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The two last ambassadors of the Huns, Orestes, a noble subject of the Pannonian province, and Edecon, a valiant chieftain of the tribe of the Scyri, returned at the same time from Constantinople to the royal camp. Their obscure names were afterwards illustrated by the extraordinary fortune and the contrast Edition: current; Page: [ 25 ] of their sons; the two servants of Attila became the fathers of the last Roman emperor of the West and of the first Barbarian king of Italy.

As the remains of Sardica were still included within the limits of the empire, it was incumbent on the Romans to exercise the duties of hospitality. They provided, with the assistance of the provincials, a sufficient number of sheep and oxen; and invited the Huns to a splendid, or at least a plentiful, supper. But the harmony of the entertainment was soon disturbed by mutual prejudice and indiscretion.

The greatness of the emperor and the empire was warmly maintained by their ministers; the Huns, with equal ardour, asserted the superiority of their victorious monarch: the dispute was inflamed by the rash and unseasonable flattery of Vigilius, who passionately rejected the comparison of a mere mortal with the divine Theodosius; and it was with extreme difficulty that Maximin and Priscus were able to divert the conversation, or to soothe the angry minds of the Barbarians.

When they rose from table, the Imperial ambassador presented Edecon and Orestes with rich gifts of silk robes and Indian pearls, which they thankfully accepted. Yet Orestes could not forbear insinuating that he had not always been treated with such respect and liberality; the offensive distinction which was implied between his civil office and the hereditary rank of his colleague seems to have made Edecon a doubtful friend, and Orestes an irreconcileable enemy.


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After this entertainment, they travelled about one hundred miles from Sardica to Naissus. That flourishing city, which had given birth to the great Constantine, was levelled with the ground; the inhabitants were destroyed or dispersed; and the appearance of some sick persons, who were still permitted to exist among the ruins of the churches, served only to increase Edition: current; Page: [ 26 ] the horror of the prospect.

The surface of the country was covered with the bones of the slain; and the ambassadors, who directed their course to the north-west, were obliged to pass the hills of modern Servia, before they descended into the flat and marshy grounds which are terminated by the Danube. The Huns were masters of the great river; their navigation was performed in large canoes, hollowed out of the trunk of a single tree; the ministers of Theodosius were safely landed on the opposite bank; and their Barbarian associates immediately hastened to the camp of Attila, which was equally prepared for the amusements of hunting or of war.

No sooner had Maximin advanced about two miles from the Danube, than he began to experience the fastidious insolence of the conqueror. He was sternly forbid to pitch his tents in a pleasant valley, lest he should infringe the distant awe that was due to the royal mansion. The ministers of Attila pressed him to communicate the business and the instructions, which he reserved for the ear of their sovereign.

When Maximin temperately urged the contrary practice of nations, he was still more confounded to find that the resolutions of the Sacred Consistory, those secrets says Priscus which should not be revealed to the gods themselves, had been treacherously disclosed to the public enemy. On his refusal to comply with such ignominious terms, the Imperial envoy was commanded instantly to depart; the order was recalled; it was again repeated; and the Huns renewed their ineffectual attempts to subdue the patient firmness of Maximin.

At length, by the intercession of Scotta, the brother of Onegesius, whose friendship had been purchased by a liberal gift, he was admitted to the royal presence: but, instead of obtaining a decisive answer, he was compelled to undertake a remote journey towards the North, that Attila might enjoy the proud satisfaction of receiving, in the same camp, the ambassadors of the Eastern and Western empires.

His journey was regulated by the guides, who obliged him to halt, to hasten his march, or to deviate from the common Edition: current; Page: [ 27 ] road, as it best suited the convenience of the king. The Romans who traversed the plains of Hungary suppose that they passed several navigable rivers, either in canoes or portable boats; but there is reason to suspect that the winding stream of the Theiss, or Tibiscus, might present itself in different places, under different names.

From the contiguous villages they received a plentiful and regular supply of provisions; mead instead of wine, millet in the place of bread, and a certain liquor named camus, which, according to the report of Priscus, was distilled from barley. The ambassadors had encamped on the edge of a large morass. A violent tempest of wind and rain, of thunder and lightning, overturned their tents, immersed their baggage and furniture in the water, and scattered their retinue, who wandered in the darkness of the night, uncertain of their road, and apprehensive of some unknown danger, till they awakened by their cries the inhabitants of a neighbouring village, the property of the widow of Bleda.

The sunshine of the succeeding day was dedicated Edition: current; Page: [ 28 ] to repose; to collect and dry the baggage, and to the refreshment of the men and horses: but, in the evening, before they pursued their journey, the ambassadors expressed their gratitude to the bounteous lady of the village, by a very acceptable present of silver cups, red fleeces, dried fruits, and Indian pepper.

