Part 7 out of 13
exceptional. Greek slaves were the most valuable, as their lively
intelligence rendered them serviceable in positions calling for special
The slave class was chiefly recruited, as in Greece, by war, and by the
practice of kidnapping. Some of the outlying provinces in Asia and Africa
were almost depopulated by the slave hunters. Delinquent tax payers were
often sold as slaves, and frequently poor persons sold themselves into
Slaves were treated better under the empire than under the later republic
(see p. 273), a change to be attributed doubtless to the softening
influence of the Stoical philosophy and of Christianity. The feeling
entertained towards this unfortunate class in the later republican period
is illustrated by Varro's classification of slaves as "vocal agricultural
implements," and again by Cato the Elder's recommendation that old and
worn-out slaves be sold, as a matter of economy. Sick and hopelessly
infirm slaves were taken to an island in the Tiber and left there to die
of starvation and exposure. In many cases, as a measure of precaution, the
slaves were forced to work in chains, and to sleep in subterranean
prisons. Their bitter hatred towards their masters, engendered by harsh
treatment, is witnessed by the well-known proverb, "As many enemies as
slaves," and by the servile revolts and wars of the republican period. But
from the first century of the empire there is observable a growing
sentiment of humanity towards the bondsman. Imperial edicts take away from
the master the right to kill his slave, or to sell him to the trader in
gladiators, or even to treat him with any undue severity. This marks the
beginning of a slow reform which in the course of ten or twelve centuries
resulted in the complete abolition of slavery in Christian Europe.
[Illustration: SARCOPHAGUS OF CORNELIUS SCIPIO BARBATUS (Consul 298
MEDI�VAL AND MODERN HISTORY.
DIVISIONS OF THE SUBJECT.--As we have already noted, the fourteen
centuries since the fall of the Roman empire in the West (A.D. 476) are
usually divided into two periods,--the _Middle Ages_, or the period lying
between the fall of Rome and the discovery of America by Columbus in 1492,
and the _Modern Age_, which extends from the latter event to the present
time. The Middle Ages, again, naturally subdivide into two periods,--the
_Dark Ages_, and the _Age of Revival_; while the Modern Age also falls
into two divisions,--the _Era of the Protestant Reformation_, and the _Era
of the Political Revolution_.
CHIEF CHARACTERISTICS OF THE FOUR PERIODS.--The so-called _Dark Ages_
embrace the years intervening between the fall of Rome and the opening of
the eleventh century. The period was one of _origins_,--of the beginnings
of peoples and languages and institutions. During this time arose the
Papacy and Feudalism, the two great institutions of the Medi�val Ages.
The _Age of Revival_ begins with the opening of the eleventh century,
and ends with the discovery of America by Columbus in 1492. During all
this time civilization was making slow but sure advances. The last century
of the period, especially, was marked by a great revival of classical
learning (known as the _Renaissance_, or New Birth), by improvements,
inventions, and discoveries, which greatly stirred men's minds, and
awakened them as from a sleep. The Crusades, or Holy Wars, were the most
remarkable undertakings of the age.
The _Era of the Reformation_ embraces the sixteenth century and the
first half of the seventeenth. The period is characterized by the great
religious movement known as the Reformation, and the tremendous struggle
between Catholicism and Protestantism. Almost all the wars of the period
were religious wars. The last great combat was the Thirty Years' War in
Germany, which was closed by the celebrated Peace of Westphalia, in 1648.
After this date the disputes and wars between parties and nations were
political rather than religious in character.
The _Era of the Political Revolution_ extends from the Peace of Westphalia
to the present time. This age is especially marked by the great conflict
between despotic and liberal principles of government, resulting in the
triumph of democratic ideas. The central event of the period is the French
Having now made a general survey of the ground we are to traverse, we must
return to our starting-point,--the fall of Rome.
RELATION OF THE FALL OF ROME TO WORLD-HISTORY.--The calamity which in the
fifth century befell the Roman empire in the West is sometimes represented
as having destroyed the treasures of the Old World. It was not so. All
that was really valuable in the accumulations of antiquity escaped harm,
and became sooner or later the possession of the succeeding ages. The
catastrophe simply prepared the way for the shifting of the scene of
civilization from the south to the north of Europe, simply transferred at
once political power, and gradually social and intellectual preeminence,
from one branch of the Aryan family to another,--from the Gr�co-Italic to
The event was not an unrelieved calamity, because, fortunately, the floods
that seemed to be sweeping so much away were not the mountain torrent,
which covers fruitful fields with worthless drift, but the overflowing
Nile with its rich deposits. Over all the regions covered by the barbarian
inundation a new stratum of population was deposited, a new soil formed
that was capable of nourishing a better civilization than any the world
had yet seen.
THE THREE ELEMENTS OF CIVILIZATION.--We must now notice what survived the
catastrophe of the fifth century, what it was that Rome transmitted to the
new rulers of the world, the Teutonic race. This renders necessary an
analysis of the elements of civilization.
Modern civilization is the result of the blending of three historic
elements,--the _Classical_, the _Hebrew_, and the _Teutonic_.
By the classical element in civilization is meant that whole body of arts,
sciences, literatures, laws, manners, ideas, and social arrangements,--
everything, in a word, save Christianity, that Greece and Rome gave to
medi�val and modern Europe. Taken together, these things constituted a
valuable gift to the new northern race that was henceforth to represent
By the Hebrew element in history is meant Christianity. This has been the
most potent factor in modern civilization. It has so colored the whole
life, and so moulded all the institutions of the European people that
their history is very largely a story of the fortunes and influences of
this religion, which, first going forth from Judea, was given to the
younger world by the missionaries of Rome.
By the Teutonic element in history is meant of course the Germanic race.
The Teutons were poor in those things in which the Romans were rich. They
had neither arts, nor sciences, nor philosophies, nor literatures. But
they had something better than all these; they had personal worth. Three
prominent traits of theirs we must especially notice; namely, their
capacity for civilization, their love of personal freedom, and their
reverence for womanhood.
The Teutons fortunately belonged to a progressive family of peoples. As
Kingsley puts it, they came of a royal race. They were Aryans. It was
their boundless capacity for growth, for culture, for civilization, which
saved the countries of the West from the sterility and barbarism reserved
for those of the East that were destined to be taken possession of by the
The Teutons loved personal freedom. They never called any man master, but
followed their chosen leader as companions and equals. They could not even
bear to have the houses of their villages set close together. And again we
see the same independent spirit expressed in their assemblies of freemen,
in which meetings, all matters of public interest were debated and
decided. In this trait of the Teutonic disposition lay the germ of
representative government and of Protestant, or Teutonic Christianity.
A feeling of respect for woman characterized all the northern, or Teutonic
peoples. Tacitus says of the Germans that they deemed something sacred to
reside in woman's nature. This sentiment guarded the purity and sanctity
of the home. In their high estimation of the sacredness of the family
relation, the barbarians stood in marked contrast with the later Romans.
Our own sacred word _home_, as well as all that it represents, comes
from our Teutonic ancestors.
CELTS, SLAVONIANS, AND OTHER PEOPLES.--Having noticed the Romans and
Teutons, the two most prominent peoples that present themselves to us at
the time of the downfall of Rome, if we now name the Celts, the
Slavonians, the Persians, the Arabians, and the Turanian tribes of Asia,
we shall have under view the chief actors in the drama of medi�val and
At the commencement of the medi�val era the Celts were in front of the
Teutons, clinging to the western edge of the European continent, and
engaged in a bitter contest with these latter peoples, which, in the
antagonism of England and Ireland, was destined to extend itself to our
The Slavonians were in the rear of the Teutonic tribes, pressing them on
even as the Celts in front were struggling to resist their advance. These
peoples, progressing but little beyond the pastoral state before the
Modern Age, will play only an obscure part in the events of the medi�val
era, but in the course of the modern period will assume a most commanding
position among the European nations.
The Persians were in their old seat beyond the Euphrates, maintaining
there what is called the New Persian Empire, the kings of which, until the
rise of the Saracens in the seventh century, were the most formidable
rivals of the emperors of Constantinople.
The Arabians were hidden in their deserts; but in the seventh century we
shall see them, animated by a wonderful religious fanaticism, issue from
their peninsula and begin a contest with the Christian nations of the East
and the West which, in its varying phases, was destined to fill a large
part of the medi�val period.
The Tartar tribes were buried in Central Asia. They will appear late in
the eleventh century, proselytes for the most part of Mohammedanism; and,
as the religious ardor of the Semitic Arabians grows cool, we shall see
the Crescent upheld by these zealous converts of another race, and
finally, in the fifteenth century, placed by the Turks upon the dome of
St. Sophia in Constantinople.
As the Middle Ages draw to a close, the remote nations of Eastern Asia
will gradually come within our circle of vision; and, as the Modern Age
dawns, we shall catch a glimpse of new continents and strange races of men
beyond the Atlantic.
SECTION I.--MEDI�VAL HISTORY.
FIRST PERIOD.--THE DARK AGES.
(FROM THE FALL OF ROME, A.D. 476, TO THE ELEVENTH CENTURY.)
THE TEUTONIC KINGDOMS.
INTRODUCTORY.--In connection with the history of the break-up of the Roman
empire in the West, we have already given some account of the migrations
and settlements of the German tribes. In the present chapter we shall
relate briefly the political fortunes, for the two centuries following the
fall of Rome, of the principal kingdoms set up by the German chieftains in
the different provinces of the old empire.
KINGDOM OF THE OSTROGOTHS (A.D. 493-554).--Odoacer will be recalled as the
barbarian chief who dethroned the last of the Western Roman emperors (see
p. 348). His feeble government in Italy lasted only seventeen years, when
it was brought to a close by the invasion of the Ostrogoths (Eastern
Goths) under Theodoric, the greatest of their chiefs, who set up in Italy
a new dominion, known as the Kingdom of the Ostrogoths.
The reign of Theodoric covered thirty-three years--years of such quiet and
prosperity as Italy had not known since the happy era of the Antonines.
The king made good his promise that his reign should be such that "the
only regret of the people should be that the Goths had not come at an
The kingdom established by the rare abilities of Theodoric lasted only
twenty-seven years after his death, which occurred A.D. 527. Justinian,
emperor of the East, taking advantage of that event, sent his generals,
first Belisarius and afterwards Narses, to deliver Italy from the rule of
the barbarians. The last of the Ostrogothic kings fell in battle, and
Italy, with her fields ravaged and her cities in ruins, was reunited to
the empire (A.D. 554).
KINGDOM OF THE VISIGOTHS (A.D. 415-711).--The Visigoths (Western Goths)
were already in possession of Spain and Southern Gaul at the time of the
fall of Rome. Being driven south of the Pyrenees by Clovis, king of the
Franks, they held possession of Spain until the beginning of the eighth
century, when the Saracens crossed the Straits of Gibraltar, destroyed the
kingdom of Roderick, the last of the Gothic kings, and established
throughout the country the authority of the Koran (A.D. 711). The
Visigothic empire when thus overturned had lasted nearly three hundred
years. During this time the conquerors had mingled with the old Romanized
inhabitants of Spain, so that in the veins of the Spaniard of to-day is
blended the blood of Iberian, Celt, Roman, and Teuton, together with that
of the last comers, the Moors.
KINGDOM OF THE BURGUNDIANS (A.D. 443-534).--The Burgundians, who were near
kinsmen of the Goths, built up a kingdom in Southeastern Gaul. A portion
of this ancient domain still retains, from these German settlers, the name
of "Burgundy." The Burgundians soon came in collision with the Franks on
the north, and were reduced by the Frankish kings to a state of
KINGDOM OF THE VANDALS (A.D. 429-533).--We have already spoken of the
establishment in North Africa of the kingdom of the Vandals, and told how,
under the lead of their king Genseric, they bore in triumph down the Tiber
the heavy spoils of Rome. (see p. 346).
