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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

In a mathematical treatise of Anthemius


distinguished in their respective

professions by merit and success. Olympius excelled in the knowledge and practice of the Roman jurisprudence. Dioscorus and Alexander became learned physicians; but the skill of the former was exercised for the benefit of his fellow-citizens, while his more ambitious brother acquired wealth and reputation at Rome. The fame of Metrodorus the grammarian, and of Anthemius the mathematician and architect, reached the ears of the emperor Justinian, who invited them to Constantinople; and while the one instructed the rising generation in the schools of eloquence, the other filled the capital and provinces with more lasting monuments of his art. In a trifling dispute relative to the walls or windows of their contiguous houses, he had been vanquished by the eloquence of his neighbor Zeno; but the orator was defeated in his turn by the master of mechanics, whose malicious, though harmless, stratagems are darkly represented by the ignorance of Agathias. In a lower room, Anthemius arranged several vessels or caldrons of water, each of them covered by the wide bottom of a leathern tube, which rose to a narrow top, and was artificially conveyed among the joists and rafters of the adjacent building. A fire was kindled beneath the caldron; the steam of the boiling water ascended through the tubes; the house was shaken by the efforts of imprisoned air, and its trembling inhabitants might wonder that the city was unconscious of the earthquake which they had felt. At another time, the friends of
Zeno, as they sat at table, were dazzled by the intolerable light which flashed in their eyes from the reflecting mirrors of Anthemius; they were astonished by the noise which he produced from the collision of certain minute and sonorous particles; and the orator declared in tragic style to the senate, that a mere mortal must yield to the power of an antagonist, who shook the earth with the trident of Neptune, and imitated the thunder and lightning of Jove himself. The genius of Anthemius, and his colleague Isidore the Milesian, was excited and employed by a prince, whose taste for architecture had degenerated into a mischievous and costly passion. His favorite architects submitted their designs and difficulties to Justinian, and discreetly confessed how much their laborious meditations were surpassed by the intuitive knowledge of celestial inspiration of an emperor, whose views were always directed to the benefit of his people, the glory of his reign, and the salvation of his soul. [102]

[Footnote 95: This conflagration is hinted by Lucian (in Hippia, c. 2) and Galen, (l. iii. de Temperamentis, tom. i. p. 81, edit. Basil.) in the second century. A thousand years afterwards, it is positively affirmed by Zonaras, (l. ix. p. 424,) on the faith of Dion Cassius, Tzetzes, (Chiliad ii. 119, &c.,) Eustathius, (ad Iliad. E. p. 338,) and the scholiast of Lucian. See Fabricius, (Bibliot. Graec. l. iii. c. 22, tom. ii. p. 551, 552,) to whom I am more or less indebted for several of these quotations.]

[Footnote 96: Zonaras (l. xi. c. p. 55) affirms the fact, without quoting any evidence.]

[Footnote 97: Tzetzes describes the artifice of these burning-glasses, which he had read, perhaps, with no learned eyes, in a mathematical treatise of Anthemius. That treatise has been lately published, translated, and illustrated, by M. Dupuys, a scholar and a mathematician, (Memoires de l'Academie des Inscriptions, tom xlii p. 392--451.)]

[Footnote 98: In the siege of Syracuse, by the silence of Polybius, Plutarch, Livy; in the siege of Constantinople, by that of Marcellinus and all the contemporaries of the vith century.]


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