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The Story of Mankind by Hendrik van Loon

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lowest possible point.



AT a very early stage of their history the Greeks had begun
to collect the poems, which had been written in honor of
their brave ancestors who had driven the Pelasgians out of
Hellas and had destroyed the power of Troy. These poems were
recited in public and everybody came to listen to them. But
the theatre, the form of entertainment which has become almost
a necessary part of our own lives, did not grow out of these
recited heroic tales. It had such a curious origin that I must
tell you something about it in a separate chapter

The Greeks had always been fond of parades. Every
year they held solemn processions in honor of Dionysos the
God of the wine. As everybody in Greece drank wine (the
Greeks thought water only useful for the purpose of swimming
and sailing) this particular Divinity was as popular as a God
of the Soda-Fountain would be in our own land.

And because the Wine-God was supposed to live in the
vineyards, amidst a merry mob of Satyrs (strange creatures
who were half man and half goat), the crowd that joined the
procession used to wear goat-skins and to hee-haw like real
billy-goats. The Greek word for goat is ``tragos'' and the
Greek word for singer is ``oidos.'' The singer who meh-mehed
like a goat therefore was called a ``tragos-oidos'' or goat singer,
and it is this strange name which developed into the modern
word ``Tragedy,'' which means in the theatrical sense a piece
with an unhappy ending, just as Comedy (which really means
the singing of something ``comos'' or gay) is the name given
to a play which ends happily.

But how, you will ask, did this noisy chorus of masqueraders,
stamping around like wild goats, ever develop into the
noble tragedies which have filled the theatres of the world for
almost two thousand years?

The connecting link between the goat-singer and Hamlet is
really very simple as I shall show you in a moment.

The singing chorus was very amusing in the beginning and
attracted large crowds of spectators who stood along the side
of the road and laughed. But soon this business of tree-hawing
grew tiresome and the Greeks thought dullness an evil only
comparable to ugliness or sickness. They asked for something
more entertaining. Then an inventive young poet from
the village of Icaria in Attica hit upon a new idea which proved
a tremendous success. He made one of the members of the
goat-chorus step forward and engage in conversation with the
leader of the musicians who marched at the head of the parade
playing upon their pipes of Pan. This individual was allowed
to step out of line. He waved his arms and gesticulated
while he spoke (that is to say he ``acted'' while the others merely
stood by and sang) and he asked a lot of questions, which the
bandmaster answered according to the roll of papyrus upon
which the poet had written down these answers before the
show began.

This rough and ready conversation--the dialogue--which
told the story of Dionysos or one of the other Gods, became
at once popular with the crowd. Henceforth every Dionysian
procession had an ``acted scene'' and very soon the ``acting''
was considered more important than the procession and the

AEschylus, the most successful of all ``tragedians'' who wrote
no less than eighty plays during his long life (from 526 to 455)
made a bold step forward when he introduced two ``actors''
instead of one. A generation later Sophocles increased the
number of actors to three. When Euripides began to write
his terrible tragedies in the middle of the fifth century, B.C.,
he was allowed as many actors as he liked and when Aristophanes
wrote those famous comedies in which he poked fun at
everybody and everything, including the Gods of Mount Olympus,
the chorus had been reduced to the role of mere bystanders
who were lined up behind the principal performers
and who sang ``this is a terrible world'' while the hero in the
foreground committed a crime against the will of the Gods.

This new form of dramatic entertainment demanded a
proper setting, and soon every Greek city owned a theatre, cut
out of the rock of a nearby hill. The spectators sat upon
wooden benches and faced a wide circle (our present orchestra
where you pay three dollars and thirty cents for a seat).
Upon this half-circle, which was the stage, the actors and the
chorus took their stand. Behind them there was a tent where
they made up with large clay masks which hid their faces and
which showed the spectators whether the actors were supposed
to be happy and smiling or unhappy and weeping. The Greek
word for tent is ``skene'' and that is the reason why we talk
of the ``scenery'' of the stage.

When once the tragedy had become part of Greek life, the
people took it very seriously and never went to the theatre to
give their minds a vacation. A new play became as important
an event as an election and a successful playwright was
received with greater honors than those bestowed upon a general
who had just returned from a famous victory.



THE Greeks had learned the art of trading from the
AEgeans who had been the pupils of the Phoenicians. They
had founded colonies after the Phoenician pattern. They had
even improved upon the Phoenician methods by a more general
use of money in dealing with foreign customers. In the sixth
century before our era they had established themselves firmly
along the coast of Asia Minor and they were taking away
trade from the Phoenicians at a fast rate. This the Phoenicians
of course did not like but they were not strong enough to
risk a war with their Greek competitors. They sat and waited
nor did they wait in vain.

In a former chapter, I have told you how a humble tribe
of Persian shepherds had suddenly gone upon the warpath and
had conquered the greater part of western Asia. The Persians
were too civilised to plunder their new subjects. They
contented themselves with a yearly tribute. When they
reached the coast of Asia Minor they insisted that the Greek
colonies of Lydia recognize the Persian Kings as their over-
Lords and pay them a stipulated tax. The Greek colonies
objected. The Persians insisted. Then the Greek colonies
appealed to the home-country and the stage was set for a

For if the truth be told, the Persian Kings regarded the
Greek city-states as very dangerous political institutions and
bad examples for all other people who were supposed to be the
patient slaves of the mighty Persian Kings.

Of course, the Greeks enjoyed a certain degree of safety because
their country lay hidden beyond the deep waters of the
AEgean. But here their old enemies, the Phoenicians, stepped
forward with offers of help and advice to the Persians. If the
Persian King would provide the soldiers, the Phoenicians would
guarantee to deliver the necessary ships to carry them to
Europe. It was the year 492 before the birth of Christ, and
Asia made ready to destroy the rising power of Europe.

As a final warning the King of Persia sent messengers
to the Greeks asking for ``earth and water'' as a token of their
submission. The Greeks promptly threw the messengers into
the nearest well where they would find both ``earth and water''
in large abundance and thereafter of course peace was impossible.

But the Gods of High Olympus watched over their children
and when the Phoenician fleet carrying the Persian troops
was near Mount Athos, the Storm-God blew his cheeks until
he almost burst the veins of his brow, and the fleet was destroyed
by a terrible hurricane and the Persians were all

Two years later they returned. This time they sailed
straight across the AEgean Sea and landed near the village of
Marathon. As soon as the Athenians heard this they sent
their army of ten thousand men to guard the hills that
surrounded the Marathonian plain. At the same time they
despatched a fast runner to Sparta to ask for help. But Sparta
was envious of the fame of Athens and refused to come to her
assistance. The other Greek cities followed her example with
the exception of tiny Plataea which sent a thousand men. On
the twelfth of September of the year 490, Miltiades, the Athenian
commander, threw this little army against the hordes of the
Persians. The Greeks broke through the Persian barrage of
arrows and their spears caused terrible havoc among the disorganised
Asiatic troops who had never been called upon to resist
such an enemy.

That night the people of Athens watched the sky grow
red with the flames of burning ships. Anxiously they waited
for news. At last a little cloud of dust appeared upon the
road that led to the North. It was Pheidippides, the runner.
He stumbled and gasped for his end was near. Only a few
days before had he returned from his errand to Sparta. He
had hastened to join Miltiades. That morning he had taken
part in the attack and later he had volunteered to carry the
news of victory to his beloved city. The people saw him fall
and they rushed forward to support him. ``We have won,''
he whispered and then he died, a glorious death which made him
envied of all men.

As for the Persians, they tried, after this defeat, to land
near Athens but they found the coast guarded and disappeared,
and once more the land of Hellas was at peace.

Eight years they waited and during this time the Greeks
were not idle. They knew that a final attack was to be expected
but they did not agree upon the best way to avert the danger.
Some people wanted to increase the army. Others said that
a strong fleet was necessary for success. The two parties led by
Aristides (for the army) and Themistocles (the leader of the
bigger-navy men) fought each other bitterly and nothing was
done until Aristides was exiled. Then Themistocles had his
chance and he built all the ships he could and turned the Piraeus
into a strong naval base.

In the year 481 B.C. a tremendous Persian army appeared
in Thessaly, a province of northern Greece. In this hour of
danger, Sparta, the great military city of Greece, was elected
commander-in-chief. But the Spartans cared little what happened
to northern Greece provided their own country was not
invaded, They neglected to fortify the passes that led into

A small detachment of Spartans under Leonidas had been
told to guard the narrow road between the high mountains and
the sea which connected Thessaly with the southern provinces.
Leonidas obeyed his orders. He fought and held the pass with
unequalled bravery. But a traitor by the name of Ephialtes
who knew the little byways of Malis guided a regiment of Persians
through the hills and made it possible for them to attack
Leonidas in the rear. Near the Warm Wells--the Thermopylae
--a terrible battle was fought.

When night came Leonidas and his faithful soldiers lay dead
under the corpses of their enemies.

But the pass had been lost and the greater part of Greece
fell into the hands of the Persians. They marched upon
Athens, threw the garrison from the rocks of the Acropolis and
burned the city. The people fled to the Island of Salamis. All
seemed lost. But on the 20th of September of the year 480
Themistocles forced the Persian fleet to give battle within the
narrow straits which separated the Island of Salamis from the
mainland and within a few hours he destroyed three quarters
of the Persian ships.

In this way the victory of Thermopylae came to naught.
Xerxes was forced to retire. The next year, so he decreed,
would bring a final decision. He took his troops to Thessaly
and there he waited for spring.

But this time the Spartans understood the seriousness of
the hour. They left the safe shelter of the wall which they had
built across the isthmus of Corinth and under the leadership
of Pausanias they marched against Mardonius the Persian
general. The united Greeks (some one hundred thousand men
from a dozen different cities) attacked the three hundred thou-
sand men of the enemy near Plataea. Once more the heavy
Greek infantry broke through the Persian barrage of arrows.
The Persians were defeated, as they had been at Marathon, and
this time they left for good. By a strange coincidence, the
same day that the Greek armies won their victory near Plataea,
the Athenian ships destroyed the enemy's fleet near Cape Mycale
in Asia Minor.

