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the plains of Egypt, and the snows of Caledonia. He signalized himself by raising a wall of earth-work, eighty miles long, the remains of which may still be traced from Carlisle towards Newcastle (A.D. 121).
But his most remarkable performance was the building a new city, which he called Ælia, on the ruins of Jerusalem (A.D. 132); and it is said that he even erected statues to Jupiter and Venus, on mount Calvary. In consequence of these, and other indignities, the Jews took up arms, and, repossessing themselves of the city, made a vigorous defence. Hadrian at length defeated them, burning the city, destroying a prodigious number of the rebels, and sending the rest into banishment; and thus the desolation of Judea was now rendered still more complete than in the wars of Vespasian.
2. At his death (A.D. 138), he adopted as his heir Antoninus Titus, distinguished afterwards by the epithet Pius. This appointment was with a condition, that he should associate with him in the government Marcus Aurelius. The first was a venerable senator now fifty years old, and the latter a youth of about seventeen. The two Antonines, as they are called, governed the Roman world with almost unexampled virtue ; and it has been observed that their united reigns were probably the only period of history, in which the happiness of a great people was the sole object of government. This observation is to be applied more particularly to the reign of the first of these emperors. With respect to the second, it cannot be considered as strictly true, he having treated a considerable portion of his subjects with great severity, injustice, and inlıumanity. But as to the first no exception can be made.
3. Titus Antoninus Pius has been justly denominated a second Numa. The same love of religion, justice, and peace was the distinguishing characteristic of both princes. But the situation of the latter, opened a much larger field for the exercise of those virtues. Numa could only prevent a few neighbouring villages from plundering each other's harvests. Antoninus diffused order and tranquillity over the greatest part of the civilized world. His reign is marked by the rare advantage of furnishing very few materials for history, which, it has been well observed, is indeed “little more than a register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.” “In private life he was an amiable, as well as a good man. The native simplicity of his virtue, was a stranger to vanity or affectation. He enjoyed with moderation the conveniences of his fortune, and the innocent pleasures of society; and the benevolence of his soul displayed itself in a cheerful serenity of temper." This is the brief description which Gibbon gives us of the character of this emperor, and his reign may therefore be regarded as one of the most striking eras in the history of Rome.
4. But the most remarkable feature of it, compared with that of former emperors, is the instance it offers of a Pagan sovereign tolerating Christianity. The conduct of Antoninus in this respect will be better understood, if we here give a brief sketch of the persecutions, to which Christians had been exposed in the preceding reigns. In the reign of Nero, the persecuting spirit of Rome first displayed itself, by inflicting upon them the most cruel punishments. The voice of rumour accused that tyrant of setting fire to Rome, and to divert the suspicion from himself to a party for whom there would be likely to be found no pity, he accused the Christians of this crime. On this occasion, the fierceness and bigotry of the Jewish nation were believed, by the ignorance of the Roman people to belong to the new sect who sprung from Judea. No mercy was therefore shown them; « Multitudes of them were seized and tortured, and their torments were embittered by insult and derision. Some were nailed on crosses; others sewn up in the skins of wild beasts, and exposed to the fury of dogs; others again, smeared over with combustible materials, were used as torches to illuminate the darkness of the night. The gardens of Nero were destined for the melancholy spectacle, which was accompanied with a horse race, and honoured with the presence of the Emperor, in the dress and attitude of a charioteer (A.D. 64)."
5. The reign of Domitian, who was naturally of a cruel disposition, renewed in some degree the horrors of Nero's persecution (A.D. 92). He put to death many persons under the absurd charge of atheism, because they refused to worship the Payan gods. Trajan was the third emperor who is to be included in the list of persecuting tyrants. Among the victims of his cruelty, was the venerable Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, whom he ordered to be thrown to
the wild beasts, for the entertainment of the people in the Roman amphiteatre (A.D. 107). There is extant in the epistles of the younger Pliny, a correspondence which passed between himself and the Emperor, on the subject of punishing those who were avowedly Christians. In these letters Pliny bears witness to the virtuous principles professed by the sufferers, and to the numbers of those who professed what he calls a debasing and excessive superstition. He informs the Emperor that he had examined some of the females by torture, and bad so vigorously exerted himself to suppress the profession of this religion that the temples, before almost left desolate, were again beginning to be frequented. In his reply to this epistle the Emperor commends his zeal, and orders that all who were convicted of the crime of being Christians should be punished with death, giving him only one caution, that it was inconsistent with the maxims of his government, to attend in any case to anonymous accusations (A.D. 102.)