Soon after this adventure, they rejoined the march of Attila, from whom they had been separated about six days; and slowly proceeded to the capital of an empire which did not contain, in the space of several thousand miles, a single city. As far as we may ascertain the vague and obscure geography of Priscus, this capital appears to have been seated between the Danube, the Theiss, and the Carpathian hills, in the plains of Upper Hungary, and most probably in the neighbourhood of Jazberin, Agria, or Tokay. The wooden houses of the more illustrious Huns were built and adorned with rude magnificence, according to the rank, the fortune, or the taste of the proprietors.

They seem to have been distributed with some degree of order and symmetry; and each spot became more honourable, as it approached the person of the sovereign. The palace of Attila, which surpassed all other houses in his dominions, was built entirely of wood, and covered an ample space of ground. The outward enclosure was a lofty wall, or palisade of smooth square timber, intersected with high towers, but intended rather for ornament than defence.

This wall, which seems to have encircled the declivity of a hill, comprehended a great variety of wooden edifices, adapted to the uses of royalty. A separate house was assigned to each of the numerous wives of Attila; and, instead of the rigid and illiberal confinement imposed by Asiatic jealousy, they politely admitted the Roman ambassadors to their presence, their table, and even to the freedom of an innocent embrace. When Maximin offered his presents to Cerca, the principal queen, he admired the singular architecture of her mansion, the height of the round columns, the size and beauty of the wood, which was curiously shaped, or turned, or polished, or carved; and his attentive eye was able to discover some taste in the ornaments, and some regularity in the proportions.

After passing through the guards who watched before the gate, the ambassadors were introduced into the private apartment of Cerca. The wife of Attila received their visit sitting, or rather lying, on a soft couch; the floor was covered with a carpet; the domestics formed a circle round the queen; and her damsels, seated on the ground, were employed in working the variegated embroidery which adorned the dress of the Barbaric warriors. The Huns were ambitious of displaying those riches which were the fruit and evidence of their victories: the trappings of their horses, their swords, and even their shoes were studded with gold and precious stones; Edition: current; Page: [ 30 ] and their tables were profusely spread with plates, and goblets, and vases of gold and silver, which had been fashioned by the labour of Grecian artists.

The monarch alone assumed the superior pride of still adhering to the simplicity of his Scythian ancestors. The royal table was served in wooden cups and platters; flesh was his only food; and the conqueror of the North never tasted the luxury of bread. When Attila first gave audience to the Roman ambassadors on the banks of the Danube, his tent was encompassed with a formidable guard. The monarch himself was seated in a wooden chair.

His stern countenance, angry gestures, and impatient tone astonished the firmness of Maximin; but Vigilius had more reason to tremble, since he distinctly understood the menace that, if Attila did not respect the law of nations, he would nail the deceitful interpreter to a cross and leave his body to the vultures. The Barbarian condescended, by producing an accurate list, to expose the bold falsehood of Vigilius, who had affirmed that no more than seventeen deserters could be found.


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  • His anger gradually subsided, Edition: current; Page: [ 31 ] and his domestic satisfaction in a marriage which he celebrated on the road with the daughter of Eslam 47 might perhaps contribute to mollify the native fierceness of his temper. The entrance of Attila into the royal village was marked by a very singular ceremony. A numerous troop of women came out to meet their hero, and their king.

    They marched before him, distributed into long and regular files; the intervals between the files were filled by white veils of thin linen, which the women on either side bore aloft in their hands, and which formed a canopy for a chorus of young virgins, who chanted hymns and songs in the Scythian language. The wife of his favourite Onegesius, with a train of female attendants, saluted Attila at the door of her own house, on his way to the palace; and offered, according to the custom of the country, her respectful homage, by entreating him to taste the wine and meat which she had prepared for his reception.

    As soon as the monarch had graciously accepted her hospitable gift, his domestics lifted a small silver table to a convenient height, as he sat on horseback; and Attila, when he had touched the goblet with his lips, again saluted the wife of Onegesius, and continued his march. During his residence at the seat of empire, his hours were not wasted in the recluse idleness of a seraglio; and the king of the Huns could maintain his superior dignity, without concealing his person from the public view.

    He frequently assembled his council, and gave audience to the ambassadors of the nations; and his people might appeal to the supreme tribunal, which he held at stated times, and, according to the Eastern custom, before the principal gate of his wooden palace. The Romans, both of the East and of the West, were twice invited to the banquets, where Attila feasted with the princes and nobles of Scythia. Maximin and his Edition: current; Page: [ 32 ] colleagues were stopped on the threshold, till they had made a devout libation to the health and prosperity of the king of the Huns; and were conducted, after this ceremony, to their respective seats in a spacious hall.

    The royal table and couch, covered with carpets and fine linen, was raised by several steps in the midst of the hall; and a son, an uncle, or perhaps a favourite king, were admitted to share the simple and homely repast of Attila. Two lines of small tables, each of which contained three or four guests, were ranged in order on either hand; the right was esteemed the most honourable, but the Romans ingenuously confess that they were placed on the left; and that Beric, an unknown chieftain, most probably of the Gothic race, preceded the representatives of Theodosius and Valentinian.

