Thomas W. (Thomas William) Allies
The Holy See and the Wandering of the Nations, from St. Leo I to St. Gregory I
THE LETTERS OF THE POPES AS SOURCES OF HISTORY
Cardinal Mai has left recorded his judgment that, "in matter of fact, the whole administration of the Church is learnt in the letters of the Popes".[1 - Nova Patrum bibliotheca, p. vi.: In Pontificum reapse epistolis tota ecclesiæ administratio cognoscitur.]
I draw from this judgment the inference that of all sources for the truths of history none are so precious, instructive, and authoritative as these authentic letters contemporaneous with the persons to whom they are addressed. The first which has been preserved to us is that of Pope St. Clement, the contemporary of St. Peter and St. Paul. It is directed to the Church of Corinth for the purpose of extinguishing a schism which had there broken out. In issuing his decision the Pope appeals to the Three Divine Persons to bear witness that the things which he has written "are written by us through the Holy Spirit," and claims obedience to them from those to whom he sends them as words "spoken by God through us".[2 - See p. 351 below; also Church and State, pp. 198-200, for the full statement of this passage.]
If the decisions of the succeeding Popes in the interval of nearly two hundred and fifty years between this letter of St. Clement, about the year 95, and the great letter of St. Julius to the Eusebianising bishops at Antioch in 342, had been preserved entire, the constitution of the Church in that interval would have shone before us in clear light. In fact, we only possess a few fragments of some of these decisions, for there was a great destruction of such documents in the persecution which occupied the first decade of the fourth century. But from the time of Pope Siricius, in the reign of the great Theodosius, a continuous, though not a perfect, series of these letters stretches through the succeeding ages. There is no other such series of documents existing in the world. They throw light upon all matters and persons of which they treat. This is a light proceeding from one who lives in the midst of what he describes, who is at the centre of the greatest system of doctrine and discipline, and legislation grounded upon both, which the world has ever seen. One, also, who speaks not only with a great knowledge, but with an unequalled authority, which, in every case, is like that of no one else, but can even be supreme, when it is directed with such a purpose to the whole Church. Every Pope can speak, as St. Clement, the first of this series, speaks above, claiming obedience to his words as "words spoken by God through us".
In a former volume I made large use of the letters of Popes from Siricius to St. Leo. I have continued that use for the very important period from St. Leo to St. Gregory. Especially in treating of the Acacian schism I have gone to the letters of the Popes who had to deal with it – Simplicius, Felix III., Gelasius, Anastasius II., Symmachus, and Hormisdas. I have done the same for the important reign of Justinian; most of all for the grand pontificate of St. Gregory, which crowns the whole patristic period and sums up its discipline.
I am, therefore, indebted in this volume, first and chiefly, to the letters of the Popes and the letters addressed to them by emperors and bishops, stored up in Mansi's vast collection of Councils (1759, 31 volumes). I am also much indebted to Cardinal Hergenröther's work Photius, sein Leben, und das griechische Schisma, and to his Handbuch der allgemeinen Kirchengeschichte, as the number of quotations from him will show. Again, I may mention the two histories of the city of Rome, by Reumont and Gregorovius, as most valuable. I acknowledge many obligations to Riffel's Geschichtliche Darstellung des Verhältnisses zwischen Kirche und Staat, with regard to the legislation of Justinian. The edition of Justinian referred to by me is Heimbach's Authenticum, Leipsic, 1851. I have consulted Hefele's Conciliengeschichte where need was. I have found Kurth's Origines de la Civilisation moderne instructive. I have used the carefully emended and supplemented German edition of Röhrbacher's history, by various writers – Rump and others. St. Gregory is quoted from the Benedictine edition.
As these works are indicated in the notes as they occur with the single name of the author, I have given here their full titles.
The present volume is the sixth of the Formation of Christendom, though it has a special title indicating the particular part of that general subject which it treats. I have, therefore, added to the numbering of the chapters in the Table of Contents the number which they hold in the whole work.
September 11, 1888.
THE HOLY SEE AND THE WANDERING OF THE NATIONS
"Rome's ending seemed the ending of a world.
If this our earth had in the vast sea sunk,
Save one black ridge whereon I sat alone,
Such wreck had seemed not greater. It was gone,
That empire last, sole heir of all the empires,
Their arms, their arts, their letters, and their laws.
The fountains of the nether deep are burst,
The second deluge comes. And let it come!
The God who sits above the waterspouts
– A. de Vere, Legends and Records– "Death of St. Jerome".
