant to condemn a statement of Zonaras as made by a "modern Greek". The question is, where did he get it?[11]

The difficult questions connected with the authorship and compilation of the Historia Augusta have produced a chestful of German pamphlets, but they did not trouble Gibbon. The relationships of the later Greek chronicles and histories are more difficult and intricate even than the questions raised by the Historia Augusta, but he did not even formulate a prudent interrogation. Ferdinand Hirsch, twenty years ago, cleared new roads through this forest, in which George the Monk and the Logothete who continued him, Leo Grammaticus and Simeon Magister, John Scylitzes, George Cedrenus and Zonaras lived in promiscuous obscurity. Büttner-Wobst on one side, C. de Boor on the other, have been working effectually on the same lines, clearing up the haze which surrounds George the Monk — the time has gone by for calling him George Hamartolus. Another formidable problem, that of John Malalas — with his namesake John of Antioch, so hard to catch, — having been grappled with by Jeep, Sotiriadês and others, is now being more effectively treated by Patzig.

Example of use of untrustworthy sources Criticism, too, has reiected some sources from which Gibbon drew without suspicion. In the interest of literature we may perhaps be glad that like Ockley he used with confidence the now discredited Al Wakidi. Before such maintained perfection of manner, to choose is hard; but the chapters on the origin of Mahometanism and its first triumphs against the Empire would alone be enough to win perpetual literary fame. Without Al Wakidi's romance they would not have been written; and the historian, compelled to regard Gibbon's description as he would a Life of Charles the Great based on the monk of St. Gall, must refer the inquirer after facts to Sprenger's Life of Mahomet and Weil's History of the Caliphs.[12]

Error of blending sources of different periods In connexion with the use of materials, reference may be made to a mode of proceeding which Gibbon has sometimes adopted and which modern method condemns. It is not legitimate to blend the evidence of two different periods in order to paint a complete picture of an institution. Great caution, for example, is needed in using the Greek epics, of which the earliest and latest parts differ by a long interval, for the purpose of pourtraying a so-called Homeric or heroic age. A notice of Fredegarius will not be necessarily applicable to the age of the sons and grandsons of Chlodwig, and a custom which was familiar to Gregory or Venantius may have become obsolete before the days of the last Merwings. It is instructive to compare Gibbon's description of the social and political institutions of our Teutonic forefathers with that of Bishop Stubbs. Gibbon blends together with dexterity the evidence of Cæsar and Tacitus, between whom a century had elapsed, and composes a single picture; whereas Bishop Stubbs keeps the statements of the two Romans carefully apart, and by comparing them is able to show that in certain respects the Germans had developed in the interval. Gibbon's account of the military establishment of the Empire, in the first chapter of his work, is open to a like objection. He has blended, without due criticism, the evidence of Vegetius with that of earlier writers.[13]

Progress of textual criticism In the study of sources, then, our advance has been great, while the labours of an historian have become more arduous. It leads us to another advance of the highest importance. To use historical documents with confidence, an assurance that the words of the writer have been correctly transmitted is manifestly indispensable. It generally happens that our texts have come down in several MSS., of different ages, and there are often various discrepancies. We have then to determine the relations of the MSS. to each other and their comparative values. To the pure philologist this is part of the alphabet of his profession; but the pure historian takes time to realize it, and it was not realized in the age of Gibbon as it is to-day. Nothing forces upon the historian the necessity of having a sound text so impressively as the process of comparing different documents in order to determine whether one was dependent on another, — the process of investigating sources. In this respect we have now to be thankful for many blessings denied to Gibbon and — so recent is our progress — denied to Improved Latin texts Milman and Finlay. We have Mommsen's editions of Jordanes and the Variae of Cassiodorius, his Chronica Minora (still incomplete), including, for instance, Idatius, the Prospers, Count Marcellinus; we have Peter's Historia Augusta, Gardthausen's Ammianus, Luetjohann's Sidonius Apollinaris; Du Chesne's Liber Pontificalis; and a large number of critical texts of ecclesiastical writers might be mentioned.[14] Defective The Greek historians have been less fortunate. The Bonn edition of the "Byzantine Writers," issued under the auspices of Niebuhr and Bekker in the early part of this century, was the most lamentably feeble production ever given to the world by German scholars of great reputation. It marked no advance on the older folio edition, except that it was cheaper, and that one or two new documents were included. But there is now a reasonable prospect that we shall by degrees have a complete series and improved Greek texts of trustworthy texts. De Boor showed the way by his splendid edition of Theophanes and his smaller texts of Theophylactus Simocatta and the Patriarch Nicephorus. Mendelssohn's Zosimus, and Reifferscheid's Anna Comnena stand beside them. Haury promises a Procopius, and we are expecting from Seger a long desired John Scylitzes, the greater part of whose text, though existing in a MS. at Paris, has never been printed and can only be inferred by a comparison of the Latin translation of Gabius with the chronicle of Cedrenus who copied him with faithful servility.

