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Prophetic Expositions, vol. 2

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    THE CONQUEST OF ROME BY THE BARBARIANS

    Verse 30. “For the ships of Chittim shall come against him; therefore he shall be grieved, and return, and have indignation against the holy covenant; so shall he do; he shall even return, and have intelligence with them that forsake the holy covenant.”PREX2 66.3

    “The ships of Chittim.” What country is meant by Chittim, expositors are in doubt. The general explanation given, is, that Europe is meant; and some say all the islands and coasts of the Mediterranean are intended. Dr. A. Clarke, on Isaiah 23:1,-“From the land of Chittim it is revealed to them,“-has the following remarks: ‘The news of the destruction of Tyre, by Nebuchadnezzar, is said to be brought to them from Chittim, the islands and coast of the Mediterranean; ‘for the Tyrians,’ says Jerome, on verse 6, ‘when they saw they had no other means of escaping, fled in their ships, and took refuge in CARTHAGE, and in the islands of the Ionian and Ægean seas.’ So also, Jochri on the same place.”PREX2 67.1

    But did the ships of Carthage have any hand in the final ruin of IMPERIAL ROME?PREX2 67.2

    As the fall of Rome is a matter of deep interest and importance to the student of prophecy, copious extracts from Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of Rome, will be given in this place. The first invasion and sack of Rome, was by Alaric, the Gothic chieftain, in 408, and is thus related by Gibbon:PREX2 67.3

    “While the ministers of Ravenna expected, in sullen silence, that the barbarians should evacuate the confines of Italy, Alaric, (in the year 408.) with bold and rapid marches, passed the Alps and Po; hastily pillaged the cities of Aquileia, Altinum, Concordia, and Cremona, which yielded to his arms; increased his forces by the addition of thirty thousand auxiliaries; and without meeting a single enemy in the field, advanced as far as the edge of the morass which protected the impregnable residence of the emperor of the West. Instead of attempting the hopeless siege of Ravenna, the prudent leader of the Goths proceeded to Rimini, stretched his ravages along the seacoast of the Adriatic, and meditated the conquest of the ancient mistress of the world. An Italian hermit encountered the victorious monarch, and boldly denounced the indignation of Heaven against the oppressors of the earth; but the saint himself was confounded by the solemn asseveration of Alaric that he felt a secret and preternatural impulse, which directed, and even compelled, his march to the gates of Rome. He felt that his genius and fortune were equal to the most arduous enterprises,-and he pitched his camp under the walls of Rome. During a period of six hundred and nineteen years, the seat of empire had never been violated by the presence of a foreign enemy.PREX2 67.4

    “The edifices of Rome, though the damage has been exaggerated, received some injury from the violence of the Goths. At their entrance through the Salarian gate, they fired the adjacent houses to guide their march, and to distract the attention of the citizens; the flames, which encountered no obstacle in the disorder of the night, consumed many private and public buildings; and the ruins of the palace of Sallust remained, in the age of Justinian, a stately monument of the Gothic conflagration.”—[Gibbon’s Hist., vol. V., chap. 30, pp. 253, 255.]PREX2 68.1

    Alaric died in 410, and in 412 the Goths voluntarily retreated from Italy. The citizens were encouraged to repair the ruins of the Gothic invasion, and peace and plenty were soon restored to Rome; so that in less than seven years the marks of the Gothic invasion were almost obliterated. The next stroke falls on Rome from Chittim, or Africa.PREX2 68.2

    “The apparent tranquillity,” continues Gibbon, “was soon disturbed by the approach of an hostile armament from the country which afforded the daily subsistence of the Roman people. Heraclian count of Africa, who, under the most difficult and distressful circumstances, had supported, with active difficulty, the cause of Honorius, was tempted, in the year of his consulship, to assume the character of a rebel and the title of an emperor. The ports of Africa were immediately filled with the naval forces, at the head of which he prepared to invade Italy; and his fleet, when he cast anchor at the mouth of the Tiber, indeed surpassed the fleets of Xerxes and Alexander, if all the vessels. including the royal galley and the smallest boat, did actually amount to the incredible number of three thousand two hundred. Yet with such an armament, which might have subverted or restored the greatest empires of the earth, the African usurper made a very faint and feeble impression on the provinces of his rival.”—[Gibbon’s History, vol. V. ch. 31. p. 351.]PREX2 69.1

    But although Heraclian, the Roman rebel, with his armament of 3200 vessels from the ports of Africa, did not succeed in his assault on Rome, another agent of Providence was in reserve to accomplish the task.PREX2 69.2

