972 UNIVERSAL HISTORYTHE ANCIENT WORLD.
a complete forgetfulness of the cares of state.
When he was urged by an embassy to reassume the duties of sovereignty he invited the
envoys to admire the size and symmetry of
some of the vegetables which he had lately
.produced. The god Hortus smiled in the face
of Mars, and the latter retired in astonishment
to think that a mind should find more pleasure in radishes than bloodshed.
During the reign of Diocletian the Empire
was disturbed not a little by labor-insurrections. The old system of slavery in Italy still
existed without legal modification; but the
importance of the slave population had relatively declined. A new class of society,
known as coloni, had in great measure taken
the place of the chattel slaves. The coloni
were free peasants, but were so attached to the
estates on which they lived as to become serfs.
Upon this class of population the exactions
of the Empire rested most heavily. Every
colonus was registered, and any escape from
the horrors of the tax-gathering system adopted
by the Roman governors was next to impossible. In vain did the mayors and councilmen
of cities, the curiales and duumvirs, struggle
to save their people from perennial robbery.
The first insurrection of the coloni occurred
in Gaul. Short crops and merciless exactioris
had left the country in a state of semi-famine.
The peasants rose and took by force the means
of subsistence. Politically the movement
had little significance. For several years
the larger part of Gaul was ravaged by
her own peasant banditti. The chief objects of attack were the towns; for in
these were accumulated whatever stores
the tax-gatherers and sycophants had not
taken away. After the insurrection had
exhausted itself it ceased rather from the
natural subsidence of the mobs than from
the repression of force. The principal
damage done by the insurgents was inflicted in the sack of Autun, then the
prindpal seat of the culture and art of
the Gallic nations.
The Christian Fathers assume in their
writings that the coloni had accepted the
new faith, and that the severity with
which they were treated both before and
after the revolt was attributable to the
fact of their renunciation of paganism.
It is, however, the opinion of Merivale
and others that the position is untenable.
and that the colonic revolt originated in
social rather than religious conditions.
But it is undeniable that the time had
now come when the question was to be dedded whether Christianity should rule the
Empire, or the Empire Christianity. The
followers of Christ had greatly multiplied in
Italy, and indeed throughout the Roman dominions. They had been winnowed by many
preceding persecutions. Those who adhered
became more and more defiant, more and more
intolerant of the doctrines of paganism. To
Rome, paganism was essential. There was
thus an irrepressible conflict. The two Augusti
and the two Caesars of the era which we are
here considering, took up the question of extirpating the new belief by exterminating its
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