I ended the last chapter by drawing out that series of events in the Church's internal constitution and of changes in the external world of action outside and independent of the Church which combined in one result the exhibition to all and the public acknowledgment by the Church of the Primacy given by our Lord to St. Peter, and continued to his successors in the See of Rome. I showed St. Leo as exercising this Primacy by annulling the acts of an Ecumenical Council, the second of Ephesus, legitimately called and attended by his own legates, because it had denied a tenet of what St. Leo declared in a letter sent to the bishops and accepted by them to be the Christian faith upon the Incarnation itself. I showed him supported by the Church in that annulment, by the eastern episcopate, which attended the Council of Chalcedon, and by the eastern emperor, Marcian. Again, I showed him confirming the doctrinal decrees of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, which followed the Council annulled by him, while he reversed and disallowed certain canons which had been irregularly passed. This he did because they were injurious to that constitution of the Church which had come down from the Apostles to his own time. And this act of his, also, I showed to be accepted by the bishop of Constantinople, who was specially affected, and by the eastern emperor, and by the episcopate: and also that the confirmation of doctrine on the one hand, and the rejection of canons on the other, were equally accepted. I also showed this great Council in its Synodical Letter to the Pope acknowledging spontaneously that very position of the Pope which the Popes had always set forth as the ground of all the authority which they claimed. The Council of Chalcedon addressed St. Leo "as entrusted by the Saviour with the guardianship of the Vine". But the Vine in the universal language of the Fathers betokened the whole Church of God. And the Council refers the confirmation of its acts to the Pope in the same document in which it asserts that the guardianship of the Vine was given to him by the Saviour Himself. This expression, "by the Saviour Himself," means that it was not given to him by the decree of any Council representing the Church. It is a full acknowledgment that the promises made to Peter, and the Pastorship conferred upon him, descended to his successor in the See of Rome. It is a full acknowledgment; for how else was St. Leo entrusted by the Saviour with the guardianship of the Vine? Those who so addressed him were equally bishops with himself; they equally enjoyed the one indivisible episcopate, "of which a part is held by each without division of the whole".[3 - "Episcopatus unus est cujus a singulis in solidum pars tenetur." – S. Cyprian, De Unitate Ecclesiæ.] But this one, beside and beyond that, was charged with the whole – the Vine itself. This one point is that in which St. Peter went beyond his brethren, by the special gift and appointment of the Saviour Himself. The words, then, of the Council contain a special acknowledgment that the line of Popes after a succession of four hundred years sat in the person of Leo on the seat of St. Peter, with St. Peter's one sovereign prerogative.
It is requisite, I think, distinctly to point out that Christians, whoever they are, provided only that they admit, as confessing belief in any one of the three creeds, the Apostolic, the Nicene, or the Athanasian, they do admit, that there is one holy Catholic Church, commit a suicidal act in denying the Primacy as acknowledged by the Church at the Council of Chalcedon. For such a denial destroys the authority of the Church herself both in doctrine and discipline for all subsequent time. If the Church, in declaring St. Leo to be entrusted by our Lord with the guardianship of the Vine, erred; if she asserted a falsehood, or if she favoured an usurpation, how can she be trusted for any maintenance of doctrine, for any administration of sacraments, for any exercise of authority? This consideration does not touch those who believe in no Church at all. They are in the position of that individual whom the great Constantine recommended to take a ladder and mount to heaven by himself. But it touches all who profess to believe in an episcopate, in councils, in sacraments, in an organised Church, in authority deposited in that Church, and, finally, in history and in historical Christianity. To all such it may surely be said, as the simplest enunciation of reasoning, that they cannot profess belief in the Church which the Creed proclaims while they accept or reject its authority as they please. Or to localise a general expression: A man does not follow the doctrine of St. Augustine if he accepts his condemnation of Pelagius, but denies that unity of the Church in maintaining which St. Augustine spent his forty years of teaching. The action of all such persons in the eyes of the world without amounts to this, that by denying the Primacy they disprove the existence of the Church. Their negation goes to the profit of total unbelief. Asserters of the Church's division are pioneers of infidelity, for who can believe in what has fallen? or is the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ a kingdom divided against itself? They who maintain schism generate agnostics.
But I was prevented on a former occasion by want of space from dwelling with due force upon some circumstances of St. Leo's life. These are such as to make his time an era. I was occupied during a whole volume with the attempt to set forth in some sort the action of St. Peter's See upon the Greek and Roman world from the day of Pentecost to the complete recognition of the Universal Pastorship of Peter as inherited by the Roman Pontiff in the person of St. Leo.
I approach now a further development of this subject. I go forward to treat of the Papacy, deprived of all temporal support from the fall of the western empire, taking up the secular capital into a new spiritual Rome, and creating a Christendom out of the northern tribes who had subverted the Roman empire.
There is, I think, no greater wonder in human history than the creation of a hierarchy out of the principle of headship and subordination contained in our Lord's charge to Peter. It has been pointed out that the constitution of the Nicene Council itself manifested this principle, and was the proof of its spontaneous action in the preceding centuries, while its overt recognition, as seated in the Roman Pontiff, is seen in the pontificate of St. Leo.
There is a second wonder in human history, on which it is the purpose of this volume to dwell. The Roman empire, in which the Pax Romana had provided a mould of widespread civilisation for the Church's growth, was at length broken up in the western half of it, by Teuton invaders occupying its provinces. These were all, at the time of their settlement, either pagan or Arian. There followed, in a certain lapse of time, the creation of a body of States whose centre of union and belief was the See of Peter. That is the creation of Christendom proper. The wonder seen is that the northern tribes, impinging on the empire, and settling on its various provinces like vultures, became the matter into which the Holy See, guiding and unifying the episcopate, maintaining the original principle of celibacy, and planting it in the institute of the religious life through various countries depopulated or barbarous, infused into the whole mass one spirit, so that Arians became Catholics, Teuton raiders issued into Christian kings, savage tribes thrown upon captive provincials coalesced into nations, while all were raised together into, not a restored empire of Augustus, but an empire holy as well as Roman, whose chief was the Church's defender (advocatus ecclesiæ), whose creator was the Roman Peter.