The legendary Lives of the Saints The legends of the Saints, though properly outside the domain of the historian proper, often supply him with valuable help. For "Culturgeschichte" they are a direct source. Finlay observed that the Acta Sanctorum contain an unexplored mine for the social life of the Eastern Empire. But before they can be confidently dealt with, trained criticism must do its will on the texts; the relations between the various versions of each legend must be defined and the tradition in each case made clear. The task is huge; the libraries of Europe and Hither Asia are full of these holy tales. But Usener has made a good beginning and Krumbacher has rendered the immense service of pointing out precisely what the problems are.[15]

New Material. Examples: (1) Numismatics Besides improved methods of dealing with the old material, much new material of various kinds has been discovered, since the work of Gibbon. To take one department, our coins have increased in number. It seems a pity that he who worked at his Spanheim with such diligence was not able to make use of Eckhel's great work on Imperial coinage which began to appear in 1792 and was completed in 1798. Since then we have had Cohen, and the special Seals works of Saulcy and Sabatier. M. Schlumberger's splendid study of Byzantine sigillography must be mentioned in the same connexion.[16]

(2) Constitutional history The constitution and history of the Principate, and the provincial government of the early Emperors, have been placed on an entirely new basis by Mommsen and his school.[17] The Römisches Staatsrecht is a fabric for whose rearing was needed not only improved scholarship but an extensive Epigraphy collection of epigraphic material. The Corpus of Latin Inscriptions is the keystone of the work.

Hence Gibbon's first chapters are somewhat "out of date". But on the other hand his admirable description of the change from the Principate to absolute Monarchy, and the system of Diocletian and Constantine, is still most valuable. Here inscriptions are less illustrative, and he disposed of much the same material as we, especially the Codex Theodosianus. New light is badly wanted, and has not been to any extent forthcoming, on the respective contributions of Diocletian and Constantine to the organization of the new monarchy. Verona List of Provinces As to the arrangement of the provinces we have indeed a precious document in the Verona List (published by Mommsen), which, dating from 297 A.D., shows Diocletian's reorganization. The modifications which were made between this year and the beginning of the fifth century when the Notitia Dignitatum was drawn up, can be largely determined not only by lists in Rufus and Ammianus, but, as far as the eastern provinces are concerned, by the Laterculus of Polemius Silvius. Thus, partly by critical method applied to Polemius, partly by the discovery of a new document, we are enabled to rectify the list of Gibbon, who adopted the simple plan of ascribing to Diocletian and Constantine the detailed organization of the Notitia. Otherwise our knowledge of the changes of Diocletian has not been greatly augmented; but our clearer conception of the Principate and its steady development towards pure monarchy has reflected light on Diocletian's system; and the tendencies of the third century, though still obscure at many points, have been made more distinct. The year of the Gordians is still as great a puzzle as ever; but the dates of Alexandrine coins with the tribunician years give us here, as elsewhere, limits of which Gibbon was ignorant. While speaking of the third century, I may add that Calpurnius Siculus, whom Gibbon claimed as a contemporary of Carinus, has been restored by modern criticism to the reign of Nero, and this error has vitiated some of Gibbon's pages.

The constitutional history of the Empire from Diocletian forward has still to be written systematically. Some noteworthy contributions to this subject have been made by Russian scholars.

(3) Law Gibbon's forty-first chapter is still not only famous, but admired by jurists as a brief and brilliant exposition of the principles of Roman law. To say that it is worthy of the subject is the best tribute that can be paid to it. A series of foreign scholars of acute legal ability has elaborated the study of the science in the present century; I need only refer to such names as Savigny and Jhering. A critical edition of the Corpus juris Romani by Mommsen himself has Gains been one of the chief contributions. The manuscript of Gaius is the new discovery to be recorded; and we can imagine with what interest Gibbon, were he restored to earth, would compare in Gneist's parallel columns the Institutions with the elder treatise.

But whoever takes up Gibbon's theme now will not be content with an exposition of the Justinianean Law. He must go on to its later development in the subsequent Græco-Roman law centuries, in the company of Zachariä von Lingenthal and Heimbach. Such a study has been made possible and comparatively easy by the magnificent works of Zachariä; Ecloga among whose achievements I may single out his restoration of the Ecloga, which used to be ascribed to Leo VI., to its true author Leo III.; a discovery which illuminated in a most welcome manner the Isaurian reformation. It is interesting to observe that the last work which engaged him even on his death-bed was an attempt to prove exactly the same thing for the military treatise known as the Tactics of Leo VI. Here too Zachariä thinks that Leo was the Isaurian, while the received view is that he was the "Philosopher".