    The Barbarian monarch received from his cup-bearer a goblet filled with wine, and courteously drank to the health of the most distinguished guest, who rose from his seat and expressed, in the same manner, his loyal and respectful vows. This ceremony was successively performed for all, or at least for the illustrious persons of the assembly; and a considerable time must have been consumed, since it was thrice repeated, as each course or service was placed on the table.

    But the wine still remained after the meat had been removed; and the Huns continued to indulge their intemperance long after the sober and decent ambassadors of the two empires had withdrawn themselves from the nocturnal banquet. Yet before they retired, they enjoyed a singular opportunity of observing the manners of the nation in their convivial amusements.

    Two Scythians stood before the couch of Attila, and recited the verses which they had composed, to celebrate his valour and his victories. A profound silence prevailed in the hall; and the attention of the guests was captivated by the vocal harmony, which revived and perpetuated the memory of their own exploits: a martial ardour flashed from the eyes of the warriors, who were impatient for battle; and the tears of the old men expressed their generous despair that they could no Edition: current; Page: [ 33 ] longer partake the danger and glory of the field.

    A Moorish and a Scythian buffoon successively excited the mirth of the rude spectators, by their deformed figure, ridiculous dress, antic gestures, absurd speeches, and the strange unintelligible confusion of the Latin, the Gothic, and the Hunnic languages; and the hall resounded with loud and licentious peals of laughter. In the midst of this intemperate riot, Attila alone, without a change of countenance, maintained his stedfast and inflexible gravity; which was never relaxed, except on the entrance of Irnac, the youngest of his sons: he embraced the boy with a smile of paternal tenderness, gently pinched him by the cheek, and betrayed a partial affection, which was justified by the assurance of his prophets that Irnac would be the future support of his family and empire.

    Two days afterwards, the ambassadors received a second invitation; and they had reason to praise the politeness as well as the hospitality of Attila. The king of the Huns held a long and familiar conversation with Maximin; but his civility was interrupted by rude expressions, and haughty reproaches; and he was provoked, by a motive of interest, to support, with unbecoming zeal, the private claims of his secretary Constantius.

    Edition: current; Page: [ 34 ] Maximin returned, by the same road, to Constantinople; and though he was involved in an accidental dispute with Beric, the new ambassador of Attila, he flattered himself that he had contributed, by the laborious journey, to confirm the peace and alliance of the two nations. But the Roman ambassador was ignorant of the treacherous design, which had been concealed under the mask of the public faith.

    The surprise and satisfaction of Edecon, when he contemplated the splendour of Constantinople, had encouraged the interpreter Vigilius to procure for him a secret interview with the eunuch Chrysaphius, 50 who governed the emperor and the empire.

    history+decline+roman+empire de edward+gibbon

    After some previous conversation, and a mutual oath of secrecy, the eunuch, who had not, from his own feelings or experience, imbibed any exalted notions of ministerial virtue, ventured to propose the death of Attila, as an important service, by which Edecon might deserve a liberal share of the wealth and luxury which he admired. The ambassador of the Huns listened to the tempting offer, and professed, with apparent zeal, his ability, as well as readiness, to execute the bloody deed; the design was communicated to the master of the offices, and the devout Theodosius consented to the assassination of his invincible enemy.

    But this perfidious conspiracy was defeated by the dissimulation, or the repentance, of Edecon; and, though he might exaggerate his inward abhorrence for the treason, which he Edition: current; Page: [ 35 ] seemed to approve, he dexterously assumed the merit of an early and voluntary confession. If we now review the embassy of Maximin, and the behaviour of Attila, we must applaud the Barbarian, who respected the laws of hospitality, and generously entertained and dismissed the minister of a prince who had conspired against his life.

    But the rashness of Vigilius will appear still more extraordinary, since he returned, conscious of his guilt and danger, to the royal camp; accompanied by his son, and carrying with him a weighty purse of gold, which the favourite eunuch had furnished, to satisfy the demands of Edecon, and to corrupt the fidelity of the guards. The interpreter was instantly seized, and dragged before the tribunal of Attila, where he asserted his innocence with specious firmness, till the threat of inflicting instant death on his son extorted from him a sincere discovery of the criminal transaction.

    Under the name of ransom or confiscation, the rapacious king of the Huns accepted two hundred pounds of gold for the life of a traitor, whom he disdained to punish. He pointed his just indignation against a nobler object. His ambassadors Eslaw and Orestes were immediately despatched to Constantinople with a peremptory instruction, which it was much safer for them to execute than to disobey. They boldly entered the Imperial presence, with the fatal purse hanging down from the neck of Orestes; who interrogated the eunuch Chrysaphius, as he stood beside the throne, whether he recognised the evidence of his guilt.

