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then trust to the agility of their wit to ward off or avoid them.
Which felicity of times under learned princes, to keep still the law of brevity, by using the most eminent and selected examples, doth best appear in the age which passed from the death of Domitianus the emperor, until the reign of Commodus; comprehending a succession of six princes, all learned, or singular favourers and advancers of learning; which age, for temporal respects, was the most happy and flourishing that ever the Roman empire, which then was a model of the world, enjoyed; a matter revealed and prefigured unto Domitian in a dream the night before he was slain ; for he thought there was grown behind upon his shoulders a neck and a head of gold: which came accordingly to pass in those golden times which succeeded; of which princes we will make some commemoration : wherein although the matter will be vulgar, and may be thought fitter for a declamation, than agreeable to a treatise enfolded as this is; yet because it is pertinent to the point in hand, neque semper arcum tendit Apollo, and to name them only were too naked and cursory, I will not omit it altogether.
The first was Nerva, the excellent temper of whose government is by a glance in Cornelius Tacitus touched to the life: Postquam divus Nerva res olim insociabiles miscuisset, imperium et libertatem. And in token of his learning, the last act of his short reign, left to memory, was a missive to his adopted son Trajan, proceeding upon some inward discontent at the ingratitude of the times, comprehended in a verse of Homer's;
Telis, Phæbe, tuis lacrymas ulciscere nostras. Trajan, who succeeded, was for his person not learned: but if we will hearken to the speech of our Saviour, that saith, He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall have a prophet's reward, he deserveth to be placed amongst the most learned princes, for there was not a greater admirer of learning, or benefactor of learning; a founder of famous
libraries, a perpetual advancer of learned men to office, and a familiar converser with learned professors and preceptors, who were noted to have then most credit in court. On the other side, how much Trajan's virtue and government was admired and renowned, surely no testimony of grave and faithful history doth more lively set forth, than that legend tale of Gregorius Magnus, bishop of Rome, who was noted for the extreme envy he bore towards all heathen excellency; and yet he is reported, out of the love and estimation of Trajan's moral virtues, to have made unto God passionate and fervent prayers for the delivery of his soul out of hell; and to have obtained it, with a caveat, that he should make no more such petitions. In this prince's time also, the persecutions against the Christians received intermission, upon the certificate of Plinius Secundus, a man of excellent learning, and by Trajan advanced.
Adrian, his successor, was the most curious man that lived, and the most universal inquirer; insomuch as it was noted for an error in his mind, that he desired to comprehend all things, and not to reserve himself for the worthiest things; falling into the like humour that was long before noted in Philip of Macedon, who, when he would needs over-rule and put down an excellent musician, in an argument touching music, was well answered by him again, “ God
forbid, Sir,” saith he," that your fortune should be
so bad, as to know these things better than I.” It pleased God likewise to use the curiosity of this emperor, as an inducement to the peace of his Church in those days. For having Christ in veneration, not as a God or Saviour, but as a wonder or novelty; and having his picture in his gallery, matched with Apollonius, with whom, in his vain imagination, he thought he had some conformity; yet it served the turn to allay the bitter hatred of those times against the Christian name, so as the Church had peace during his time. And for his government civil, although he did not attain to that of Trajan's, in the glory of arms, or perfection of justice; yet in
deserving of the weal of the subject he did exceed him. For Trajan erected many famous monuments and buildings, insomuch as Constantine the Great in emulation was wont to call him Parietaria, wallflower, because his name was upon so many walls : but his buildings and works were more of glory and triumph than use and necessity. But Adrian spent his whole reign, which was peaceable, in a perambulation, or survey of the Roman empire, giving order, and making assignation where he went, for re-edifying of cities, towns, and forts decayed, and for cutting of rivers and streams, and for making bridges and passages, and for policying of cities and commonalties with new ordinances and constitutions, and granting new franchises and incorporations; so that his whole time was a very restoration of all the lapses and decays of former times.