It is not a little remarkable that this signal recognition by the Fourth General Council of the Roman Pontiff's authority coincided in time with the utter powerlessness to which Rome as a city was reduced. That city, on whose glory as queen of nations and civiliser of the earth her own bishop had dwelt with all the fondness of a Roman, when, year by year, on the least of St. Peter and St. Paul, he addressed the assembled episcopate of Italy, ran twice, in his own time, the most imminent danger of ceasing to exist. Italy was absolutely without an army to give her strongest cities a chance of resisting the desolation of Attila. Rome was without a force raised to save it from the pitiless robbery of Genseric. Without escort, and defended only by his spiritual character, Leo went forth to appeal before Attila for mercy to a heathen Mongol. There is no record of what passed at that interview. Only the result is known. The conqueror, who had swept with remorseless cruelty the whole country from the Euxine to the Adriatic Sea, who was now bent upon the seizure of Italy itself, and in his course had just destroyed Aquileia, was at Mantua marching upon Rome. His intention was proclaimed to crown all his acts of destruction with that of Rome. This was the dowry which he proposed to take for the hand of the last great emperor's granddaughter, proffered to him by the hapless Honoria herself. At the word of Leo the Scourge of God gave up his prey: he turned back from Italy, and relinquished Rome, and Leo returned to his seat. In the course of the next three years he confirmed, at the eastern emperor's repeated request, the doctrinal decrees of the great Council; but he humbled likewise the arrogance of Anatolius, and not all the loyalty of Marcian, not all the devotion of the empress and saint Pulcheria, could induce him to exalt the bishop of the eastern capital at the expense of the Petrine hierarchy. But during those same three years he saw, in Rome itself, Honoria's brother, the grandson of Theodosius, destroy his own throne, and thereupon the murderer of an emperor compel his widow to accept him in her husband's place, in the first days of her sorrow. He saw, further, that daughter of Theodosius and Eudoxia, when she learnt that the usurper of her husband's throne was likewise his murderer, call in the Vandal from Carthage to avenge her double dishonour. This was the Rome which awaited, trembling and undefended, the most profligate of armies, led by the most cruel of persecutors. Once more St. Leo, stripped of all human aid, went forth with his clergy on the road to the port by which Genseric was advancing, to plead before an Arian pirate for the preservation of the capital of the Catholic faith. He saved his people from massacre and his city from burning, but not the houses from plunder. For fourteen days Rome was subject to every spoliation which African avarice could inflict. Again, no record of that misery has been kept; but the hand of Genseric was heavier than that of Alaric, in proportion as the Vandal was cruel where the Ostrogoth was generous. Alaric would have fought for Rome as Stilicho fought, had he continued to be commanded by that Theodosius who made him a Roman general; but Genseric was the vilest in soul of all the Teuton invaders, and for fifty years, during the utter prostration of Roman power, he infested all the shores of the Mediterranean with the savagery afterwards shown by Saracen and Algerine.
This second plundering of Rome was no isolated event. It was only the sign of that utter impotence into which Roman power in the West had fallen. The city of Rome was the trophy of Cæsarean government during five hundred years – from Julius, the most royal, to Valentinian, the most abject of emperors. And now its temporal greatness was lost for ever. It ceased to be the imperial city, but by the same stroke became from the secular a spiritual capital. The Pope, freed from the western Cæsar,[4 - Gregorovius, i. 286. "Das Papstthum, vom Kaiser des Abendlandes befreit, erstand, und die Kirche Roms wuchs unter Trümmern mächtig empor. Sie trat an die Stelle des Reichs."] gave to the Cæsarean city its second and greater life: a life of another kind generating also an empire of another sort. The raid of Genseric in the year 455 is the first of three hundred years of warfare carried on from the time of the Vandal through the time of the Lombard, under the neglect and oppression of the Byzantine, until, in the year 755, Astolphus, the last, and perhaps the worst, of an evil brood, laid waste the campagna, and besieged the city. St. Leo, in his double embassy to Attila and Genseric, was an unconscious prophet of the time to come, a visible picture of three hundred years as singular in their conflict and their issue as those other three hundred which had their close in the Nicene Council. During all those ages the Pope is never secure in his own city. He sees the trophy of Cæsarean empire slowly perish away. The capital of the world ceases to be even the capital of a province. The eastern emperor, who still called himself emperor of the Romans, omitted for many generations even to visit the city which he had subjected to an impotent but malignant official, termed an Exarch, who guarded himself by the marshes of Ravenna, but left Rome to the inroads of the Lombards. The last emperor who deigned to visit the old capital of his empire came to it only to tear from it the last relic of imperial magnificence. But then Jerusalem had fallen into the hands of the infidel, and Christian pilgrims, since they could no longer visit the sepulchre of Christ, flocked to the sepulchre of his Vicar the Fisherman. And thus Rome was become the place of pilgrimage for all the West. Saxon kings and queens laid down their crowns before St. Peter's threshold, invested themselves with the cowl, and died, healed and happy, under the shadow of the chief Apostle. When the three hundred years were ended, the arm of Pepin made the Pope a sovereign in his own newly-created Rome. During these three centuries, running from St. Leo meeting Genseric, the pilot of St. Peter's ship has been tossed without intermission on the waves of a heaving ocean, but he has saved his vessel and the freight which it bears – the Christian faith. And in doing this he has made the new-created city, which had become the place of pilgrimage, to be also the centre of a new world.
