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The short but eventful life of Gratian had ended in the twenty-fifth year of his age, and Magnus Maximus the Spaniard, ‘a man worthy of the purple if he had not broken his plighted oath in order to obtain it’, ruled the three Western countries of Europe from the Cheviots to the Straits of Gibraltar, and Morocco as far as the slopes of the Atlas. After the murder of Gratian there does not seem to have been any extensive proscription of his friends. Merobaudes, who held the high dignity of Consul in the very year of his master’s ruin, was compelled to put himself to death. Count Vallio, a man of great renown as a warrior, saw his house sur­rounded by some of the British soldiers of the usurper. They twisted a cord round his neck and hung him, and then spread abroad the rumour that he had perished by his own hands, and had chosen ‘this womanly form of death,’ a fiction which imposed upon none who knew the stout old soldier as ‘ever a lover of the steel blade,’ and who were persuaded that had his death been self sought the sword, not the halter, would have been its instrument. After these two deaths capital punishment of the adherents of the lost cause seems to have ceased; and now began between the Imperial Courts the game of mutual menace and intrigue, to decide whether Maximus should add Italy and Africa to his dominions, or should lose the Gauls, which he had won with scarce a sword-stroke.

There was of course consternation as well as grief in the palace at Milan when the boy-Emperor, his mother, and their faithful adviser, Bauto the Frank, heard of the death of Gratian, and conjectured that soon the great and warlike army of the West would be marching southward to sweep the dynasty of Valentinian from the earth. The common danger drew the Arian Empress and the orthodox Bishop of Milan together. While Bauto sent soldiers to guard the passes of the Alps, Ambrose generously undertook the labours and discomforts of an embassy to the Court of the usurper to plead for peace, a hard and humiliating commission truly for the polished and eloquent ex-governor of Liguria to have to stand as a suppliant before the upstart Spanish boor, who had wrapped himself in the Imperial purple, and to receive the kiss of peace from the brutal lips which had ordered the murder of his own dearly-loved pupil, Gratian.

Instead of being admitted, as his rank and character gave him a right to expect that he would be, into the secretum of the new Emperor, Ambrose was received in full consistory, courteously but coldly, and told to declare his errand. He asked for the return of the dead body of the murdered Emperor: this was firmly denied. He expressed the willingness of Valentinian and his mother that there should be peace: this was made in some measure dependent on the answer to be brought back by Count Victor, an envoy whom Maximus had dispatched to the Court of Milan. Then the usurper took up the discourse, and strongly urged that the child-Emperor should come himself and consult with him ‘as with a father’ concerning the welfare of the State. But hardly by such an easy crime as the murder or imprisonment of a confiding child was Maximus to gain a second share of the mighty heritage. Ambrose remarked that he had no authority to treat concerning the visit of Valentinian, but only concerning peace, nor did it seem reasonable that in that bitter winter weather, a little boy with his widowed mother should cross the Alps to seek an interview with a hardy soldier.

The embassy led to no immediate result. Ambrose waited in Gaul for Victor’s return, passing the winter at Trier, but refusing all approach to intimacy on the part of Maximus. The invasion of Italy, if ever seriously thought of by the usurper, was postponed for the present—probably Count Bauto’s soldiers, garrisoning the passes, interposed a serious obstacle— and meanwhile all eyes were turned towards the East, where lay the true key of the position; and that key was in the hands of Theodosius.

The Eastern Emperor had in the beginning of the year associated with himself as Augustus his little six year old son Arcadius, thus following the example of Valentinian in his association of Gratian. In fact, from this time forward this device for turning an elective into a hereditary monarchy became almost the rule in the Roman state. Eight months after the soldiers had acclaimed ‘Arcadius Augustus’, came the terrible news of the dethronement, the captivity, the death of Gratian. We can well believe that it was with somewhat mingled emotions that Theodosius heard the tidings. His benefactor and his colleague had fallen, the victim of calumny and foul treason, and Theodosius might feel himself called upon by the loud voices of gratitude and honour to avenge his death. On the other hand, the house of Valentinian had done grievous wrong on that melancholy day at Carthage to the house of Theodosius, and the ruin of the Illyrian dynasty by a Spanish usurper might seem heaven’s chastisement for the unjust execution of the Spanish general. The effect of the recent revolution was to give Theodosius increased rank and precedence in the Imperial partnership, in some degree to smooth the way for the eventual appropriation of the sovereignty of the universe as the appanage of his family. These were the ignoble arguments dissuading Theodosius from avenging the blood that had been shed in the banqueting-hall at Lyons; but there were others on the same side more worthy of being listened to and obeyed by a Roman Emperor. Thrace and Moesia needed rest after the long agony of the Gothic campaigns. The Persian king was beginning to move uneasily on the other side of the Euphrates. The Saracens—some tribe known by that indefinite appellation—had appeared in arms on the south-east comer of the Euxine. The Ephthalite Huns were invading Mesopotamia, and had reached Edessa. Perhaps, too, within the limits of the Empire itself, the stem edicts against Arianism were not being enforced without trouble and commotion. All these considerations seemed to counsel peace, and a courteous reception of the ambassador whom Maximus sent, about the end of 383 or the beginning of 384, to the Court of Constantinople.

The envoy of Maximus was his Grand Chamberlain, an old and trusty comrade of the Emperor, contrasting favourably with the eunuchs who, since the days of Constantius, had generally held the office of Chamberlain in the Eastern Court. The message which he bore was no humble deprecation of the Eastern Emperor’s anger. Maximus tendered no apology for Gratian’s murder (the guilt of which he probably threw off on over-zealous subordinates), but he offered to Theodosius firm friendship, and an alliance offensive and defensive against all the enemies of the Roman name. This, if he were willing to accept it; if not, hatred and wax to the bitter end. Theodosius listened to the ambassador; and moved by some or all of the considerations which have been referred to, accepted openly the proffered alliance, though perhaps in his secret heart only postponing the day of vengeance.

It was agreed that the name of Maximus should be mentioned in the edicts of the Emperors, and that his statues should be erected side by side with those of the already recognized Augusti, throughout the Empire. Cynegius, the Praetorian Prefect, who was just starting on a mission to Egypt, in order to close all the temples that were dedicated to heathen worship, received an additional charge to raise a statue to Maximus in the city of Alexandria, and to make a formal harangue to the citizens, announcing that he was received as full partner in the Empire.

Whether formally stated or not, it was evidently one of the conditions of the peace thus arranged between under the Theodosius and Maximus, that the boy Valentinian of should be left in the undisturbed possession of Italy and Africa. From this time forward Theodosius assumed towards the young prince that position of elder brother, counsellor, and friend, which had been hitherto held by Gratian. The relation was indeed complicated by theological differences, Justina being as keen in her partisanship for the Arians, as Theodosius was resolute in his defense of orthodoxy, but in the end it might safely be predicted that in all important matters Constantinople would give the law to Milan.

Such scanty details as we possess concerning the character of Maximus as a civil ruler, will be best reserved for the close of his five years’ reign. It happens that the events by which the attention of men was most attracted during this time were ecclesiastical rather than political. They related to the conflict between old and new religions, the struggle of the priest for supremacy, the unsheathing of the sword of the civil ruler for the extirpation of religious error, rather than to the march of armies, or the invasions of barbarians. In almost all of these debates Ambrose took a conspicuous part, and it may safely be said that in the minds of contemporaries as of posterity, the figures of the coarse soldier-Emperor of the Gauls and the boy-Emperor of Italy, were dwarfed beside the mighty personality of the eloquent Bishop of Milan.

Scarcely had the excitement caused by the news of the death Gratian subsided, when the heathen party in the Roman Senate began to agitate for the repeal of his legislation against the old faith of Rome, and for the replacement of the Altar of Victory in the Senate-house. Not unnaturally they pointed to the untimely end of the young enemy of the gods as a proof that the deities of the Capitol were still mighty to avenge their wrongs, and to add emphasis to this argument, they reminded the listeners of the dwindled crops which had been reaped throughout Italy in the summer after the impious edicts had been passed.

The chief advocates of the old religion in the Senate were the two men who in the year 384 held the highest civil offices in Italy, Vettius Agorius Praetextatus, Praetorian Prefect of Italy, and Q. Aurelius Symmachus, Prefect of the City of Rome. We have met with the former official in the reign of Valentinian interposing successfully to save some of


‘The fair humanities of old religion’


for the Nature-worshipping sons of Hellas. He was a fine specimen of the heathen Senators of Rome, a man able to rule with firmness yet without undue severity, honest and upright, and not without a pleasant vein of humour, which he often showed in cheerful banter with Pope Damasus. An Illustrious Prefect might still please rather than offend the Bishop of Rome by condescending to banter with him. ‘Yes, truly, oh Damasus,’ said he, ‘I too will become a Christian if you will make me Pope’. So much had Praetextatus seen in his official career of the power and splendour which now surrounded the chair of St. Peter, and so keen was the competition between rival claimants for its possession, a competition which in the disputed election of Damasus and Ursinus led to riot and bloodshed in the streets, and the very churches of Rome. Praetextatus was named as Consul for the year 385, but died before he had assumed the Consular robe, in the midst of the discussion which is about to be described.

