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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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