Being Arian Christians, the Vandals persecuted with furious zeal the
orthodox party, the followers of Athanasius. Moved by the entreaties of
the African Catholics, the Emperor Justinian sent his general Belisarius
to drive the barbarians from Africa, and to restore that province to the
bosom of the true Catholic Church. The expedition was successful, and
Carthage and the fruitful fields of Africa were restored to the empire,
after having suffered the insolence of the barbarian conquerors for the
space of one hundred years. The Vandals remaining in the country were
gradually absorbed by the old Roman population, and after a few
generations no certain trace of the barbarian invaders could be detected
in the physical appearance, the language, or the customs of the
inhabitants of the African coast. The Vandal nation had disappeared; the
name alone remained.
[Illustration: CLOVIS AND THE VASE OF SOISSONS (After a drawing by
Alphonse de Neuville.) [Footnote: The story of the Vase of Soissons
illustrates at once the customs of the Franks and the power and personal
character of their leader Clovis. Upon the division at Soissons of some
spoils, Clovis asked his followers to set aside a rule whereby they
divided the booty by lot, and to let him have a certain beautiful vase.
One of his followers objected, and broke the vase to pieces with his
battle-axe. Clovis concealed his anger at the time, but some time
afterwards, when reviewing his troops, he approached the man who had
offended him, and chiding him for not keeping his arms bright, cleft his
head with a battle-axe, at the same time exclaiming, "Thus didst thou to
the vase of Soissons."]]
THE FRANKS UNDER THE MEROVINGIANS (A.D. 482-752).--The Franks, who were
destined to give a new name to Gaul and form the nucleus of the French
nation, made their first settlement west of the Rhine about two hundred
years before the fall of Rome. The name was the common designation of a
number of Teutonic tribes that had formed a confederation while dwelling
beyond the Rhine. The Salian Franks were the leading tribe of the league,
and it was from the members of their most powerful family, who traced
their descent from Merov�us, a legendary sea-king of the Franks, that
leaders were chosen by the free vote of all the warriors.
After the downfall of Rome, Clovis, then chief of the Franks, conceived
the ambition of erecting a kingdom upon the ruins of the Roman power. He
attacked Syagrius, the Roman governor of Gaul, and at Soissons gained a
decisive victory over his forces (A.D. 486). Thus was destroyed forever in
Gaul that Roman authority established among its barbarous tribes more than
five centuries before by the conquests of Julius C�sar.
During his reign, Clovis extended his authority over the greater part of
Gaul, reducing to the condition of tributaries the various Teutonic tribes
that had taken possession of different portions of the country. About a
century and a half of discord followed his energetic rule, by the end of
which time the princes of the house of Merov�us had become so feeble and
inefficient that they were contemptuously called "do-nothings," and an
ambitious officer of the crown, who bore the title of Mayor of the Palace,
pushed aside his imbecile master, and gave to the Frankish monarchy a new
royal line,--the Carolingian (see p. 404).
KINGDOM OF THE LOMBARDS (A.D. 568-774).--The circumstances attending the
establishment of the Lombards in Italy were very like those marking the
settlement of the Ostrogoths. The Lombards (Langobardi), so called either
from their long beards, or their long battle-axes, came from the region of
the Upper Danube. In just such a march as the Ostrogoths had made nearly a
century before, the Lombard nation crossed the Alps and descended upon the
plains of Italy. After many years of desperate fighting, they wrested from
the empire [Footnote: Italy, it will be borne in mind, had but recently
been delivered from the hands of the Ostrogoths by the lieutenants of the
Eastern emperor (see p. 372).] all the peninsula save some of the great
cities, and set up in the country a monarchy which lasted almost exactly
The rule of the Lombard princes was brought to an end by Charlemagne, the
greatest of the Frankish rulers (see p. 405); but the blood of the
invaders had by this time become intermingled with that of the former
subjects of the Roman empire, so that throughout all that part of the
peninsula which is still called Lombardy after them, the people at the
present day reveal, in the light hair and fair features which distinguish
them from the inhabitants of Southern Italy, their partly German origin.
THE ANGLO-SAXONS IN BRITAIN.--We have already seen how in the time of
Rome's distress the Angles and Saxons secured a foothold in Britain (see
p. 344). The advance of the invaders here was stubbornly resisted by the
half-Romanized Celts of the island. At the end of a century and a half of
fighting, the German tribes had gained possession of only the eastern half
of what is now England. On the conquered soil they set up eight or nine,
or perhaps more, petty kingdoms. For the space of two hundred years there
was an almost perpetual strife among these states for supremacy. Finally
Egbert, king of the West Saxons, brought all the other states into a
subject or tributary condition, and became the first king of the English,
and the founder of the long line of Saxon monarchs (A.D. 827).
TEUTONIC TRIBES OUTSIDE THE EMPIRE.--We have now spoken of the most
important of the Teutonic tribes that forced themselves within the limits
of the Roman empire in the West, and that there, upon the ruins of the
civilization they had overthrown, laid or helped to lay the foundations of
the modern nations of Italy, Spain, France, and England. Beyond the
boundaries of the old empire were still other tribes and clans of this
same mighty family of nations,--tribes and clans that were destined to
play great parts in European history.
On the east, beyond the Rhine, were the ancestors of the modern Germans.
Notwithstanding the immense hosts that the forests and morasses of Germany
had poured into the Roman provinces, the Father-land, in the sixth century
of our era, seemed still as crowded as before the great migration began.
These tribes were yet savages in manners and for the most part pagans in
In the northwest of Europe were the Scandinavians, the ancestors of the
modern Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians. They were as yet untouched either by
the civilization or the religion of Rome. We shall scarcely get a glimpse
of them before the ninth century, when they will appear as the Northmen,
the dreaded corsairs of the northern seas.
THE CONVERSION OF THE BARBARIANS.
INTRODUCTORY.--The most important event in the history of the tribes that
took possession of the Roman empire in the West was their conversion to
Christianity. Many of the barbarians were converted before or soon after
their entrance into the empire; to this circumstance the Roman provinces
owed their immunity from the excessive cruelties which pagan barbarians
seldom fail to inflict upon a subjected enemy. Alaric left untouched the
treasures of the churches of the Roman Christians, because his own faith
was also Christian (see p. 342). For like reason the Vandal king Genseric
yielded to the prayers of Pope Leo the Great, and promised to leave to the
inhabitants of the Imperial City their lives (see p. 346). The more
tolerable fate of Italy, Spain, and Gaul, as compared with the hard fate
of Britain, is owing, in part at least, to the fact that the tribes which
overran those countries had become, in the main, converts to Christianity
before they crossed the boundaries of the empire, while the Saxons, when
they entered Britain, were still untamed pagans.
CONVERSION OF THE GOTHS, VANDALS, AND OTHER TRIBES.--The first converts to
Christianity among the barbarians beyond the limits of the empire were won
from among the Goths. Foremost of the apostles that arose among them was
Ulfilas, who translated the Scriptures into the Gothic language, omitting
from his version, however, "the Book of Kings," as he feared that the
stirring recital of wars and battles in that portion of the Word might
kindle into too fierce a flame the martial ardor of his new converts.
When the Visigoths, distressed by the Huns, besought the Eastern Emperor
Valens for permission to cross the Danube, one of the conditions imposed
upon them was that they should all be baptized in the Christian faith (see
p. 336). This seems to have crowned the work that had been going on among
them for some time, and thereafter they were called Christians.
What happened to the Goths happened also to most of the barbarian tribes
that participated in the overthrow of the Roman empire in the West. By the
time of the fall of Rome, the Goths, the Vandals, the Suevi, the
Burgundians, had all become proselytes to Christianity. The greater part
of them, however, professed the Arian creed, which had been condemned by
the great council of the church held at Nic�a during the reign of
Constantine the Great (see p. 332). Hence they were regarded as heretics
by the Roman Church, and all had to be reconverted to the orthodox creed,
which was gradually effected.
The remaining Teutonic tribes of whose conversion we shall speak,--the
Franks, the Anglo Saxons, the Scandinavians, and the chief tribes of
Germany,--embraced at the outset the Catholic faith.
CONVERSION OF THE FRANKS.--The Franks, when they entered the empire, like
the Angles and Saxons when they landed in Britain, were still pagans.
Christianity gained way very slowly among them until a supposed
interposition by the Christian God in their behalf led the king and nation
to adopt the new religion in place of their old faith. The circumstances
were these. In the year 496 of our era, the Alemanni crossed the Rhine and
fell upon the Franks. A desperate battle ensued. In the midst of it,
Clovis, falling upon his knees, called upon the God of the Christians, and
solemnly vowed that if He would give victory to his arms, he would become
his faithful follower. The battle turned in favor of the Franks, and
Clovis, faithful to his vow, was baptized, and with him several thousand
of his warriors. This incident illustrates how the very superstitions of
the barbarians, their belief in omens and divine interpositions,
contributed to their conversion.
AUGUSTINE'S MISSION TO THE ANGLES AND SAXONS IN BRITAIN.--In the year 596
Pope Gregory I. sent the monk Augustine with a band of forty companions to
teach the Christian faith in Britain. Gregory had become interested in the
inhabitants of that remote region in the following way. One day, some
years before his elevation to the papal chair, he was passing through the
slave-market at Rome, and noticed there some English captives, whose fair
features awakened his curiosity respecting them. Inquiring of what nation
they were, he was told that they were called Angles. "Right," said he,
"for they have an angelic face, and it becomes such to become co-heirs
with the angels in heaven." A little while afterwards he was elected Pope,
and still mindful of the incident of the slave-market, he sent to the
Angles the embassy to which we have alluded.
The monks were favorably received by the English, who listened attentively
to the story the strangers had come to tell them, and being persuaded that
the tidings were true, they burned the temples of Woden and Thor, and were
in large numbers baptized in the Christian faith.
THE CELTIC CHURCH.--It here becomes necessary for us to say a word
respecting the Celtic Church. Christianity, it must be borne in mind, held
its place among the Celts whom the Saxons crowded slowly westward. Now,
during the very period that England was being wrested from the Celtic
warriors, the Celtic missionaries were effecting the spiritual conquest of
Ireland. Among these messengers of the Cross, was a zealous priest named
Patricius, better known as Saint Patrick, the patron saint of the Irish.
Never did any race receive the Gospel with more ardent enthusiasm. The
Irish Church sent out its devoted missionaries into the Pictish Highlands,
into the forests of Germany, and among the wilds of Alps and Apennines.
"For a time it seemed," says the historian Green, "that the course of the
world's history was to be changed; as if the older Celtic race that Roman
and German had driven before them had turned to the moral conquest of
their conquerors; as if Celtic, and not Latin, Christianity was to mould
the destinies of the churches of the West."
Among the numerous religious houses founded by the Celtic missionaries was
the famous monastery established about A.D. 564 by the Irish monk Saint
Columba, on the little isle of Iona, just off the Pictish coast. Iona
became a most renowned centre of Christian learning and missionary zeal,
and for almost two centuries was the point from which radiated light
through the darkness of the surrounding heathenism. Fitly has it been
called the Nursery of Saints and the Oracle of the West.
RIVALRY BETWEEN THE ROMAN AND THE CELTIC CHURCH.--Now, from the very
moment that Augustine touched the shores of Britain and summoned the Welsh
clergy to acknowledge the discipline of the Roman Church, there had been a
growing jealousy between the Latin and the Celtic Church, which by this
time had risen into the bitterest rivalry and strife. So long had the
Celtic Church been cut off from all relations with Rome, that it had come
to differ somewhat from it in the matter of certain ceremonies and
observances, such as the time of keeping Easter and the form of the
tonsure. Furthermore, it was inclined to look upon St. John rather than
upon St. Peter as the apostle of pre-eminence.
