Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

EDWARD GIBBON.

EDWARD GIBBON, a great English historian, born at Putney, Surrey, April 27, 1737; died in London, Jan. 15, 1794. . In 1752 he entered Magdalen College, Oxford. In the summer of 1753 he “privately abjured the heresies of his childhood ” before a Roman Catholic priest, and announced the fact to his father in a long letter. The indignant father made public the defection of his son from Protestantism, and he was expelled from the college after a residence of fourteen months.

Gibbon was now sent by his father to Lausanne, in Switzerland, and placed under the charge of M. Pavillard, a Calvinistic minister. His residence at Lausanne lasted five years.

Gibbon returned to England in 1758, and spent the ensuing two years at his father's family seat. About this time Gibbon made his first appearance in print in an “ Essai sur l'Étude de la Littérature.”

In 1763 Gibbon went again to Switzerland, stopping on the way three months at Paris, where he became acquainted with Diderot, d'Alembert, and other philosophers. He remained at Lausanne for nearly a year, and then proceeded to Italy.

Gibbon returned to his father's house in June, 1765. In 1770 Gibbon put forth anonymously “ Critical Observations on the Sixth Book of the Æneid,” being a sharp attack upon Bishop Warburton's “Divine Legation of Moses."

Gibbon's father died, and he settled in London with a considerable, though somewhat encumbered, estate. In the autumn of 1770 he began to labor directly upon the “Decline and Fall,” for which he had for several years been storing up materials. In 1774 he was returned to Parliament for the borough of Liskeard. He held the seat for eight years. After this Gibbon went back to Lausanne, where the concluding volumes of the “Decline and Fall” were written. They were published in London on the anniversary of his fifty-first birthday, April 27, 1788. Gibbon remained in England until July, 1788, when he returned to Lausanne, where he wrote his “ Memoirs,” which, however, were not published until after his death, six years later. The French Revolution had now broken out; and in the spring of 1793 Gibbon set out for England. He had long been suffering from hydrocele. A surgical operation was decided upon, which was repeated three times, the last of which proved fatal.

The “ Decline and Fall," as originally published, consisted of six folio volumes, Vol. I. appearing in 1776 ; Vols. II. and III. in 1781 ; Vols. IV., V., and VI. in 1788.

The “Autobiography," one of the three or four best works of the kind in any language, has often been reprinted separately. Of the “ Decline and Fall” the best editions are those of Milman (1854 and 1855); both of which contain many new and valuable notes from many sources.

ZENOBIA.

(From "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.") AURELIAN had no sooner secured the person

and provinces of Tetricus, than he turned his arms against Zenobia, the celebrated queen of Palmyra and the East. Modern Europe has produced several illustrious women who have sustained with glory the weight of empire : nor is our own age destitute of such distinguished characters. But if we except the doubtful achievements of Semiramis, Zenobia is perhaps the only female whose superior genius broke through the servile indolence imposed on her sex by the climate and manners of Asia. She claimed her descent from the Macedonian kings of Egypt, equaled in beauty her ancestor Cleopatra, and far surpassed that princess in chastity and valor. Zenobia was esteemed the most lovely as well as the most heroic of her sex. She was of a dark complexion (for in speaking of a lady these trifles become important). Her teeth were of a pearly whiteness, and her large black eyes sparkled with uncommon fire, tempered by the most attractive sweetness. Her voice was strong and harmonious. Her manly understanding was strengthened and adorned by study. She was not ignorant of the Latin tongue, but possessed in equal perfection the Greek, the Syriac, and the Egyptian languages. She had drawn up for her own use an epitome of Oriental history, and familiarly compared the beauties of Homer and Plato under the tuition of the sublime Longinus.

This accomplished woman gave her hand to Odenathus, who, from a private station, raised himself to the dominion of the East. She soon became the friend and companion of a hero. In the intervals of war, Odenathus passionately delighted in the exercise of hunting; he pursued with ardor the wild beasts of the desert, – lions, panthers, and bears; and the ardor of Zenobia in that dangerous amusement was not inferior to his own. She had inured her constitution to fatigue, disdained the use of a covered carriage, generally appeared on horseback in a military habit, and sometimes marched several miles on foot at the head of the troops.