Much fuller ought to be our information concerning Symmachus, the other champion of the religion of Jupiter. This high official of the Empire, Proconsul, Prefect, Consul, an orator and a historian, of high birth, vast wealth, and untarnished character, has left about 950 letters, many of them addressed to the chief statesmen and authors of the day. These letters ought to be a mine of information as to the social life of Rome in the fifth century: they should reveal to us the inmost thoughts of the dying Paganism of the Empire: they should help us to understand how the last men of that antediluvian world looked upon the wild barbarian flood which was everywhere rising around them. Unhappily for us, though there are some grains of gold in this correspondence, they are scanty and widely scattered. It would perhaps not be too much to say, that half of them are filled with excuses for not writing earlier or oftener to his correspondents. The word which perpetually rises to the lips of the impatient reader as he turns over page after page of the letters of Symmachus is ‘vapid.’ It is in comparing the utter moral sterility of the correspondence of this most respectable and on the whole amiable Pagan with


‘The questings and the guessings

Of the soul’s own soul within’


revealed to us in the marvellous ‘Confessions’ of his young contemporary and fellow-orator, Augustine, that we feel most strongly why Paganism was bound to die, and why Christianity was sure to succeed to its vacant inheritance.

The least uninteresting part of the correspondence of Symmachus is the tenth book, which consists chiefly of the Relationes or Official Reports to the Emperors, made during his tenure of office as Prefect of the city. The most celebrated of these Reports is that in which he pleads the cause of the dismantled Altar of Victory. The Report is addressed to our ‘Lords Valentinian, Theodosius, and Arcadius ever August’. They are approached with every epithet of deferential homage. They are ‘the glory of our times,’ and ‘my renowned Princes’: they are addressed as ‘Your Clemency’, and ‘Your Eternity’; but when Rome herself is personified as appearing before them pleading her grey hairs as a reason why she should be exempted from insult, and begs ‘these best of Princes, these Fathers of the Republic’, to reverence her years, it seems hard not to suppose that some feeling of the inappropriateness of the designation must have crossed the soul of the orator. For, of these renowned Princes and Fathers of the State, one indeed was a stout soldier of thirty-eight, but the others were a boy of thirteen and a little child of seven, strange recipients of the solemn compliments of the elderly Senator. The most eloquent passage in the Report is the following paragraph in which Rome personified makes her appeal:

‘Reverence my many years, to which I have attained by these holy rites; let me use these ancestral ceremonies, for I have no desire to change them. Let me live after my own manner, for I am free. It is this worship which has brought the whole world under my sway; it was these sacrifices which repelled Hannibal from my walls, the Gaulish host from the rock of the Capitol Have I been preserved through all these centuries only that I should now be insulted in my old age?’.

Then, dropping the figure of suppliant Rome, the orator pleads for toleration on broader and more philosophical grounds:

‘We ask for a quiet life, for the indigenous gods, the gods of our fatherland. It is right to believe that that which all men worship is the One. We look forth upon the same stars, the sky above us is common to us all, the same universe encloses us. What matters it by what exact method each one seeks for Truth? It is not by one road only that you will arrive at that so mighty Secret.’

Arguments more personal to the Emperors are dwelt on at some length. It is for their interest that the sanctity of the oath should be upheld; but who will have any fear of perjury now that the venerable altar on which the Senators were wont to swear is removed? Then the orator passes on to another grievance, the withdrawal of the subsidies from the priestly Colleges and from the sisterhood of the Vestal Virgins. Here the excavations of recent years give a new emphasis to his words. Under the shadow of the Imperial Palatine, and within a few yards from the Arch of Titus, we have seen the long inviolate Atrium of the Vestals laid bare to view. The site of the innermost shrine, where in all probability the mysterious Palladium was guarded, the chambers of the six recluses, the round temple in which the eternal fire was preserved, the statues of two of the Virgins, one of whom, a woman of sweet and noble countenance, was the Vestalis Maxima, the Mother Superior of this heathen convent—all these recently disinterred relics of the past help us to reconstruct the life of dignified seclusion led by these women, who were chosen from among the noblest and most austere families in Rome for the guardianship of the sacred fire. What lends especial interest to this discovery is, that the statue of Vettius Agorius Praetextatus—the only male who even in sculptured semblance was suffered to enter that chaste abode—has been also found in the Atrium Vestae. Both he and his wife, Fabia Aconia Paullina, were zealous patrons of the Vestals, who erected this statue in their hall to show forth their gratitude. As has been said, he seems not to have lived to see the end of the controversy; possibly his indignation at the contempt poured, on the holy maidens, may have hurried the old Senator to his grave.

The arguments employed by Symmachus in defines of his venerable clients, strongly resemble those which have been used in later ages by the orators who have deprecated the spoliation of convents. The ruler should be ashamed to eke out the poverty of his treasury by such unjust gains as these. The will of the “pious founder” should be respected. Who will have any confidence in bequeathing property to public objects if such dear and manifest testamentary dispositions as those by which the Vestals hold their funds are set aside? It is not true that they give no return for the revenues which they receive. They dedicate their bodies to chastity; they support the eternity of the Empire by the heavenly succours which they implore; they lend the friendly aid of their virtue to the arms and the eagles of your legions. You have taken the money of these holy maidens, the ministers of the gods, and bestowed it on degenerate money-changers, who have squandered on the hire of miserable porters the endowments sacred to chastity. And well have you been punished, for the crops of whole provinces have failed, and vast populations have had to live, as the first race of men lived, on the acorns of Dodona.

‘Finally,’ says the orator, ‘do not be ensnared by the argument that because you are Christians, it is your duty to withhold pecuniary support from every faith but your own. It is not really you who give these allowances to the Virgins. The dedication of the funds took place long ago, and all that you are asked to do is to respect as rulers the rights of private property. Your late brother Gratian erred through ignorance, for the evil counsellors who surrounded him would not suffer him to hear of the Senate’s disapprobation of his proceedings; but now that you are fully informed, we call upon you with confidence to remedy that which has been unjustly ordered.’ So, without any more distinct allusion to the fate of Gratian, ends the Relatio of Symmachus.

The Bishop of Milan had heard some rumour of the renewed attempts of the heathen party, and must have feared that through the weakness of Justina, or the policy of Bauto, they were likely to prove successful. He addressed ‘to the most blessed Prince and most Christian Emperor Valentinian’ a letter, not so much of counsel as of menace, denouncing the wrath of God and of all Christian Bishops if the petitions of the Senators were complied with. He demanded a copy of the Relatio, that he might reply to it. He insisted that in this, as in other matters, Valentinian should seek the advice of his ‘father’ Theodosius. He declared that if, without waiting for his own advice and that of Theodosius, the Emperor allowed the altar to be restored, ‘the Bishops would not be able calmly to accept the fact, and to dissimulate their indignation. You may come to church if you please, but you will find no priests there, or only priests who resist your entrance, and scornfully refuse your gifts, tainted with idolatry’. The whole tone of the letter, addressed as it is by a mature man of the world, and dignitary of the Church, to a helpless boy on whom an evil fate has laid the burden of an empire, is harsh and ungenerous; and with rulers of a high spirit it would probably have brought about the very concession to the opposite party which he desired to avert. But Ambrose probably knew well the natures with which he had to deal, and felt that in any case the appeal to Theodosius would ensure the obedience of the young Prince and his advisers. The Relatio was sent to the Bishop, and he replied to it in a long letter, less fiery but much duller than that which he had first written. There is no need to go point by point through his reply to the arguments of Symmachus. Perhaps his best party is that which he makes to the allegation that the gods of the elder faith had saved Rome from Hannibal, and the Capitol from the Gauls. ‘Indeed! Yet Hannibal came close up to the walls of the city, and long insulted it by the presence of his army in its neighbourhood. Why did the gods suffer that, if they were so mighty? And the Gauls, as we have always heard, were repelled not by divine aid, but by the cackling of the geese of the Capitol. Pray did Jupiter Capitolinus speak through the goose’s gullet?’

But whatever might be the faults of taste, or the deficiencies of argument in St. Ambrose’s letters, they produced the desired effect on the mind of the young Emperor and his mother. When the deputation from the Senate preferred their request to the Imperial Consistory, all the members of that body, Christians as well as Pagans, gave their vote for the restoration of the altar and the priestly revenues. Valentinian alone (so we are assured) opposed the prevailing current. His one stock argument was, ‘Why should I restore what my brother took away? I should thus injure the memory of my brother as well as the cause of religion, and I do not wish to be surpassed in piety by him’. Then the politic ministers suggested that he might follow the example of his father, who had left the altar untouched. ‘No,’ said the boy, ‘the cases are not parallel. My father did not remove the altar: neither am I removing anything. But there was nothing to restore, and he did not restore aught: neither will I restore it. Both my father and my brother were Augusti, and as far as may be I will follow the example of both, but if there be anything to choose I will rather be an imitator of my brother than of my father. Let our great Mother Home ask anything else that she may desire. I owe a duty to her, but I owe a yet heavier duty, to the Author of our Salvation’.

