תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

return into Africa seized upon the whole remains of the Roman dominions there.

Odoacer, king of the Heruli, a people of that part of Germany now called Mecklenburgh, invaded Italy in the year 475 with a powerful army. He defeated the Roman troops under the command of Orestes, took the city of Pavia by force, and exposed it to the pillage of his soldiers, who destroyed all with fire and sword. Here Odoacer was saluted king of Italy. He then advanced to Rome, where he deposed the Emperor Augustulus, and thus effectually established his own regal title.

In Augustulus ceased the Roman empire in the west. The imperial titie was now lost, the authority of Rome was extinguished, its dignity trampled under foot, and its extensive domu... torn to pieces, and parcelled out among a set of barbarous people. Spain was divided among the Goths, Alans, Suevi, and others. Africa was possessed by the Vandals. Britain having been before abandoned by the Romans, was subdued by the Saxons, who had lately assisted the Britons against their enemies, the Scots and the Picts. The Goths, Burgundians, and Franks, had erected their several kingdoms in Gaul : and now at last Rome itself, with Italy, the fountains of waters, that had triumphed over the rest of the world, became enslaved to a ba: barous king. In these latter times Italy, by the ravages of the invaders, had been depopulated, and the imperial armies had consisted chiefly of barbarians, as Goths, Huns, Alans, Heruli, Suevi, and others, hired under the name of auxiliaries. These soon saw their own strength, and the weakness of their masters. They therefore shared out to themselves such morsels of the empire as they most relished. .

Theodoric, king of those Goths that were settled in Italy, got Odoacer treacherously murdered in 493, and himself proclaimed king of all Italy. This country from that time remained under the power of the Goths, till Justinian the Great, emperor of Constantinople, sent thither his general, Belisarius, who subdued a considerable part of it, reduced the Gothic power to a low ebb, and united Rome to the eastern empire. Thus was that unhappy city tossed from hand to hand, and now become a member of that empire, of which she had formerly been the head. However, Totila being chosen king of the Goths in Italy, found means to retrieve the declining state of their affairs. He recovered a great part of the country, and in 546 invested Rome, which he blocked up so closely, that it could receive no provisions. This occa. sioned such a raging famine, that the inhabitants were reduced to the utmost extremity of distress, feeding upon the most filthy things, even their own excrements. Belisarius attempted to send in provisions, but the attempt proved unsuccessful. The arm of God was still lifted up against Rome, and was to strike another blow, before the divine justice could be finally satisfied.

By a piece of treachery in the sentinels posted at one of the gates, Totila was admitted in the night into the city, which he gave up to the pillage of his soldiers. The Goths spent several days in plundering the inhabitants; and the senators and richest people were even stripped of every thing, that they were necessitated to beg their bread of the very Goths who had thus reduced them. The walls of Rome were thrown down, the public monuments demolished, the city was burnt, and Totila carried away with him all the inhabitants ; so that the place remained desert for above forty days. Procop. lib. 3. c. 12. lib. 4. c. 13. and Evagr. lib. 2. c. 7.—Thus was completed the destruction of ancient Rome.

CHAPTER VI.

A FURTHER ACCOUNT OF THE THIRD AGE.

· Having in the preceding chapter elucidated by plain history, the brief enigmatical description of the fall of the Roman empire, which St. John gives us in the third sea!, trumpet, and vial; we are now better prepared to understand the other, more explicit account, he has added in the 17th and 18th chapters of the Apocalypse. The event is so interesting to the Christian Church, that he enlarges on the circumstances of it, particularly on the ruin of Rome herself, as she had been the greatest enemy of Christ upon earth, the instrument of Satan in opposing the worship of God, and in fine the centre of idolatry. Thus speaks our prophet:

Apoc. chap. xvii. 1. “And there came one of the seven angels, who had the seven vials, and spoke with me, saying: Come, I will show thee the condemnation of the great harlot, who sitteth upon many waters.

V. 2. “ With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication : and they who inhabit the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her whoredom.

V. 3. “And he took me away in spirit into the desert. And I saw a woman sitting upon a scarlet-coloured beast full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.

V. 4." And the woman was clothed round about with purple and scarlet, and gilt with gold, and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand, full of the abomination and filthiness of her fornication.

V.5. “ And on her forehead a name was written; a mystery; Babylon the great, the mother of the fornications, and the abominations of the earth.

V. 6. “ And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And I wondered, when I had seen her, with great admiration.”

