Imágenes de páginas

“Diocletian Jove and Maximian Hercules, August Caesars, having encreased the Roman Empire in the east and west, and extirpated the Christians who were overturning the Republic.” “To Diocletian Caesar and Augustus Galerius in the east, having every where extirpated the Christian superstition and restored the worship of the Gods.” . The Christian writers do not fail to record many marks of divine anger displayed on this occasion. The palace of the Emperor was struck with lightning and immediately consumed, which so affected him, that he continually saw flashes of fire before his eyes, and he was seized with a dangerous fever, from which he with difficulty recovered. He soon after abandoned the empire to his colleague, and retired to a private station, in which he died of grief and abstinence, having obstinately refused all aliment; while his more atrocious colleague, Galerius, having exercised against all his subjects that avarice and cruelty which he began by practising on the Christians, was wasted away with a consuming and loathsome disease, and died with great horror. Without having recourse to supernatural interposition, we may easily suppose that such would be the natural effects of reflection and remorse on men whose conscience was burthened with the cruelties they had perpetrated. In the annexed coin, the obverse represents the head of the Emperor Diocletian, crowned with laurel, and his shoulders covered with a coat of mail, with the legend,

[ocr errors]

Emperor Caius Valerius Diocletian, perpetual, happy, august.” On the reverse is Jupiter, holding in his raised hand a thunderbolt, and trampling a kneeling figure, with serpent-like feet, the legend Iovi Fvlceratori —“To Jupiter the thunderer.” The prostrate figure designates Christianity, and the figure of Jupiter brandishing his thunderbolt, is taken probably from Ovid's description; f—he is dashing down the Christians with the same fire as he hurled down the Titans, who had equally, but vainly, tried te dispossess him of heaven. In the exergue, PR, pecunia Romae, “the money of Rome.”

But while, to all human calculation, Christianity was now abolished in the world, she hand of Providence was visibly stretched out for its preservation. Mankind immediately after saw with astonishment, that it became more vigorous and flourishing than ever; and the head of the mighty Roman empire adopted its tenets from a conviction of its truth, at the time that his predecessors were boasting of its total destruction on account of its falsehood.

Constantine, son of Constantius Chlorus, who governed Britain, and Helena, a woman of obscure birth, who had embraced Christianity, was born in the year 274, and was early instructed by his mother in her own doctrines. . For some time after he came to the imperial throne he still adhered to the rites of heathenism, and all his early coins bear the impress and inscription of heathen worship, being frequently dedicated Jovi Conservatori, “to Jupiter the Preserver,” and other deities of heathen mythology. He was, however, completely converted in the year of our Lord 312, and according to eccle

* These inscriptions were found on beautiful columns at Clunia, in Hispania Taracomensis. They are preserved in Gruterus, p. cclzxx. m. 3, 4. It is remarkable that Gibbon, who quotes Gruterus for other inscriptions, takes no notice of these.

t “Quo centimanum dejecerat igne Typhoea.” Ov. Met. III. 304. This highly interesting coin is not among the Diocletians in my possession; it is described by Bandurus, and there is one in the collection of the king of France, from which I had the annexed copy taken. A coin of similar type and construction with that of Diocletian was struck *. o: same occasion by Maximian, and is given by Hier. Tanini, in his Supplement te siastical writers, his conversion was effected, like that of St. Paul, by a sensible miracle, while he was performing a journey on a public road. He was opposed after his elevation to the imperial purple by Maxentius, a man of furious passions, gross and sensual habits, and a cruel persecutor of the Christians. Constantine was in Gaul, and having heard of the opposition of his rival, who was in possession of Rome, he immediately crossed the Alps and proceeded against him. When near Verona, on his march, and meditating on the difficulties of his situation, he was roused from deep thought by a bright light which suddenly illumined the sky, and looking up, he saw the sun, which was in its meridian, surmounted by a cross of fire, and beneath it this inscription—rers, viza, “in this conquer.” He immediately adopted the cross as his ensign, and formed on the spot the celebrated Labarum, or Christian standard, which was ever after substituted for the Roman eagle. This, as Eusebius describes it, was a spear crossed by an arrow, on