As Leo came back from the gate leading to the harbour and re-entered his Lateran palace, undefended Rome was taken possession of by the Vandal. Leo for fourteen days was condemned to hear the cries of his people, and the tale of unnumbered insults and iniquities committed in the palaces and houses of Rome. When the stipulated days were over, the plunderer bore away the captive empress and her daughters from the palace of the Cæsars, which he had so completely sacked that even the copper vessels were carried off. Genseric also assaulted the yet untouched temple of Jupiter on the Capitol, and not only carried away the still remaining statues in his fleet which occupied the Tiber, but stripped off half the roof of the temple and its tiles of gilded bronze. He took away also the spoils of the temple at Jerusalem, which Vespasian had deposited in his temple of peace. Belisarius found them at Carthage eighty years later, and sent them as prizes to Constantinople.[5 - Gregorovius, i. 200.]
Many thousand Romans of every age and condition Genseric carried as slaves to Carthage, together with Eudocia and her daughters, the eldest of whom Genseric compelled to marry his son Hunnerich. After sixteen years of unwilling marriage Eudocia at last escaped, and through great perils reached Jerusalem, where she died and was buried beside her grandmother, that other Eudocia, the beautiful Athenais whom St. Pulcheria gave to her brother for bride, and whose romantic exaltation to the throne of the East ended in banishment at Jerusalem. But one of the great churches at Rome is connected with her memory: since the first Eudocia sent to the empress her daughter at Rome half of the chains which had bound St. Peter at his imprisonment by Agrippa. When Pope Leo held the relics, which had come from Jerusalem, to those other relics belonging to the Apostle's captivity at Rome on his martyrdom, they grew together and became one chain of thirty-eight links. Upon this the empress in the days of her happiness built the Church of St. Peter ad Vincula to receive so touching a memorial of the Apostle who escaped martyrdom at Jerusalem to find it at Rome. Upon his delivery by the angel "from all the expectation of the people of the Jews," he "went to another place". There, to use the words of his own personal friend and second successor at Antioch, he founded "the church presiding over charity in the place of the country of the Romans,"[6 - St. Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans.] and there he was to find his own resting-place. The church was built to guard the emblems of the two captivities. The heathen festival of Augustus, which used to be kept on the 1st August at the spot where the church was founded, became for all Christendom the feast of St. Peter's Chains.[7 - "That Roman, that Judean bondUnited then dispart no more —Pierce through the veil; the rind beyondLies hid the legend's deeper lore.Therein the mystery lies expressedOf power transferred, yet ever one;Of Rome – the Salem of the West —Of Sion, built o'er Babylon."A. de Vere, Legends and Records, p. 204.]
In the life of St. Leo by Anastasius, we read that after the Vandal ruin he supplied the parish churches of Rome with silver plate from the six silver vessels, weighing each a hundred pounds, which Constantine had given to the basilicas of the Lateran, of St. Peter, and of St. Paul, two to each. These churches were spared the plundering to which every other building was subjected. But the buildings of Rome were not burnt, though even senatorian families were reduced to beggary, and the population was diminished through misery and flight, besides those who were carried off to slavery.
At this point of time the grandeur of Trajan's city[8 - Gregorovius, i. 208.] began to pass into the silence and desolation which St. Gregory in after years mourned over in the words of Jeremias on ruined Jerusalem.
Let us go back with Leo to his patriarchal palace, and realise if we can the condition of things in which he dwelt at home, as well as the condition throughout all the West of the Church which his courage had saved from heresy.
The male line of Theodosius had ended with the murder of Valentinian in the Campus Martius, March 16, 455. Maximus seized his throne and his widow, and was murdered in the streets of Rome in June, 455, at the end of seventy-seven days. When Genseric had carried off his spoil, the throne of the western empire, no longer claimed by anyone of the imperial race, became a prey to ambitious generals. The first tenant of that throne was Avitus, a nobleman from Gaul, named by the influence of the Visigothic king, Theodorich of Toulouse. He assumed the purple at Arles, on the 10th July, 455. The Roman senate, which clung to its hereditary right to name the princes, accepted him, not being able to help itself, on the 1st January, 456; his son-in-law, Sidonius Apollinaris, delivered the customary panegyric, and was rewarded with a bronze statue in the forum of Trajan, which we thus know to have escaped injury from the raid of Genseric. But at the bidding of Ricimer, who had become the most powerful general, the senate deposed Avitus; he fled to his country Auvergne, and was killed on the way in September, 456.
