| Famous Men of Rome|
|by John H. Haaren|
|Attractive biographical sketches of twenty-eight of the most prominent characters in the history of ancient Rome, from its founding to its fall. Includes most of the best known characters from the kingdom and republic of Rome, as well as the most prominent personages from the imperial age. Each story is told in a clear, simple manner, and is well calculated to awaken and stimulate the youthful imagination. Ages 9-12 |
END OF THE WESTERN EMPIRE
 MOST of the Roman emperors after Constantine were either cruel tyrants or very
worthless persons, who spent their time in idle pleasure and neglected their
duties to the people. A few, however, did some remarkable things and
therefore deserve to be mentioned among the Famous Men.
One emperor, whose name was Julian, is called in history Julian the
Apostate, because he gave up the Christian religion and tried to establish
the worship of the pagan gods again in Rome. Julian also attempted to
rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem which, as we have seen, was destroyed by
Titus. There was a Christian prophecy that it would never be restored, and
Julian thought of rebuilding it to prove the prophecy false. A story is
told that as soon as the men began the work balls of fire burst from the
ground close by them and they had to stop. They tried again and again and
the same thing happened, and at last they had to give up the work
Not long after he became emperor Julian set out
 with a large army to conquer Persia. For a while he was very successful and
defeated the Persian king in many battles. But one day he was shot in the
breast by an arrow and he died soon after. It is said that while he lay
wounded he cast a handful of his own blood toward heaven, crying out, "Thou
hast conquered, O Galilean." By Galilean he meant Christ, who is sometimes
called the Galilean because He was brought up in Galilee.
GOLD MEDAL OF THEODOSIUS
Not long after the reign of Julian, there was an emperor named
Valentinian. He made his brother Valens emperor of the eastern part of
the empire while he himself ruled over the western part. And for many years
afterwards the empire was ruled in
 this way by two emperors, one called the Emperor of the East, and the other
the Emperor of the West.
On the death of Valentinian his son Gratian became Emperor of the West,
and a talented soldier named
Theodosius became Emperor of the East on
the death of Valens. Gratian was weak and unfit to rule, and he was killed
by a Spaniard named Maximus, who made himself Emperor of the West.
Theodosius fought Maximus and defeated him, and afterwards had him put to
death. Then he made a son of Valentinian Emperor of the West, as
Valentinian II, and gave him as his adviser a chief named
Arbogastes was soon the real master of the Western Empire. One day
Valentinian was found dead in his bed, and Arbogastes then
made Eugenius, a teacher, the emperor. Theodosius, who well knew that Valentinian II had
been murdered, made war on Eugenius and Arbogastes and defeated them, and
until his death, a few months afterwards (in 395), Theodosius was emperor of
both East and West.
Theodosius had been a wise ruler, but he did one very bad thing. The people
of Thessalonica, a city of Macedonia, a country north of Greece, had
killed their governor because he had put one of their favorite circus riders
in prison. When Theodosius heard of this he was very angry, and he gave
 that they should be invited to a show in the circus and there put to death.
This cruel order was carried out. The citizens of Thessalonica were invited
to come one day to the circus to see a grand show. Thousands came, and as
soon as they had taken their seats a troop of soldiers under the
com-  mand of one of the generals of Theodosius entered the building and massacred them
all without mercy. Over six thousand men, women, and children were killed.
At this time Theodosius resided in Milan, a city of north Italy. At the
same time there lived in Milan a bishop named Ambrose, who was a good and
holy man. When Ambrose was told of the massacre at Thessalonica he was
greatly shocked. He severely reprimanded the emperor and would not permit
him to enter the door of the church until he had done penance for the sin he
had committed in so cruelly putting to death many innocent persons.
AMBROSE REBUKES THEODOSIUS
The successor of Theodosius as Emperor of the West was
his son Honorius, who reigned for twenty-nine years; but the actual ruler during all that time
was a soldier named Stilicho, who was the emperor's guardian. Honorius
was a simpleton and had no desire or ability to attend to the affairs of the
The Goths and Vandals and other barbarous tribes from the north and east of
Europe now began to overrun the Western Empire and to threaten Rome itself.
Twice the great city was actually captured and plundered; the first time by
the Goths under Alaric, and next by the Vandals under a
 bold warrior named Genseric. About those barbarian chiefs and their
exploits you will perhaps read in
FAMOUS MEN OF THE MIDDLE AGES, a companion
volume to this book.
To defend the seat of their empire against the attacks of its enemies the
Romans were obliged to withdraw their forces from several of the outlying
provinces, including Britain, which was now left to its native inhabitants.
For more than fifty years afterwards a number of men without much ability
took part in ruling what was left of the once mighty empire. One of these
was called by the high-sounding name of Romulus Augustulus. He was the son
of Orestes, the general of the army of Italy and had been made emperor by
his father. He was the last of the Western emperors.
ROMULUS AUGUSTULUS GIVING UP THE CROWN
Among the Italian soldiers there was a huge, half-savage man named
Odoacer, who belonged to a wild northern tribe. He was a favorite of the
army because of his courage and strength. He resolved to be the ruler of
Italy, so with the army at his back he put Orestes to death, took Romulus
Augustulus prisoner, and forced him to give up the title of emperor. Then
Odoacer became king of Italy in the year 476 A.D.
By this time the world had nearly entered that period which is known as the
Middle Ages, and
 many of the other countries which had been parts of the Roman Empire were
either ruling themselves or defending themselves against new invaders. Gaul
was invaded and conquered by German tribes called Franks, from whom the
country subsequently got the name of France. Britain, abandoned by the
 Romans, was soon after conquered by other German tribes. And so at last the
great Roman Empire had crumbled to pieces, and Rome, so long the Mistress of
the World, as she was called, had fallen from her proud position of grandeur
and power into that of a second or third rate city.
But the Empire of the East continued to exist for centuries afterwards, with
Constantinople as its capital. It included many of the countries of Asia,
Africa, and eastern Europe which had formerly belonged to the undivided
Empire. In course of time the power of the Greeks, aided by the influence
of the Greek division of the Church, became supreme at Constantinople, and
so the Empire was also called the Greek Empire, and sometimes the Byzantine
Empire, from the ancient name of the capital.
In the fourteenth century the Turks, or Mohammedans, then very powerful in
southwestern Asia, began to make inroads on the empire. They conquered and
took possession of several of its provinces, and in 1453 they captured
Constantinople, which has since been the capital of the Turkish, or Ottoman
Empire, the ruler of which is known as the sultan.
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