Attempt to Restore Paganism.The first event of grave importance after the reign of Constantine was the attempt of the Emperor Julian (A.D. 360-363) to restore the old pagan religion, for which attempt he has been called “the Apostate.” Julian was in many respects a man of ability and energy. He repelled the Alemanni who had crossed the Rhine, and made a vigorous campaign against the Persians. But he was by conviction a pagan, and in the struggle between Christianity and paganism he took the part of the ancient faith. He tried to undo the work of Constantine by bringing back paganism to its old position. He did not realize that Christianity was the religion of the future, and was presumptuous in his belief that he could accomplish that in which Marcus Aurelius and Diocletian had failed. He may not have expected to uproot the new religion entirely; but he hoped to deprive it of the important privileges which it had already acquired. The religious changes which he was able to effect in his brief reign were reversed by his successor Jovian (A.D. 363-364), and Christianity afterward remained undisturbed as the religion of the empire.
Revolt of the Goths.After the death of Jovian the empire was divided between Valentinian and his younger brother Valens, the former ruling in the West, and the latter in the East. Valentinian died (A.D. 375), leaving his sons in control of the West, while Valens continued to rule in the East (till 378). It was during this latter period that a great event occurred which forewarned the empire of its final doom. This event was the irruption of the Huns into Europe. This savage race, emerging from the steppes of Asia, pressed upon the Goths and drove them from their homes into the Roman territory. It was now necessary for the Romans either to resist the whole Gothic nation, which numbered a million of people, or else to receive them as friends, and give them settlements within the empire. The latter course seemed the wiser, and they were admitted as allies, and given new homes south of the Danube, in Moesia and Thrace. But they were soon provoked by the ill-treatment of the Roman officials, and rose in revolt, defeating the Roman army in a battle at Adrianople (A.D. 378) in which Valens himself was slain.
Reign of Theodosius and the Final Division of the Empire (379-395).Theodosius I. succeeded Valens as emperor of the East. He was a man of great vigor and military ability, although his reign was stained with acts of violence and injustice. He continued the policy of admitting the barbarians into the empire, but converted them into useful and loyal subjects. From their number he reënforced the ranks of the imperial armies, and jealously guarded them from injustice. When a garrison of Gothic soldiers was once mobbed in Thessalonica, he resorted to a punishment as revengeful as that of Marius and as cruel as that of Sulla. He gathered the people of this city into the circus to the number of seven thousand, and caused them to be massacred by a body of Gothic soldiers (A.D. 390). For this inhuman act he was compelled to do penance by St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milanwhich fact shows how powerful the Church had become at this time, to compel an emperor to obey its mandates. Theodosius was himself an ardent and orthodox Christian, and went so far as to be intolerant of the pagan religion, and even of the worship of heretics. In spite of his shortcomings he was an able monarch, and has received the name of “Theodosius the Great.” He conquered his rivals and reunited for a brief time the whole Roman world under a single ruler. But at his death (A.D. 395), he divided the empire between his two sons, Arcadius and Honorius, the former receiving the East, and the latter, the West.
SELECTIONS FOR READING
Gibbon, Decline, Ch. 17, “Foundation of Constantinople” (7).1
Gibbon, abridged, Ch. 7, “Reign of Diocletian” (7).
Stanley, Lect. 6, “The Emperor Constantine” (12).
Merivale, Gen. Hist., Ch. 73, “Reign of Julian” (1).
Seeley, Essay, “The Later Empire” (7).
THE ROMAN BATHS.Inge, pp. 232-236 (16); Bury, Empire, pp. 609-612 (7); Parker, Arch. Hist., Ch. 10 (9); Guhl and Koner, pp. 396-406 (16); Harper’s Dict. Antiqq., “Balneae” (8); Ramsay and Lanciani, pp. 487-490 (8) ; Becker, Gallus, pp. 366-387 (16).
1 The figure in parenthesis refers to the number of the topic in the Appendix, where a fuller title of the book will be found.