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The Goths were now, on every side, surrounded and pursued by the Roman arms. The flower of their troops had perished in the long siege of Philippopolis, and the exhausted country could no longer afford subsistence for the remaining multitude of licentious barbarians. Reduced to this extremity, the Goths would gladly have purchased, by the surrender of all their booty and prisoners, the permission of an undisturbed retreat. But the emperor, confident of victory, and resolving, by the chastisement of these invaders, to strike a salutary terror into the nations of the North, refused to listen to any terms of accommodation. The high-spirited barbarians preferred death to slavery. An obscure town of Maesia, called Forum Terebronii, 44 was the scene of the battle. The Gothic army was drawn up in three lines, and either from choice or accident, the front of the third line was covered by a morass. In the beginning of the action, the son of Decius, a youth of the fairest hopes, and already associated to the honors of the purple, was slain by an arrow, in the sight of his afflicted father; who, summoning all his fortitude, admonished the dismayed troops, that the loss of a single soldier was of little importance to the republic. 45 The conflict was terrible; it was the combat of despair against grief and rage. The first line of the Goths at length gave way in disorder; the second, advancing to sustain it, shared its fate; and the third only remained entire, prepared to dispute the passage of the morass, which was imprudently attempted by the presumption of the enemy. "Here the fortune of the day turned, and all things became adverse to the Romans; the place deep with ooze, sinking under those who stood, slippery to such as advanced; their armor heavy, the waters deep; nor could they wield, in that uneasy situation, the weighty javelin. The barbarians, on the contrary, were inured to encounter in the bogs, their persons tall, their spears long, such as could wound at a distance." 46 In this morass the Roman army, after an ineffectual struggle, was irrecoverably lost; nor could the body of the emperor ever be found. 47 Such was the fate of Decius, in the fiftieth year of his age; an accomplished prince, active in war and affable in peace; 48 who, together with his son, has deserved to be compared, both in life and death, with the brightest examples of ancient virtue. 49
Footnote 44: Tillemont, Histoire des Empereurs, tom. iii. p. 598. As Zosimus and some of his followers mistake the Danube for the Tanais, they place the field of battle in the plains of Scythia.
Footnote 45: Aurelius Victor allows two distinct actions for the deaths of the two Decii; but I have preferred the account of Jornandes.
Footnote 46: I have ventured to copy from Tacitus (Annal. i. 64) the picture of a similar engagement between a Roman army and a German tribe.
Footnote 47: Jornandes, c. 18. Zosimus, l. i. p. 22, c. 23. Zonaras, l. xii. p. 627. Aurelius Victor.
Footnote 48: The Decii were killed before the end of the year two hundred and fifty-one, since the new princes took possession of the consulship on the ensuing calends of January.
Footnote 49: Hist. August. p. 223, gives them a very honorable place among the small number of good emperors who reigned between Augustus and Diocletian.
This fatal blow humbled, for a very little time, and spread insolence among the legions. They appeared to have patiently expected, and submissively obeyed, the decree of the senate which regulated the succession to the throne. From a just regard for the memory of Decius, the Imperial title was conferred on Hostilianus, his only surviving son; but an equal rank, with more effectual power, was granted to Gallus, whose experience and ability seemed equal to the great trust of guardian to the young prince and the distressed empire. 50 The first care of the new emperor was to deliver the Illyrian provinces from the intolerable weight of the victorious Goths. He consented to leave in their hands the rich fruits of their invasion, an immense booty, and what was still more disgraceful, a great number of prisoners of the highest merit and quality. He plentifully supplied their camp with every convenience that could assuage their angry spirits or facilitate their so much wished-for departure; and he even promised to pay them annually a large sum of gold, on condition they should never afterwards infest the Roman territories by their incursions. 51
Footnote 50: Haec ubi Patres comperere . . . . decernunt. Victor in Caesaribus.
Footnote 51: Zonaras, l. xii. p. 628.
