Larger font
Smaller font

The Great Empires of Prophecy, from Babylon to the Fall of Rome

 - Contents
  • Results
  • Related
  • Featured
No results found for: "".
  • Weighted Relevancy
  • Content Sequence
  • Relevancy
  • Earliest First
  • Latest First
    Larger font
    Smaller font


    The Heruli in Italy—Odoacer Made King—The Western Empire Extinguished—The Empire of Rome Is Perished

    THE Heruli were a Vandalic tribe of ancient Germany. The first historic mention of them is about the beginning of the third century. In the great movement of the Goths from the Baltic to the Black Sea, the Heruli and the Burgundians are particularly mentioned. They fixed their habitation on “the marshy lands near the Lake Maeotis [Sea of Azov], were renowned for their strength and agility, and the assistance of their light infantry was eagerly solicited and highly esteemed in all the wars of the barbarians.” 1[Page 667] “Decline and Fall,” chap 10, par. 10, note; chap 25, par. 31.GEP 667.1

    2. In the third naval expedition of the Goths, about A. D. 260, when Cyzicus was ruined, when Athens was sacked, when Greece was desolated, and when the temple of Diana at Ephesus was destroyed, the Heruli bore a most prominent part. Indeed, it is stated by one historian—Syncellus—that this expedition “was undertaken by the Heruli.” And when the barbarian host had spread “the range of war both by land and by sea, from the eastern point of Sunium to the western coast of Epirus,” and had “advanced within sight of Italy;” and when the emperor Gallienus “appeared in arms and checked the ardor of the enemy;” “Naulobatus, a chief of the Heruli, accepted an honorable capitulation, entered with a large body of his countrymen into the service of Rome, was invested with the ornaments of the consular dignity,” and so was the first barbarian that ever held the office of Roman consul. 2[Page 667] Chap. 10, par. 37, note, par. 38.GEP 667.2

    3. When the great Hermanric (A. D. 331-361) subjected all the nations from the Black Sea to the Baltic, “the active spirit of the Heruli was subdued by the slow and steady perseverance of the Goths; and after a bloody action, in which the king was slain, the remains of that warlike tribe became a useful accession to the camp of Hermanric.” 3[Page 668] Chap. 25, par. 31.GEP 667.3

    4. When, in A. D. 375-376, the nation of the Huns overran the Alani, subdued the Ostrogoths, and forced the Visigoths over the Danube, the Heruli retired from the coast of the Sea of Azov into the forests of central Germany, where we find them under the dominion of Attila. And when “the nations from the Volga to the Atlantic were assembled on the plain of Chalons,” the Heruli, under the standard of Attila, bore no inferior part in that memorable conflict. 4[Page 668] Chap. 35, par. 9.GEP 668.1

    5. After the death of Attila, when the battle of the Netad had restored to their independence the subject nations, a multitude of the youth of those nations enlisted in the service of the empire, and became “the defense and the terror of Italy,” and finally subverted the Western Empire.GEP 668.2

    6. “The nations who had asserted their independence after the death of Attila, were established, by the right of possession or conquest, in the boundless countries to the north of the Danube, or in the Roman provinces between the river and the Alps. But the bravest of their youth enlisted in the army of confederates who formed the defense and the terror of Italy; and in this promiscuous multitude the names of the Heruli, the Scyrri, the Alani, the Turcilingi, and the Rugians, appear to have predominated.” 5[Page 668] Chap. 36, par. 28.GEP 668.3

    7. In this “promiscuous multitude” the Heruli predominated, even above those tribes which were predominant, and being so conspicuous both in numbers and in valor, their name was given to the whole body of “confederates,” and the power which they soon established in Italy was called the kingdom of the Heruli. These confederates seem to have gone to Italy, A. D. 454-456, for we find them already there in 457, when the emperor Majorian, in preparing an expedition against the Vandals, was compelled to hire, in addition to them,” “many thousands” of their former comrades in the service of Attila.GEP 668.4

    8. “Majorian, like the weakest of his predecessors, was reduced to the disgraceful expedient of substituting barbarian auxiliaries in the place of his unwarlike subjects, and his superior abilities could only be displayed in the vigor and dexterity with which he wielded a dangerous instrument, so apt to recoil on the hand that used it. Besides the confederates, who were already engaged in the service of the empire, the fame of his liberality and valor attracted the nations of the Danube, the Borysthenes, and perhaps of the Tanais. Many thousands of the bravest subjects of Attila, the Gepidae, the Ostrogoths, the Rugians, the Burgundians, the Suevi, and the Alani, assembled in the plains of Liguria; and their formidable strength was balanced by their mutual animosities.” 6[Page 669] Chap. 36, par. 12.GEP 669.1

