Story of the Romans - Helene Guerber

A Prophecy Fulfilled

Several other emperors succeeded Tacitus at short intervals, and all died violent deaths after very brief reigns. Finally the army called Diocletian, an Illyrian soldier, to the throne.

It seems that a northern priestess had once foretold that Diocletian would gain the Roman throne when he had "killed the boar." All the people at this time were more or less superstitious, so Diocletian spent much time hunting. But, although he killed many boars, he was not for a long time named Emperor.

Now the two emperors who came before Diocletian were murdered by a burly soldier named Aper, a Latin word meaning "boar." Some of the legions then elected Diocletian to this office; and he, wishing to punish the murderer for his double crime, struck Aper down with his own hand.

His soldiers were familiar with the prophecy of the priestess, and they now cried that he would surely gain the throne, because he had killed the Boar. True enough, Diocletian's only rival was soon slain, and he was declared emperor by all the Romans.

Diocletian, however, found that the Roman Empire was too large and hard to govern for a single ruler. He therefore made his friend Maximian associate emperor. Then he said that Galerius and Constantius should be called Cæsars, and gave them also a portion of the empire to govern. These four Roman rulers had their capitals at Nicomedia, Milan, Sirmium, and Treves; and now a new epoch begins, with Rome no longer the central point of the government.

Diocletian remained the head and acknowledged leader and adviser of the other rulers. But his reign was troubled by invasions of the barbarians, a war in Persia, and a persecution of the Christians,—the worst and bloodiest that had yet been known.

A lover of solitude and simplicity, Diocletian soon tired of the imperial life. Therefore, when he felt that his strength no longer permitted him to serve the people, he withdrew to a quiet retreat in his native city of Salona, where he spent his last eight years in growing vegetables for his amusement.

As Maximian had retired at the same time as Diocletian, the Roman Empire was now divided between Galerius and Constantius, who were known as emperors of the East and of the West, respectively. Constantius, having obtained the West for his share, went to Britain to suppress a revolt. He died at York, and his son Constantine became emperor in his stead.

Constantine's claim to the empire was disputed by several rivals; but the strongest among them was Maxentius, who ruled Italy and had a large army. On his way to meet him, Constantine became a Christian, thanks to a miracle which the ancient writers relate about as follows.

At noontide, on the day before his battle with Maxentius, Constantine and his army were startled by a brilliant cross, which suddenly appeared in the sky. Around the cross were the Greek words meaning, "By this sign conquer."

Constantine was so moved by this vision that he made a vow to become a Christian if he won the victory. He also ordered a new standard, called a Labarum, which bore the cross, and the inscription he had seen in the skies. This was always carried before him in battle.

Arch of Constantine.

The two armies met near Rome. Maxentius was defeated, and Constantine entered the city in triumph. In memory of his victory a fine arch was built, which is standing still, and is always called the Arch of Constantine.


Front Matter

The First Settlers
Escape from the Burning City
The Clever Trick
The Boards Are Eaten
The Wolf and the Twins
Romulus Builds Rome
The Maidens Carried Off
Union of Sabines and Romans
Death of Romulus
Strange Signs of the Romans
The Quarrel with Alba
The Horatii and Curiatii
Tarquin and the Eagle
The Roman Youths
The King Outwitted
The Murder of Tarquin
The Ungrateful Children
The Mysterious Books
Tarquin's Poppies
The Oracle of Delphi
The Death of Lucretia
The Stern Father
A Roman Triumph
A Roman Triumph (Cont.)
Defense of the Bridge
The Burnt Hand
The Twin Gods
The Wrongs of the Poor
Fable of the Stomach
The Story of Coriolanus
The Farmer Hero
The New Laws
Death of Virginia
Plans of a Traitor
A School-Teacher Punished
Invasion of the Gauls
The Sacred Geese
Two Heroes of Rome
Disaster at Caudine Forks
Pyrrhus and His Elephants
The Elephants Routed
Ancient Ships
Regulus and the Snake
Hannibal Crosses the Alps
The Romans Defeated
The Inventor Archimedes
The Roman Conquests
Destruction of Carthage
Roman Amusements
The Jewels of Cornelia
Death of Tiberius Gracchus
Caius Gracchus
Jugurtha, King of Numidia
The Barbarians
The Social War
The Flight of Marius
The Proscription Lists
Sertorius and His Doe
Revolt of the Slaves
Pompey's Conquests
Conspiracy of Catiline
Caesar's Conquests
Crossing of the Rubicon
Battle of Pharsalia
The Death of Caesar
The Second Triumvirate
The Vision of Brutus
Antony and Cleopatra
The Poisonous Snake
The Augustan Age
Death of Augustus
Varus Avenged
Death of Germanicus
Tiberius Smothered
The Wild Caligula
Wicked Wives of Claudius
Nero's First Crimes
Christians Persecuted
Nero's Cruelty
Two Short Reigns
The Siege of Jerusalem
The Buried Cities
The Terrible Banquet
The Emperor's Tablets
The Good Trajan
Trajan's Column
The Great Wall
Hadrian's Death
Antoninus Pius
The Model Pagan
Another Cruel Emperor
An Unnatural Son
The Senate of Women
The Gigantic Emperor
Invasion of the Goths
Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra
A Prophecy Fulfulled
First Christian Emperor
Roman Empire Divided
An Emperor's Penance
Sieges of Rome
End of the Western Empire