THE COUNCIL OF WHITBY (A.D. 664).--With a view to settling the quarrel
Oswy, king of Northumbria, called a synod composed of representatives of
both parties, at the monastery of Whitby. The chief question of debate,
which was argued before the king by the ablest advocates of both Churches,
was the proper time for the observance of Easter. Finally Wilfred, the
speaker for the Roman party, happening to quote the words of Christ to
Peter, "To thee will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven," the king
asked the Celtic monks if these words were really spoken by Christ to that
apostle, and upon their admitting that they were, Oswy said, "He being the
door-keeper,... I will in all things obey his decrees, lest when I come to
the gates of the kingdom of heaven, there should be none to open them."
[Footnote: Bede's _Eccl. Hist._ III. 25.]
The decision of the prudent Oswy gave the British Isles to Rome; for not
only was all England quickly won to the Roman side, but the Celtic
churches and monasteries of Wales and Ireland and Scotland soon came to
conform to the Roman standard and custom. "By the assistance of our Lord,"
says the pious Latin chronicler, "the monks were brought to the canonical
observation of Easter, and the right mode of the tonsure."
THE ROMAN VICTORY FORTUNATE FOR ENGLAND.--There is no doubt but that it
was very fortunate for England that the controversy turned as it did. For
one of the most important of the consequences of the conversion of Britain
was the re-establishment of that connection of the island with Roman
civilization which had been severed by the calamities of the fifth
century. As Green says,--he is speaking of the embassy of St. Augustine,--
"The march of the monks as they chanted their solemn litany was in one
sense a return of the Roman legions who withdrew at the trumpet call of
Alaric.... Practically Augustine's landing renewed that union with the
western world which the landing of Hengest had destroyed. The new England
was admitted into the older Commonwealth of nations. The civilization,
art, letters, which had fled before the sword of the English conquerors
returned with the Christian faith."
Now all this advantage would have been lost had Iona instead of Rome won
at Whitby. England would have been isolated from the world, and would have
had no part or lot in that rich common life which was destined to the
European peoples as co-heirs of the heritage bequeathed to them by the
A second valuable result of the Roman victory was the hastening of the
political unity of England through its ecclesiastical unity. The Celtic
Church, in marked contrast with the Latin, was utterly devoid of capacity
for organization. It could have done nothing in the way of developing
among the several Anglo-Saxon states the sentiment of nationality. On the
other hand, the Roman Church, through the exercise of a central authority,
through national synods and general legislation, overcame the isolation of
the different kingdoms, and helped powerfully to draw them together into a
common political life.
THE CONVERSION OF GERMANY.--The conversion of the tribes of Germany was
effected by Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, and Frankish missionaries,--and the sword
of Charlemagne (see p. 406). The great apostle of Germany was the Saxon
Winfred, or Winifred, better known as St. Boniface. During a long and
intensely active life he founded schools and monasteries, organized
churches, preached and baptized; and at last died a martyr's death (A.D.
The christianizing of the tribes of Germany relieved the Teutonic states
of Western Europe from the constant peril of massacre by their heathen
kinsmen, and erected a strong barrier in Central Europe against the
advance of the waves of Turanian paganism and Mohammedanism which for
centuries beat so threateningly against the eastern frontiers of Germany.
[Footnote: The conversion of Russia dates from about the close of the
tenth century. Its evangelization was effected by the missionaries of
Constantinople, that is, of the Greek, or Eastern Church. Of the Turanian
tribes, only the Hungarians, or Magyars, embraced Christianity. All the
other Turanian peoples that appeared on the eastern edge of Europe during
the Middle Ages, came as pagan or Moslem enemies.]
CHRISTIANITY IN THE NORTH.--The progress of Christianity in the North was
slow: but gradually, during the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries, the
missionaries of the Church won over all the Scandinavian peoples. One
important effect of their conversion was the checking of their piratical
expeditions, which previously had vexed almost every shore to the south.
By the opening of the fourteenth century all Europe was claimed by
Christianity, save a limited district in Southern Spain held by the Moors,
and another in the Baltic regions possessed by the still pagan Finns and
MONASTICISM.--It was during this very conflict with the barbarians that
the Church developed the remarkable institution known as Monasticism,
which denotes a life of seclusion from the world, with the object of
promoting the interests of the soul. The central idea of the system is,
that the body is a weight upon the spirit, and that to "mortify the flesh"
is a prime duty.
The monastic system embraced two prominent classes of ascetics: 1.
Hermits, or anchorites, persons who, retiring from the world, lived
solitary lives in desolate places; 2. Cenobites, or monks, who formed
communities and lived under a common roof.
St. Antony, an Egyptian ascetic, who by his example and influence gave a
tremendous impulse to the strange enthusiasm, is called the "father of the
hermits." The persecutions that arose under the Roman emperors, driving
thousands into the deserts, contributed vastly to the movement. The cities
of Egypt became almost emptied of their Christian population.
About the close of the fourth century the cenobite system was introduced
into Europe, and in an astonishingly short space of time spread throughout
all the western countries where Christianity had gained a foothold.
Monasteries arose on every side, in the wilds of the desert and in the
midst of the crowded city. The number that fled to these retreats was
vastly augmented by the disorder and terror attending the invasion of the
barbarians and the overthrow of the empire in the West.
With the view of introducing some sort of system and uniformity among the
numerous communities, fraternities or associations were early organized
and spread rapidly. The three essential vows required of their members
were poverty, chastity, and obedience. The most celebrated of these
fraternities was the Order of the Benedictines, so called from its founder
St. Benedict (A.D. 480-543). This order became immensely popular. At one
time it embraced about 40,000 abbeys.
ADVANTAGES OF THE MONASTIC SYSTEM.--The early establishment of the
monastic system in the Church resulted in great advantages to the new
world that was shaping itself out of the ruins of the old.
The monks became missionaries, and it was largely to their zeal and
devotion that the Church owed her speedy and signal victory over the
barbarians; they also became teachers, and under the shelter of the
monasteries established schools which were the nurseries of learning
during the Middle Ages; they became copyists, and with great care and
industry gathered and multiplied ancient manuscripts, and thus preserved
and transmitted to the modern world much classical learning and literature
that would otherwise have been lost; they became agriculturists,
especially the Benedictines, and by skilful labor converted the wilderness
about their retreats into fair gardens, thus redeeming from barrenness
some of the most desolate districts of Europe; they became further the
almoners of the pious and the wealthy, and distributed alms to the poor
and needy. Everywhere the monasteries opened their hospitable doors to the
weary, the sick, and the discouraged. In a word, these retreats were the
inns, the asylums, and the hospitals, medi�val Europe. Nor should we fail
to mention how the asceticism of the monks checked those flagrant social
evils that had sapped the strength of the Roman race, and which
uncounteracted would have contaminated and weakened the purer peoples of
the North; nor how, through its requirements of self-control and self-
sacrifice, it gave prominence to the inner life of the spirit.
CONCLUSION.--With a single word or two respecting the general consequences
of the conversion to Christianity of the Teutonic tribes, we will close
the present chapter.
The adoption of a common faith by the European peoples drew them together
into a sort of religious brotherhood, and rendered it possible for the
continent to employ its undivided strength, during the succeeding
centuries, in staying the threatening progress toward the West of the
colossal Mohammedan power of the East. The Christian Church set in the
midst of the seething, martial nations and races of Europe an influence
that fostered the gentler virtues, and a power that was always to be found
on the side of order, and usually of mercy. It taught the brotherhood of
man, the essential equality in the sight of God of the high and the low,
and thus pleaded powerfully and at last effectually for the freedom of the
slave and the serf. It prepared the way for the introduction among the
barbarians of the arts, the literature, and the culture of Rome, and
contributed powerfully to hasten the fusion into a single people of the
Latins and Teutons, of which important matter we shall treat in the
FUSION OF THE LATIN AND TEUTONIC PEOPLES.
INTRODUCTORY.--Having seen how the Hebrew element, that is, the ideas,
beliefs, and sentiments of Christianity, became the common possession of
the Latins and Teutons, it yet remains to notice how these two races, upon
the soil of the old empire, intermingled their blood, their language,
their laws, their usages and customs, to form new peoples, new tongues,
and new institutions.
THE ROMANCE NATIONS.--In some districts the barbarian invaders and the
Roman provincials were kept apart for a long time by the bitter antagonism
of race, and a sense of injury on the one hand and a feeling of disdainful
superiority on the other. But for the most part the Teutonic intruders and
the Latin-speaking inhabitants of Italy, Spain, and Gaul very soon began
freely to mingle their blood by family alliances. It is quite impossible
to say what proportion the Teutons bore to the Romans. Of course the
proportion varied in the different countries. In none of the countries
named, however, was it large enough to absorb the Latinized population; on
the contrary, the barbarians were themselves absorbed, yet not without
changing very essentially the body into which they were incorporated. By
the close of the ninth century the two elements had become quite
intimately blended, and a century or two later Roman and Teuton have alike
disappeared, and we are introduced to Italians, Spaniards, and Frenchmen.
These we call Romance nations, because at base they are Roman. [Footnote:
Britain did not become a Romance nation on account of the nature of the
barbarian conquest of that island. The Romanized provincials, as has been
seen, were there almost destroyed by the fierce Teutonic invaders.]
THE FORMATION OF THE ROMANCE LANGUAGES.--During the five centuries of
their subjection to Rome, the natives of Spain and Gaul forgot their
barbarous dialects and came to speak a corrupt Latin. Now in exactly the
same way that the dialects of the Celtic tribes of Gaul and of the
Celtiberians of Spain had given way to the more refined speech of the
Romans, did the rude languages of the Teutons yield to the more cultured
speech of the Roman provincials. In the course of two or three centuries
after their entrance into the empire, Goths, Lombards, Burgundians, and
Franks had, in a large measure, dropped their own tongue, and were
speaking that of the people they had subjected. But of course this
provincial Latin underwent a great change upon the lips of the mixed
descendants of the Romans and Teutons. Owing to the absence of a common
popular literature, the changes that took place in one country did not
exactly correspond to those going on in another. Hence, in the course of
time, we find different dialects springing up, and by about the ninth
century the Latin has virtually disappeared as a spoken language, and its
place been usurped by what will be known as the Italian, Spanish, and
French languages, all more or less resembling the ancient Latin, and all
called Romance tongues, because children of the old Roman speech.
PERSONAL CHARACTER OF THE TEUTONIC LEGISLATION.--The legislation of the
barbarians was generally personal instead of territorial, as with us; that
is, instead of all the inhabitants of a given country being subject to the
same laws, there were different ones for the different classes of society.
The Latins, for instance, were subject in private law only to the old
Roman code, while the Teutons lived under the rules and regulations which
they had brought with them from beyond the Rhine.
Even among themselves the Teutons knew nothing of the modern legal maxim
that all should stand equal before the law. The penalty inflicted upon the
evil-doer depended, not upon the nature of his crime, but upon his rank,
or that of the party injured. Thus slaves and serfs could be beaten and
put to death for minor offences, while a freeman might atone for any
crime, even for murder, by the payment of a fine, the amount of the
penalty being determined by the rank of the victim. Among the Saxons the
life of a king's thane was worth 1200 shillings, while that of a common
free man was valued only one-sixth as high.
ORDEALS.--The modes by which guilt or innocence was ascertained show in
how rude a state was the administration of justice among the barbarians.
One very common method of proof was by what were called ordeals, in which
the question was submitted to the judgment of God. Of these the chief were
the _ordeal by fire_, the _ordeal by water_, and the _ordeal by battle_.
The _ordeal by fire_ consisted in taking in the hand a red-hot iron,
or in walking blindfolded with bare feet over a row of hot ploughshares
laid lengthwise at irregular distances. If the person escaped without
serious harm, he was held to be innocent. Another way of performing the
fire ordeal was by running through the flame of two fires built close
together, or by walking over live brands; hence the phrase "to haul over
The _ordeal by water_ was of two kinds, by hot water and cold. In the
hot-water ordeal the accused person thrust his arm into boiling water, and
if no hurt was visible upon the arm three days after the operation, the
person was considered guiltless. When we speak of one's being "in hot
water," we use an expression which had its origin in this ordeal.