    9. In the negotiations between Attila and Theodosius the younger, A. D. 446-448, Attila sent five or six successive embassies to the court of Constantinople, and “the two last ambassadors of the Huns, Orestes, a noble subject of the Pannonian province, and Edecon, a valiant chieftain of the tribe of the Scyrri, returned at the same time [A. D. 448] from Constantinople to the royal camp. Their obscure names were afterward illustrated by the extraordinary fortune and the contrast of their sons: the two servants of Attila became the fathers of the last Roman emperor of the West [Augustulus—the diminutive Augustus], and of the first barbarian king of Italy [Odoacer].” 7[Page 669] Chap. 34, par. 12.GEP 669.2

    10. Following the example of the “confederates,” Orestes also went to Italy, but not till A. D. 475. “The example of these warriors was imitated by Orestes, the son of Tatullus, and the father of the last Roman emperor of the West. Orestes had never deserted his country. His birth and fortunes rendered him one of the most illustrious subjects of Pannonia. When that province was ceded to the Huns, he entered into the service of Attila, his lawful sovereign, obtained the office of his secretary, and was repeatedly sent ambassador to Constantinople, to represent the person, and signify the commands, of the imperious monarch. The death of that conqueror restored him to his freedom; and Orestes might honorably refuse either to follow the sons of Attila into the Seythian desert, or to obey the Ostrogoths, who had usurped the dominion of Pannonia. He preferred the service of the Italian princes, the successors of Valentinian; and as he possessed the qualifications of courage, industry, and experience, he advanced with rapid steps in the military profession, till he was elevated, by the favor of Nepos [the emperor] himself, to the dignities of patrician, and master-general of the troops.GEP 669.3

    11. “These troops had been long accustomed to reverence the character and authority of Orestes, who affected their manners, conversed with them in their own language, and was intimately connected with their national chieftains, by long habits of familiarity and friendship. At his solicitation they rose in arms against the obscure Greek who presumed to claim their obedience; and when Orestes, from some secret motive, declined the purple, they consented, with the same facility, to acknowledge his son Augustulus as the emperor of the West. By the abdication of Nepos, Orestes had now attained the summit of his ambitious hopes; but he soon discovered, before the end of the first year, that the lessons of perjury and ingratitude which a rebel must inculcate will be retorted against himself, and that the precarious sovereign of Italy was only permitted to choose whether he would be the slave or the victim of his barbarian mercenaries.GEP 670.1

    12. “The dangerous alliance of these strangers had oppressed and insulted the last remains of Roman freedom and dignity. At each revolution their pay and privileges were augmented; but their insolence increased in a still more extravagant degree; they envied the fortune of their brethren in Gaul, Spain and Africa, whose victorious arms had acquired an independent and perpetual inheritance; and they insisted on their peremptory demand, that a third part of the lands of Italy should be immediately divided among them.GEP 670.2

    13. “Orestes, with a spirit which, in another situation, might be entitled to our esteem, chose rather to encounter the rage of an armed multitude than to subscribe the ruin of an innocent people. He rejected the audacious demand; and his refusal was favorable to the ambition of Odoacer, a bold barbarian, who assured his fellow soldiers that if they dared to associate under his command, they might soon extort the justice which had been denied to their dutiful petitions.GEP 670.3

    14. “From all the camps and garrisons of Italy, the confederates, actuated by the same resentment and the same hopes, impatiently flocked to the standard of this popular leader; and the unfortunate patrician, overwhelmed by the torrent, hastily retreated to the strong city of Pavia, the episcopal seat of the holy Epiphanities. Pavia was immediately besieged, the fortifications were stormed, the town was pillaged; and although the bishop might labor, with much zeal and some success, to save the property of the church and the chastity of female captives, the tumult could only be appeased by the execution of Orestes. His brother Paul was slain in an action near Ravenna; and the helpless Augustulus, who could no longer command the respect, was reduced to implore the clemency, of Odoacer.GEP 671.1