Having illustrated by examples the advantages open to an historian of the present day, which were not open to Gibbon, for dealing with Gibbon's theme, — improved and refined methods, a closer union of philology with history, and ampler material — we may go on to consider a general defect in his treatment of the Later Empire, and here too exhibit, by a few instances, progress made in particular departments.

Gibbon's treatment of the Later Empire Gibbon ended the first half of his work with the so-called fall of the Western Empire in 476 A.D. — a date which has been fixed out of regard for Italy and Rome, and should strictly be 480 A.D. in consideration of Julius Nepos. Thus the same space is devoted to the first three hundred years which is allowed to the remaining nine hundred and eighty. Nor does the inequality end here. More than a quarter of the second half of the work deals with the first two of these ten centuries. The mere statement of the fact shows that the history of the Empire from Heraclius to the last Grand Comnenus of Trebizond is merely a sketch with certain episodes more fully treated. The personal history and domestic policy of all the Emperors, from the son of Heraclius to Isaac Angelus, are compressed into one chapter. This mode of dealing with the subject is in harmony with the author's contemptuous attitude to the "Byzantine" or "Lower" Empire.

False impression as to uniformity of its history But Gibbon's account of the internal history of the Empire after Heraclius is not only superficial; it gives an entirely false impression of the facts. If the materials had been then as well sifted and studied as they are even to-day, he could not have failed to see that beneath the intrigues and crimes of the Palace there were deeper causes at work, and beyond the revolutions of the Capital City wider issues implied. The cause for which the Iconoclasts contended involved far more than an ecclesiastical rule or usage; it meant, and they realized, the regeneration of the Empire. Or, to take another instance: the key to the history of the tenth and eleventh centuries, is the struggle between the Imperial throne and the great landed interest of Asia Minor;[18] the accession of Alexius Commenus marked the final victory of the latter. Nor had Gibbon any conception of the great ability of most of the Emperors from Leo the Isaurian to Basil II., or, we might say, to Constantine the conqueror of Armenia. The designation of the story of the later Empire as a "uniform tale of weakness and misery"[19] is one and as to its weakness of the most untrue, and most effective, judgments ever uttered by a thoughtful historian. Before the outrage of 1204, the Empire was the bulwark of the West.[20]

Reaction Against Gibbon's point of view there has been a gradual reaction which may be said to have culminated within the Finlay's History last ten years. It was begun by Finlay, whose unprosperous speculations in Greece after the Revolution prompted him to seek for the causes of the insecurity of investments in land, and, leading him back to the year 146 B.C., involved him in a history of the "Byzantine Empire" which embedded a history of Greece.[21] The great value of Finlay's work lies not only in its impartiality and in his trained discernment of the commercial and financial facts underlying the superficial history of the chronicles, but in its full and trustworthy narration of the events. By the time that Mr. Tozer's edition appeared in 1876, it was being recognized that Gibbon's word on the Other researches later Empire was not the last. Meanwhile Hertzberg was going over the ground in Germany, and Gfrörer, whose ecclesiastical studies had taken him into those regions, had written a good deal of various value. Hirsch's Byzantinische Studien had just appeared, and Rambaud's l' Empire greg au ame siècle. M. Sathas was bringing out his Bibliotheca Græca medii aevi — including two volumes of Psellus — and was beginning his Documents inédits. Professor Lambros was working at his Athens in the Twelfth Century and preparing his editio princeps of the great Archbishop Akominatos. Hopf had collected a mass of new materials from the archives of southern cities. In England, Freeman was pointing out the true position of New Rome and her Emperors in the history of Europe.

These tendencies have increased in volume and velocity within the last twenty years. They may be said to have reached their culminating point in the publication of Professor Krumbacher Krumbacher's History of Byzantine Literature.[22] The importance of this work, of vast scope and extraordinary accuracy, can only be fully understood by the specialist. It has already promoted and facilitated the progress of the study in an incalculable measure; and it was soon followed by the inauguration of a journal, entirely devoted to works on "Byzantine" subjects, by the same scholar. The Byzantinische Zeitschrift would have been impossible twenty-five years ago and nothing shows more surely the turn of the tide. Professor Krumbacher's work seems likely to form as important an epoch as that of Ducange.

Russian school of Byzantine students Meanwhile in a part of Europe which deems itself to have received the torch from the Emperors as it has received their torch from the Patriarchs, and which has always had a special regard for the city of Constantine, some excellent work was being done. In Russia, Muralt edited the chronicle of George the monk and his Continuers, and compiled Byzantine Fasti. The Journal of the Ministry of Public Instruction is the storehouse of a long series of most valuable articles dealing, from various sides, with the history of the later Empire, by those indefatigable workers Uspenski and Vasilievski. At length, in 1894, Krumbacher's lead has been followed, and the Vizantiski Vremennik, a Russian counterpart of the Byzantinische Zeitschrift, has been started under the joint editorship of Vasilievski and Regel, and is clearly destined, with the help of Veselovski, Kondakov, Bieliaiev and the rest of a goodly fellowship, to make its mark.