In the cold-water trial the suspected person was thrown into a stream or
pond: if he floated, he was held guilty; if he sank, innocent. The water,
it was believed, would reject the guilty, but receive the innocent into
its bosom. The practice common in Europe until a very recent date of
trying supposed witches by weighing them, or by throwing them into a pond
of water to see whether they would sink or float, grew out of this
The _trial by combat_, or _wager of battle_, was a solemn judicial duel.
It was resorted to in the belief that God would give victory to the right.
Naturally it was a favorite mode of trial among a people who found their
chief delight in fighting. Even religious disputes were sometimes settled
in this way. The modern duel may probably be regarded as a relic of this
form of trial.
The ordeal was frequently performed by deputy, that is, one person for
hire or for the sake of friendship would undertake it for another; hence
the expression "to go through fire and water to serve one." Especially was
such substitution common in the judicial duel, as women and ecclesiastics
were generally forbidden to appear personally in the lists. The champions,
as the deputies were called, became in time a regular class in society,
like the gladiators in ancient Rome. Religious houses and chartered towns
hired champions at a regular salary to defend all the cases to which they
might become a party.
THE REVIVAL OF THE ROMAN LAW.--Now the barbarian law-system, if such it
can be called, the character of which we have simply suggested by the
preceding illustrations, gradually displaced the Roman law in all those
countries where the two systems at first existed alongside each other,
save in Italy and Southern France, where the provincials greatly
outnumbered the invaders. But the admirable jurisprudence of Rome was
bound to assert its superiority. About the close of the eleventh century,
there was a great revival in the study of the Roman law as embodied in the
_Corpus Juris Civilis_ of Justinian (see p. 358), and in the course of a
century or two this became either the groundwork or a strong modifying
element in the jurisprudence of almost all the peoples of Europe.
What took place may be illustrated by reference to the fate of the
Teutonic languages in Gaul, Italy, and Spain. As the barbarian tongues,
after maintaining a place in those countries for two or three centuries,
at length gave place to the superior Latin, which became the basis of the
new Romance languages, so now in the domain of law the barbarian maxims
and customs, though holding their place more persistently, likewise
finally give way, almost everywhere and in a greater or less degree, to
the more excellent law-system of the empire. Rome must fulfil her destiny
and give laws to the nations.
THE ROMAN EMPIRE IN THE EAST.
THE REIGN OF JUSTINIAN (A.D. 527-565).--During the fifty years immediately
following the fall of Rome, the Eastern emperors struggled hard and
doubtfully to withstand the waves of the barbarian inundation which
constantly threatened to overwhelm Constantinople with the same awful
calamities that had befallen the imperial city of the West. Had the new
Rome--the destined refuge for a thousand years of Gr�co-Roman learning and
culture--also gone down at this time before the storm, the loss to the
cause of civilization would have been incalculable.
Fortunately, in the year 527, there ascended the Eastern throne a prince
of unusual ability, to whom fortune gave a general of such rare genius
that his name has been allotted a place in the short list of the great
commanders of the world. Justinian was the name of the prince, and
Belisarius that of the soldier. The sovereign has given name to the
period, which is called after him the "Era of Justinian."
It will be recalled that it was during this reign that Africa was
recovered from the Vandals and Italy from the Goths (see p. 372). These
conquests brought once more within the boundaries of the empire some of
the fairest lands of the West.
But that which has given Justinian's reign a greater distinction than any
conferred upon it by brilliant military achievements, is the collection
and publication, under the imperial direction, of the _Corpus Juris
Civilis_, or "Body of the Roman Law." This work is the most precious
legacy of Rome to the modern world. In causing its publication, Justinian
earned the title of "The Lawgiver of Civilization" (see p. 358).
In the midst of this brilliant reign an awful pestilence, bred probably in
Egypt, fell upon the empire, and did not cease its ravages until about
fifty years afterwards. This plague was the most terrible scourge of which
history has any knowledge, save perhaps the so called Black Death, which
afflicted Europe in the fourteenth century. The number of victims of the
plague has been estimated at 100,000,000.
THE REIGN OF HERACLIUS (A.D. 610-641).--For half a century after the death
of Justinian, the annals of the Byzantine empire are unimportant. Then we
reach the reign of Heraclius, a prince about whose worthy name gather
matters of significance in world-history.
About this time Chosroes II., king of Persia, wrested from the empire the
fortified cities that guarded the Euphratean frontier, and overran all
Syria, Egypt, and Asia Minor. What was known as the True Cross was torn
from the church at Jerusalem and carried off in triumph to Persia. In
order to compel Chosroes to recall his armies, which were distressing the
provinces of the empire, Heraclius, pursuing the same plan as that by
which the Romans in the Second Punic War forced the Carthaginians to call
Hannibal out of Italy (see p. 264), with a small company of picked men
marched boldly into the heart of Persia, and in revenge for the insults
heaped by the infidels upon the Christian churches, overturned the altars
of the fire-worshippers and quenched their sacred flames.
The struggle between the two rival empires was at last decided by a
terrible combat known as the Battle of Nineveh (A.D. 627), which was
fought around the ruins of the old Assyrian capital. The Persian army was
almost annihilated. In a few days grief or violence ended the life of
Chosroes. With him passed away the glory of the Second Persian Empire. The
new Persian king negotiated a treaty of peace with Heraclius. The articles
of this treaty left the boundaries of the two empires unchanged.
THE EMPIRE BECOMES GREEK.--The two combatants in the fierce struggle which
we have been watching, were too much absorbed in their contentions to
notice the approach of a storm from the deserts of Arabia,--a storm
destined to overwhelm both alike in its destructive course. Within a few
years from the date of the Battle of Nineveh, the Saracens entered upon
their surprising career of conquest, which in a short time completely
changed the face of the entire East, and set the Crescent, the emblem of a
new faith, alike above the fire-altars of Persia and the churches of the
Empire. Heraclius himself lived to see--so cruel are the vicissitudes of
fortune--the very provinces which he had wrested from the hands of the
fire-worshippers, in the hands of the more insolent followers of the False
Prophet, and the Crescent planted within sight of the walls of
The conquests of the Saracens cut off from the empire those provinces that
had the smallest Greek element and thus rendered the population subject to
the emperor more homogeneous, more thoroughly Greek. The Roman element
disappeared, and the court of Constantinople became Greek in tone, spirit,
and manners. Hence, instead of longer applying to the empire the
designation _Roman_, we shall from this on call it the _Greek_, or
We shall trace no further as a separate story the fortunes of the Eastern
emperors. In the eighth century the so-called Iconoclastic controversy
[Footnote: See p. 417.] will draw our attention to them; and then again in
the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the Crusades will once more bring
their affairs into prominence, and we shall see a line of Latin princes
seated for a time (from 1204 to 1261) upon the throne of Constantine.
[Footnote: See p. 446.] Finally, in the year 1453, we shall witness the
capture of Constantinople by the Turks, [Footnote: See p. 462.] which
disaster closes the long and checkered history of the Gr�co-Roman empire
in the East.
MOHAMMED AND THE SARACENS.
[Illustration: AN ARAB RIDER.]
INTRODUCTORY STATEMENT.--The Arabs, or Saracens, who are now about to play
their surprising part in history, are, after the Hebrews, the most
important people of the Semitic race. Secure in their inaccessible
deserts, the Arabs have never as a people bowed their necks to a foreign
conqueror, although portions of the Arabian peninsula have been repeatedly
subjugated by different races.
RELIGIOUS CONDITION OF ARABIA BEFORE MOHAMMED.--Before the reforms of
Mohammed, the Arabs were idolaters. Their holy city was Mecca. Here was
the ancient and most revered shrine of the Caaba, where was preserved a
sacred black stone believed to have been given by an angel to Abraham.
But though the native tribes of the peninsula were idolaters, still there
were many followers of other faiths; for Arabia at this time was a land of
religious freedom. The altar of the fire-worshipper rose alongside the
Jewish synagogue and the Christian church. The Jews especially were to be
found everywhere in great numbers, having been driven from Palestine by
the Roman persecutions. It was from the Jews and Christians, doubtless,
that Mohammed learned many of the doctrines that he taught.
MOHAMMED.--Mohammed, the great prophet of the Arabs, was born in the holy
city of Mecca, about the year 570 of our era. He sprang from the
distinguished tribe of the Koreishites, the custodians of the sacred
shrine of the Caaba. Like Moses, he spent many years of his life as a
[Illustration: MOSQUE AND CAABA AT MECCA. (From a photograph.)]
Mohammed possessed a deeply religious nature, and it was his wont often to
retire to a cave a few miles from Mecca, and there spend long vigils in
prayer. He declared that here he had visions, in which the angel Gabriel
appeared to him, and made to him revelations which he was commanded to
make known to his fellow-men. The sum of the new faith which he was to
teach was this: "There is but one God, and Mohammed is his Prophet."
Mohammed communicated the nature of his visions to his wife, and she
became his first convert. At the end of three years his disciples numbered
THE HEGIRA (622).--The teachings of Mohammed at last aroused the anger of
a powerful party among the Koreishites, who feared that they, as the
guardians of the national idols of the Caaba, would be compromised in the
eyes of the other tribes by allowing such heresy to be openly taught by
one of their number, and accordingly plots were formed against his life.
Barely escaping assassination, he fled to the city of Medina.
This Hegira, or Flight, as the word signifies, occurred in the year 622,
and was considered by the Moslems as such an important event in the
history of their religion that they adopted it as the beginning of a new
era, and from it still continue to reckon their dates.
THE FAITH EXTENDED BY THE SWORD.--His cause being warmly espoused by the
inhabitants of Medina, Mohammed threw aside the character of an exhorter,
and assumed that of a warrior. He declared it to be the will of God that
the new faith should be spread by the sword. Accordingly, the year
following the Hegira, he began to attack and plunder caravans. The flames
of a sacred war were soon kindled. The reckless enthusiasm of his wild
converts was intensified by the assurance of the Apostle that death met in
fighting those who resisted the true faith ensured the martyr immediate
entrance upon the joys of Paradise. Within ten years from the time of the
assumption of the sword by Mohammed, Mecca had been conquered, and the new
creed established among all the tribes of Arabia.
Mohammed died in the year 632. No character in all history has been the
subject of more conflicting speculations than the Arabian Prophet. By some
he has been called a self-deluded enthusiast, while others have denounced
him as the boldest of impostors. We shall, perhaps, reconcile these
discordant views, if we bear in mind that the same person may, in
different periods of a long career, be both.
THE KORAN AND THE DOCTRINES OF ISLAM.--Before going on to trace the
conquests of the successors of Mohammed, we must form some acquaintance
with the religion of the great Prophet.
The doctrines of Mohammedanism, or Islam, which means "submission," are
contained in the Koran, the sacred book of the Moslems. They declare that
God has revealed himself through four holy men: to Moses he gave the
Pentateuch; to David, the Psalms; to Jesus, the Gospels; and to Mohammed,
the last and greatest of all the prophets, he gave the Koran.
"There is no God save Allah," is the fundamental doctrine of Islamism, and
to this is added the equally binding declaration that "Mohammed is the
Prophet of Allah." The faithful Moslem must also believe in the sacredness
and infallibility of the Koran. He is also required to believe in the
resurrection and the day of judgment, and an after-state of happiness and
of misery. Also he must believe in the absoluteness of the decrees of
God,--that he foreordains whatsoever comes to pass, and that nothing man
can do can change his appointments.
The Koran, while requiring assent to the foregoing creed, inculcates the
practice of four virtues. The first is prayer; five times each day must
the believer turn his face towards Mecca and engage in devotion. The
second requirement is almsgiving. The third is keeping the Fast of
Ramadan, which lasts a whole month. The fourth duty is making a pilgrimage
ABUBEKR, FIRST SUCCESSOR OF MOHAMMED (632-634).--Upon the death of
Mohammed a dispute at once arose as to his successor; for the Prophet left
no children, nor had he designated upon whom his mantle should fall.