which was suspended a velum, having inscribed on it the monogram X, formed by the Greek letters Chi and Rho, the initials of the name of Christ. Under this he marched forward, and rapidly triumphed over all his enemies; and, struck with the preternatural warning he had received, and its consequences, he now publicly embraced the doctrines of that religion under whose banner he had conquered. Shortly after he removed the seat of empire from Rome to Byzantium, which was thenceforward called after him Constantinople. Here he struck upon his future coins an impress and legend alluding to the extraordinary events of his conversion, and no more traces are to be found on them of Pagan emblems. He died in the year 337, after reigning 30 years. The Coin annexed represents on the obverse the naked bust of the emperor, crowned with a laurel wreath, and surrounded with the legend Flav Ivs WAleRivs ConstanTiNvs, PERPetv vs, Felix, Avgvstvs—“Flavius Valerius Constantine, perpetual, happy, august.” On the reverse is the whole length figure of the emperor in armour, crowned with laurel, standing on the prow of a galley: in his right hand he holds a globe, surmounted by a rayed phoenix, the adopted emblem of his family, to intimate the reno

vation of his empire; in his left is the Labarum, inscribed with the monogram X; behind is the angel of victory, directing his course; round is the appropriate legend, Felix Reparatio temporv M –“ the happy reformation of the times.” In the exergue are the letters P T “pecunia Treverorum,” “the money of Triers.”

The sons of Constantine adopted their father's religious conviction, and imitated his coinage, with some additional emblems of Christianity. He was immediately succeeded by his favourite son Flavius Julius Constantius, who was born in Pannonia in 317. Though hostile to Paganism, he was suspected to be tainted with the Arian heresy, which had just before been condemned at the Council of Nicaea. He adopted, however, his father's emblems and inscriptions, and devised others of a very orthodox character. He olnitted the Labarum, and devoted the whole field to the monogram of Christ, adding from the Revelations, Alpha and Omega, implying the eternity of his character. He died in the year 361, having reigned 24 years.

In the annexed coin, the obverse displays the bust of the emperor, his head bound with a 'diadem of jewels, and his shoulders covered with the imperial robe. The legend, Dominvs Constantivs perpetv vs, Felix, Avgvstvs.—“Lord Constantius, perpe

[ocr errors]

tual, happy, august.” On the reverse is a large monogram, having on one side A and on the other a. The legend is very appropriate, SAlv's Avgvsti –“ the Salvatiou of Augustus.” In the exergue T R o Treveris obsiguata, “coined at Triers.”

The sons of Constantine were succeeded by his nephew Flavius Claudius Julianus, the son of Julius Constantius, half-brother to Constantine. He was born at Constantinople in 331, but having lost his father early, he was delivered by his uncle to Eusebius, of Nicomedia, to be educated in the doctrines of Christianity, and with him he passed his youth in a castle of Cappadocia. Liberated from thence at an adult age, he afterwards associated with the philosophers of Asia, and soon abandoned the principles in which he had been educated." When called to the empire by the death of Constantius, he openly deserted the cause of Christianity, and perpetuated the memory of his apostacy by abolishing the Christian emblems on the coins of the empire, and replacing not only the heathen emblems of former emperors, but adding sundry others, borrowed from Egyptian superstitions. Some of these coins represent him as an Egyptian deity, and his wife Helena as Isis, holding a sistrum, with the legend Isis FARIA ; others display bulls, and dogs, aud reptiles, and other abominations of Egyptian worship, “changing the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” While sacrificing to one of his idols, Mares, a venerable Bishop of Constantinople, blind with age, was led by the hand to the heathen altar, and there rebuked the emperor openly for his abandonment of Christ. “Will your Galilaean God,” said Julian, mockingly, “restore you your sight?”—“He has taken it from me in mercy,” said Mares, “ that I might not see your apostacy.” He was at length led into an expedition against the Persians, and being betrayed by a guide whom he trusted, on the banks of the river Euphrates, he was attacked and mortally wounded with an arrow. Being removed to his tent from the field of battle, covered with blood, and perceiving death approaching, the horrors of his apostacy rushed upon his mind; and throwing about his blood in the agony of death, he exclaimed, t as some authors assert “Wicisti Galilace!”—“thou hast conquered, O Galilaean I” and soon after expired, in the year 363, having reigned only one year and eight months.