    But Theodosius has forfeited his paternal honours, and, by consenting to pay tribute, has degraded himself to the condition of a slave. It is therefore just that he should reverence the man whom fortune and merit have placed above Edition: current; Page: [ 36 ] him; instead of attempting, like a wicked slave, clandestinely to conspire against his master. A solemn embassy, armed with full powers and magnificent gifts, was hastily sent to deprecate the wrath of Attila; and his pride was gratified by the choice of Nomius and Anatolius, two ministers of consular or patrician rank, of whom the one was great treasurer, and the other was master-general of the armies of the East.

    He condescended to meet these ambassadors on the banks of the river Drenco; and, though he at first affected a stern and haughty demeanour, his anger was insensibly mollified by their eloquence and liberality. He condescended to pardon the emperor, the eunuch, and the interpreter; bound himself by an oath to observe the conditions of peace; to release a great number of captives; abandoned the fugitives and deserters to their fate; and resigned a large territory to the south of the Danube, which he had already exhausted of its wealth and its inhabitants.

    But this treaty was purchased at an expense which might have supported a vigorous and successful war; and the subjects of Theodosius were compelled to redeem the safety of a worthless favourite by oppressive taxes, which they would more cheerfully have paid for his destruction. The emperor Theodosius did not long survive the most humiliating circumstance of an inglorious life. As he was riding, or hunting, in the neighbourhood of Constantinople, he was thrown from his horse into the river Lycus; the spine of Edition: current; Page: [ 37 ] the back was injured by the fall; and he expired some days afterwards, in the fiftieth year of his age, and the forty-third of his reign.

    No sooner had Pulcheria ascended the throne than she indulged her own and the public resentment by an act of popular justice. Without any legal trial, the eunuch Chrysaphius was executed before the gates of the city; and the immense riches which had been accumulated by the rapacious favourite served only to hasten and to justify his punishment. She gave her hand to Marcian, a senator, about sixty years of age, and the nominal husband of Pulcheria was solemnly invested with the Imperial purple.

    The zeal which he displayed for the orthodox creed, as it was established by the council of Chalcedon, would alone have inspired the grateful eloquence of the Catholics. But the behaviour of Marcian in a private life, and afterwards on the throne, may support a more rational belief that he was qualified to restore and invigorate an empire which had been almost dissolved by the successive weakness of two hereditary monarchs. He passed nineteen years in the domestic and military service of Aspar and his son Ardaburius; followed those powerful generals to the Persian and African wars; and obtained, by their influence, the honourable rank of tribune and senator.

    His mild disposition, and useful talents, without alarming the jealousy, recommended Marcian to the esteem and favour, of his patrons; he had seen, perhaps he had felt, the abuses of a venal and oppressive administration; and his own example gave weight and energy to the laws which he promulgated for the reformation of manners. It was the opinion of Marcian that war should be avoided, as long as it is possible to preserve a secure and honourable peace; but it was likewise his opinion that peace cannot be honourable or secure, if the sovereign betrays a pusillanimous aversion to war.

    This temperate courage dictated his reply to the demands of Attila, who insolently pressed the payment of the annual tribute. The emperor signified to the Barbarians that they must no longer insult the majesty of Rome, by the mention of a tribute; that he was disposed to reward with becoming liberality the faithful friendship of his allies; but that if they presumed to violate the public peace, they should feel that he possessed troops, and arms, and resolution, to repel their attacks. The same language, even in the camp of the Huns, was used by his ambassador Apollonius, whose bold refusal to deliver the presents, till he had been admitted to a personal interview, displayed a sense of dignity, and a contempt of danger, which Attila was not prepared to expect from the degenerate Romans.

    While mankind awaited his decision with awful suspense, he sent an equal defiance to the courts of Ravenna and Constantinople, and his ministers saluted the two emperors with the same haughty declaration. In the memorable invasions of Gaul and Italy, the Huns were naturally attracted by the wealth and fertility of those provinces; but the particular motives and provocations of Attila can only be explained by the state of the Western empire under the reign of Valentinian, or, to speak more correctly, under the administration of Aetius. After the death of his rival Boniface, Aetius had prudently retired to the tents of the Huns; and he was indebted to their alliance for his safety and his restoration.

    Instead of the suppliant language of a guilty exile, he solicited his pardon at the head of sixty thousand Barbarians; and the empress Placidia confessed, by a feeble resistance, that the condescension, which might have been ascribed to clemency, was the effect of weakness or fear. She delivered herself, her son Valentinian, and the Western empire into the hands of an insolent subject; nor could Placidia protect the son-in-law of Boniface, the virtuous and faithful Sebastian, 4 from the Edition: current; Page: [ 41 ] implacable persecution, which urged him from one kingdom to another, till he miserably perished in the service of the Vandals.