Thus did the first encounter between Asia and Europe end.
Athens had covered herself with glory and Sparta had fought
bravely and well. If these two cities had been able to come to
an agreement, if they had been willing to forget their little
jealousies, they might have become the leaders of a strong and
united Hellas.

But alas, they allowed the hour of victory and enthusiasm
to slip by, and the same opportunity never returned.



ATHENS and Sparta were both Greek cities and their people
spoke a common language. In every other respect they were
different. Athens rose high from the plain. It was a city
exposed to the fresh breezes from the sea, willing to look at
the world with the eyes of a happy child. Sparta, on the other
hand, was built at the bottom of a deep valley, and used the
surrounding mountains as a barrier against foreign thought.
Athens was a city of busy trade. Sparta was an armed camp
where people were soldiers for the sake of being soldiers. The
people of Athens loved to sit in the sun and discuss poetry or
listen to the wise words of a philosopher. The Spartans, on the
other hand, never wrote a single line that was considered literature,
but they knew how to fight, they liked to fight, and they
sacrificed all human emotions to their ideal of military preparedness.

No wonder that these sombre Spartans viewed the success
of Athens with malicious hate. The energy which the defence of
the common home had developed in Athens was now used for
purposes of a more peaceful nature. The Acropolis was rebuilt
and was made into a marble shrine to the Goddess Athena.
Pericles, the leader of the Athenian democracy, sent far and
wide to find famous sculptors and painters and scientists to
make the city more beautiful and the young Athenians more
worthy of their home. At the same time he kept a watchful
eye on Sparta and built high walls which connected Athens
with the sea and made her the strongest fortress of that day.

An insignificant quarrel between two little Greek cities led
to the final conflict. For thirty years the war between Athens
and Sparta continued. It ended in a terrible disaster for

During the third year of the war the plague had entered
the city. More than half of the people and Pericles, the great
leader, had been killed. The plague was followed by a period
of bad and untrustworthy leadership. A brilliant young fellow
by the name of Alcibiades had gained the favor of the
popular assembly. He suggested a raid upon the Spartan
colony of Syracuse in Sicily. An expedition was equipped and
everything was ready. But Alcibiades got mixed up in a street
brawl and was forced to flee. The general who succeeded him
was a bungler. First he lost his ships and then he lost his
army, and the few surviving Athenians were thrown into the
stone-quarries of Syracuse, where they died from hunger and

The expedition had killed all the young men of Athens.
The city was doomed. After a long siege the town surrendered
in April of the year 404. The high walls were demolished.
The navy was taken away by the Spartans. Athens ceased to
exist as the center of the great colonial empire which it had
conquered during the days of its prosperity. But that wonderful
desire to learn and to know and to investigate which
had distinguished her free citizens during the days of greatness
and prosperity did not perish with the walls and the
ships. It continued to live. It became even more brilliant.

Athens no longer shaped the destinies of the land of Greece.
But now, as the home of the first great university the city began
to influence the minds of intelligent people far beyond
the narrow frontiers of Hellas.



WHEN the Achaeans had left their homes along the banks of
the Danube to look for pastures new, they had spent some
time among the mountains of Macedonia. Ever since, the
Greeks had maintained certain more or less formal relations
with the people of this northern country. The Macedonians
from their side had kept themselves well informed about conditions
in Greece.

Now it happened, just when Sparta and Athens had finished
their disastrous war for the leadership of Hellas, that
Macedonia was ruled by an extraordinarily clever man by
the name of Philip. He admired the Greek spirit in letters and
art but he despised the Greek lack of self-control in political
affairs. It irritated him to see a perfectly good people waste its
men and money upon fruitless quarrels. So he settled the
difficulty by making himself the master of all Greece and then
he asked his new subjects to join him on a voyage which he
meant to pay to Persia in return for the visit which Xerxes
had paid the Greeks one hundred and fifty years before.

Unfortunately Philip was murdered before he could start
upon this well-prepared expedition. The task of avenging the
destruction of Athens was left to Philip's son Alexander, the
beloved pupil of Aristotle, wisest of all Greek teachers.

Alexander bade farewell to Europe in the spring of the
year 334 B.C. Seven years later he reached India. In the
meantime he had destroyed Phoenicia, the old rival of the Greek
merchants. He had conquered Egypt and had been worshipped
by the people of the Nile valley as the son and heir of the
Pharaohs. He had defeated the last Persian king--he had
overthrown the Persian empire he had given orders to rebuild
Babylon--he had led his troops into the heart of the
Himalayan mountains and had made the entire world a Macedonian
province and dependency. Then he stopped and announced
even more ambitious plans.

The newly formed Empire must be brought under the influence
of the Greek mind. The people must be taught the Greek
language--they must live in cities built after a Greek model.
The Alexandrian soldier now turned school-master. The military
camps of yesterday became the peaceful centres of the
newly imported Greek civilisation. Higher and higher did the
flood of Greek manners and Greek customs rise, when suddenly
Alexander was stricken with a fever and died in the old
palace of King Hammurabi of Babylon in the year 323.

Then the waters receded. But they left behind the fertile clay
of a higher civilisation and Alexander, with all his childish
ambitions and his silly vanities, had performed a most valuable
service. His Empire did not long survive him. A number of
ambitious generals divided the territory among themselves.
But they too remained faithful to the dream of a great world
brotherhood of Greek and Asiatic ideas and knowledge.

They maintained their independence until the Romans
added western Asia and Egypt to their other domains. The
strange inheritance of this Hellenistic civilisation (part Greek,
part Persian, part Egyptian and Babylonian) fell to the
Roman conquerors. During the following centuries, it got
such a firm hold upon the Roman world, that we feel its influence
in our own lives this very day.



THUS far, from the top of our high tower we have been
looking eastward. But from this time on, the history of Egypt
and Mesopotamia is going to grow less interesting and I must
take you to study the western landscape.

Before we do this, let us stop a moment and make clear to
ourselves what we have seen.

First of all I showed you prehistoric man--a creature very
simple in his habits and very unattractive in his manners. I
told you how he was the most defenceless of the many animals
that roamed through the early wilderness of the five continents,
but being possessed of a larger and better brain, he managed to
hold his own.

Then came the glaciers and the many centuries of cold
weather, and life on this planet became so difficult that man was
obliged to think three times as hard as ever before if he wished
to survive. Since, however, that ``wish to survive'' was (and is)
the mainspring which keeps every living being going full tilt to
the last gasp of its breath, the brain of glacial man was set to
work in all earnestness. Not only did these hardy people manage
to exist through the long cold spells which killed many
ferocious animals, but when the earth became warm and comfortable
once more, prehistoric man had learned a number of
things which gave him such great advantages over his less intelligent
neighbors that the danger of extinction (a very serious
one during the first half million years of man's residence upon
this planet) became a very remote one.

I told you how these earliest ancestors of ours were slowly
plodding along when suddenly (and for reasons that are not
well understood) the people who lived in the valley of the Nile
rushed ahead and almost over night, created the first centre of

Then I showed you Mesopotamia, ``the land between the
rivers,'' which was the second great school of the human race.
And I made you a map of the little island bridges of the AEgean
Sea, which carried the knowledge and the science of the old
east to the young west, where lived the Greeks.

Next I told you of an Indo-European tribe, called the Hellenes,
who thousands of years before had left the heart of
Asia and who had in the eleventh century before our era pushed
their way into the rocky peninsula of Greece and who, since
then, have been known to us as the Greeks. And I told
you the story of the little Greek cities that were really states,
where the civilisation of old Egypt and Asia was transfigured
(that is a big word, but you can ``figure out'' what it means)
into something quite new, something that was much nobler and
finer than anything that had gone before.

When you look at the map you will see how by this time
civilisation has described a semi-circle. It begins in Egypt,
and by way of Mesopotamia and the AEgean Islands it moves
westward until it reaches the European continent. The first
four thousand years, Egyptians and Babylonians and Phoenicians
and a large number of Semitic tribes (please remember
that the Jews were but one of a large number of Semitic peoples)
have carried the torch that was to illuminate the world.
They now hand it over to the Indo-European Greeks, who become
the teachers of another Indo-European tribe, called the
Romans. But meanwhile the Semites have pushed westward
along the northern coast of Africa and have made themselves
the rulers of the western half of the Mediterranean just when
the eastern half has become a Greek (or Indo-European) possession.

This, as you shall see in a moment, leads to a terrible conflict
between the two rival races, and out of their struggle arises
the victorious Roman Empire, which is to take this Egyptian-
Mesopotamian-Greek civilisation to the furthermost corners of
the European continent, where it serves as the foundation upon
which our modern society is based.

I know all this sounds very complicated, but if you get hold
of these few principles, the rest of our history will become a
great deal simpler. The maps will make clear what the words
fail to tell. And after this short intermission, we go back to
our story and give you an account of the famous war between
Carthage and Rome.



THE little Phoenician trading post of Kart-hadshat stood
on a low hill which overlooked the African Sea, a stretch of
water ninety miles wide which separates Africa from Europe.
It was an ideal spot for a commercial centre. Almost too ideal.
It grew too fast and became too rich. When in the sixth century
before our era, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon destroyed
Tyre, Carthage broke off all further relations with the Mother
Country and became an independent state--the great western
advance-post of the Semitic races.

Unfortunately the city had inherited many of the traits
which for a thousand years had been characteristic of the
Phoenicians. It was a vast business-house, protected by a
strong navy, indifferent to most of the finer aspects of life.
The city and the surrounding country and the distant colonies
were all ruled by a small but exceedingly powerful group of
rich men, The Greek word for rich is ``ploutos'' and the Greeks
called such a government by ``rich men'' a ``Plutocracy.'' Carthage
was a plutocracy and the real power of the state lay in
the hands of a dozen big ship-owners and mine-owners and
merchants who met in the back room of an office and regarded
their common Fatherland as a business enterprise which ought
to yield them a decent profit. They were however wide awake
and full of energy and worked very hard.

