Imágenes de página

like a second Babylon, and there was no throne, where the Cæsars had reigned. The last act of obedience to a Roman prince, which that once august assenibly performed, was the acceptance of the resignation of the last emperor of the West, and the abolition of the imperial succession in Italy. The sun of Rome was smitten. But though Rome itself, as an imperial city, ceased to exercise a sovereignty over any nation, yet the imperial ensigns, with the sacred ornaments of the throne and palace, were transferred to Constantinople, where Zeno reigned, under the title of sole emperor. The military acclamations of the confederates of Italy saluted Odoacer with the title of


“But he abstained, during his whole reign, from the use of the purple and diadem.* After an interval of seven years, Odoacer restored the consulship of the West. For himself, he modestly, or proudly, declined an honour which was still accepted by the emperors of the East; but the culrule chair was successively filled by eleven of the most illustrious senators. The laws of the emperors were strictly enforced, and the civil administration of Italy was still exercised by the prætorian prefect, and his subordinate officers. Odoacer devolved on the Roman magistrates the odious avd oppressive task of collecting the public revenue. He revered the monastic and episcopal characters; and the silence of the Catholics attests the toleration which they enjoyed.”'f

A new conqueror of Italy, Theodoric, the Ostrogoth, speedily arose, who unscrupulously assumed the purple, and reigned by the right of conquest. - The royalty of Theodoric was proclaimed by the Goths (March 5th, A. D. 493) with the tardy, reluctant, ambiguous consent of the emperor of the east.": The imperial Roman power, of which either Rome or Constantinople had been jointly or singly the seat, whether in the west or the east, was no longer recog

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

nised in Italy, and the third part of the sun was smitten till it emitted no longer the faintest rays. The power of the Cæsars was unknown in Italy; and a Gothic king reigned over Rome.

But though the third part of the sun was smitten, and the Roman imperial power was at an end in the city of the Cæsars, yet the moon and the stars still shone, or glimmered, for a little longer in the westtern hemisphere, even in the midst of Gothic darkness. The consulship and the senate were not abolished by Theodoric. 66 A Gothic historian applauds the consulship of Theodoric as the height of all temporal power and greatness ;**—as the moon reigns by night, after the setting of the sun. And, instead of abolishing that office, Theodoric himself “ congratulates those annual favourites of fortune, who, without the cares, enjoyed the splendour of the throne."'

But, in their prophetic order, the consulship and the senate of Rome met their fate, though they fell not by the hands of Vandals or of Goths. The next revolution in Italy was its subjection to Belisarius, the general of Justinian, emperor of the East. He did not spare what barbarians had hallowed. 66 The Roman consulship EXTINGUISHED by Justinian A. D. 541," is the title of the last paragraph of the fortieth chapter of Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of Rome. « The succession of consuls finally ceased in the thirteenth year of Justinian, whose despotic temper might be gratified by the silent EXTINCTION

of a title which admonished the Romans of their an'cient freedom.”! The third part of the sun was

smitien, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars. In the political firmament of the ancient world, while under the reign of imperial Rome,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

the emperorship, the consulate, and the senate, shone like the sun, the moon, and the stars. The history of their decline and fall is brought down till the two former were 66 EXTINGUISHED,” in reference to Rome and Italy, which so long had ranked as the first of cities and of countries ; and finally, as the fourth trumpet closes, we see the 66 EXTINCTION of that illustrious assembly,"* the Roman senate. The city that had ruled the world, as if in mockery of human greatness, was conquered by the eunuch Narses, the successor of Belisarius. He defeated the Goths, (A. D. 552) achieved “ the conquest of Rome," and the fate of the senate was sealed.