In the age of the Scipios, the most opulent kings of the earth, who courted the protection of the victorious commonwealth, were gratified with such trifling presents as could only derive a value from the hand that bestowed them; an ivory chair, a coarse garment of purple, an inconsiderable piece of plate, or a quantity of copper coin. 52 After the wealth of nations had centered in Rome, the emperors displayed their greatness, and even their policy, by the regular exercise of a steady and moderate liberality towards the allies of the state. They relieved the poverty of the barbarians, honored their merit, and recompensed their fidelity. These voluntary marks of bounty were understood to flow, not from the fears, but merely from the generosity or the gratitude of the Romans; and whilst presents and subsidies were liberally distributed among friends and suppliants, they were sternly refused to such as claimed them as a debt. 53 But this stipulation, of an annual payment to a victorious enemy, appeared without disguise in the light of an ignominious tribute; the minds of the Romans were not yet accustomed to accept such unequal laws from a tribe of barbarians; and the prince, who by a necessary concession had probably saved his country, became the object of the general contempt and aversion. The death of Hostiliamus, though it happened in the midst of a raging pestilence, was interpreted as the personal crime of Gallus; 54 and even the defeat of the later emperor was ascribed by the voice of suspicion to the perfidious counsels of his hated successor. 55 The tranquillity which the empire enjoyed during the first year of his administration, 56 served rather to inflame than to appease the public discontent; and as soon as the apprehensions of war were removed, the infamy of the peace was more deeply and more sensibly felt.
Footnote 52: A Sella, a Toga, and a golden Patera of five pounds weight, were accepted with joy and gratitude by the wealthy king of Egypt. (Livy, xxvii. 4.) Quina millia Aeris, a weight of copper, in value about eighteen pounds sterling, was the usual present made to foreign are ambassadors. (Livy, xxxi. 9.)
Footnote 53: See the firmness of a Roman general so late as the time of Alexander Severus, in the Excerpta Legationum, p. 25, edit. Louvre.
Footnote 54: For the plague, see Jornandes, c. 19, and Victor in Caesaribus.
Footnote 55: These improbable accusations are alleged by Zosimus, l. i. p. 28, 24.
Footnote 56: Jornandes, c. 19. The Gothic writer at least observed the peace which his victorious countrymen had sworn to Gallus.
But the Romans were irritated to a still higher degree, when they discovered that they had not even secured their repose, though at the expense of their honor. The dangerous secret of the wealth and weakness of the empire had been revealed to the world. New swarms of barbarians, encouraged by the success, and not conceiving themselves bound by the obligation of their brethren, spread devastation though the Illyrian provinces, and terror as far as the gates of Rome. The defense of the monarchy, which seemed abandoned by the pusillanimous emperor, was assumed by Aemilianus, governor of Pannonia and Maesia; who rallied the scattered forces, and revived the fainting spirits of the troops.

The barbarians were unexpectedly attacked, routed, chased, and pursued beyond the Danube. The victorious leader distributed as a donative the money collected for the tribute, and the acclamations of the soldiers proclaimed him emperor on the field of battle. 57 Gallus, who, careless of the general welfare, indulged himself in the pleasures of Italy, was almost in the same instant informed of the success, of the revolt, and of the rapid approach of his aspiring lieutenant. He advanced to meet him as far as the plains of Spoleto. When the armies came in right of each other, the soldiers of Gallus compared the ignominious conduct of their sovereign with the glory of his rival. They admired the valor of Aemilianus; they were attracted by his liberality, for he offered a considerable increase of pay to all deserters. 58 The murder of Gallus, and of his son Volusianus, put an end to the civil war; and the senate gave a legal sanction to the rights of conquest. The letters of Aemilianus to that assembly displayed a mixture of moderation and vanity. He assured them, that he should resign to their wisdom the civil administration; and, contenting himself with the quality of their general, would in a short time assert the glory of Rome, and deliver the empire from all the barbarians both of the North and of the East. 59 His pride was flattered by the applause of the senate; and medals are still extant, representing him with the name and attributes of Hercules the Victor, and Mars the Avenger. 60
Footnote 57: Zosimus, l. i. p. 25, 26.