All power now lay in the hands of Ricimer. He was by his father a Sueve; by his mother, grandson of Wallia, the Visigothic king at Toulouse. With him began that domination of foreign soldiery which in twenty years destroyed the western empire. Through his favour the senator Majorian was named emperor in the spring of 457. The senate, the people, the army, and the eastern emperor, Leo I., were united in hailing his election. He is described as recalling by his many virtues the best Roman emperors. In his letter to the senate, which he drew up after his election in Ravenna, men thought they heard the voice of Trajan. An emperor who proposed to rule according to the laws and tradition of the old time filled Rome with joy. All his edicts compelled the people to admire his wisdom and goodness. One of these most strictly forbade the employment of the materials from older buildings, an unhappy custom which had already begun, for, says the special historian of the city, the time had already come when Rome, destroying itself, was made use of as a great chalk-pit and marble quarry;[9 - Gregorovius, i. 215.] and for such it served the Romans themselves for more than a thousand years. They were the true barbarians who destroyed their city.
But Majorian was unable to prevent the ruin either of city or of state. He had made great exertions to punish Genseric by reconquering Africa. They were not successful; Ricimer compelled him to resign on the 2nd of August, 461, and five days afterwards he died by a death of which is only known that it was violent. A man, says Procopius, upright to his subjects, terrible to his enemies, who surpassed in every virtue all those who before him had reigned over the Romans.
Three months after Majorian, died Pope St. Leo. First of his line to bear the name of Great, who twice saved his city, and once, by the express avowal of a successor, the Church herself, Leo carried his crown of thorns one-and-twenty years, and has left no plaint to posterity of the calamities witnessed by him in that long pontificate. Majorian was the fourth sovereign whom in six years and a half he had seen to perish by violence. A man with so keen an intellectual vision, so wise a measure of men and things, must have fathomed to its full extent the depth of moral corruption in the midst of which the Church he presided over fought for existence. This among his own people. But who likewise can have felt, as he did, the overmastering flood of northern tribes —vis consili expers– which had descended on the empire in his own lifetime. As a boy he must have known the great Theodosius ruling by force of mind that warlike but savage host of Teuton mercenaries. In his one life, Visigoth and Ostrogoth, Vandal and Herule, Frank and Aleman, Burgundian and Sueve, instead of serving Rome as soldiers in the hand of one greater than themselves, had become masters of a perishing world's mistress; and the successor of Peter was no longer safe in the Roman palace which the first of Christian emperors had bestowed upon the Church's chief bishop. Instead of Constantine and Theodosius, Leo had witnessed Arcadius and Honorius; instead of emperors the ablest men of their day, who could be twelve hours in the saddle at need, emperors who fed chickens or listened to the counsel of eunuchs in their palace. Even this was not enough. He had seen Stilicho and Aetius in turn support their feeble sovereigns, and in turn assassinated for that support; and the depth of all ignominy in a Valentinian closing the twelve hundred years of Rome with the crime of a dastard, followed by Genseric, who was again to be overtopped by Ricimer, while world and Church barely escape from Attila's uncouth savagery. But Leo in his letters written in the midst of such calamities, in his sermons spoken from St. Peter's chair, speaks as if he were addressing a prostrate world with the inward vision of a seer to whom the triumph of the heavenly Jerusalem is clearly revealed, while he proclaims the work of the City of God on earth with equal assurance.
Hilarus in that same November, 461, succeeded to the apostolic chair. Hilarus was that undaunted Roman deacon and legate who with difficulty saved his life at the Robber-Council of Ephesus, where St. Flavian, bishop of Constantinople, was beaten to death by the party of Dioscorus, and who carried to St. Leo a faithful report of that Council's acts. At the same time the Lucanian Libius Severus succeeded to the throne. All that is known of him is that he was an inglorious creature of Ricimer, and prolonged a government without record until the autumn of 465, when his maker got tired of him. He disappeared, and Ricimer ruled alone for nearly two years. Yet he did not venture to end the empire with a stroke of violence, or change the title of Patricius, bestowed upon him by the eastern emperor, for that of king. In this death-struggle of the realm the senate showed courage. The Roman fathers in their corporate capacity served as a last bond of the State as it was falling to pieces; and Sidonius Apollinaris said of them that they might rank as princes with the bearer of the purple, only, he adds significantly, if we put out of question the armed force.[10 - Sidonius Apollinaris, Epist., i. 9. "Hi in amplissimo ordine, seposita prærogativa partis armatæ, facile post purpuratum principem principes erant."] The protection of the eastern emperor, Leo I., helped them in this resistance to Ricimer. The national party in Rome itself called on the Greek emperor for support. The utter dissolution of the western empire, when German tribes, Burgundians, Franks, Visigoths, and Vandals, had taken permanent possession of its provinces outside of Italy, while the violated dignity of Rome sank daily into greater impotence, now made Byzantium come forth as the true head of the empire. The better among the eastern Cæsars acknowledged the duty of maintaining it one and indivisible. They treated sinking Italy as one of their provinces, and prevented the Germans from asserting lordship over it.
