Abbildungen der Seite

Which being done, and the Caledonians having joined the Mæatæ in revolt, he made ready as if going in person to war against them. But, while he was thus engaged, disease carried him off on the fourth of February ; Antoninus, as it is said, in a measure contributing to his death. .. After this his body, laid out in military order, was placed upon a funeral pile, and honourably attended both by the soldiers and his sons. Such of those present as had military offerings cast them on the pyre, and the flame was kindled by his sons. Lastly, his bones being deposited in an urn of porphyry, were carried to Rome and placed in the sepulchre of the Antonines,


HERODIAX. (From the Translation in the “Monumenta Historica Britannica.') While Severus grieved at the dissolute life of his sons, and their unbecoming attachment to public spectacles, he received letters from the præfect of Britain relating that the barbarians there were in a state of insurrection, overri

rrunning the country, driving off booty, and laying every thing waste ; so that for the defence of the island there was need either of greater force, or of the presence of the emperor himself. Severus heard this with pleasure, by nature a lover of glory, and anxious, after his victories in the cast and north and his consequent titles, to obtain a trophy from the Britons : moreover, willing to withdraw his sons from Rome, that they might grow up in the discipline and sobriety of a military life, far removed from the blandishments and luxury prevalent in Rome, he orders an expedition against Britain, although now old, and labouring under an arthritic affection ; but as to his mind, he was vigorous beyond any youth. For the most part he performed the march carried in a litter, nor did he ever continue long in one place. Having completed the journey with his sons, and crossed over the sea more quickly than could be described or expected, he advanced against the Britons, and having drawn together his soldiers from all sides, and concentrated a vast force, he prepared for the war.

The Britons, much struck with the sudden arrival of the emperor, and learning that such a mighty force was collected against them, sent ambassadors, sued for peace, and were willing to excuse their past transgressions. But Severus, purposely seeking delay that he might not again return to Rome without his object, and, moreover, desirous to obtain from Britain a victory and a title, sent away their ambassadors without effecting their purpose, and prepared all things for the contest. He more especially endeavoured to render the marshy places stable by means of causeways, that his soldiers, treading with safety, might easily pass them, and, having firm footing fight to advantage. For many parts of the British country, being constantly flooded by the tides of the ocean, become marshy. In these the natives are accustomed to swim and traverse about being immersed as high as their waists : for going naked as to the greater part of their bodies, they contemn the mud. Indeed they know not the use of clothing, but encircle their loins and necks with iron ; deeming this an ornament and evidence of opulence, in like manner as other barbarians esteem gold. But they puncture their bodies with pictorial forms of every sort of animals ; on which account they wear no clothing, lest they should hide the figures on their body. They are a most warlike and sanguinary race, carrying only a small shield and a spear, and a sword girded to their uaked bodies. Of a breast-plate or an helmet they know not the use, esteeming them as an impediment to their progress through the marshes ; from the vapours and exhalations of which the atmosphere in that country always appears dense.

Against such things, therefore, Severus prepared whatever could be serviceable to the Roman army, but hurtful and detrimental to the designs of the barbarians. And

shen every thing appeared to him sufficiently arranged for the war, leaving his younger son, named Geta, in that part of the island which was subjugated to the Romans, for the purpose of administering justice and directing other civil matters of the government, giving him as assessors the more aged of his friends; and taking Antoninus with himself, he led the way against the barbarians. His army having passed beyond the rivers and fortresses which defended the Roman territory, there were frequent attacks and skirmishes, and retreats on the side of the barbarians. To these, indeed, flight was an easy matter, and they lay hidden in the thickets and marshes through their local knowledge ; all which things being adverso to the Romans, served to protract the war.

But a sickness of longer continuance than usual now seized Severus in his advanced age : so that he himself was compelled to remain inactive, and purposed to send Antoninus to direct military matters. Antoninus however cared little about the barbarians, but endeavoured to conciliate the soldiery. He persuaded all to look up to him alone, grasped at the empire by every possible method, and heaped up accusations against his brother. That his father for so long a time should thus linger and make but slow advances towards death, appeared to him tedious and vexatious; he therefore persuaded the physicians and attendants to treat him in such manner as might rid him of the old man as soon as possible. At length, however, and even then chicfly worn out by vexation, Severus expired; having lived more gloriously as to military matters than any of the emperors. For no one before him could claim so many civic triumphs over domestic enemies, or foreign over barbarians. And having reigned eighteen years, he died, and was succeeded by his sons; to whom he left treasure to such an amount as no one before had done, and an army which none couid resist.

Antoninus on the death of his father, becoming possessed of the imperial power, commenced furthwith the work of slaughter, beginning from his own household.

Antoninus, therefore, when his attempt with the military failed, making a truce with the barbarians, and granting them peace, and receiving pledges of fidelity, left the hostile country, and proceeded to his mother and his brother. . . In this mapper both directing the affairs of the government, they resolved, with equal dignity, to loose from Britain : and they proceeded to Rome, carrying with them the remains of their father. For, having committed his body to the flames, and cast the ashes, together with spices, into an urn of alabaster, they conveyed them to Rome, that they might deposit these sacred reliques in the imperial sepulchre. Transporting their army, therefore, and now become the conquerors of the Britons, they crossed the ocean, and arrived in the opposite coast of Gaul.



