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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

Footnote 4311 This is a strange term


which strikes at the loftiest

heads; at the slaves of ambition, whose voluntary choice has exposed them to live in the smiles, and to perish by the frown, of a capricious monarch. In the execution of the laws which he had no temptation to violate; in the punishment of crimes which attacked his own dignity, as well as the happiness of individuals; Nushirvan, or Chosroes, deserved the appellation of just. His government was firm, rigorous, and impartial. It was the first labor of his reign to abolish the dangerous theory of common or equal possessions: the lands and women which the sectaries of Mazdak has usurped were restored to their lawful owners; and the temperate [4311] chastisement of the fanatics or impostors confirmed the domestic rights of society. Instead of listening with blind confidence to a favorite minister, he established four viziers over the four great provinces of his empire, Assyria, Media, Persia, and Bactriana. In the choice of judges, praefects, and counsellors, he strove to remove the mask which is always worn in the presence of kings: he wished to substitute the natural order of talents for the accidental distinctions of birth and fortune; he professed, in specious language, his intention to prefer those men who carried the poor in their bosoms, and to banish corruption from the seat of justice, as dogs were excluded from the temples of the Magi. The code of laws of the first Artaxerxes was revived and published as the rule of the magistrates; but the assurance of speedy punishment was
the best security of their virtue. Their behavior was inspected by a thousand eyes, their words were overheard by a thousand ears, the secret or public agents of the throne; and the provinces, from the Indian to the Arabian confines, were enlightened by the frequent visits of a sovereign, who affected to emulate his celestial brother in his rapid and salutary career. Education and agriculture he viewed as the two objects most deserving of his care. In every city of Persia orphans, and the children of the poor, were maintained and instructed at the public expense; the daughters were given in marriage to the richest citizens of their own rank, and the sons, according to their different talents, were employed in mechanic trades, or promoted to more honorable service. The deserted villages were relieved by his bounty; to the peasants and farmers who were found incapable of cultivating their lands, he distributed cattle, seed, and the instruments of husbandry; and the rare and inestimable treasure of fresh water was parsimoniously managed, and skilfully dispersed over the arid territory of Persia. [44] The prosperity of that kingdom was the effect and evidence of his virtues; his vices are those of Oriental despotism; but in the long competition between Chosroes and Justinian, the advantage both of merit and fortune is almost always on the side of the Barbarian. [45]

[Footnote 43: Procopius, Persic. l. i. c. 23. Brisson, de Regn. Pers. p. 494. The gate of the palace of Ispahan is, or was, the fatal scene of disgrace or death, (Chardin, Voyage en Perse, tom. iv. p. 312, 313.)]

[Footnote 4311: This is a strange term. Nushirvan employed a stratagem similar to that of Jehu, 2 Kings, x. 18--28, to separate the followers of Mazdak from the rest of his subjects, and with a body of his troops cut them all in pieces. The Greek writers concur with the Persian in this representation of Nushirvan's temperate conduct. Theophanes, p. 146. Mirkhond. p. 362. Eutychius, Ann. vol. ii. p. 179. Abulfeda, in an unedited part, consulted by St. Martin as well as in a passage formerly cited. Le Beau vol. viii. p. 38. Malcolm vol l p. 109.--M.]


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