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A Book of Golden Deeds by Charlotte M. Yonge

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sacrifices are of course accursed, and even the better sort of heathens
viewed them with horror; but the voluntary confronting of death, even at
the call of a distorted presage of future atonement, required qualities
that were perhaps the highest that could be exercised among those who
were devoid of the light of truth.

In the year 339 there was a remarkable instance of such devotion. The
Romans were at war with the Latins, a nation dwelling to the south of
them, and almost exactly resembling themselves in language, habits,
government, and fashions of fighting. Indeed the city of Rome itself was
but an offshoot from the old Latin kingdom; and there was not much
difference between the two nations even in courage and perseverance. The
two consuls of the year were Titus Manlius Torquatus and Publius Decius
Mus. They were both very distinguished men. Manlius was a patrician, or
one of the high ancient nobles of Rome, and had in early youth fought a
single combat with a gigantic Gaul, who offered himself, like Goliath,
as a champion of his tribe; had slain him, and taken from him a gold
torque, or collar, whence his surname Torquatus. Decius was a plebeian;
one of the free though not noble citizens who had votes, but only within
a few years had been capable of being chosen to the higher offices of
state, and who looked upon every election to the consulship as a
victory. Three years previously, when a tribune in command of a legion,
Decius had saved the consul, Cornelius Cossus, from a dangerous
situation, and enabled him to gain a great victory; and this exploit was
remembered, and led to the choice of this well-experienced soldier as
the colleague of Manlius.

The two consuls both went out together in command of the forces, each
having a separate army, and intending to act in concert. They marched to
the beautiful country at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, which was then a
harmless mountain clothed with chestnut woods, with spaces opening
between, where farms and vineyards rejoiced in the sunshine and the
fresh breezes of the lovely blue bay that lay stretched beneath. Those
who climbed to the summit might indeed find beds of ashes and the jagged
edge of a huge basin or gulf; the houses and walls were built of dark-
red and black material that once had flowed from the crater in boiling
torrents: but these had long since cooled, and so long was it since a
column of smoke had been seen to rise from the mountain top, that it
only remained as a matter of tradition that this region was one of
mysterious fire, and that the dark cool lake Avernus, near the mountain
skirts, was the very entrance to the shadowy realms beneath, that were
supposed to be inhabited by the spirits of the dead.

It might be that the neighborhood of this lake, with the dread
imaginations connected with it by pagan fancy, influenced even the stout
hearts of the consuls; for, the night after they came in sight of the
enemy, each dreamt the same dream, namely, that he beheld a mighty form
of gigantic height and stature, who told him 'that the victory was
decreed to that army of the two whose leader should devote himself to
the Dii Manes,' that is, to the deities who watched over the shades of
the dead. Probably these older Romans held the old Etruscan belief,
which took these 'gods beneath' to be winged beings, who bore away the
departing soul, weighted its merits and demerits, and placed it in a
region of peace or of woe, according to its deserts. This was part of
the grave and earnest faith that gave the earlier Romans such truth and
resolution; but latterly they so corrupted it with the Greek myths,
that, in after times, they did not even know who the gods of Decius

At daybreak the two consuls sought one another out, and told their
dreams; and they agreed that they would join their armies in one, Decius
leading the right and Manlius the left wing; and that whichever found
his troops giving way, should at once rush into the enemy's columns and
die, to secure the victory to his colleague. At the same time strict
commands were given that no Roman should come out of his rank to fight
in single combat with the enemy; a necessary regulation, as the Latins
were so like, in every respect, to the Romans, that there would have
been fatal confusion had there been any mingling together before the
battle. Just as this command had been given out, young Titus Manlius,
the son of the consul, met a Latin leader, who called him by name and
challenged him to fight hand to hand. The youth was emulous of the honor
his father had gained by his own combat at the same age with the Gaul,
but forgot both the present edict and that his father had scrupulously
asked permission before accepting the challenge. He at once came
forward, and after a brave conflict, slew his adversary, and taking his
armor, presented himself at his father's tent and laid the spoils at his

But old Manlius turned aside sadly, and collected his troops to hear his
address to his son: 'You have transgressed,' he said, 'the discipline
which has been the support of the Roman people, and reduced me to the
hard necessity of either forgetting myself and mine, or else the regard
I owe to the general safety. Rome must not suffer by one fault. We must
expiate it ourselves. A sad example shall we be, but a wholesome one to
the Roman youth. For me, both the natural love of a father, and that
specimen thou hast given of thy valor move me exceedingly; but since
either the consular authority must be established by thy death, or
destroyed by thy impunity, I cannot think, if thou be a true Manlius,
that thou wilt be backward to repair the breach thou hast made in
military discipline by undergoing the just meed of thine offence. He
then placed the wreath of leaves, the reward of a victor, upon his son's
head, and gave the command to the lictor to bind the young man to a
stake, and strike off his head. The troops stood round as men stunned,
no one durst utter a word; the son submitted without one complaint,
since his death was for the good of Rome: and the father, trusting that
the doom of the Dii Manes was about to overtake him, beheld the brave
but rash young head fall, then watched the corpse covered with the
trophies won from the Latins, and made no hindrance to the glorious
obsequies with which the whole army honored this untimely death. Strict
discipline was indeed established, and no one again durst break his
rank; but the younger men greatly hated Manlius for his severity, and
gave him no credit for the agony he had concealed while giving up his
gallant son to the wellbeing of Rome.

A few days after, the expected battle took place, and after some little
time the front rank of Decius' men began to fall back upon the line in
their rear. This was the token he had waited for. He called to Valerius,
the chief priest of Rome, to consecrate him, and was directed to put on
his chief robe of office, the beautiful toga proetexta, to cover his
head, and standing on his javelin, call aloud to the 'nine gods' to
accept his devotion, to save the Roman legions, and strike terror into
his enemies. This done, he commanded his lictors to carry word to his
colleague that the sacrifice was accomplished, and then girding his robe
round him in the manner adopted in sacrificing to the gods, he mounted
his white horse, and rushed like lightning into the thickest of the
Latins. At first they fell away on all sides as if some heavenly
apparition had come down on them; then, as some recognized him, they
closed in on him, and pierced his breast with their weapons; but even as
he fell the superstition that a devoted leader was sure to win the
field, came full on their minds, they broke and fled. Meanwhile the
message came to Manlius, and drew from him a burst of tears--tears that
he had not shed for his son--his hope of himself meeting the doom and
ending his sorrow was gone; but none the less he nerved himself to
complete the advantage gained by Decius' death. Only one wing of the
Latins had fled, the other fought long and bravely, and when at last it
was defeated, and cut down on the field of battle, both conqueror and
conquered declared that, if Manlius had been the leader of the Latins,
they would have had the victory. Manlius afterwards completely subdued
the Latins, who became incorporated with the Romans; but bravely as he
had borne up, his health gave way under his sorrow, and before the end
of the year he was unable to take the field.

Forty-five years later, in the year 294, another Decius was consul. He
was the son of the first devoted Decius, and had shown himself worthy of
his name, both as a citizen and soldier. His first consulate had been in
conjunction with one of the most high-spirited and famous Roman nobles,
Quintus Fabius, surnamed Maximus, or the Greatest, and at three years'
end they were again chosen together, when the Romans had been brought
into considerable peril by an alliance between the Gauls and the
Samnites, their chief enemies in Italy.

One being a patrician and the other a plebeian, there was every attempt
made at Rome to stir up jealousies and dissensions between them; but
both were much too noble and generous to be thus set one against the
other; and when Fabius found how serious was the state of affairs in
Etruria, he sent to Rome to entreat that Decius would come and act with
him. 'With him I shall never want forces, nor have too many enemies to
deal with.'

The Gauls, since the time of Brennus, had so entirely settled in
northern Italy, that it had acquired the name of Cisalpine Gaul, and
they were as warlike as ever, while better armed and trained. The united
armies of Gauls, Samnites, and their allies, together, are said to have
amounted to 143,330 foot and 46,000 horse, and the Roman army consisted
of four legions, 24,000 in all, with an unspecified number of horse. The
place of battle was at Sentinum, and here for the first time the Gauls
brought armed chariots into use,--probably the wicker chariots, with
scythes in the midst of the clumsy wooden wheels, which were used by the
Kelts in Britain two centuries later. It was the first time the Romans
had encountered these barbarous vehicles; they were taken by surprise,
the horses started, and could not be brought back to the charge, and the
legions were mowed down like corn where the furious Gaul impelled his
scythe. Decius shouted in vain, and tried to gather his men and lead
them back; but the terror at this new mode of warfare had so mastered
them, that they paid no attention to his call. Then, half in policy,
half in superstition, he resolved to follow his father in his death. He
called the chief priest, Marcus Livius, and standing on his javelin,
went through the same formula of self-dedication, and in the like manner
threw himself, alone and unarmed, in the midst of the enemy, among whom
he soon fell, under many a savage stroke. The priest, himself a gallant
soldier, called to the troops that their victory was now secured, and
thoroughly believing him, they let him lead them back to the charge, and
routed the Gauls; whilst Fabius so well did his part against the other
nations, that the victory was complete, and 25,000 enemies were slain.
So covered was the body of Decius by the corpses of his enemies, that
all that day it could not be found; but on the next it was discovered,
and Fabius, with a full heart, pronounced the funeral oration of the
second Decius, who had willingly offered himself to turn the tide of
battle in favor of his country. It was the last of such acts of
dedication--the Romans became more learned and philosophical, and
perhaps more reasonable; and yet, mistaken as was the object, it seems a
falling off that, 200 years later, Cicero should not know who were the
'nine gods' of the Decii, and should regard their sacrifice as 'heroic
indeed, but unworthy of men of understanding'.


B.C. 249

The first wars that the Romans engaged in beyond the bounds of Italy,
were with the Carthaginians. This race came from Tyre and Zidon; and
were descended from some of the Phoenicians, or Zidonians, who were such
dangerous foes, or more dangerous friends, to the Israelites. Carthage
had, as some say, been first founded by some of the Canaanites who fled
when Joshua conquered the Promised Land; and whether this were so or
not, the inhabitants were in all their ways the same as the Tyrians and
Zidonians, of whom so much is said in the prophecies of Isaiah and
Ezekiel. Like them, they worshipped Baal and Ashtoreth, and the
frightful Moloch, with foul and cruel rites; and, like them, they were
excellent sailors and great merchants trading with every known country,
and living in great riches and splendor at their grand city on the
southern shore of the Mediterranean. That they were a wicked and cruel
race is also certain; the Romans used to call deceit Punic faith, that
is, Phoenician faith, and though no doubt Roman writers show them up in
their worst colours, yet, after the time of Hiram, Solomon's ally at
Tyre, it is plain from Holy Scripture that their crimes were great.

The first dispute between Rome and Carthage was about their possession
in the island of Sicily; and the war thus begun had lasted eight years
when it was resolved to send an army to fight the Carthaginians on their
own shores. The army and fleet were placed under the command of the two
consuls, Lucius Manlius and Marcus Attilius Regulus. On the way, there
was a great sea fight with the Carthaginian fleet, and this was the
first naval battle that the Romans ever gained. It made the way to
Africa free; but the soldiers, who had never been so far from home
before, murmured, for they expected to meet not only human enemies, but
monstrous serpents, lions, elephants, asses with horns, and dog-headed
monsters, to have a scorching sun overhead, and a noisome marsh under
their feet. However, Regulus sternly put a stop to all murmurs, by
making it known that disaffection would be punished by death, and the
army safely landed, and set up a fortification at Clypea, and plundered
the whole country round. Orders here came from Rome that Manlius should
return thither, but that Regulus should remain to carry on the war. This
was a great grief to him. He was a very poor man, with nothing of his
own but a little farm of seven acres, and the person whom he had
employed to cultivate it had died in his absence; a hired laborer had
undertaken the care of it, but had been unfaithful, and had run away
with his tools and his cattle; so that he was afraid that, unless he
could return quickly, his wife and children would starve. However, the
Senate engaged to provide for his family, and he remained, making
expeditions into the country round, in the course of which the Romans
really did fall in with a serpent as monstrous as their imagination had
depicted. It was said to be 120 feet long, and dwelt upon the banks of
the River Bagrada, where it used to devour the Roman soldiers as they
went to fetch water. It had such tough scales that they were obliged to
attack it with their engines meant for battering city walls, and only
succeeded with much difficulty in destroying it.