At length, after more than a year's vacancy of the throne, Ricimer was obliged not only to let the senate treat with the Eastern emperor, Leo I., but to accept from Leo the choice of a Greek. Anthemius, one of the chief senators at Byzantium, who had married the late emperor Marcian's daughter, was sent with solemn pomp to Rome, and on the 12th April, 467, he accepted the imperial dignity in the presence of senate, people, and army, three miles outside the gates. Ricimer also condescended to accept his daughter as his bride, and we have an account of the wedding from that same Sidonius Apollinaris who a few years before had delivered the panegyric upon the accession of his own father-in-law, Avitus, afterwards deposed and killed by Ricimer; moreover, he had in the same way welcomed the accession of the noble Majorian, destroyed by the same Ricimer. Now on this third occasion Sidonius describes the whole city as swimming in a sea of joy. Bridal songs with fescennine licence resounded in the theatres, market-places, courts, and gymnasia. All business was suspended. Even then Rome impressed the Gallic courtier-poet with the appearance of the world's capital. What is important is that we find this testimony of an eye-witness, given incidentally in his correspondence, that Rome in her buildings was still in all her splendour. And again in his long panegyric he makes Rome address the eastern emperor, beseeching him, in requital for all those eastern provinces which she has given to Byzantium – "Only grant me Anthemius;[11 - "Sed si forte placet veteres sopire querelasAnthemium concede mihi; sit partibus istisAugustus longumque Leo; mea jura gubernetQuem petii." —Carmen, ii.] reign long, O Leo, in your own parts, but grant me my desire to govern mine." Thus Sidonius shows in his verses what is but too apparent in the history of the elevation of Anthemius, that Nova Roma on the borders of Europe and Asia was the real sovereign.[12 - Reumont, i. 700.] And we also learn that the whole internal order of government, the structure of Roman law, and the daily habit of life had remained unaltered by barbarian occupation. This is the last time that Rome appears in garments of joy. The last reflection of her hundred triumphs still shines upon her palaces, baths, and temples. The Roman people, diminished in number, but unaltered in character, still frequented the baths of Nero, of Agrippa, of Diocletian; and Sidonius recommends instead baths less splendid, but less seductive to the senses.[13 - He says at the end of 500 hendecasyllabics (jam te veniam loquacitati Quingenti hendecasyllabi precantur):"Hinc ad balnea non Neroniana,Nec quæ Agrippa dedit, vel ille cujusBustum Dalmaticæ vident Salonæ,Ad thermas tamen ire sed libebat,Privato bene præbitas pudori".]
But Anthemius lasted no longer than the noble Majorian or the ignoble Severus. East and West had united their strength in a great expedition to put down the incessant Vandal piracies, which made all the coasts of the Mediterranean insecure.[14 - For a well-told account of this expedition and its failure, see Thierry, Derniers Temps de l'Empire d'Occident, pp. 77-101.] It failed through the treachery of the eastern commander Basiliscus, to whose evil deeds we shall have hereafter to recur. This disaster shook the credit of Anthemius, and Ricimer also tired of his father-in-law. He went to Milan, and Rome was terrified with the report that he had made a compact with barbarians beyond the Alps. Ricimer marched upon Rome, to which he laid siege in 472. Here he was joined by Anicius Olybrius, who had married Placidia, the younger daughter of Valentinian and Eudoxia, through whom he claimed the throne, as representative of the Theodosian line. Ricimer, after a fierce contest with Anthemius, burst into the Aurelian gate at the head of troops all of German blood and Arian belief, massacring and plundering all but two of the fourteen regions. But the city escaped burning.
Then Anicius Olybrius entered Rome, consumed at once by famine, pestilence, and the sword. With the consent of Leo, and at the request of Genseric, he had been already named emperor. He took possession of the imperial palace, and made the senate acknowledge him. Anthemius had been cut in pieces, but forty days after his death Ricimer died of the plague, and thus had not been able to put to death more than four Roman emperors, of whom his father-in-law, Anthemius, was the last. The Arian Condottiere, who had inflicted on Rome a third plundering, said to be worse than that of Genseric, was buried in the Church of St. Agatha in Suburra,[15 - There is a strange occurrence recorded by St. Gregory in his Dialogues as having taken place in this church, which would seem to point at Ricimer's burial in it.] which had been ceded to the Arians, and which he had adorned.
Olybrius made the Burgundian prince Gundebald commander of the forces, but died himself in October of that same year, 472, and left the throne to be the gift of barbarian adventurers. Three more shadows of emperors passed. Gundebald gave that dignity at Ravenna, in March, 473, to Glycerius, a man of unknown antecedents. In 474, Glycerius was deposed by Nepos, a Dalmatian, whom the empress Verina, widow of Leo I., had sent with an army from Byzantium to Ravenna. Nepos compelled his predecessor to abdicate, and to become bishop of Salona. He himself was proclaimed emperor at Rome on the 24th June, 474, after which he returned to Ravenna. While he was here treating with Euric, the Visigoth king, at Toulouse, Orestes, whom he had made Patricius and commander of the barbaric troops for Gaul, rose against him. Nepos fled by sea from Ravenna in August, 475, and betook himself to Salona, whither he had banished Glycerius.
Orestes was a Pannonian; had been Attila's secretary; then commander of German troops in service of the emperors. Thus he came to lead the troops which had been under Ricimer. This heap of Germans and Sarmatians without a country were in wild excitement, demanding a cession of Italian lands, instead of a march into Gaul. They offered their general the crown of Italy. Orestes thought it better to invest therewith his young son, and so, on the 31st October, 475, the boy Romulus Augustus, by the supremest mockery of what is called fortune, sat for a moment on the seat of the first king and the first emperor of Rome.
