« AnteriorContinuar »
PRINTED BY ABRAHAM SMALL ....AND PUBLISHED BY HIM, AND M. CANET,
IT is not my intention to detain the reader by expatiating on the variety, or the importance of the subject, which I have undertaken to treat; since the merit of the choice would serve to render the weakness of the execution still more apparent, and still less excusable.
The memorable series of revolutions, which, in the course of about thirteen centuries, gradually undermined, and at length destroyed, the solid fabric of human greatness, may, with some propriety, be divided into the three following periods.
I. The first of these periods may be traced from the age of Trajan and the Antonines, when the Roman monarchy, having attained its full strength and maturity, began to verge towards its decline; and will extend to the subversion of the Western Empire, by the barbarians of Germany and Scythia, the rude ancestors of the most polished nations of Modern Europe. This extraordinary revolution, which subjected Rome to the power of a Gothic conqueror, was completed about the beginning of the sixth century.
II. The second period of the Decline and Fall of Rome, may be supposed to commence with the reign of Justinian, who by his laws, as well as by his victories, restored a transient splendour to the Eastern Empire. It will comprehend the invasion of Italy by the Lombards; the conquest of the Asiatic and
African provinces by the Arabs, who embraced the religion of Mahomet ; the revolt of the Roman people against the feeble princes of Constantinople ; and the elevation of Charlemagne, who, in the year eight hundred, established the second, or German Empire of the west.
III. The last and longest of these periods includes about six centuries and a half; from the revival of the Western Empire, till the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, and the extinction of a degenerate race of princes, who continued to assume the titles of Cæsar and Augustus, after their dominions were contracted to the limits of a single city; in which the language as well as manners of the ancient Romans had been long since forgotten.
The reign of Justinian, and the conquests of the Mahometans, will deserve and detain our attention, and the last age of Constantinople (the Crusades and *the Turks) is connected with the revolutions of Mo. dern Europe. From the seventh to the eleventh cen. tury, the obscure interval will be supplied by a concise narrative of such facts, as may still appear either interesting or important.
Diligence and accuracy are the only merits which an historical writer may ascribe to himself; if any merit indeed can be assumed from the performance of an indispensable duty. I may therefore be allowed to say, that I have carefully examined all the original materials that could illustrate the subject which I had undertaken to treat.
The Biographers, who, under the reigns of Diocletian and Constantine, composed, or rather compiled, the lives of the Emperors, from Hadrian to the sons of Carus, are usually mentioned under the names of Ælius Spartianus, Julius Capitolinus, Ælius Lampridius, Vulcatius Gallicanus, Trebellius Pollio, and Flavius Vopiscus. But there is so
much perplexity in the titles of the MSS.; and so many disputes have arisen among the critics, (see Fabricius, Biblioth. Latin. I. iü. c. 6.) concerning their number, their names, and their respective property, that for the most part I have quoted them without distinction, under the general and well known title of the Augustan History.
March 1, 1782.