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others say, a beautiful British peasant girl), of the name of Helena, took possession of the Roman throne. Residing principally at York, he gave his commands to Gaul, and Spain, and Italy, and Greece, and Syria. It was in this centre of earthly power that the son of Constantius was hailed Emperor of the World on the death of his father, and commenced the career which has made the name of Constantine the most remarkable (if we consider the effects of his actions), in the whole history of our race. For what were the conquests of Alexander, or the deeds of Cæsar, compared to the establishment of the Christian faith? or what the overthrow of Darius, or the abrogation of a degenerate republic, to the desertion of old Rome and the transference of Roman supremacy to the shores of a distant and semi-barbarous sea?

§ 17. It presents a curious picture of the intermixture of nations which by this time had occurred, when we see Constantine, a native of York, and son of a British lady, commanding the Roman world from his palace in Constantinople on the banks of the Bosphorus. But when power was removed to such a distance, the reins of government became relaxed. The emperors were brought into livelier contact with the nations of the East, and Britain ran the risk of sinking again into a dependency too remote to be considered of any value. From this, however, it was delivered by the new incidents which occurred in the regions near at hand. The proprætors appointed to Gaul and Britain assumed a great degree of independence when they found their masters engaged beyond the Euphrates, and struggled for superiority and conquest as if they had been rival kings. Belgians, Vandals, Burgundians, who had been transplanted into our island, and even colonies of Saxons, and other tribes whose names emerge from obscurity at this time, began to play an important part in the occupation or defence of Britain. Sometimes an army of the Romanized inhabitants was taken over to Gaul; sometimes an army of Gauls was brought into Britain. But

A.D. 294–418.]


whether the native levies and foreign garrisons were engaged in resisting invaders on their soil, or in carrying destruction into the neighbouring continent, the Picts and Scots, availing themselves of the occupation or the absence, were perpetually thundering at the gate. Wales was perpetually writhing in what she considered her chains, and peaceful merchants in the cities, and industrious settlers on the farms, must have looked with sad forebodings to the time, now rapidly drawing near, when their Roman protectors would be withdrawn, their own population would be enlisted in the disappearing legions which crossed to defend the empire from its gathering foes, and the wild spirit of retribution and conquest would send the fierce savages of the north over the guardian walls, and the kindred tribes upon the west to riot in the destruction of their long-inhabited houses and well-filled granaries and fields.

§ 18. While this time of suffering and despair is as yet only in expectation, let us see the proofs which survive to us of the nature of the destruction that ensued. The remains left by our Celtic ancestors have already been mentioned in the form of barrows and temples; but a chieftain's grave, or circle of rough stones on some desolate plain, commemorative only of death and a bloodthirsty superstition, can bear no comparison with the citadels and roads, the bridges and towers, which are still lying within our reach. We have spoken of the fair cities and handsome residences which were clustered round the stationary camps; of the elegance of the dwellings of the commanders, and of the stateliness of the public buildings dedicated to religion and trade. For a long succession of ages these statements had to be taken on trust. The chroniclers lived so near the time that we gave them credit for having known the number and extent of those evidences of wealth and civilization. But within the last hundred years our scholars and antiquarians have been busy in verifying those descriptions, and almost as plentiful as Gaelic cairn or Druid


cromlech are now the habitations of general and centurion, of Italian colonist and Romanized Briton. An acknowledgment of Roman skill and judgment is conveyed in the mere fact that the sites originally chosen for their cities have been so well adapted for their purpose that all succeeding populations have fixed the same. It is, therefore, beneath existing towns that the ruins of their predecessors are to be found. "The dust we tread upon was once alive."


A few feet below the level of the crowded pavements of London lies a city of richer ornament and finer architectural taste than the great metropolis which conceals it. Outside the boundary wall, thirty feet high and twelve in thickness, the wooded south shore of the clear and silvery Thames sloping upwards towards Camberwell and Herne Hill, was studded with the mansions of the military and civil chiefs. A beautiful landscape must have presented itself to the citizens who wandered up to the court of the sacred fane on Ludgate Hill, for on all sides the view was unobscured by lofty buildings, and nothing was seen but the porticos and gardens of those rustic retirements and the windings of many little brooks, now degraded into drains and cesspools, which pursued their course through groves and meadows till they were lost in the abounding river. Within the rampart, wherever we make an opening and dig deep enough, between Newgate and the Tower, magnificent tesselated pavements and fragments of marble statues reward our toil. The juxtaposition of modern names and associations with those reappearances of a long vanished state of manners is almost ludicrous -a mosaic picture of Europa on the bull, fresh in colours and perfect in design, beneath the busy multitudes of Bishopsgatestreet, and bracelets of noble ladies beneath the gas-pipes of Cornhill-though it perhaps has a fitter connexion with the site of its discovery when we read of a splendid representation in coloured tiles of Bacchus, the conqueror of the East, in front of the India House, in Leadenhall-street.

A.D. 294-418.]




But London, it may be supposed, was the principal seat and station in the South, and the Romans confined their grandeur and ostentation to the seat of government. Wherever they settled the tale is still the same; still, stately buildings and luxurious homes. At Uriconium, or Wroxeter, on the Severn, the world is every day astonished at the results of exploration under the soil. Streets have been uncovered, ornamented, like those of London, with spacious temples, and guarded by ponderous walls. The ruins of the Roman city have in some places overtopped the sod, and projected their summits into the daylight of fourteen centuries without ever having attracted notice, or being of more use than perhaps to give name to a field. But these, and other evidences of the same kind, prove that the Roman style of military occupation was different from As the missionaries of the Christian faith carry the sacred truths of our religion among the ignorant and benighted, the Romans, the missionaries of social life, carried their domestic ideas and private habits into whatever quarter they visited. More efficacious in reclaiming from barbarism than any eloquence or authority, was the sight of the daily existence of the race which had conquered the world. The forebodings of the civilized natives were founded on the reverence they themselves had entertained for the outward symbols of settlement and peace. The comfortable house, the cultivated garden, the ornamented street, the richly decorated temple,these they had looked on as the external manifestations of the imperial power, and of the security and freedom they enjoyed. When the assailant comes, they thought, he will wreak his first vengeance on the monuments of that happier existence which he does not understand, and what distinction will be left between the howling barbarian who never knew the elevating enjoyments of a safe and happy home, and the dispossessed proprietor whose peaceful cottage, as it was in ancient days, an emblem of advanced intelligence and recognised law, is now a charred and crumbling ruin, the type of a return to

the same savage degradation from which the Romans drew our ancestors so many hundred years before.

The humiliating truth implied in those helpless anticipations must be confessed with respect to all the other populations which had become subject to Rome. She first civilized them with her arts and elevated them with her principles of law, and then enervated them with her protection, and, as her own ancient spirit decayed, corrupted them with her vices. A government can do too much as well as too little. The central power was everywhere; and, except in the petty struggles of the municipal towns, individual action was unknown. The frightful wickedness of the capital was extolled and imitated here. Men who could not fight and would not govern, crowded to the amphitheatre and saw the combats of beasts and gladiators. As we feel no compassion for the overthrow of the wild liberties of our barbaric predecessors by the Claudian invasion, we shall do well to curb our indignation at the destruction of a refinement which incapacitated a people from serious endeavours, and of a system of government which reduced it to the dependent condition of children or slaves.


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