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973 ROMECONSTANTINE AND HIS SUCCESSORS.

Diocletian was long reluctant to

undertake the bloody work, nor is it certain

that the persuasions of Maximian and Galerius would have prevailed with him but for the

firing of his palace in Nicomedia, by incendiaries who were represented to him as Christians.

Hereupon he gave his assent to the persecution,

and soon outdid his colleagues in the fury and

bloody spirit with which he hunted to their last

retreats the panting fugitives. Constantius,

however, refused to join in the proscription,

and the Christians of Gaul were saved from

the fate of their brethren in other parts of the

Empire. At the date of Diocletian's abdication, the persecution still raged; but eight

years after his retirement, the struggle was

given over, and an edict, issued by the court

of Milan, granted a legal existence and freedom of worship to the new religionists. It

was an act which sealed the fate of paganism.

In retiring from power, Diocletian made a

serious mistake in violating the principles of

the Caesarian system which he had himself established. Instead of permitting the two existing Caesars, now recognized as Augusti, to nominate each his own associate, the ex-Emperor insisted that his son-in-law Galerius

should choose both the new Caesars. The

favored Augustus accordingly named an Illyrian peasant called Daza, who now took the

appellation of Maximinus, to be colleague

in the East, and then instead of nominating

Constantine, the son of Constantius, as Caesar

of the West, he passed by that popular prince

and chose a favorite named Flavius Severus.

At this time Constantius, the Western Augustus, was in Britain, nor is it doubtful that

Galerius, by ignoring his associate Emperor,

intended to open the way for his own assumption of undivided sovereignty. But the popularity of Constantius was so great that the

scheme could not be carried out. The people

of Britain and Gaul, both pagan and Christian,

rallied to his support; and when he died at

York, in the former country, the soldiers at

once proclaimed his son Constantine as Emperor. Galerius durst not oppose the movement, but gave a seemingly cordial assent to

the proclamation, insisting, however, that the

prince should be a Caesar only, and be regarded as the junior member of the Imperial

college.

CHAPTER LXVI CONSTANTINE AND HIS SUCCESSORS.

WE here come to another

evolution in the destinies

of Rome. It is the age.

of the decadence of paganism, and the institution of Christianity. At

the first it was prudent

for the new Emperor to assume a satisfaction which he did not feel. Concealing his

ambition, he contented himself for six years

(306-312), with the government of the Caesarian provinces of the North. In his administration in Britain he exhibited great energy.

The island was more completely reduced and

better defended than ever before. As soon as

this work was accomplished he hastened

to the Rhenish frontier, where the barbarians, hearing of the death of Constantius, had

risen in rebellion. Great were the military

abilities now displayed by Constantine. In

a terrible battle with the Germans on the

Moselle he gained a decisive victory. Here,

too, began to be revealed those cold, and

indifferent elements of character for which he

was ever noted. He ordered a massacre of

his German captives for no better reasonas it

would appearthan that the death of the prisoners was the easiest method of disposing of

a troublesome burden.

Of religious convictions Constantine had

none. But he possessed an intellect capable

of penetrating the condition of the world.

He perceived the conclusion of the great syllogism in the logic of events. He saw that

Destiny was about to write Finis at the bottom

of the last page of paganism. He had the