Page 0981

981 ROMECONSTANTINE AND HIS SUCCESSORS.

honor, luxury, the devotion of man, the adoration of woman, every thing which could

contribute to inflame the ambition and dazzle

the vision of a vain-glorious devotee, appealed

to the imagination of the ecclesiastic contending for the prize. Two candidates, Ursinicus

and Damasus, presented themselves for the

suffrages of the church. Both claimed to be

elected. Violent tumult ensued. The parties

armed themselves and rushed to the conflict.

The praefect of the city exerted himself in vain

to maintain the peace. For several days the

riot continued unabated until what time the

ladies of Rome, with whom Damasus was a

favorite, interfered in his behalf and brought

him off victorious.

The death of Valentinian left the Empire

subject to a disputed succession. The two

sons of the Emperor might both claim the

Imperial diadem. GRATIAN, the elder, had

already been associated with his father in the

government, but his mother had been repudiated, and VALENTINIAN II., son of a later and

more favored wife, might well dispute his

half-brother's claim to the throne. The soldiers, however, gave their allegiance to Gratian, and he was recognized as the legitimate

ruler of the West. He, however, declared himself the friend and protector of his younger

brother, whom he introduced into the Flavian

family. On the occasion of his accession to

power Gratian, who had been educated in the

Christian faith by Ambrose, bishop of Milan,

set at defiance the precedents of four centuries

by refusing to don the pontifical robe, presented to him by the envoys of the Senate.

To the Emperor the distinguishing garment

of the pontifex maximus appeared to be only

the vestment of expiring paganism, which it

was sacrilegious for a Christian Emperor to

wear.

The act was so significant as to alarm and

anger the party of the pagan. A certain Maximus appeared as a champion of the old cause

against the new, and the declaration was put

forth that if Gratian would not accept the

office of pontifex maximus he should not reign

as Emperor. But this movement proved to

be no more than the vaporing of a faction

whose vitality had run to the lowest sands.

Soon after these events another Imperial

act still further excited the adherents of the

ancient religion. From the time of Julius

Caesar the Roman Senate had been accustomed

to hold its sessions in the forum, in a place

called the Curia Julia. Here was placed an

altar of victory, and before the altar a statue

of the goddess who had come to be regarded

as the tutelary divinity of Rome. In the time

of Constantius this image had been removed,

but had been replaced by the apostate Julian.

It was the custom of the senators before beginning a session to burneach in his turn some grains of incense upon the altar. Regarding this ceremony and even the presence

of the altar and the statue as a relic of heathenism, Gratian issued an edict for their removal. The famous emblems of the old

belief were accordingly taken from the forum,

but not until a deputation representing a large

majority of the Senate had pleaded in vain

with Gratian for the abrogation of the edict.

The contest was afterwards renewed, but the

petitioners were confronted and again defeated

at the Imperial court by Saint Ambrose of

Milan.

In A. D. 383 a rebellion broke out in

Britain, led by MAXIMUS, who was proclaimed

Emperor by his soldiers. The insurgents

crossed the Channel into Gaul, where they

were joined by the legions of Gratian. The

unpopular Emperor, thus left naked to his

enemies, fled towards Italy, but on reaching

Lyons was seized by his pursuers and assassinated. Meanwhile Valens, in the East, had

been killed at Adrianople, A. D. 378, and had

been succeeded by Theodosius the Great.

The latter, from his head-quarters at Thessalonica, had waged four successful campaigns

against the Goths, the last being in the year

382. To him Maximus, the usurper of the

West, now made proposals for a settlement of

the affairs of the Empire. It was agreed that

the sovereignty of the country beyond the

Alps should be confirmed to Maximus, that

Valentinian should retain Italy, together with

Illyricum and Africa, and that Theodosius

should reign in the East.

Of the three rulers among whom the Roman

world was thus again divided the weakest and