Progress of research since Gibbon Examples: After this general sketch of the new prospects of later Imperial history, it will be useful to show by some examples what sort of progress is being made, and what kind of work has to be done. I will first take some special points of interest connected with Justinian. My second example shall be the topography of Constantinople; and my third the large field of literature composed in colloquial Greek. Lastly, the capital defect of the second half of Gibbon's work, his inadequate treatment, or rather his neglect, of the Slavs, will serve to illustrate our historical progress. (1) Justinian. (a) Procopius and the Secret History New light has been cast, from more than one side, on the reign of Justinian where there are so many uncertain and interesting places. The first step that methodical history had to take was a thoroughgoing criticism of Procopius, and this was more than half done by Dahn in his elaborate monograph. The double problem of the "Secret History" has stimulated the curiosity of the historian and the critic. Was Procopius the author? and in any case, are the statements credible? Gibbon has inserted in his notes the worst bits of the scandals which far outdid the convivium quinquaginta meretricum described by Burchard, or the feast of Sophonius Tigellinus; and he did not hesitate to believe them. Their credibility is now generally questioned, but the historian of Cæsarea is a much more interesting figure if it can be shown that he was the author. From a careful comparison of the Secret History with the works of Procopian authorship, in point of style, Dahn concluded that Procopius wrote it. Ranke argued against this view and maintained that it was the work of a malcontent who had obtained possession of a private diary of Procopius, on which framework he constructed the scandalous chronicle, imitating successfully the Procopian style.[23]

The discovery of Haury The question has been placed on a new footing by Haury;[24] and it is very interesting to find that the solution depends on the right determination of certain dates. The result is briefly as follows: —

Procopius was a malcontent who hated Justinian and all his works. He set himself the task of writing a history of his time, which, as the secretary of Belisarius, he had good opportunities of observing. He composed a narrative of the military events, in which he abstained from committing himself, so that it could be safely published in his own lifetime. Even here his critical attitude to the government is sometimes clear. He allows it to be read between the lines that he regarded the reconquest of Africa and Italy as calamities for those countries; which thus came under an oppressor, to be stripped by his governors and tax gatherers. But the domestic administration was more dangerous ground, on which Procopius could not tread without raising a voice of bitter indignation and hatred. So he dealt with this in a book which was to be kept secret during his own life and bequeathed to friends who might be trusted to give it to the world at a suitable time. The greater part of the Military History, which treated in seven Books the Persian, Vandalic, and Gothic wars, was finished in 545 A.D., and perhaps read to a select circle of friends; at a later time some additions were made, but no changes in what had been already written. The Secret History, as Haury has proved from internal evidence, was written in 550.[25] About three years later the Military History received an eighth Book, bringing the story down to the end of the Gothic war. Then the work came under the notice of Justinian, who saw that a great historian had arisen; and Procopius, who had certainly not described the wars for the purpose of pleasing the Emperor, but had sailed as close to the wind as he dared, was called upon to undertake the disagreeable task of lauding the oppressor. An Imperial command was clearly the origin of the De Aedificiis (560 A.D.), in which the reluctant writer adopted the plan of making adulation so fulsome, that, except to Justinian's vanity, he might appear to be laughing in his sleeve. At the very beginning of the treatise he has a sly allusion to the explosives which were lying in his desk, unknown to the Imperial spies.

Such is the outline of the literary motives of Procopius as we must conceive them, now that we have a practical certainty that he, and no other, wrote the Secret History. For Haury's dates enable us, as he points out, to argue as follows: If Procopius did not write the book, it was obviously written by a forger, who wished it to pass as a Procopian work. But in 550 no forger could have had the close acquaintance with the Military History which is exhibited by the author of the Anecdota. And moreover the identity of the introduction of the eighth Book of the Military History with that of the Secret History, which was urged by Ranke as an objection to the genuineness of the latter work, now tells decisively in favour of it. For if Procopius composed it in 553, how could a forger, writing in 550, have anticipated it? And if the forger composed it in 550, how are we to explain its appearances in a later work of Procopius himself? These considerations put it beyond all reasonable doubt that Procopius was the author of the Secret History; for this assumption is the only one which supplies an intelligible explanation of the facts.

