History of the decline and fall of the roman empire edward Gibbon, Esq

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It is natural to suppose that the greatest number, as well as the most

considerable of the Roman edifices, were raised by the emperors, who

possessed so unbounded a command both of men and money. Augustus was

accustomed to boast that he had found his capital of brick, and that

he had left it of marble. [64] The strict economy of Vespasian was the

source of his magnificence. The works of Trajan bear the stamp of his

genius. The public monuments with which Hadrian adorned every province

of the empire, were executed not only by his orders, but under his

immediate inspection. He was himself an artist; and he loved the arts,

as they conduced to the glory of the monarch. They were encouraged by

the Antonines, as they contributed to the happiness of the people. But

if the emperors were the first, they were not the only architects

of their dominions. Their example was universally imitated by their

principal subjects, who were not afraid of declaring to the world that

they had spirit to conceive, and wealth to accomplish, the noblest

undertakings. Scarcely had the proud structure of the Coliseum been

dedicated at Rome, before the edifices, of a smaller scale indeed, but

of the same design and materials, were erected for the use, and at the

expense, of the cities of Capua and Verona. [65] The inscription of the

stupendous bridge of Alcantara attests that it was thrown over the Tagus

by the contribution of a few Lusitanian communities. When Pliny was

intrusted with the government of Bithynia and Pontus, provinces by

no means the richest or most considerable of the empire, he found the

cities within his jurisdiction striving with each other in every useful

and ornamental work, that might deserve the curiosity of strangers, or

the gratitude of their citizens. It was the duty of the proconsul to

supply their deficiencies, to direct their taste, and sometimes to

moderate their emulation. [66] The opulent senators of Rome and the

provinces esteemed it an honor, and almost an obligation, to adorn the

splendor of their age and country; and the influence of fashion very

frequently supplied the want of taste or generosity. Among a crowd of

these private benefactors, we may select Herodes Atticus, an Athenian

citizen, who lived in the age of the Antonines. Whatever might be the

motive of his conduct, his magnificence would have been worthy of the

greatest kings.
[Footnote 64: Sueton. in August. c. 28. Augustus built in Rome the

temple and forum of Mars the Avenger; the temple of Jupiter Tonans in

the Capitol; that of Apollo Palatine, with public libraries; the portico

and basilica of Caius and Lucius; the porticos of Livia and Octavia; and

the theatre of Marcellus. The example of the sovereign was imitated by

his ministers and generals; and his friend Agrippa left behind him the

immortal monument of the Pantheon.] [See Theatre Of Marcellus: Augustus

built in Rome the theatre of Marcellus.]

[Footnote 65: See Maffei, Veroni Illustrata, l. iv. p. 68.]
[Footnote 66: See the xth book of Pliny's Epistles. He mentions the

following works carried on at the expense of the cities. At Nicomedia, a

new forum, an aqueduct, and a canal, left unfinished by a king; at Nice,

a gymnasium, and a theatre, which had already cost near ninety thousand

pounds; baths at Prusa and Claudiopolis, and an aqueduct of sixteen

miles in length for the use of Sinope.]