In the year of the incarnation of our Lord, 286, Diocletian, the thirty-third Emperor from Augustus, chosen by the army, reigned twenty years, and created Maximinianus, surnamed Herculius, his companion in the empire. In their time one Carausius, of very mean birth, but an expert and able soldier, being appointed to guard the sea-coasts, then infested by the Francs and Saxons, acted more to the prejudice than to the advantage of the Commonwealth, not restoring the booty taken from the robbers to the owners, but keeping all to himself, became suspected ; that by his neglect he permitted the enemy to infest the frontiers. Being therefore ordered by Maximian to be put to death, he took upon him the Imperial robes, and possessed himself of Britain, which having most valiantly retained and asserted for the space of seven years, he was at length put to death by the treachery of his associate Albertus. He having thus got the island from Carausius, held it three years, and was suppressed by Asolepiodotus, the captain of the Pretorian bands, who thus at the end of ten years recovered Britain. In the meantime Diocletian in the east, and Maximinianus Herculius in the west, the tenth time from Nero, commanded the churches to be destroyed, and the Christians to be slain ; the which persecution was more lasting and bloody, than all the others before it ; for it was carried on the space of ten years incessantly, with burning of Churches, outlawing of innocent persons, and slaughter of martyrs. At length, it also honoured Britain with much glory of devoutly confessing God.

At that time suffered St. Alban, of whom the priest Fortunatus, in the praise of virgins, when he made mention of the blessed martyrs that came to the Lord from all parts of the world, says,

Albanum egregium fæcunda Britannia profert.
That is,

Fruitful Britain holy Alban yields. This Alban being yet a Pagan, at the time when the commands of perfidious princes raged against Christians, gave entertainment in his house to a certain clergyman, flying from the persecutors, observing him wholly addicted to continual prayer, and watching day and night; on a sudden the divine grace shining on him, he began to admire his example of faith and piety, and being leisurely instructed by his wholesome admonitions, casting off the darkness of idolatry, he became a Christian in all sincerity of heart. The aforesaid clergyman having been some days entertained by him, it came to the ears of the wicked prince, that the confessor of Christ, to whom the place of martyrdom had not been yet appointed, was concealed at Alban's house. Whereupon he presently ordered soldiers to make a strict search after him. When hey came to the martyr's house, St. Alban immediately presented himself to the soldiers, instead of his guest and master, in his habit, or the long coat he wore, and was led bound before the judge. It happened that the judge, at the time when Alban was carried before him, was standing at the altar, and offering sacrifice to devils. When he saw Alban, being much enraged for that he had presumed of his own accord to put himself into the hands of the soldiers, and run that danger for his guest ; he commanded him to be dragged to the images of devils, before which he stood, saying, " Because you have chosen to conceal a rebellious and sacrilegious person, rather than to deliver him up to the soldiers, that the contemner of the gods night suffer the penalty due to his blasphemy, you shall undergo all the punishment that was due to him, if you depart from the worship of our religion.” But St. Alban, who had voluntarily declared himself a Christian to the persecutors of the faith, was not at all daunted at the prince's threats, but being armed with the armour of the spiritual warfare, publicly declared, that he would not obey his commands. Then said the judge, “ Of what family or race are

“What does it concern you,” answered Alban, "of what stock I am ? But if you desire to hear the truth of my religion, be it known to you, that I am now a Christian, and addicted to Christian duties." "I ask your name," said the judge, “which tell me immediately.” “I am called Alban by my parents,” replied he, " and ever worship and adore the true and living God, who created all things." Then the judge inflamed with anger, said, “If you will enjoy the happiness of eternal life, do not delay to offer sacrifice to the great gods." Alban rejoined, “These sacrifices which by you are offered to devils, neither can they avail the subjects, nor answer the wishes or desires of those that offer up their supplications to them. On the contrary, whosoever shall offer sacrifice to these images, shall receive the everlasting pains of hell for his reward." The judge hearing these


you ?