The country was most beautiful, covered with fertile cornfields and full
of rich fruit trees, and all the rich Carthaginians had country houses
and gardens, which were made delicious with fountains, trees, and
flowers. The Roman soldiers, plain, hardy, fierce, and pitiless, did, it
must be feared, cruel damage among these peaceful scenes; they boasted
of having sacked 300 villages, and mercy was not yet known to them. The
Carthaginian army, though strong in horsemen and in elephants, kept upon
the hills and did nothing to save the country, and the wild desert
tribes of Numidians came rushing in to plunder what the Romans had left.
The Carthaginians sent to offer terms of peace; but Regulus, who had
become uplifted by his conquests, made such demands that the messengers
remonstrated. He answered, 'Men who are good for anything should either
conquer or submit to their betters;' and he sent them rudely away, like
a stern old Roman as he was. His merit was that he had no more mercy on
himself than on others.

The Carthaginians were driven to extremity, and made horrible offerings
to Moloch, giving the little children of the noblest families to be
dropped into the fire between the brazen hands of his statue, and grown-
up people of the noblest families rushed in of their own accord, hoping
thus to propitiate their gods, and obtain safety for their country.
Their time was not yet fully come, and a respite was granted to them.
They had sent, in their distress, to hire soldiers in Greece, and among
these came a Spartan, named Xanthippus, who at once took the command,
and led the army out to battle, with a long line of elephants ranged in
front of them, and with clouds of horsemen hovering on the wings. The
Romans had not yet learnt the best mode of fighting with elephants,
namely, to leave lanes in their columns where these huge beasts might
advance harmlessly; instead of which, the ranks were thrust and trampled
down by the creatures' bulk, and they suffered a terrible defeat;
Regulus himself was seized by the horsemen, and dragged into Carthage,
where the victors feasted and rejoiced through half the night, and
testified their thanks to Moloch by offering in his fires the bravest of
their captives.

Regulus himself was not, however, one of these victims. He was kept a
close prisoner for two years, pining and sickening in his loneliness,
while in the meantime the war continued, and at last a victory so
decisive was gained by the Romans, that the people of Carthage were
discouraged, and resolved to ask terms of peace. They thought that no
one would be so readily listened to at Rome as Regulus, and they
therefore sent him there with their envoys, having first made him swear
that he would come back to his prison if there should neither be peace
nor an exchange of prisoners. They little knew how much more a true-
hearted Roman cared for his city than for himself--for his word than for
his life.

Worn and dejected, the captive warrior came to the outside of the gates
of his own city, and there paused, refusing to enter. 'I am no longer a
Roman citizen,' he said; 'I am but the barbarian's slave, and the Senate
may not give audience to strangers within the walls.'

His wife Marcia ran out to greet him, with his two sons, but he did not
look up, and received their caresses as one beneath their notice, as a
mere slave, and he continued, in spite of all entreaty, to remain
outside the city, and would not even go to the little farm he had loved
so well.

The Roman Senate, as he would not come in to them, came out to hold
their meeting in the Campagna.

The ambassadors spoke first, then Regulus, standing up, said, as one
repeating a task, 'Conscript fathers, being a slave to the
Carthaginians, I come on the part of my masters to treat with you
concerning peace, and an exchange of prisoners.' He then turned to go
away with the ambassadors, as a stranger might not be present at the
deliberations of the Senate. His old friends pressed him to stay and
give his opinion as a senator who had twice been consul; but he refused
to degrade that dignity by claiming it, slave as he was. But, at the
command of his Carthaginian masters, he remained, though not taking his

Then he spoke. He told the senators to persevere in the war. He said he
had seen the distress of Carthage, and that a peace would only be to her
advantage, not to that of Rome, and therefore he strongly advised that
the war should continue. Then, as to the exchange of prisoners, the
Carthaginian generals, who were in the hands of the Romans, were in full
health and strength, whilst he himself was too much broken down to be
fit for service again, and indeed he believed that his enemies had given
him a slow poison, and that he could not live long. Thus he insisted
that no exchange of prisoners should be made.

It was wonderful, even to Romans, to hear a man thus pleading against
himself, and their chief priest came forward, and declared that, as his
oath had been wrested from him by force, he was not bound to return to
his captivity. But Regulus was too noble to listen to this for a moment.
'Have you resolved to dishonor me?' he said. 'I am not ignorant that
death and the extremest tortures are preparing for me; but what are
these to the shame of an infamous action, or the wounds of a guilty
mind? Slave as I am to Carthage, I have still the spirit of a Roman. I
have sworn to return. It is my duty to go; let the gods take care of the

The Senate decided to follow the advice of Regulus, though they bitterly
regretted his sacrifice. His wife wept and entreated in vain that they
would detain him; they could merely repeat their permission to him to
remain; but nothing could prevail with him to break his word, and he
turned back to the chains and death he expected so calmly as if he had
been returning to his home. This was in the year B.C. 249.

'Let the gods take care of the rest,' said the Roman; the gods whom
alone he knew, and through whom he ignorantly worshipped the true God,
whose Light was shining out even in this heathen's truth and constancy.
How his trust was fulfilled is not known. The Senate, after the next
victory, gave two Carthaginian generals to his wife and sons to hold as
pledges for his good treatment; but when tidings arrived that Regulus
was dead, Marcia began to treat them both with savage cruelty, though
one of them assured her that he had been careful to have her husband
well used. Horrible stories were told that Regulus had been put out in
the sun with his eyelids cut off, rolled down a hill in a barrel with
spikes, killed by being constantly kept awake, or else crucified. Marcia
seems to have set about, and perhaps believed in these horrors, and
avenged them on her unhappy captives till one had died, and the Senate
sent for her sons and severely reprimanded them. They declared it was
their mother's doing, not theirs, and thenceforth were careful of the
comfort of the remaining prisoner.

It may thus be hoped that the frightful tale of Regulus' sufferings was
but formed by report acting on the fancy of a vindictive woman, and that
Regulus was permitted to die in peace of the disease brought on far more
probably by the climate and imprisonment, than by the poison to which he
ascribed it. It is not the tortures he may have endured that make him
one of the noblest characters of history, but the resolution that would
neither let him save himself at the risk of his country's prosperity,
nor forfeit the word that he had pledged.


B.C. 180

It was about 180 years before the Christian era. The Jews had long since
come home from Babylon, and built up their city and Temple at Jerusalem.
But they were not free as they had been before. Their country belonged
to some greater power, they had a foreign governor over them, and had to
pay tribute to the king who was their master.

At the time we are going to speak of, this king was Antiochus Epiphanes,
King of Syria. He was descended from one of those generals who, upon the
death of Alexander the Great, had shared the East between them, and he
reigned over all the country from the Mediterranean Sea even into Persia
and the borders of India. He spoke Greek, and believed in both the Greek
and Roman gods, for he had spent some time at Rome in his youth; but in
his Eastern kingdom he had learnt all the self-indulgent and violent
habits to which people in those hot countries are especially tempted.

He was so fierce and passionate, that he was often called the 'Madman',
and he was very cruel to all who offended him. One of his greatest
desires was, that the Jews should leave their true faith in one God, and
do like the Greeks and Syrians, his other subjects, worship the same
idols, and hold drunken feasts in their honor. Sad to say, a great many
of the Jews had grown ashamed of their own true religion and the strict
ways of their law, and thought them old-fashioned. They joined in the
Greek sports, played games naked in the theatre, joined in riotous
processions, carrying ivy in honor of Bacchus, the god of wine, and
offered incense to the idols; and the worst of all these was the false
high priest, Menelaus, who led the King Antiochus into the Temple
itself, even into the Holy of Holies, and told him all that would most
desecrate it and grieve the Jews. So a little altar to the Roman god
Jupiter was set up on the top of the great brazen altar of burnt
offerings, a hog was offered up, and broth of its flesh sprinkled
everywhere in the Temple; then all the precious vessels were seized, the
shewbread table of gold, the candlesticks, and the whole treasury, and
carried away by the king; the walls were thrown down, and the place made

Some Jews were still faithful to their God, but they were horribly
punished and tortured to death before the eyes of the king; and when at
last he went away to his own country, taking with him the wicked high
priest Menelaus, he left behind him a governor and an army of soldiers
stationed in the tower of Acra, which overlooked the Temple hill, and
sent for an old man from Athens to teach the people the heathen rites
and ceremonies. Any person who observed the Sabbath day, or any other
ordinance of the law of Moses, was put to death in a most cruel manner;
all the books of the Old Testament Scripture that could be found were
either burnt or defiled, by having pictures of Greek gods painted upon
them; and the heathen priests went from place to place, with a little
brazen altar and image and a guard of soldiers, who were to kill every
person who refused to burn incense before the idol. It was the very
saddest time that the Jews had ever known, and there seemed no help near
or far off; they could have no hope, except in the promises that God
would never fail His people, or forsake His inheritance, and in the
prophecies that bad times should come, but good ones after them.

The Greeks, in going through the towns to enforce the idol worship, came
to a little city called Modin, somewhere on the hills on the coast of
the Mediterranean Sea, not far from Joppa. There they sent out, as
usual, orders to all the men of the town to meet them in the
marketplace; but they were told beforehand, that the chief person in the
place was an old man named Mattathias, of a priestly family, and so much
respected, that all the other inhabitants of the place were sure to do
whatever he might lead them in. So the Greeks sent for him first of all,
and he came at their summons, a grand and noble old man, followed by his
five sons, Johanan, Simon, Judas, Jonathan, and Eleazar. The Greek
priest tried to talk him over. He told him that the high priest had
forsaken the Jewish superstition, that the Temple was in ruins, and that
resistance was in vain; and exhorted him to obtain gratitude and honor
for himself, by leading his countrymen in thus adoring the deities of
the king's choice, promising him rewards and treasures if he would

But the old man spoke out with a loud and fearless voice: 'Though all
the nations that are under the king's dominion obey him, and fall away
every one from the religion of their fathers, and give consent to his
commandments; yet will I and my sons and my brethren walk in the
covenant of our fathers. God forbid that we should forsake the law and
the ordinances! We will not hearken to the king's words, to go from our
religion, either on the right hand or the left!'

As he spoke, up came an apostate Jew to do sacrifice at the heathen
altar. Mattathias trembled at the sight, and his zeal broke forth. He
slew the offender, and his brave sons gathering round him, they attacked
the Syrian soldiers, killed the commissioner, and threw down the altar.
Then, as they knew that they could not there hold out against the king's
power, Mattathias proclaimed throughout the city: 'Whosoever is zealous
of the law, and maintaineth the covenant, let him follow me!' With that,
he and his five sons, with their families, left their houses and lands,
and drove their cattle with them up into the wild hills and caves, where
David had once made his home; and all the Jews who wished to be still
faithful, gathered around them, to worship God and keep His

There they were, a handful of brave men in the mountains, and all the
heathen world and apostate Jews against them. They used to come down
into the villages, remind the people of the law, promise their help, and
throw down any idol altars that they found, and the enemy never were
able to follow them into their rocky strongholds. But the old Mattathias
could not long bear the rude wild life in the cold mountains, and he
soon died. First he called all his five sons, and bade them to 'be
zealous for the law, and give their lives for the covenant of their
fathers'; and he reminded them of all the many brave men who had before
served God, and been aided in their extremity. He appointed his son
Judas, as the strongest and mightiest, to lead his brethren to battle,
and Simon, as the wisest, to be their counsellor; then he blessed them
and died; and his sons were able to bury him in the tomb of his fathers
at Modin.