The family of Herod, at least after it had been favored by fortune, was

lineally descended from Cimon and Miltiades, Theseus and Cecrops, Aeacus

and Jupiter. But the posterity of so many gods and heroes was fallen

into the most abject state. His grandfather had suffered by the hands

of justice, and Julius Atticus, his father, must have ended his life in

poverty and contempt, had he not discovered an immense treasure buried

under an old house, the last remains of his patrimony. According to the

rigor of the law, the emperor might have asserted his claim, and the

prudent Atticus prevented, by a frank confession, the officiousness of

informers. But the equitable Nerva, who then filled the throne, refused

to accept any part of it, and commanded him to use, without scruple,

the present of fortune. The cautious Athenian still insisted, that the

treasure was too considerable for a subject, and that he knew not how

to use it. Abuse it then, replied the monarch, with a good-natured

peevishness; for it is your own. [67] Many will be of opinion, that

Atticus literally obeyed the emperor's last instructions; since he

expended the greatest part of his fortune, which was much increased by

an advantageous marriage, in the service of the public. He had obtained

for his son Herod the prefecture of the free cities of Asia; and the

young magistrate, observing that the town of Troas was indifferently

supplied with water, obtained from the munificence of Hadrian three

hundred myriads of drachms, (about a hundred thousand pounds,) for the

construction of a new aqueduct. But in the execution of the work, the

charge amounted to more than double the estimate, and the officers of

the revenue began to murmur, till the generous Atticus silenced their

complaints, by requesting that he might be permitted to take upon

himself the whole additional expense. [68]
[Footnote 67: Hadrian afterwards made a very equitable regulation, which

divided all treasure-trove between the right of property and that of

discovery. Hist. August. p. 9.]
[Footnote 68: Philostrat. in Vit. Sophist. l. ii. p. 548.]
The ablest preceptors of Greece and Asia had been invited by liberal

rewards to direct the education of young Herod. Their pupil soon became

a celebrated orator, according to the useless rhetoric of that age,

which, confining itself to the schools, disdained to visit either the

Forum or the Senate.
He was honored with the consulship at Rome: but the greatest part of his

life was spent in a philosophic retirement at Athens, and his adjacent

villas; perpetually surrounded by sophists, who acknowledged, without

reluctance, the superiority of a rich and generous rival. [69] The

monuments of his genius have perished; some considerable ruins still

preserve the fame of his taste and munificence: modern travellers have

measured the remains of the stadium which he constructed at Athens. It

was six hundred feet in length, built entirely of white marble, capable

of admitting the whole body of the people, and finished in four years,

whilst Herod was president of the Athenian games. To the memory of his

wife Regilla he dedicated a theatre, scarcely to be paralleled in the

empire: no wood except cedar, very curiously carved, was employed in

any part of the building. The Odeum, [691] designed by Pericles for musical

performances, and the rehearsal of new tragedies, had been a trophy of

the victory of the arts over barbaric greatness; as the timbers employed

in the construction consisted chiefly of the masts of the Persian

vessels. Notwithstanding the repairs bestowed on that ancient edifice by

a king of Cappadocia, it was again fallen to decay. Herod restored

its ancient beauty and magnificence. Nor was the liberality of that

illustrious citizen confined to the walls of Athens. The most splendid

ornaments bestowed on the temple of Neptune in the Isthmus, a theatre at

Corinth, a stadium at Delphi, a bath at Thermopylae, and an aqueduct

at Canusium in Italy, were insufficient to exhaust his treasures.

The people of Epirus, Thessaly, Euboea, Boeotia, and Peloponnesus,

experienced his favors; and many inscriptions of the cities of Greece

and Asia gratefully style Herodes Atticus their patron and benefactor.

[Footnote 69: Aulus Gellius, in Noct. Attic. i. 2, ix. 2, xviii. 10,

xix. 12. Phil ostrat. p. 564.]

[Footnote 691: The Odeum served for the rehearsal of new comedies as well

as tragedies; they were read or repeated, before representation, without

music or decorations, &c. No piece could be represented in the theatre

if it had not been previously approved by judges for this purpose.

The king of Cappadocia who restored the Odeum, which had been burnt by

Sylla, was Araobarzanes. See Martini, Dissertation on the Odeons of the

Ancients, Leipsic. 1767, p. 10--91.--W.]
[Footnote 70: See Philostrat. l. ii. p. 548, 560. Pausanias, l. i. and

vii. 10. The life of Herodes, in the xxxth volume of the Memoirs of the

Academy of Inscriptions.]
In the commonwealths of Athens and Rome, the modest simplicity of