As the years went by the influence of Carthage upon her
neighbours increased until the greater part of the African
coast, Spain and certain regions of France were Carthaginian
possessions, and paid tribute, taxes and dividends to the mighty
city on the African Sea.

Of course, such a ``plutocracy'' was forever at the mercy of
the crowd. As long as there was plenty of work and wages
were high, the majority of the citizens were quite contented,
allowed their ``betters'' to rule them and asked no embarrassing
questions. But when no ships left the harbor, when no ore
was brought to the smelting-ovens, when dockworkers and
stevedores were thrown out of employment, then there were
grumblings and there was a demand that the popular assembly
be called together as in the olden days when Carthage had
been a self-governing republic.

To prevent such an occurrence the plutocracy was obliged
to keep the business of the town going at full speed. They
had managed to do this very successfully for almost five hun-
dred years when they were greatly disturbed by certain rumors
which reached them from the western coast of Italy. It was
said that a little village on the banks of the Tiber had suddenly
risen to great power and was making itself the acknowledged
leader of all the Latin tribes who inhabited central Italy.
It was also said that this village, which by the way was called
Rome, intended to build ships and go after the commerce of
Sicily and the southern coast of France.

Carthage could not possibly tolerate such competition. The
young rival must be destroyed lest the Carthaginian rulers
lose their prestige as the absolute rulers of the western
Mediterranean. The rumors were duly investigated and in a
general way these were the facts that came to light.

The west coast of Italy had long been neglected by civilisation.
Whereas in Greece all the good harbours faced eastward
and enjoyed a full view of the busy islands of the AEgean,
the west coast of Italy contemplated nothing more exciting
than the desolate waves of the Mediterranean. The country
was poor. It was therefore rarely visited by foreign merchants
and the natives were allowed to live in undisturbed possession
of their hills and their marshy plains.

The first serious invasion of this land came from the north.
At an unknown date certain Indo-European tribes had managed
to find their way through the passes of the Alps and had
pushed southward until they had filled the heel and the toe of
the famous Italian boot with their villages and their flocks.
Of these early conquerors we know nothing. No Homer sang
their glory. Their own accounts of the foundation of Rome
(written eight hundred years later when the little city had become
the centre of an Empire) are fairy stories and do not belong
in a history. Romulus and Remus jumping across each
other's walls (I always forget who jumped across whose wall)
make entertaining reading, but the foundation of the City of
Rome was a much more prosaic affair. Rome began as a thousand
American cities have done, by being a convenient place
for barter and horse-trading. It lay in the heart of the plains
of central Italy The Tiber provided direct access to the sea.
The land-road from north to south found here a convenient
ford which could be used all the year around. And seven little
hills along the banks of the river offered the inhabitants a safe
shelter against their enemies who lived in the mountains and
those who lived beyond the horizon of the nearby sea.

The mountaineers were called the Sabines. They were a
rough crowd with an unholy desire for easy plunder. But they
were very backward. They used stone axes and wooden
shields and were no match for the Romans with their steel
swords. The sea-people on the other hand were dangerous
foes. They were called the Etruscans and they were (and
still are) one of the great mysteries of history. Nobody knew
(or knows) whence they came; who they were; what had driven
them away from their original homes. We have found the remains
of their cities and their cemeteries and their waterworks
all along the Italian coast. We are familiar with their inscriptions.
But as no one has ever been able to decipher the Etruscan
alphabet, these written messages are, so far, merely annoying
and not at all useful.

Our best guess is that the Etruscans came originally from
Asia Minor and that a great war or a pestilence in that country
had forced them to go away and seek a new home elsewhere.
Whatever the reason for their coming, the Etruscans played a
great role in history. They carried the pollen of the ancient
civilisation from the east to the west and they taught the
Romans who, as we know, came from the north, the first principles
of architecture and street-building and fighting and art
and cookery and medicine and astronomy.

But just as the Greeks had not loved their AEgean teachers,
in this same way did the Romans hate their Etruscan masters.
They got rid of them as soon as they could and the opportunity
offered itself when Greek merchants discovered the
commercial possibilities of Italy and when the first Greek
vessels reached Rome. The Greeks came to trade, but they
stayed to instruct. They found the tribes who inhabited the
Roman country-side (and who were called the Latins) quite
willing to learn such things as might be of practical use. At
once they understood the great benefit that could be derived
from a written alphabet and they copied that of the Greeks.
They also understood the commercial advantages of a well-
regulated system of coins and measures and weights. Eventually
the Romans swallowed Greek civilisation hook, line and

They even welcomed the Gods of the Greeks to their
country. Zeus was taken to Rome where he became known as
Jupiter and the other divinities followed him. The Roman Gods
however never were quite like their cheerful cousins who had
accompanied the Greeks on their road through life and through
history. The Roman Gods were State Functionaries. Each
one managed his own department with great prudence and a
deep sense of justice, but in turn he was exact in demanding the
obedience of his worshippers. This obedience the Romans rendered
with scrupulous care. But they never established the
cordial personal relations and that charming friendship which
had existed between the old Hellenes and the mighty residents
of the high Olympian peak.

The Romans did not imitate the Greek form of government,
but being of the same Indo-European stock as the people
of Hellas, the early history of Rome resembles that of
Athens and the other Greek cities. They did not find it difficult
to get rid of their kings, the descendants of the ancient
tribal chieftains. But once the kings had been driven from
the city, the Romans were forced to bridle the power of the
nobles, and it took many centuries before they managed to
establish a system which gave every free citizen of Rome a
chance to take a personal interest in the affairs of his town.

Thereafter the Romans enjoyed one great advantage over
the Greeks. They managed the affairs of their country without
making too many speeches. They were less imaginative
than the Greeks and they preferred an ounce of action to a
pound of words. They understood the tendency of the multi-
tude (the ``plebe,'' as the assemblage of free citizens was called)
only too well to waste valuable time upon mere talk. They
therefore placed the actual business of running the city into
the hands of two ``consuls'' who were assisted by a council of
Elders, called the Senate (because the word ``senex'' means an
old man). As a matter of custom and practical advantage the
senators were elected from the nobility. But their power had
been strictly defined.

Rome at one time had passed through the same sort of
struggle between the poor and the rich which had forced
Athens to adopt the laws of Draco and Solon. In Rome this
conflict had occurred in the fifth century B. C. As a result the
freemen had obtained a written code of laws which protected
them against the despotism of the aristocratic judges by the
institution of the ``Tribune.'' These Tribunes were city-
magistrates, elected by the freemen. They had the right to protect
any citizen against those actions of the government officials
which were thought to be unjust. A consul had the right to
condemn a man to death, but if the case had not been absolutely
proved the Tribune could interfere and save the poor
fellow's life.

But when I use the word Rome, I seem to refer to a little
city of a few thousand inhabitants. And the real strength of
Rome lay in the country districts outside her walls. And it
was in the government of these outlying provinces that Rome
at an early age showed her wonderful gift as a colonising

In very early times Rome had been the only strongly fortified
city in central Italy, but it had always offered a hospitable
refuge to other Latin tribes who happened to be in danger of
attack. The Latin neighbours had recognised the advantages
of a close union with such a powerful friend and they had tried
to find a basis for some sort of defensive and offensive alliance.
Other nations, Egyptians, Babylonians, Phoenicians,
even Greeks, would have insisted upon a treaty of submission
on the part of the ``barbarians,'' The Romans did nothing of
the sort. They gave the ``outsider'' a chance to become partners
in a common ``res publica''--or common-wealth.

``You want to join us,'' they said. ``Very well, go ahead
and join. We shall treat you as if you were full-fledged citizens
of Rome. In return for this privilege we expect you to
fight for our city, the mother of us all, whenever it shall be

The ``outsider'' appreciated this generosity and he showed
his gratitude by his unswerving loyalty.

Whenever a Greek city had been attacked, the foreign
residents had moved out as quickly as they could. Why defend
something which meant nothing to them but a temporary
boarding house in which they were tolerated as long as they
paid their bills? But when the enemy was before the gates
of Rome, all the Latins rushed to her defence. It was their
Mother who was in danger. It was their true ``home'' even if
they lived a hundred miles away and had never seen the walls
of the sacred Hills.

No defeat and no disaster could change this sentiment. In
the beginning of the fourth century B.C. the wild Gauls forced
their way into Italy. They had defeated the Roman army near
the River Allia and had marched upon the city. They had
taken Rome and then they expected that the people would
come and sue for peace. They waited, but nothing happened.
After a short time the Gauls found themselves surrounded by
a hostile population which made it impossible for them to obtain
supplies. After seven months, hunger forced them to withdraw.
The policy of Rome to treat the ``foreigner'' on equal
terms had proved a great success and Rome stood stronger than
ever before.

This short account of the early history of Rome shows you
the enormous difference between the Roman ideal of a healthy
state, and that of the ancient world which was embodied in the
town of Carthage. The Romans counted upon the cheerful
and hearty co-operation between a number of ``equal citizens.''
The Carthaginians, following the example of Egypt
and western Asia, insisted upon the unreasoning (and therefore
unwilling) obedience of ``Subjects'' and when these failed
they hired professional soldiers to do their fighting for them.

You will now understand why Carthage was bound to fear
such a clever and powerful enemy and why the plutocracy of
Carthage was only too willing to pick a quarrel that they might
destroy the dangerous rival before it was too late.

But the Carthaginians, being good business men, knew that
it never pays to rush matters. They proposed to the Romans
that their respective cities draw two circles on the map and
that each town claim one of these circles as her own ``sphere
of influence'' and promise to keep out of the other fellow's
circle. The agreement was promptly made and was broken just
as promptly when both sides thought it wise to send their
armies to Sicily where a rich soil and a bad government invited
foreign interference.