    “The gates of Spain,-the passes of the Pyrenees,-were treacherously betrayed to the public enemy. The consciousness of guilt, and the thirst of rapine, prompted the mercenary guards of the Pyrenees to desert their station; to invite the arms of the Suevi, the Vandals, and the Alarici; and to swell the torrent which was poured with irresistible violence from the frontiers of Gaul to the sea of Africa.’ ”—[Ibid., p. 235.]PREX2 69.3

    The Roman governor of Africa having revolted from the emperor in 427, and finding himself in need of assistance, he “despatched a trusty friend to the court, or rather camp, of Gonderic, king of the Vandals, with a proposal of a strict alliance, and the offer of an advantageous and perpetual settlement. The vessels which the Vandals found in the harbor of Carthagena might easily transport them to the isles of Majorca or Minorca, where the Spanish fugitives, as in a secure recess, had vainly concealed their families and their fortunes. The experience of navigation, and, perhaps, the prospect, encouraged the Vandals to accept the invitation which they received from Count Boniface; and the death of Gonderic served only to forward and animate the bold enterprise. In the room of a prince, not conspicuous for any superior powers of the mind or the body, they acquired his bastard brother, the terrible Genseric; a name which, in the destruction of the roman empire, has deserved an equal rank with the names of alaric and attila.”—[Ibid.]PREX2 70.1

    Under Genseric the Vandal supremacy was established in Africa. He landed his army, consisting of fifty thousand effective men, on the shores of Africa, in 429.PREX2 70.2

    “The Vandals, who, in twenty years, had penetrated from the Elbe to Mount Atlas, were united under the command of their warlike king, and he reigned with equal authority over the Alarici who had passed, within the term of human life from the cold of Scythia to the excessive heat of an African climate.”-[Ibid.]PREX2 70.3

    His band of barbarians formed but the nucleus of a growing power, which soon swelled into the magnitude, and assumed likeness, of a burning mountain.PREX2 71.1

    “His own dexterity, and the discontents of Africa, soon fortified the Vandal powers by the accession of numerous and active allies. The ports of Mauritana, which border on the great desert and the Atlantic Ocean, were filled with a fierce and untractable race of men, whose savage temper had been exasperated rather than reclaimed by their dread of the Roman arms. The Moors, regardless of any future consequences, embraced the alliance of the enemies of Rome; and a crowd of naked savages rushed from the woods and valleys of Mount Atlas to satiate their revenge on the polished tyrants, who had injuriously expelled them from their native sovereignty of the land.PREX2 71.2

    The long and narrow tract of the African coast was filled with frequent monuments of Roman art and magnificence. On a sudden, the seven fruitful provinces, from Tangiers to Tripoli, were overwhelmed by an invasion of the Vandals. 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. The calamities of war were aggravated by the licentiousness of the Moors, and the fanaticism of the donatists. The maritime colony of Hippo, about two hundred miles westward of Carthage, had formerly acquired the distinguished epithet of Regius, from the residence of Numidian kings; and some remains of trade and populousness still adhere to the modern city, which is known in Europe by the corrupted name of Bona. The city of Hippo was burnt by the Vandals. The loss of a second battle irretrievably decided the fate of Africa. And Carthage was at length (in the year 439) surprised by the Vandals, five hundred and eighty years after the destruction of the city and republic by the younger Scipio.PREX2 71.3

    “The vandals and Alarici, who followed the successful standard of Genseric, had acquired a rich and fertile territory, which stretched along the coast from Tangier to Tripoli; but their narrow limits were pressed and confined on either side by the sandy desert and the Mediterranean. The discovery and conquest of the black nations that might dwell beneath the torrid zone, could not tempt the rational ambition of Genseric; but he cast his eyes towards the sea; he resolved to create a new naval power, and his bold enterprise was executed with steady and active perseverance. The woods of Mount Atlas afforded an inexhaustible nursery of timber; his new subjects were skilled in the art of navigation and ship-building; he animated his daring Vandals to embrace a mode of warfare which would render every maritime country accessible to their arms; the Moors and Africans were allured by the hope of plunder; and, after an interval of six centuries, the fleet that issued from the port of Carthage, again claimed the empire of the Mediterranean. The success of the Vandals, the conquest of Sicily, the sack of Palermo, and the frequent descents on the coast of Lucania, awakened and alarmed the mother of Valentinian, and the sister of Theodosius,” etc.—[Ibid., vol. VI., pp. 145, 146.]PREX2 72.1