Antoninus Pius, who succeeded him, was a prince excellently learned; and had the patient and subtle wit of a schoolman ; insomuch as in common speech, which leaves no virtue untaxed, he was called cymini sector, a carver, or a divider of cumin seed, which is one of the least seeds; such a patience he had and settled spirit, to enter into the least and most exact differences of causes, a fruit no doubt of the exceeding tranquillity and serenity of his mind; which being no ways charged or encumbered, either with fears, remorses, or scruples, but having been noted for a man of the purest goodness, without all fiction or affectation, that hath reigned or lived, made his mind continually present and intire. He likewise approached a degree nearer unto Christianity, and became, as Agrippa said unto St. Paul, half a Christian ; holding their religion and law in good opinion, and not only ceasing persecution, but giving way to the advancement of Christians.
There succeeded him the first divi fratres, the two adoptive brethren, Lucius Commodus Verus, son to Ælius Verus, who delighted much in the softer kind of learning, and was wont to call the poet Martial his Virgil: and Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, whereof the latter, who obscured his colleague, and survived him long, was named the Philosopher; who as he excelled all the rest in learning, so he excelled them likewise in perfection of all royal virtues; insomuch as Julianus the emperor, in his book, intitled Casares, being as a pasquil or satire to deride all his predecessors, feigned, that they were all invited to a banquet of the gods, and Silenus the jester sat at the nether end of the table, and bestowed a scoff on every one as they came in ; but when Marcus Philosophus came in, Silenus was gravelled, and out of countenance, not knowing where to carp at him, save at the last he gave a glance at his patience towards his wife. And the virtue of this prince, continued with that of his predecessor, made the name of Antoninus so sacred in the world, that though it were extremely dishonoured in Commodus, Caracalla, and Heliogabalus, who all bore the name; yet when Alexander Severus refused the name, because he was a stranger to the family, the Senate with one acclamation said, Quo modo Augustus, sic et Antoninus. In such renown and veneration was the name of these two princes in those days, that they would have had it as a perpetual addition in all the emperors stile. In this emperor's time also, the Church for the most part was in peace; so as in this sequence of six princes, we do see the blessed effects of learning in sovereignty, painted forth in the greatest table of the world.
But for a tablet, or picture of smaller volume, not presuming to speak of your majesty that liveth, in my judgment the most excellent is that of queen Elizabeth, your immediate predecessor in this part of Britain ; a princess that, if Plutarch were now alive to write lives by parallels, would trouble him, I think, to find for her a parallel amongst women. This lady was endued with learning in her sex singular, and great even amongst masculine princes; whether we speak of learning, of language, or of science, modern or ancient, divinity or humanity: and unto the very last year of her life, she accustomed to appoint set hours for reading; scarcely any young student in an
university, more daily, or more duly. As for her government, I assure myself, I shall not exceed, if I do affirm, that this part of the island never had fortyfive years of better times; and yet not through the calmness of the season, but through the wisdom of her regimen.
For if there be considered of the one side, the truth of religion established; the constant peace and security; the good administration of justice; the temperate use of the prerogative, not slackened, nor much strained; the flourishing state of learning, sortable to so excellent a patroness; the convenient estate of wealth and means, both of crown and subject; the habit of obedience, and the moderation of discontents: and there be considered, on the other side, the differences of religion, the troubles of neighbour countries, the ambition of Spain, and opposition of Rome; and then, that she was solitary, and of herself: these things, I say, considered, as I could not have chosen an instance so recent and so proper, so, I suppose, I could not have chosen one more remarkable, or eminent, to the purpose now in hand, which is concerning the conjunction of learning in the prince, with felicity in the people.
Neither hath learning an influence and operation only upon civil merit and moral virtue, and the arts or temperature of peace and peaceable government; but likewise it hath no less power and efficacy in enablement towards martial and military virtue and prowess; as may be notably represented in the examples of Alexander the great, and Cæsar the dictator, mentioned before, but now in fit place to be resumed; of whose virtues and acts in war there needs no note or recital, having been the wonders of time in that kind: but of their affections towards learning, and perfections in learning, it is pertinent to say somewhat.
Alexander was bred and taught under Aristotle the great philosopher, who dedicated divers of his books of philosophy unto him : he was attended with Callisthenes, and divers other learned persons, that VOL. I.