Abubekr, the Apostle's father-in-law, was at last chosen to the position,
with the title of Caliph, or Vicar, of the Prophet, although many thought
that the place belonged to Ali, the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law, and
one of his first and most faithful companions. This question of succession
was destined at a later period to divide the Mohammedan world into two
sects, animated by the most bitter and lasting hostility towards each
other. [Footnote: The Mohammedans of Persia, who are known as Shiites, are
the leaders of the party of Ali; while the Turks, known as Sunnites, are
the chief adherents of the opposite party.]
During the first part of his caliphate, Abubekr was engaged in suppressing
revolts in different parts of the peninsula. These commotions quieted, he
was free to carry out the last injunction of the Prophet to his followers,
which enjoined them to spread his doctrines by the sword, till all men had
confessed the creed of Islam, or consented to pay tribute to the Faithful.
THE CONQUEST OF SYRIA.--The country which Abubekr resolved first to reduce
was Syria. A call addressed to all the Faithful throughout Arabia was
responded to with the greatest alacrity and enthusiasm. From every quarter
the warriors flocked to Medina, until the desert about the city was
literally covered with their black tents, and crowded with men and horses
and camels. After invoking the blessing of God upon the hosts, Abubekr
sent them forward upon their holy mission.
Heraclius made a brave effort to defend the holy places against the
fanatical warriors of the desert, but all in vain. His armies were cut to
pieces. Seeing there was no hope of saving Jerusalem, he removed from that
city to Constantinople the True Cross, which he had rescued from the
Persians (see p. 390). "Farewell, Syria," were his words, as he turned
from the consecrated land which he saw must be given up to the followers
of the False Prophet.
THE CONQUEST OF PERSIA (632-641).--While one Saracen army was overrunning
Syria, another was busy with the subjugation of Persia. Enervated as this
country was through luxury, and weakened by her long wars with the Eastern
emperors, she could offer but feeble resistance to the terrible energy of
Soon after the conquest of Persia, the Arabs crossed the mountains that
wall Persia on the north, and spread their faith among the Turanian tribes
of Central Asia. Among the most formidable of the clans that adopted the
new religion were the Turks. Their conversion was an event of the greatest
significance, for it was their swords that were destined to uphold and to
spread the creed of Mohammed when the fiery zeal of his own countrymen
should abate, and their arms lose the dreaded power which religious
fanaticism had for a moment imparted to them.
THE CONQUEST OF EGYPT (638).--The reduction of Persia was not yet fully
accomplished, when the Caliph Omar, the successor of Abubekr, commissioned
Amrou, the chief whose valor had won many of the cities of Palestine, to
carry the standard of the Prophet into the Valley of the Nile. Alexandria,
after holding out against the arms of the Saracens for more than a year,
was at length abandoned to the enemy. Amrou, in communicating the
intelligence of the important event to Omar, wrote him also about the
great Alexandrian Library, and asked him what he should do with the books.
Omar is said to have replied: "If these books agree with the Koran, they
are useless; if they disagree, they are pernicious: in either case they
ought to be destroyed." Accordingly the books were distributed among the
four thousand baths of the capital, and served to feed their fires for six
THE CONQUEST OF NORTHERN AFRICA (643-689).--The lieutenants of the Caliphs
were obliged to do much and fierce fighting before they obtained
possession of the oft-disputed shores of North Africa. They had to contend
not only with the Gr�co-Roman Christians of the coast, but to battle also
with the idolatrous Moors of the interior. Furthermore, all Europe had
begun to feel alarm at the threatening advance of the Saracens; so now
Roman soldiers from Constantinople, and Gothic warriors from Italy and
Spain hastened across the Mediterranean to aid in the protection of
Carthage, and to help arrest the alarming progress of these wild fanatics
of the desert.
But all was of no avail. Destiny had allotted to the followers of the
Apostle the land of Hannibal and Augustine. Carthage was taken and razed
to the ground, and the entire coast from the Nile to the Atlantic, was
forced to acknowledge the authority of the Caliphs. By this conquest all
the countries of Northern Africa, whose history for a thousand years had
been intertwined with that of the opposite shores of Europe, and which at
one time seemed destined to share in the career of freedom and progress
opening to the peoples of that continent, were drawn back into the
fatalism, the despotism, and the stagnation of the East. From being an
extension of Europe, they became once more an extension of Asia.
ATTACKS UPON CONSTANTINOPLE.--Only fifty years had now passed since the
death of Mohammed, but during this short time his standard had been
carried by the lieutenants of his successors through Asia to the
Hellespont on the one side, and across Africa to the Straits of Gibraltar
on the other. From each of these two points, so remote from each other,
the fanatic warriors of the desert were casting longing glances across
those narrow passages of water which alone separated them from the single
continent that their swift coursers had not yet traversed, or whence the
spoil of the unbelievers had not yet been borne to the feet of the Vicar
of the Prophet of God. We may expect to see the Saracens at one or both of
these points attempt the invasion of Europe.
The first attempt was made in the East (in 668), where the Arabs
endeavored to gain control of the Bosporus, by wresting Constantinople
from the hands of the Eastern emperors. But the capital was saved through
the use, by the besieged, of a certain bituminous compound, called Greek
Fire. In 716, the city was again besieged by a powerful Moslem army; but
its heroic defence by the Emperor Leo III. saved the capital for several
centuries longer to the Christian world.
THE CONQUEST OF SPAIN (711).--While the Moslems were thus being repulsed
from Europe at its eastern extremity, the gates of the continent were
opened to them by treachery at the western, and they gained a foothold in
Spain. At the great battle of Xeres (711), Roderic, the last of the
Visigothic kings, was hopelessly defeated, and all the peninsula, save
some mountainous regions in the northwest, quickly submitted to the
invaders. Thus some of the fairest provinces of Europe were lost to
Christendom for a period of nearly eight hundred years.
No sooner had the subjugation of the country been effected than multitudes
of colonists from Arabia, Syria, and North Africa crowded into the
peninsula, until in a short time the provinces of Seville, Cordova,
Toledo, and Granada became Arabic in dress, manners, language, and
INVASION OF FRANCE: BATTLE OF TOURS (732).--Four or five years after the
conquest of Spain, the Saracens crossed the Pyrenees, and established
themselves upon the plains of Gaul. This advance of the Moslem hosts
beyond the northern wall of Spain was viewed with the greatest alarm by
all Christendom. It looked as though the followers of Mohammed would soon
possess all the continent. As Draper pictures it, the Crescent, lying in a
vast semi-circle upon the northern shore of Africa and the curving coast
of Asia, with one horn touching the Bosporus and the other the Straits of
Gibraltar, seemed about to round to the full and overspread all Europe.
In the year 732, exactly one hundred years after the death of the great
Prophet, the Franks, under their renowned chieftain, Charles, and their
allies met the Moslems upon the plains of Tours in the centre of Gaul, and
committed to the issue of a single battle the fate of Christendom and the
future course of history. The desperate valor displayed by the warriors of
both armies was worthy of the prize at stake. Abderrahman, the Mohammedan
leader, fell in the thick of the fight, and night saw the complete
discomfiture of the Moslem hordes. The loss that the sturdy blows of the
Germans had inflicted upon them was enormous, the accounts of that age
swelling the number killed to the impossible figures of 375,000. The
disaster at all events was too overwhelming to permit the Saracens ever to
recover from the blow, and they soon retreated behind the Pyrenees.
The young civilization of Europe was thus delivered from an appalling
danger, such as had not threatened it since the fearful days of Attila and
the Huns. The heroic Duke Charles who had led the warriors of Christendom
to the glorious victory was given the surname _Martel_, the "Hammer,"
in commemoration of the mighty blows of his huge battle-axe.
CHANGES IN THE CALIPHATE.--During the century of conquests we have traced,
there were many changes in the caliphate. Abubekr was followed by Omar
(634-644), Othman (644-655), and Ali (655-661), all of whom fell by the
hands of assassins, for from the very first dissensions were rife among
the followers of the Prophet. Ali was the last of the four so-called
"Orthodox Caliphs," all of whom were relatives or companions of the
Moawiyah, a usurper, was now recognized as Caliph (661). He succeeded in
making the office hereditary, instead of elective, as it hitherto had
been, and thus established what is known as the dynasty of the Ommiades
[Footnote: So called from Ommaya, an ancestor of Moawiyah.], the rulers of
which family for nearly a century issued their commands from the city of
The house of the Ommiades was overthrown by the adherents of the house of
Ali, who established a new dynasty (750), known as that of the Abbassides,
so called from Abbas, an uncle of Mohammed. The new family, soon after
coming to power, established the seat of the royal residence on the lower
Tigris, and upon the banks of that river founded the renowned city of
Bagdad, which was destined to remain the abode of the Abbasside Caliphs
for a period of five hundred years,--until the subversion of the house by
the Tartars of the North.
The golden age of the caliphate of Bagdad covers the latter part of the
eighth and the ninth century of our era, and was illustrated by the reign
of the renowned Haroun-al-Raschid (786-809), the hero of the Arabian
Nights. During this period science, philosophy, and literature were most
assiduously cultivated by the Arabian scholars, and the court of the
Caliphs presented in culture and luxury a striking contrast to the rude
and barbarous courts of the kings and princes of Western Christendom.
THE DISMEMBERMENT OF THE CALIPHATE.--"At the close of the first century of
the Hegira," writes Gibbon, "the Caliphs were the most potent and absolute
monarchs of the globe. The word that went forth from the palace at
Damascus was obeyed on the Indus, on the Jaxartes, and on the Tagus."
Scarcely less potent was the word that at first went forth from Bagdad.
But in a short time the extended empire of the Abbassides, through the
quarrels of sectaries and the ambitions of rival aspirants for the honors
of the caliphate, was broken in fragments, and from three capitals--Bagdad
upon the Tigris, Cairo upon the Nile, and Cordova upon the Guadalquivir--
were issued the commands of three rival Caliphs, each of whom was regarded
by his adherents as the sole rightful spiritual and civil successor of the
Apostle. All, however, held the great Arabian Prophet in the same
reverence, all maintained with equal zeal the sacred character of the
Koran, and all prayed with their faces turned toward the holy city of
SPREAD OF THE RELIGION AND LANGUAGE OF THE ARABS.--Just as the Romans
Romanized the peoples they conquered, so did the Saracens Saracenize the
populations of the countries subjected to their authority. Over a large
part of Spain, over North Africa, Egypt, Syria, Babylonia, Persia,
Northern India, and portions of Central Asia, were spread--to the more or
less perfect exclusion of native customs, speech, and worship--the
manners, the language, and the religion of the Arabian conquerors.
[Footnote: Beyond the eastern edge of Mesopotamia, the Arabs failed to
impress their language upon the subjected peoples, or in any way, save in
the matter of creed, to leave upon them any important permanent trace of
In Arabia no religion was tolerated save the faith of the Koran. But in
all the countries beyond the limits of the peninsula, freedom of worship
was allowed (save to _idolaters_, who were to be "rooted out");
unbelievers, however, must purchase this liberty by the payment of a
moderate tribute. Yet notwithstanding this toleration, the Christian and
Zoroastrian religions gradually died out almost everywhere throughout the
domains of the Caliphs. [Footnote: The number of Guebers, or fire-
worshippers, in Persia at the present time is estimated at from 50,000 to
100,000. About the same number may be counted in India, the descendants of
the Guebers who fled from Persia at the time of the Arabian invasion. They
are there called Parsees, from the land whence they came.]
THE DEFECTS OF ISLAM.--Civilization certainly owes a large debt to the
Saracens. They preserved and transmitted much that was valuable in the
science of the Greeks and the Persians (see p. 472). They improved
trigonometry and algebra, and from India they borrowed the decimal system
of notation and introduced it into the West.
Many of the doctrines of Islam, however, are most unfavorable to human
liberty, progress, and improvement. It teaches fatalism, and thus
discourages effort and enterprise. It allows polygamy and pelts no
restraint upon divorce, and thus destroys the sanctity of the family life.