Judas was one of the bravest men who ever lived; never dreading the
numbers that came against him. He was surnamed Maccabeus, which some
people say meant the hammerer; but others think it was made up of the
first letters of the words he carried on his banner, which meant 'Who is
like unto Thee, among the gods, O Lord?' Altogether he had about six
thousand men round him when the Greek governor, Apollonius, came out to
fight with him. The Jews gained here their first victory, and Judas
killed Apollonius, took his sword, and fought all his other battles with
it. Next came a captain called Seron, who went out to the hills to lay
hold of the bold rebels that dared to rise against the King of Syria.
The place where Judas met him was one to make the Jews' hearts leap with
hope and trust. It was on the steep stony broken hillside of Beth-horon,
the very place where Joshua had conquered the five kings of the
Amorites, in the first battle on the coming in of the children of Israel
to Palestine. There was the rugged path where Joshua had stood and
called out to the sun to stand still in Gibeon, and the moon in the
valley of Ajalon. Miracles were over, and Judas looked for no wonder to
help him; but when he came up the mountain road from Joppa, his heart
was full of the same trust as Joshua's, and he won another great

By this time King Antiochus began to think the rising of the Jews a
serious matter, but he could not come himself against them, because his
provinces in Armenia and Persia had refused their tribute, and he had to
go in person to reduce them. He appointed, however, a governor, named
Lysias, to chastise the Jews, giving him an army of 40,000 foot and 7000
horse. Half of these Lysias sent on before him, with two captains, named
Nicanor and Gorgias, thinking that these would be more than enough to
hunt down and crush the little handful that were lurking in the hills.
And with them came a great number of slave merchants, who had bargained
with Nicanor that they should have ninety Jews for one talent, to sell
to the Greeks and Romans, by whom Jewish slaves were much esteemed.

There was great terror in Palestine at these tidings, and many of the
weaker-minded fell away from Judas; but he called all the faithful
together at Mizpeh, the same place where, 1000 years before, Samuel had
collected the Israelites, and, after prayer and fasting, had sent them
forth to free their country from the Philistines. Shiloh, the sanctuary,
was then lying desolate, just as Jerusalem now lay in ruins; and yet
better times had come. But very mournful was that fast day at Mizpeh, as
the Jews looked along the hillside to their own holy mountain crowned by
no white marble and gold Temple flashing back the sunbeams, but only
with the tall castle of their enemies towering over the precipice. They
could not sacrifice, because a sacrifice could only be made at
Jerusalem, and the only book of the Scriptures that they had to read
from was painted over with the hateful idol figures of the Greeks. And
the huge army of enemies was ever coming nearer! The whole assembly
wept, and put on sackcloth and prayed aloud for help, and then there was
a loud sounding of trumpets, and Judas stood forth before them. And he
made the old proclamation that Moses had long ago decreed, that no one
should go out to battle who was building a house, or planting a
vineyard, or had just betrothed a wife, or who was fearful and faint-
hearted. All these were to go home again. Judas had 6,000 followers when
he made this proclamation. He had only 3,000 at the end of the day, and
they were but poorly armed. He told them of the former aid that had come
to their fathers in extremity, and made them bold with his noble words.
Then he gave them for their watchword 'the help of God', and divided the
leadership of the band between himself and his brothers, appointing
Eleazar, the youngest, to read the Holy Book.

With these valiant men, Judas set up his camp; but tidings were soon
brought him that Gorgias, with 5000 foot and 1000 horse, had left the
main body to fall on his little camp by night. He therefore secretly
left the place in the twilight; so that when the enemy attacked his
camp, they found it deserted, and supposing them to be hid in the
mountains, proceeded hither in pursuit of them.

But in the early morning Judas and his 3,000 men were all in battle
array in the plains, and marching full upon the enemy's camp with
trumpet sound, took them by surprise in the absence of Gorgias and his
choice troops, and utterly defeated and put them to flight, but without
pursuing them, since the fight with Gorgias and his 5,000 might be yet
to come. Even as Judas was reminding his men of this, Gorgias's troops
were seen looking down from the mountains where they had been wandering
all night; but seeing their own camp all smoke and flame, they turned
and fled away. Nine thousand of the invaders had been slain, and the
whole camp, full of arms and treasures, was in the hands of Judas, who
there rested for a Sabbath of glad thanksgiving, and the next day parted
the spoil, first putting out the share for the widows and orphans and
the wounded, and then dividing the rest among his warriors. As to the
slave merchants, they were all made prisoners, and instead of giving a
talent for ninety Jews, were sold themselves.

The next year Lysias came himself, but was driven back and defeated at
Bethshur, four or five miles south of Bethlehem. And now came the
saddest, yet the greatest, day of Judas's life, when he ventured to go
back into the holy city and take possession of the Temple again. The
strong tower of Acra, which stood on a ridge of Mount Moriah looking
down on the Temple rock, was still held by the Syrians, and he had no
means of taking it; but he and his men loved the sanctuary too well to
keep away from it, and again they marched up the steps and slopes that
led up the holy hill. They went up to find the walls broken, the gates
burnt, the cloisters and priests' chambers pulled down, and the courts
thickly grown with grass and shrubs, the altar of their one true God
with the false idol Jupiter's altar in the middle of it. These warriors,
who had turned three armies to flight, could not bear the sight. They
fell down on their faces, threw dust on their heads, and wept aloud for
the desolation of their holy place. But in the midst Judas caused the
trumpets to sound an alarm. They were to do something besides grieving.
The bravest of them were set to keep watch and ward against the Syrians
in the tower, while he chose out the most faithful priests to cleanse
out the sanctuary, and renew all that could be renewed, making new holy
vessels from the spoil taken in Nicanor's camp, and setting the stones
of the profaned altar apart while a new one was raised. On the third
anniversary of the great profanation, the Temple was newly dedicated,
with songs and hymns of rejoicing, and a festival day was appointed,
which has been observed by the Jews ever since. The Temple rock and city
were again fortified so as to be able to hold out against their enemies,
and this year and the next were the most prosperous of the life of the
loyal-hearted Maccabee.

The great enemy of the Jews, Antiochus Epiphanes, was in the meantime
dying in great agony in Persia, and his son Antiochus Eupator was set on
the throne by Lysias, who brought him with an enormous army to reduce
the rising in Judea. The fight was again at Bethshur, where Judas had
built a strong fort on a point of rock that guarded the road to Hebron.
Lysias tried to take this fort, and Judas came to the rescue with his
little army, to meet the far mightier Syrian force, which was made more
terrific by possessing thirty war elephants imported from the Indian
frontier. Each of these creatures carried a tower containing thirty-two
men armed with darts and javelins, and an Indian driver on his neck; and
they had 1000 foot and 500 horse attached to the special following of
the beast, who, gentle as he was by nature, often produced a fearful
effect on the enemy; not so much by his huge bulk as by the terror he
inspired among men, and far more among horses. The whole host was spread
over the mountains and the valleys so that it is said that their bright
armor and gold and silver shields made the mountains glisten like lamps
of fire.

Still Judas pressed on to the attack, and his brother Eleazar,
perceiving that one of the elephants was more adorned than the rest,
thought it might be carrying the king, and devoted himself for his
country. He fought his way to the monster, crept under it, and stabbed
it from beneath, so that the mighty weight sank down on him and crushed
him to death in his fall. He gained a 'perpetual name' for valor and
self-devotion; but the king was not upon the elephant, and after a hard-
fought battle, Judas was obliged to draw off and leave Bethshur to be
taken by the enemy, and to shut himself up in Jerusalem.

There, want of provisions had brought him to great distress, when
tidings came that another son of Antiochus Epiphanes had claimed the
throne, and Lysias made peace in haste with Judas, promising him full
liberty of worship, and left Palestine in peace.

This did not, however, last long. Lysias and his young master were slain
by the new king, Demetrius, who again sent an army for the subjection of
Judas, and further appointed a high priest, named Alcimus, of the family
of Aaron, but inclined to favor the new heathen fashions.

This was the most fatal thing that had happened to Judas. Though of the
priestly line, he was so much of a warrior, that he seems to have
thought it would be profane to offer sacrifice himself; and many of the
Jews were so glad of another high priest, that they let Alcimus into the
Temple, and Jerusalem was again lost to Judas. One more battle was won
by him at Beth-horon, and then finding how hard it was to make head
against the Syrians, he sent to ask the aid of the great Roman power.
But long before the answer could come, a huge Syrian army had marched in
on the Holy Land, 20,000 men, and Judas had again no more than 3000.
Some had gone over to Alcimus, some were offended at his seeking Roman
alliance, and when at Eleasah he came in sight of the host, his men's
hearts failed more than they ever had done before, and, out of the 3000
at first collected, only 800 stood with him, and they would fain have
persuaded him to retreat.

'God forbid that I should do this thing,' he said, 'and flee away from
them. If our time be come, let us die manfully for our brethren, and let
us not stain our honor.'

Sore was the battle, as sore as that waged by the 800 at Thermopylae,
and the end was the same. Judas and his 800 were not driven from the
field, but lay dead upon it. But their work was done. What is called the
moral effect of such a defeat goes further than many a victory. Those
lives, sold so dearly, were the price of freedom for Judea.

Judas's brothers Jonathan and Simon laid him in his father's tomb, and
then ended the work that he had begun; and when Simon died, the Jews,
once so trodden on, were the most prosperous race in the East. The
Temple was raised from its ruins, and the exploits of the Maccabees had
nerved the whole people to do or die in defense of the holy faith of
their fathers.


B.C. 52

We have seen the Gauls in the heart of Rome, we have now to see them
showing the last courage of despair, defending their native lands
against the greatest of all the conquerors that Rome ever sent forth.

These lands, where they had dwelt for so many years as justly to regard
them as their inheritance, were Gaul. There the Celtic race had had
their abode ever since history has spoken clearly, and had become, in
Gaul especially, slightly more civilized from intercourse with the Greek
colony at Massilia, or Marseilles. But they had become borderers upon
the Roman dominions, and there was little chance that they would not be
absorbed; the tribes of Provence, the first Roman province, were already
conquered, others were in alliance with Rome, and some had called in the
Romans to help them fight their battles. There is no occasion to
describe the seven years' war by which Julius Caesar added Gaul to the
provinces claimed by Rome, and when he visited Britain; such conquests
are far from being Golden Deeds, but are far worthier of the iron age.
It is the stand made by the losing party, and the true patriotism of one
young chieftain, that we would wish here to dwell upon.

In the sixth year of the war the conquest seemed to have been made, and
the Roman legions were guarding the north and west, while Caesar himself
had crossed the Alps. Subjection pressed heavily on the Gauls, some of
their chiefs had been put to death, and the high spirit of the nation
was stirred. Meetings took place between the warriors of the various
tribes, and an oath was taken by those who inhabited the centre of the
country, that if they once revolted, they would stand by one another to
the last. These Gauls were probably not tall, bony giants, like the
pillagers of Rome; their appearance and character would be more like
that of the modern Welsh, or of their own French descendants, small,
alert, and dark-eyed, full of fire, but, though fierce at the first
onset, soon rebuffed, yet with much perseverance in the long run. Their
worship was conducted by Druids, like that of the Britons, and their
dress was of checked material, formed into a loose coat and wide
trousers. The superior chiefs, who had had any dealings with Rome, would
speak a little Latin, and have a few Roman weapons as great improvements
upon their own. Their fortifications were wonderfully strong. Trunks of
trees were laid on the ground at two feet apart, so that the depth of
the wall was their full length. Over these another tier of beams was
laid crosswise, and the space between was filled up with earth, and the
outside faced with large stones; the building of earth and stone was
carried up to some height, then came another tier of timbers, crossed as
before, and this was repeated again to a considerable height, the inner
ends of the beams being fastened to a planking within the wall, so that
the whole was of immense compactness. Fire could not damage the mineral
part of the construction, nor the battering ram hurt the wood, and the
Romans had been often placed in great difficulties by these rude but
admirable constructions, within which the Gauls placed their families
and cattle, building huts for present shelter. Of late, some attempts
had been made at copying the regular streets and houses built round
courts that were in use among the Romans, and Roman colonies had been
established in various places, where veteran soldiers had received
grants of land on condition of keeping the natives in check. A growing
taste for arts and civilization was leading to Romans of inferior
classes settling themselves in other Gallic cities.

The first rising of the Gauls began by a quarrel at the city we now call
Orleans, ending in a massacre of all the Romans there. The tidings were
spread through all the country by loud shouts, repeated from one to the
other by men stationed on every hill, and thus, what had been done at
Orleans at sunrise was known by nine at night 160 miles off among the
mountains, which were then the homes of a tribe called by the Romans the
Arverni, who have left their name to the province of Auvergne.

Here dwelt a young chieftain, probably really called Fearcuincedorigh,
or Man who is chief of a hundred heads, known to us by Caesar's version
of his name, as Vercingetorix, a high-spirited youth, who keenly felt
the servitude of his country, and who, on receiving these tidings,
instantly called on his friends to endeavor to shake off the yoke. His
uncle, who feared to provoke Roman vengeance, expelled him from the
chief city, Gergovia, the remains of which may be traced on the mountain
still called Gergoie, about six miles from Clermont; but he collected
all the younger and more high-spirited men, forced a way into the city,
and was proclaimed chief of his tribe. All the neighboring tribes joined
in the league against the common enemy, and tidings were brought to
Caesar that the whole country round the Loire was in a state of revolt.

