« EelmineJätka »
of Stilicho, the Gothic sovereign again invaded Italy; and Rome herself, after three successive sieges, was sacked by the northern barbarians.*
It is observable in literal storms of hail, that their violence appears for a season to subside, and afterwards to return with redoubled fury. This was exactly the case with the figurative tempest of Gothic invasion predicted in the Apocalypse. After the exploits of Alaric and Radagaisus had been achieved, the violence of the main body of the hail-storm abated, but its outskirts still continued to beat upon the more remote provinces of the Western empire. In the year 409, Spain was overrun and ravaged by the Suevi, the Vandals, and the Alans ; who were afterwards, in their turn, compelled to submit to the arms of the Goths. The Vandals however still prevailed in Gallicia ; and, in order (as it were) that no part of the Roman world should escape the devastating influence of the northern hail-storm, soon afterwards invaded the African province. In the year 429, they crossed the Streights of Gibraltar under the command of Genseric, invited by the mistaken policy of Boniface. At that period the African coast was extremely populous, and the country itself so fruitful that it deserved the name of the common granury of Rome and of mankind. “On a sudden, the seven provinces, from Tangier to Tripoli, were overwbelmed by the invasion of the Vandals. War, in its fairest form, implies a perpetual violation of humanity and justice ; and the hostilities of barbarians are inflamed by the fierce and lawless spirit which incessantly disturbs their peaceful and domestic society. The Vandals, where they found resistance, seldom gave quarter ; and the deaths of their valiant countrymen were expiated by the ruin of the cities under whose walls they had fallen. Careless of the distinctions of age, or sex, or rank, they employed every species of indignity and torture, to force from the captives a discovery of their hidden wealth. The stern policy of Genseric justified his frequent examples of military execution : he was not always the master of his
* Hist. of Decline, Vol. v.p. 184-329.
own passions, or of those of his followers; and the calamities of war were aggravated by the licentiousness of the Moors, and the fanaticism of the Donatists."'*
Thus did the first great storm of hail lay waste the Roman empire. Collecting itself in the North, it burst over Greece and Italy ; ravaged Gaul and Spain ; aud at length spent itself in Africa.
Scarcely was the fury of this tempest exhausted, when another no less destructive began to gather, as we perpetually behold one storm of hail rapidly succeed another. The Hungarian monarch Attila, having united in his own person the empire of Scythia and Germany, soon turned his arms against the declining power of the Romans. In the year 441, he invaded the Eastern empire. “ The Illyrian frontier was covered by a line of castles and fortresses ; and, though the greatest part of them consisted only of a single tower with a small garrison, they were commonly sufficient to repel or to intercept the inroads of any enemy, who was ignorant of the art, and impatient of the delay, of a regular siege. But these slight obstacles were instantly swept away by the inundation of the Huns. They destroyed with fire and sword the populous cities of Sirmium and Singidunum, of Ratiara, and Marcianopolis, of Naissus and Sardica; where every circumstance, in the discipline of the people and the construction of the buildings, had been gradually adapted to the sole purpose of defence. The whole breadth of Europe, as it extends above five hundred miles from the Euxine to the Hadriatic, was at once invaded, and occupied, and desolated, by the myriads of barbarians whom Attila led into the field-The armies of the Eastern empire were vanquished in three successive engagements; and the progress of Attila may be traced by the fields of battle-From the Hellespont to Thermopyla and the suburbs of Constantinople he ravaged, without resistance and without mercy, the provinces of Thrace and Macedonia. Heraclea and Hadrianople might perhaps escape this dreadful irruption of the lluns ; but words, the most expressive of total extirpa
Hist. of Decline, Vol. vi. p. 12–21.
tion and erasure, are applied to the calamities which they inflicted on seventy cities of the Eastern empire."*
A pause at length took place in the storm. In the year 446, the Constantinopolitan emperor concluded an ignominious peace with Attila : but, in the the restless Hun threatened alike both the East and the West. “ Mankind,” says the historian, “awaited his decision with awful suspence.” The storm however now burst over Gaul and Italy. After ravaging the former of these countries with savage barbarity, Attila turned his arms toward the seat of the Western empirc. Aquileia made a vigorous but ineffectual resistance; and the succeeding generation could scarcely discover its ruins. The victorious barbarian "pursued his march ; and, as he passed, the cities of Altinum, Concordia, and Padua, were reduced into heaps of stones and ashes. The inland towns, Vicenza, Verona, and Bergamo, were exposed to the rapacious cruelty of the Huns ;" the rich plains of modern Lombardy were laid waste ; and the ferocious Attila boasted, that “the grass never grew on the spot where his horse had trod.” Rome herself escaped : and, by the sudden death of Attila, his empire fell asunder, and the great northern storm of hail was dissipated. I
" And the second angel sounded : and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea : and the third part of the sea became blood ; and the third part of the creatures, which were in the sea and had life, died ; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.”