It permits slavery and fosters despotism. It inspires a blind and bigoted
hatred of race and creed, and thus puts far out of sight the salutary
truth of the brotherhood of man. Because of these and other scarcely less
prominent defects in its teachings, Islam has proved a blight and curse to
almost every race embracing its sterile doctrines.
Mohammedism is vastly superior, however, either to fetichism or idolatry,
and consequently, upon peoples very low in the scale of civilization, it
has an elevating influence. Thus, upon the negro tribes of Central Africa,
where it is to-day spreading rapidly, it is acknowledged to have a
CHARLEMAGNE AND THE RESTORATION OF THE EMPIRE IN THE WEST.
GENERAL REMARKS.--In the foregoing chapter we traced the rise and decline
of the power of the Saracens. We saw the Semitic East roused for a moment
to a life of tremendous energy by the miracle of religious enthusiasm, and
then beheld it sinking rapidly again into inaction and weakness,
disappointing all its early promises. Manifestly the "Law" is not to go
forth from Mecca. The Semitic race is not to lead the civilization of the
But returning again to the West, we discover among the Teutonic barbarians
indications of such youthful energy and life, that we are at once
persuaded that to them has been given the future. The Franks, who, with
the aid of their confederates, withstood the advance of the Saracens upon
the field of Tours, and saved Europe from subjection to the Koran, are the
people that first attract our attention. It is among them that a man
appears who makes the first grand attempt to restore the laws, the order,
the institutions of the ancient Romans. Charlemagne, their king, is the
imposing figure that moves amidst all the events of the times; indeed, is
the one who makes the events, and renders the period in which he lived an
epoch in universal history. The story of this era affords the key to very
much of the subsequent history of Europe.
HOW DUKE PEPIN BECAME KING OF THE FRANKS--Charles Martel, whose tremendous
blows at Tours earned for him his significant surname (see p. 399),
although the real head of the Frankish nation, was nominally only an
officer of the Merovingian court. He died without ever having borne the
title of king, notwithstanding he had exercised all the authority of that
But Charles's son Pepin, called _le Bref_ (the Short), on account of
his diminutive stature, aspired to the regal title and honors. He resolved
to depose his titular master, and to make himself king. Not deeming it
wise, however, to do this without the sanction of the Pope, he sent an
embassy to represent to him the state of affairs, and to solicit his
advice. Mindful of recent favors that he had received at the hands of
Pepin, the Pope gave his approval to the proposed scheme by replying that
it seemed altogether reasonable that the one who was king in power should
be king also in name. This was sufficient. Chilperic--such was the name of
the Merovingian king--was straightway deposed, and placed in a monastery;
while Pepin, whose own deeds together with those of his illustrious father
had done so much for the Frankish nation and for Christendom, was anointed
and crowned king of the Franks (752), and thus became the first of the
Carolingian line, the name of his illustrious son Charlemagne giving name
to the house.
BEGINNING OF THE TEMPORAL POWER OF THE POPES.--In the year 754 Pope
Stephen II., who was troubled by the Lombards (see p. 374), besought
Pepin's aid. Quick to return the favor which the head of the Church had
rendered him in the establishment of his power as king, Pepin straightway
crossed the Alps with a large army, expelled the Lombards from their
recent conquests, and made a donation to the Pope of these captured cities
and provinces (755).
This famous gift may be regarded as having laid the basis of the temporal
power of the Popes; for though Pepin probably did not intend to convey to
the Papal See the absolute sovereignty of the transferred lands, after a
time the Popes claimed this, and finally came to exercise within the
limits of the donated territory all the rights and powers of independent
temporal rulers. So here we have the beginning of the celebrated _Papal
States_, and of the story of the Popes as temporal princes.
ACCESSION OF CHARLEMAGNE.--Pepin died in the year 768, and his kingdom
passed into the hands of his two sons, Carloman and Charles; but within
three years the death of Carloman and the free votes of the Franks
conferred the entire kingdom upon Charles, better known as Charlemagne, or
"Charles the Great."
HIS CAMPAIGNS.--Charlemagne's long reign of nearly half a century--he
ruled forty-six years--was filled with military expeditions and conquests,
by which he so extended the boundaries of his dominions, that at his death
they embraced the larger part of Western Europe. He made fifty-two
military campaigns, the chief of which were against the Lombards, the
Saracens, and the Saxons. Of these we will speak briefly.
Among Charlemagne's first undertakings was a campaign against the
Lombards, whose king, Desiderius, was troubling the Pope. Charlemagne
wrested from Desiderius all his possessions, shut up the unfortunate king
in a monastery, and placed on his own head the iron crown of the Lombards.
While in Italy he visited Rome, and, in return for the favor of the Pope,
confirmed the donation of his father, Pepin (774).
[Illustration: CHARLEMAGNE. (Head of a bronze equestrian statuette.)]
In the ninth year of his reign Charlemagne gathered his warriors for a
crusade against the Saracens in Spain. He crossed the Pyrenees, and
succeeded in wresting from the Moslems all the northeastern corner of the
peninsula. As he was leading his victorious bands back across the
Pyrenees, the rear of his army under the lead of the renowned paladin
Roland, while hemmed in by the walls of the Pass of Roncesvalles, was set
upon by the wild mountaineers (the Gascons and Basques), and cut to pieces
before Charlemagne could give relief. Of the details of this event no
authentic account has been preserved; but long afterwards it formed the
favorite theme of the tales and songs of the Troubadours of Southern
But by far the greater number of the campaigns of Charlemagne were
directed against the pagan Saxons, who almost alone of the German tribes
still retained their ancient idolatry. Thirty years and more of his reign
were occupied in these wars across the Rhine. Reduced to submission again
and again, as often did the Saxons rise in desperate revolt. The heroic
Witikind was the "second Arminius" (see p. 308) who encouraged his
countrymen to resist to the last the intruders upon their soil. Finally,
Charlemagne, angered beyond measure by the obstinacy of the barbarians,
caused 4500 prisoners in his hands to be massacred in revenge for the
contumacy of the nation. The Saxons at length yielded, and accepted
Charlemagne as their sovereign, and Christianity as their religion.
RESTORATION OF THE EMPIRE IN THE WEST (800).--An event of seemingly little
real moment, yet, in its influence upon succeeding affairs, of the very
greatest importance, now claims our attention. Pope Leo III. having called
upon Charlemagne for aid against a hostile faction at Rome, the king soon
appeared in person at the capital, and punished summarily the disturbers
of the peace of the Church. The gratitude of Leo led him at this time to
make a most signal return for the many services of the Frankish king. To
understand his act a word of explanation is needed.
For a considerable time a variety of circumstances had been fostering a
growing feeling of enmity between the Italians and the emperors at
Constantinople. Disputes had arisen between the churches of the East and
those of the West, and the Byzantine rulers had endeavored to compel the
Italian churches to introduce certain changes and reforms in their
worship, which had aroused the most determined opposition of the Roman
bishops, who denounced the Eastern emperors as schismatics and heretics.
Furthermore, while persecuting the orthodox churches of the West, these
unworthy emperors had allowed the Christian lands of the East to fall a
prey to the Arabian infidels.
Just at this time, moreover, by the crime of the Empress Irene, who had
deposed her son Constantine VI., and put out his eyes, that she might have
his place, the Byzantine throne was vacant, in the estimation of the
Italians, who contended that the crown of the C�sars could not be worn by
a woman. Confessedly it was time that the Pope should exercise the power
reposing in him as Head of the Church, and take away from the heretical
and effeminate Greeks the Imperial crown, and bestow it upon some strong,
orthodox, and worthy prince in the West.
Now, among all the Teutonic chiefs of Western Christendom, there was none
who could dispute the claims to the honor with the king of the Franks, the
representative of a most illustrious house, and the strongest champion of
the young Christianity of the West against her pagan foes. Accordingly, as
Charlemagne was participating in the festivities of Christmas Day in the
Cathedral of St. Peter at Rome, the Pope approached the kneeling king,--
who declared afterwards that he was wholly ignorant of the designs of his
friend,--and placing a crown of gold upon his head, proclaimed him emperor
of the Romans, and the rightful and consecrated successor of C�sar
Augustus and Constantine (800).
The intention of Pope Leo was, by a sort of reversal of the act of
Constantine, to bring back from the East the seat of the Imperial court;
but what he really accomplished was a restoration of the line of emperors
in the West, which 324 years before had been ended by Odoacer, when he
dethroned Romulus Augustus and sent the royal vestments to Constantinople
(see p. 348). We say this was what he actually effected; for the Greeks of
the East, disregarding wholly what the Roman people and the Pope had done,
maintained their line of emperors just as though nothing had occurred in
Italy. So now from this time on for centuries there were two emperors, one
in the East, and another in the West, each claiming to be the rightful
successor of C�sar Augustus. [Footnote: From this time on it will be
proper for us to use the terms _Western_ Empire and _Eastern_ Empire.
These names should not, however, be employed before this time, for the two
parts of the old Roman Empire were simply administrative divisions of a
single empire; we may though, properly enough, speak of the Roman empire
_in_ the West, and the Roman empire _in_ the East, or of the Western and
Eastern emperors. See Bryce's _Holy Roman Empire_. The Eastern Empire was
destroyed by the Turks in 1453; the line of Western Teutonic emperors was
maintained until the present century, when it was ended by the act of
Napoleon in the dismemberment of Germany (1806).]
CHARLEMAGNE'S DEATH; HIS WORK.--Charlemagne enjoyed the Imperial dignity
only fourteen years, dying in 814. Within the cathedral at Aachen, in a
tomb which he himself had built, the dead monarch was placed upon a
throne, with his royal robes around him, his good sword by his side, and
the Bible open on his lap. It seemed as though men could not believe that
his reign was over; and it was not.
By the almost universal verdict of students of the medi�val period,
Charles the Great has been pronounced the most imposing personage that
appears between the fall of Rome and the fifteenth century. His greatness
has erected an enduring monument for itself in his name, the one by which
he is best known--Charlemagne.
Charlemagne must not be regarded as a warrior merely. His most noteworthy
work was that which he effected as a reformer and statesman. He founded
schools, reformed the laws, collected libraries, and extended to the
Church a patronage worthy of a Constantine. In a word, he laid "the
foundation of all that is noble and beautiful and useful in the history of
the Middle Ages."
DIVISION OF THE EMPIRE; TREATY OF VERDUN (843).--Like the kingdom of
Alexander, the mighty empire of Charlemagne fell to pieces soon after his
death. "His sceptre was the bow of Ulysses which could not be drawn by any
weaker hand." After a troublous period of dissension arid war, the empire
was divided, by the important Treaty of Verdun, among Charlemagne's three
grandchildren,--Charles, Lewis, and Lothair. To Charles was given France;
to Lewis, Germany; and to Lothair, Italy and the valley of the Rhone,
together with a narrow strip of land extending from Switzerland to the
mouth of the Rhine. With these possessions of Lothair went also the
[Illustration: THE WESTERN EMPIRE As Divided at Verdun (843)]
This treaty is celebrated, not only because it was the first great treaty
among the European states, but also on account of its marking the
divergence from one another, and in some sense the origin, of three of the
great nations of modern Europe,--of France, Germany, and Italy.
CONCLUSION.--After this dismemberment of the dominions of Charlemagne, the
annals of the different branches of the Carolingian family become
intricate, wearisome, and uninstructive. A fate as dark and woeful as that
which, according to Grecian story, overhung the royal house of Thebes,
seemed to brood over the house of Charlemagne. In all its different lines
a strange and adverse destiny awaited the lineage of the great king. The
tenth century witnessed the extinction of the family.
THE PEOPLE.--Northmen, Norsemen, Scandinavians, are different names
applied in a general way to the early inhabitants of Denmark, Norway, and
Sweden. These people formed the northern branch of the Teutonic family. We
cannot be certain when they took possession of the northern peninsulas,
but it is probable that they had entered those countries long before C�sar
THE NORTHMEN AS PIRATES AND COLONIZERS.--For the first eight centuries of
our era the Norsemen are hidden from our view in their remote northern
home; but with the opening of the ninth century their black piratical
crafts are to be seen creeping along all the coasts of Germany, Gaul, and
the British Isles, and even venturing far up their inlets and creeks.