In the heart of winter he hurried back, and took the Gauls by surprise
by crossing the snows that lay thick on the wild waste of the Cebenna,
which the Arverni had always considered as their impenetrable barrier
throughout the winter. The towns quickly fell into his hands, and he was
rapidly recovering all he had lost, when Vercingetorix, collecting his
chief supporters, represented to them that their best hope would be in
burning all the inhabited places themselves and driving off all the
cattle, then lying in wait to cut off all the convoys of provisions that
should be sent to the enemy, and thus starving them into a retreat. He
said that burning houses were indeed a grievous sight, but it would be
more grievous to see their wives and children dragged into captivity. To
this all the allies agreed, and twenty towns in one district were burnt
in a single day; but when they came to the city of Avaricum, now called
Bourges, the tribe of Bituriges, to whom it belonged, entreated on their
knees not to be obliged to destroy the most beautiful city in the
country, representing that, as it had a river on one side, and a morass
everywhere else, except at a very narrow entrance, it might be easily
held out against the enemy, and to their entreaties Vercingetorix
yielded, though much against his own judgment.

Caesar laid siege to the place, but his army suffered severely from cold
and hunger; they had no bread at all, and lived only on the cattle
driven in from distant villages, while Vercingetorix hovered round,
cutting off their supplies. They however labored diligently to raise a
mount against a wall of the town; but as fast as they worked, the higher
did the Gauls within raise the stages of their rampart, and for twenty-
five days there was a most brave defense; but at last the Romans made
their entrance, and slaughtered all they found there, except 800, who
escaped to the camp of Vercingetorix. He was not disconcerted by this
loss, which he had always expected, but sheltered and clothed the
fugitives, and raised a great body of archers and of horsemen, with whom
he returned to his own territory in Auvergne. There was much fighting
around the city of Gergovia; but at length, owing to the revolt of the
Aedui, another Gallic tribe, Caesar was forced to retreat over the
Loire; and the wild peaks of volcanic Auvergne were free again.

But no gallant resolution could long prevail against the ever-advancing
power of Rome, and at length the Gauls were driven into their fortified
camp at Alesia, now called Alise [footnote: In Burgundy, between Semur
and Dijon.], a city standing on a high hill, with two rivers flowing
round its base, and a plain in front about three miles wide. Everywhere
else it was circled in by high hills, and here Caesar resolved to shut
these brave men in and bring them to bay. He caused his men to begin
that mighty system of earthworks by which the Romans carried on their
attacks, compassing their victim round on every side with a deadly
slowness and sureness, by those broad ditches and terraced ramparts that
everywhere mark where their foot of iron was trod. Eleven miles round
did this huge rampart extend, strengthened by three-and-twenty redoubts,
or places of defense, where a watch was continually kept. Before the
lines were complete, Vercingetorix brought out his cavalry, and gave
battle, at one time with a hope of success; but the enemy were too
strong for him, and his horsemen were driven into the camp. He then
resolved to send home all of these, since they could be of no use in the
camp, and had better escape before the ditch should have shut them in on
every side. He charged them to go to their several tribes and endeavor
to assemble all the fighting men to come to his rescue; for, if he were
not speedily succored, he and 80,000 of the bravest of the Gauls must
fall into the hands of the Romans, since he had only corn for thirty
days, even with the utmost saving.

Having thus exhorted them, he took leave of them, and sent them away at
nine at night, so that they might escape in the dark where the Roman
trench had not yet extended. Then he distributed the cattle among his
men, but retained the corn himself, serving it out with the utmost
caution. The Romans outside fortified their camp with a double ditch,
one of them full of water, behind which was a bank twelve feet high,
with stakes forked like the horns of a stag. The space between the
ditches was filled with pits, and scattered with iron caltrops or hooked
spikes. All this was against the garrison, to prevent them from breaking
out; and outside the camp he made another line of ditches and ramparts
against the Gauls who might be coming to the rescue.

The other tribes were not deaf to the summons of their friends, but
assembled in large numbers, and just as the besieged had exhausted their
provisions, an army was seen on the hills beyond the camp. Their
commander was Vergosillaunus (most probably Fearsaighan, the Man of the
Standard), a near kinsman of Vercingetorix; and all that bravery could
do, they did to break through the defenses of the camp from outside,
while within, Vercingetorix and his 80,000 tried to fill up the ditches,
and force their way out to meet their friends. But Caesar himself
commanded the Romans, who were confident in his fortunes, and raised a
shout of ecstasy wherever they beheld his thin, marked, eagle face and
purple robe, rushing on the enemy with a confidence of victory that did
in fact render them invincible. The Gauls gave way, lost seventy-four of
their standards, and Vergosillaunus himself was taken a prisoner; and as
for the brave garrison within Alesia, they were but like so many flies
struggling in vain within the enormous web that had been woven around
them. Hope was gone, but the chief of the Arverni could yet do one thing
for his countrymen--he could offer up himself in order to obtain better
terms for them.

The next day he convened his companions in arms, and told them that he
had only fought for the freedom of their country, not to secure his
private interest; and that now, since yield they must, he freely offered
himself to become a victim for their safety, whether they should judge
it best for themselves to appease the anger of the conqueror by putting
him to death themselves, or whether they preferred giving him up alive.

It was a piteous necessity to have to sacrifice their noblest and
bravest, who had led them so gallantly during the long war; but they had
little choice, and could only send messengers to the camp to offer to
yield Vercingetorix as the price of their safety. Caesar made it known
that he was willing to accept their submission, and drawing up his
troops in battle array, with the Eagle standards around him, he watched
the whole Gallic army march past him. First, Vercingetorix was placed as
a prisoner in his hands, and then each man lay down sword, javelin, or
bow and arrows, helmet, buckler and breastplate, in one mournful heap,
and proceeded on his way, scarcely thankful that the generosity of their
chieftain had purchased for them subjection rather than death.

Vercingetorix himself had become the property of the great man from whom
alone we know of his deeds; who could perceive his generous spirit and
high qualities as a general, nay, who honored the self-devotion by which
he endeavored to save his countrymen. He remained in captivity--six long
years sped by--while Caesar passed the Rubicon, fought out his struggle
for power at Rome, and subdued Egypt, Pontus, and Northern Africa--and
all the time the brave Gaul remained closely watched and guarded, and
with no hope of seeing the jagged peaks and wild valleys of his own
beautiful Auvergne. For well did he, like every other marked foe of
Rome, know for what he was reserved, and no doubt he yielded himself in
the full expectation of that fate which many a man, as brave as he, had
escaped by self-destruction.

The day came at last. In July, B.C. 45, the victorious Caesar had
leisure to celebrate his victories in four grand triumphs, all in one
month, and that in honor of the conquest of Gaul came the first. The
triumphal gate of Rome was thrown wide open, every house was decked with
hangings of silk and tapestry, the household images of every family,
dressed with fresh flowers, were placed in their porches, those of the
gods stood on the steps of the temples, and in marched the procession,
the magistrates first in their robes of office, and then the trumpeters.
Next came the tokens of the victory--figures of the supposed gods of the
two great rivers, Rhine and Rhone, and even of the captive Ocean, made
in gold, were carried along, with pictures framed in citron wood,
showing the scenes of victory--the wild waste of the Cevennes, the steep
peaks of Auvergne, the mighty camp of Alesia; nay, there too would be
the white cliffs of Dover, and the struggle with the Britons on the
beach. Models in wood and ivory showed the fortifications of Avaricum,
and of many another city; and here too were carried specimens of the
olives and vines, and other curious plants of the newly won land; here
was the breastplate of British pearls that Caesar dedicated to Venus. A
band of flute-players followed, and then came the white oxen that were
to be sacrificed, their horns gilded and flowers hung round them, the
sacrificing priests with wreathed heads marching with them. Specimens of
bears and wolves from the woods and mountains came next in order, and
after them waved for the last time the national ensigns of the many
tribes of Gaul. Once more Vercingetorix and Vergosillaunus saw their own
Arvernian standard, and marched behind it with the noblest of their
clan: once more they wore their native dress and well-tried armor. But
chains were on their hands and feet, and the men who had fought so long
and well for freedom, were the captive gazing-stock of Rome. Long, long
was the line of chained Gauls of every tribe, before the four white
horses appeared, all abreast, drawing the gilded car, in which stood a
slight form in a purple robe, with the bald head and narrow temples
encircled with a wreath of bay, the thin cheeks tinted with vermilion,
the eager aquiline face and narrow lips gravely composed to Roman
dignity, and the quick eye searching out what impression the display was
making on the people. Over his head a slave held a golden crown, but
whispered, 'Remember that thou too art a man.' And in following that old
custom, how little did the victor know that, bay-crowned like himself,
there followed close behind, in one of the chariots of the officers, the
man whose dagger-thrust would, two years later, be answered by his dying
word of reproach! The horsemen of the army followed, and then the
legions, every spear wreathed, every head crowned with bay, so that an
evergreen grove might have seemed marching through the Roman streets,
but for the war songs, and the wild jests, and ribald ballads that
custom allowed the soldiers to shout out, often in pretended mockery of
their own victorious general, the Imperator.

The victor climbed the Capitol steps, and laid his wreath of bay on
Jupiter's knees, the white oxen were sacrificed, and the feast began by
torchlight. Where was the vanquished? He was led to the dark prison
vault in the side of Capitoline hill, and there one sharp sword-thrust
ended the gallant life and long captivity.

It was no special cruelty in Julius Caesar. Every Roman triumph was
stained by the slaughter of the most distinguished captives, after the
degradation of walking in chains had been undergone. He had spirit to
appreciate Vercingetorix, but had not nobleness to spare him from the
ordinary fate. Yet we may doubt which, in true moral greatness, was the
superior in that hour of triumph, the conqueror who trod down all that
he might minister to his own glory, or the conquered, who, when no
resistance had availed, had voluntarily confronted shame and death in
hopes to win pardon and safety for his comrades.


A.D. 389

When a monarch's power is unchecked by his people, there is only One to
whom he believes himself accountable; and if he have forgotten the
dagger of Damocles, or if he be too high-spirited to regard it, then
that Higher One alone can restrain his actions. And there have been
times when princes have so broken the bounds of right, that no hope
remains of recalling them to their duty save by the voice of the
ministers of God upon Earth. But as these ministers bear no charmed
life, and are subjects themselves of the prince, such rebukes have been
given at the utmost risk of liberty and life.

Thus it was that though Nathan, unharmed, showed David his sin, and
Elijah, the wondrous prophet of Gilead, was protected from Jezebel's
fury, when he denounced her and her husband Ahab for the idolatry of
Baal and the murder of Naboth; yet no Divine hand interposed to shield
Zachariah, the son of Jehoiada, the high priest, when he rebuked the
apostasy of his cousin, Jehoash, King of Judah, and was stoned to death
by the ungrateful king's command in that very temple court where
Jehoiada and his armed Levites had encountered the savage usurping
Athaliah, and won back the kingdom for the child Jehoash. And when 'in
the spirit and power of Elijah', St. John the Baptist denounced the sin
of Herod Antipas in marrying his brother Philip's wife, he bore the
consequences to the utmost, when thrown into prison and then beheaded to
gratify the rage of the vindictive woman.

Since Scripture Saints in the age of miracles were not always shielded
from the wrath of kings, Christian bishops could expect no special
interposition in their favor, when they stood forth to stop the way of
the sovereign's passions, and to proclaim that the cause of mercy,
purity, and truth is the cause of God.

The first of these Christian bishops was Ambrose, the sainted prelate of
Milan. It was indeed a Christian Emperor whom he opposed, no other than
the great Theodosius, but it was a new and unheard-of thing for any
voice to rebuke an Emperor of Rome, and Theodosius had proved himself a
man of violent passions.

The fourth century was a time when races and all sorts of shows were the
fashion, nay, literally the rage; for furious quarrels used to arise
among the spectators who took the part of one or other of the
competitors, and would call themselves after their colours, the Blues or
the Greens. A favorite chariot driver, who had excelled in these races
at Thessalonica, was thrown into prison for some misdemeanor by
Botheric, the Governor of Illyria, and his absence so enraged the
Thessalonican mob, that they rose in tumult, and demanded his
restoration. On being refused, they threw such a hail of stones that the
governor himself and some of his officers were slain.