The war which followed (the so-called first Punic War)
lasted twenty-four years. It was fought out on the high seas
and in the beginning it seemed that the experienced Car-
thaginian navy would defeat the newly created Roman fleet.
Following their ancient tactics, the Carthaginian ships would
either ram the enemy vessels or by a bold attack from the side
they would break their oars and would then kill the sailors of
the helpless vessel with their arrows and with fire balls. But
Roman engineers invented a new craft which carried a boarding
bridge across which the Roman infantrymen stormed the
hostile ship. Then there was a sudden end to Carthaginian
victories. At the battle of Mylae their fleet was badly defeated.
Carthage was obliged to sue for peace, and Sicily became part
of the Roman domains.

Twenty-three years later new trouble arose. Rome (in
quest of copper) had taken the island of Sardinia. Carthage
(in quest of silver) thereupon occupied all of southern Spain.
This made Carthage a direct neighbour of the Romans. The
latter did not like this at all and they ordered their troops to
cross the Pyrenees and watch the Carthaginian army of occupation.

The stage was set for the second outbreak between the two
rivals. Once more a Greek colony was the pretext for a war.
The Carthaginians were besieging Saguntum on the east coast
of Spain. The Saguntians appealed to Rome and Rome, as
usual, was willing to help. The Senate promised the help of
the Latin armies, but the preparation for this expedition took
some time, and meanwhile Saguntum had been taken and had
been destroyed. This had been done in direct opposition to
the will of Rome. The Senate decided upon war. One Roman
army was to cross the African sea and make a landing on Carthaginian
soil. A second division was to keep the Carthaginian
armies occupied in Spain to prevent them from rushing to the
aid of the home town. It was an excellent plan and everybody
expected a great victory. But the Gods had decided

It was the fall of the year 218 before the birth of Christ
and the Roman army which was to attack the Carthaginians in
Spain had left Italy. People were eagerly waiting for news of
an easy and complete victory when a terrible rumour began to
spread through the plain of the Po. Wild mountaineers, their
lips trembling with fear, told of hundreds of thousands of
brown men accompanied by strange beasts ``each one as big as
a house,'' who had suddenly emerged from the clouds of snow
which surrounded the old Graian pass through which Hercules,
thousands of years before, had driven the oxen of Geryon on
his way from Spain to Greece. Soon an endless stream of
bedraggled refugees appeared before the gates of Rome, with
more complete details. Hannibal, the son of Hamilcar, with
fifty thousand soldiers, nine thousand horsemen and thirty-
seven fighting elephants, had crossed the Pyrenees. He had
defeated the Roman army of Scipio on the banks of the Rhone
and he had guided his army safely across the mountain passes
of the Alps although it was October and the roads were thickly
covered with snow and ice. Then he had joined forces with
the Gauls and together they had defeated a second Roman
army just before they crossed the Trebia and laid siege to
Placentia, the northern terminus of the road which connected
Rome with the province of the Alpine districts.

The Senate, surprised but calm and energetic as usual,
hushed up the news of these many defeats and sent two fresh
armies to stop the invader. Hannibal managed to surprise
these troops on a narrow road along the shores of the Trasimene
Lake and there he killed all the Roman officers and most
of their men. This time there was a panic among the people
of Rome, but the Senate kept its nerve. A third army was
organised and the command was given to Quintus Fabius Maximus
with full power to act ``as was necessary to save the state.''

Fabius knew that he must be very careful lest all be lost.
His raw and untrained men, the last available soldiers, were
no match for Hannibal's veterans. He refused to accept battle
but forever he followed Hannibal, destroyed everything eatable,
destroyed the roads, attacked small detachments and generally
weakened the morale of the Carthaginian troops by a
most distressing and annoying form of guerilla warfare.

Such methods however did not satisfy the fearsome crowds
who had found safety behind the walls of Rome. They wanted
``action.'' Something must be done and must be done quickly.
A popular hero by the name of Varro, the sort of man who
went about the city telling everybody how much better he could
do things than slow old Fabius, the ``Delayer,'' was made
commander-in-chief by popular acclamation. At the battle of
Cannae (216) he suffered the most terrible defeat of Roman
history. More than seventy thousand men were killed. Hannibal
was master of all Italy.

He marched from one end of the peninsula to the other,
proclaiming himself the ``deliverer from the yoke of Rome''
and asking the different provinces to join him in warfare upon
the mother city. Then once more the wisdom of Rome bore
noble fruit. With the exceptions of Capua and Syracuse, all
Roman cities remained loyal. Hannibal, the deliverer,
found himself opposed by the people whose friend he pretended
to be. He was far away from home and did not like
the situation. He sent messengers to Carthage to ask for fresh
supplies and new men. Alas, Carthage could not send him

The Romans with their boarding-bridges, were the masters
of the sea. Hannibal must help himself as best he could.
He continued to defeat the Roman armies that were sent out
against him, but his own numbers were decreasing rapidly and
the Italian peasants held aloof from this self-appointed

After many years of uninterrupted victories, Hannibal
found himself besieged in the country which he had just
conquered. For a moment, the luck seemed to turn. Hasdrubal,
his brother, had defeated the Roman armies in Spain. He had
crossed the Alps to come to Hannibal's assistance. He sent
messengers to the south to tell of his arrival and ask the other
army to meet him in the plain of the Tiber. Unfortunately the
messengers fell into the hands of the Romans and Hannibal
waited in vain for further news until his brother's head, neatly
packed in a basket, came rolling into his camp and told him
of the fate of the last of the Carthaginian troops.

With Hasdrubal out of the way, young Publius Scipio
easily reconquered Spain and four years later the Romans
were ready for a final attack upon Carthage. Hannibal was
called back. He crossed the African Sea and tried to organise
the defences of his home-city. In the year 202 at the battle
of Zama, the Carthaginians were defeated. Hannibal fled to
Tyre. From there he went to Asia Minor to stir up the Syrians
and the Macedonians against Rome. He accomplished very
little but his activities among these Asiatic powers gave the
Romans an excuse to carry their warfare into the territory of
the east and annex the greater part of the AEgean world.

Driven from one city to another, a fugitive without a home,
Hannibal at last knew that the end of his ambitious dream had
come. His beloved city of Carthage had been ruined by the
war. She had been forced to sign a terrible peace. Her navy
had been sunk. She had been forbidden to make war without
Roman permission. She had been condemned to pay the Romans
millions of dollars for endless years to come. Life offered
no hope of a better future. In the year 190 B.C. Hannibal took
poison and killed himself.

Forty years later, the Romans forced their last war upon
Carthage. Three long years the inhabitants of the old Phoenician
colony held out against the power of the new republic.
Hunger forced them to surrender. The few men and women
who had survived the siege were sold as slaves. The city was
set on fire. For two whole weeks the store-houses and the pal-
aces and the great arsenal burned. Then a terrible curse was
pronounced upon the blackened ruins and the Roman legions
returned to Italy to enjoy their victory.

For the next thousand years, the Mediterranean remained
a European sea. But as soon as the Roman Empire had been
destroyed, Asia made another attempt to dominate this great
inland sea, as you will learn when I tell you about Mohammed.



THE Roman Empire was an accident. No one planned it.
It ``happened.'' No famous general or statesman or cut-
throat ever got up and said ``Friends, Romans, Citizens, we
must found an Empire. Follow me and together we shall conquer
all the land from the Gates of Hercules to Mount Taurus.''

Rome produced famous generals and equally distinguished
statesmen and cut-throats, and Roman armies fought all over
the world. But the Roman empire-making was done without
a preconceived plan. The average Roman was a very matter-
of-fact citizen. He disliked theories about government. When
someone began to recite ``eastward the course of Roman Empire,
etc., etc.,'' he hastily left the forum. He just continued
to take more and more land because circumstances forced him
to do so. He was not driven by ambition or by greed. Both
by nature and inclination he was a farmer and wanted to stay
at home. But when he was attacked he was obliged to defend
himself and when the enemy happened to cross the sea to ask
for aid in a distant country then the patient Roman marched
many dreary miles to defeat this dangerous foe and when this
had been accomplished, he stayed behind to adminster{sic} his
newly conquered provinces lest they fall into the hands of
wandering Barbarians and become themselves a menace to
Roman safety. It sounds rather complicated and yet to the
contemporaries it was so very simple, as you shall see in a moment.

In the year 203 B.C. Scipio had crossed the African Sea
and had carried the war into Africa. Carthage had called Hannibal
back. Badly supported by his mercenaries, Hannibal
had been defeated near Zama. The Romans had asked for his
surrender and Hannibal had fled to get aid from the kings of
Macedonia and Syria, as I told you in my last chapter.

The rulers of these two countries (remnants of the Empire
of Alexander the Great) just then were contemplating an
expedition against Egypt. They hoped to divide the rich Nile
valley between themselves. The king of Egypt had heard of
this and he had asked Rome to come to his support. The stage
was set for a number of highly interesting plots and counter-
plots. But the Romans, with their lack of imagination, rang
the curtain down before the play had been fairly started.
Their legions completely defeated the heavy Greek phalanx
which was still used by the Macedonians as their battle formation.
That happened in the year 197 B.C. at the battle in the
plains of Cynoscephalae, or ``Dogs' Heads,'' in central Thessaly.

The Romans then marched southward to Attica and informed
the Greeks that they had come to ``deliver the Hellenes
from the Macedonian yoke.'' The Greeks, having learned
nothing in their years of semi-slavery, used their new freedom
in a most unfortunate way. All the little city-states once more
began to quarrel with each other as they had done in the good
old days. The Romans, who had little understanding and less
love for these silly bickerings of a race which they rather despised,
showed great forebearance. But tiring of these endless
dissensions they lost patience, invaded Greece, burned down
Corinth (to ``encourage the other Greeks'') and sent a Roman
governor to Athens to rule this turbulent province. In this
way, Macedonia and Greece became buffer states which protected
Rome's eastern frontier.

Meanwhile right across the Hellespont lay the Kingdom of
Syria, and Antiochus III, who ruled that vast land, had shown
great eagerness when his distinguished guest, General Han-
nibal, explained to him how easy it would be to invade Italy
and sack the city of Rome.