Every summer these dreaded sea-rovers made swift descents upon the exposed
shores of these countries, plundering, burning, murdering; then upon the
approach of the stormy season, they returned to winter in the sheltered
fiords of the Scandinavian peninsula. After a time the bold corsairs began
to winter in the lands they had harried during the summer; and soon all
the shores of the countries visited were dotted with their stations or
These marauding expeditions and colonizing enterprises of the Northmen did
not cease until the eleventh century was far advanced. The consequences of
this wonderful outpouring of the Scandinavian peoples were so important
and lasting that the movement has well been compared to the great
migration of their German kinsmen in the fifth and sixth centuries. Europe
is a second time inundated by the Teutonic barbarians.
The most noteworthy characteristic of these Northmen was the readiness
with which they laid aside their own manners, habits, ideas, and
institutions, and adopted those of the country in which they established
themselves. "In Russia they became Russians; in France, Frenchmen; in
COLONIZATION OF ICELAND AND GREENLAND.--Iceland was settled by the
Northmen in the ninth century, [Footnote: Iceland became the literary
centre of the Scandinavian world. There grew up here a class of scalds, or
bards, who, before the introduction of writing, preserved and transmitted
orally the sagas, or legends, of the Northern races. About the twelfth
century these poems and legends were gathered into collections known as
the Elder, or poetic, Edda, and the Younger, or prose, Edda. These are
among the most interesting and important of the literary memorials that we
possess of the early Teutonic peoples. They reflect faithfully the
beliefs, manners, and customs of the Norsemen, and the wild, adventurous
spirit of their Sea-Kings.] and about a century later Greenland was
discovered and colonized. In 1874 the Icelanders celebrated the thousandth
anniversary of the settlement of their island, an event very like our
Centennial of 1876.
America was reached by the Northmen as early as the beginning of the
eleventh century: the Vineland of their traditions was possibly some part
of the New England coast. It is believed that these first visitors to the
continent made settlements in this new land; but no certain remains of
THE NORSEMEN IN RUSSIA.--While the Norwegians were sailing boldly out into
the Atlantic and taking possession of the isles and coasts of the western
seas, the Swedes were pushing their crafts across the Baltic and troubling
the Slavonian tribes that dwelt upon the eastern shore of that sea. Either
by right of conquest or through the invitation of the contentious
Slavonian clans, the renowned Scandinavian chieftain Ruric acquired, in
the year 862, kingly dignity, and became the founder of the first royal
line of Russia, the successive kings of which family gradually
consolidated the monarchy which was destined to become one of the foremost
powers of Europe.
THE DANISH CONQUEST OF ENGLAND.--The Danes began to make descents upon the
English coast about the beginning of the ninth century. These sea-rovers
spread the greatest terror through the island; for they were not content
with plunder, but being pagans, they took special delight in burning the
churches and monasteries of the now Christian Anglo-Saxons, or English, as
we shall hereafter call them. After a time the Danes began to make
permanent settlements in the land. The wretched English were subjected to
exactly the same treatment that they had inflicted upon the Celts. Much
need had they to pray the petition of the Litany of those days, "From the
fury of the Northmen, Good Lord, deliver us." Just when it began to look
as though they would be entirely annihilated or driven from the island by
the barbarous intruders, the illustrious Alfred (871-901) came to the
throne of Wessex.
For six years the youthful king fought heroically at the head of his brave
thanes; but each succeeding year the possessions of the English grew
smaller, and finally Alfred and his few remaining followers were driven to
take refuge in the woods and morasses.
After a time, however, the affairs of the English began to brighten. The
Danes were overpowered, and though allowed to hold the northeastern half
of the land, still they were forced nominally to acknowledge the authority
of the English king.
For a full century following the death of Alfred, his successors were
engaged in a constant struggle to hold in subjection the Danes already
settled in the land, or to protect their domains from the plundering
inroads of fresh bands of pirates from the northern peninsulas. In the
end, the Danes got the mastery, and Canute, king of Denmark, became king
of England (1016). For eighteen years he reigned in a wise and parental
Altogether the Danes ruled in England about a quarter of a century (from
1016 to 1042), and then the old English line was restored in the person of
Edward the Confessor.
The great benefit which resulted to England from the Danish conquest, was
the infusion of fresh blood into the veins of the English people, who
through contact with the half-Romanized Celts, and especially through the
enervating influence of a monastic church, had lost much of that bold,
masculine vigor which characterized their hardy ancestors.
SETTLEMENT OF THE NORTHMEN IN GAUL.--The Northmen began to make piratical
descents upon the coasts of Gaul before the end of the reign of
Charlemagne. Tradition tells how the great king, catching sight one day of
some ships of the Northmen, burst into tears as he reflected on the
sufferings that he foresaw the new foe would entail upon his country.
The record of the raids of the Northmen in Gaul, and of their final
settlement in the north of the country, is simply a repetition of the tale
of the Danish forays and settlement in England. At last, in the year 918,
Charles the Simple did exactly what Alfred the Great had done across the
Channel only a very short time before. He granted the adventurous Rollo,
the leader of the Northmen that had settled at Rouen, a considerable
section of country in the north-west of Gaul, upon condition of homage and
In a short time the barbarians had adopted the language, the manners, and
the religion of the French, and had caught much of their vivacity and
impulsiveness of spirit, without, however, any loss of their own native
virtues. This transformation in their manners and life we may conceive as
being recorded in their transformed name--_Northmen_ becoming softened
into _Norman_. As has been said, they were simply changed from heathen
Vikings, delighting in the wild life of sea-rover and pirate, into
Christian knights, eager for pilgrimages and crusades.
RISE OF THE PAPAL POWER.
INTRODUCTION.--In an early chapter of our book we told how Christianity as
a system of beliefs and precepts took possession of the different nations
and tribes of Europe. We purpose in the present chapter to tell how the
Christian Church grew into a great spiritual monarchy, with the bishop of
Rome as its head.
It must be borne in mind that the bishops of Rome put forth a double
claim, namely, that they were the supreme head of the Church, and also the
rightful, divinely appointed suzerain of all temporal princes, the
"earthly king of kings." Their claim to supremacy in all spiritual matters
was very generally acknowledged throughout at least the West as early as
the sixth century, and continued to be respected by almost every one until
the great Reformation of the sixteenth century, when the nations of
Northern Europe revolted, denied the spiritual authority of the Pope, and
separated themselves from the ancient ecclesiastical empire.
The papal claim to supremacy in temporal affairs was never fully and
willingly allowed by the secular rulers of Europe; yet during a
considerable part of the Middle Ages, particularly throughout the
thirteenth century, the Pope was very generally acknowledged by kings and
princes as their superior and suzerain in temporal as well as in spiritual
EARLY ORGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH.--The Christian Church very early in its
history became an organized body, with a regular gradation of officers,
such as presbyters, bishops, metropolitans or archbishops, and patriarchs.
There were at first four regular patriarchates, that is, districts
superintended by patriarchs. These centred in the great cities of Rome,
Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch. Jerusalem was also made an
PRIMACY OF THE BISHOP OF ROME.--It is maintained by some that the
patriarchs at first had equal and coordinate powers; that is, that no one
of the patriarchs had preeminence or authority over the others. But others
assert that the bishop of Rome from the very first was regarded as above
the others in dignity and authority, and as the divinely appointed head of
the visible Church on earth.
However this may be, the pontiffs of Rome began very early to _claim_
supremacy over all other bishops and patriarchs. This claim of the Roman
pontiffs was based on several alleged grounds, the chief of which was that
the Church at Rome had been founded by St. Peter himself, the first bishop
of that capital, to whom Christ had given the keys of the kingdom of
heaven, and had further invested with superlative authority as a teacher
and interpreter of the Word by the commission, "Feed my Sheep;... feed my
Lambs," thus giving into his charge the entire flock of the Church. This
authority and preeminence conferred by the great Head of the Church upon
Peter was held to be transmitted to his successor in the holy office.
ADVANTAGE TO THE ROMAN BISHOPS OF THE MISFORTUNES OF THE EMPIRE.--The
claims of the Roman bishops were greatly favored from the very first by
the spell in which the world was held by the name and prestige of imperial
Rome. Thence it had been accustomed to receive its commands in all
temporal matters; how very natural, then, that thither it should turn for
command and guidance in spiritual affairs. The Roman bishops in thus
occupying the geographical and political centre of the world enjoyed a
great advantage over all other bishops and patriarchs.
Nor was this advantage lost when misfortune befell the imperial city. Thus
the removal by Constantine the Great of the seat of government to the
Bosporus (see p. 332), instead of diminishing the power and dignity of the
Roman bishops, tended powerfully to promote their claims and authority. In
the phrase of Dante, it "gave the Shepherd room." It left the pontiff the
foremost personage of Rome.
Again, when the barbarians came, there came another occasion for the Roman
bishops to increase their influence, and to raise themselves to a position
of absolute supremacy throughout the West. Rome's extremity was their
opportunity. Thus it will be recalled how, mainly through the intercession
of Leo the Great, the fierce Attila was persuaded to turn back and leave
Rome unpillaged; and how, through the intercession of the same pious
bishop, the savage Genseric was prevailed upon to spare the lives of the
inhabitants of the city at the time of its sack by the Vandals (see pp.
346, 347). So when the emperors, the natural defenders of the capital,
were unable to protect it, the unarmed pastor was able, through the awe
and reverence inspired by his holy office, to render services that could
not but result in bringing increased honor and dignity to the Roman See.
But if the misfortunes of Rome tended to the enhancement of the reputation
and influence of the Roman bishops, much more did the final downfall of
the capital tend to the same end. Upon the surrender of the sovereignty of
the West into the hands of the emperor of the East, the bishops of Rome
became the most important persons in Western Europe, and being so far
removed from the court at Constantinople, gradually assumed almost
imperial powers. They became the arbiters between the barbarian chiefs and
the Italians, and to them were referred for decision the disputes arising
between cities, states, and kings. It is easy to understand how directly
and powerfully these things tended to strengthen the authority and
increase the influence of the Roman See.
THE MISSIONS OF ROME.--Again, the early missionary zeal of the church at
Rome made her the mother of many churches, all of whom looked up to her
with affectionate and grateful loyalty. Thus the Angles and Saxons, won to
the faith by the missionaries of Rome, conceived a deep veneration for the
Holy See and became her most devoted children. To Rome it was that they
made their most frequent pilgrimages, and thither they sent their offering
of "St. Peter's penny." And when the Saxons became missionaries to their
pagan kinsmen of the continent, they transplanted into the heart of
Germany these same feelings of filial attachment and love. Thus was Rome
exalted in the eyes of the children of the churches of the West, until
Gregory II. (715-731), writing the Eastern emperor, could say that to
these peoples the very statue of the founder of the Roman church seemed "a
god on earth."
THE ICONOCLASTS.--The dispute about the worship of images, known in church
history as the Iconoclastic controversy, which broke out in the eighth
century between the Greek churches of the East and the Latin churches of
the West, drew after it far-reaching consequences as respects the growing
power of the Roman pontiffs.
Even long before the seventh century, the churches both in the East and in
the West had become crowded with images or pictures of the apostles,
saints, and martyrs, which to the ignorant classes at least were objects
of adoration and worship. A strong party opposed to the use of images
[Footnote: The so-called images of the Greek Church were not statues, but
mosaics, or paintings. The Eastern Church has at no period sanctioned the
use of sculptures in worship.] at last arose in the East. These reformers
were given the name of Iconoclasts (image-breakers).
Leo the Isaurian, who came to the throne of Constantinople in 717, was a
most zealous Iconoclast. The Greek churches of the East having been
cleared of images, the emperor resolved to clear also the Latin churches
of the West of these symbols. To this end he issued a decree that they
should not be used.