Theodosius might well be displeased, but his rage passed all bounds. He
was at Milan at the time, and at first Ambrose so worked on his feelings
as to make him promise to temper justice with mercy; but afterwards
fresh accounts of the murder, together with the representations of his
courtier Rufinus, made him resolve not to relent, and he sent off
messengers commanding that there should be a general slaughter of all
the race-going Thessalonicans, since all were equally guilty of
Botheric's death. He took care that his horrible command should be kept
a secret from Ambrose, and the first that the Bishop heard of it was the
tidings that 7,000 persons had been killed in the theatre, in a massacre
lasting three hours!

There was no saving these lives, but Ambrose felt it his duty to make
the Emperor feel his sin, in hopes of saving others. Besides, it was not
consistent with the honor of God to receive at his altar a man reeking
with innocent blood. The Bishop, however, took time to consider; he went
into the country for a few days, and thence wrote a letter to the
Emperor, telling him that thus stained with crime, he could not be
admitted to the Holy Communion, nor received into church. Still the
Emperor does not seem to have believed he could be really withstood by
any subject, and on Ambrose's return, he found the imperial procession,
lictors, guards, and all, escorting the Emperor as usual to the Basilica
or Justice Hall, that had been turned into a church.
Then to the door came the Bishop and stood in the way, forbidding the
entrance, and announcing that there, at least, sacrilege should not be
added to murder.

'Nay,' said the Emperor, 'did not holy King David commit both murder and
adultery, yet was he not received again?'

'If you have sinned like him, repent like him,' answered Ambrose.

Theodosius turned away, troubled. He was great enough not to turn his
anger against the Bishop; he felt that he had sinned, and that the
chastisement was merited, and he went back to his palace weeping, and
there spent eight months, attending to his duties of state, but too
proud to go through the tokens of penitence that the discipline of the
Church had prescribed before a great sinner could be received back into
the congregation of the faithful. Easter was the usual time for
reconciling penitents, and Ambrose was not inclined to show any respect
of persons, or to excuse the Emperor from a penance he would have
imposed on any offender. However, Rufinus could not believe in such
disregard, and thought all would give way to the Emperor's will.
Christmas had come, but for one man at Milan there were no hymns, no
shouts of 'glad tidings!' no midnight festival, no rejoicing that 'to us
a Child is born; to us a Son is given'. The Basilica was thronged with
worshippers and rang with their Amens, resounding like thunder, and
their echoing song--the Te Deum--then their newest hymn of praise. But
the lord of all those multitudes was alone in his palace. He had not
shown good will to man; he had not learnt mercy and peace from the
Prince of Peace; and the door was shut upon him. He was a resolute
Spanish Roman, a well-tried soldier, a man advancing in years, but he
wept, and wept bitterly. Rufinus found him thus weeping. It must have
been strange to the courtier that his master did not send his lictors to
carry the offending bishop to a dungeon, and give all his court favor to
the heretics, like the last empress who had reigned at Milan. Nay, he
might even, like Julian the Apostate, have altogether renounced that
Christian faith which could humble an emperor below the poorest of his

But Rufinus contented himself with urging the Emperor not to remain at
home lamenting, but to endeavor again to obtain admission into the
church, assuring him that the Bishop would give way. Theodosius replied
that he did not expect it, but yielded to the persuasions, and Rufinus
hastened on before to warn the Bishop of his coming, and represented how
inexpedient it was to offend him.

'I warn you,' replied Ambrose, 'that I shall oppose his entrance, but if
he chooses to turn his power into tyranny, I shall willingly let him
slay me.'

The Emperor did not try to enter the church, but sought Ambrose in an
adjoining building, where he entreated to be absolved from his sin.

'Beware,' returned the Bishop, 'of trampling on the laws of God.'
'I respect them,' said the Emperor, 'therefore I have not set foot in
the church, but I pray thee to deliver me from these bonds, and not to
close against me the door that the Lord hath opened to all who truly

'What repentance have you shown for such a sin?' asked Ambrose.

'Appoint my penance,' said the Emperor, entirely subdued.

And Ambrose caused him at once to sign a decree that thirty days should
always elapse between a sentence of death and its execution. After this,
Theodosius was allowed to come into the church, but only to the corner
he had shunned all these eight months, till the 'dull hard stone within
him' had 'melted', to the spot appointed for the penitents. There,
without his crown, his purple robe, and buskins, worked with golden
eagles, all laid aside, he lay prostrate on the stones, repeating the
verse, 'My soul cleaveth unto the dust; quicken me, O Lord, according to
thy word.' This was the place that penitents always occupied, and there
fasts and other discipline were also appointed. When the due course had
been gone through, probably at the next Easter, Ambrose, in his Master's
name, pronounced the forgiveness of Theodosius, and received him back to
the full privileges of a Christian. When we look at the course of many
another emperor, and see how easily, where the power was irresponsible,
justice became severity, and severity, bloodthirstiness, we see what
Ambrose dared to meet, and from what he spared Theodosius and all the
civilized world under his sway. Who can tell how many innocent lives
have been saved by that thirty days' respite?

Pass over nearly 700 years, and again we find a church door barred
against a monarch. This time it is not under the bright Italian sky, but
under the grey fogs of the Baltic sea. It is not the stately marble
gateway of the Milanese Basilica, but the low-arched, rough stone portal
of the newly built cathedral of Roskilde, in Zealand, where, if a zigzag
surrounds the arch, it is a great effort of genius. The Danish king
Swend, the nephew of the well-known Knut, stands before it; a stern and
powerful man, fierce and passionate, and with many a Danish axe at his
command. Nay, only lately for a few rude jests, he caused some of his
chief jarls to be slain without a trial. Half the country is still
pagan, and though the king himself is baptized, there is no certainty
that, if the Christian faith do not suit his taste, he may not join the
heathen party and return to the worship of Thor and Tyr, where deeds of
blood would be not blameworthy, but a passport to the rude joys of
Valhall. Nevertheless there is a pastoral staff across the doorway,
barring the way of the king, and that staff is held against him by an
Englishman, William, Bishop of Roskilde, the missionary who had
converted a great part of Zealand, but who will not accept Christians
who have not laid aside their sins.

He confronts the king who has never been opposed before. 'Go back,' he
says, 'nor dare approach the alter of God--thou who art not a king but a

Some of the jarls seized their swords and axes, and were about to strike
the bishop away from the threshold, but he, without removing his staff,
bent his head, and bade them strike, saying he was ready to die in the
cause of God. But the king came to a better frame of mind, he called the
jarls away, and returning humbly to his palace, took off his royal
robes, and came again barefoot and in sackcloth to the church door,
where Bishop William met him, took him by the hand, gave him the kiss of
peace, and led him to the penitents' place. After three days he was
absolved, and for the rest of his life, the bishop and the king lived in
the closest friendship, so much so that William always prayed that even
in death he might not be divided from his friend. The prayer was
granted. The two died almost at the same time, and were buried together
in the cathedral at Roskilde, where the one had taught and other learnt
the great lesson of mercy.


A.D. 404

As the Romans grew prouder and more fond of pleasure, no one could hope
to please them who did not give them sports and entertainments. When any
person wished to be elected to any public office, it was a matter of
course that he should compliment his fellow citizens by exhibitions of
the kind they loved, and when the common people were discontented, their
cry was that they wanted panem ac Circenses, 'bread and sports', the
only things they cared for. In most places where there has been a large
Roman colony, remains can be seen of the amphitheatres, where the
citizens were wont to assemble for these diversions. Sometimes these are
stages of circular galleries of seats hewn out of the hillside, where
rows of spectators might sit one above the other, all looking down on a
broad, flat space in the centre, under their feet, where the
representations took place. Sometimes, when the country was flat, or it
was easier to build than to excavate, the amphitheatre was raised above
ground, rising up to a considerable height.

The grandest and most renowned of all these amphitheatres is the
Coliseum at Rome. It was built by Vespasian and his son Titus, the
conquerors of Jerusalem, in a valley in the midst of the seven hills of
Rome. The captive Jews were forced to labour at it; and the materials,
granite outside, and softer travertine stone within, are so solid and so
admirably built, that still at the end of eighteen centuries it has
scarcely even become a ruin, but remains one of the greatest wonders of

Five acres of ground were enclosed within the oval of its outer wall,
which outside rises perpendicularly in tiers of arches one above the
other. Within, the galleries of seats projected forwards, each tier
coming out far beyond the one above it, so that between the lowest and
the outer wall there was room for a great space of chambers, passages,
and vaults around the central space, called the arena, from the arena,
or sand, with which it was strewn.

When the Roman Emperors grew very vain and luxurious, they used to have
this sand made ornamental with metallic filings, vermilion, and even
powdered precious stones; but it was thought better taste to use the
scrapings of a soft white stone, which, when thickly strewn, made the
whole arena look as if covered with untrodden snow. Around the border of
this space flowed a stream of fresh water. Then came a straight wall,
rising to a considerable height, and surmounted by a broad platform, on
which stood a throne for the Emperor, curule chairs of ivory and gold
for the chief magistrates and senators, and seats for the vestal
virgins. Next above were galleries for the equestrian order, the great
mass of those who considered themselves as of gentle station, though not
of the highest rank; farther up, and therefore farther back, were the
galleries belonging to the freemen of Rome; and these were again
surmounted by another plain wall with a platform on the top, where were
places for the ladies, who were not (except the vestal virgins) allowed
to look on nearer, because of the unclothed state of some of the
performers in the arena. Between the ladies' boxes, benches were
squeezed in where the lowest people could seat themselves; and some of
these likewise found room in the two uppermost tiers of porticoes, where
sailors, mechanics, and persons in the service of the Coliseum had their
post. Altogether, when full, this huge building held no less than 87,000
spectators. It had no roof; but when there was rain, or if the sun was
too hot, the sailors in the porticoes unfurled awnings that ran along
upon ropes, and formed a covering of silk and gold tissue over the
whole. Purple was the favorite color for this velamen, or veil; because,
when the sun shone through it, it cast such beautiful rosy tints on the
snowy arena and the white purple-edged togas of the Roman citizens.

Long days were spent from morning till evening upon those galleries. The
multitude who poured in early would watch the great dignitaries arrive
and take their seats, greeting them either with shouts of applause or
hootings of dislike, according as they were favorites or otherwise; and
when the Emperor came in to take his place under his canopy, there was
one loud acclamation, 'Joy to thee, master of all, first of all,
happiest of all. Victory to thee for ever!'

When the Emperor had seated himself and given the signal, the sports
began. Sometimes a rope-dancing elephant would begin the entertainment,
by mounting even to the summit of the building and descending by a cord.
Then a bear, dressed up as a Roman matron, would be carried along in a
chair between porters, as ladies were wont to go abroad, and another
bear, in a lawyer's robe, would stand on his hind legs and go through
the motions of pleading a case. Or a lion came forth with a jeweled
crown on his head, a diamond necklace round his neck, his mane plaited
with gold, and his claws gilded, and played a hundred pretty gentle
antics with a little hare that danced fearlessly within his grasp. Then
in would come twelve elephants, six males in togas, six females with the
veil and pallium; they took their places on couches around an ivory
table, dined with great decorum, playfully sprinkled a little rosewater
over the nearest spectators, and then received more guests of their
unwieldy kind, who arrived in ball dresses, scattered flowers, and
performed a dance.

Sometimes water was let into the arena, a ship sailed in, and falling to
pieces in the midst, sent a crowd of strange animals swimming in all
directions. Sometimes the ground opened, and trees came growing up
through it, bearing golden fruit. Or the beautiful old tale of Orpheus
was acted; these trees would follow the harp and song of the musician;
but--to make the whole part complete--it was no mere play, but real
earnest, that the Orpheus of the piece fell a prey to live bears.