(b) Theophilus' Life of Justinian Another puzzle in connexion with Justinian lay in certain biographical details relating to that emperor and his family, which Alemanni, in his commentary on the Secret History, quoted on the authority of a Life of Justinian by a certain Abbot Theophilus, said to have been the Emperor's preceptor. Of these biographical notices, and of Justinian's preceptor Theophilus, we otherwise knew nothing; nor had any one, since Alemanni, seen the Biography. Gibbon and other historians accepted without question the statements quoted by Alemanni; though it would have been wiser to treat them with more reserve, until some data for criticizing them were discovered. The puzzle of Alemanni's source, the The discovery of Mr. Bryce Life of Theophilus, was solved by Mr. Bryce, who discovered in the library of the Barbarini palace at Rome the original text from which Alemanni drew his information.[26] It professes to be an extract from a Slavonic work, containing the Life of Justinian up to the thirtieth year of his reign, composed by Bogomil, abbot of the monastery of St. Alexander in Dardania. This extract was translated by Marnavich, Canon of Sebenico (afterwards Bishop of Bosnia, 1631-1639), a friend of Alemanni, and some notes were appended by the same scholar. Bogomil is the Slavonic equivalent of the Greek Theophilus, which was accordingly adopted by Alemanni in his references. Mr. Bryce has shown clearly that this document, interesting as it is in illustrating how Slavonic legends had grown up round the name of Justinian, is worthless as history, and that there is no reason to suppose that such a person as the Dardanian Bogomil ever existed. We are indeed met by a new problem, which, however, is of no serious concern to the practical purposes of history. How did Marnavich obtain a copy of the original Life, from which he made the extract, and which he declares to be preserved in the library of the monks who profess the rule of St. Basil on Mount Athos? Does the original still exist, on Mount Athos or elsewhere? or did it ever exist?

The wars of Justinian[27] in the west have been fully and admirably related by Mr. Hodgkin, with the exception of the obscure conquest of Spain, on which there is too little to be said and nothing further seems likely to come to light. In regard to the ecclesiastical policy of Justinian there is still a field for research. (c) Sancto Sophia, and Byzantine art As for the study of the great work of Anthemius, which brings us to the general subject of Byzantine art, much has been done within the last half century. Gibbon had nothing to help him for the buildings of Constantinople that could compare with Adam's splendid work which he consulted for the buildings of Spalato. We have now Salzenberg's luxurious work, Alt-christliche Baudenkmale von Constantinopel, published just fifty years ago by the Prussian government, with plates which enable us to make a full study of the architecture of St. Sophia. A few months ago a complete and scholarly English study of this church by Messrs. Lethaby and Swainson appeared. Other churches, too, especially those at Ravenna, have received careful attention; De Vogue's admirable work on the architecture of Syria is well known; but Strzygovski has only too good reason for complaining that the study of Byzantine architecture, as a whole, has not yet properly begun. A large work on the churches of Greece, which two English scholars are preparing, ought to do much to further the cause which Strzygovski has at heart, and to which he has made valuable contributions himself.[28] More progress is perhaps being made in the study of miniature painting and iconography; and in this field the work of the Russian student Kondakov is the most noteworthy.

(2) The topography of Constantinople The study of works of architecture in ancient cities, like Athens, Rome, or Constantinople, naturally entails a study of the topography of the town; and in the case of Constantinople this study is equally important for the historian. Little progress of a satisfactory kind can be made until either Constantinople passes under a European government, or a complete change comes over the spirit of Turkish administration. The region of the Imperial Palace and the ground between the Hippodrome and St. Sophia must be excavated before certainty on the main points can be attained. Labarte's a priori reconstruction of the plan of the palace, on the basis of the Cerimonies of Constantine Porphyrogennetos and scattered notices in other Greek writers, was wonderfully ingenious and a certain part of it is manifestly right, though there is much which is not borne out by a more careful examination of the sources. The next step was taken by a Bieliaiev Russian scholar Bieliaiev who has recently published a most valuable study on the Cerimonies,[29] in which he has tested the reconstruction of Labarte and shown us exactly where we are, — what we know, and what with our present materials we cannot possibly know. Between Labarte and Bieliaiev the whole problem was obscured by the unscholarly work of Paspatês, the Greek antiquarian; whose sole merit was that he kept the subject before the world. As the acropolis is the scene of so many great events in the history which Gibbon recorded, it is well to warn the reader that our sources make it absolutely certain that the Hippodrome adjoined the Palace; there was no public space between them. The Augusteum did not lie, as Paspatês asserted, between the Palace and the Hippodrome,[30] but between the north side of the Hippodrome and St. Sophia. The Book of the Prefect On the trades and industries of the Imperial City, on the The trade corporations and the minute control exercised over them by the government, new light has been thrown by M. Nicole's discovery and publication of the Prefect's Book, a code of regulations drawn up by Leo VI. The demes of Constantinople are a subject which needs investigation. They are certainly not to be regarded as Gibbon and his successors have regarded them, as mere circus parties. They must represent, as Uspenski points out in the opening number of the new Vizantiski Vremennik, organized divisions of the population.