    The fortunate Aetius, who was immediately promoted to the rank of patrician, and thrice invested with the honours of the consulship, assumed, with the title of master of the cavalry and infantry, the whole military power of the state; and he is sometimes styled, by contemporary writers, the Duke, or General, of the Romans of the West. His prudence, rather than his virtue, engaged him to leave the grandson of Theodosius in the possession of the purple; and Valentinian was permitted to enjoy the peace and luxury of Italy, while the patrician appeared in the glorious light of a hero and a patriot who supported near twenty years the ruins of the Western empire.

    The Gothic historian ingenuously confesses that Aetius was born for the salvation of the Roman republic; 5 and the following portrait, though it is drawn in the fairest colours, must be allowed to contain a much larger proportion of truth than of flattery. Their son, who was enrolled almost in his infancy in the guards, was given as a hostage, first to Alaric, and afterwards to the Huns; and he successively obtained the civil and military honours of the palace, for which he was equally qualified by superior merit. The graceful figure of Aetius was not above the middle stature; but his manly limbs were admirably formed for strength, beauty, and agility; and he excelled in the martial exercises of managing a horse, drawing the bow, and darting the javelin.

    He could patiently endure the want of food or of sleep; and his mind and body were alike capable of the most laborious Edition: current; Page: [ 42 ] efforts. He possessed the genuine courage that can despise not only dangers but injuries; and it was impossible either to corrupt, or deceive, or intimidate the firm integrity of his soul. He soothed their passions, consulted their prejudices, balanced their interests, and checked their ambition. A seasonable treaty, which he concluded with Genseric, protected Italy from the depredations of the Vandals; the independent Britons implored and acknowledged his salutary aid; the Imperial authority was restored and maintained in Gaul and Spain; and he compelled the Franks and the Suevi, whom he had vanquished in the field, to become the useful confederates of the republic.

    From a principle of interest, as well as gratitude, Aetius assiduously cultivated the alliance of the Huns. While he resided in their tents as a hostage or an exile, he had familiarly conversed with Attila himself, the nephew of his benefactor; and the two famous antagonists appear to have been connected by a personal and military friendship, which they afterwards confirmed by mutual gifts, frequent embassies, and the education of Carpilio, the son of Aetius, in the camp of Attila. By the specious professions of gratitude and voluntary attachment, the patrician might disguise his apprehensions of the Scythian conqueror, who pressed the two empires with his innumerable armies.

    His demands were obeyed or eluded. When he claimed the spoils of a vanquished city, some vases of gold, which had been fraudulently embezzled, the civil and military governors of Noricum were immediately Edition: current; Page: [ 43 ] despatched to satisfy his complaints; 7 and it is evident from their conversation with Maximin and Priscus in the royal village, that the valour and prudence of Aetius had not saved the Western Romans from the common ignominy of tribute.

    Yet his dexterous policy prolonged the advantages of a salutary peace, and a numerous army of Huns and Alani, whom he had attached to his person, was employed in the defence of Gaul. Two colonies of these Barbarians were judiciously fixed in the territories of Valence and Orleans; 8 and their active cavalry secured the important passages of the Rhone and of the Loire.

    These savage allies were not indeed less formidable to the subjects than to the enemies of Rome. Their original settlement was enforced with the licentious violence of conquest; and the province through which they marched was exposed to all the calamities of an hostile invasion. The kingdom established by the Visigoths in the southern provinces of Gaul had gradually acquired strength and maturity; and the conduct of those ambitious Barbarians, either in peace or war, engaged the perpetual vigilance of Aetius.

    After the death of Wallia the Gothic sceptre devolved to Theodoric, the son of the great Alaric; 10 and his prosperous reign, of more than thirty years, over a turbulent people may be allowed to prove that his prudence was supported by uncommon vigour, both of mind and body. Impatient of his narrow limits, Theodoric aspired to the possession of Arles, the wealthy seat of government and commerce; but the city was saved by the timely approach of Aetius; and the Gothic king, who had raised the siege with some loss and disgrace, was persuaded, for an adequate subsidy, to divert the martial valour of his subjects in a Spanish war.

    Yet Theodoric still watched, and eagerly seized, the favourable moment of renewing his hostile attempts. The Goths besieged Narbonne, while the Belgic provinces were invaded by the Burgundians; and the public safety was threatened on Edition: current; Page: [ 45 ] every side by the apparent union of the enemies of Rome. On every side, the activity of Aetius, and his Scythian cavalry, opposed a firm and successful resistance. Twenty thousand Burgundians were slain in battle; and the remains of the nation humbly accepted a dependent seat in the mountains of Savoy.

    The siege was immediately raised; and the more decisive victory, which is ascribed to the personal conduct of Aetius himself, was marked with the blood of eight thousand Goths. But in the absence of the patrician, who was hastily summoned to Italy by some public or private interest, Count Litorius succeeded to the command; and his presumption soon discovered that far different talents are required to lead a wing of cavalry, or to direct the operations of an important war. At the head of an army of Huns, he rashly advanced to the gates of Toulouse, full of careless contempt for an enemy whom his misfortunes had rendered prudent and his situation made desperate.