“ As soon as Narses had paid his devotion to the author of victory, and the blessed Virgin, his peculiar patroness, he praised, rewarded, and dismissed the Lombards. Neither the fortifications of Hadrian's mole, nor of the port, could long delay the progress of the conqueror; and Justinian once more received the keys of Rome, which, under his reign had been five times taken and recovered. But the deliverance of Rome was the LAST CALAMITY of the Roman people. The barbarian allies of Narses too frequently confounded the privileges of peace and war : the despair of the flying Goths found some consolation in sanguinary revenge; and three hundred youths of the noblest families, who had been sent as hostages beyond the Po, were inhumanly slain by the successor of Totila (king of the Goths.) The FATE OF THE SENATE suggests an awful lesson of the vicissitude of human affairs. Of the senators whom Totila had banished from their country, some were rescued by an officer of Belisarius, and transported from Campania to Sicily; while others were too guilty to confide in the clemency of Justinian, or too poor to provide horses for their escape to the sea-shore. Their brethren languished five years in a state of indigence and exile : the victory of Narses revived their hopes; but their premature return to the metropolis was prevented by the furious Goths; and all the fortresses of Campania were stained with patrician blood. After a period of thirteen centuries the institution of Romulus expired; and if the nobles of Rome still assumed the title of sena

* See the Index to Gibbon's Hist. under the name Senate.

tors, few subsequent traces can be discovered of a public counsel, or constitutional order. Ascend six hundred years, and contemplate the kings of the earth soliciting an audience, as the slaves or freedmen of the Roman senate.”*

Ascend thus, and what would be witnessed buta spectacle of pride and false glory, conjoined perhaps with mean servility and baseness. The scene would only exhibit the nobles of Rome as the stern tyrants of the world. But, from the point to which history has brought us down, ascend four hundred and sixty years, or above seventeen centuries from the present time, and look, not to the princely forum of the imperial city where suppliant kings solicited an audience, but to the bleak shores of a small isle of the Ægean, which profane history has scarce deigned to mention, and contemplate, not the lordly senators of Rome, nor the kings of the earth awaiting their decision, but the venerable and beloved apostle of Jesus writing in a book the things that were to be thereafter,—see how, at a time when Rome was the persecutor of Christians, the destroyer of Jerusalem, and the mistress of the world, he penned its destiny word after word, till, part being destroyed after part, not a rag of the purple, nor a remnant of its power, nor a ray of its glory should be left ;-look how the imperial city, that shone like the sun over all the kingdoms of the world, had no power to withstand one word that was written by that exile's hand, but was finally smitten into blackness as he wrote down its doom; and, if from such a sight some instruction may be drawn, might not men learn even from this small part of the testimony of Jesus, to open unto him who himself stands at the door and knocks, who, unlike to proud mortals, says unto none, seek ye my face in vain, who beseeches us by the ministry of his word to be recon

* Gibbon's Hist. pp. 388, 389.

ciled unto God, and by whose word, when rightly heard, men, though the slaves of sin before, become the freedmen of the Lord, the denizens of the kingdom of heaven, and of that city which hath foundations, whose maker and whose builder is God.

The calamities of imperial Rome, in its downfall, were told to the very last of them, till Rome was without an emperor, a consul, or a senate. 6 Under the exarchs of Ravenna, Rome was degraded to the second rank.”* The third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars. The race of the Cæsars was not extinct with the emperors of the West. Rome before its fall possessed but a portion of the imperial power. Constantinople divided with it the empire of the world. And neither Goths nor Vandals lorded it over that still imperial city, the emperor of which, after the first transference of the seat of empire by Constantine, often held the emperor of Rome as his nominee and vicegerent. And the fate of Constantinople was reserved till other ages, and was announced by other trumpets. Of the sun, the moon, and the stars, as yet but the third part was smitten.

The concluding words of the fourth trumpet imply the future restoration of the Western empire. The day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise. In respect to civil authority, Rome became subject to Ravenna, and Italy was a conquered province of the Eastern empire. But, as more appropriately pertaining to other prophecies, the defence of the worship of images first brought the spiritual and temporal powers of the pope and of the emperor into violent collision ; and, by conferring on the pope all authority over the churches, Justinian laid his helping hand to the promotion of the papal suprem

the future not for a the civil authority conquered Porn

* Gibbon's Hist. ib. p. 400.

« AnteriorContinuar »