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Chapter XXIII.—After the Death of the Emperor Honorius John usurps the Sovereignty at Rome. He is destroyed through the Prayers of Theodosius the Younger.

When the Emperor Honorius died Theodosius—now sole ruler—having received the news concealed the truth as long as possible, misleading the people sometimes with one report, and then with another. But he privately dispatched a military force to Salonæ, a city of Dalmatia, that in the event of any revolutionary movement in the West there might be resources at hand to check it; and after making these provisional arrangements, he at length openly announced his uncle’s death. In the meantime John, the superintendent of the emperor’s secretaries,967967    So also Zosimus, V. 40. not content with the dignity to which he had already attained, seized upon the sovereign authority; and sent an embassy to the emperor Theodosius, requesting that he might be recognized as his colleague in the empire. But that prince first caused the ambassadors to be arrested, then sent off Ardaburius, the commander-in-chief of the army, who had greatly distinguished himself in 166the Persian war.968968    See above, chap. 18. He, on arriving at Salonæ, set sail from thence for Aquileia. And he was fortunate as was thought, but fortune was adverse to him as it afterwards appeared. For a contrary wind having arisen, he was driven into the usurper’s hand. The latter having seized him became more sanguine in his hope that the emperor would be induced by the urgency of the case to elect and proclaim him emperor, in order to preserve the life of his general-in-chief. And the emperor was in fact greatly distressed when he heard of it, as was also the army which had been sent against the usurper, lest Ardaburius should be subjected to evil treatment by the usurper. Aspar the son of Ardaburius, having learnt that his father was in the usurper’s power, and aware at the same time that the party of the rebels was strengthened by the accession of immense numbers of barbarians, knew not what course to pursue. Then again at this crisis the prayer of the pious emperor prevailed. For an angel of God, under the appearance of a shepherd, undertook the guidance of Aspar and the troops which were with him, and led him through the lake near Ravenna—for in that city the usurper was then residing—and there detained the military chief. Now, no one had ever been known to have forded that lake before; but God then rendered that passable, which had hitherto been impassable. Having therefore crossed the lake, as if going over dry ground, they found the gates of the city open, and overpowered the usurper. This event afforded that most devout emperor an opportunity of giving a fresh demonstration of his piety towards God. For the news of the usurper’s being destroyed, having arrived while he was engaged at the exhibition of the sports of the Hippodrome, he immediately said to the people: ‘Come now, if you please, let us leave these diversions, and proceed to the church to offer thanksgivings to God, whose hand has overthrown the usurper.’ Thus did he address them; and the spectacles were immediately forsaken and neglected, the people all passing out of the circus singing praises together with him, as with one heart and one voice. And arriving at the church, the whole city again became one congregation; and once in the church they passed the remainder of the day in these devotional exercises.


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