صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

has been justly accused by the voice of the people and of

J posterity: but public discontent is credulous ; private

malice is bold; and a lover of truth will peruse with a suspicious eve the instructive anecdotes of Procopius. The secret historian represents only the vices of Justinian, and those vices are darkened by his malevolent pencil. Ambiguous actions are imputed to the worst motives: error is confounded with guilt, accident with design, and laws with abuses: the partial injustice of a moment is dexterously applied as the general maxim of a reign of thirty-two years: the emperor alone is made responsible for the faults of his officers, the disorders of the times, and the corruption of his subjects; and even the calamities of nature, plagues, earthquakes, and inundations, are imputed to the prince of the daemons, who had mischievously assumed the form of Justinian.” After this precaution, I shall briefly relate the anecdotes of avarice and rapine, under the following heads: I. Justinian was so profuse that he could not be liberal.

Pernicious The civil and military officers, when they were ad


mitted into the service of the palace, obtained an humble rank and a moderate stipend'; they ascended by seniority to a station of affluence and repose; the annual pensions, of which the most honourable class was abolished by Justinian, amounted to four hundred thousand pounds, and this domestic deconomy was deplored by the venal or indigent courtiers as the last outrage on the majesty of . ... the compire. The posts, the salaries of physicians, and the nocturnal illuminations, were objects of more general concern; and the cities might justly complain, that he usurped the municipal revenues which had been appropriated to these useful institutions. Even soldiers were injured; and such was the decay of military spirit, that they were injured with impunity. The emperor refused, at the return of each fifth year, the customary donative of five pieces of gold, reduced his veterans to beg their bread, and suffered unpaid armies to melt away in the

84 The Anecdotes (c. 11.14. 18. 20.30) supply many facts and more complaints.

wars of Italy and Persia. II. The humanity of his predecessors had always remitted, in some auspicious circumstance of their reign, the arrears of the public tribute; and they dexterously assumed the merit of resigning those claims which it was impracticable to enforce. “Jus“tinian, in the space of thirty-two years, has never “granted a similar indulgence; and many of his subjects “have renounced the possession of those lands whose “value is insufficient to satisfy the demands of the “treasury. To the cities which had suffered by hostile “inroads, Anastasius promised a general exemption of “seven years : the provinces of Justinian have been “ravaged by the Persians and Arabs, the Huns and Scla“vonians; but his vain and ridiculous dispensation of a “single year has been confined to those places which “were actually taken by the enemy.” Such is the language of the secret historian, who expressly denies that any indulgence was granted to Palestine after the revolt of the Samaritans; a false and odious charge, confuted by the authentic record, which attests a relief of thirteen centenaries of gold (fifty-two thousand pounds) obtained for that desolate province by the intercession of St. Sabas.” III. Procopius has not condescended to explain the system of taxation, which fell like a hailstorm upon the land, like a devouring pestilence on its inhabitants: but we should become the accomplices of his malignity, if we imputed to Justinian alone the

ancient though rigorous principle, that a whole district.

should be condemned to sustain the partial loss of the persons or property of individuals. The Anona, or supply of corn for the use of the army and capital, was a grievous and arbitrary exaction, which exceeded perhaps in a tenfold proportion, the ability of the farmer; and his distress was aggravated by the partial injustice of weights and measures, and the expense and labour of distant carriage. In a time of scarcity, an extraordinary requi

[merged small][ocr errors]

85 One to Scythopolis, capital of the second Palestine, and twelve for the rest of the province. Aleman. (p. 59) honestly produces this fact from a M.S. life of St. Sabas, by his disciple Cyril, in the Vatican library, and si ce publihed by Cotelerius.


coar. sition was made to the adjacent provinces of Thrace, J.J. Bithynia, and Phrygia; but the proprietors, after a wearisome journey and a perilous navigation, received so inadequate a compensation, that they would have chosen the alternative of delivering both the corn and price at the doors of their granaries. These precautions might indicate a tender solicitude for the welfare of the capital; yet Constantinople did not escape the rapacious despotism of Justinian. Till his reign, the streights of the Bosphorus and Hellespont were open to the freedom of trade, and nothing was prohibited except the exportation of arms for the service of the Barbarians. At each of these gates of the city, a praetor was stationed, the minister of Imperial avarice; heavy customs were imposed on the vessels and their merchandize; the oppression was retaliated on the helpless consumer: the poor were afflicted by the artificial scarcity, and exorbitant price of the market; and a people, accustomed to depend on the liberality of their prince, might sometimes complain of the deficiency of water and bread.” The arial tribute, without a name, a law, or a definite object, was an annual gift of one hundred and twenty thousand pounds, which the emperor accepted from his Praetorian praefect; and the means of payment were abandoned to Monopo- the discretion of that powerful magistrate. IV. Even lies. such a tax was less intolerable than the privilege of monopolies, which checked the fair competition of industry, and for the sake of a small and dishonest gain, imposed an arbitrary burthen on the wants and luxury of the subject. “As soon (I transcribe the anecdotes) as the “exclusive sale of silk was usurped by the Imperial “treasurer, a whole people, the manufacturers of Tyre “ and Berytus, was reduced to extreme misery, and “either perished with hunger, or fled to the hostile “dominions of Persia.” A province might suffer by the decay of its manufactures, but in this example of silk, Procopius has partially overlooked the inestimable and lasting benefit which the empire received from the curiosity of Justinian. His addition of one-seventh to the ordinary price of copper-money may be interpreted