Lucius Scipio, a brother of Scipio the African fighter who
had defeated Hannibal and his Carthaginians at Zama, was
sent to Asia Minor. He destroyed the armies of the Syrian
king near Magnesia (in the year 190 B.C.) Shortly afterwards,
Antiochus was lynched by his own people. Asia Minor
became a Roman protectorate and the small City-Republic of
Rome was mistress of most of the lands which bordered upon
the Mediterranean.



WHEN the Roman armies returned from these many victorious
campaigns, they were received with great jubilation.
Alas and alack! this sudden glory did not make the country any
happier. On the contrary. The endless campaigns had ruined
the farmers who had been obliged to do the hard work of Empire
making. It had placed too much power in the hands of the
successful generals (and their private friends) who had used
the war as an excuse for wholesale robbery.

The old Roman Republic had been proud of the simplicity
which had characterised the lives of her famous men. The
new Republic felt ashamed of the shabby coats and the high
principles which had been fashionable in the days of its grandfathers.
It became a land of rich people ruled by rich people
for the benefit of rich people. As such it was doomed to
disastrous failure, as I shall now tell you.

Within less than a century and a half. Rome had become
the mistress of practically all the land around the Mediterranean.
In those early days of history a prisoner of war lost
his freedom and became a slave. The Roman regarded war as
a very serious business and he showed no mercy to a conquered
foe. After the fall of Carthage, the Carthaginian women and
children were sold into bondage together with their own slaves.
And a like fate awaited the obstinate inhabitants of Greece and
Macedonia and Spain and Syria when they dared to revolt
against the Roman power.

Two thousand years ago a slave was merely a piece of
machinery. Nowadays a rich man invests his money in factories.
The rich people of Rome (senators, generals and war-
profiteers) invested theirs in land and in slaves. The land
they bought or took in the newly-acquired provinces. The
slaves they bought in open market wherever they happened to
be cheapest. During most of the third and second centuries
before Christ there was a plentiful supply, and as a result the
landowners worked their slaves until they dropped dead in their
tracks, when they bought new ones at the nearest bargain-counter
of Corinthian or Carthaginian captives.

And now behold the fate of the freeborn farmer!

He had done his duty toward Rome and he had fought her
battles without complaint. But when he came home after ten,
fifteen or twenty years, his lands were covered with weeds and
his family had been ruined. But he was a strong man and
willing to begin life anew. He sowed and planted and waited
for the harvest. He carried his grain to the market together
with his cattle and his poultry, to find that the large landowners
who worked their estates with slaves could underbid him all
along the line. For a couple of years he tried to hold his own.
Then he gave up in despair. He left the country and he went
to the nearest city. In the city he was as hungry as he had been
before on the land. But he shared his misery with thousands
of other disinherited beings. They crouched together in filthy
hovels in the suburbs of the large cities. They were apt
to get sick and die from terrible epidemics. They were all
profoundly discontented. They had fought for their country and
this was their reward. They were always willing to listen to
those plausible spell-binders who gather around a public
grievance like so many hungry vultures, and soon they became a
grave menace to the safety of the state.

But the class of the newly-rich shrugged its shoulders.
``We have our army and our policemen,'' they argued, ``they
will keep the mob in order.'' And they hid themselves behind
the high walls of their pleasant villas and cultivated their
gardens and read the poems of a certain Homer which a Greek
slave had just translated into very pleasing Latin hexameters.

In a few families however the old tradition of unselfish
service to the Commonwealth continued. Cornelia, the daughter
of Scipio Africanus, had been married to a Roman by the
name of Gracchus. She had two sons, Tiberius and Gaius.
When the boys grew up they entered politics and tried to bring
about certain much-needed reforms. A census had shown
that most of the land of the Italian peninsula was owned by
two thousand noble families. Tiberius Gracchus, having been
elected a Tribune, tried to help the freemen. He revived two
ancient laws which restricted the number of acres which a single
owner might possess. In this way he hoped to revive the
valuable old class of small and independent freeholders. The
newly-rich called him a robber and an enemy of the state.
There were street riots. A party of thugs was hired to kill the
popular Tribune. Tiberius Gracchus was attacked when he
entered the assembly and was beaten to death. Ten years later
his brother Gaius tried the experiment of reforming a nation
against the expressed wishes of a strong privileged class. He
passed a ``poor law'' which was meant to help the destitute
farmers. Eventually it made the greater part of the Roman
citizens into professional beggars.

He established colonies of destitute people in distant parts
of the empire, but these settlements failed to attract the right
sort of people. Before Gaius Gracchus could do more harm he
too was murdered and his followers were either killed or exiled.
The first two reformers had been gentlemen. The two who
came after were of a very different stamp. They were
professional soldiers. One was called Marius. The name of the
other was Sulla. Both enjoyed a large personal following.

Sulla was the leader of the landowners. Marius, the victor
in a great battle at the foot of the Alps when the Teutons
and the Cimbri had been annihilated, was the popular hero
of the disinherited freemen.

Now it happened in the year 88 B.C. that the Senate of
Rome was greatly disturbed by rumours that came from Asia.
Mithridates, king of a country along the shores of the Black
Sea, and a Greek on his mother's side, had seen the possibility
of establishing a second Alexandrian Empire. He began his
campaign for world-domination with the murder of all Roman
citizens who happened to be in Asia Minor, men, women and
children. Such an act, of course, meant war. The Senate
equipped an army to march against the King of Pontus and
punish him for his crime. But who was to be commander-in-
chief? ``Sulla,'' said the Senate, ``because he is Consul.''
``Marius,'' said the mob, ``because he has been Consul five times
and because he is the champion of our rights.''

Possession is nine points of the law. Sulla happened to be
in actual command of the army. He went west to defeat
Mithridates and Marius fled to Africa. There he waited
until he heard that Sulla had crossed into Asia. He then
returned to Italy, gathered a motley crew of malcontents,
marched on Rome and entered the city with his professional
highwaymen, spent five days and five nights, slaughtering the
enemies of the Senatorial party, got himself elected Consul and
promptly died from the excitement of the last fortnight.

There followed four years of disorder. Then Sulla, having
defeated Mithridates, announced that he was ready to return
to Rome and settle a few old scores of his own. He was as
good as his word. For weeks his soldiers were busy executing
those of their fellow citizens who were suspected of democratic
sympathies. One day they got hold of a young fellow who
had been often seen in the company of Marius. They were
going to hang him when some one interfered. ``The boy is too
young,'' he said, and they let him go. His name was Julius
Caesar. You shall meet him again on the next page.

As for Sulla, he became ``Dictator,'' which meant sole and
supreme ruler of all the Roman possessions. He ruled Rome
for four years, and he died quietly in his bed, having spent the
last year of his life tenderly raising his cabbages, as was the
custom of so many Romans who had spent a lifetime killing
their fellow-men.

But conditions did not grow better. On the contrary, they
grew worse. Another general, Gnaeus Pompeius, or Pompey,
a close friend of Sulla, went east to renew the war against the
ever troublesome Mithridates. He drove that energetic potentate
into the mountains where Mithridates took poison and
killed himself, well knowing what fate awaited him as a Roman
captive. Next he re-established the authority of Rome over
Syria, destroyed Jerusalem, roamed through western Asia,
trying to revive the myth of Alexander the Great, and at last
(in the year 62) returned to Rome with a dozen ship-loads of
defeated Kings and Princes and Generals, all of whom were
forced to march in the triumphal procession of this enormously
popular Roman who presented his city with the sum of forty
million dollars in plunder.

It was necessary that the government of Rome be placed
in the hands of a strong man. Only a few months before, the
town had almost fallen into the hands of a good-for-nothing
young aristocrat by the name of Catiline, who had gambled
away his money and hoped to reimburse himself for his losses by
a little plundering. Cicero, a public-spirited lawyer, had discovered
the plot, had warned the Senate, and had forced Catiline
to flee. But there were other young men with similar ambitions
and it was no time for idle talk.

Pompey organised a triumvirate which was to take charge
of affairs. He became the leader of this Vigilante Committee.
Gaius Julius Caesar, who had made a reputation for himself
as governor of Spain, was the second in command. The
third was an indifferent sort of person by the name of Crassus.
He had been elected because he was incredibly rich, having been
a successful contractor of war supplies. He soon went upon
an expedition against the Parthians and was killed.

As for Caesar, who was by far the ablest of the three, he
decided that he needed a little more military glory to become
a popular hero. He crossed the Alps and conquered that part
of the world which is now called France. Then he hammered
a solid wooden bridge across the Rhine and invaded the land
of the wild Teutons. Finally he took ship and visited England.
Heaven knows where he might have ended if he had not been
forced to return to Italy. Pompey, so he was informed, had
been appointed dictator for life. This of course meant that
Caesar was to be placed on the list of the ``retired officers,'' and
the idea did not appeal to him. He remembered that he had
begun life as a follower of Marius. He decided to teach the
Senators and their ``dictator'' another lesson. He crossed the
Rubicon River which separated the province of Cis-alpine Gaul
from Italy. Everywhere he was received as the ``friend of the
people.'' Without difficulty Caesar entered Rome and Pompey
fled to Greece Caesar followed him and defeated his followers
near Pharsalus. Pompey sailed across the Mediterranean and
escaped to Egypt. When he landed he was murdered by order
of young king Ptolemy. A few days later Caesar arrived.
He found himself caught in a trap. Both the Egyptians and
the Roman garrison which had remained faithful to Pompey,
attacked his camp.

Fortune was with Caesar. He succeeded in setting fire to
the Egyptian fleet. Incidentally the sparks of the burning
vessels fell on the roof of the famous library of Alexandria
(which was just off the water front,) and destroyed it. Next
he attacked the Egyptian army, drove the soldiers into the
Nile, drowned Ptolemy, and established a new government
under Cleopatra, the sister of the late king. Just then word
reached him that Pharnaces, the son and heir of Mithridates,
had gone on the war-path. Caesar marched northward, defeated
Pharnaces in a war which lasted five days, sent word of
his victory to Rome in the famous sentence ``veni, vidi, vici,''
which is Latin for ``I came, I saw, I conquered,'' and returned
to Egypt where he fell desperately in love with Cleopatra, who
followed him to Rome when he returned to take charge of the
government, in the year 46. He marched at the head of not
less than four different victory-parades, having won four
different campaigns.