    15. “That successful barbarian was the son of Edecon, who, in some remarkable transactions, had been the colleague of Orestes himself. The honor of an ambassador should be exempt from suspicion; and Edecon had listened to a conspiracy against the life of his sovereign. But this apparent guilt was expiated by his merit or repentance; his rank was eminent and conspicuous; he enjoyed the favor of Attila; and the troops under his command, who guarded, in their turn, the royal village, consisted of a tribe of Scyrri, his immediate and hereditary subjects. In the revolt of the nations, they still adhered to the Huns; and more than twelve years afterward, the name of Edecon is honorably mentioned in their unequal contests with the Ostrogoths, which was terminated after two bloody battles, by the defeat and dispersion of the Scyrri. Their gallant leader, who did not survive this national calamity, left two sons, Onulf and Odoacer, to struggle with adversity, and to maintain as they might, by rapine or service, the faithful followers of their exile. Onulf directed his steps toward Constantinople, where he sullied, by the assassination of a generous benefactor, the fame which he had acquired in arms.GEP 671.2

    16. “His brother Odoacer led a wandering life among the barbarians of Noricum, with a mind and a fortune suited to the most desperate adventures; and when he had fixed his choice, he piously visited the cell of Severinus, the popular saint of the country, to solicit his approbation and blessing. The lowness of the door would not admit the lofty stature of Odoacer; he was obliged to stoop; but in that humble attitude the saint could discern the symptoms of his future greatness; and addressing him in a prophetic tone, ‘Pursue,’ said he, ‘your design; proceed to Italy; you will soon cast away this coarse garment of skins; and your wealth will be adequate to the liberality of your mind.’GEP 672.1

    17. “The barbarian, whose daring spirit accepted and ratified the prediction, was admitted into the service of the Western Empire, and soon obtained an honorable rank in the guards. His manners were gradually polished, his military skill was improved, and the confederates of Italy would not have elected him for their general, unless the exploits of Odoacer had established a high opinion of his courage and capacity. Their military acclamations saluted him with the title of king [Aug. 23, A. D. 476]; but he abstained, during his whole reign, from the use of purple and diadem, lest he should offend those princes whose subjects, by their accidental mixture, had formed the victorious army, which time and policy might insensibly unite into a great nation.GEP 672.2

    18. “Royalty was familiar to the barbarians, and the submissive people of Italy was prepared to obey, without a murmur, the authority which he should condescend to exercise as the vicegerent of the emperor of the West. But Odoacer had resolved to abolish that useless and expensive office; and such is the weight of antique prejudice, that it required some boldness and penetration to discover the extreme facility of the enterprise. The unfortunate Augustulus was made the instrument of his own disgrace; he signified his resignation to the Senate, and that assembly, in their last act of obedience to a Roman prince, still affected the spirit of freedom, and the forms of the constitution.GEP 672.3

    19. “An epistle was addressed, by their unanimous decree, to the emperor Zeno, the son-in-law and successor of Leo, who had lately been restored, after a short rebellion, to the Byzantine throne. They solemnly ‘disclaim the necessity, or even the wish, of continuing any longer the imperial succession in Italy; since, in their opinion, the majesty of a sole monarch is sufficient to pervade and protect, at the same time, both the East and the West. In their own name and in the name of the people, they consent that the seat of universal empire shall be transferred from Rome to Constantinople, and they basely renounce the right of choosing their master, the only vestige that yet remained of the authority which had given laws to the world.GEP 672.4

    20. “‘The republic (they repeated that name without a blush) might safely confide in the civil and military virtues of Odoacer; and they humbly request that the emperor would invest him with the title of patrician, and the administration of the diocese of Italy.’ The deputies of the Senate were received at Constantinople with some marks of displeasure and indignation; and when they were admitted to the audience of Zeno, he sternly reproached them with their treatment of the two emperors, Anthemius and Nepos, whom the East had successively granted to the prayers of Italy. ‘The first,’ continued he, ‘you have murdered; the second you have expelled; but the second is still alive, and whilst he lives, he is your lawful sovereign.’ But the prudent Zeno soon deserted the hopeless cause of his abdicated colleague. His vanity was gratified by the title of sole emperor, and by the statues erected to his honor in the several quarters of Rome, the entertained a friendly, though ambiguous, correspondence with the patrician Odoacer; and he gratefully accepted the imperial ensign, the sacred ornaments of the throne and palace, which the barbarian was not unwilling to remove from the sight of the people.GEP 673.1

    21. “In the space of twenty years since the death of Valentinian [March 16, A. D. 455], nine emperors had successively disappeared; and the son of Orestes, a youth recommended only by his beauty, would be the least entitled to the notice of posterity, if his reign, which was marked by the extinction of the Roman Empire in the West, did not leave a memorable era in the history of mankind. The patrician Orestes had married the daughter of Count Romulus, of Petovio in Noricum; the name of Augustus, notwithstanding the jealousy of power, was known at Aquileia as a familiar surname; and the appellations of the two great founders of the city and of the monarchy were thus strangely united in the last of their successors.GEP 673.2

