« НазадПродовжити »
island, A. D. 381. Maximus had married the daughter of a British chief, and was, in other respects, so acceptable to the natives, that they warmly attached themselves to his cause. Their zeal of adherence was soon called into active exercise.Not contented with the usurped government of a province, Maximus aspired to the possession of the whole western empire; and he assembled a powerful army for this great struggle. The British youth flocked to his standard with so much alacrity, that, when he landed his army near the mouth of the Rhine, he is emphatically said to have possessed in his ranks the flower and strength of Britain.
His first efforts were eminently successful. The Emperor Gratian was betrayed by his troops, and was slain while seeking safety in flight. Maximus then declared Victor, (his son by the British lady whom he bad married) his partner in the imperial purple; and thus bound the Britons, who now first move with distinction in a martial character beneath the Roman standard, still more closely to the interests of his family. But the prosperity of the usurper and his auxiliaries was only short lived. Theodosius, who ruled the eastern part of the empire, hastened to the succour of his colleague in the throne; and Maximus, after experiencing two signal defeats, was betrayed by his own veteran soldiers, and put to death by the conqueror.
The Britons were not present at the two engagements which decided the fortune of their chosen leader, having been sent into Gaul, under the conduct of Victor, their youthful countryman. But they were speedily attacked, and were defeated with the loss of their General. In this calamitous situation, in a foreign country, exposed to a triumphant enemy, and without ships to convey them home, the fugitive adventurers were so fortunate as to meet with a friendly reception in Armorica, and considerable numbers of them settled there.
The absence of the Romans and their ambitious General, afforded a favourable opportunity to the numerous tribes of freebooters, who were constantly on the alert for depredation. The
province' was, consequently, assailed by sea and by land. But a vigorous administration of affairs under Theodosius, now sole Emperor, produced a restoration of tranquillity.
Theodosius (usually termed the Great) died in the year 395, and bequeathed the empire to his two sons, Arcadius and Honorius ; the western division being allotted to the latter. Each of these Princes was young; and Honorius, who was not more than eleven years of age, was consigned by his dying father to the care of Stilicho, a man of Vandal origin, but much favoured by the deceased Emperor, to whom he had proved a faithful and able officer. Stilicho, although at length suspected of sinister ambitious views, executed his bigh office, for some time, with strict honour. In regard to the military department of his duty, as connected with this island, he reinforced the army of Britain, and preserved the province from the inroads of the Scots and Picts, with much discretion and success. His conduct in this particular is warmly praised by his poetical panegyrist, Claudian.*
But the time speedily arrived at which the arms of Rome proved insufficient for the preservation of the imperial city; and, in such a season of imbecility and distress, the distant provinces could scarcely entertain a rational hope of succour. The Goths, the Vandals, and other barbarous nations, who had served the Romans as allies in the late struggles to preserve the consistency of the enormous empire, perceiving the growing weakness of the former masters of the world, aspired, under the conduct of Alaric, to the pillage and destruction of Rome itself.
I take pleasure in passing uunoticed the political cabals, and contests for individual ascendancy, in neglect of the pablic good, ainidst which the Roman splendour sank to utter decay. It is quite unnecessary to specify, by name, the adventurers who, in
. . Claud. in laud. Stil. See the verses quoted in the Introduction to Cam. den's Britannia, Article Romans in Brituin; in Henry's History of Bris tain, &c. &c.
quick and fragile succession, assumed the purple; except as to a few instances connected with the chronological order of events in Britain, and in which the interests of the inhabitants were immediately implicated. The age of heroic enterprise in the Roman province of Britain was now extinct; and the mere antiquary, and the philosophical student of history, look with equal indifference on Emperors who achieved no victories to be recorded by medals, and performed no action illustrative of excellence in talent or moral virtue.