For the Coliseum had not been built for such harmless spectacles as
those first described. The fierce Romans wanted to be excited and feel
themselves strongly stirred; and, presently, the doors of the pits and
dens round the arena were thrown open, and absolutely savage beasts were
let loose upon one another--rhinoceroses and tigers, bulls and lions,
leopards and wild boars--while the people watched with savage curiosity
to see the various kinds of attack and defense; or, if the animals were
cowed or sullen, their rage would be worked up--red would be shown to
the bulls, white to boars, red-hot goads would be driven into some,
whips would be lashed at others, till the work of slaughter was fairly
commenced, and gazed on with greedy eyes and ears delighted, instead of
horror-struck, by the roars and howls of the noble creatures whose
courage was thus misused. Sometimes indeed, when some especially strong
or ferocious animal had slain a whole heap of victims, the cries of the
people would decree that it should be turned loose in its native forest,
and, amid shouts of 'A triumph! a triumph!' the beast would prowl round
the arena, upon the carcasses of the slain victims. Almost incredible
numbers of animals were imported for these cruel sports, and the
governors of distant provinces made it a duty to collect troops of
lions, elephants, ostriches, leopards--the fiercer or the newer the
creature the better--to be thus tortured to frenzy, to make sport in the
amphitheatre. However, there was daintiness joined with cruelty: the
Romans did not like the smell of blood, though they enjoyed the sight of
it, and all the solid stonework was pierced with tubes, through which
was conducted the stream of spices and saffron, boiled in wine, that the
perfume might overpower the scent of slaughter below.

Wild beasts tearing each other to pieces might, one would think, satisfy
any taste of horror; but the spectators needed even nobler game to be
set before their favorite monsters--men were brought forward to confront
them. Some of these were at first in full armor, and fought hard,
generally with success; and there was a revolving machine, something
like a squirrel's cage, in which the bear was always climbing after his
enemy, and then rolling over by his own weight. Or hunters came, almost
unarmed, and gaining the victory by swiftness and dexterity, throwing a
piece of cloth over a lion's head, or disconcerting him by putting their
fist down his throat. But it was not only skill, but death, that the
Romans loved to see; and condemned criminals and deserters were reserved
to feast the lions, and to entertain the populace with their various
kinds of death. Among these condemned was many a Christian martyr, who
witnessed a good confession before the savage-eyed multitude around the
arena, and 'met the lion's gory mane' with a calm resolution and hopeful
joy that the lookers-on could not understand. To see a Christian die,
with upward gaze and hymns of joy on his tongue, was the most strange
unaccountable sight the Coliseum could offer, and it was therefore the
choicest, and reserved for the last part of the spectacles in which the
brute creation had a part.

The carcasses were dragged off with hooks, and bloodstained sand was
covered with a fresh clean layer, the perfume wafted in stronger clouds,
and a procession came forward--tall, well-made men, in the prime of
their strength. Some carried a sword and a lasso, others a trident and a
net; some were in light armor, others in the full heavy equipment of a
soldier; some on horseback, some in chariots, some on foot. They marched
in, and made their obeisance to the Emperor; and with one voice, their
greeting sounded through the building, Ave, Caesar, morituri te
salutant! 'Hail, Caesar, those about to die salute thee!'

They were the gladiators--the swordsmen trained to fight to the death to
amuse the populace. They were usually slaves placed in schools of arms
under the care of a master; but sometimes persons would voluntarily hire
themselves out to fight by way of a profession: and both these, and such
slave gladiators as did not die in the arena, would sometimes retire,
and spend an old age of quiet; but there was little hope of this, for
the Romans were not apt to have mercy on the fallen.

Fights of all sorts took place--the light-armed soldier and the netsman
--the lasso and the javelin--the two heavy-armed warriors--all
combinations of single combat, and sometimes a general melee. When a
gladiator wounded his adversary, he shouted to the spectators, Hoc
habet! 'He has it!' and looked up to know whether he should kill or
spare. If the people held up their thumbs, the conquered was left to
recover, if he could; if they turned them down, he was to die: and if he
showed any reluctance to present his throat for the deathblow, there was
a scornful shout, Recipe ferrum! 'Receive the steel!' Many of us must
have seen casts of the most touching statue of the wounded man, that
called forth the noble lines of indignant pity which, though so often
repeated, cannot be passed over here:

'I see before me the Gladiator lie;
He leans upon his hand--his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony.
And his droop'd head sinks gradually low,
And through his side the last drops, ebbing slow
From the red gash, fall heavy one by one,
Like the first of a thunder shower; and now
The arena swims around him--he is gone
Ere ceased the inhuman shout which hailed the wretch who won.

'He heard it, but he heeded no--this eyes
Were with his heart, and that was far away.
He reck'd not of the life he lost, nor prize,
But where his rude hut by the Danube lay,
There were his young barbarians all at play,
There was their Dacian mother--he their sire,
Butcher'd to make a Roman holiday.
All this rush'd with his blood--Shall he expire,
And unavenged? Arise ye Goths and glut your ire.'

Sacred vestals, tender mothers, fat, good-humored senators, all thought
it fair play, and were equally pitiless in the strange frenzy for
exciting scenes to which they gave themselves up, when they mounted the
stone stairs of the Coliseum. Privileged persons would even descend into
the arena, examine the death agonies, and taste the blood of some
specially brave victim ere the corpse was drawn forth at the death gate,
that the frightful game might continue undisturbed and unencumbered.
Gladiator shows were the great passion of Rome, and popular favor could
hardly be gained except by ministering to it. Even when the barbarians
were beginning to close in on the Empire, hosts of brave men were still
kept for this slavish mimic warfare--sport to the beholders, but sad
earnest to the actors.

Christianity worked its way upwards, and at least was professed by the
Emperor on his throne. Persecution came to an end, and no more martyrs
fed the beasts in the Coliseum. The Christian emperors endeavored to
prevent any more shows where cruelty and death formed the chief interest
and no truly religious person could endure the spectacle; but custom and
love of excitement prevailed even against the Emperor. Mere tricks of
beasts, horse and chariot races, or bloodless contests, were tame and
dull, according to the diseased taste of Rome; it was thought weak and
sentimental to object to looking on at a death scene; the Emperors were
generally absent at Constantinople, and no one could get elected to any
office unless he treated the citizens to such a show as they best liked,
with a little bloodshed and death to stir their feelings; and thus it
went on for full a hundred years after Rome had, in name, become a
Christian city, and the same custom prevailed wherever there was an
amphitheatre and pleasure-loving people.

Meantime the enemies of Rome were coming nearer and nearer, and Alaric,
the great chief of the Goths, led his forces into Italy, and threatened
the city itself. Honorius, the Emperor, was a cowardly, almost
idiotical, boy; but his brave general, Stilicho, assembled his forces,
met the Goths at Pollentia (about twenty-five miles from where Turin now
stands), and gave them a complete defeat on the Easter Day of the year
403. He pursued them into the mountains, and for that time saved Rome.
In the joy of the victory the Roman senate invited the conqueror and his
ward Honorius to enter the city in triumph, at the opening of the new
year, with the white steeds, purple robes, and vermilion cheeks with
which, of old, victorious generals were welcomed at Rome. The churches
were visited instead of the Temple of Jupiter, and there was no murder
of the captives; but Roman bloodthirstiness was not yet allayed, and,
after all the procession had been completed, the Coliseum shows
commenced, innocently at first, with races on foot, on horseback, and in
chariots; then followed a grand hunting of beasts turned loose in the
arena; and next a sword dance. But after the sword dance came the
arraying of swordsmen, with no blunted weapons, but with sharp spears
and swords--a gladiator combat in full earnest. The people, enchanted,
applauded with shouts of ecstasy this gratification of their savage
tastes. Suddenly, however, there was an interruption. A rude, roughly
robed man, bareheaded and barefooted, had sprung into the arena, and,
signing back the gladiators, began to call aloud upon the people to
cease from the shedding of innocent blood, and not to requite God's
mercy in turning away the sword of the enemy by encouraging murder.
Shouts, howls, cries, broke in upon his words; this was no place for
preachings--the old customs of Rome should be observed 'Back, old man!'
'On, gladiators!' The gladiators thrust aside the meddler, and rushed to
the attack. He still stood between, holding them apart, striving in vain
to be heard. 'Sedition! Sedition!' 'Down with him!' was the cry; and the
man in authority, Alypius, the prefect, himself added his voice. The
gladiators, enraged at interference with their vocation, cut him down.
Stones, or whatever came to hand, rained down upon him from the furious
people, and he perished in the midst of the arena! He lay dead, and then
came the feeling of what had been done.

His dress showed that he was one of the hermits who vowed themselves to
a holy life of prayer and self-denial, and who were greatly reverenced,
even by the most thoughtless. The few who had previously seen him, told
that he had come from the wilds of Asia on pilgrimage, to visit the
shrines and keep his Christmas at Rome--they knew he was a holy man--no
more, and it is not even certain whether his name was Alymachus or
Telemachus. His spirit had been stirred by the sight of thousands
flocking to see men slaughter one another, and in his simple-hearted
zeal he had resolved to stop the cruelty or die. He had died, but not in
vain. His work was done. The shock of such a death before their eyes
turned the hearts of the people; they saw the wickedness and cruelty to
which they had blindly surrendered themselves; and from the day when the
hermit died in the Coliseum there was never another fight of the
Gladiators. Not merely at Rome, but in every province of the Empire, the
custom was utterly abolished; and one habitual crime at least was wiped
from the earth by the self-devotion of one humble, obscure, almost
nameless man.


A.D. 438

Four hundred years of the Roman dominion had entirely tamed the once
wild and independent Gauls. Everywhere, except in the moorlands of
Brittany, they had become as much like Romans themselves as they could
accomplish; they had Latin names, spoke the Latin tongue, all their
personages of higher rank were enrolled as Roman citizens, their chief
cities were colonies where the laws were administered by magistrates in
the Roman fashion, and the houses, dress, and amusements were the same
as those of Italy. The greater part of the towns had been converted to
Christianity, though some Paganism still lurked in the more remote
villages and mountainous districts.

It was upon these civilized Gauls that the terrible attacks came from
the wild nations who poured out of the centre and east of Europe. The
Franks came over the Rhine and its dependent rivers, and made furious
attacks upon the peaceful plains, where the Gauls had long lived in
security, and reports were everywhere heard of villages harried by wild
horsemen, with short double-headed battleaxes, and a horrible short
pike, covered with iron and with several large hooks, like a gigantic
artificial minnow, and like it fastened to a long rope, so that the prey
which it had grappled might be pulled up to the owner. Walled cities
usually stopped them, but every farm or villa outside was stripped of
its valuables, set on fire, the cattle driven off, and the more healthy
inhabitants seized for slaves.

It was during this state of things that a girl was born to a wealthy
peasant at the village now called Nanterre, about two miles from
Lutetia, which was already a prosperous city, though not as yet so
entirely the capital as it was destined to become under the name of
Paris. She was christened by an old Gallic name, probably Gwenfrewi, or
White Stream, in Latin Genovefa, but she is best known by the late
French form of Genevieve. When she was about seven years old, two
celebrated bishops passed through the village, Germanus, of Auxerre, and
Lupus, of Troyes, who had been invited to Britain to dispute the false
doctrine of Pelagius. All the inhabitants flocked into the church to see
them, pray with them, and receive their blessing; and here the sweet
childish devotion of Genevieve so struck Germanus, that he called her to
him, talked to her, made her sit beside him at the feast, gave her his
special blessing, and presented her with a copper medal with a cross
engraven upon it. From that time the little maiden always deemed herself
especially consecrated to the service of Heaven, but she still remained
at home, daily keeping her father's sheep, and spinning their wool as
she sat under the trees watching them, but always with a heart full of

After this St. Germanus proceeded to Britain, and there encouraged his
converts to meet the heathen Picts at Maes Garmon, in Flintshire, where
the exulting shout of the white-robed catechumens turned to flight the
wild superstitious savages of the north,--and the Hallelujah victory was
gained without a drop of bloodshed. He never lost sight of Genevieve,
the little maid whom he had so early distinguished for her piety.