(3) "Vulgärgriechische Litteratur" A field in which the historian must wander to breathe the spirit and learn the manner of the mediaeval Greek world is that of the romance, both prose and verse, written in the vulgar tongue. This field was closed to Gibbon, but the labours of many scholars, above all Legrand, have rendered it now easily accessible. Out of a large number of interesting things I may refer especially to two. One is the epic of Digenes Akritas Digenes Akritas, the Roland or Cid of the Later Empire, a poem of the tenth century, which illustrates the life of Armatoli and the border warfare against the Saracens in the Cilician mountains. The other is the Book of the Conquest The Chronicle of Morea of the Morea,[31] a mixture of fiction and fact, but invaluable for realizing the fascinating though complicated history of the "Latin" settlements in Greece. That history was set History of Greece after the Latin Conquest aside by Gibbon, with the phrase, "I shall not pursue the obscure and various dynasties that rose and fell on the continent or in the isles," though he deigns to give a page or two to Athens.[32] But it is a subject with unusual possibilities for picturesque treatment, and out of which, Gibbon, if he had apprehended the opportunity, and had possessed the materials, would have made a brilliant chapter. Since Finlay, who entered into this episode of Greek history with great fulness, the material has been largely increased by the researches of Hopf.[33]

(4) The Slavs and their relations with the Later Empire As I have already observed, it is perhaps on the Slavonic side of the history of the Empire that Gibbon is most conspicuously inadequate. Since he wrote, various causes have combined to increase our knowledge of Slavonic antiquity. The Slavs themselves have engaged in methodical investigation of their own past; and, since the entire or partial emancipations of the southern Slavs from Asiatic rule, a general interest in Slavonic things has grown up throughout Europe. Gibbon dismissed the history of the First Bulgarian Kingdom, from its foundation in the reign of Constantine Pogonatus to its overthrow by the second Basil, in two pages. To-day the author of a history of the Empire on the same scale would find two hundred a strict limit. Gibbon tells us nothing of the Slavonic missionaries, Cyril and Methodius, round whose names an extensive literature has been formed. It is only in recent years that the geography of the Illyrian peninsula has become an accessible subject of study.

Useful controversies: The investigation of the history of the northern peoples who came under the influence of the Empire has been stimulated by controversy, and controversy has been animated (1) Slavs in Greece and even embittered by national pride. The question of Slavonic settlements in Greece has been thoroughly ventilated, because Fallmerayer excited the scholarship of Hellenes and Philhellenes to refute what they regarded as an insulting paradox.[34] So, too, the pride of the Roumanians was irritated (2) Origin of the Roumanians by Roesler, who denied that they were descended from the inhabitants of Trajan's Dacia and described them as later immigrants of the thirteenth century. Pic arose against him; then Hermuzaki argued for an intermediate date. The best Hungarian scholar of the day joined the fray, on the other side; and the contention became bitter between Vlach and Magyar, the Roumanian pretensions to Siebenbürgen — "Dacia irredenta" — sharpening the lances of the foes. The Roumanians have not come out of their "question" (3) Ugro-Finnic or Turkish origin of the Hungarians as well as the Hellenes. Hungary too has its own question. Are the Magyars to be ethnically associated with the Finns or given over to the family of the Turks, whom as champions of Christendom they had opposed at Mohácz and Varna? It was a matter of pride for the Hungarian to detach himself from the Turk; and the evidence is certainly on his side. Hunfalvy's conclusions have successfully defied the (4) Origin of the Russian state: Normannic question assaults of Vámbéry.[35] Again in Russia there has been a long and vigorous contest, — the so-called Norman or Varangian question. No doubt is felt now by the impartial judge as to the Scandinavian origin of the princes of Kiev, and that the making of Russia was due to Northmen or Varangians. Kunik and Pogodin were reinforced by Thomsen of Denmark; and the pure Slavism of Ilovaiski[36] and Gedeonov, though its champions were certainly able, is a lost cause,

Progress in Slavonic archeology and history From such collisions sparks have flown and illuminated dark corners. For the Slavs the road was first cleared by Safarik. The development of the comparative philology of the Indo-Germanic tongues has had its effect; the Slavonic languages have been brought into line, chiefly by the life-work of Miklosich; and the science is being developed by such scholars as Jagic and Leskien. The several countries of the Balkan lands have their archæologists and archæological journals; and the difficulty which now meets the historian is not the absence but the plenitude of philological and historical literature.

The early history of the Magyars A word may be added about the Hungarians, who have not been so successful with their early history as the Slavs. Until the appearance of Hunfalvy, their methods were antediluvian, and their temper credulous. The special work of Jaszay, and the first chapters of Szalay's great History of Hungary, showed no advance on Katdna and Pray, who were consulted by Gibbon. All believed in the Anonymous Scribe of King Bela; Jaszay simply transcribed him. Then Roesler came and dispelled the illusion. Our main sources now are Constantine Porphyrogennetos, and the earlier Asiatic traveller Ibn Dasta, who has been rendered accessible by Chwolson.[37] The linguistic researches of Ahlquist, Hunfalvy and others into Vogul, Ostjak and the rest of the Ugro-Finnic kindred, must be taken into account by the critic who is dealing with those main sources. The Chazars, to whom the Hungarians were once subject, the Patzinaks, who drove the Magyars from "Lebedia" to "Atelkuzu" and from "Atelkuzu" to Pannonia, and other peoples of the same kind, have profited by these investigations.