Whether he spoke his own opinions, or those which had been instilled into him by his mother, it must be admitted that the youthful wearer of the purple showed some trace of Caesarian dignity and self-possession in the manner in which he imposed his will (even if it were in truth the will of Ambrose) on the grey-headed soldiers and ministers of State who stood around his throne. The discussion was at an end. Symmachus was defeated. The Altar and Statue of Victory were left in some dusty hiding-place, from which they have probably been long ago drawn forth to feed the insatiable lime-kilns of Rome; and the Vestal Virgins, pacing up and down their stately Atrium, and looking with wistful faces on the statue of the friendly Praetextatus, bewailed the decay of their fortunes, and looked forward with well-grounded fear to the im­pending extinction of their order.

The hand of Ambrose, so heavy in this affair on the party of heathenism in Rome, was next to be felt pressing with equal weight on the Arian Empress at Milan. When Justina had somewhat recovered from the first terror of the threatened invasion of Maximus, and felt the support of Ambrose less necessary to the safety the of her son’s throne, she began once more to urge the claims of the Arians to some measure of toleration. Milan had been, not many years ago, pretty evenly divided between the Arians and the maintainers of the Nicene Creed; many of the courtiers still professed the faith which Justina’s example rendered fashionable; the Gothic troops, of whom there was a large number in the Imperial city, perhaps sent by Theodosius for the defence of his young colleague, followed as a matter of course the Arian (or at least the Homoean) standard, which had been raised among them by the venerable Ulfilas. It was not perhaps unreasonable, in these circumstances, to ask that one out of the many Basilicas of Milan should be handed over to the Empress and her coreligionists, that they might there celebrate with the rites of an Arian communion the Easter of 385. To us, with our ideas of religious toleration, Ambrose’s stubborn refusal to comply with Justina’s request savours of priestly intolerance. On the other hand, we must remember that the Nicene faith was only just emerging from a life and death struggle with Arianism, which certainly had shown little tolerance or liberality in its hour of triumph; that under Constantius and Valens the eunuch-chamberlains of the Courts, playing on the fretful vanity of theologizing Emperor, had wrought unspeakable mischief to the cause of Christianity : that Ambrose had the voice of the multitude with him, and all that was most living in the Church on his side; that if the faith of Christendom was not absolutely to die of the logomachy which Arius had commenced in the baths and fora of Alexandria, it was perhaps necessary that the sentence of the Fathers of Nicaea should be accepted as the closing word in the controversy.

But more than the theological propositions of Arius and Athanasius was at issue in the contest. The whole question of the relations between the Spiritual and Temporal powers, a question which was logically bound to arise as soon as a Roman Augustus sought admission into the Christian Church, but which had been perhaps somewhat shirked both by Constantine and his Bishops, now began to demand a logical answer. Valentinian II (or his mother Justina for him) said virtually, ‘All the edifices for the public worship of the Almighty belong to me as head of the Roman Republic. In my clemency I leave to the Nicenes all the other Basilicas in Mediolanum, but I claim this one for myself and those who hold with me to worship in.’ Such was the theory by virtue of which Gratian and Theodosius had actually wrested multitudes of churches, both in Italy and in Thrace, from the Arian communion, and had handed them over to Bishops like-minded with Gregory and Ambrose; and such was also the theory on which Valentinian himself, acting under Ambrose’s advice, had just been confirming the confiscation of the revenues of the Vestal Virgins and the priests of Jupiter. But not deterred by any logical difficulty of this sort, the uncompromising Bishop of Milan said, ‘Let the Emperor take my private property, I offer no resistance. Let him take my life, I gladly offer it for the safety of my flock. But the churches of this city are God’s, and neither I nor any one else can or shall surrender one of them to the Emperor to be polluted by the worship of the Arians.’ It is clear that we have here already formulated the whole question by which the Middle Ages were tormented, under the name of the question of Investitures. Ambrose opens the pleadings which Anselm, Hildebrand, Becket, Innocent will urge, through long centuries, with all the energy that is in them. Nor can it be said that either the Middle Ages, or the ages that have followed them, have truly solved the problem. Perhaps the formula of Ricasoli, ‘Libera Chiesa in libero Stato,’ may prove to be at least one root of the difficult equation. But at any rate it is clear that in the Fifth Century after Christ men’s minds were not yet ripe for this solution.

The first request, or demand, made by the Court party was that the Porcian Basilica, which was in the suburbs of Milan, should be handed over for Arian worship. This was refused: then ‘the new Basilica,’ a larger building within the walls, was demanded. The populace began to show signs of irritation: and the ‘Counts of the Consistory,’ in other words, the Cabinet Ministers of the Emperor, falling back on their old position, entreated Ambrose to use his influence with his flock to secure the peaceable surrender of the Porcian Basilica, which, as being outside the walls, might be given up without admitting the Arians to full equality with the orthodox party. This, however, the Bishop steadfastly refused to do. On the following day, which was Palm Sunday, while Ambrose was administering the Communion, tidings came that the servants of the Palace were hanging round the Porcian Basilica the strips of purple cloth, which (like the Broad Arrow on a Bonded Warehouse in England) implied that it was the property of the Sovereign. At these tidings the Catholic population of Milan grew frantic with rage. A certain Castulus, who was pointed at as an Arian, was seized in the great square by an angry mob, and was dragged violently through the streets of the city. With genuine earnestness Ambrose prayed that no blood might be shed in the cause of Christ, and by a deputation of priests and deacons, rescued Castulus from the hands of the mob.

It was not, however, only the lower orders who sympathized with the eloquent Bishop. The merchants of Milan made some manifestation in his favour, which was met by the Court party with sentences of fine and imprisonment. ‘The gaols,’ says Ambrose, doubtless with some exaggeration, were full of merchants and the fine imposed on their guild was 200 lbs. of gold, to be paid within three days. They answered that they would gladly pay twice or thrice that amount if only they might keep their faith untainted. At the same time, so little dependence could the government place on the loyalty of its own subordinates, that the whole throng of Court messengers, and what we should call sheriff’s officers, were ordered to suspend for a time the execution of civil process, in order to withdraw them from the streets, and prevent their mingling with the mob.

The next step taken by the Court was to send a band of soldiers to occupy the church. The tension of men’s minds was growing tighter, and Ambrose tells us that he began to fear that there would be bloodshed and perhaps civil war. His national pride as a Roman, as well as his pride of orthodoxy, was wounded by the proceedings of the Empress, for the officers, probably many of the privates in the detachment of troops by which the church was garrisoned, were Arian Goths.

‘Wherever that woman [the Empress] goes,’ he said, in writing to his sister, ‘she drags about with her a train of followers, who dare not show themselves in the streets alone. These Goths used to live in wagons: now they are making our church into their wagon and their home.’ To the Gothic officers who came to exhort him to yield obedience to the Emperor, and to persuade the people to acquiesce in the surrender of the Basilica, he said, angrily, ‘Was it for this that the Roman State received you into its bosom, that you should make yourselves the ministers of public discord? Whither will you go next when you have ruined Italy?’

In such scenes the days of Holy Week wore on. Ambrose spent all day in the great Basilica, preaching, exhorting, receiving conciliatory messages from the Court, and returning answers of haughty defiance. The Gothic soldiers lived in the Porcian Basilica as in a wagon, surrounded by a weeping, groaning, excited multitude. A crowd also assembled in the ‘new’ intra­mural Basilica, and there, apparently on Maundy Thursday, occurred one of the most exciting scenes of the drama. Some soldiers appeared in the sacred building. They were known to be of those who had occupied the Porcian Basilica, and it was believed that they had come for bloodshed. The women-worshippers raised an outcry, and one rushed out of the church. It was soon seen, however, that the soldiers were come, not for fighting, but for prayer. Ambrose had sent a deputation of Presbyters to warn them that if they continued to occupy the Porcian Basilica for the Emperor, he should exclude them from the ceremonies of the Church; and, terrified by the threat, they had come to make their peace with the orthodox party and to share in their worship. In fact—and this seems to have been the turning point of the crisis—the soldiers had deserted the Emperor and enlisted under the Bishop.

A great cry arose in the church for the presence of Ambrose, and he accordingly proceeded thither and preached a sermon on the lesson for the day, which was contained in the Book of Job. He told his hearers that they had all imitated the patience of the patriarch of Uz. As for himself, he too had been tempted, like Job, by a woman. ‘Ye see how many things are suddenly set in motion against us, Goths, arms, the Gentiles, the fine of the merchants, the punishment of the saints. Ye understand the meaning of the command “Hand over the Basilica;” that is, “Curse God, and die.’’ Ambrose then proceeded to remark that all the worst temptations to which human nature is subject come through woman, and gently reminded them that Justina belonged to the same sex which had already produced an Eve for the ruin of mankind, a Jezebel, and an Herodias for the persecution of the Church. ‘Finally, I am thus commanded, “Surrender the Basilica.” I answer, “It is not lawful for me to surrender it, nor is it for thy advantage, oh Emperor, to receive it. By no right canst thou violate the house of a private man, and dost thou think that thou mayest take away the house of God?” It is alleged that all things are lawful for the Emperor, that he is master of the universe. I answer, “Do not magnify thy power, oh Emperor, so as to think that thou hast any imperial power over the things which are divine. Do not lift thyself up, but if thou wishest for a long reign, be subject to God.” It is written “Render unto God the things which are God’s, and to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.” Palaces belong to the Emperor, Churches to the Priest. To thee is committed the guardianship of public buildings, not of sacred ones. Again, we are told that the Emperor says, “I too ought to have one Basilica.” I answer “No, it is not lawful for thee to have that one. What hast thou to do with the adulteress? And an adulteress is that Church which is not joined to Christ in lawful union.’’