    The predictions of the augurs had inspired Litorius with the profane confidence that he should enter the Gothic capital in triumph; and the trust which he reposed in his Pagan allies encouraged him to reject the fair conditions of peace, which were repeatedly proposed by the bishops in the name of Theodoric. The king of the Goths exhibited in his distress the edifying contrast of Christian piety and moderation; nor did he lay aside his sackcloth and ashes till he was Edition: current; Page: [ 46 ] prepared to arm for the combat.

    His soldiers, animated with martial and religious enthusiasm, assaulted the camp of Litorius. The conflict was obstinate; the slaughter was mutual. The Roman general, after a total defeat, which could be imputed only to his unskilful rashness, was actually led through the streets of Toulouse, not in his own, but in a hostile triumph; and the misery which he experienced, in a long and ignominious captivity, excited the compassion of the Barbarians themselves. Theodoric, king of the Visigoths, appears to have deserved the love of his subjects, the confidence of his allies, and the esteem of mankind.

    His throne was surrounded by six valiant sons, who were educated with equal care in the exercises of the Barbarian camp and in those of the Gallic schools; from the study of the Roman Edition: current; Page: [ 47 ] jurisprudence, they acquired the theory, at least, of law and justice; and the harmonious sense of Virgil contributed to soften the asperity of their native manners. The queen of the Suevi bewailed the death of an husband, inhumanly massacred by her brother.

    The princess of the Vandals was the victim of a jealous tyrant, whom she called her father. This horrid act, which must seem incredible to a civilised age, drew tears from every spectator; but Theodoric was urged, by the feelings of a parent and a king, to revenge such irreparable injuries. The Imperial ministers, who always cherished the discord of the Barbarians, would have supplied the Goths with arms and ships and treasures for the African war; and the cruelty of Genseric might have been fatal to himself, if the artful Vandal had not armed, in his cause, the formidable power of the Huns.

    His rich gifts and pressing solicitations inflamed the ambition of Attila; and the designs of Aetius and Theodoric were prevented by the invasion of Gaul. The Franks, whose monarchy was still confined to the neighbourhood of the Lower Rhine, had wisely established the right of hereditary succession in the noble family of the Merovingians. Their flaxen locks, which they combed and dressed with singular care, hung down in flowing ringlets on their back and shoulders; while the rest of the nation were obliged, either by law or custom, to shave the hinder part of their head, to comb their hair over the forehead, and to content themselves with the ornament of two small whiskers.

    From the report of his spies the king of the Franks was informed that the defenceless state of the second Belgic must yield, on the slightest attack, to the valour of his subjects. He boldly penetrated through the thickets and morasses of the Carbonarian forest; 21 occupied Tournay and Cambray, the only cities which existed in the fifth century; and extended his conquests as far as the river Somme, over a desolate country, whose cultivation and populousness are the effects of more recent industry.

    The tables, which had been spread under the shelter of a hill, along the banks of a pleasant stream, were rudely overturned; the Franks were oppressed before they could recover their arms, or their ranks; and their unavailing valour was fatal only to themselves. At some point a series of reformist emperors before getting killed institute changes within the army that once again make it an instrument of terror things had slipped, with barbarian invasions ripping the Empire.

    Which gets us to Diocletian, and his confusingly named group of co-emperors. Diocletian's reforms are smart the Empire had simply become too big to manage , but also burdensome, since the Roman world now gets to support four courts. The added taxes, along with a loss of half the population due to a mysterious years long plague, really put some strain on the system.

    The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume VI

    Volume 1 concludes with the ascendancy of Constantine. Oh, and then there's a long and somewhat boring discussion of Christianity, Jews, etc. At one time, I believe this section was considered controversial. Outside of a some occasional snark, I found considering the personalities and events which preceded it , dull and abstract.

    Don't know when I'll get to Volume 2. Jul 17, Terese rated it really liked it Shelves: classics , learn-something-new. I read this one summer while working as a temp during college, I found the set at a garage sale. My assignment, answering the phones in a small closet made mostly of glass at an advertising agency, was making me feel low and stupid so these books were my antidote. Who could make fun of a temp reading Gibbon?

    As I recall I wound up with a little notebook full of lists of characters and family trees so that as I read along and forgot what had happened earlier I could refresh my memory. At times, I read this one summer while working as a temp during college, I found the set at a garage sale. At times, bored witless, I wanted to end the madness and read some lovely summertime garbage but I forced myself to finish. Of the books I remember nothing, of the process, everything.

    May 16, Bob Simon rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: everyone. Momsen was a better historian, but Gibbon a better writer. Forget about historical accuracy and just enjoy the writing. I purchased the three volume Heritage Press edition, with Piranesi illustrations, when I was a young paratrooper. I carried at least one of the volumes in my field pack The middle volume has dried blood on it from when I was injured and wouldn't part with it.