Footnote 58: Victor in Caesaribus.
Footnote 59: Zonaras, l. xii. p. 628.
Footnote 60: Banduri Numismata, p. 94.
If the new monarch possessed the abilities, he wanted the time, necessary to fulfil these splendid promises. Less than four months intervened between his victory and his fall. 61 He had vanquished Gallus: he sunk under the weight of a competitor more formidable than Gallus. That unfortunate prince had sent Valerian, already distinguished by the honorable title of censor, to bring the legions of Gaul and Germany 62 to his aid. Valerian executed that commission with zeal and fidelity; and as he arrived too late to save his sovereign, he resolved to revenge him. The troops of Aemilianus, who still lay encamped in the plains of Spoleto, were awed by the sanctity of his character, but much more by the superior strength of his army; and as they were now become as incapable of personal attachment as they had always been of constitutional principle, they readily imbrued their hands in the blood of a prince who so lately had been the object of their partial choice. The guilt was theirs, * but the advantage of it was Valerian's; who obtained the possession of the throne by the means indeed of a civil war, but with a degree of innocence singular in that age of revolution; since he owed neither gratitude nor allegiance to his predecessor, whom he dethroned.
Footnote 61: Eutropius, l. ix. c. 6, says tertio mense. Eusebio this emperor.
Footnote 62: Zosimus, l. i. p. 28. Eutropius and Victor station Valerian's army in Rhaetia.
Footnote *: Aurelius Victor says that Aemilianus died of a natural disorder. Tropius, in speaking of his death, does not say that he was assassinated - G.
Valerian was about sixty years of age 63 when he was invested with the purple, not by the caprice of the populace, or the clamors of the army, but by the unanimous voice of the Roman world. In his gradual ascent through the honors of the state, he had deserved the favor of virtuous princes, and had declared himself the enemy of tyrants. 64 His noble birth, his mild but unblemished manners, his learning, prudence, and experience, were revered by the senate and people; and if mankind (according to the observation of an ancient writer) had been left at liberty to choose a master, their choice would most assuredly have fallen on Valerian. 65 Perhaps the merit of this emperor was inadequate to his reputation; perhaps his abilities, or at least his spirit, were affected by the languor and coldness of old age. The consciousness of his decline engaged him to share the throne with a younger and more active associate; 66 the emergency of the times demanded a general no less than a prince; and the experience of the Roman censor might have directed him where to bestow the Imperial purple, as the reward of military merit. But instead of making a judicious choice, which would have confirmed his reign and endeared his memory, Valerian, consulting only the dictates of affection or vanity, immediately invested with the supreme honors his son Gallienus, a youth whose effeminate vices had been hitherto concealed by the obscurity of a private station. The joint government of the father and the son subsisted about seven, and the sole administration of Gallien continued about eight, years. But the whole period was one uninterrupted series of confusion and calamity. As the Roman empire was at the same time, and on every side, attacked by the blind fury of foreign invaders, and the wild ambition of domestic usurpers, we shall consult order and perspicuity, by pursuing, not so much the doubtful arrangement of dates, as the more natural distribution of subjects. The most dangerous enemies of Rome, during the reigns of Valerian and Gallienus, were, 1. The Franks; 2. The Alemanni; 3. The Goths; and, 4. The Persians. Under these general appellations, we may comprehend the adventures of less considerable tribes, whose obscure and uncouth names would only serve to oppress the memory and perplex the attention of the reader.
Footnote 63: He was about seventy at the time of his accession, or, as it is more probable, of his death. Hist. August. p. 173. Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iii. p. 893, note 1.
Footnote 64: Inimicus tyrannorum. Hist. August. p. 173. In the glorious struggle of the senate against Maximin, Valerian acted a very spirited part. Hist. August. p. 156.
Footnote 65: According to the distinction of Victor, he seems to have received the title of Imperator from the army, and that of Augustus from the senate.