The success of Odenathus was in a great measure ascribed to her incomparable prudence and fortitude. Their splendid victories over the Great King, whom they twice pursued as far as the gates of Ctesiphon, laid the foundations of their united fame and power. The armies which they commanded, and the provinces which they had saved, acknowledged not any other sovereigns than their invincible chiefs. The Senate and people of Rome revered a stranger who had avenged their captive emperor, and even the insensible son of Valerian accepted Odenathus for his legitimate colleague.

After a successful expedition against the Gothic plunderers of Asia, the Palmyrenian prince returned to the city of Emesa in Syria. Invincible in war, he was there cut off by domestic treason; and his favorite amusement of hunting was the cause, or at least the occasion, of his death. His nephew Mæonius presumed to dart his javelin before that of his uncle; and though admonished of his error, repeated the same insolence. As a monarch and as a sportsman, Odenathus was provoked, took away his horse, a mark of ignominy among the barbarians, and chastised the rash youth by a short confinement. The offense was soon forgot, but the punishment was remembered ; and Mæonius, with a few daring associates, assassinated his uncle in the midst of a great entertainment. Herod, the son of Odenathus, though not of Zenobia, a young man of a soft and effeminate temper, was killed with his father. But Mæonius obtained only the pleasure of revenge by this bloody deed. He had scarcely time to assume the title of Augustus, before he was sacrificed by Zenobia to the memory of her husband.

With the assistance of his most faithful friends, she immediately filled the vacant throne, and governed with manly counsels Palmyra, Syria, and the East, above five years. By the death of Odenathus, that authority was at an end which the Senate had granted him only as a personal distinction; but his martial widow, disdaining both the Senate and Gallienus, obliged one of the Roman generals who was sent against her to retreat into Europe, with the loss of his army and his reputation. Instead of the little passions which so frequently perplex a female reign, the steady administration of Zenobia was guided by the most judicious maxims of policy. If it was expedient to pardon, she could calm her resentment; if it was necessary to punish, she could impose silence on the voice of pity. Her strict economy was accused of avarice; yet on every proper occasion she appeared magnificent and liberal. The neighboring States of Arabia, Armenia, and Persia dreaded her enmity and solicited her alliance. To the dominions of Odenathus, which extended from the Euphrates to the frontiers of Bithynia, his widow added the inheritance of her ancestors, the populous and fertile kingdom of Egypt. The Emperor Claudius acknowledged her merit, and was content that while he pursued the Gothic war, she should assert the dignity of the Empire in the East. The conduct however of Zenobia was attended with some ambiguity, nor is it unlikely that she had conceived the design of erecting an independent and hostile monarchy. She blended with the popular manners of Roman princes the stately pomp of the courts of Asia, and exacted from her subjects the same adoration that was paid to the successors of Cyrus. She bestowed on her three sons a Latin education, and often showed them to the troops adorned with the imperial purple. For herself she reserved the diadem, with the splendid but doubtful title of Queen of the East.

When Aurelian passed over into Asia against an adversary whose sex alone could render her an object of contempt, his presence restored obedience to the province of Bithynia, already shaken by the arms and intrigues of Zenobia. Advancing at the head of his legions, he accepted the submission of Ancyra, and was admitted into Tyana, after an obstinate siege, by the help of a perfidious citizen. The generous though fierce temper of Aurelian abandoned the traitor to the rage of the soldiers : a superstitious reverence induced him to treat with lenity the countrymen of Apollonius the philosopher. Antioch was deserted on his approach, till the Emperor, by his salutary edicts, recalled the fugitives, and granted a general pardon to all who from necessity rather than choice had been engaged in the service of the Palmyrenian Queen. The unexpected mildness of such a conduct reconciled the minds of the Syrians, and as far as the gates of Emesa the wishes of the people seconded the terror of his arms.

Zenobia would have ill deserved her reputation, had she indolently permitted the Emperor of the West to approach

« НазадПродовжити »