St. John is here invited, ver. 1. to be a spectator of the divine punishment upon the great harlot, who represents pagan Rome, as we shall see presently. The invitation comes with propriety from one of the seven angels who held the vials of the wrath of God, as it was the function of those angels to execute the divine judgments on mankind. The Apostle is therefore taken up, as he thought, by the angel, v. 3, into a desert, that very desert where Rome stood. The country round that metropolis of the world was filled with towns and inhabitants while she maintained her power, but when the barbarous nations came upon her like furious lions, they laid waste the lands all around for many miles, they razed the towns to the ground, and thus reduced the whole country to a desolate desert. In this condition it was when Rome was destroyed, and thus nearly it has remained ever since, as a lasting monument of the divine wrath. St. John being placed in this desert sees the great harlot or the woman, sitting upon a scarlet-coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns, &c. and being struck with amazement at so extraordinary a sight,

V. 7. “ The angel said to me: why dost thou wonder ? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast which carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns ; which the angel does by parts thus:

V. 18. “ The woman which thou sawest, is the great city, which hath kingdom over the kings of the earth.”

This great city, which has dominion over the kings of the earth, can be no other but imperial Rome, which had conquered almost all the kingdoms of the known world. Imperial heathen Rome is therefore evidently meant and represented by the woman or great harlot. And thus it has been understood by the ancient fathers and by the modern interpreters of the Catholic Church- But furthermore,

V. 15. “ And he (the angel) said to me," says St. John: " the waters which thou sa west, where the harlot sitteth, are peoples* and nations and tongues.”

The harlot was said, v. 1, to sit upon many waters, which the angel here interprets to represent the many kingdoms, states, and countries, over which she ruled. Again, the angel tells him, that the seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth, v. 9, which is to say clearly, the seven mountains on which ancient Rome was built. These hills are, the Capitoline, Palatine, Aventine, Cælius, Esqueline, Quirinal, and Viminal, some of which can scarce be deemed a part of modern Rome, as being now very little inhabited.

The woman being now well known, we are next presented with a description of her person and qualities. She appears dressed in purple and scarlet, and gilt with gold and precious stones and pearls, v. 4. : the imperial lady is thus decked out in the most sumptuous manner, proudly displaying the great abundance of her riches, amassed from the spoils of the whole world. Purple was the usual robe of the emperors of Rome, and her scarlet shows her stained with the blood of the martyrs. She holds in her hand a golden cup full of the abomination and filthiness of her fornication, v. 4, a common scriptural expression for the abominations of idolatry; and with these she had notoriously polluted herself. For Rome, not content with worshipping her own heathenish gods, she adopted those of all the countries and nations she subdued. She thought by this extravagant religious worship to render all the deities propitious to her, and to this she ascribed the success of her arms. “Thus it is,' said the Romans, “that this city has extended her empire beyond the rising and setting sun, and beyond the bounds of the ocean, because she venerates 'the gods she conquers, she makes foreign deities her own, and even raises altars to those that are unknown to her.” Mm. Fel. Oct. In this manner were her idolatrous abominations so multiplied, that there are said to have been 420 heathenish temples in that city. Thus writes a Roman poet :

Sed quæ de septem totum circunispicit orbem ; Montibus, Imperii, Roma, Deuimque locus.

Ovid. lib. 1. Trist. " Rome, which from seven mountains overlooks the whole world, Is the centre of empire, and the abode of the gods." She even carried her superstition so far, lest any unknown

* In the Greek text, "peoples and multitudes."

god should not receive due worship, as to build a temple, which she dedicated to all the deities, calling it on that account, Pantheon, “the temple of all the gods.” “ This city," said St. Leo, “not knowing the Author of her elevation, while she ruled over almost all the nations of the earth, submitted to serve all their gods : and she imagined herself to be the more religious, as she rejected no kind of idolatrous worship.”— “ Insomuch, that whatever superstitions had place in other countries, they were all carefully transplanted to Rome.”Hom. I. Nat. in Ap. Petri et Pauli. În fine, such was the filthiness of her fornication, such the excess of her prostitution to idolatry, that she even deified her impious emperors, raised . statutes to them to which incense was offered, and built temples to their memories.

Such was ancient Rome, the great Harlot, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication; and they who inhabited the earth, were made drunk with the wine of her whoredom, v. 2. She was not only intoxicated herself with all the delusions of idolatry, but she offered her golden cup all round to others. The unparalleled degree of power and grandeur to which she was elevated, raised her to such a height of admiration in the eyes of all nations, that they viewed her with the utmost deference and respect, and readily embraced whatever superstition she herself followed or recommended. She had moreover the disposal of kingdoms, governments, riches, and dignities: what wonder then, if with such charms she debauched the kings and people of the earth?

This same woman is farther said to carry on her forehead t the following inscription: a mystery: Babylon the great, the in mother of the fornications, and the abominations of the earth,

v. 5. Here is a mystery, or an enigma to be unravelled, viz. Babylon the great, the mother of the fornications, and the abominations of the earth. The reader, we apprehend, is already prepared in great measure for the solving of this enigma. Babylon the great, is the great imperial city of pagan Rome. And she is the woman, as we have just above shown, who is the mother of the fornications and abominations of the earth. This is the explanation of the proposed mystery. But to make it more clear, that by Babylon the great is here meant idolatrous Rome, we appeal to the angel's words : The woman which thou sawest, is the great city, which hath kingdoms over the kings of the earth, v. 18.; which, as we have before observed, plainly points out the great ancient city of

« הקודםהמשך »