Then Caesar appeared in the Senate to report upon his
adventures, and the grateful Senate made him ``dictator'' for
ten years. It was a fatal step.

The new dictator made serious attempts to reform the
Roman state. He made it possible for freemen to become
members of the Senate. He conferred the rights of citizenship
upon distant communities as had been done in the early days
of Roman history. He permitted ``foreigners'' to exercise
influence upon the government. He reformed the administration
of the distant provinces which certain aristocratic families
had come to regard as their private possessions. In short he
did many things for the good of the majority of the people but
which made him thoroughly unpopular with the most powerful
men in the state. Half a hundred young aristocrats formed a
plot ``to save the Republic.'' On the Ides of March (the fifteenth
of March according to that new calendar which Caesar
had brought with him from Egypt) Caesar was murdered when
he entered the Senate. Once more Rome was without a master.

There were two men who tried to continue the tradition of
Caesar's glory. One was Antony, his former secretary. The
other was Octavian, Caesar's grand-nephew and heir to his
estate. Octavian remained in Rome, but Antony went to Egypt
to be near Cleopatra with whom he too had fallen in love, as
seems to have been the habit of Roman generals.

A war broke out between the two. In the battle of Actium,
Octavian defeated Antony. Antony killed himself and
Cleopatra was left alone to face the enemy. She tried very
hard to make Octavian her third Roman conquest. When she
saw that she could make no impression upon this very proud
aristocrat, she killed herself, and Egypt became a Roman province.

As for Octavian, he was a very wise young man and he did
not repeat the mistake of his famous uncle. He knew how
people will shy at words. He was very modest in his demands
when he returned to Rome. He did not want to be a ``dictator.''
He would be entirely satisfied with the title of ``the Honourable.''
But when the Senate, a few years later, addressed
him as Augustus--the Illustrious--he did not object and a few
years later the man in the street called him Caesar, or Kaiser,
while the soldiers, accustomed to regard Octavian as their
Commander-in-chief referred to him as the Chief, the Imperator or
Emperor. The Republic had become an Empire, but the average
Roman was hardly aware of the fact.

In 14 A.D. his position as the Absolute Ruler of the
Roman people had become so well established that he was made
an object of that divine worship which hitherto had been reserved
for the Gods. And his successors were true ``Emperors''--the
absolute rulers of the greatest empire the world had
ever seen.

If the truth be told, the average citizen was sick and tired
of anarchy and disorder. He did not care who ruled him provided
the new master gave him a chance to live quietly and
without the noise of eternal street riots. Octavian assured his
subjects forty years of peace. He had no desire to extend the
frontiers of his domains, In the year 9 A.D. he had contem-
plated an invasion of the northwestern wilderness which was
inhabited by the Teutons. But Varrus, his general, had been
killed with all his men in the Teutoburg Woods, and after that
the Romans made no further attempts to civilise these wild

They concentrated their efforts upon the gigantic problem
of internal reform. But it was too late to do much good. Two
centuries of revolution and foreign war had repeatedly killed
the best men among the younger generations. It had ruined
the class of the free farmers. It had introduced slave labor,
against which no freeman could hope to compete. It had
turned the cities into beehives inhabited by pauperized and
unhealthy mobs of runaway peasants. It had created a large
bureaucracy--petty officials who were underpaid and who were
forced to take graft in order to buy bread and clothing for
their families. Worst of all, it had accustomed people to violence,
to blood-shed, to a barbarous pleasure in the pain and
suffering of others.

Outwardly, the Roman state during the first century of our
era was a magnificent political structure, so large that Alexander's
empire became one of its minor provinces. Underneath
this glory there lived millions upon millions of poor and tired
human beings, toiling like ants who have built a nest underneath
a heavy stone. They worked for the benefit of some one
else. They shared their food with the animals of the fields.
They lived in stables. They died without hope.

It was the seven hundred and fifty-third year since the
founding of Rome. Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus Augustus
was living in the palace of the Palatine Hill, busily engaged
upon the task of ruling his empire.

In a little village of distant Syria, Mary, the wife of Joseph
the Carpenter, was tending her little boy, born in a stable of

This is a strange world.

Before long, the palace and the stable were to meet in open

And the stable was to emerge victorious.



IN the autumn of the year of the city 783 (which would be
62 A.D., in our way of counting time) AEsculapius Cultellus, a
Roman physician, wrote to his nephew who was with the army
in Syria as follows:

My dear Nephew,

A few days ago I was called in to prescribe for a sick man
named Paul. He appeared to be a Roman citizen of Jewish
parentage, well educated and of agreeable manners. I had
been told that he was here in connection with a law-suit, an appeal
from one of our provincial courts, Caesarea or some such
place in the eastern Mediterranean. He had been described to
me as a ``wild and violent'' fellow who had been making
speeches against the People and against the Law. I found him
very intelligent and of great honesty.

A friend of mine who used to be with the army in Asia
Minor tells me that he heard something about him in Ephesus
where he was preaching sermons about a strange new God. I
asked my patient if this were true and whether he had told the
people to rebel against the will of our beloved Emperor. Paul
answered me that the Kingdom of which he had spoken was
not of this world and he added many strange utterances which
I did not understand, but which were probably due to his

His personality made a great impression upon me and I
was sorry to hear that he was killed on the Ostian Road a few
days ago. Therefore I am writing this letter to you. When
next you visit Jerusalem, I want you to find out something
about my friend Paul and the strange Jewish prophet, who
seems to have been his teacher. Our slaves are getting much
excited about this so-called Messiah, and a few of them, who
openly talked of the new kingdom (whatever that means) have
been crucified. I would like to know the truth about all these
rumours and I am
Your devoted Uncle,

Six weeks later, Gladius Ensa, the nephew, a captain of the
VII Gallic Infantry, answered as follows:

My dear Uncle,

I received your letter and I have obeyed your instructions.

Two weeks ago our brigade was sent to Jerusalem. There
have been several revolutions during the last century and there
is not much left of the old city. We have been here now for a
month and to-morrow we shall continue our march to Petra,
where there has been trouble with some of the Arab tribes. I
shall use this evening to answer your questions, but pray do
not expect a detailed report.

I have talked with most of the older men in this city but
few have been able to give me any definite information. A
few days ago a pedler came to the camp. I bought some of
his olives and I asked him whether he had ever heard of the
famous Messiah who was killed when he was young. He said
that he remembered it very clearly, because his father had
taken him to Golgotha (a hill just outside the city) to see
the execution, and to show him what became of the enemies of
the laws of the people of Judaea. He gave me the address of
one Joseph, who had been a personal friend of the Messiah
and told me that I had better go and see him if I wanted to
know more.

This morning I went to call on Joseph. He was quite an
old man. He had been a fisherman on one of the fresh-water
lakes. His memory was clear, and from him at last I got a
fairly definite account of what had happened during the
troublesome days before I was born.

Tiberius, our great and glorious emperor, was on the throne,
and an officer of the name of Pontius Pilatus was governor of
Judaea and Samaria. Joseph knew little about this Pilatus.
He seemed to have been an honest enough official who left a
decent reputation as procurator of the province. In the year
755 or 756 (Joseph had forgotten when) Pilatus was called to
Jerusalem on account of a riot. A certain young man (the
son of a carpenter of Nazareth) was said to be planning a
revolution against the Roman government. Strangely enough
our own intelligence officers, who are usually well informed,
appear to have heard nothing about it, and when they investigated
the matter they reported that the carpenter was an
excellent citizen and that there was no reason to proceed against
him. But the old-fashioned leaders of the Jewish faith, according
to Joseph, were much upset. They greatly disliked his
popularity with the masses of the poorer Hebrews. The
``Nazarene'' (so they told Pilatus) had publicly claimed that a
Greek or a Roman or even a Philistine, who tried to live a decent
and honourable life, was quite as good as a Jew who spent
his days studying the ancient laws of Moses. Pilatus does not
seem to have been impressed by this argument, but when the
crowds around the temple threatened to lynch Jesus, and kill
all his followers, he decided to take the carpenter into custody
to save his life.

He does not appear to have understood the real nature of
the quarrel. Whenever he asked the Jewish priests to explain
their grievances, they shouted ``heresy'' and ``treason'' and got
terribly excited. Finally, so Joseph told me, Pilatus sent for
Joshua (that was the name of the Nazarene, but the Greeks
who live in this part of the world always refer to him as Jesus)
to examine him personally. He talked to him for several
hours. He asked him about the ``dangerous doctrines'' which
he was said to have preached on the shores of the sea of Galilee.
But Jesus answered that he never referred to politics. He was
not so much interested in the bodies of men as in Man's soul.
He wanted all people to regard their neighbours as their
brothers and to love one single God, who was the father of all
living beings.

Pilatus, who seems to have been well versed in the doctrines
of the Stoics and the other Greek philosophers, does not appear
to have discovered anything seditious in the talk of Jesus.
According to my informant he made another attempt to save
the life of the kindly prophet. He kept putting the execution
off. Meanwhile the Jewish people, lashed into fury by their
priests, got frantic with rage. There had been many riots in
Jerusalem before this and there were only a few Roman soldiers
within calling distance. Reports were being sent to the
Roman authorities in Caesarea that Pilatus had ``fallen a victim
to the teachings of the Nazarene.'' Petitions were being
circulated all through the city to have Pilatus recalled, because
he was an enemy of the Emperor. You know that our governors
have strict instructions to avoid an open break with
their foreign subjects. To save the country from civil war,
Pilatus finally sacrificed his prisoner, Joshua, who behaved
with great dignity and who forgave all those who hated him.
He was crucified amidst the howls and the laughter of the
Jerusalem mob.

