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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

See the Theologia Aethiopica of Gregory


[Footnote

161: The three Protestant historians, Ludolphus, (Hist. Aethiopica, Francofurt. 1681; Commentarius, 1691; Relatio Nova, &c., 1693, in folio,) Geddes, (Church History of Aethiopia, London, 1696, in 8vo..) and La Croze, (Hist. du Christianisme d'Ethiopie et d'Armenie, La Haye, 1739, in 12mo.,) have drawn their principal materials from the Jesuits, especially from the General History of Tellez, published in Portuguese at Coimbra, 1660. We might be surprised at their frankness; but their most flagitious vice, the spirit of persecution, was in their eyes the most meritorious virtue. Ludolphus possessed some, though a slight, advantage from the Aethiopic language, and the personal conversation of Gregory, a free-spirited Abyssinian priest, whom he invited from Rome to the court of Saxe-Gotha. See the Theologia Aethiopica of Gregory, in (Fabric. Lux Evangelii, p. 716--734.) * Note: The travels of Bruce, illustrated by those of Mr. Salt, and the narrative of Nathaniel Pearce, have brought us again acquainted with this remote region. Whatever may be their speculative opinions the barbarous manners of the Ethiopians seem to be gaining more and more the ascendency over the practice of Christianity.--M.]

Chapter XLVIII: Succession And Characters Of The Greek Emperors.--Part I.

Plan Of The Two Last Volumes.--Succession And Characters Of The

Greek Emperors Of Constantinople, From The Time Of Heraclius To The Latin Conquest.

I have now deduced from Trajan to Constantine, from Constantine to Heraclius, the regular series of the Roman emperors; and faithfully exposed the prosperous and adverse fortunes of their reigns. Five centuries of the decline and fall of the empire have already elapsed; but a period of more than eight hundred years still separates me from the term of my labors, the taking of Constantinople by the Turks. Should I persevere in the same course, should I observe the same measure, a prolix and slender thread would be spun through many a volume, nor would the patient reader find an adequate reward of instruction or amusement. At every step, as we sink deeper in the decline and fall of the Eastern empire, the annals of each succeeding reign would impose a more ungrateful and melancholy task. These annals must continue to repeat a tedious and uniform tale of weakness and misery; the natural connection of causes and events would be broken by frequent and hasty transitions, and a minute accumulation of circumstances must destroy the light and effect of those general pictures which compose the use and ornament of a remote history. From the time of Heraclius, the Byzantine theatre is contracted and darkened: the line of empire, which had been defined by the laws of Justinian and the arms of Belisarius, recedes on all sides from our view; the Roman name, the proper subject of our inquiries, is reduced to a narrow corner of Europe, to the lonely suburbs of Constantinople; and the fate of the Greek empire has been compared to that of the Rhine, which loses itself in the sands, before its waters can mingle with the ocean. The scale of dominion is diminished to our view by the distance of time and place; nor is the loss of external splendor compensated by the nobler gifts of virtue and genius. In the last moments of her decay, Constantinople was doubtless more opulent and populous than Athens at her most flourishing aera, when a scanty sum of six thousand talents, or twelve hundred thousand pounds sterling was possessed by twenty-one thousand male citizens of an adult age. But each of these citizens was a freeman, who dared to assert the liberty of his thoughts, words, and actions, whose person and property were guarded by equal law; and who exercised


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