Italy could no longer produce an army, and the foreign soldiery who had served under various leaders naturally desired the partition of its lands. Odoacer was now their leader, who, when a penniless youth, had visited St. Severinus in Noricum, and received from him the prophecy: "Go into Italy, clad now in poor skins: thou wilt speedily be able to clothe many richly". Odoacer, after an adventurous life of heroic courage, made the homeless warriors whom he now commanded understand that it was better to settle on the fair lands of Italy than wander about in the service of phantom emperors. They acclaimed him as their king, and after beheading Orestes and getting possession of Romulus Augustus, he compelled him to abdicate before the senate, and the senate to declare that the western empire was extinct. This happened in the third year of the emperor Zeno the Isaurian, the ninth of Pope Simplicius, A.D. 476. The senate sent deputies to Zeno at Byzantium to declare that Rome no longer required an independent emperor; that one emperor was sufficient for East and for West; that they had chosen for the protector of Italy Odoacer, a man skilled in the arts of peace as well as war, and besought Zeno to entrust him with the dignity of Patricius and the government of Italy. The deposed Nepos also sent a petition to Zeno to restore him. Zeno replied to the senate that of the two emperors whom he had sent to them, they had deposed Nepos and killed Anthemius. But he received the diadem and the imperial jewels of the western empire, and kept them in his palace. He endured the usurper who had taken possession of Italy until he was able to put him down, and so, in his letters to Odoacer, invested him with the title of "Patricius of the Romans," leaving the government of Italy to a German commander under his imperial authority. So the division into East and West was cancelled: Italy as a province belonged still to the one emperor, who was seated at Byzantium. In theory, the unity of Constantine's time was restored; in fact, Rome and the West were surrendered to Teuton invaders.[16 - This account has been shortened from that of Gregorovius, i. 231-5.] This was the last stroke: the mighty members of the great mother – Gaul, and Spain, and Britain, and Africa, and Illyricum – had been severed from her. Now, the head, discrowned and impotent, submitted to the rule of Odoacer the Herule. The Byzantine supremacy remained in keeping for future use. It had been acknowledged from the death of Honorius in 423, when Galla Placidia had become empress and her son emperor by the gift and the army of Theodosius II.
The agony of imperial Rome lasted twenty-one years. Valentinian III. was reigning in 455: in the March of that year he was murdered, and succeeded by Maximus, who was murdered in June; then by Avitus in July, who was murdered in October, 456. Majorianus followed in 457, and reigned till August, 461: he was followed by Libius Severus in November, who lasted four years, till November, 465. After an interregnum of eighteen months, in which Ricimer practically ruled, Anthemius was brought from Byzantium in April, 467, and continued till July, 472; but Anicius Olybrius again was brought from Byzantium, reigned for a few months in 472, and died of the plague in October. In 473, Glycerius was put up for emperor; in 474, he gave place to Nepos, the third brought from Byzantium. In 475, Romulus Augustus appears, to disappear in 476, and end his life in retirement at the Villa of Lucullus by Naples, once the seat of Rome's most luxurious senator.
Eighty years had now passed since the death of Theodosius. In the course of these years the realm which he had saved from dissolution after the defeat and death of Valens near Adrianople, and had preserved during fifteen years by wisdom in council and valour in war, and still more by his piety, when once his protecting hand and ruling mind were withdrawn, fell to pieces in the West, and was scarcely saved in the East. Let us take the last five years of St. Leo, which follow on the raid of Genseric, in order to complete the sketch just given of Rome's political state, by showing the condition of the great provinces which belonged to Leo's special patriarchate. I have before noticed how it was in the interval between the retirement of Attila from Rome at the prayer of St. Leo and the seizure of Rome by Genseric at the solicitation of the miserable empress Eudoxia, when St. Leo could save only the lives of his people, that he confirmed the Fourth Ecumenical Council. Not only was he entreated to do this by the emperor Marcian: the Council itself solicited the confirmation of its acts, which for that purpose were laid before him, while it made the most specific confession of his authority as the one person on earth entrusted by the Lord with His vineyard. From the particular time and the circumstances under which these events took place, one may infer a special intention of the Divine Providence. This was that the whole Roman empire, while it still subsisted, the two emperors, one of whom was on the point of disappearing, and the whole episcopate, in the most solemn form, should attest the Roman bishop's universal pastorship. For a great period was ending, the period of the Græco-Roman civilisation, from which, after three centuries of persecution, the Church had obtained recognition. And a great period was beginning, when the wandering of the nations had prepared for the Church another task. The first had been to obtain the conversion of nations linked by the bond of one temporal rule, enjoying the highest degree of culture and knowledge then existing, but deeply tainted by the corruption of effete refinement. The second was to exalt rough, sturdy, barbarian natures, whose bride was the sword and human life their prey, first to the virtues of the civil state, and next to the higher life of Christian charity, and thus to link them, who had known only violent repulsion and perpetual warfare among themselves, in not a temporal but a spiritual bond. The majestic figure of St. Leo expressed the completion of the first task. It also symbolises the beneficent power which in the course of ages will accomplish the second.