Again, there came a messenger from the Court, commanding Ambrose to yield to the Emperor’s will, and calling him to account for the message which he had sent by the Presbyters to the Porcian Basilica. ‘If you are setting up for Emperor, let me know it plainly, that I may consider how to prepare myself against you’. Ambrose answered, somewhat ineptly, that Christ fled lest the people should make Him a king, and that it was commonly reported that Emperors coveted the Priesthood more than Priests coveted the Empire. He continued with more justice, ‘Maximus would not have said that there was any danger of my setting up as a rival to Valentinian, when he complained that it was my embassy which prevented his crossing over into Italy to rob Valentinian of his throne’.

‘All that day,’ says Ambrose, ‘was passed by us in sorrow: but the Imperial curtains were cut to pieces by boys at their play. I was unable to return home, because all round us were the soldiers who guarded the Basilica. We recited Psalms with our brethren in the Lesser Basilica.’

Next day, Good Friday, the battle was ended. Ambrose was preaching, again from the lesson for the day, which happened to be the Book of the prophet Jonah. Scarcely had he reached the words which told how, in God’s compassion, the threatened destruction had been averted from the city of Nineveh, when news was brought that the soldiers had been ordered to depart from the Porcian Basilica, and that the fines of the merchants were remitted; in fact, that the Court party had surrendered the whole position. The soldiers themselves came emulously into the church to announce these joyful tidings; they rushed to the altars, they gave the kiss of peace to the worshippers. Thanks to God, and the eager plaudits of the multitude, resounded through the church. The suspense of the last terrible six days was over; the hated Arians were defeated; and Ambrose was triumphant.

As high, however, as was the exultation in the Basilica, so deep was the depression in the purple chambers of the Palace. The Counts of the Consistory besought the Emperor to go forth to the church, in order to give a visible token of his reconciliation with the orthodox party, and they represented that this petition was made at the request of the soldiers. The vexed and worried youth who called himself Augustus, fretfully answered, ‘I believe you would hand me over bound to Ambrose, if such were his orders.’

The eunuch Calligonus, who held the high office of ‘Superintendent of the Sacred Cubicle,’ said angrily to Ambrose, ‘While I am alive dost thou dare to scorn Valentinian? I will take off thy head.’ To whom Ambrose proudly answered, ‘God may suffer thee to fulfil thy threats. Thou wilt do what eunuchs are wont to do [deeds of cruelty], and I shall suffer what Bishops suffer.’

It was a truce only, not a solid peace, which had been thus concluded between the diadem and the mitre; and in the following year (386) the dispute broke out afresh. An Arian priest, named Mercurinus, from the shores of the Black Sea, was brought to Milan, took the venerated name of Auxentius, and was consecrated as Bishop of the Arian community. On the 23rd of January an edict was promulgated, bearing as a matter of form the orthodox names of Theodosius and Arcadius, as well as of Valentinian, but really the sole work of the boy-monarch, or rather of his mother. By this decree liberty of assembling was granted ‘to those who hold the doctrines put forth by the Council of Ariminum, the doctrines which were afterwards confirmed at Constantinople, and which shall eternally endure.’ ‘Those who think that they are to monopolize the right of public assembly’ [that is, of course, the Nicene party, and pre-eminently Ambrose] are warned that if they attempt anything against this precept of Our Tranquillity, they will be treated as movers of sedition, and capitally punished for their offences against the peace of the Church and against Our Imperial Majesty’.

The reference to the Council of Ariminum, the only one in which the orthodox party had been persuaded to abandon the stronghold of the word ‘Homoousion,’ the Council after which, as St. Jerome said, ‘The whole world groaned in astonishment to find itself Arian’, was a clever, but shallow artifice. The day for such attempts to bridge over the yawning chasm which separated the Athanasian from the Arian had long passed by. Meanwhile, however, it must be observed in fairness to Justina and her ministers, that it was toleration only, not supremacy, that they sought to obtain for their co-religionists. In this very year a letter went forth from the Emperor for the rebuilding and enlargement of the stately Basilica of St. Paul outside of the Ostian gate of Rome, a Basilica which was in the hands of the Catholics and owned the sway of the orthodox Pope Damasus. Perhaps we may say that the situation was not unlike that which prevailed in England in 1688. At Milan, as at Windsor, the sovereign, in the interests of a small and unpopular Church, strove to secure toleration by an exercise of his princely prerogative. In both countries the Edict of Toleration was profoundly disliked by the people: in Italy one Bishop, and in England seven Bishops, headed the popular opposition; and the tumults which followed, in one case shook, and in the other overturned, the throne of the monarch, who, whatever were his ulterior designs, fought under the standard of religious liberty.

The next step taken by Valentinian was to summon Ambrose to appear in the Consistory, there to conduct an argument with Auxentius on the points in controversy between them. The judges were to be laymen, perhaps an equal number chosen on either side, and the Emperor was to be the final umpire. The prize of this ecclesiastical wrestling-match was doubtless to be the episcopal throne of Milan. If Ambrose refused the summons he was, as a disobedient subject, at once to quit the country. In a letter full of splendid scorn Ambrose refused either to accept the challenge or to enter upon a life of exile. The Emperor was young yet. All his subjects prayed that he might one day attain to years of discretion: and he would then know how utterly unsuitable it was for laymen to judge in matters relating to the Church. Not thus had the elder Valentinian acted, who had expressly left the decision as to all points of doctrine to ecclesiastics. As for Ambrose’s bishopric, that was not in dispute; it had been conferred upon him by the unanimous voice of the people, and confirmed by Valentinian I, who had promised that he should have undisturbed possession of the dignity if he would, in spite of his reluctance, accept the office to which he had been chosen. For the judges who were to decide in this wonderful debate, Auxentius showed a prudent silence as to their names. Ambrose strongly suspected that if the day of the trial dawned, they would be found to be all Jews or heathens, who would equally delight to favour the Arian heretic by depreciating the divinity of Christ. The whole proceeding was of a piece with the recent Edict of the Emperor. The Edict is entirely in the interest of the Council of Ariminum. “That Council I abhor: and I follow unflinchingly the decisions of the Council of Nicaea, from which neither death nor the sword shall ever separate me. This faith also the most blessed Emperor Theodosius, the colleague of your Clemency, follows and approves. This faith Gaul holds fast, this both the Hither and the Further Spain, and they will guard it safely in pious dependence on the Holy Spirit’s help”.

The immediate answer of the Court to this bold harangue of the Bishop’s is not recorded. There does not seem any clear proof that the Empress either resorted, or intended to resort, to violence: but it was enough that a belief spread through the city that the next step would be the forcible removal of Ambrose. He took up his abode as before, or even more continuously, in the great Basilica, and a great multitude thronged its portals prepared to die with their Bishop. How long this strange blockade may have lasted we are not informed. The court seems to have abstained from the high-handed action to which it had resorted in the previous struggle and to have pursued a somewhat Fabian policy. Ambrose, perceiving that the spirits of his adherents were flagging, and that there was a danger of their giving up the strife from weariness, occupied their minds and braced their nerves by frequent psalmody. A poet as well as an orator, he expressed in beautiful words some of the aspirations of the human soul after God, and marrying them to simple, but sweet melody, bade his ecclesiastical garrison sing them anti- phonically after the manner of the Eastern Church.

A young African teacher of rhetoric named Augustine, who was at this time being strongly attracted to Christianity by the magnetic influence of Ambrose, has preserved to us two of the verses which he especially admired.


Oh God! who mad'st this wondrous Whole,

Upholder of the starry Pole,

Thou clothest Day with comely light,

Thou draw’st the soothing veil of Night.

Thus, our tired limbs sweet Slumber's peace

Prepares for toil, through toil’s surcease,

To wearied souls brings hope again,

And dulls the edge of sorrow’s pain.