The foregoing instances will serve to give a general idea of the respects in which Gibbon's history might be described as behind date. To follow out all the highways and byways of progress would mean the usurpation of at least a volume by the editor. What more has to be said, must be said briefly in notes and appendices. That Gibbon is behind date in many details, and in some departments of importance, simply signifies that we and our fathers have not lived in an absolutely incompetent world. But in the main things he is still our master, above and beyond "date". It is needless to dwell on the obvious qualities which secure to him immunity from the common lot of historical writers, — such as the bold and certain measure of his progress through the ages; his accurate vision, and his tact in managing perspective; his discreet reserves of judgment and timely scepticism; the immortal affectation of his unique manner. By virtue of these superiorities he can defy the danger with which the activity of successors must always threaten the worthies of the past. But there is another point which was touched on in an earlier page and to which here, in a different connexion, we may briefly revert. It is well to realize that the greatest history of modern times was written by one in whom a distrust of enthusiasm was deeply rooted.[38] This cynicism was not inconsistent with partiality, with definite prepossessions, with a certain spite. In fact it supplied the antipathy which the artist infused when he mixed his most effective colours. The conviction that enthusiasm is inconsistent with intellectual balance was engrained in his mental constitution, and confirmed by study and experience. It might be reasonably maintained that zeal for men or causes is an historian's marring, and that "reserve sympathy"—the principle of Thucydides—is the first lesson he has to learn. But without venturing on any generalization we must consider Gibbon's zealous distrust of zeal as an essential and most suggestive characteristic of the "Decline and Fall."