private houses announced the equal condition of freedom; whilst the

sovereignty of the people was represented in the majestic edifices

designed to the public use; [71] nor was this republican spirit totally

extinguished by the introduction of wealth and monarchy. It was in works

of national honor and benefit, that the most virtuous of the emperors

affected to display their magnificence. The golden palace of Nero

excited a just indignation, but the vast extent of ground which had been

usurped by his selfish luxury was more nobly filled under the succeeding

reigns by the Coliseum, the baths of Titus, the Claudian portico, and

the temples dedicated to the goddess of Peace, and to the genius of

Rome. [72] These monuments of architecture, the property of the Roman

people, were adorned with the most beautiful productions of Grecian

painting and sculpture; and in the temple of Peace, a very curious

library was open to the curiosity of the learned. [721] At a small distance

from thence was situated the Forum of Trajan. It was surrounded by a

lofty portico, in the form of a quadrangle, into which four triumphal

arches opened a noble and spacious entrance: in the centre arose a

column of marble, whose height, of one hundred and ten feet, denoted the

elevation of the hill that had been cut away. This column, which still

subsists in its ancient beauty, exhibited an exact representation of the

Dacian victories of its founder. The veteran soldier contemplated the

story of his own campaigns, and by an easy illusion of national vanity,

the peaceful citizen associated himself to the honors of the triumph.

All the other quarters of the capital, and all the provinces of

the empire, were embellished by the same liberal spirit of public

magnificence, and were filled with amphi theatres, theatres, temples,

porticoes, triumphal arches, baths and aqueducts, all variously

conducive to the health, the devotion, and the pleasures of the meanest

citizen. The last mentioned of those edifices deserve our peculiar

attention. The boldness of the enterprise, the solidity of the

execution, and the uses to which they were subservient, rank the

aqueducts among the noblest monuments of Roman genius and power. The

aqueducts of the capital claim a just preeminence; but the curious

traveller, who, without the light of history, should examine those of

Spoleto, of Metz, or of Segovia, would very naturally conclude that

those provincial towns had formerly been the residence of some potent

monarch. The solitudes of Asia and Africa were once covered with

flourishing cities, whose populousness, and even whose existence, was

derived from such artificial supplies of a perennial stream of fresh

water. [73]
[Footnote 71: It is particularly remarked of Athens by Dicaearchus, de

Statu Graeciae, p. 8, inter Geographos Minores, edit. Hudson.]

[Footnote 72: Donatus de Roma Vetere, l. iii. c. 4, 5, 6. Nardini Roma

Antica, l. iii. 11, 12, 13, and a Ms. description of ancient Rome, by

Bernardus Oricellarius, or Rucellai, of which I obtained a copy from

the library of the Canon Ricardi at Florence. Two celebrated pictures of

Timanthes and of Protogenes are mentioned by Pliny, as in the Temple of

Peace; and the Laocoon was found in the baths of Titus.]

[Footnote 721: The Emperor Vespasian, who had caused the Temple of Peace

to be built, transported to it the greatest part of the pictures,

statues, and other works of art which had escaped the civil tumults. It

was there that every day the artists and the learned of Rome assembled;

and it is on the site of this temple that a multitude of antiques

have been dug up. See notes of Reimar on Dion Cassius, lxvi. c. 15, p.

[Footnote 73: Montfaucon l'Antiquite Expliquee, tom. iv. p. 2, l. i.

c. 9. Fabretti has composed a very learned treatise on the aqueducts of

We have computed the inhabitants, and contemplated the public works,

of the Roman empire. The observation of the number and greatness of its

cities will serve to confirm the former, and to multiply the latter. It

may not be unpleasing to collect a few scattered instances relative

to that subject without forgetting, however, that from the vanity of

nations and the poverty of language, the vague appellation of city has

been indifferently bestowed on Rome and upon Laurentum.
I. Ancient Italy is said to have contained eleven hundred and

ninety-seven cities; and for whatsoever aera of antiquity the expression

might be intended, [74] there is not any reason to believe the country

less populous in the age of the Antonines, than in that of Romulus.

The petty states of Latium were contained within the metropolis of the

empire, by whose superior influence they had been attracted. [741] Those

parts of Italy which have so long languished under the lazy tyranny

of priests and viceroys, had been afflicted only by the more tolerable

calamities of war; and the first symptoms of decay which they

experienced, were amply compensated by the rapid improvements of the

Cisalpine Gaul. The splendor of Verona may be traced in its remains: yet

Verona was less celebrated than Aquileia or Padua, Milan or Ravenna. II.