The wandering of the nations, says a great historian, was of decisive effect for the Church, and he quotes another historian's summary description of it: "It was not the migration of individual nomad hordes, or masses of adventurous warriors in continuous motion, which produced changes so mighty. But great, long-settled peoples, with wives and children, with goods and chattels, deserted their old seats, and sought for themselves in the far distance a new home. By this the position of individuals, of communities, of whole peoples, was of necessity completely altered. The old conditions of possession were dissolved. The existing bonds of society loosened. The old frontiers of states and lands passed away. As a whole city is turned into a ruinous heap by an earthquake, so the whole political system of previous times was overthrown by this massive transmigration. A new order of things had to be formed corresponding to the wholly altered circumstances of the nation."[17 - Giesebrecht, quoted by Hergenröther, K.G., i. 449.]
I draw from the same historian[18 - Hergenröther, i. 449-453.] an outline of the movement, running through several centuries, which had this final result. Great troops of Celts had, before the time of Christ, sought to settle themselves in Rhœtia and Upper Italy, even as far as Rome. Cimbrians and Teutons, with as little success, had betaken themselves southwards, while under the empire the pressure of peoples had more and more increased, and Trajan could hardly maintain the northern frontier on the Danube. In the third century, Alemans and Sueves advanced to the Upper Rhine, and the Goths, from dwelling between the Don and Theiss, came to the Danube and the Black Sea. Decius fell in battle with them. Aurelian gave them up the province of Dacia. Constantine the Great conquered them, and had Gothic troops in his army. Often they broke into the Roman territory, and carried off prisoners with them. Some of these were Christians and introduced the Goths to the knowledge of Christianity. Theophilus, a Gothic bishop, was at the Nicene Council in 325. They had clergy, monks, and nuns, with numerous believers. Under Athanarich, king of the Visigoths, Christians already suffered, with credit, a bloody persecution. On the occasion of the Huns, a Scythian people, compelling the Alans on the Don to join them, then conquering the Ostrogoths and oppressing the Visigoths, the latter prevailed on the emperor Valens to admit them into the empire. Valens gave them dwellings in Thrace on the condition that they should serve in his army and accept Arian Christianity. So the larger number of Visigoths under Fridiger in 375 became Arians. They soon, however, broke into conflict with the empire through their ill-treatment by the imperial commanders. In 378, Valens was defeated near Adrianople; his army was utterly crushed; he met himself with a miserable death. After this the Visigoths in general continued to be Arians, though many, especially through the exertions of St. Chrysostom, were converted to Catholicism. Most of them, however, seem to have been only half Arians, like their famous bishop Ulphilas. He was by birth a Goth – some say a Cappadocian – was consecrated between 341 and 348, in Constantinople. He gave the Goths an alphabet of their own, formed after the Greek, and made for them a translation of the Bible, of great value as a record of ancient German. He died in Constantinople before 388 – probably in 381.
Under Theodosius I., about 382, the Visigoths accepted the Roman supremacy, and the engagement to supply 40,000 men for the service of the empire, upon the terms of occupying, as allies free of tribute, the provinces assigned to them of Dacia, Lower Mœsia, and Thrace. After this, discontented at the holding back their pay, and irritated by Rufinus, who was then at the head of the government of the emperor Arcadius, they laid waste the Illyrian provinces down to the Peloponnesus, and made repeated irruptions into Italy, in 400 and 402, under their valiant leader Alarich. In 408 he besieged Rome, and exacted considerable sums from it. He renewed the siege in 409, and made the wretched prefect Attalus emperor, whom he afterwards deposed, and recognised Honorius again. At last he took Rome by storm on the 24th August, 410. The city was completely plundered, but the lives of the people spared. He withdrew to Lower Italy and soon died. His brother-in-law and successor, Ataulf, was first minded entirely to destroy the Roman empire, but afterwards to restore it by Gothic aid. In the end he went to Gaul, conquered Narbonne, Toulouse, and Bordeaux, and afterwards Barcelona. His half-brother Wallia, after reducing the Alans and driving back the Sueves and Vandals, planted his seat in Toulouse, which became, in 415, the capital of his Aquitanean kingdom, Gothia or Septimania. Gaul, in which several Roman commanders assumed the imperial title, was overrun in the years from 406 to 416 by various peoples, whom the two opposing sides called in: by Burgundians, Franks, Alemans, Vandals, Quades, Alans, Gepids, Herules. The Alans, Sueves, Vandals, and Visigoths, at the same time, went to Spain. Their leaders endeavoured to set up kingdoms of their own all over Gaul and Spain.
Arianism came from the Visigoths not only to the Ostrogoths but also to the Gepids, Sueves, Alans, Burgundians, and Vandals. But these peoples, with the exception of the Vandals and of some Visigoth kings, treated the Catholic religion, which was that of their Roman subjects, with consideration and esteem. Only here and there Catholics were compelled to embrace Arianism. Their chief enemy in Gaul was the Visigoth king Eurich. Wallia, dying in 419, had been succeeded by Theodorich I. and Theodorich II., both of whom had extended the kingdom, which Eurich still more increased. He died in 483. Under him many Catholic churches were laid waste, and the Catholics suffered a bloody persecution. He was rather the head of a sect than the ruler of subjects. This, however, led to the dissolution of his kingdom, which, from 507, was more and more merged in that of the Franks.