    I read and re-read Open it to any volume.. Never, in my mind, have I ever seen such balance of sentences and thought.. Read his autobiography countless times as well. To this day, decades later, I still pull any of the three volumes from my shelf and lose time and place in the joy of reading him. I cannot recommend it too highly.

    A delight for anyone. The good stuff just gets better with time I first read it in , and many times since. The last was December of Feb 10, Nathan "N. The local book shop made this set available to me last night. Any brave souls to schedule this one? May 01, J. Ah yes, this is the edition I recently purchased. Hardcover, unabridged three-volume. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I now begin my ascension into this Tome.

    There may be another book thrown in for intermission at times, but my desk is well-polished, reading lamp luminous, fresh notebook, pencils, sharpener, new cushioned chair, some pens. I conceived this idea, which believe it or not is part of much larger idea, two years ago, and the time hath cometh. Fasten thy seat-belt, Young Joseph; the time Ah yes, this is the edition I recently purchased. Fasten thy seat-belt, Young Joseph; the time is now. Long haul. Thank nothing. One of the most unforeseen hilarious encounters right off of the bat is that Gibbon makes Wallace's footnotes look like misplaced wet wipes.

    Gibbon's prose, so naturally illustrious, is an ardent reminder of the full-blown idiotic level which digitality has rendered our words, archaicabbreviation, futile convenience in the face of retarded mental death. An odd reaction. Good, though, as I intend to bury Davey's cornball chewing tobacco addled observational humor anyway, amidst a million other things, in the process of my note-taking concerning structural development for my own Tome in the werks.

    Seems already, like Wake, a book one shall forever have nostalgia for the present in reading for the first time, as one shall never be the same thereafter. Brick by brick. Apr 22, Jimmy rated it liked it Shelves: western-civilization. Gibbon's Enlightenment era perspective tends to occlude the accuracy of historical account as is often the case. What's funny is just how much critical flack this book has received for being inaccurate. In historical context, it may have something to do with Gibbon's ostensibly atheistic views regarding the rise of Christianity that followed the fall of the Roman Empire.

    He writes about religious zeal with the same indignant revulsion as Freud or Darwin later would. Gibbon does provide a melli Gibbon's Enlightenment era perspective tends to occlude the accuracy of historical account as is often the case. Gibbon does provide a mellifluous and engaging narrative, albeit an astonishingly long one.

    It's a masterpiece, and if one has the time a worthwhile read. For anyone interested in studies of world civilization, this is an essential text. Just writing this review makes me want to read Arnold Toynbee, and intensifies my admiration for the high standard of British historical studies that we have seen over the past few centuries. Shelves: history. Decline and Fall , Chapters of which were first published in contemporaneous to Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations , but far less rambling and no less comprehensive is a wonderful, and wonderfully accessible history of the Roman Empire, ca.

    In fact, Decline and Fall , Chapters of which were first published in contemporaneous to Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations , but far less rambling and no less comprehensive is a wonderful, and wonderfully accessible history of the Roman Empire, ca. In fact, the book is so accessible you can find it here I would offer the Project Gutenberg citation, but it's not nearly as browsable. Please ignore CCEL's politics in deference to their superior editorial competence. Gibbon's definitive. He even has the ultimate comment on Roman history which I will offer verbatim rather than paraphrase to give Goodreaders the flavor of his prose: "The story of its ruin is simple and obvious; and instead of inquiring why the Roman empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted so long.

    The victorious legions, who, in distant wars, acquired the vices of strangers and mercenaries, first oppressed the freedom of the republic, and afterwards violated the majesty of the purple. The emperors, anxious for their personal safety and the public peace, were reduced to the base expedient of corrupting the discipline which rendered them alike formidable to their sovereign and to the enemy; the vigour of the military government was relaxed and finally dissolved by the partial institutions of Constantine; and the Roman world was overwhelmed by a deluge of barbarians.

    There it is. If Decline and Fall has any faults, they lie in Gibbon's devotion to painstaking historical retelling at the expense of a single narrative arc. This is completely excusable inasmuch as Gibbon was the first to synthesize a definitive Empirical history in the English language and from rigorously documented classical sources, no less! To a lay reader, though, things get repetitive as hell once the cycle of depravity through military despotism becomes clearly entrenched. This book therefore makes a far more rewarding browse than read.

    One last comment -- this work contains far and away the best footnote I've ever read: "According to Dr. Keating History of Ireland, p. Though he was successful in his great enterprise, the loose behaviour of his wife rendered his domestic life very unhappy, and provoked him to such a degree, that he killed -- her favourite greyhound. This, as the learned historian very properly observes, was the first instance of female falsehood and infidelity ever known in Ireland.