86 John Malala (tom. ii. p. 252) mentions the want of bread, ana Zonaras (1. Xiv. p. 63.) the leaden pipes, which Justinian, or his sco wants st le from the aqueducts.

with the same candour; and the alteration, which might

be wise, appears to have been innocent; since he neither allayed the purity, nor enhanced the value, of the gold coin,” the legal measure of public and private payments. V. The ample jurisdiction required by the farmers of the revenue to accomplish their engagements, might be placed in an odious light, as if they had purchased from the emperor the lives and fortunes of their fellow-citizens. And a more direct sale of honours and offices was transacted in the palace, with the permission, or at least with the connivance, of Justinian and Theodora. The claims of merit, even those of favour, were disregarded, and it was almost reasonable to expect, that the bold adventurer who had undertaken the trade of a magistrate should find a rich compensation for insamy, labour, danger, the debts which he had contracted, and the heavy interest which he paid. A sense of the disgrace and mischief of this venal practice, at length awakened the slumbering virtue of Justinian ; and he attempted, by the sanction of oaths” and penalties, to guard the integrity of his government: but at the end of a year of perjury, his rigorous edict was suspended, and corruption licentiously abused the triumph over the impotence of the laws. VI. The testament of Eulalius, count of the domestics, declared the emperor his sole heir, on condition, however, that he should discharge his debts and

legacies, allow to his three daughters a decent main

tenance, and bestow each of them in marriage, with a

87 For an aureus, one sixth of an ource of gold, instead of 210, he gave no more than 180 folies, or ounces, of copper. A disproportion of the mint, below the market price, must have soon produced a scarcity of small money. In England, twelve pence in copper would sell for no more than seven peace (Smith's Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations, vol. i. p. 49). For Justinian's gold coin, see Evagrius (i.iv. c. 30). 88 The oath is conceived in the nost formidable words (Novell. viii. tit. 3). The defaulters imprecate on themselves, quicquid habent telorum rinainentara coeli : the part of Judas, the leprosy of Giezi, the tremor of Cain, &c. besides all tenoporal pains.





portion of ten pounds of gold. But the splendid fortune of Eulalius had been consumed by fire; and the inventory of his goods did not exceed the trifling sum of five hundred and sixty-four pieces of gold. A similar instance, in Grecian history, admonished the emperor of

the honourable part prescribed for his imitation. He

checked the selfish murmurs of the treasury, applauded the confidence of his friend, discharged the legacies and debts, educated the three virgins under the eye of the empress Theodora, and doubled the marriage portion which had satisfied the tenderness of their father.” The humanity of a prince (for princes cannot be generous) is entitled to some praise ; yet even in this act of virtue we may discover the inveterate custom of supplanting the legal or natural heirs, which Procopius imputes to the reign of Justinian. His charge is supported by eminent names and scandalous examples; neither widows nor orphans were spared: and the art of soliciting or extorting or supposing testaments, was beneficially practised by the agents of the palace. This base and mischievous tyranny invades the security of private life; and the monarch who has indulged an appetite for gain will soon be tempted to anticipate the moment of succession, to interpret wealth as an evidence of guilt, and to proceed, from the claim of inheritance, to the power of confiscation. VIII. Among the forms of rapine,a philosopher may be permitted to name the conversion of Pagan or heretical riches to the use of the faithful; but in the time of Justinian, this holy plunder was condemned by the sectaries alone, who became the victims of his orthodox avarice.”

Dishonour might be ultimately reflected on the character of Justinian; but much of the guilt and still more of the profit, was intercepted by the ministers, who were seldom promoted for their virtues, and not always selected for their talents.” The merits of Tribonian the

The mi

nisters of



89 A similar or more generous act of friendship is related by Lucian of Eudamidas of Corinth (in Toxare, c. 22, 23. tom, ii. p. 530), and the story has produced an ingenious, though feeble, comedy of Fontencile.

90 John Majala. tom ii. p. 101, 102, 103.

91 One of these, Anatolius, perished in an earthquake...doubtless a

« السابقةمتابعة »