  1. The first volume of the quarto, which is now contained in the two first volumes of the octavo, edition.
  2. The Author, as it requently happens, took an inadequate measure of his growing work. The remainder of the first period has filled two volumes in quarto, being the third, fourth, fifth and sixth volumes of the octavo edition.
  3. Containing chaps, i. to xxxviii.]
  4. Which in the first quarto edition of vol. i. were printed at the end of the volume.
  5. See Dr. Robertson's Preface to his History of America.
  6. It is stated that there are also unimportant annotations in vols. iv. and vi.
  7. The influence of Gibbon's picture of Julian can be discerned in Ibsen's "Emperor and Galilaean".
  8. In a footnote to the Autobiography.
  9. In some other cases I have corrected the text in this volume, (I). p. 55, n. 109; Sumelpur for Jumelpur, see Appendix 9. (2). p. 259, I. 2 from top; the reading of the received text "public" is surely a printer's error, which escaped detection, for "republic," which I have ventured to restore. (3). p. 279, I. 5 from foot, I have assumed an instance of "lipography". (4). p. 328, n. 35, "Lycius" had been already corrected (see Smith's ed.) to "Lydius". Probably Gibbon had his Zosimus open before him when he wrote this note, and his pen traced Lycius because Lycia happened to occur in the very next line of his authority. I have followed Sir William Smith's precedent in dealing freely with the punctuation, and in modernizing the spelling of a few words.
  10. In the Chronica Minora (M. G. H.), vol. i., 512 sqq. See p. 533.
  11. Gibbon had a notion of this, but did not apply it methodically. See in this vol., p. 415, note 59: "but those modern Greeks had the opportunity of consulting many writers which have since been lost". And see, in general, his Preface to the fourth volume of the quarto ed.
  12. In Mahometan history in general, it may be added, not only has advance been made by access to new literary oriental documents, but its foundations have been more surely grounded by numismatic researches, especially those of Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole. This scholar's recently published handbook containing tables and lists of the "Mohammadan" Dynasties is a guerdon for which students of history must be most deeply grateful. The special histories of Mahometan Sicily and Spain have been worked out by Amari and Dozy. For the Mongols we have the overwhelming results of Sir Henry Howorth's learning and devotion to his "vasty" subject.
  13. It may be said for Gibbon, however, that even Mommsen, in his volume on the Provinces, has adopted this practice of blending evidence of different dates. For the historical artist, it is very tempting, when the evidence for any particular period is scanty; but in the eyes of the scientific historian it is indefensible.
  14. Especially the Corpus Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum.
  15. Usener, Der heilige Theodosios, 1890. Krumbacher, Studien zu den Legenden des heiligen Theodosios, 1892. It is worth while to state briefly what the chief problem is. The legends of the Saints were collected, rehandled, cleansed of casual heresy, and put into literary form in the tenth century (towards its close according to Vasilievski) by Symeon Metaphrastes. Most of our MSS. are derived from the edition of Symeon; but there are also extant, some, comparatively few, containing the original pre-Symeonic versions, which formed the chief literary recreation of ordinary men and women before the tenth century. The problem is to collect the materials for a critical edition of as many legends as have been preserved in their original form. When that is done, we shall have the data for fully appreciating the methods of Symeon. As for the text Krumbacher points out that what we want is a thoroughgoing study of the Grammar of the MSS.
  16. M. Schlumberger followed up this work by an admirable monograph on Nicephorus Phocas, luxuriously illustrated; and we are looking forward to the appearance of a companion work on Basil II.
  17. The first volume of Mr. Pelham's history of the Empire, which is expected shortly, will show, when compared with Menvale, how completely our knowledge of Roman institutions has been transformed within a very recent period.
  18. This has been best pointed out by C. Neumann.
  19. Chap, xlviii. ad init., where a full statement of his view of the later Empire will be found.
  20. I need not repeat here what I have said elsewhere, and what many others have said (recently Mr. Frederic Harrison in two essays in his volume entitled The Meaning of History) as to the various services of the Empire to Europe. They are beginning to be generally recognized and they have been brought out in Mr. C. W. Oman's brief and skilful sketch of the "Byzantine Empire" (1892).
  21. Since then a Greek scholar, K. Paparrigopulos, has covered the whole history of Greece from the earliest times to the present century, in his Ίστορία τοῦ Ὲλληνικοῦ ἔθνους. The same gigantic task, but in a more popular form, has been undertaken and begun by Professor Lambros, but is not yet finished.
  22. Geschichte der byzantinischen Litteratur (565-1453), 1891.
  23. I was seduced by this hypothesis of Ranke (Later Roman Empire, i- 363), but no longer believe in it.
  24. Procopiana, 1891.
  25. One of the author's points is that Justinian was the real ruler during the nominal reign of Justin, who was an "ass". Hence he dates Justinian's administration (not of course his Imperial years) from 518. The consequence of this important discovery of Haury, which he has proved up to the hilt, is that the work was written in 550 (not, as before believed, in 559) — the thirty-second year of Justinian's administration.
  26. The Life of Justinian by Theophilus, in the English Historical Review. Vasil'ev has given an account of Mr. Bryce's article in the Vizantiski Vremennik, i., 469 sqq.
  27. The Persian and Lazic Wars have been related in detail in my Later Roman Empire, vol. i.
  28. His new work on the reservoirs of Constantinople may be specially mentioned.
  29. Byzantina. Ocherki, materialy, i zamietki po Vizantiskim drevnostiam, 1891-3. I must not omit to mention Dr. Mordtmann's valuable Esquisse topographique (1892), and N. Destunis has made noteworthy contributions to the subject.
  30. With blameworthy indiscretion I accepted this false view of Paspates, in my Later Roman Empire, without having gone methodically into the sources. I was misled by the fame won by the supposed "topographical discoveries" of this diligent antiquarian and by his undeservedly high reputation; this, however, is no excuse, and unfortunately the error has vitiated my account of the Nika revolt. I have gone into the theory of Paspatês in the Scottish Review (April, 1894), where he is treated too leniently. His misuse of authorities is simply astounding. I may take the opportunity of saying that I hope to rewrite the two volumes of my Later Roman Empire and correct, so far as I may be able, its many faults. A third volume, dealing with the ninth century, will, I hope, appear at a not too distant date.
  31. The Greek and the French versions were published by Buchon, uncritically. A new edition of the Greek text is promised by Dr. John Schmitt.
  32. The history of mediaeval Athens has been recorded at length in an attractive work by Gregorovius, the counterpart of his great history of mediæval Rome.
  33. For a full account of Vulgar-griechische Litteratur, I may refer to Krumbacher's Gesch. der Byz. Litt. Here it is unnecessary to do more than indicate its existence and importance. I may add that the historian cannot neglect the development of the language, for which these romances (and other documents) furnish ample data. Here the Greeks themselves have an advantage, and scholars like Hatzidakês, Psicharês, and Jannarês are in this field doing work of the best kind.
  34. Fallmerayer's thesis that there was no pure Hellenic blood in Greece was triumphantly refuted. No one denies that there was a large Slavonic element in the country parts, especially of the Peloponnesus.
  35. In a paper entitled, The Coming of the Hungarians, in the Scottish Review of July, 1892, I have discussed the questions connected with early Magyar history, and criticized Hunfalvy's Magyarorszag Ethnographiája (1876) and Vámbéry's A magyarok eredete (1882). One of the best works dealing with the subject has been written by a Slav (C. Grot).
  36. Ilovaiski's work Istorija Rossii, vol. i. (Kiev period), is, though his main thesis is a mistake, most instructive.
  37. Chwolson, Izviestiia o Chozarach, Burtasach, Bolgarach, Madiarach, Slavaniach, i Rusach.
  38. And who regarded history as "little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind" (see below, p. 77).