Although opposed by many competitors in different parts of his vast dominions, Honorius remained invested with the chief authority until his decease in the year 423. The dangers to which Rome was exposed by the approach of the barbarians, led to the recal of the additional forces which had been sent into Britain by direction of Stilicho; and this unavoidable measure was followed by an irruption of the Scots and Picts. The Roman soldiers stationed in this island, disdainful of allegiance to a court which could not render them assistance, now elected as Emperor an officer termed Marcus. But this shadowy: monarch soon fell, through the agency of the very faction to which he owed his elevation; and the soldiery then invested an officer named Gratian with the same daugerous honours. Gratian possessed a nominal reigu in Britain for about four months of the year 408. He was then deposed and murdered; and the command of the army, together with the imperial purple, was bestowed, by a military election, on Constantine, who is said to have been chosen on account of his affinity of name with Constantine the Great.
This Constantine, who was elected Emperor by the Roman army in Britain appears to have been a man of sufficient cou- ' rage, and possessed of an enterprising spirit. He recruited his army with the most hardy of the British youth, whom he speedily trained to the exercise of arms. But, instead of leading his restless forces against the Scots and Picts, a measure which would have found them full employment, and might have
ultimately secured to him the possession of imperial sway in Britain, he conducted them into Gaul, where he contended for the pernicious trophy of unbounded dominion. His efforts were, for a short time, attended with success; but the delusive commencement of his enterprise was followed by quick and fatal reverses. He was opposed by his own General, Gerontius ; and his army was broken, and himself captured and put to death, in the year 111. .
We are now arrived at a period of the British anuals which has afforded a subject for some historical scepticisin, and critical discussion. The narration of events connected with the Roman sway in Britain has chiefly depended, through several of the preceding sections, on the testimony of Zosimus. But we are now forsaken by that guide; and the remaining particulars, relating to the history of this island, until the era of the Saxon invasion, rely on authorities which are far from conveying entire satisfaction, as they are not of a contemporary date. The most ancient historiographer of this period is Gildas, who wrote in the sixth century. The venerable Bede gives extracts of his work; and labours, but without success, to illustrate it by chronologi. cal reduction. Nennius, who wrote in the seventh century, affords little that is acceptable; and the production of Geoffrey has been styled by some a British romance, and was considered as such, even by the critics of an age much less disposed to scepticism in history than the present.
The authority of such writers is, certainly, of so doubtful a nature as to demand great severity of inquisition; but it has been deemed acceptable by many modern historians, and I, therefore, present a succinct narration, founded on the testimony of Gildas and Bede; but shall afterwards notice the critical remarks of a recent very intelligent author.
According to the statement of the former annalists, the British province, weakened at every point, now returned to the obedience of the Emperor Honorius. Some troops were sent from Rome, in the succeeding year, for a reinstatement of good order: but they were speedily recalled, to assist in defending
the interior of the empire against its barbarous assailants; and the Scots aud Picts, who foresaw the fall of South Britain, and waited with eagerness to seize on the richies of its cultivated lauds and numerous buildings, then rushed forwards, under the hope of meeting with an easy prey. But Romanized Britain was not yet weakened to extremity. Although deprived of a regular army, the Roman veterans who were connected with the islanders by intermarriage, by the possession of estale, and by habits of long residence, were so numerous, and so well disposed to fight in defence of their homes and property, that a formidable stand was made against the invaders; and they were ultimately repulsed, with loss.
These Roman settlers appear to have derived much assistance from the South Britons, in the opposition thas successfully toade to the advance of the northern tribes. But it had been the uniform policy of the Romans to remove, as recruits of their armies in distant provinces, such of the tributaries as they trained to the use of arms; aud it must be recollected that Britain had lately been drained of extraordinary pumbers of its youth, by the foreign expeditions of the usurpers, Maximus and Constantine. The native population was, therefore, incapable of vigorous and lasting resistance. The northern enemies, on the contrary, were in possession of a youthful military power, bred to war as a trade, and which had never passed beneath the yoke of a conqueror. The irruptions of these hardy and necessitous warriors were repeated through several successive years; and the Roman government was so far from being able to render assistance, that the Emperor Honorius resigued all claim to the allegiance of the . provincials, and left them to defend their own cause, The greater part of the British-Romans, couvinced of their want of strength to preserve their possessions in tranquillity, now relinquished their lands; and, carrying with them their money aud most valuable moveables, repaired to the continent.
Thus abandoned even by the domiciliated portion of their con-, querors, and left without either civil or military government,