After she lost her parents she went to live with her godmother, and
continued the same simple habits, leading a life of sincere devotion and
strict self-denial, constant prayer, and much charity to her poorer

In the year 451 the whole of Gaul was in the most dreadful state of
terror at the advance of Attila, the savage chief of the Huns, who came
from the banks of the Danube with a host of savages of hideous features,
scarred and disfigured to render them more frightful. The old enemies,
the Goths and the Franks, seemed like friends compared with these
formidable beings whose cruelties were said to be intolerable, and of
whom every exaggerated story was told that could add to the horrors of
the miserable people who lay in their path. Tidings came that this
'Scourge of God', as Attila called himself, had passed the Rhine,
destroyed Tongres and Metz, and was in full march for Paris. The whole
country was in the utmost terror. Everyone seized their most valuable
possessions, and would have fled; but Genevieve placed herself on the
only bridge across the Seine, and argued with them, assuring them in a
strain that was afterwards thought of as prophetic, that, if they would
pray, repent, and defend instead of abandoning their homes, God would
protect them. They were at first almost ready to stone her for thus
withstanding their panic, but just then a priest arrived from Auxerre,
with a present for Genevieve from St. Germanus, and they were thus
reminded of the high estimation in which he held her; they became
ashamed of their violence, and she held them back to pray and to arm
themselves. In a few days they heard that Attila had paused to besiege
Orleans, and that Aetius, the Roman general, hurrying from Italy, had
united his troops with those of the Goths and Franks, and given Attila
so terrible a defeat at Chalons that the Huns were fairly driven out of
Gaul. And here it must be mentioned that when the next year, 452, Attila
with his murderous host came down into Italy, and after horrible
devastation of all the northern provinces, came to the gates of Rome, no
one dared to meet him but one venerable Bishop, Leo, the Pope, who, when
his flock were in transports of despair, went forth only accompanied by
one magistrate to meet the invader, and endeavor to turn his wrath side.
The savage Huns were struck with awe by the fearless majesty of the
unarmed old man. They conducted him safely to Attila, who listened to
him with respect, and promised not to lead his people into Rome,
provided a tribute should be paid to him. He then retreated, and, to the
joy of all Europe, died on his way back to his native dominions.

But with the Huns the danger and suffering of Europe did not end. The
happy state described in the Prophets as 'dwelling safely, with none to
make them afraid', was utterly unknown in Europe throughout the long
break-up of the Roman Empire; and in a few more years the Franks were
overrunning the banks of the Seine, and actually venturing to lay siege
to the Roman walls of Paris itself. The fortifications were strong
enough, but hunger began to do the work of the besiegers, and the
garrison, unwarlike and untrained, began to despair. But Genevieve's
courage and trust never failed; and finding no warriors willing to run
the risk of going beyond the walls to obtain food for the women and
children who were perishing around them, this brave shepherdess embarked
alone in a little boat, and guiding it down the stream, landed beyond
the Frankish camp, and repairing to the different Gallic cities, she
implored them to send succor to the famished brethren. She obtained
complete success. Probably the Franks had no means of obstructing the
passage of the river, so that a convoy of boats could easily penetrate
into the town, and at any rate they looked upon Genevieve as something
sacred and inspired whom they durst not touch; probably as one of the
battle maids in whom their own myths taught them to believe. One account
indeed says that, instead of going alone to obtain help, Genevieve
placed herself at the head of a forage party, and that the mere sight of
her inspired bearing caused them to be allowed to enter and return in
safety; but the boat version seems the more probable, since a single
boat on a broad river would more easily elude the enemy than a troop of
Gauls pass through their army.

But a city where all the valor resided in one woman could not long hold
out, and in another inroad, when Genevieve was absent, Paris was
actually seized by the Franks. Their leader, Hilperik, was absolutely
afraid of what the mysteriously brave maiden might do to him, and
commanded the gates of the city to be carefully guarded lest she should
enter; but Geneviere learnt that some of the chief citizens were
imprisoned, and that Hilperik intended their death, and nothing could
withhold her from making an effort in their behalf. The Franks had made
up their minds to settle, and not to destroy. They were not burning and
slaying indiscriminately, but while despising the Romans, as they called
the Gauls, for their cowardice, they were in awe of the superior
civilization and the knowledge of arts. The country people had free
access to the city, and Genevieve in her homely gown and veil passed by
Hilperik's guards without being suspected of being more than an ordinary
Gaulish village maid; and thus she fearlessly made her way, even to the
old Roman halls, where the long-haired Hilperik was holding his wild
carousal. Would that we knew more of that interview--one of the most
striking that ever took place! We can only picture to ourselves the
Roman tessellated pavement bestrewn with wine, bones, and fragments of
the barbarous revelry. There were untamed Franks, their sun-burnt hair
tied up in a knot at the top of their heads, and falling down like a
horse's tail, their faces close shaven, except two moustaches, and
dressed in tight leather garments, with swords at their wide belts. Some
slept, some feasted, some greased their long locks, some shouted out
their favorite war songs around the table which was covered with the
spoils of churches, and at their heads sat the wild, long-haired
chieftain, who was a few years later driven away by his own followers
for his excesses, the whole scene was all that was abhorrent to a pure,
devout, and faithful nature, most full of terror to a woman. Yet, there,
in her strength, stood the peasant maiden, her heart full of trust and
pity, her looks full of the power that is given by fearlessness of them
that can kill the body. What she said we do not know--we only know that
the barbarous Hilperik was overawed; he trembled before the
expostulations of the brave woman, and granted all she asked--the safety
of his prisoners, and mercy to the terrified inhabitants. No wonder that
the people of Paris have ever since looked back to Genevieve as their
protectress, and that in after ages she has grown to be the patron saint
of the city.

She lived to see the son of Hilperik, Chlodweh, or, as he was more
commonly called, Clovis, marry a Christian wife, Clotilda, and after a
time became a Christian. She saw the foundation of the Cathedral of
Notre-Dame, and of the two famous churches of St. Denys and of St.
Martin of Tours, and gave her full share to the first efforts for
bringing the rude and bloodthirsty conquerors to some knowledge of
Christian faith, mercy, and purity. After a life of constant prayer and
charity she died, three months after King Clovis, in the year 512, the
eighty-ninth of her age. [Footnote: Perhaps the exploits of the Maid of
Orleans were the most like those of Genevieve, but they are not here
added to our collection of 'Golden Deeds,' because the Maid's belief
that she was directly inspired removes them from the ordinary class.
Alas! the English did not treat her as Hilperik treated Genevieve.


A.D. 533

The Franks had fully gained possession of all the north of Gaul, except
Brittany. Chlodweh had made them Christians in name, but they still
remained horribly savage--and the life of the Gauls under them was
wretched. The Burgundians and Visigoths who had peopled the southern and
eastern provinces were far from being equally violent. They had entered
on their settlements on friendly terms, and even showed considerable
respect for the Roman-Gallic senators, magistrates, and higher clergy,
who all remained unmolested in their dignities and riches. Thus it was
that Gregory, Bishop of Langres, was a man of high rank and
consideration in the Burgundian kingdom, whence the Christian Queen
Clotilda had come; and even after the Burgundians had been subdued by
the four sons of Chlodweh, he continued a rich and prosperous man.

After one of the many quarrels and reconciliations between these fierce
brethren, there was an exchange of hostages for the observance of the
terms of the treaty. These were not taken from among the Franks, who
were too proud to submit to captivity, but from among the Gaulish
nobles, a much more convenient arrangement to the Frankish kings, who
cared for the life of a 'Roman' infinitely less than even for the life
of a Frank. Thus many young men of senatorial families were exchanged
between the domains of Theodrik to the south, and of Hildebert to the
northward, and quartered among Frankish chiefs, with whom at first they
had nothing more to endure than the discomfort of living as guests with
such rude and coarse barbarians. But ere long fresh quarrels broke out
between Theodrik and Hildebert, and the unfortunate hostages were at
once turned into slaves. Some of them ran away if they were near the
frontier, but Bishop Gregory was in the utmost anxiety about his young
nephew Attalus, who had been last heard of as being placed under the
charge of a Frank who lived between Treves and Metz. The Bishop sent
emissaries to make secret enquiries, and they brought word that the
unfortunate youth had indeed been reduced to slavery, and was made to
keep his master's herds of horses. Upon this the uncle again sent off
his messengers with presents for the ransom of Attalus, but the Frank
rejected them, saying, 'One of such high race can only be redeemed for
ten pounds' weight of gold.'

This was beyond the Bishop's means, and while he was considering how to
raise the sum, the slaves were all lamenting for their young lord, to
whom they were much attached, till one of them, named Leo, the cook to
the household, came to the Bishop, saying to him, 'If thou wilt give me
leave to go, I will deliver him from captivity.' The Bishop replied that
he gave free permission, and the slave set off for Treves, and there
watched anxiously for an opportunity of gaining access to Attalus; but
though the poor young man--no longer daintily dressed, bathed, and
perfumed, but ragged and squalid--might be seen following his herds of
horses, he was too well watched for any communication to be held with
him. Then Leo went to a person, probably of Gallic birth, and said,
'Come with me to this barbarian's house, and there sell me for a slave.
Thou shalt have the money, I only ask thee to help me thus far.'

Both repaired to the Frank's abode, the chief among a confused
collection of clay and timber huts intended for shelter during eating
and sleeping. The Frank looked at the slave, and asked him what he could

'I can dress whatever is eaten at lordly tables,' replied Leo. 'I am
afraid of no rival; I only tell thee the truth when I say that if thou
wouldst give a feast to the king, I would send it up in the neatest

'Ha!' said the barbarian, 'the Sun's day is coming--I shall invite my
kinsmen and friends. Cook me such a dinner as may amaze them, and make
then say, 'We saw nothing better in the king's house.'
'Let me have plenty of poultry, and I will do according to my master's
bidding,' returned Leo.

Accordingly, he was purchased for twelve gold pieces, and on the Sunday
(as Bishop Gregory of Tours, who tells the story, explains that the
barbarians called the Lord's day) he produced a banquet after the most
approved Roman fashion, much to the surprise and delight of the Franks,
who had never tasted such delicacies before, and complimented their host
upon them all the evening. Leo gradually became a great favorite, and
was placed in authority over the other slaves, to whom he gave out their
daily portions of broth and meat; but from the first he had not shown
any recognition of Attalus, and had signed to him that they must be
strangers to one another. A whole year had passed away in this manner,
when one day Leo wandered, as if for pastime, into the plain where
Attalus was watching the horses, and sitting down on the ground at some
paces off, and with his back towards his young master, so that they
might not be seen together, he said, 'This is the time for thoughts of
home! When thou hast led the horses to the stable to-night, sleep not.
Be ready at the first call!'

That day the Frank lord was entertaining a large number of guests, among
them his daughter's husband, a jovial young man, given to jesting. On
going to rest he fancied he should be thirsty at night and called Leo to
set a pitcher of hydromel by his bedside. As the slave was setting it
down, the Frank looked slyly from under his eyelids, and said in joke,
'Tell me, my father-in-law's trusty man, wilt not thou some night take
one of those horses, and run away to thine own home?'

'Please God, it is what I mean to do this very night,' answered the
Gaul, so undauntedly that the Frank took it as a jest, and answered, 'I
shall look out that thou dost not carry off anything of mine,' and then
Leo left him, both laughing.

All were soon asleep, and the cook crept out to the stable, where
Attalus usually slept among the horses. He was broad awake now, and
ready to saddle the two swiftest; but he had no weapon except a small
lance, so Leo boldly went back to his master's sleeping hut, and took
down his sword and shield, but not without awaking him enough to ask who
was moving. 'It is I--Leo,' was the answer, 'I have been to call Attalus
to take out the horses early. He sleeps as hard as a drunkard.' The
Frank went to sleep again, quite satisfied, and Leo, carrying out the
weapons, soon made Attalus feel like a free man and a noble once more.
They passed unseen out of the enclosure, mounted their horses, and rode
along the great Roman road from Treves as far as the Meuse, but they
found the bridge guarded, and were obliged to wait till night, when they
cast their horses loose and swam the river, supporting themselves on
boards that they found on the bank. They had as yet had no food since
the supper at their master's, and were thankful to find a plum tree in
the wood, with fruit, to refresh them in some degree, before they lay
down for the night. The next morning they went on in the direction of
Rheims, carefully listening whether there were any sounds behind, until,
on the broad hard-paved causeway, they actually heard the trampling of
horses. Happily a bush was near, behind which they crept, with their
naked swords before them, and here the riders actually halted for a few
moments to arrange their harness. Men and horses were both those they
feared, and they trembled at hearing one say, 'Woe is me that those
rogues have made off, and have not been caught! On my salvation, if I
catch them, I will have one hung and the other chopped into bits!' It
was no small comfort to hear the trot of the horses resumed, and soon
dying away in the distance. That same night the two faint, hungry, weary
travelers, footsore and exhausted, came stumbling into Rheims, looking
about for some person still awake to tell them the way to the house of
the Priest Paul, a friend of Attalus' uncle. They found it just as the
church bell was ringing for matins, a sound that must have seemed very
like home to these members of an episcopal household. They knocked, and
in the morning twilight met the Priest going to his earliest Sunday
morning service.