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. York was the seat of government;

London was already enriched by commerce; and Bath was celebrated for the

salutary effects of its medicinal waters. Gaul could boast of her twelve

hundred cities; [75] and though, in the northern parts, many of them,

without excepting Paris itself, were little more than the rude and

imperfect townships of a rising people, the southern provinces imitated

the wealth and elegance of Italy. [76] Many were the cities of Gaul,

Marseilles, Arles, Nismes, Narbonne, Thoulouse, Bourdeaux, Autun,

Vienna, Lyons, Langres, and Treves, whose ancient condition might

sustain an equal, and perhaps advantageous comparison with their present

state. With regard to Spain, that country flourished as a province, and

has declined as a kingdom. Exhausted by the abuse of her strength, by

America, and by superstition, her pride might possibly be confounded, if

we required such a list of three hundred and sixty cities, as Pliny has

exhibited under the reign of Vespasian. [77] III. Three hundred African

cities had once acknowledged the authority of Carthage, [78] nor is it

likely that their numbers diminished under the administration of the

emperors: Carthage itself rose with new splendor from its ashes; and

that capital, as well as Capua and Corinth, soon recovered all the

advantages which can be separated from independent sovereignty. IV. The

provinces of the East present the contrast of Roman magnificence with

Turkish barbarism. The ruins of antiquity scattered over uncultivated

fields, and ascribed, by ignorance to the power of magic, scarcely

afford a shelter to the oppressed peasant or wandering Arab. Under

the reign of the Caesars, the proper Asia alone contained five hundred

populous cities, [79] enriched with all the gifts of nature, and adorned

with all the refinements of art. Eleven cities of Asia had once disputed

the honor of dedicating a temple of Tiberius, and their respective

merits were examined by the senate. [80] Four of them were immediately

rejected as unequal to the burden; and among these was Laodicea, whose

splendor is still displayed in its ruins. [81] Laodicea collected a

very considerable revenue from its flocks of sheep, celebrated for the

fineness of their wool, and had received, a little before the contest,

a legacy of above four hundred thousand pounds by the testament of a

generous citizen. [82] If such was the poverty of Laodicea, what must

have been the wealth of those cities, whose claim appeared preferable,

and particularly of Pergamus, of Smyrna, and of Ephesus, who so long

disputed with each other the titular primacy of Asia? [83] The capitals

of Syria and Egypt held a still superior rank in the empire; Antioch and

Alexandria looked down with disdain on a crowd of dependent cities, [84]

and yielded, with reluctance, to the majesty of Rome itself.
[Footnote 74: Aelian. Hist. Var. lib. ix. c. 16. He lived in the time of

Alexander Severus. See Fabricius, Biblioth. Graeca, l. iv. c. 21.]

[Footnote 741: This may in some degree account for the difficulty started

by Livy, as to the incredibly numerous armies raised by the small states

around Rome where, in his time, a scanty stock of free soldiers among

a larger population of Roman slaves broke the solitude. Vix seminario

exiguo militum relicto servitia Romana ab solitudine vindicant, Liv. vi.

vii. Compare Appian Bel Civ. i. 7.--M. subst. for G.]

[Footnote 75: Joseph. de Bell. Jud. ii. 16. The number, however, is

mentioned, and should be received with a degree of latitude. Note:

Without doubt no reliance can be placed on this passage of Josephus. The

historian makes Agrippa give advice to the Jews, as to the power of

the Romans; and the speech is full of declamation which can furnish no

conclusions to history. While enumerating the nations subject to the

Romans, he speaks of the Gauls as submitting to 1200 soldiers, (which is

false, as there were eight legions in Gaul, Tac. iv. 5,) while there are

nearly twelve hundred cities.--G. Josephus (infra) places these eight

legions on the Rhine, as Tacitus does.--M.]

