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984

MAXIMINUS.

their discontent, until a regular conspiracy was matured, which ended in the assassination of Severus in Gaul [severusJ, and in his own inves­titure (a. p. 235) with the purple by the mutinous soldiers, whose choice was not resisted by an intimi­dated senate.

Maximinus immediately bestowed the title of Caesar on his son Maximus, and without seeking to display his new dignity in the metropolis, deter­mined to prosecute with all vigour the war against the Germans, and accordingly crossed the Rhine towards the end of the year a. d. 235. The cam­paign, which lasted for upwards of eighteen months, was triumphantly successful. The enemy, after having in vain attempted to withstand the progress of the invaders, were compelled to take refuge in their woods and marshes, many thousand villages were destroyed, the flocks and herds were slaugh­tered or driven off, a vast amount of plunder, in­cluding multitudes of prisoners, was secured, and the emperor retired to Pannqnia in the autumn of 237, with the resolution of re-crossing the Danube in the following spring, in order that he might sub­jugate the Sarmatians and carry his arms even to the shores of the ocean. Meanwhile, his adminis­tration had been characterised by a degree of oppression and sanguinary excess hitherto unex­ampled. His maxim, we are assured, was "nisi crudelitate imperium non teneri^ and unquestion-. ably his practice seems to have been guided by some such brutal principle. This violence was first called forth by the discovery of an extensive plot, contrived originally, we are told, by a certain Magnus, a consular, in which many officers and men of rank were involved. The vengeance of the tyrant was not glutted until four thousand victims had been sacrificed, the greater number of whom were destroyed upon the most vague suspicion. From this time forward informers were encouraged to ply their trade. An accusation was instantly followed by a sentence of death or confiscation ; the most opulent were persecuted with untiring rancour, and numbers of illustrious families reduced to indigence. When the sums lavished on the troops could no longer be supplied by the plunder of private individuals, the next step was to lay violent hands on public property of every descrip­tion. The sums reserved in the treasury for the purchase of corn, the fund set apart for theatrical exhibitions, the wealth accumulated in the temples, arid the very statues of the gods, were all ruthlessly seized,—proceedings which called forth expressions of such deep indignation, that the soldiers were ashamed to enrich themselves from these sources. Against no class did the jealous rage of Maximinus burn so fiercely as against the senate. Remem­bering with bitterness the insults he had endured in former days from the very slaves of the haughty nobles, he eagerly seized every pretext for pillaging, exiling, and murdering the.members of a body so detested. The same ferocity broke forth even against the soldiers, who were subjected for trivial offences to the most horrid tortures, so that history and mythology were ransacked to discover some monstrous prototype for the man whom they had once loved to term Hercules, or Ajax, or Achilles, but who was now more frequently designated as Cyclops, or Busiris, or Sciron, or Phalaris, or Typhon, or Gyges,. But this fury was kindled into absolute madness, when, in the beginning of a. p, 238, Maximinus received intelligence of. the

MAXIMINUS.

insurrection in Africa headed by the Gordiaiis, of the favour displayed by the provinces and the senate towards their cause, of the resolutions by which he himself had been declared a public enemy, of the subsequent elevation of Maximus with Bal-binus, and of their recognition in Italy by all orders of the state. He is said upon this occasion to have rent his garments, to have thrown himself upon the ground and dashed his head against the wall in impotent fury, to have howled like a wild beast, to have struck all whom he encountered, and to have attempted to tear out the eyes of his own son. Abandoning at once his projected expedition, orders were instantly given to march against Rome. Passing over the Julian Alp, the army descended upon Aquileia. That important city, the chief bulwark of the peninsula on the north-eastern frontier, stimulated by the patriotic zeal of Cris-pinus and Menophilus, the two consulars entrusted with the defence of the district, shut its gates against the tyrant, who was forced to form a re­gular siege. The, walls were bravely defended, and the assailants suffered severely, not only from the valour of the townsmen, but likewise from the want of supplies, the whole of the surrounding district having been laid waste in anticipation of their approach. The bad passions and imgpvern-able temper of Maximinus were lashed into frenzy by these delays, the chief officers were put to death, and the most intemperate harshness employed to­wards the men. At length a body of praetorians, dreading some new outbreak of cruelty, repaired to the tent of the emperor and his son, who were re­posing during the mid-day heat, and having forced an entrance, cut off their heads, which were first displayed on poles to the gaze of the citizens on the battlements of Aquileia, and then despatched to Rome. The grisly trophies were exposed for a time to public view, that all might revel in the spectacle, and then burned in the Campus Mar­tins, amidst the insulting shouts of the crowd. These feelings were shared by all the civilised pro­vinces in the empire, although the rude dwellers on the northern frontiers lamented the loss of a sovereign chosen from among themselves,

We have already seen that Maximinus owed his first advancement to his physical powers, which seem to have been almost incredible. His height exceeded eight feet, but his person was not un­graceful, for the size and muscular development of his limbs were in proportion to his stature, the cir­cumference of his thumb being equal to that of a woman's wrist, so that the bracelet of his wife served him for a ring. His fair skin gave token of his Scandinavian extraction, while the remarkable magnitude of his eyes communicated a bold and imposing expression to his features. In addition to his unequalled prowess as a wrestler, he was able single-handed to drag a loaded waggon, could with his fist knock out the grinders, and with a kick break the leg of a horse ; while his appetite was such, that in a day he could eat forty pounds of meat, and drink an amphora of wine. At least such are the statements of ancient writers, though they should doubtless be received with some deductions.

The chronology of this reign, which is extremely obscure, in consequence of the ignorance and carer lessness of our ancient authorities, has been eluci­dated with great skill by Eckhel, whose arguments, founded chiefly upon the evidence afforded by

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