Leo told his young master's name, and how they had escaped, and the
Priest's first exclamation was a strange one: 'My dream is true. This
very night I saw two doves, one white and one black, who came and
perched on my hand.'

The good man was overjoyed, but he scrupled to give them any food, as it
was contrary to the Church's rules for the fast to be broken before
mass; but the travelers were half dead with hunger, and could only say,
'The good Lord pardon us, for, saving the respect due to His day, we
must eat something, since this is the forth day since we have touched
bread or meat.' The Priest upon this gave them some bread and wine, and
after hiding them carefully, went to church, hoping to avert suspicion;
but their master was already at Rheims, making strict search for them,
and learning that Paul the Priest was a friend of the Bishop of Langres,
he went to church, and there questioned him closely. But the Priest
succeeded in guarding his secret, and though he incurred much danger, as
the Salic law was very severe against concealers of runaway slaves, he
kept Attalus and Leo for two days till the search was blown over, and
their strength was restored, so that they could proceed to Langres.
There they were welcomed like men risen from the dead; the Bishop wept
on the neck of Attalus, and was ready to receive Leo as a slave no more,
but a friend and deliverer.

A few days after Leo was solemnly led to the church. Every door was set
open as a sign that he might henceforth go whithersoever he would.
Bishop Gregorus took him by the hand, and, standing before the
Archdeacon, declared that for the sake of the good services rendered by
his slave, Leo, he set him free, and created him a Roman citizen.

Then the Archdeacon read a writing of manumission. 'Whatever is done
according to the Roman law is irrevocable. According to the constitution
of the Emperor Constantine, of happy memory, and the edict that declares
that whosoever is manumitted in church, in the presence of the bishops,
priests, and deacons, shall become a Roman citizen under the protection
of the Church: from this day Leo becomes a member of the city, free to
go and come where he will as if he had been born of free parents. From
this day forward, he is exempt from all subjection of servitude, of all
duty of a freed-man, all bond of client-ship. He is and shall be free,
with full and entire freedom, and shall never cease to belong to the
body of Roman citizens.'

At the same time Leo was endowed with lands, which raised him to the
rank of what the Franks called a Roman proprietor--the highest reward in
the Bishop's power for the faithful devotion that had incurred such
dangers in order to rescue the young Attalus from his miserable bondage.

Somewhat of the same kind of faithfulness was shown early in the
nineteenth century by Ivan Simonoff, a soldier servant belonging to
Major Kascambo, an officer in the Russian army, who was made prisoner by
one of the wild tribes of the Caucasus. But though the soldier's
attachment to his master was quite as brave and disinterested as that of
the Gallic slave, yet he was far from being equally blameless in the
means he employed, and if his were a golden deed at all, it was mixed
with much of iron.

Major Kascambo, with a guard of fifty Cossacks, was going to take the
command of the Russian outpost of Lars, one of the forts by which the
Russian Czars have slowly been carrying on the aggressive warfare that
has nearly absorbed into their vast dominions all the mountains between
the Caspian and Black seas. On his way he was set upon by seven hundred
horsemen of the savage and independent tribe of Tchetchenges. There was
a sharp fight, more than half his men were killed, and he with the rest
made a rampart of the carcasses of their horses, over which they were
about to fire their last shots, when the Tchetchenges made a Russian
deserter call out to the Cossacks that they would let them all escape
provided they would give up their officer. Kascambo on this came forward
and delivered himself into their hands; while the remainder of the
troops galloped off. His servant, Ivan, with a mule carrying his
baggage, had been hidden in a ravine, and now, instead of retreating
with the Cossacks, came to join his master. All the baggage was,
however, instantly seized and divided among the Tchetchenges; nothing
was left but a guitar, which they threw scornfully to the Major. He
would have let it lie, but Ivan picked it up, and insisted on keeping
it. 'Why be dispirited?' he said; 'the God of the Russians is great, it
is the interest of the robbers to save you, they will do you no harm.'

Scouts brought word that the Russian outposts were alarmed, and that
troops were assembling to rescue the officer. Upon this the seven
hundred broke up into small parties, leaving only ten men on foot to
conduct the prisoners, whom they forced to take off their iron-shod
boots and walk barefoot over stones and thorns, till the Major was so
exhausted that they were obliged to drag him by cords fastened to his

After a terrible journey, the prisoners were placed in a remote village,
where the Major had heavy chains fastened to his hands and feet, and
another to his neck, with a huge block of oak as a clog at the other
end; they half-starved him, and made him sleep on the bare ground of the
hut in which he lodged. The hut belonged to a huge, fierce old man of
sixty named Ibrahim, whose son had been killed in a skirmish with the
Russians. This man, together with his son's widow, were continually
trying to revenge themselves on their captive. The only person who
showed him any kindness was his little grandson, a child of seven years
old, called Mamet, who often caressed him, and brought him food by
stealth. Ivan was also in the same hut, but less heavily ironed than his
master, and able to attempt a few alleviations for his wretched
condition. An interpreter brought the Major a sheet of paper and a reed
pen, and commanded him to write to his friends that he might be ransomed
for 10,000 roubles, but that, if the whole sum were not paid, he would
be put to death. He obeyed, but he knew that his friends could not
possibly raise such a sum, and his only hope was in the government,
which had once ransomed a colonel who had fallen into the hands of the
same tribe.

These Tchetchenges professed to be Mahometans, but their religion sat
very loose upon them, and they were utter barbarians. One piece of
respect they paid the Major's superior education was curious--they made
him judge in all the disputes that arose. The houses in the village were
hollowed out underground, and the walls only raised three or four feet,
and then covered by a flat roof, formed of beaten clay, where the
inhabitants spent much of their time. Kascambo was every now and then
brought, in all his chains, to the roof of the hut, which served as a
tribunal whence he was expected to dispense justice. For instance, a man
had commissioned his neighbour to pay five roubles to a person in
another valley, but the messenger's horse having died by the way, a
claim was set up to the roubles to make up for it. Both parties
collected all their friends, and a bloody quarrel was about to take
place, when they agreed to refer the question to the prisoner, who was
accordingly set upon his judgment seat.

'Pray,' said he, 'if, instead of giving you five roubles, your comrade
had desired you to carry his greetings to his creditor, would not your
horse have died all the same?'

'Most likely.'

'Then what should you have done with the greetings? Should you have kept
them in compensation? My sentence is that you should give back the
roubles, and that your comrade gives you a greeting.'

The whole assembly approved the decision, and the man only grumbled out,
as he gave back the money, 'I knew I should lose it, if that dog of a
Christian meddled with it.'

All this respect, however, did not avail to procure any better usage for
the unfortunate judge, whose health was suffering severely under his
privations. Ivan, however, had recommended himself in the same way as
Leo, by his perfections as a cook, and moreover he was a capital
buffoon. His fetters were sometimes taken off that he might divert the
villagers by his dances and strange antics while his master played the
guitar. Sometimes they sang Russian songs together to the instrument,
and on these occasions the Major's hands were released that he might
play on it; but one day he was unfortunately heard playing in his chains
for his own amusement, and from that time he was never released from his

In the course of a year, three urgent letters had been sent; but no
notice was taken of them, and Ivan began to despair of aid from home,
and set himself to work. His first step was to profess himself a
Mahometan. He durst not tell his master till the deed was done, and then
Kascambo was infinitely shocked; but the act did not procure Ivan so
much freedom as he had hoped. He was, indeed, no longer in chains, but
he was evidently distrusted, and was so closely watched, that the only
way in which he could communicate with his master was when they were set
to sing together, when they chanted out question and answer in Russ,
unsuspected, to the tune of their national airs. He was taken on an
expedition against the Russians, and very nearly killed by the
suspicious Tchetchenges on one side, and by the Cossacks on the other,
as a deserter. He saved a young man of the tribe from drowning; but
though he thus earned the friendship of the family, the rest of the
villagers hated and dreaded him all the more, since he had not been able
to help proving himself a man of courage, instead of the feeble buffoon
he had tried to appear.

Three months after this expedition, another took place; but Ivan was not
allowed even to know of it. He saw preparations making, but nothing was
said to him; only one morning he found the village entirely deserted by
all the young men, and as he wandered round it, the aged ones would not
speak to him. A child told him that his father had meant to kill him,
and on the roof of her house stood the sister of the man he had saved,
making signals of great terror, and pointing towards Russia. Home he
went and found that, besides old Ibrahim, his master was watched by a
warrior, who had been prevented by an intermitting fever from joining
the expedition. He was convinced that if the tribe returned
unsuccessful, the murder of both himself and his master was certain; but
he resolved not to fly alone, and as he busied himself in preparing the
meal, he sung the burden of a Russian ballad, intermingled with words of
encouragement for his master:

The time is come;
Hai Luli!
The time is come,
Hai Luli!
Our woe is at an end,
Hai Luli!
Or we die at once!
Hai Luli!
To-morrow, to-morrow,
Hai Luli!
We are off for a town,
Hai Luli!
For a fine, fine town,
Hai Luli!
But I name no names,
Hai Luli!
Courage, courage, master dear,
Hai Luli!
Never, never, despair,
Hai Luli!
For the God of the Russians is great,
Hai Luli!

Poor Kascambo, broken down, sick, and despairing, only muttered, 'Do as
you please, only hold your peace!'

Ivan's cookery incited the additional guard to eat so much supper, that
he brought on a severe attack of his fever, and was obliged to go home;
but old Ibrahim, instead of going to bed, sat down on a log of wood
opposite the prisoner, and seemed resolved to watch him all night. The
woman and child went to bed in the inner room, and Ivan signed to his
master to take the guitar, and began to dance. The old man's axe was in
an open cupboard at the other end of the room, and after many gambols
and contortions, during which the Major could hardly control his fingers
to touch the strings, Ivan succeeded in laying his hands upon it, just
when the old man was bending over the fire to mend it. Then, as Ibrahim
desired that the music should cease, he cut him down with a single blow,
on his own hearth. And the daughter-in-law coming out to see what had
happened, he slew her with the same weapon. And then, alas! in spite of
the commands, entreaties, and cries of his master, he dashed into the
inner room, and killed the sleeping child, lest it should give the
alarm. Kascambo, utterly helpless to save, fell almost fainting upon the
bloody floor, and did not cease to reproach Ivan, who was searching the
old man's pockets for the key of the fetters, but it was not there, nor
anywhere else in the hut, and the irons were so heavy that escape was
impossible in them. Ivan at last knocked off the clog and the chains on
the wrist with the axe, but he could not break the chains round the
legs, and could only fasten them as close as he could to hinder them
clanking. Then securing all the provisions he could carry, and putting
his master into his military cloak, obtaining also a pistol and dagger,
they crept out, but not on the direct road. It was February, and the
ground was covered with snow. All night they walked easily, but at noon
the sun so softened it that they sank in at every step, and the Major's
chains rendered each motion terrible labour. It was only on the second
night that Ivan, with his axe, succeeded in breaking through the
fastenings, and by that time the Major's legs were so swollen and
stiffened that he could not move without extreme pain. However, he was
dragged on through the wild mountain paths, and then over the plains for
several days more, till they were on the confines of another tribe of
Tchetchenges, who were overawed by Russia, and in a sort of unwilling
alliance. Here, however, a sharp storm, and a fall into the water,
completely finished Kascambo's strength, and he sank down on the snow,
telling Ivan to go home and explain his fate, and give his last message
to his mother.

'If you perish here,' said Ivan, 'trust me, neither your mother nor mine
will ever see me again.'

He covered his master with his cloak, gave him the pistol, and walked on
to a hut, where he found a Tchetchenge man, and told him that here was a
means of obtaining two hundred roubles. He had only to shelter the major
as a guest for three days, whilst Ivan himself went on to Mosdok, to
procure the money, and bring back help for his master. The man was full
of suspicion, but Ivan prevailed, and Kascambo was carried into the
village nearly dying, and was very ill all the time of his servant's
absence. Ivan set off for the nearest Russian station, where he found
some of the Cossacks who had been present when the major was taken. All
eagerly subscribed to raise the two hundred roubles, but the Colonel
would not let Ivan go back alone, as he had engaged to do, and sent a

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