Footnote 66: From Victor and from the medals, Tillemont (tom. iii. p. 710) very justly infers, that Gallienus was associated to the empire about the month of August of the year 253.
I. As the posterity of the Franks compose one of the greatest and most enlightened nations of Europe, the powers of learning and ingenuity have been exhausted in the discovery of their unlettered ancestors. To the tales of credulity have succeeded the systems of fancy. Every passage has been sifted, every spot has been surveyed, that might possibly reveal some faint traces of their origin. It has been supposed that Pannonia, 67 that Gaul, that the northern parts of Germany, 68 gave birth to that celebrated colony of warriors. At length the most rational critics, rejecting the fictitious emigrations of ideal conquerors, have acquiesced in a sentiment whose simplicity persuades us of its truth. 69 They suppose, that about the year two hundred and forty, 70 a new confederacy was formed under the name of Franks, by the old inhabitants of the Lower Rhine and the Weser. * The present circle of Westphalia, the Landgraviate of Hesse, and the duchies of Brunswick and Luneburg, were the ancient of the Chauci who, in their inaccessible morasses, defied the Roman arms; 71 of the Cherusci, proud of the fame of Arminius; of the Catti, formidable by their firm and intrepid infantry; and of several other tribes of inferior power and renown. 72 The love of liberty was the ruling passion of these Germans; the enjoyment of it their best treasure; the word that expressed that enjoyment, the most pleasing to their ear. They deserved, they assumed, they maintained the honorable appellation of Franks, or Freemen; which concealed, though it did not extinguish, the peculiar names of the several states of the confederacy. 73 Tacit consent, and mutual advantage, dictated the first laws of the union; it was gradually cemented by habit and experience. The league of the Franks may admit of some comparison with the Helvetic body; in which every canton, retaining its independent sovereignty, consults with its brethren in the common cause, without acknowledging the authority of any supreme head, or representative assembly. 74 But the principle of the two confederacies was extremely different. A peace of two hundred years has rewarded the wise and honest policy of the Swiss. An inconstant spirit, the thirst of rapine, and a disregard to the most solemn treaties, disgraced the character of the Franks.
Footnote 67: Various systems have been formed to explain a difficult passage in Gregory of Tours], l. ii. c. 9.
Footnote 68: The Geographer of Ravenna, i. 11, by mentioning Mauringania, on the confines of Denmark, as the ancient seat of the Franks, gave birth to an ingenious system of Leibritz.
Footnote 69: See Cluver. Germania Antiqua, l. iii. c. 20. M. Freret, in the Memoires de l'Academie des Inscriptions, tom. xviii.
Footnote 70: Most probably under the reign of Gordian, from an accidental circumstance fully canvassed by Tillemont, tom. iii. p. 710, 1181.
Footnote *: The confederation of the Franks appears to have been formed, 1. Of the Chauci. 2. Of the Sicambri, the inhabitants of the duchy of Berg. 3. Of the Attuarii, to the north of the Sicambri, in the principality of Waldeck, between the Dimel and the Eder. 4. Of the Bructeri, on the banks of the Lippe, and in the Hartz. 5. Of the Chamavii, the Gambrivii of Tacitua, who were established, at the time of the Frankish confederation, in the country of the Bructeri. 6. Of the Catti, in Hessia. - G. The Salii and Cherasci are added. Greenwood's Hist. of Germans, i 193. - M.
Footnote 71: Pliny. Hist. Natur. xvi. l. The Panegyrists frequently allude to the morasses of the Franks.
Footnote 72: Tacit. Germania, c. 30, 37.
Footnote 73: In a subsequent period, most of those old names are occasionally mentioned. See some vestiges of them in Cluver. Germ. Antiq. l. iii.
Footnote 74: Simler de Republica Helvet. cum notis Fuselin.

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To cite original text:

Gibbon, Edward, 1737-1794. The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. 1st ed. (London : Printed for W. Strahan ; and T. Cadell, 1776-1788.), pp. 253-260.

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