The bishop of Rome not only opposed the execution of the edict, but by the
ban of excommunication cut off the emperor and all the iconoclastic
churches of the East from communion with the true Catholic Church. Though
images were permanently restored in the Eastern churches in 842, still by
this time other causes of alienation had arisen, and the breach between
the two sections of Christendom could not now be closed. The final outcome
was the permanent separation, about the middle of the eleventh century, of
the churches of the East from those of the West. The former became known
as the Greek, Byzantine, or Eastern Church; the latter as the Latin,
Roman, or Catholic Church.
The East was thus lost to the Roman See. But the loss was more than made
good by fresh accessions of power in the West. In this quarrel with the
Eastern emperors the Roman bishops cast about for an alliance with some
powerful Western prince. We have already told the story of the friendship
of the Carolingian kings and the Roman pontiffs, and of the favors they
exchanged (see ch. xxxvii). Never did friends render themselves more
serviceable to each other. The Popes made the descendants of Charles
Martel kings and emperors; the grateful Frankish princes defended the
Popes against all their enemies, imperial and barbarian, and dowering them
with cities and provinces, laid the basis of their temporal sovereignty,
which continued for more than a thousand years (until 1870).
ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION: APPEALS TO ROME.--Charlemagne had recognized
the principle, held from early times by the Church, that ecclesiastics
should be amenable only to the ecclesiastical tribunals, by freeing the
whole body of the clergy from the jurisdiction of the temporal courts, in
criminal as well as civil cases. Gradually the bishops acquired the right
to try all cases relating to marriage, trusts, perjury, simony, or
concerning widows, orphans, or crusaders, on the ground that such cases
had to do with religion. Even the right to try all criminal cases was
claimed on the ground that all crime is sin, and hence can properly be
dealt with only by the Church. Persons convicted by the ecclesiastical
tribunals were subjected to penance, imprisoned in the monasteries, or
handed over to the civil authorities for punishment.
Thus by the end of the twelfth century the Church had absorbed, not only
the whole criminal administration of the clergy, but in part that of the
laity also. [Footnote: Hallam, _Middle Ages_, ch. vii.] Now the particular
feature of this enormous extension of the jurisdiction of the Church
tribunals which at present it especially concerns us to notice, is the
establishment of the principle that all cases might be appealed or cited
from the courts of the bishops and archbishops of the different European
countries to the Papal See, which thus became the court of last resort in
all cases affecting ecclesiastics or concerning religion. The Pope thus
came to be regarded as the fountain of justice, and, in theory at least,
the supreme judge of Christendom, while emperors and kings and all civil
magistrates bore the sword simply as his ministers to carry into effect
his sentences and decrees.
THE PAPACY AND THE EMPIRE.--We must now speak of the relation of the Popes
to the Emperors. About the middle of the tenth century Otto the Great of
Germany, like a second Charlemagne, restored once more the fallen Imperial
power, which now became known as the Holy Roman Empire, the heads of which
from this on were the German kings (see p. 502). Here now were two world-
powers, the Empire and the Papacy, whose claims and ambitions were
practically antagonistic and irreconcilable.
There were three different theories of the divinely constituted relation
of the "World-King" and the "World-Priest." The first was that Pope and
Emperor were each independently commissioned by God, the first to rule the
spirits of men, the second to rule their bodies. Each reigning thus by
original divine right, neither is set above the other, but both are to
cooperate and to help each other. The special duty of the temporal power
is to maintain order in the world and to be the protector of the Church.
The second theory, the one held by the Imperial party, was that the
Emperor was superior to the Pope. Arguments from Scripture and from the
transactions of history were not wanting to support this view of the
relation of the two world-powers. Thus Christ's payment of tribute money
was cited as proof that he regarded the temporal power as superior to the
spiritual; and again, his submission to the jurisdiction of the Roman
tribunal was held to be a recognition on his part of the supremacy of the
civil authority. Further, the gifts of Pepin and Charlemagne to the Roman
See made the Popes, it was maintained, the vassals of the Emperors.
The third theory, the one held by the Papal party, maintained that the
ordained relation of the two powers was the subordination of the temporal
to the spiritual authority. This view was maintained by such texts of
Scripture as these: "But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he
himself is judged of no man;" [Footnote: 1 Cor. ii. 15.] "See, I have this
day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to
pull down, and to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant."
[Footnote: Jer. i. 10.] The conception was further illustrated by such
comparisons as the following. As God has set in the heavens two lights,
the sun and the moon, so has he established on earth two powers, the
spiritual and the temporal; but as the moon is inferior to the sun and
receives its light from it, so is the Emperor inferior to the Pope and
receives all power from him. Again, the two authorities were likened to
the soul and body; as the former rules over the latter, so is it ordered
that the spiritual power shall rule over and subject the temporal.
The first theory was the impracticable dream of lofty souls who forgot
that men are human. Christendom was virtually divided into two hostile
camps, the members of which were respectively supporters of the Imperial
and the Papal theory. The most interesting and instructive chapters of
medi�val history after the tenth century are those that record the
struggles between Pope and Emperor, springing from their efforts to reduce
to practice these irreconcilable theories. [Footnote: For a most admirable
presentation of this whole subject, consult Bryce's _The Holy Roman
SECOND PERIOD.--THE AGE OF REVIVAL.
(FROM THE OPENING OF THE ELEVENTH CENTURY TO THE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA BY
COLUMBUS IN 1492.)
FEUDALISM AND CHIVALRY.
FEUDALISM DEFINED.--Feudalism is the name given to a special form of
society and government, based upon a peculiar military tenure of land
which prevailed in Europe during the latter half of the Middle Ages,
attaining, however, its most perfect development in the eleventh, twelfth,
and thirteenth centuries.
A feudal estate, which might embrace a few acres or an entire province,
was called a _fief_, or _feud_, whence the term Feudalism. The person
granting a fief was called the _suzerain_, _liege_, or _lord;_ the one
receiving it, his _vassal_, _liegeman_, or _retainer_.
THE IDEAL SYSTEM.--The few definitions given above will render
intelligible the following explanation of the theory of the Feudal System.
In theory, all the soil of the country was held by the king as a fief from
God (in practice, the king's title was his good sword), granted on
conditions of fealty to right and justice. Should the king be unjust or
wicked, he forfeited the kingdom, and it might be taken from him and given
to another. According to Papal theorists it was the Pope who, as God's
vicar on earth, had the right to pronounce judgment against a king, depose
him, and put another in his place.
In the same way that the king received his fief from God, so he might
grant it out in parcels to his chief men, they, in return for it,
promising, in general, to be faithful to him as their lord, and to serve
and aid him. Should these men, now vassals, be in any way untrue to their
engagement, they forfeited their fiefs, and these might be resumed by
their suzerain and bestowed upon others.
In like manner these immediate vassals of the king or suzerain might
parcel out their domains in smaller tracts to others, on the same
conditions as those upon which they had themselves received theirs; and so
on down through any number of stages.
We have thus far dealt only with the soil of a country. We must next
notice what disposition was made of the people under this system.
The king in receiving his fief was intrusted with sovereignty over all
persons living upon it: he became their commander, their lawmaker, and
their judge--in a word, their absolute and irresponsible ruler. Then, when
he parcelled out his fief among his great men, he invested them, within
the limits of the fiefs granted, with all his own sovereign rights. Each
vassal became a virtual sovereign in his own domain. And when these great
vassals divided their fiefs and granted them to others, they in turn
invested their vassals with those powers of sovereignty with which they
themselves had been clothed. Thus every holder of a fief became "monarch
of all he surveyed."
To illustrate the workings of the system, we will suppose the king or
suzerain to be in need of an army. He calls upon his own immediate vassals
for aid; these in turn call upon their vassals; and so the order runs down
through the various ranks of retainers. The retainers in the lowest rank
rally around their respective lords, who, with their bands, gather about
their lords, and so on up through the rising tiers of the system, until
the immediate vassals of the suzerain, or chief lord, present themselves
before him with their graduated trains of followers. The array constitutes
a feudal army,--a splendidly organized body in theory, but in fact an
extremely poor instrument for warfare.
Such was the ideal feudal state. It is needless to say that the ideal was
never perfectly realized. The system simply made more or less distant
approaches to it in the several European countries.
ROMAN AND TEUTONIC ELEMENTS IN THE SYSTEM.--Like many another institution
that grew up on the conquered soil of the empire. Feudalism was of a
composite character; that is, it contained both Roman and Teutonic
elements. The spirit of the institution was barbarian, but the form was
classical. We might illustrate the idea we are trying to convey, by
referring to the medi�val papal church. It, while Hebrew in spirit, was
Roman in form. It had shaped itself upon the model of the empire, and was
thoroughly imperial in its organization. Thus was it with Feudalism.
Beneath the Roman garb it assumed, beat a German life.
THE CEREMONY OF HOMAGE.--A fief was conferred by a very solemn and
peculiar ceremony called homage. The person about to become a vassal,
kneeling with uncovered head, placed his hands in those of his future
lord, and solemnly vowed to be henceforth his man (Latin _homo_, whence
"homage"), and to serve him faithfully even with his life. This part of
the ceremony, sealed with a kiss, was what properly constituted the
ceremony of homage. It was accompanied by an oath of fealty, and the
whole was concluded by the act of investiture, whereby the lord put his
vassal in actual possession of the land, or by placing in his hand a clod
of earth or a twig, symbolized the delivery to him of the estate for which
he had just now done homage and sworn fealty.
THE RELATIONS OF LORD AND VASSAL.--In general terms the duty of the vassal
was service; that of the lord, protection. The most honorable service
required of the vassal, and the one most willingly rendered in a martial
age, was military aid. The liegeman must always be ready to follow his
lord upon his military expeditions; he must defend his lord in battle; if
he should be unhorsed, must give him his own animal; and, if he should be
made a prisoner, must offer himself as a hostage for his release.
Among other incidents attaching to a fief were _escheat_, _forfeiture_,
and _aids_. By Escheat was meant the falling back of the fief into the
hands of the lord through failure of heirs. If the fief lapsed through
disloyalty or other misdemeanor on the part of the vassal, this was known
as Forfeiture. Aids were sums of money which the lord had a right to
demand, in order to defray the expense of knighting his eldest son, of
marrying his eldest daughter, or for ransoming his own person in case of
The chief return that the lord was bound to make to the vassal as a
compensation for these various services, was counsel and protection--by no
means a small return in an age of turmoil and insecurity.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE FEUDAL SYSTEM.--After the death of Charlemagne and the
partition of his great empire among his feeble successors, it seemed as
though the world was again falling back into chaos. The bonds of society
seemed entirely broken. The strong oppressed the weak; the nobles became
highway-robbers and marauders.
It was this distracted state of things that, during the ninth and tenth
centuries, caused the rapid development of the Feudal System. It was the
only form of social organization, the only form of government that it was
practicable to maintain in that rude, transitional age. All classes of
society, therefore, hastened to enter the system, in order to secure the
protection which it alone could afford. Kings, princes, and wealthy
persons who had large landed possessions which they had never parcelled
out as fiefs, were now led to do so, that their estates might be held by
tenants bound to protect them by all the sacred obligations of homage and
fealty. Again, the smaller proprietors who held their estates by allodial
tenure voluntarily surrendered them into the hands of some neighboring
lord, and then received them again from him as fiefs, that they might
claim protection as vassals. They deemed this better than being robbed of
their property altogether. Thus it came that almost all the allodial lands
of France, Germany, Italy, and Northern Spain were, during the ninth,
tenth, and eleventh centuries, converted into feudal estates, or fiefs.
Moreover, for like reasons and in like manner, churches, monasteries, and
cities became members of the Feudal System. They granted out their vast
possessions as fiefs, and thus became suzerains and lords. Bishops and
abbots became the heads of great bands of retainers, and led military
expeditions, like temporal chiefs. On the other hand, these same
monasteries and towns, as a means of security and protection, did homage
to some powerful lord, and thus came in vassalage to him.