6. Such was the cruel condition to which Christianity was exposed at this period. To profess this religion was made a capital crime, and the effect of such a law was to produce the severest cruelties, wherever the temper of the magistrate, or the bigotry of the people, was disposed to put in practice the law of the empire.
7. Under Hadrian, the next emperor, the persecution of Christians still continued with unabated severity, during the former part of his reign (A.D. 126). Hadrian, however, does not appear to bave issued any express edicts at this time on the subject, and probably was too much occupied to have paid any great attention to the matter, until he was called upon to do so by Serenius Granianus, a proconsul of Asia, where the persecution chiefly raged (A.D. 124). He wrote to the Emperor, that it seemed to him unreasonable, that the Christians should be put to death, merely to gratify the clamours of the people, without trial, and without any crime proved against them. The reply of the Emperor admitted the justice of the argument, and decided that in future, open charges should be made against those who were accused of Christianity, and that they should not be punished upon a mere accusation without proof (A.D. 124).
8. The misery to which those accused of being Christians were exposed, and those also, who on examination were found to be so, may be judged of by facts of this kind. Many were probably suffering from the supposed guilt of being Christians, who had now an opportunity of freeing themselves from the charge, by demanding from their accusers a legal trial before punishment. Hypocrisy might thus shield itself in some cases, and in others a malicious enemy could no longer gain an advantage by calumny. But the sincere and zealous professor of the faith of Christ was still liable to all the evils that would inevitably follow his legal conviction, and if he refused to offer incense on the altar of the Pagan deities, or to comply with any of the prescribed ceremonies, there was no alternative but that of suffering martyrdom, in any of the forms which were thought most capable of subduing the constancy of the sufferer, or of making him an example of terror to the community.
9. This was the state in which the laws had placed the professor of Christianity, at the time when Antoninus Pius succeeded to the empire. To his honour it is recorded, that he was not only guiltless in his own person of shedding Christian blood, but by his wise and salutary regulations he soon put a stop to persecution throughout the empire. The temper of the monarch might perhaps naturally have inclined him to this course, for it was his well-known maxim, that he preferred the life and preservation of one citizen, to the death of a hundred enemies. There is reason, however, to believe that the Emperor was guided in his conduct towards the Christians, by other circumstances besides the mere dictates of humanity. One of these may be found in the fact, that Justin Martyr had presented to him his first apology on behalf of the Christians and their doctrines. This great man had been a Greek philosopher, of a very inquisitive turn of mind, who, acquainting himself first with the doctrines of the Stoics, and with those professed by the followers of Pythagoras, became afterwards a disciple of Plato. Of his conversion to Christianity, and his reasons for it, he has left us an account in his celebrated dialogue with Trypho, the Jew. Shortly after the accession of Antoninus to the empire (or about 140 A.D.), he determined to avow himself as the defender of the truth and purity of the Christian faith, and the resolute assertor of its superiority to every other system of
religion. This is the substance of the work called his first apology. As Justin still wore the dress of a philosopher, and as all such were treated with great respect by the Emperor, there is reason to believe that the statements of such a man might have had considerable influence on his conduct, with regard to so large and respectable a portion of his subjects as now openly professed themselves Christians.
10. Besides the arguments of the philosopher, Antoninus might have given due weight to the remonstrances addressed to him by the Christians who dwelt in Asia, and who seem to have been much exposed to the consequences of a foolish superstition, which a mind like that of the Emperor's must at once have seen through, and treated with the contempt it deserved. Earthquakes, it seems, bad lately happened, and the terrified Pagans ascribed them to the vengeance of heaven, thus displaying itself against the sect called Christians, “and everywhere spoken against.” That the Emperor was wise enough to view this accusation as one altogether too silly and groundless even for a wise Pagan to entertain, is evident from the edict which he ordered to be sent to the council of Asia on this subject. The testimony thus rendered to the general conduct of the Christians at this period, is so important that we shall here quote it nearly at full length. 11. The Emperor wrote as follows:- “ It much more
the gods than you to punish those who refuse to worship them. You harass and vex the Christians, and accuse them of Atheism and other crimes which you can by no means prove.
To them it appears an advantage to die for their religion, and they gain their point, while they throw away their lives, rather than comply with your injunctions. As to the earthquakes which have happened in past times, or lately, is it not proper to remind you of your own despondency, when they occur, and to desire
you to compare your spirit with theirs, and observe how serenely they confide in God? In such seasons you seem to be ignorant of the gods, and to neglect their worship. You live in practical ignorance of the supreme God himself, and you harass and persecute to death those who do worship him. Concerning these very persons, some of the provincial governments wrote to our divine