    “The naval power of Rome was unequal to the task of saving even the imperial city from the ravages of the Vandals. Sailing from Africa, they disembarked at the port of Ostia, and Rome and its inhabitants were delivered to the licentiousness of Vandals and Moors, whose blind passions revenged the injuries of Carthage. The pillage lasted fourteen days and nights; and all that yet remained of public and private wealth, of sacred or profane treasure, was diligently transported to the vessels of Genseric. In the forty-five years that had elapsed since the Gothic invasion, the pomp and luxury of Rome were in some measure restored, and it was difficult either to escape or to satisfy the avarice of a conqueror, who possessed leisure to collect, and ships to transport the wealth of the capital.”—[Ibid., pp. 152, 153.]PREX2 73.1

    After Genseric had secured the empire of the Mediterranean, the emperors of Rome and of Constantinople strove in vain to dispossess him of his power. Majorian, unable to defend “the long extended coast of Italy from the depredations of a naval war,” made great and strenuous preparation for the invasion of Africa, and a fleet was constructed to transport his army.PREX2 73.2

    “The woods of the Appenines were felled; the arsenals and manufactures of Ravenna and Misenum were restored; Italy and Gaul vied with each other in liberal contributions to the public service; and the imperial navy of three hundred long galleys, with an adequate proportion of transports and smaller vessels, was collected in the secure and capacious harbor of Carthagena in Spain. But Genseric was saved from impending and inevitable ruin by the treachery of some powerful subjects, envious or apprehensive of their master’s success. Guided by their secret intelligence, he surprised the unguarded fleet in the bay of Carthagena; many of the ships were sunk, or taken, or burnt, and the preparations of three years were destroyed in a single day.PREX2 73.3

    “Italy continued to be long afflicted by the incessant depredations of the Vandal pirates. In the spring of each year they equipped a formidable navy in the port of Carthage; and Genseric himself, though in a very advanced age, still commanded in person the most important expeditions. His designs were concealed with impenetrable secresy till the moment that he hoisted sail. When he was asked by his pilot, what course he should steer—‘Leave the determination to the winds,’ replied the barbarian, with pious arrogance—‘they will transport us to the guilty coast whose inhabitants have provoked the divine justice.’ The Vandals repeatedly visited the coasts of Spain, Liguira, Tuscany, Campania, Leucania, Brutium, Apulia, Calabria, Venetia, Dalmatia, Epirus, Greece, and Sicily; they were tempted to subdue the island of Sardinia, so advantageously placed in the centre of the Mediterranean, and their arms spread desolation or terror from the column of Hercules to the mouth of the Nile. In the treatment of his unhappy prisoners, he sometimes consulted his avarice, and sometimes his cruelty; he massacred five hundred noble citizens of Zante, or Zaynthus, whose mangled bodies be cast into the Ionian sea.”—[Ibid., pp. 180-182, 187, 188.]PREX2 74.1

    A last and desperate attempt to dispossess Genseric of the sovereignty of the sea, was made in the year 468, by the emperor of the east.PREX2 74.2

    “The whole expense of the African campaign amounted to the sum of one hundred and thirty thousand pounds of gold-about five millions two hundred thousand pounds sterling. The fleet that sailed from Constantinople to Carthage, consisted of eleven hundred and thirteen ships, and the number of soldiers and mariners exceeded one hundred thousand men. The army of Heraclius, and the fleet of Marcellinus, either joined or seconded the imperial lieutenant. The wind became favorable to the designs of Genseric. He manned his largest ship of war with the bravest of the Moors and Vandals, and they towed after them many large barks filled with combustible materials. In the obscurity of the night these destructive vessels were impelled against the unguarded and unsuspecting fleet of the Romans, who were awakened by a sense of their instant danger. Their close and crowded order assisted the progress of the fire, which was communicated with rapid and irresistible violence; and the noise of the wind, the crackling of the flames, the dissonant cries of the soldiers and marines, who could neither command nor obey, increased the horror of the nocturnal tumult. Whilst they labored to extricate themselves from the fire-ships, and to save at least a part of the navy, the galleys of Genseric assaulted them with temperate and disciplined valor; and many of the Romans who escaped the fury of the flames were destroyed or taken by the victorious Vandals. After the failure of this great expedition, Genseric again became the ‘tyrant of the sea;’ the coasts of Italy, Greece, and Asia were again exposed to his revenge and avarice. Tripoli and Sardinia returned to his obedience; he added Sicily to the number of his provinces; and before he died, in the fulness of years and of glory, he beheld the final extinction of the empire of the west.”—[Ibid., pp. 203, 205.]PREX2 75.1

    Thus the ships of Carthage or Chittim ruined Rome.PREX2 76.1

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