[Footnote 76: Plin. Hist. Natur. iii. 5.]
[Footnote 77: Plin. Hist. Natur. iii. 3, 4, iv. 35. The list seems

authentic and accurate; the division of the provinces, and the different

condition of the cities, are minutely distinguished.]
[Footnote 78: Strabon. Geograph. l. xvii. p. 1189.]
[Footnote 79: Joseph. de Bell. Jud. ii. 16. Philostrat. in Vit. Sophist.

l. ii. p. 548, edit. Olear.]

[Footnote 80: Tacit. Annal. iv. 55. I have taken some pains in

consulting and comparing modern travellers, with regard to the fate

of those eleven cities of Asia. Seven or eight are totally destroyed:

Hypaepe, Tralles, Laodicea, Hium, Halicarnassus, Miletus, Ephesus, and

we may add Sardes. Of the remaining three, Pergamus is a straggling

village of two or three thousand inhabitants; Magnesia, under the name

of Guzelhissar, a town of some consequence; and Smyrna, a great city,

peopled by a hundred thousand souls. But even at Smyrna, while the

Franks have maintained a commerce, the Turks have ruined the arts.]
[Footnote 81: See a very exact and pleasing description of the ruins of

Laodicea, in Chandler's Travels through Asia Minor, p. 225, &c.]

[Footnote 82: Strabo, l. xii. p. 866. He had studied at Tralles.]
[Footnote 83: See a Dissertation of M. de Boze, Mem. de l'Academie,

tom. xviii. Aristides pronounced an oration, which is still extant, to

recommend concord to the rival cities.]
[Footnote 84: The inhabitants of Egypt, exclusive of Alexandria,

amounted to seven millions and a half, (Joseph. de Bell. Jud. ii. 16.)

Under the military government of the Mamelukes, Syria was supposed to

contain sixty thousand villages, (Histoire de Timur Bec, l. v. c. 20.)]

Chapter II: The Internal Prosperity In The Age Of The Antonines. Part IV.
All these cities were connected with each other, and with the capital,

by the public highways, which, issuing from the Forum of Rome, traversed

Italy, pervaded the provinces, and were terminated only by the frontiers

of the empire. If we carefully trace the distance from the wall of

Antoninus to Rome, and from thence to Jerusalem, it will be found that

the great chain of communication, from the north-west to the south-east

point of the empire, was drawn out to the length if four thousand and

eighty Roman miles. [85] The public roads were accurately divided by

mile-stones, and ran in a direct line from one city to another, with

very little respect for the obstacles either of nature or private

property. Mountains were perforated, and bold arches thrown over the

broadest and most rapid streams. [86] The middle part of the road was

raised into a terrace which commanded the adjacent country, consisted

of several strata of sand, gravel, and cement, and was paved with large

stones, or, in some places near the capital, with granite. [87] Such was

the solid construction of the Roman highways, whose firmness has not

entirely yielded to the effort of fifteen centuries. They united

the subjects of the most distant provinces by an easy and familiar

intercourse; out their primary object had been to facilitate the marches

of the legions; nor was any country considered as completely subdued,

till it had been rendered, in all its parts, pervious to the arms and

authority of the conqueror. The advantage of receiving the earliest

intelligence, and of conveying their orders with celerity, induced the

emperors to establish, throughout their extensive dominions, the

regular institution of posts. [88] Houses were every where erected at the

distance only of five or six miles; each of them was constantly provided

with forty horses, and by the help of these relays, it was easy to

travel a hundred miles in a day along the Roman roads. [89] [891] The use

of posts was allowed to those who claimed it by an Imperial mandate;

but though originally intended for the public service, it was sometimes

indulged to the business or conveniency of private citizens. [90] Nor was

the communication of the Roman empire less free and open by sea than it

was by land. The provinces surrounded and enclosed the Mediterranean:

and Italy, in the shape of an immense promontory, advanced into the

midst of that great lake. The coasts of Italy are, in general, destitute

of safe harbors; but human industry had corrected the deficiencies of

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