In the first annexed Coin, the obverse represents the bust of the emperor in his robes, his head bound by a diadem of pearls, with this inscription--Do MINvs Flavius CLAvDivs Jvi.1ANvs, perpetvvs, Felix, Avgvstvs. On the reverse is the Egyptian deity Apis, whom they worshipped under the form of a bull, surmounted with stars representting his divinity, with the legend SecwRitas Reipv blicA.—“the Security of the Republic.” In the exergue, consp. Constantinopoleo's pecunia, “the money of Constantinople.”$

* He had even taken orders in the Christian church, and read the Scriptures publicly to the people: conceiving that piety was his greatest ornament. Greg. Naz. p. 58. + Ep. to the Romans, i. 23. The Romans in the time of Augustus, do not seem to have as yet adopted any Egyptian gods. Virgil represents them as set in opposition to those of Rome, and calls them monsters —“omuigentimq : deum monstra,” AEn. lib. iii. 698. “monstrous deities of all kinds.” In the days of St. Paul and Juvenal, however, their worship was introduced; the gods to whom adoration was paid were cats, dogs, apes, oxen, beetles, onions, leeks, and other vegetables, which occasioned the satirist to exclaim, Oh sanctas gentes, quibus hacc nascuntur in hortis Numina. Sat. xv. 1. 10. “Oh sacred people, whose gods grow in their gardens.” : This is the account of Christian writers; that of the Pagan is very different. § The Israelites first adopted this idol in their escape from Egypt, earrying with In the second, the obverse represents the Egyptian deity Serapis, with rays issuing from his head; with the legend Deo SARAPID 1 – “to the God Sarapis.” On the reverse is Anubis, whom the Egyptians worshipped under the form of a man with a dog's head, holding in his right hand a sistrum, and in his left a caduceus, the legend Wota Pv blicA—“ the prayers of the public.”"


The family of Constantine terminated with Julian; and as the first had endeavoured to establish Christianity, so the last had endeavoured to extinguish it. His successor, however, immediately repaired the injuries he had inflicted. Jovianus was born in Pannonia, iu 331. He was with Julian's army at the time of his deseat, and after his death, with great prudence and management extricated it from its perilous situation, for which occasion he was declared emperor. As he had been educated in the principles of

them many of the abominations of the people with whom they had lived so long. Exod. ch. xxxii. v. 4. They were frequently reproached for it afterwards by the prophets, • changing their glory into the similitude of a calf, that eateth hay,” Psalm cvi. 20. The inhabitants of Antioch, at a subsequent period, reproached Julian for the same offence. They had received (as Theodoret says, lib. iii, c. 22.) their Christianity from the greatest apostles, Peter and Paul, and were proud of the distinction, that in their city the followers of Jesus were first called Christians. They were indignant that Julian not only adopted the worship of this Egyptian animal, but, that he commemorated his folly, putting it on his coin-to woulouart &uto: ixity rāv;w, 55 row x&paw Ayatirodai“He placed the bull upon his coin, and he overturned the universe.” * The Egyptian deity Anubis is supposed to have been the same as the Mercury, and hence he is represented with the caduceus, as above. Ille superium commeator et inserüm, sublimis attollens canis cervices arduas Anubis, lieva caduceum gerens. Apul. Met. 1. xi. “That dog Anubis, the sublime purveyor of the gods above and below, raising his lofty neck, and bearing in his left hand a caduceus.” Lucian, in derision, calls him wwows?axo; “dog's head;” and Virgil, Latrator Anubis, “Anubis barking like a dog.” Gibbon praises the “philosophic character” of Julian: to have rejected Christianity might have entitled him to the name of philosopher, in the modern acceptation of the word; but surely that man could not deserve it, who adopted in exchange the most base and revolting superstitions that ever degraded the human mind. In the words of the historian—'0 ya; 3, £aziasus roxviiizoaoy awoks: 942, ro; rāt; 84.21: row towawy. Soc. Eccles. Hist. lib. iii. c. 27.-‘For the king being exceedingly afraid of daemons, was constantly sacrificing on the altars of their idols.”