That is what Joseph told me, with tears running down his
old cheeks. I gave him a gold piece when I left him, but he
refused it and asked me to hand it to one poorer than himself.
I also asked him a few questions about your friend Paul. He
had known him slightly. He seems to have been a tent maker
who gave up his profession that he might preach the words of
a loving and forgiving God, who was so very different from
that Jehovah of whom the Jewish priests are telling us all
the time. Afterwards, Paul appears to have travelled much
in Asia Minor and in Greece, telling the slaves that they were
all children of one loving Father and that happiness awaits all,
both rich and poor, who have tried to live honest lives and have
done good to those who were suffering and miserable.

I hope that I have answered your questions to your satisfaction.
The whole story seems very harmless to me as far as
the safety of the state is concerned. But then, we Romans
never have been able to understand the people of this province.
I am sorry that they have killed your friend Paul. I wish that
I were at home again, and I am, as ever,
Your dutiful nephew,



THE text-books of ancient History give the date 476 as the
year in which Rome fell, because in that year the last emperor
was driven off his throne. But Rome, which was not built in
a day, took a long time falling. The process was so slow and
so gradual that most Romans did not realise how their old
world was coming to an end. They complained about the unrest
of the times--they grumbled about the high prices of food
and about the low wages of the workmen--they cursed the
profiteers who had a monopoly of the grain and the wool and
the gold coin. Occasionally they rebelled against an unusually
rapacious governor. But the majority of the people during the
first four centuries of our era ate and drank (whatever their
purse allowed them to buy) and hated or loved (according to
their nature) and went to the theatre (whenever there was a
free show of fighting gladiators) or starved in the slums of the
big cities, utterly ignorant of the fact that their empire had
outlived its usefulness and was doomed to perish.

How could they realise the threatened danger? Rome
made a fine showing of outward glory. Well-paved roads connected
the different provinces, the imperial police were active
and showed little tenderness for highwaymen. The frontier
was closely guarded against the savage tribes who seemed to
be occupying the waste lands of northern Europe. The whole
world was paying tribute to the mighty city of Rome, and a
score of able men were working day and night to undo the
mistakes of the past and bring about a return to the happier
conditions of the early Republic.

But the underlying causes of the decay of the State, of
which I have told you in a former chapter, had not been
removed and reform therefore was impossible.

Rome was, first and last and all the time, a city-state as
Athens and Corinth had been city-states in ancient Hellas. It
had been able to dominate the Italian peninsula. But Rome
as the ruler of the entire civilised world was a political
impossibility and could not endure. Her young men were killed in
her endless wars. Her farmers were ruined by long military
service and by taxation. They either became professional
beggars or hired themselves out to rich landowners who gave
them board and lodging in exchange for their services and
made them ``serfs,'' those unfortunate human beings who are
neither slaves nor freemen, but who have become part of the
soil upon which they work, like so many cows, and the trees.

The Empire, the State, had become everything. The common
citizen had dwindled down to less than nothing. As for
the slaves, they had heard the words that were spoken by Paul.
They had accepted the message of the humble carpenter of
Nazareth. They did not rebel against their masters. On the
contrary, they had been taught to be meek and they obeyed
their superiors. But they had lost all interest in the affairs
of this world which had proved such a miserable place of abode.
They were willing to fight the good fight that they might enter
into the Kingdom of Heaven. But they were not willing to
engage in warfare for the benefit of an ambitious emperor who
aspired to glory by way of a foreign campaign in the land of
the Parthians or the Numidians or the Scots.

And so conditions grew worse as the centuries went by.
The first Emperors had continued the tradition of ``leadership''
which had given the old tribal chieftains such a hold upon
their subjects. But the Emperors of the second and third
centuries were Barrack-Emperors, professional soldiers, who
existed by the grace of their body-guards, the so-called Prae-
torians. They succeeded each other with terrifying rapidity,
murdering their way into the palace and being murdered out
of it as soon as their successors had become rich enough to bribe
the guards into a new rebellion.

Meanwhile the barbarians were hammering at the gates of
the northern frontier. As there were no longer any native
Roman armies to stop their progress, foreign mercenaries had
to be hired to fight the invader. As the foreign soldier happened
to be of the same blood as his supposed enemy, he was
apt to be quite lenient when he engaged in battle. Finally,
by way of experiment, a few tribes were allowed to settle
within the confines of the Empire. Others followed. Soon
these tribes complained bitterly of the greedy Roman tax-
gatherers, who took away their last penny. When they got
no redress they marched to Rome and loudly demanded that
they be heard.

This made Rome very uncomfortable as an Imperial residence.
Constantine (who ruled from 323 to 337) looked for
a new capital. He chose Byzantium, the gate-way for the
commerce between Europe and Asia. The city was renamed
Constantinople, and the court moved eastward. When Constantine
died, his two sons, for the sake of a more efficient
administration, divided the Empire between them. The elder
lived in Rome and ruled in the west. The younger stayed in
Constantinople and was master of the east.

Then came the fourth century and the terrible visitation
of the Huns, those mysterious Asiatic horsemen who for more
than two centuries maintained themselves in Northern Europe
and continued their career of bloodshed until they were defeated
near Chalons-sur-Marne in France in the year 451.
As soon as the Huns had reached the Danube they had begun
to press hard upon the Goths. The Goths, in order to save
themselves, were thereupon obliged to invade Rome. The
Emperor Valens tried to stop them, but was killed near
Adrianople in the year 378. Twenty-two years later, under
their king, Alaric, these same West Goths marched westward
and attacked Rome. They did not plunder, and destroyed
only a few palaces. Next came the Vandals, and showed less
respect for the venerable traditions of the city. Then the
Burgundians. Then the East Goths. Then the Alemanni.
Then the Franks. There was no end to the invasions. Rome
at last was at the mercy of every ambitious highway robber
who could gather a few followers.

In the year 402 the Emperor fled to Ravenna, which was
a sea-port and strongly fortified, and there, in the year 475,
Odoacer, commander of a regiment of the German mercenaries,
who wanted the farms of Italy to be divided among themselves,
gently but effectively pushed Romulus Augustulus, the
last of the emperors who ruled the western division, from his
throne, and proclaimed himself Patriarch or ruler of Rome.
The eastern Emperor, who was very busy with his own affairs,
recognised him, and for ten years Odoacer ruled what was
left of the western provinces.

A few years later, Theodoric, King of the East Goths,
invaded the newly formed Patriciat, took Ravenna, murdered
Odoacer at his own dinner table, and established a Gothic
Kingdom amidst the ruins of the western part of the Empire.
This Patriciate state did not last long. In the sixth century a
motley crowd of Longobards and Saxons and Slavs and Avars
invaded Italy, destroyed the Gothic kingdom, and established
a new state of which Pavia became the capital.

Then at last the imperial city sank into a state of utter
neglect and despair. The ancient palaces had been plundered
time and again. The schools had been burned down. The
teachers had been starved to death. The rich people had been
thrown out of their villas which were now inhabited by evil-
smelling and hairy barbarians. The roads had fallen into
decay. The old bridges were gone and commerce had come
to a standstill. Civilisation--the product of thousands of years
of patient labor on the part of Egyptians and Babylonians and
Greeks and Romans, which had lifted man high above the
most daring dreams of his earliest ancestors, threatened to
perish from the western continent.

It is true that in the far east, Constantinople continued to
be the centre of an Empire for another thousand years. But
it hardly counted as a part of the European continent. Its
interests lay in the east. It began to forget its western origin.
Gradually the Roman language was given up for the Greek.
The Roman alphabet was discarded and Roman law was written
in Greek characters and explained by Greek judges. The
Emperor became an Asiatic despot, worshipped as the god-like
kings of Thebes had been worshipped in the valley of the
Nile, three thousand years before. When missionaries of the
Byzantine church looked for fresh fields of activity, they went
eastward and carried the civilisation of Byzantium into the
vast wilderness of Russia.

As for the west, it was left to the mercies of the Barbarians.
For twelve generations, murder, war, arson, plundering were
the order of the day. One thing--and one thing alone--saved
Europe from complete destruction, from a return to the days
of cave-men and the hyena.

This was the church--the flock of humble men and women
who for many centuries had confessed themselves the followers
of Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth, who had been
killed that the mighty Roman Empire might be saved the
trouble of a street-riot in a little city somewhere along the
Syrian frontier.



THE average intelligent Roman who lived under the Empire
had taken very little interest in the gods of his fathers.
A few times a year he went to the temple, but merely as a
matter of custom. He looked on patiently when the people
celebrated a religious festival with a solemn procession. But he
regarded the worship of Jupiter and Minerva and Neptune as
something rather childish, a survival from the crude days of
the early republic and not a fit subject of study for a man
who had mastered the works of the Stoics and the Epicureans
and the other great philosophers of Athens.

This attitude made the Roman a very tolerant man. The
government insisted that all people, Romans, foreigners,
Greeks, Babylonians, Jews, should pay a certain outward respect
to the image of the Emperor which was supposed to stand
in every temple, just as a picture of the President of the
United States is apt to hang in an American Post Office. But
this was a formality without any deeper meaning. Generally
speaking everybody could honour, revere and adore whatever
gods he pleased, and as a result, Rome was filled with all
sorts of queer little temples and synagogues, dedicated to the
worship of Egyptian and African and Asiatic divinities.

When the first disciples of Jesus reached Rome and began
to preach their new doctrine of a universal brotherhood of man,
nobody objected. The man in the street stopped and listened
Rome, the capital of the world, had always been full of wandering
preachers, each proclaiming his own ``mystery.'' Most of
the self-appointed priests appealed to the senses--promised
golden rewards and endless pleasure to the followers of their
own particular god. Soon the crowd in the street noticed
that the so-called Christians (the followers of the Christ or
``anointed'') spoke a very different language. They did not
appear to be impressed by great riches or a noble position.
They extolled the beauties of poverty and humility and meekness.
These were not exactly the virtues which had made
Rome the mistress of the world. It was rather interesting to
listen to a ``mystery'' which told people in the hey-day of their
glory that their worldly success could not possibly bring them
lasting happiness.