But in time even the new psalmody probably began to pall upon the worshippers, as they spent day after day in the beleaguered church. Then came that well-known event, which has perhaps given rise to more discussion than anything in the history of Milan, the finding of the bodies of Gervasius and Protasius. The new Basilica, of which we have already heard, was ready for consecration, and there was a general request that it should be consecrated ‘after the Roman custom.’ ‘I will do so,’ said Ambrose, ‘if I find any relics of martyrs to place in it.’ Warned in a dream, or else guided to the place by some unaccountable instinct, he ordered excavations to be made in front of the lattice-work which separated nave from chancel in the church of SS. Felix and Nabor. Mysterious heavings of the earth followed; and soon the diggers came on two bodies ‘of men of wonderful stature, such as the olden age gave birth to.’ The bones were perfect, and there was a quantity of blood in the grave. The bodies were removed in the evening to the Basilica of Fausta, where they were watched through the night by a crowd of worshippers. On the following day they were transferred to the new Basilica, which, perhaps, now received the name of Ambrosiana. There Ambrose preached a sermon to the excited multitude, in which he informed them that old men remembered to have read an inscription on the stone under which the bodies were found, recording that there lay buried Gervasius and Protasius, sons of Vitalis, who had suffered martyrdom (at Ravenna, some said) in the reign of Domitian. Miracles followed the miraculous discovery. Evil spirits were cast out, crying as they went, to the martyrs, ‘Why have you come to torment us?’, and a blind man, named Severus, a butcher by trade, received his sight on touching the fringe of the martyrs’ shroud.

The Arians laughed at the newly-discovered saints, and denied the miracles wrought at their shrine: but in their hearts they felt that the victory was won. The eloquent sermons, the crowded Basilica, the chaunted antiphones had done much, but the bodies larger than the ordinary stature of men, and the blood preserved through three centuries, completed the victory. Henceforth Valentinian and his mother meekly bore the Ambrosian yoke, and nothing more was heard of an Arian Basilica in Milan.

After all the dull folios that have been printed on the subject of the discovery of the bodies of Gervasius and Protasius it is still difficult, perhaps impossible, to arrive at a conclusion as to the real nature of that event. The attempts to rationalize away the marvel are not very satisfactory, and we seem shut up to one of two alternatives, miracle or fraud, either of which is almost equally unacceptable. Without attempting to decide so thorny a question here, this one observation may be made, that in the Bishop of Milan we are dealing, not with a Teuton knight of the Middle Ages, nor with a trained and scrupulous student of Nature in the 19th century. Though a noble representative of his class, Ambrose was after all a Roman official of the Empire. Even under the republic the Romans had more than once shown themselves “splendidly mendacious” (the very phrase came from a Latin poet) on behalf of their country. Centuries of despotism had not, probably, strengthened the moral fiber of the Roman official classes. In the strife with principalities and powers in which Ambrose was engaged, his mind was so entirely engrossed with the nobility and holiness of his ends that he may have been—I will not venture to say that he was—something less than scrupulous as to his means.

In connection with these miracles allusion has been made to one name which was to be even greater and of more world-historical importance than that of Ambrose, the name of Augustine. Though Church History is not our present concern, we may observe in passing that it was in 383, the year of Gratian’s death, that he who was one day to be the greatest father of the Latin Church crossed the sea from Carthage to Rome. Still a Manichean by creed, and a teacher of rhetoric by profession, he came to the capital chiefly in order to find a more peaceable set of students than those who at Carthage turned his class-room into a Babel of confusion.

The students at Rome, though more orderly, behaved more shabbily than their African contemporaries. It was a frequent practice with them to migrate from one professor to another just as the fees of the first were falling due, and thus Augustine discovered that though his existence was peaceful, his means of support were likely to be somewhat precarious. Soon however, on the receipt of a petition from the people of Milan for a State-appointed teacher of rhetoric, he was sent to that city. The Prefect of Rome who made this appointment, and who gave him his free pass at the public expense to Mediolanum, was none other than Symmachus, greatest and most eloquent of the advocates of heathenism. It was a strange coincidence that such a man should set the wheels in motion which brought about the conversion to Christianity of her mightiest champion in the western world. But so it proved : Augustine at Milan soon came under the magnetic influence of Ambrose. He had already dropped Manichaeism: he now embraced Christianity. He was doubtless in the Basilica when the enthusiastic multitude sang their nightly hymns in the ears of the blockading-Gothic soldiers. In that year (386) he was baptized. In the following year came the memorable parting scene at Ostia with his mother Monica, who uttered her ‘Nunc dimittis’ as she looked across the peaceful Tyrrhene Sea. Thenceforward Augustine’s life was passed in Africa, where, after many memorable years, we shall see his sun set amid the storm and stress of the great Vandal invasion.

From Mediolanum we turn to Augusta Treverorum, where Maximus reigned by the banks of the Moselle. Of that reign we possess scarcely any account except that contained in the Panegyric of Pacatus. This oration, pronounced not many months after his death in the presence of his destroyer, is of course one long diatribe against the fallen tyrant. ‘We, in Gaul,’ he says, ‘first felt the onset of that raging beast. We glutted his cruelty with the blood of our innocents, his avarice by the sacrifice of our all. We saw our consulars stripped of their robes of office, our old men compelled to survive children and property and all that makes life desirable. In the midst of our miseries we were forced to wear smiling faces, for some hideous informer was ever at our side. You would hear them saying, “Why is that man so sad-seeming? Is it because he is reduced to poverty from wealth. He ought to be thankful that he is allowed to live. What does that fellow wear mourning for? I suppose he is grieving for his brother. But he has a son left.” And so we did not dare to mourn our murdered relatives for the sake of the survivors. We saw that tyrant clad in purple stand, himself, at the balances, gaping greedily at the spoil of provinces which was weighed out before him. There was gold forced from the hands of matrons, there were the trinkets of childhood, there was plate still tarnished with the blood of its last possessor. All was weighed, counted, carted away into the monster’s home. That home seemed to us not the palace of an Emperor, but a robber’s cave.’ And so on through many loud paragraphs.

It is difficult to deal with such rhetoric as this, so evidently instinct with the very bitterness of hate. But probably the fact is that Maximus was neither better nor worse than the majority of those who have been before described as the Barrack-Emperors; like them making the goodwill of the soldiery the sheet-anchor of his policy, like them willing to sacrifice law and justice and the happiness of all other classes of his subjects, not precisely to his own avarice, but to the daily and terrible necessity of feeding and pampering the Frankenstein monster, an army whom he himself had taught to mutiny.

Strangely enough, even here we find ourselves again brought face to face with the problems of ecclesiastical history. The one event in Maximus’ reign which is described to us in some little detail is his persecution of the sect of the Priscillianists, a persecution which excited the horror even of orthodox Christians, and which was apparently, notwithstanding the growlings of Imperial legislators and their threats of what they would do unless their subjects conformed to their rule of faith, the first real and serious attempt to amputate heresy by the sword of the executioner.

In the later years of the reign of Gratian, the Spanish Church had been agitated by the uprising of the heresy of the Priscillianists. A strange and enthusiastic sect, they had received from the East some of those wild theories by which the Manicheans strove to explain the riddle of this intricate world, more especially the origin of evil, and they had based upon these theories some of those ascetic practices as to which the Catholic Church seemed to hesitate whether she should revere or should denounce them. Like persons who had been present at the making of the world, they talked with the utmost confidence of the shares which God and the Evil One had respectively borne in its formation; and they told a romantic story of the existence of certain happy, but over-bold spirits in heaven, who promised the Almighty that they would descend into the hostile realm of Matter, take bodily shape and fight for Him. Once having descended through all the spheres they came under the fatal influence of the malign spirits of the air, forgot or only partially remembered their vow of combat, and became estranged from the Lord of Light. These deserters from the Heavenly armament are we or our progenitors.

To these Manichean speculations they joined an absolute belief in the astrologer’s creed of the influence of the stars upon human fortunes. And, discouraging or prohibiting marriage, they also forbade the eating of flesh, and fasted rigorously on the great feast-days of the Church, Christmas and Easter, in order to signify that these days, in which the Saviour by his birth and resurrection entered and re-entered the world of Matter, were no days of joy to the enlightened soul.

The most famous expounder, though not the original propagator, of these doctrines was a man of high birth, large wealth, and considerable mental endowments, named Priscillian. From him the new sect took its name, and he was in course of time consecrated one of its Bishops. The doctrines which the Priscillianists professed, seem to have exerted a peculiar fascination on men and women of literary culture and high social position. Several Bishops joined them, one of whom—Hyginus of Cordova,—was an aged and venerable man who had begun by denouncing them. When, in the course of a few years, the new heresy crossed the Pyrenees it found one of its most earnest adherents in Eudocia, the widow of Delphidius, a celebrated poet and professor of rhetoric at Bordeaux, who possessed large landed estates in the neighbourhood of that capital.

Such were the kind of persons who accepted the Priscillianist teaching. On the other hand, its chief opponents were, by the confession of an orthodox historian, two coarse, selfish and worldly ecclesiastics. Their names were Ithacius, Bishop of Sossuba (in the south of Lusitania), and Idatius, Bishop of Merida, men of like names and like despicable natures. Idatius was a narrow and passionate bigot: Ithacius was a preacher of some eloquence, but he was coarse and sensual, and his gluttonous devotion to the pleasures of the table was an open scandal to the Church. The motives of such a man’s dislike to the self-renunciation of the pale-faced and studious Priscillianists could easily be read by all men, while on the other hand the lives of such priests as this gave emphasis to the pleadings of Priscillian for a further purification of the Church.

With the earlier ecclesiastical phases of the controversy we need not concern ourselves. The Priscillianists had been condemned by the Council of Saragossa, and the civil power had been invoked to accomplish their banishment from Spain. In vain had they visited Italy to obtain the intervention of Damasus and Ambrose in their favour. Both the Pope and the Bishop of Milan had refused even to grant them an interview.

With Gratian however they had been more successful, owing, as their opponents averred, to the bribes which they successfully administered to Macedonius, the young Emperor’s ‘Master of the Offices’; and one of the last acts of the unfortunate young Emperor had been an Edict of Restitution in their favour. With the accession of Maximus another change came over the scene. A council was by his order summoned to Bordeaux, and at this council matters were going ill with the adherents of the new doctrines, when Priscillian took the bold step of appealing, like Paul, from the Council to Caesar. Caesar in this case being the butler-Emperor Maximus of Trier.

Maximus, surrounded by a throng of sycophantic prelates, and anxious to win the favour of the Catholic Church for his usurping dynasty, perhaps also sharing some of the orthodox Spaniard’s dislike for these strange, austere Oriental heretics, was willing to make short work of the trial and condemnation of the Priscillianists. But at this point the greatest of the saints of Gaul appeared in the Imperial Capital and raised his powerful voice in favour of toleration.

Saint Martin, born at Sabaria in Pannonia, one of the great men whom in various capacities Illyricum in this century sent forth to govern and regenerate the world, was the son of a heathen officer in the Imperial army, and was destined by his father for the career of a soldier, notwithstanding his own strong desire to follow the life of a hermit. It was while he was serving as a young officer with his legion at Amiens that the well-known incident occurred of his dividing with his sword his military cloak and bestowing half of it on a shivering beggar. In the visions of the night he saw the Saviour arrayed in his divided chlamys, and learned that he had performed that act of charity to Christ. Before long, having dared to say to the young Julian in the crisis of a campaign against the barbarians, ‘I am a Christian and cannot fight,’ and having by a display of moral courage, which showed what a soldier the legions lost in him, won from the reluctant Emperor his discharge from the army, Martin entered a hermit’s cell, from which in the course of years he was drawn by the entreaties and the gentle compulsion of the people to fill the episcopal throne of Tours. But whether in the cell or in the palace, Martin remained a hermit at heart. Or perhaps we should rather say, like one of the preaching friars of nine centuries later, he wandered on a perpetual mission-tour through the villages of Gaul, waging fierce war on the remnants of idolatry, working miracles, casting out devils, and, so said his awe-struck followers, even raising the dead. He had hitherto steadfastly refused to share with the rest of the obsequious Gaulish Bishops the hospitality of Maximus. He appeared at the court from time to time to command, rather than to sue for, forgiveness for the hunted adherents of Gratian: but even on these occasions he refused to sit down at the Imperial banquet, saying that he would not be partaker at the table of the man who had murdered one Emperor and was seeking to dethrone another. It was perhaps during one of these semi-hostile visits to Trier that the wife of Maximus, who professed unbounded devotion for the holy man, obtained her husband's permission to wait upon him while he took his solitary meal. The Roman Augusta brought to the shaggy-haired, meanly clothed ecclesiastic water to wash his hands. She spread the table, arranged his seat, served him with the food which her own hands had cooked, stood behind his chair with downcast eyes, imitating the submissive demeanour of a slave; and when all was over she collected his broken victuals and feasted upon them herself, preferring them to all the dainties of the Imperial table.

Though he permitted this self-abasement of the Empress, and firmly asserted the dignity of his Episcopal office, St. Martin was upon the whole untouched by either the pride or the bigotry which were becoming the besetting sins of the great churchmen of the age.

When still a lad, in the Roman army, he had insisted on treating the one servant whom his position required him to employ, rather as an equal than an inferior; nay, he had often himself pulled off that servant’s shoes, and cleaned them from the mud of Picardy. And fervent as was his zeal against idols, he did not revel in the thought of the eternal perdition, even of a demon. In one of those strange colloquies with the Evil One which were beginning to be a characteristic of the hermit’s life, when the Accuser of the brethren taunted him with receiving back into Communion some who had fallen from the faith, he said to the Tempter, ‘They are absolved by God’s mercy: and if even thou, oh wretched one, wouldest cease from hunting the souls of men, and wouldest repent of thy evil deeds, now that the Day of Judgment is at hand, I, truly trusting in the Lord, would dare to promise thee the compassion of Christ.’ A daring word truly, and one more in harmony with the genius of our own, than with that of the fourth, or of many intervening centuries.

When St. Martin appeared at the Court of Maximus he exacted from the Emperor a promise that the Priscillianists should suffer no punishment in life or limb. But when the awe of the holy man’s presence was removed and when the servile herd of Bishops began again clamouring for blood, Maximus, unmindful of his promise, granted their request. Priscillian himself, the generous and enthusiastic student, the dreamer of strange dreams, and framer of wild cosmogonies, was sent by the sword of the executioner into that other world whose mysteries he had so confidently unravelled. Eudocia, the rhetorician’s widow, and five other persons, chiefly clerics in high position, were beheaded. Instantius, a Bishop and one of the most conspicuous of the sect, was banished to the Scilly Islands. Thither also, after, suffering confiscation of all his property, was sent Tiberianus, perhaps a wealthy lay-disciple. Such an exile seemed probably, to those who heard the sentence pronounced, little better than death : but one who has seen the sun set over that beautiful bay of islands, and who has gazed on the luxuriant vegetation that is fostered by the


‘Summer in alien months and constant spring


which reigns at Tresco, may doubt whether after all Instantius and Tiberianus had not a happier lot than their persecutors who remained behind amid the baking summers and fierce winters of Gaul to see their country wasted by the desolating inrush of the Vandal and the Sueve.

Thus then had the first blood been deliberately shed in the persecution of heretics by a Christian Emperor. It was an evil deed and one which the most orthodox relates of the Church, Ambrose and Martin, condemned as loudly as any heretic. In justice to Maximus, however, it should be remembered that they were accused as Manicheans, a sect upon whom even the tolerant Valentinian had been bitterly severe, and that the offences laid to their charge, however unjustly, were immoralities rather than misbeliefs. This was the kind of defence urged with stammering lips by Maximus when the terrible saint of Tours shortly afterwards appeared at Trier to demand an explanation of the violation of the Imperial promise. The guilty Bishops earnestly besought the Emperor to forbid Martin to enter the capital, and the glutton Ithacius had the audacity to accuse the saint himself of heresy. But mud flung by such hands as his could not stain the white robe which had once been shared with Christ Himself, and Martin, who had forced his way years before into the unwilling presence of Valentinian, was not likely to be kept at a distance by the mandate of Maximus. He appeared in the Emperor’s presence, he denounced his cruelty and his breach of faith; he would gladly have shaken the dust of the palace from his feet, but one thing restrained him, a self-imposed commission of mercy. He had come to beg for the lives of two of Gratian’s followers, Count Narses and Leucadius, late Praeses of one of the Gaulish provinces, whom Maximus seemed bent on hunting to their doom. Moreover, further measures of severity were about to be taken against the proscribed heretics. Officers of the army were to be sent to Spain with a commission to torture, to confiscate, to kill. Maximus, to whom it was of the utmost importance to be visibly in communion with the great saint of Gaul, gave him to understand that there was one means, and one only, of preventing all these severities, and that was that Martin should accept an invitation to an Imperial banquet.

In sore doubt and perplexity, to stop the further effusion of human blood, the saint consented. Maximus took care to make the banquet a notable one. Men of ‘illustrious’ rank, the cabinet-ministers of the Emperor, were there : the uncle and brother of Maximus, Counts in high office were also there, and there too was the Consul Enodius, a man of stem temperament, but who generally bore a high repute for the justice of his decisions. Yet the sight of that official cannot have been a pleasant one to St. Martin, since to him in the last resort had been committed the trial of Priscillian and his friends. However, the stately feast went on with no apparent interruption to its harmony. Halfway through it a servant, according to custom, handed the great chalice of wine to the Emperor, who waved it aside and ordered it to be first presented to St. Martin, hoping himself then to receive it from those hallowed fingers. The Bishop, however, when he had tasted it, handed the loving-cup to a Presbyter who accompanied him, signifying by this action that Illustres and Counts and Consuls, nay, even the Emperor himself, were lower in rank than the meanest of the ministers of the Church. Maximus meekly accepted the rebuff, though all marveled at conduct so unlike that of the other Bishops who thronged the palace of Augusta Treverorum. Yet, notwithstanding his bold demeanour, and the excellence of the motives which had prompted his compliance, the spirit of St. Martin sank within him when, on his homeward journey, he mused over the past, and reflected that he had, after all, accepted the hospitality of the man of blood, and had received the kiss of peace from the murderer of Gratian, and the slaughterer of the Priscillianists. Deep depression seized his spirit, and as he was journeying through the vast and gloomy forest of Andethanum he sent his companions forward a little space and sat down to brood over the perpetually recurring questions, ‘Have I done right?’ ‘Have I done wrong?’ Thus musing he thought he saw an Angel standing by him who said, ‘Rightly, Martin, does thy conscience trouble thee, yet other way of escape hadst thou none. Up now I and resume thy old constancy, lest, not thy power of working miracles, but thy soul’s salvation, be in danger.’ Then he arose and went on his way, yet thenceforward sedulously avoided the communion of Ithacius and his crew. Even so, he was for long conscious of a diminution in his miraculous powers, and in all the remaining sixteen years of his life he never again went near a Synod of Bishops.

Before he left the Imperial court Martin had uttered these words of prophecy, ‘Oh Emperor! if thou goest, as thou desirest to do, unto Italy, thou wilt be victorious in thy first on-rushing, but soon after thou wilt perish miserably.’ The events thus foretold rapidly came to pass.

Three years had passed since Maximus had won without a sword-stroke, by menace and intrigue, the three great countries of the West. He felt that the time was now come for him to win by like arts the realms of Italy and Africa, and he began to assume a menacing attitude towards Justina and Valentinian. Little difficulty had the wolf of Trier in finding grounds of accusation against the trembling lamb of Milan. The decree of toleration for the Arians, the attempt to obtain a basilica in the capital for their worship shocked the pious soul of Maximus. His hospitable invitation to the young Emperor and his mother to visit him in his palace at Trier had not been accepted. There had been trouble with the barbarians in Raetia and Pannonia, trouble which the friends of Valentinian believed to have been fomented by Maximus, but as in the course of the campaign Bauto, Valentinian’s military adviser, bad brought the Huns and Alans (whom he was employing to repel the inroads of the Juthungi) near to the frontiers of the Roman province of Germany, that was enough to justify the shrill expostulation of Maximus, ‘You are bringing barbarians into the Empire to attack me.’

It seems to have been towards the end of 386, or early in 387, that Justina, alarmed by the threatening tone of Maximus, humbled herself before her triumphant antagonist, Ambrose, and begged him to undertake a second embassy to the usurper. Of his proceedings on this occasion the great prelate has left us a spirited account in the report addressed by him to Valentinian II.

‘ When I had reached Treveri,’ says Ambrose, ‘I went on the next day to the palace. The chamberlain, a man of Gaulish birth and an eunuch of the palace, came forth to meet me. I requested an audience, and he asked in reply whether I had any commission from your Clemency. When I said that I had, he answered that I could not have an audience except in full Consistory. I said that this was not the way in which priests were usually treated, and that there were certain matters on which I wished to confer in secret with his master. He went in and brought back the same answer which had evidently been at first dictated by Maximus. I then said that in your interests and in the cause of fraternal piety’ (part of the Bishop’s commission was to plead for the restoration of Gratian’s body) ‘I would waive what was due to my rank and accept the proffered humiliation.

‘When he had taken his seat in the Consistory and I had entered, he rose up to give me the kiss of peace. I stood still among the members of the Consistory. They began to exhort me to go up to the Emperor's seat, and he also called me thither. I answered, “Why should you kiss one whom you do not recognize? For if you recognized me you would give me audience not here but in your Secretum”. “Bishop,” said he, “you are losing your temper.” “No,” I answered, “I am not angry, but I blush for your want of courtesy in receiving me in an unsuitable place.” “But in the first embassy you appeared in the Consistory.” “Not my fault,” said I: “the fault lay with him who invited me thither. Besides, then I was asking for peace from an inferior, now from an equal.” “Ah, yes,” said he, “and whom has he to thank for that equality?” “Almighty God,” I answered, “who has reserved for Valentinian that realm which He has given him.”

We need not follow in detail the rest of the discussion. Ambrose defended himself from the charge of having outwitted Maximus in the previous embassy, he reiterated his statement of the unreasonableness of expecting the widow and her child to cross the Alps in order to visit the stout soldier at Trier, he vindicated Bauto from the accusation of having sent barbarians into Roman Germany, and again asked for the body of his murdered pupil, Gratian, reminding the usurper that his brother, who was even then standing at his right hand, had been sent back, safe and with an escort of honour, by Valentinian, when the young Emperor might have avenged his brother’s death upon him.

All was in vain. Maximus utterly refused to surrender the body of Gratian (of whose death he again protested his innocence), alleging that the sight of that corpse would ‘stir up’ the soldiers to some sudden act of mutiny. He complained that the friends of the late Emperor were flocking to the Court of Theodosius, which, as Ambrose remarked, was no wonder, when they remembered the fate of Vallio, that noble soldier, sacrificed for his fidelity to the murdered prince. The mention of Vallio’s name led to an incoherent outburst of rage on the part of Maximus. He had never ordered him to be killed, but if Vallio had fallen into his hand he would have sent him to Cabillonum and had him burned alive. With this the conference ended, and St. Ambrose, who had certainly achieved no diplomatic success,—perhaps diplomatic success was impossible—concluded his report of his mission with these words, ‘Farewell, oh Emperor, and be on your guard against a man who is hiding war under the cloak of peace.’

It was important for Maximus to get rid of Ambrose from his Court, for the invasion which he was now of meditating was nominally in the interest of orthodoxy, and it would have been too flagrant an absurdity to commence such an enterprise under the ban of excommunication from the greatest champion of orthodoxy in Italy. Already the usurper had addressed a letter to Pope Siricius, the successor of Damasus, boasting of his great deeds in the suppression of the Priscillianist heresy, protesting his zeal for the true faith, and declaring that the ruin of the Church had been averted by his timely and providential elevation to the throne, and by the measures which he had taken to correct the disorders which had crept in under his predecessor. Now the ground thus prepared was utilized by another letter addressed to the young Valentinian, and no doubt widely circulated through his dominions. In this letter ‘Our Clemency’ expresses to ‘Your Serenity’ the concern with which ‘we have heard that you are mad enough to make war upon God and His saints.’ ‘ What is this that we hear, of priests besieged in their basilicas, of fines inflicted, of capital punishment threatened, of the most holy law of God overturned under the pretext of I know not what principle [of toleration]. Italy and Africa, Spain and Gaul, agree in the faith which you are seeking to overturn : only Illyricum, I blush to say it, wavers, and the judgments of God are falling on that Illyrian city of Margus, which has been the stronghold of Arianism . Yet your Serene Youth is trying to overturn the faith of the whole world, and is making perilous innovations in the things of God. If Our Serenity hated you we should rejoice to see you thus acting; but we hope you will believe that we are speaking to you in love and for your own interest, when we call upon you to restore Italy, and venerable Rome, and all your provinces to their own Churches and their own priests, and not to meddle yourself in these matters at all, since it is obviously more becoming that Arian sectaries should conform to the Catholic faith than that they should seek to instill their wickedness into the minds of those who now think rightly.’

The trembling Valentinian, who seems to have already removed from Milan to Aquileia, in order to be further from his Imperial adviser, sent, perhaps in answer to this letter, another embassy to the Court of Trier.

The envoy chosen was Domninus, a Syrian, loyal to Valentinian and intimately acquainted with the secrets of the policy of Justina. This embassy offered to the crafty Maximus a means of overcoming the difficulty presented by those well-guarded Alpine passes which had foiled his previous endeavours. And here it may be noticed in passing, that though we speak with approximate correctness of the Alps as separating Italy from Europe, it is really the Western and Central Alps of which this is especially true. Piedmont and Lombardy are closed in from the West and North by mighty snow-clad ranges, the passes of which it has needed the skill of the best generals of the ancient and modem world to traverse with an army. But on the North-East of Italy the Julian Alps, though rising to the height of 3000 or 4000 feet, interpose no such almost impenetrable barrier, and in the course of this history we shall see these mountains often crossed by large armies with comparative ease.

When Domninus arrived at Augusta Treverorum he received a very different welcome from that which had been given to Ambrose. Costly gifts were pressed upon his acceptance; he was treated with every mark of respect and even of effusive affection; the Emperor had ever on his lips his love for his young, if somewhat misguided colleague, and soon Domninus was convinced that Valentinian had in all the world no truer friend than Magnus Clemens Maximus. As a substantial token of his friendship, Maximus, though doubtless somewhat pressed himself by the barbarians in Gaul, would spare some of his best troops to assist Valentinian in the war against the barbarians in Pannonia, and these troops should escort his excellent friend Domninus across the Alps. The generous offer was accepted. Maximus himself moved slowly forward with the bulk of his army. The passes were carefully watched to prevent any tidings of military operations reaching the ears of Valentinian’s generals. As soon as the ridge of the Alps was crossed and the difficult marshy land at their feet over-passed, all disguise was thrown off, the main body of the army hastened over the passes now held entirely by the partisans of Maximus. That able negotiator, Domninus, had simply introduced into Italy the vanguard of the army which had come to upset his master’s throne.

At Aquileia all seems to have been confusion and alarm when the news of the invasion was received. The stout and wary soldier, Bauto the Frank, was probably dead, as we hear no mention of his name: and the position which he had held as chief counsellor of the Augusta may perhaps have been taken up by the wealthy and timid Probus, whom we last saw on the point of surrendering Sirmium and who was now again holding the office of Praetorian Prefect. Maximus marched with all speed to Aquileia, but when he arrived there he found that the young colleague who was so dear to him had already departed. Justina with Valentinian and his sisters, accompanied by Probus, had taken ship in the port of Aquileia and sailed round Greece to Thessalonica, from whence they sent an embassy to Theodosius, beseeching him now at length to avenge all the wrong which had been done to the house of Valentinian.