The death of Attila took place in the year 453 ; and, with that event, the invasions of the Roman empire from the North, aptly symbolized by a storm of hail
, were brought to a termination. The blast of the second trumpet introduces a new calamity from a directly opposite quarter of the world. What proceeds therefore from the South cannot with any propriety be represented by hail
. Accordingly we find, that the contrary emblem of fire is used to describe it. A burning blast causes a great
Hist. of Decline, Vol. vi. p. 45–53.
+ Ibid. p. 87-133.
mountain to burst forth into a blaze ; and afterwards, heaving it from its base, casts it flaming into the midst of the sea. This imagery is manifestly copied from a parallel passage of Jeremiah, which will afford us the best explanation of what is intended by St. John. Addressing himself to Babylon, the Lord solemnly declares, “ Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain, which destroyest all the earth : and I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain.' then, that the destruction of Babylon is symbolized by the tearing up of a large mountain from its base, and by setting it on fire. Now it is well known, that Babylon is the constant apocalyptic type of Rome. Hence, in a prophecy like that of the trumpets which treats of the fall of the Roman empire, the symbol of a mountain, circumstanced precisely similar to the Babylonian mountain, cannot with propriety be interpreted as relative to any power excepting that of Rome alone. In the year 455, Genseric king of the Vandals sailed from Africa, and suddenly landed at the mouth of the Tiber. Rome, once the mistress of the world, was now unable to resist the arms of a barbaric chieftain. During fourteen days and nights it was given up to the licentiousness of the Vandals and the Moors; and was plundered of all that yet remained to it from former conquerors of public or private wealth, of sacred or profane treasure. Having thus at once satiated his rapacity and cruelty, Genseric set sail again for Africa, carrying with him immense riches and an innumerable multitude of captives, among whom were the empress Eudoxia, and her two daughters. By former ravages the power of Rome had been greatly weakened, but by Genseric it was so completely brokent that in a little time it was utterly subverted. Hurled from its base, and plunged like a huge blazing mountain into a sea of wars and tumults," it struggled hard, and gasped as it were for breath, through eight short and tur
• Jerem. li. 25. + So completely was it broken at this period, that many, among whom are Mr. Mede, have dated the fall of the Western empire from tbe year 455 or 456.
bulent reigns, for the space of twenty years, and at length expired under Augustulus.”*
* And the third angel sounded : and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp; and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters: and the name of the star is called Wormwood; and many men died of the waters because they were made bitter.”
We have seen, that the language used by St. Joho in describing the effects of the former trumpet is borrowed from a passage of Jeremiah wherein the fall of Babylon, the apocalyptic type of Rome, is predicted : this, which is here employed by him, is taken in a similar manner from Isaiah. “ Thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased, the golden city ceased ! The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulersHow art thou fallen from heaven, () day-star, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations.”+ Arguing then both from analogy of interpretation, and from the general tenor of the present prophecy, if the mountain of the second trumpet mean Rome, the star of the third trumpet must mean the prince of Rome , precisely in the same manner as the mountain spoken of by Jeremiah means Babylon, and the star described by Isaiah as falling to the ground means the prince of Babylon. In the language of symbols indeed the shooting of a star from heaven to earth signifies either the downfüll of a king, or the apostacy of a minister of religion ; but in the present instance we cannot hesitate to adopt the secular interpretation. St. John is describing the calamities of the Roman empire in general, and the downfall of the Western empire in particulur : hence it is more congruous to explain the symbol of the fulling star secularly than spiritually. And this opinion is decidedly confirmed by the testimo
Bp. Newton's Dissert, on Rev. vii. Mr. Lowman supposes like myself, that the symbol of casting a mountain into the sea, here used by the prophet, denotes the subversion of a kingdom by bostile invasion. Great disorders and commotions, especially when kingdoms are moved by hostile invasions, are expressed in the prophetic style by carrying or casting mountains into the midst of the sea." Paraph, in loc.
# Isaiah xiv. 4, 5, 12,