Christianity, he firmly adhered to its doctrines, and on his march to return to Constantinople, displayed the Labarum—made a public profession of his faith, and enforced it to his subjects; allowing, however, a certain toleration to those who followed heathen rites, excepting only such as practised magic. He then applied himself to repair the injuries Julian had inflicted on religion, by rebuilding Christian churches, and removing from them the heathen idols of his predecessor. On the island of Corfu is still standiug one of the temples he erected, with a very perfect inscription on a tablet in the frieze over the gate, which I copied, intimating what he had done :

[ocr errors]

“I, Jovian, having powerful faith as the auxiliary of my attempts, have built this sacred temple to thee, blessed Ruler on high 1–overturning the heathen altars and shrine; of the Greeks, I present this offering to thee, O King! with an unworthy hand.’

The first coins he struck alluded to the same event, the re-establishment of Christianity.

Jovian died at a small town near Nicaea, in the year 364, having reigned but eight months. He was found dead in his bed, supposed to have been suffocated by the vapour of charcoal.

In the annexed coin, the obverse represents the bust of the emperor in his robes, with his head bound with a diadem of pearls; the legend, Dominvs Jovi ANVS PERPETVys, Felix, Avavstvs. The reverse represents the emperor in armour on horseback; before him is a soldier bearing the Labarum, surmounted by a cross, which the emperor is anxiously pointing to, and following as his guide; behind him is an angel, with an olive branch in one hand, and in the other a crown, which she is stretching to place on the bare head of the emperor. The legend, Adventvs Avgvsti, “the coming of Augustus.” In the exergue, Roma, where it was coined.

From the reign of Jovian, Christianity was established as the accredited religion of the vast Roman empire, without any attempt made by a succeeding emperor to extinguish it, notwithstanding efforts on the part of the people to revive heathenism. Theodosius was born in Spain, in the year 346. He was appointed by Gratian to avenge the death of Valens, who had been slain by the Goths, and conducted himself with such prudence that he was called to the imperial throne. Here he was a strenuous supporter of Christianity. He issued many decrees against the Arian heresy, still very prevalent, and established the orthodox faith in the Trinity, as decreed at the Council of Nicaea. Some attempts were made in his reign to revive the heathen superstitions at Rome and in the provinces, but he effectually prevented them. The senate at Rome, who still had a tendency to their ancient rites, requested that they might be permitted to re-erect the altar to Victory, which had been removed; this he strictly prohibited, and about the same time he totally abolished in Egypt the worship of Serapis and other gods, issuing the memorable decree, that no one should presume in the Roman dominions “to worship an idol by sacrifice.” It was on this occasion that he surmounted the globe with a cross as is seen on his coins. The globe had been a favourite emblem of the Roman emperors, some of whom surmounted it with the Roman eagle; some with the figure of Victory ; and the family of Constantine with a ploenix; but Theodosius was the first who placed on it the cross, intimating the triumph of Christianity over the whole earth. He seems, therefore, to have been the originator of the globe and cross, which other Christian

« AnteriorContinuar »