"I have already given a curious instance of our Author's asserting, on the authority of Dion Cassius, a fact not mentioned by that Historian. I shall now produce a very singular proof of his endeavouring to conceal from us a passage really contained in him." (53)
Nothing but the angry vehemence with which these charges are urged, could engage me to take the least notice of them. In themselves they are doubly contemptible; they are trifling, and they are false.
I. Mr. Davis (54) had imputed to me as a crime, that I had mentioned, on the sole testimony of Dion (1. lxviii. p. 1145.), the spirit of rebellion which inflamed the Jews, from the reign of Nero to that of Antoninus Pius, (55) whilst the passage of that Historian is confined to an insurrection in Cyprus and Cyrene, which broke out within that period. The Reader who will cast his eye on the Note (ch. xvi. note I.), which is supported by that quotation from Dion, will discover that it related only to this particular fact. The general position, which is indeed too notorious to require any proof, I had carefully justified in the course of the same paragraph; partly by another reference to Dion Cassius, partly by an allusion to the well-known History of Josephus, and partly by several quotations from the learned and judicious Basnage, who has explained, in the most satisfactory manner, the principles and conduct of the rebellious Jews.
2. The passage of Dion, which I am accused of endeavouring to conceal, might perhaps have remained invisible, even to the piercing eye of Mr. Davis, if I had not carefully reported it in its proper place: (56) and it was in my power to report it, without being guilty of any inconsiderate contradiction. I had observed, that, in the large history of Dion Cassius, Xiphilin had not been able to discover the name of Christians: yet I afterwards quote a passage in which Marcia, the favourite Concubine of Commodus, is celebrated as the Patroness of the Christians. Mr. Davis has transcribed my quotation, but he has concealed the important words which I now distinguish by Italics (ch. xvi. note 107. Dion Cassius, or rather his abbreviator Xiphilin, 1. lxxii. p. 1206.) The reference is fairly made and cautiously qualified: I am already secure from the imputations of fraud or inconsistency; and the opinion which attributes the last-mentioned passage to the Abbreviator, rather than to the original Historian, may be supported by the most unexceptionable authorities. I shall protect myself by those of Reimar (in his Edition of Dion Cassius, tom. ii. p. 1207. note 34.), and of Dr. Lardner; and shall only transcribe the words of the latter, in his Collection of Jewish and Heathen Testimonies, vol. iii. p. 57.
"This paragraph I rather think to be Xiphlin's than Dion's. The style at least is Xiphilin's. In the other passages before quoted, Dion speaks of Impiety, or Atheism, or Judaism; but never useth the word Christians. Another thing that may make us doubt whether this observation be entirely Dion's, is the phrase, "it is related ." For at the beginning of the reign of Commodus, he says, "These things, and what follows, I write not from the report of others, but from my own knowledge and observation." However, the sense may be Dion's; but I wish we had also his style without any adulteration."
For my own part, I must, in my private opinion, ascribe even the sense of this passage to Xiphilin. The Monk might eagerly collect and insert an anecdote which related to the domestic history of the church; but the religion of a courtesan must have appeared an object of very little moment in the eyes of a Roman Consul, who, at least in every other part of his history, disdained or neglected to mention the name of the Christians.
"What shall we say now? Do we not discover the name of Christians in the History of Dion? With what assurance then can Mr. Gibbon, after asserting a fact manifestly untrue, lay claim to the merits of diligence and accuracy, the indispensable duty of an Historian. Or can he expect us to credit his assertion, that he has carefully examined all the original materials?" (57)
Mr. Gibbon may still maintain the character of an Historian; but it is difficult to conceive how Mr. Davis will support his pretensions, if he aspires to that of a Gentleman.
I almost hesitate whether I should take any notice of another ridiculous charge which Mr. Davis includes in the article of Dion Cassius. My adversary owns, that I have occasionally produced the several passages of the Augustan History which relate to the Christians; but he fiercely contends that they amount to more than six lines. (58) I really have not measured them: nor did I mean that loose expression as a precise and definite number. If, on a nicer survey, those short hints, when they are brought together, should be found to exceed six of the long lines of my folio edition, I am content that my critical Antagonist should substitute eight, or ten, or twelve, lines: nor shall I think either my learning or my veracity much interested in this important alteration.
|« NEXT »||« A Vindication »||« Decline & Fall »||« Library »|