words, and being much incensed, ordered the holy confessor of God to be scourged by the executioners, believing he might by stripes shake that constancy of his beart, on which he could not prevail by words. He being most cruelly tortured, bore the same patiently, or rather joyfully, for our Lord. When the judge perceived that he was not to be overcome by tortures, or withdrawn from the worship of the Christian religion, he ordered him to be put to death. Being led to execution, he came to the river, which was divided, at the place where the stroke was to be giren him, with a wall and sand, the stream being most rapid. He there saw a multitude of persons of both sexes, and of several ages and conditious, which was doubtless assembled by divine instinct, to attend the most blessed confessor and martyr, and had so taken up the bridge on the river, that he could scarce pass over that evening. At length, almost all being gone out, the judge remained in the city without attendauce. St. Alban, therefore, whose mind was possessed with an ardent devotion to arrive quickly at martyrdom, drew near to the stream, and lifting up his eyes to heaven, the channel being immediately dried up, he perceived that the water had departed and given way for him to pass. The executioner who was to have put him to death, observing this among the rest, hastened to meet him at the place of execution, being moved by divine inspiration, and casting down the sword which he had carried, ready drawn, fell down at his feet, earnestly praying, that he might rather suffer with, or for the martyr, whom he was ordered to exccute. Whilst he of a persecutor was become a companion in the truth and faith, and the sword being laid down, there was some hesitation among the executioners, the most reverend confessor of God ascended the hill with the throng, the which decently pleasant agreeable place is almost five hundred paces from the river, embellished with several sort of flowers, or rather quite covered with them ; wherein there is no part upright, or steep, nor any thing craggy, but the sides stretching out far about is levelled by nature like the sea, which of old it had rendered worthy to be enriched with the martyr's blood for its beautiful appearance.

On the top of this hill, St. Alban prayed that God would give him water, and immediately a living spring broke out before his feet, the course being confined, so that all men perceived, that even the stream had been subservient to the martyr. Nor could it be that the martyr should ask water, which he had not left in the river, on the high top of the hill, had he not been sensible that it was convenient. That river having performed the service, and fulfilled the devotion, returned to its natural course, leaving a testimony of its obedience. The most courageous martyr having his head struck off, received there the crown of life, which God has promised to those that love him. But he who gave the wicked stroke, was not permitted to rejoice over the deceased ; for his eyes dropped upon the ground together with the blessed martyr's head. At the same time was also beheaded there the soldier, who before, through the divine admonition, refused to give the stroke to the holy confessor of God. Of whom it is apparent, that though he was not regenerated by baptism, yet he was cleansed by the washing of his own blood, and rendered worthy to enter the kingdom of heaven. The judge, then astonished at the novelty of so many heavenly miracles, ordered the persecution to cease immediately, beginning to honour the death of the saints, by which he before thought they might have been diverted from the devotion of the Christian faith. The blessed Alban suffered on the tenth day of the Kalends of July, near the city of Verolam, which is now by the English nation called Uverlamacestir, or Uvarlingacester, where afterwards, when peaceable Christian times were restored, a church of wonderful workmanship, and suitable to his martyrdom, was erected. In which place, there ceases not to this day the cure of sick persons, and the frequent working of wonders. At the same time suffered Aaron and Julius, citizens of Chester, and many more of both sexes in several places; who having endured sundry torments, and their limbs torn after an unheard of manner, sent their souls by perfect combat to the joys of the heavenly city.

[blocks in formation]

Lament! for Diocletian's fiery sword
Works busy as the lightning ; but instinct
With malice ne'er to deadliest weapon link'd,
Which God's ethereal storehouses afford :
Against the followers of the incarnate Lord
It rages ;—some are smitten in the field-
Some pierced beneath the ineffectual shield
Of sacred home;—with pomp are others gored
And dreadful respite. Thus was Alban tried,
England's first martyr, whom no threats could shake :
Self-offer'd victim, for his friend he died,
And for the faith-nor shall his name forsake
That hill, whose flowery platform seems to rise
By nature decked for holiest sacrifice.

[blocks in formation]

From that time the south part of Britain, being left destitute of armed soldiers, of all sorts of martial stores, and of all its active youth, which being led away by the rashness of the tyrants, never returned home, was wholly exposed to rapine, as being totally ignorant of the use of weapons. At length, on a sudden it groaned and languished many years under two very savage foreign nations, the Scots from the west, and the Picts from the north. We call these foreign nations not for their being seated out of Britain, but because remote from that part of it, which was possessed by the Britons; two iplets of the sea lying betwixt them, one of which runs in far and broad into the lands of Britain, from the eastern ocean, and the other from the western, though they do not reach to touch one another. The eastern has in the midst of it the city Guidi. The western has on it, that is, on the right hand thereof, the city Alcluith, which in their language signifies the rock Cluith, for it is close by the river of that name. On account of the irruptions of these nations, the Britons sending messengers to Rome with letters in mournful manner, prayed for succours, and promised perpetual subjection, provided, that the impending enemy might be drove farther off

. An armed legion was immediately sent them, which arriving in the island, and engaging the enemy, slew a great multitude of them, drove the rest out of the territories of the allies, and having delivered them from most cruel oppression, advised to build a wall between the two seas, across the island, that it might secure them, and keep off the enemy; and thus returned home with great triumph. The islanders, raising the wall they had been directed, not of stone, but sods, as having no artist capable of such a work, made it of no use. However they drew it for many miles between the two bays or inlets of the seas, we have spoken of; to the end that where the deferice of the water was wanting, they might defend their borders from the irruptions of the enemies, by the help of the ram part. Of which work there erected, that is, of a rampart of an extraordinary breadth and height, there are evident remains to be seen to this day. It begins at almost two miles distance from the monastery of

« ZurückWeiter »