    Its sheer absurdity beggars further comment -- but I will anyway. Gibbon's use of the dash alone In case you were wondering about context, the note stems from Gibbon's consideration of the mythological origins of the proto-Viking germanic peoples the Goths , in a passage where he cites these as being held in common with "the wild Irishman as well as the wild Tartar. What fun this learning stuff is. View all 3 comments. Feb 16, Justin rated it really liked it Shelves: own-it. I'm only on the second book of this series, but I think I've read enough to mention a point of caution to prospective buyers.

    Like all classics, "The Decline and Fall" is available in an untold number of editions and I would simply advise against buying the boxed set from Everyman's Library. I'm going to confess that I bought this particular edition because it looked academic and gave me a warm smug feeling. Just open that plain green hardcover with golden lettering and thread bookmark, and try N I'm only on the second book of this series, but I think I've read enough to mention a point of caution to prospective buyers.

    Just open that plain green hardcover with golden lettering and thread bookmark, and try NOT feeling intelligent. Unfortunately there should be some sort of warning against purchasing books based solely on their external aesthetics Before I dive into a rather dull tirade see below: many paragraphs I want to say that the edition's only truly damning shortcoming is its complete lack of translations.

    Are you sure?

    Gibbon, not counting on the sharp decline in Latin awareness, frequently cites original Roman sources using original Roman words and phrases. Now while it might amuse a scholar or professor to read these excerpts in their unadulterated purity, an amateur like me is left completely in the dark. As a low estimate, I would say that I'm forced to ignore entirely about one fourth of Gibbon's footnotes - and that's not counting what I skip from laziness.

    The Everyman's Library set is obviously not for your average reader, but the publisher should at least have updated its review of Gibbon's work. These books still use the editors notes from the edition, which add almost nothing illuminating or interesting, yet still manage to distract the reader from the narrative. This 'modern' editor manages to correct Gibbon on some minor, rather forgettable details, but fails to offer any new perspectives that would enlarge our understanding.

    Very frequently in fact, he seems to snivel over some negligent point of opinion, particularly when it comes to the sanctity of early christianity. I would not much mind these defensive commentaries, were it not such an obvious sore point with Sir Oliphant the editor. Gibbon's severity is well known, and I fully expected a few words of balance to be included in any modern reading, but Smeaton's pedantic invectives are simply tiring.


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    • To wit: "Divest this whole passage of the latent sarcasm betrayed by the subsequent tone of the whole disquisition, and it might commence a Christian history A variety of other trifles give Oliphant the opportunity to exercise his tone of persnickety condescension. Corrections are fine, but we don't need to hear a paragraph of disquisition on why this or that term has been 'confounded' by Gibbon. More than anything though, I'm worried about the corrections themselves being outdated. If Smeaton and Gibbon are in disagreement, I really wonder if an entire century of archeology hasn't already settled the argument more firmly.

      It kind of makes all those trifling notes feel that much more pointless. Just to really complain now, I'd like to add that I can't open the book wide enough to see the middle of the maps, and I really wish there were more modern appendices - Just give us something more for the sixty dollars we spend. So in conclusion, box set bad.

      Pretty; but bad. If you're going to buy a heavy read like this, take awhile to browse the additional material and make sure you're satisfied with it. I first read an abridged edition of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in high school, then the complete Modern Library edition upon completing seminary. The decision to do so turned out to be a good one. Gibbon's dry wit and irony, particularly as regards the Christians, was not so prominent in the abridged version.

      Indeed, he would be offensive to many, hysterically funny to others. He is also an excellent writer, many of his passages bearing reading aloud. Indeed, had one I first read an abridged edition of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in high school, then the complete Modern Library edition upon completing seminary.

      Indeed, had one the time and the audience, it would be delight to spend the months necessary to do so. I was, and am, a poor student of languages, having academically studied German, Spanish, French, Latin and American Sign Language and learning only the last of them well enough to use it, probably owing to its very different character. I was, and am, incapable of rote memorization. The intellect dulls, the eyes grow heavy.

      At best, I can store the forms, say, of declensions into short-term memory, then they're gone. To survive Latin class I got into the practice of awakening every morning before the sun in order to cram for the quizzes to come that morning. That was good enough to pass, my grades ranging from B to D. The B grades were probably charitable. Louise Fischer, one of the two Latin teachers I had, was impressed by my knowledge of Roman history and by my derivative notebook which was likely the best in the class.

      My grammar was all messed up, but my vocabulary wasn't bad. Indeed, learning Latin roots by this means made the work of exegesis with the Greek texts of the Christian scriptures much easier when I later went on to study ancient literature. Fischer was, I thought, impossibly old, the oldest teacher I'd ever had, so old and obese that she actually wore knee pads colored to match her skirts for the times she'd fall down. She never did that in class where there were things to hold on to and sit upon, but she fell in the hallways. They probably kept her on because of a lack of younger Latinists and a desire to maintain the school's reputation, Latin having a bit of class, you know.

      Facts and Fears.

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