    22. “The son of Orestes assumed and disgraced the name of Romulus and Augustus; but the first was corrupted into Momyllus by the Greeks, and the second has been changed by the Latins into the contemptible diminutive, Augustulus. The life of this inoffensive youth was spared by the generous clemency of Odoacer, who dismissed him, with his whole family, from the imperial palace, fixed his annual allowance at six thousand pieces of gold, and assigned the castle of Lucullus, in Campania, for the place of his exile or retirement.GEP 674.1

    23. “Odoacer was the, first barbarian who reigned in Italy over a people who had once asserted their just superiority above the rest of mankind. The disgrace of the Romans still excites our respectful compassion, and we fondly sympathize with the imaginary grief and indignation of their degenerate posterity. But the calamities of Italy had gradually subdued the proud consciousness of freedom and glory. In the age of Roman virtue the provinces were subject to the arms, and the citizens to the laws, of the republic, till those laws were subverted by civil discord, and both the city and the provinces became the servile property of a tyrant. The forms of the constitution, which alleviated or disguised their abject slavery, were abolished by time and violence; the Italians alternately lamented the presence or the absence of the sovereigns, whom they detested or despised; and the succession of five centuries inflicted the various evils of military license, capricious despotism, and elaborate oppression.GEP 674.2

    24. “During the same period, the barbarians had emerged from obscurity and contempt, and the warriors of Germany and Scythia were introduced into the provinces, as the servants, the allies, and at length the masters, of the Romans, whom they insulted or protected. The hatred of the people was suppressed by fear; they respected the spirit and splendor of the martial chiefs who were invested with the honors of the empire, and the fate of Rome depended on the sword of those formidable strangers. The stern Ricimer, who trampled on the ruins of Italy, had exercised the power, without assuming the title, of a king; and the patient Romans were insensibly prepared to acknowledge the royalty of Odoacer and his barbaric successors.GEP 674.3

    25. “The king of Italy was not unworthy of the high station to which his valor and fortune had exalted him, his savage manners were polished by the habits of conversation, and he respected, though a conqueror and a barbarian, the institutions, and even the prejudices, of his subjects.GEP 675.1

    26. “Like the rest of the barbarians, he had been instructed in the Arian heresy; but he revered the monastic and episcopal characters; and the silence of the Catholics attests the toleration which they enjoyed. The peace of the city required the interposition of his prefect Basilius in the choice of a Roman pontiff; the decree which restrained the clergy from alienating their lands was ultimately designed for the benefit of the people, whose devotion would have been taxed to repair the dilapidations of the church.GEP 675.2

    27. “Italy was protected by the arms of its conqueror; and its frontiers were respected by the barbarians of Gaul and Germany, who had so long insulted the feeble race of Theodosius. Odoacer passed the Adriatic to chastise the assassins of the emperor Nepos, and to acquire the maritime province of Dalmatia. He passed the Alps to rescue the remains of Noricum from Fava, or Feletheus, king of the Rugians, who held his residence beyond the Danube. The king was vanquished in battle, and led away prisoner; a numerous colony of captives and subjects was transplanted into Italy; and Rome, after a long period of defeat and disgrace, might claim the triumph of her barbarian master.” 8[Page 675] “Decline and Fall,” chap 36, pars. 28-33.GEP 675.3

    28. Thus by the establishment of the Herulian kingdom of Italy, A. D. 476, the final destruction of the Western Empire was accomplished. Rome, that “mightiest fabric of human greatness” was fallen. That power, “the fourth kingdom” “strong as iron” which had broken in pieces and subdued all kingdoms, was now itself broken to pieces. “The union of the Roman Empire was dissolved: its genius was humbled in the dust; and armies of unknown barbarians, issuing from the frozen regions of the North, had established their victorious reign over the fairest provinces of Europe and Africa.” 9[Page 676] Chap. 33. last sentence.GEP 675.4

    29. The kingdom was now divided. Ten kingdoms, ten distinct and independent nations,—no more, no less—had fixed themselves within the boundaries of Western Rome; and the prophecy, spoken and written more than a thousand years before, was literally fulfilled.GEP 676.1

    30. “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man is as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away;”—nations rise and nations fall; empires rule the world and are brought to ruin; but over it all there appears the fact that “the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men,” and also the truth that “the word of our god shall stand forever.” 10[Page 676] [Peter]: 21; Daniel 4:17, 25, 32; 2:40-43.GEP 676.2

    Larger font
    Smaller font