Meanwhile the troops of Maximus, like an overflowing and scarcely resisted flood, were pouring over Italy. It is possible that some of the cities on the Po may have offered sufficient resistance to afford the invader a pretext for abandoning them to the wild rapine of his soldiers. There was trepidation and alarm at Milan, where the soothing eloquence of St. Ambrose was needed to prevent the citizens from abandoning their city in terror. But upon the whole there does not appear to have been much bloodshed, nor anything really amounting to civil war in Italy. Maximus, having thus easily glided into supreme authority over two-thirds of the Roman world, does not seem to have used his usurped power tyrannically. It is significant that the worst crime which is imputed to him at this period of his career is the issuing of an order for the rebuilding of a Jewish synagogue which had been destroyed by the populace of Rome. Hereupon, we are told, the Christian population shook their heads ominously. ‘No good,’ said they, ‘will befall this man. The Emperor has turned Jew’.

In Rome itself however, among the old Senatorial party, any disposition towards toleration on the part of the late fierce assertor of orthodoxy would be a welcome relief. The Emperor seems to have visited Rome in person, and (possibly on New Year’s Day 388) to have listened to an elaborate harangue pronounced by the heathen orator Symmachus in his honour. This oration, which in after years nearly cost the author his life, was prudently suppressed and does not appear among his published speeches.

It was in the autumn, probably in the month of September or October, that the invasion of Maximus and the flight of Valentinian took place. Notwithstanding the pleadings of Justina, nearly a year elapsed before her wrongs and those of the house of Valentinian were avenged. At the call of the Empress, Theodosius repaired to Thessalonica, being accompanied by some of the most eminent members of the Senate of Constantinople. A debate ensued, in which it appeared that the universal opinion was that the murderer of Gratian and the despoiler of Valentinian must be at once called upon to justify his conduct before the tribunal of War. The counsel was not acceptable to Theodosius, who, to the surprise of all, proposed that ambassadors should be sent and negotiations should be entered into, to induce Maximus to restore the heritage of Valentinian. Historians hostile to his fame see in this lukewarmness only another evidence of the demoralization which years of palace-luxury had wrought in the character of Theodosius. Even an impartial critic may suspect that some remembrance of the terrible wrong which the house of Theodosius had once suffered from the house of Valentinian still rankled in the breast of the Eastern Emperor.

But there were, as has been already hinted, worthier motives for inaction; the recent danger from the Goths, the ever-present danger from the Persians, the exhaustion of the Empire, the petulant Arianism of Justina, the loudly asserted orthodoxy of Maximus, above all, the terrible shock to ‘the Roman Republic’ when its Eastern and Western halves should meet in deadly combat on some Illyrian plain, as they had met when Constantine fought with Licinius, when his son fought with Magnentius, as they would, but for a timely death, have met when Constantius warred against Julian.

All these considerations justified delay. Perhaps delay would have glided on into abandonment of all thoughts of revenge, and truce into cordial alliance with the usurper, but for one personal argument which destroyed the even balance of the scales of Peace and War. Justina, the widow of two Emperors, and one of the most beautiful women of her time, had a daughter, Galla, even lovelier than herself. Theodosius was a widower, his wife Flaccilla having died in the preceding year; and when the beautiful Galla clasped his knees as a suppliant and with streaming eyes besought him to avenge the murder of one brother, and the spoliation of another, Theodosius could no longer resist. Overmastered by her beauty, he sought and obtained her hand in marriage, the one condition imposed by Justina being that he should strike down the murderous usurper and restore his kingdom to Valentinian.

Many preparations were needed; and perhaps also the winter and spring were employed in shaping the pliant mind of Valentinian in the mould of Nicene orthodoxy. Embassies passed to and fro between Constantinople and Milan, but it was probably clear to the ambassadors themselves that there was no reality in their messages. Theodosius may have been indirectly helped by a burst of Franks and Saxons over the Gaulish frontier, threatening Cologne and Mayence, and overstraining the energies of the generals whom Maximus had left to guard the throne of his young son and associated colleague Victor. Not less was the relief afforded by the conclusion of peace with Persia, which enabled Theodosius to muster all the hosts of his realm for the westward march, free from anxiety as to the long and weak frontier of the Euphrates.

On the other hand the Arians, even in Constantinople, were restless and still numerous enough to be an element of danger. And great as was the popularity of the Emperor with the Gothic foederati, it remained to be seen how that popularity would stand the strain of war. Indeed Maximus, whose one idea of strategy seems to have been to bribe the soldiers of his opponent, had actually entered into negotiations with some of the barbarians, offering them large sums of money if they would betray their master. The negotiations, however, were discovered on the eve of the opening of the campaign, and the barbarians implicated, fleeing to the lakes and forests of Macedonia, were hunted down and destroyed before the war began.

At last all the necessary preparations were completed, and about the month of June (388) Theodosius, having divided his army into three bands, marched down the valley of the Morava and entered the Western Empire at Belgrade. Justina and her daughters had been sent by sea to Rome, where already the cause of Maximus had become unpopular. For some reason not explained to us Maximus had concluded that Theodosius would make his attack by sea, and Andragathias, his accomplice in the murder of Gratian and his chief military adviser, with a large part of his army was cruising about the narrow seas, hoping to intercept either Theodosius, who never set sail, or Justina, who was already safe in port.

The two chief generals on Theodosius’ side were Promotus, Master of Cavalry, and Timasius, Master of Infantry. The two Teutons, Richomer and Arbogast, also held high commands. All depended on rapid movement, and the Eastern army, inspirited probably and roused to emulation by the warlike spirit of the Gothic foederati among them, responded admirably to the call made upon them by their leaders. By forced marches they reached Siscia, now the Croatian town of Siszek, on the Save. The dusty, panting soldiers pushed their steeds into the river, swam across, and successfully charged the enemy. In another more stubbornly contested battle at Pettau, where the hostile army was commanded by Marcellinus, brother of the usurper, the fiery valor of the Goths, tempered and directed by the Theodosian discipline, again triumphed. Aemona (Laybach) opened her gates with rejoicing, and welcomed the liberating host to her streets, hung with carpets and bright with flowers.

With an army swollen by numerous desertions from the demoralized ranks of his rival, Theodosius pressed on, over the spurs of the Julian Alps, to Aquileia, where Maximus, whose soldierly qualities seem to have been melted out of him by five years of reigning, cowered behind the walls, awaiting his approach. Aquileia had the reputation of being a virgin fortress, the Metz of Italy, but the forces of the usurper were now too few to form a sufficient garrison. A small body of Moorish soldiers, belonging perhaps to the same legion which had first revolted to him in Gaul, still remained faithful, yet Maximus did not rely too confidently even on their unbribed fidelity. When the troops of Theodosius, with brisk impetuous onset, streamed over the loosely-guarded walls, they found the usurper sitting on his throne, distributing money to his soldiers. They tore off with violent gestures his purple robe, they knocked the diadem from his head, they made him doff his purple sandals, and then, with his hands tied behind him like a slave’s, they dragged the trembling tyrant before his judges. At the third milestone from Aquileia, Theodosius and the young lad, his brother-in-law, had erected their tribunal.

‘Is it true,’ said the Emperor of the East, ‘that it was with my consent that Gratian was murdered, and that you usurped the crown?’

‘It is not true,’ Maximus is said to have faltered out, ‘but without that pretext I could never have persuaded the soldiers to join in the rebellion.’

Theodosius looked upon the fallen potentate, once his comrade, with eyes in which there was some gleam of pity. But if he had any thoughts of clemency, they were not shared by his army, who, perhaps for their own safety, thought it necessary to destroy the man whose fallen majesty they had derided. Countless eager hands dragged him off to the place of punishment, where he was put to death by the common executioner. His son Victor, the young Augustus at Trier, was put to death by Arbogast, who was sent into Gaul on this errand, unworthy of a brave soldier. Andragathius, hearing that his master’s cause was lost, leaped into the Adriatic, preferring to trust himself to it, rather than to his enemies.

So fell the usurper Maximus after five years’ wearing of the purple, and now at last the body of the murdered Gratian found a resting-place in his brother’s capital of Milan.

Theodosius, with splendid generosity, handed over to Valentinian not only the young Emperor’s own previous share of the Empire, but also his brother Gratian’s remaining content with the Eastern provinces which he had ruled from the beginning. It was clearly understood however, and in fact resulted from the necessity of the case, that the great soldier who had won back the heritage of Valentinian was supreme over the whole Empire. This supremacy involved the complete victory of the Nicene Creed in the West as well as the East, a victory which was aided by the conversion of Valentinian and the timely death of Justina, who had scarcely returned to her son’s palace at Milan when she ended her troubled life. The next three years after the overthrow of Maximus, 288-391, were spent by Theodosius in Italy, at Milan, at Rome, at Verona, in setting in order those affairs of Church and State, which in his judgment had gone wrong since the firm hand of the elder Valentinian had failed from the helm.