Besides, the preachers of the Christian mystery told dreadful
stories of the fate that awaited those who refused to listen to
the words of the true God. It was never wise to take chances.
Of course the old Roman gods still existed, but were they
strong enough to protect their friends against the powers of
this new deity who had been brought to Europe from distant
Asia? People began to have doubts. They returned to listen
to further explanations of the new creed. After a while they
began to meet the men and women who preached the words of
Jesus. They found them very different from the average
Roman priests. They were all dreadfully poor. They were
kind to slaves and to animals. They did not try to gain riches,
but gave away whatever they had. The example of their unselfish
lives forced many Romans to forsake the old religion.
They joined the small communities of Christians who met in
the back rooms of private houses or somewhere in an open field,
and the temples were deserted.

This went on year after year and the number of Christians
continued to increase. Presbyters or priests (the original
Greek meant ``elder'') were elected to guard the interests of
the small churches. A bishop was made the head of all the
communities within a single province. Peter, who had fol-
lowed Paul to Rome, was the first Bishop of Rome. In due
time his successors (who were addressed as Father or Papa)
came to be known as Popes.

The church became a powerful institution within the Empire.
The Christian doctrines appealed to those who despaired
of this world. They also attracted many strong men who
found it impossible to make a career under the Imperial gov-
ernment, but who could exercise their gifts of leadership among
the humble followers of the Nazarene teacher. At last the
state was obliged to take notice. The Roman Empire (I have
said this before) was tolerant through indifference. It allowed
everybody to seek salvation after his or her own fashion. But
it insisted that the different sects keep the peace among themselves
and obey the wise rule of ``live and let live.''

The Christian communities however, refused to practice any
sort of tolerance. They publicly declared that their God, and
their God alone, was the true ruler of Heaven and Earth,
and that all other gods were imposters. This seemed unfair
to the other sects and the police discouraged such utterances.
The Christians persisted.

Soon there were further difficulties. The Christians refused
to go through the formalities of paying homage to the emperor.
They refused to appear when they were called upon
to join the army. The Roman magistrates threatened to
punish them. The Christians answered that this miserable
world was only the ante-room to a very pleasant Heaven and
that they were more than willing to suffer death for their
principles. The Romans, puzzled by such conduct, sometimes
killed the offenders, but more often they did not. There was
a certain amount of lynching during the earliest years of the
church, but this was the work of that part of the mob which
accused their meek Christian neighbours of every conceivable
crime, (such as slaughtering and eating babies, bringing about
sickness and pestilence, betraying the country in times of danger)
because it was a harmless sport and devoid of danger, as
the Christians refused to fight back.

Meanwhile, Rome continued to be invaded by the Barbarians
and when her armies failed, Christian missionaries went
forth to preach their gospel of peace to the wild Teutons.
They were strong men without fear of death. They spoke a
language which left no doubt as to the future of unrepentant
sinners. The Teutons were deeply impressed. They still
had a deep respect for the wisdom of the ancient city of Rome.
Those men were Romans. They probably spoke the truth.
Soon the Christian missionary became a power in the savage
regions of the Teutons and the Franks. Half a dozen missionaries
were as valuable as a whole regiment of soldiers.
The Emperors began to understand that the Christian might
be of great use to them. In some of the provinces they were
given equal rights with those who remained faithful to the old
gods. The great change however came during the last half
of the fourth century.

Constantine, sometimes (Heaven knows why) called Constantine
the Great, was emperor. He was a terrible ruffian,
but people of tender qualities could hardly hope to survive
in that hard-fighting age. During a long and checkered career,
Constantine had experienced many ups and downs. Once,
when almost defeated by his enemies, he thought that he would
try the power of this new Asiatic deity of whom everybody was
talking. He promised that he too would become a Christian
if he were successful in the coming battle. He won the victory
and thereafter he was convinced of the power of the Christian
God and allowed himself to be baptised.

From that moment on, the Christian church was officially
recognised and this greatly strengthened the position of the
new faith.

But the Christians still formed a very small minority of
all the people, (not more than five or six percent,) and in order
to win, they were forced to refuse all compromise. The old
gods must be destroyed. For a short spell the emperor Julian,
a lover of Greek wisdom, managed to save the pagan Gods
from further destruction. But Julian died of his wounds during
a campaign in Persia and his successor Jovian re-established
the church in all its glory. One after the other the doors of the
ancient temples were then closed. Then came the emperor
Justinian (who built the church of Saint Sophia in Constantinople),
who discontinued the school of philosophy at Athens
which had been founded by Plato.

That was the end of the old Greek world, in which man
had been allowed to think his own thoughts and dream his own
dreams according to his desires. The somewhat vague rules
of conduct of the philosophers had proved a poor compass
by which to steer the ship of life after a deluge of savagery
and ignorance had swept away the established order of things.
There was need of something more positive and more definite.
This the Church provided.

During an age when nothing was certain, the church stood
like a rock and never receded from those principles which it
held to be true and sacred. This steadfast courage gained the
admiration of the multitudes and carried the church of Rome
safely through the difficulties which destroyed the Roman state.

There was however, a certain element of luck in the final
success of the Christian faith. After the disappearance of
Theodoric's Roman-Gothic kingdom, in the fifth century,
Italy was comparatively free from foreign invasion. The
Lombards and Saxons and Slavs who succeeded the Goths were
weak and backward tribes. Under those circumstances it was
possible for the bishops of Rome to maintain the independence
of their city. Soon the remnants of the empire, scattered
throughout the peninsula, recognised the Dukes of Rome (or
bishops) as their political and spiritual rulers.

The stage was set for the appearance of a strong man.
He came in the year 590 and his name was Gregory. He belonged
to the ruling classes of ancient Rome, and he had
been ``prefect'' or mayor of the city. Then he had become
a monk and a bishop and finally, and much against his will,
(for he wanted to be a missionary and preach Christianity to
the heathen of England,) he had been dragged to the Church
of Saint Peter to be made Pope. He ruled only fourteen
years but when he died the Christian world of western Europe
had officially recognised the bishops of Rome, the Popes, as
the head of the entire church.

This power, however, did not extend to the east. In
Constantinople the Emperors continued the old custom which had
recognised the successors of Augustus and Tiberius both as
head of the government and as High Priest of the Established
Religion. In the year 1453 the eastern Roman Empire was
conquered by the Turks. Constantinople was taken, and Constantine
Paleologue, the last Roman Emperor, was killed on
the steps of the Church of the Holy Sophia.

A few years before, Zoe, the daughter of his brother
Thomas, had married Ivan III of Russia. In this way did the
grand-dukes of Moscow fall heir to the traditions of Constantinople.
The double-eagle of old Byzantium (reminiscent of
the days when Rome had been divided into an eastern and a
western part) became the coat of arms of modern Russia.
The Tsar who had been merely the first of the Russian nobles,
assumed the aloofness and the dignity of a Roman emperor
before whom all subjects, both high and low, were inconsiderable

The court was refashioned after the oriental pattern which
the eastern Emperors had imported from Asia and from Egypt
and which (so they flattered themselves) resembled the court
of Alexander the Great. This strange inheritance which the
dying Byzantine Empire bequeathed to an unsuspecting world
continued to live with great vigour for six more centuries,
amidst the vast plains of Russia. The last man to wear the
crown with the double eagle of Constantinople, Tsar Nicholas,
was murdered only the other day, so to speak. His body was
thrown into a well. His son and his daughters were all killed.
All his ancient rights and prerogatives were abolished, and the
church was reduced to the position which it had held in Rome
before the days of Constantine.

The eastern church however fared very differently, as we
shall see in the next chapter when the whole Christian world is
going to be threatened with destruction by the rival creed of
an Arab camel-driver.



SINCE the days of Carthage and Hannibal we have said
nothing of the Semitic people. You will remember how they
filled all the chapters devoted to the story of the Ancient World.
The Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Phoenicians, the Jews,
the Arameans, the Chaldeans, all of them Semites, had been
the rulers of western Asia for thirty or forty centuries. They
had been conquered by the Indo-European Persians who had
come from the east and by the Indo-European Greeks who
had come from the west. A hundred years after the death of
Alexander the Great, Carthage, a colony of Semitic Phoenicians,
had fought the Indo-European Romans for the mastery
of the Mediterranean. Carthage had been defeated and destroyed
and for eight hundred years the Romans had been masters
of the world. In the seventh century, however, another
Semitic tribe appeared upon the scene and challenged the
power of the west. They were the Arabs, peaceful shepherds
who had roamed through the desert since the beginning of time
without showing any signs of imperial ambitions.

Then they listened to Mohammed, mounted their horses and
in less than a century they had pushed to the heart of Europe
and proclaimed the glories of Allah, ``the only God,'' and
Mohammed, ``the prophet of the only God,'' to the frightened
peasants of France.

The story of Ahmed, the son of Abdallah and Aminah
(usually known as Mohammed, or ``he who will be praised,'';
reads like a chapter in the ``Thousand and One Nights.'' He
was a camel-driver, born in Mecca. He seems to have been an
epileptic and he suffered from spells of unconsciousness when
he dreamed strange dreams and heard the voice of the angel
Gabriel, whose words were afterwards written down in a book
called the Koran. His work as a caravan leader carried him
all over Arabia and he was constantly falling in with Jewish
merchants and with Christian traders, and he came to see that
the worship of a single God was a very excellent thing. His
own people, the Arabs, still revered queer stones and trunks
of trees as their ancestors had done, tens of thousands of
years before. In Mecca, their holy city, stood a little square
building, the Kaaba, full of idols and strange odds and ends
of Hoo-doo worship.

Mohammed decided to be the Moses of the Arab people. He
could not well be a prophet and a camel-driver at the same time.
So he made himself independent by marrying his employer, the
rich widow Chadija. Then he told his neighbours in Mecca
that he was the long-expected prophet sent by Allah to save the
world. The neighbours laughed most heartily and when Mohammed

Book of the day: