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A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times by Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot

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the situation; they did not ravage the country, as the Germans had done;
they did not appropriate such and such a piece of land; but everywhere
they assumed the mastery: they laid heavy burdens upon the population;
they removed the rightful chieftains who were opposed to them, and
forcibly placed or maintained in power those only who were subservient to
them. Independently of the Roman empire, Caesar established everywhere
his own personal influence; by turns gentle or severe, caressing or
threatening, he sought and created for himself partisans amongst the
Gauls, as he had amongst his army, showing favor to those only whose
devotion was assured to him. To national antipathy towards foreigners
must be added the intrigues and personal rivalry of the conquered in
their relations with the conqueror. Conspiracies were hatched,
insurrections soon broke out in nearly every part of Gaul, in the heart
even of the peoplets most subject to Roman dominion. Every movement of
the kind was for Caesar a provocation, a temptation, almost an obligation
to conquest. He accepted them and profited by them, with that
promptitude in resolution, boldness and address in execution, and cool
indifference as to the means employed, which were characteristic of his
genius. During nine years, from A. U. C. 696 to 705, and in eight
successive campaigns, he carried his troops, his lieutenants, himself,
and, ere long, war or negotiation, corruption, discord, or destruction in
his path, amongst the different nations and confederations of Gaul,
Celtic, Kymric, Germanic, Iberian or Hybrid, northward and eastward,
in Belgica, between the Seine and the Rhine; westward, in Armorica, on
the borders of the ocean; south-westward, in Aquitania; centre-ward,
amongst the peoplets established between the Seine, the Loire, and the
Saone. He was nearly always victorious, and then at one time he pushed
his victory to the bitter end, at another stopped at the right moment,
that it might not be compromised. When he experienced reverses, he bore
them without repining, and repaired them with inexhaustible ability and
courage. More than once, to revive the sinking spirits of his men, he
was rashly lavish of his person; and on one of those occasions, at the
raising of the siege of Gergovia, he was all but taken by some Arvernian
horsemen, and left his sword in their hands. It was found a while
afterwards, when the war was over, in a temple in which the Gauls had
hung it. Caesar's soldiers would have torn it down and returned it to
him; but "let it be," said he; "'tis sanctified." In good or evil
fortune, the hero of a triumph at Rome or a prisoner in the hands of
Mediterranean pirates, he was unrivalled in striking the imaginations of
men and growing great in their eyes. He did not confine himself to
conquering and subjecting the Gauls in Gaul; his ideas were ever
outstripping his deeds, and he knew how to make his power felt even where
he had made no attempt to establish it. Twice he crossed the Rhine to
hurl back the Germans beyond their river, and to strike to the very
hearts of their forests the terror of the Roman name (A. U. C. 699,
700). He equipped two fleets, made two descents on Great Britain
(A. U. C. 699, 700), several times defeated the Britons and their
principal chieftain Caswallon (Cassivellaunus), and set up across the
channel, the first landmarks of Roman conquest. He thus became more and
more famous and terrible, both in Gaul, whence he sometimes departed for
a moment to go and look after his political prospects in Italy, and in
more distant lands, where he was but an apparition.

But the greatest minds are far from foreseeing all the consequences of
their deeds, and all the perils proceeding from their successes. Caesar
was by nature neither violent nor cruel; but he did not trouble himself
about justice or humanity, and the success of his enterprises, no matter
by what means or at what price, was his sole law of conduct. He could
show, on occasion, moderation and mercy; but when he had to put down an
obstinate resistance, or when a long and arduous effort had irritated
him, he had no hesitation in employing atrocious severity and perfidious
promises. During his first campaign in Belgica, (A. U. C. 697 and 57
B.C.), two peoplets, the Nervians and the Aduaticans, had gallantly
struggled, with brief moments of success, against the Roman legions. The
Nervians were conquered and almost annihilated. Their last remnants,
huddled for refuge in the midst of their morasses, sent a deputation to
Caesar, to make submission, saying, "Of six hundred senators three only
are left, and of sixty thousand men that bore arms scarce five hundred
have escaped." Caesar received them kindly, returned to them their
lands, and warned their neighbors to do them no harm. The Aduaticans, on
the contrary, defended them selves to the last extremity. Caesar, having
slain four thousand, had all that remained sold by auction; and fifty-six
thousand human beings, according to his own statement, passed as slaves
into the hands of their purchasers. Some years later another Belgian
peoplet, the Eburons, settled between the Meuse and the Rhine, rose and
inflicted great losses upon the Roman legions. Caesar put them beyond
the pale of military and human law, and had all the neighboring peoplets
and all the roving bands invited to come and pillage and destroy "that
accursed race," promising to whoever would join in the work the
friendship of the Roman people. A little later still, some insurgents in
the centre of Gaul had concentrated in a place to the south-west, called
Urellocdunum (nowadays, it is said, Puy d'Issola, in the department of
the Lot, between Vayrac and Martel). After a long resistance they were
obliged to surrender, and Caesar had all the combatants' hands cut off,
and sent them, thus mutilated, to live and rove throughout Gaul, as a
spectacle to all the country that was, or was to be, brought to
submission. Nor were the rigors of administration less than those of
warfare. Caesar wanted a great deal of money, not only to maintain
satisfactorily his troops in Gaul, but to defray the enormous expenses he
was at in Italy, for the purpose of enriching his partisans, or securing
the favor of the Roman people. It was with the produce of imposts and
plunder in Gaul that he undertook the reconstruction at Rome of the
basilica of the Forum, the site whereof, extending to the temple of
Liberty, was valued, it is said, at more than twenty million five
hundred thousand francs. Cicero, who took the direction of the works,
wrote to his friend Atticus, "We shall make it the most glorious thing
in the world." Cato was less satisfied; three years previously
despatches from Caesar had announced to the Senate his victories over
the Belgian and German insurgents. The senators had voted a general
thanksgiving, but, "Thanksgiving!" cried Cato, "rather expiation! Pray
the gods not to visit upon our armies the sin of a guilty general. Give
up Caesar to the Germans, and let the foreigner know that Rome does not
enjoin perjury, and rejects with horror the fruit thereof!"

Caesar had all the gifts, all the means of success and empire, that can
be possessed by man. He was great in politics and in war; as active and
as full of resource amidst the intrigues of the Forum as amidst the
combinations and surprises of the battle-field, equally able to please
and to terrify. He had a double pride, which gave him double confidence
in himself, the pride of a great noble and the pride of a great man. He
was fond of saying, "My aunt Julia is, maternally, the daughter of kings;
paternally, she is descended from the immortal gods; my family unites, to
the sacred character of kings who are the most powerful amongst men, the
awful majesty of the gods who have even kings in their keeping." Thus,
by birth as well as nature, Caesar felt called to dominion; and at the
same time he was perfectly aware of the decadence of the Roman
patriciate, and of the necessity for being popular in order to become
master. With this double instinct he undertook the conquest of the Gauls
as the surest means of achieving conquest at Rome. But owing either to
his own vices or to the difficulties of the situation, he displayed in
his conduct and his work in Gaul so much violence and oppression, so much
iniquity and cruel indifference, that, even at that time, in the midst of
Roman harshness, pagan corruption, and Gallic or German barbarism, so
great an infliction of moral and material harm could not but be followed
by a formidable reaction. Where there are strength and ability, the want
of foresight, the fears, the weaknesses, the dissensions of men, whether
individuals or peoples, may be for a long while calculated upon; but it
may be carried too far. After six years' struggling Caesar was victor;
he had successively dealt with all the different populations of Gaul; he
had passed through and subjected them all, either by his own strong arm,
or thanks to their rivalries. In the year of Rome 702 he was suddenly
informed in Italy, whither he had gone on his Roman business, that most
of the Gallic nations, united under a chieftain hitherto unknown, were
rising with one common impulse, and recommencing war.

The same perils and the same reverses, the same sufferings and the same
resentments, had stirred up amongst the Gauls, without distinction of
race and name, a sentiment to which they had hitherto been almost
strangers, the sentiment of Gallic nationality and the passion for
independence, not local any longer, but national. This sentiment was
first manifested amongst the populace and under obscure chieftains; a
band of Carnutian peasants (people of Chartrain) rushed upon the town of
Genabum (Gies), roused the inhabitants, and massacred the Italian traders
and a Roman knight, C. Fusius Cita, whom Caesar had commissioned to buy
corn there. In less than twenty-four hours the signal of insurrection
against Rome was borne across the country as far as the Arvernians,
amongst whom conspiracy had long ago been waiting and paving the way for
insurrection. Amongst them lived a young Gaul whose real name has
remained unknown, and whom history has called Vercingetorix, that is,
chief over a hundred heads, chief-in-general. He came of an ancient and
powerful family of Arvernians, and his father had been put to death in
his own city for attempting to make himself king. Caesar knew him, and
had taken some pains to attach him to himself. It does not appear that
the Arvernian aristocrat had absolutely declined the overtures; but when
the hope of national independence was aroused, Vercingetorix was its
representative and chief. He descended with his followers from the
mountain, and seized Gergovia, the capital of his nation. Thence his
messengers spread over the centre, north-west, and west of Gaul; the
greater part of the peoplets and cities of those regions pronounced from
the first moment for insurrection; the same sentiment was working amongst
others more compromised with Rome, who waited only for a breath of
success to break out. Vercingetorix was immediately invested with the
chief command, and he made use of it with all the passion engendered by
patriotism and the possession of power; he regulated the movement,
demanded hostages, fixed the contingents of troops, imposed taxes,
inflicted summary punishment on the traitors, the dastards, and the
indifferent, and subjected those who turned a deaf ear to the appeal of
their common country to the same pains and the same mutilations that
Caesar inflicted on those who obstinately resisted the Roman yoke.

At the news of this great movement Caesar immediately left Italy, and
returned to Gaul. He had one quality, rare even amongst the greatest
men: he remained cool amidst the very hottest alarms; necessity never
hurried him into precipitation, and he prepared for the struggle as if he
were always sure of arriving on the spot in time to sustain it. He was
always quick, but never hasty; and his activity and patience were equally
admirable and efficacious. Starting from Italy at the beginning of 702
A. U. C., he passed two months in traversing within Gaul the Roman
province and its neighborhood, in visiting the points threatened by the
insurrection, and the openings by which he might get at it, in assembling
his troops, in confirming his wavering allies; and it was not before the
early part of March that he moved with his whole army to Agendicum
(Sens), the very centre of revolt, and started thence to push on the war
with vigor. In less than three months he had spread devastation
throughout the insurgent country; he had attacked and taken its principal
cities, Vellaunodunum (Trigueres), Genabum (Gien), Noviodunum (Sancerre),
and Avaricum (Bourges), delivering up everywhere country and city, lands
and inhabitants, to the rage of the Roman soldiery, maddened at having
again to conquer enemies so often conquered. To strike a decisive blow,
he penetrated at last to the heart of the country of the Arvernians, and
laid siege to Gergovia, their capital and the birthplace of

The firmness and the ability of the Gallic chieftain were not inferior to
such a struggle. He understood from the outset that he could not cope in
the open field with Caesar and the Roman legions; he therefore exerted
himself in getting together a body of cavalry numerous enough to harass
the Romans during their movements, to attack their scattered detachments,
to bear his orders swiftly to all quarters, and to keep up the excitement
amongst the different peoplets with some hope of success. His plan of
campaign, his repeated instructions, his passionate entreaties to the
confederates were to avoid any general action, to anticipate by their own
ravages those of the Romans, to destroy everywhere, at the approach of
the enemy, stores, springs, bridges, trees, and habitations: he wanted
Caesar to find in his front nothing but ruins and clouds of warriors
relentless in pursuing him without getting within reach. Frequently he
succeeded in obtaining from the people those painful sacrifices in the
interest of the common safety; as when the Biturigians (inhabitants of
the district of Bourges) burned in one day twenty of their towns or
villages. Vercingetorix adjured them also to burn Avaricum (Bourges),
their capital; but they refused, and the capture of Avaricum, though
gallantly defended, justified the urgency of Vercingetorix, seeing that
it was an important success for Caesar and a serious blow for the Gauls.
Out of forty thousand combatants within the walls, it is said, scarcely
eight hundred escaped the slaughter and succeeded in joining
Vercingetorix, who had hovered continually in the neighborhood without
being able to offer the besieged any effectual assistance. Nor was it
only against the Romans that he had to struggle; he had to fight amongst
his own people, against rivalry, mistrust, impatience, and
discouragement; he was accused of desiring, beyond everything, the
mastery; he was even suspected of keeping up, with the view of assuring
his own future, secret relations with Caesar; he was called upon to
attack the enemy in front, and so bring the war to a decisive issue. It
is all very fine to be summoned by the popular voice to accomplish a
great and arduous work; but you cannot be, with impunity, the most
far-sighted, the most able, and the most in danger, because the most
devoted. Vercingetorix was bearing the burden of his superiority and
influence, until he should suffer the penalty and pay with his life for
his patriotism and his glory. He was approaching the happiest moment of
his enterprise and his destiny. In spite of reverses, in spite of
Caesar's presence and activity, the insurrection was gaining ground and
strength; in the north, west, south-west, on the banks of the Rhine, the
Seine, and the Loire, the idea of Gallic nationality and the hope of
independence were spreading amongst people far removed from the centre of
the movement, and were bringing to Vercingetorix declarations of sympathy
or material re-enforcements. An event of more importance took place in
the centre itself. The AEduans, the most ancient allies and clients the
Romans had in Gaul, being divided amongst themselves, and feeling,
besides, the national instinct, ended, after much hesitation, by taking
part in the uprising. Caesar, for all his care, could neither prevent
nor stifle this defection, which threatened to become contagious, and
detach from Rome the neighboring peoplets that were still faithful.
Caesar, engaged upon the siege of Gergovia, encountered an obstinate
resistance; whilst Vercingetorix, encamped on the heights which
surrounded his birthplace, everywhere embarrassed, sometimes attacked,
and incessantly threatened the Romans. The eighth legion, drawn on one
day to make an imprudent assault, was repulsed, and lost forty-six of its
bravest centurions. Caesar determined to raise the siege, and to
transfer the struggle to places where the population could be more safely
depended upon. It was the first decisive check he had experienced in
Gaul, the first Gallic town he had been unable to take, the first
retrograde movement he had executed in the face of the Gallic insurgents
and their chieftain. Vercingetorix could not and would not restrain his
joy; it seemed to him that the day had dawned and an excellent chance
arrived for attempting a decisive blow. He had under his orders, it is
said, eighty thousand men, mostly his own Arvernians, and a numerous
cavalry furnished by the different peoplets his allies. He followed all
Caesar's movements in retreat towards the Saone, and, on arriving at
Longeau not far from Langres, near a little river called the Vingeanne,
he halted, pitched his camp about nine miles from the Romans, and
assembling the chiefs of his cavalry, said, "Now is the hour of victory;
the Romans are flying to their province and leaving Gaul; that is enough
for our liberty to-day, but too little for the peace and repose of the
future; for they will return with greater armies, and the war will be
without end. Attack we them amid the difficulties of their march; if
their foot support the cavalry, they will not be able to pursue their
route; if, as I fully trust, they leave their baggage, to provide for
their safety, they will lose both their honor and the supplies whereof
they have need. None of the enemy's horse will dare to come forth from
their lines. To give ye courage and aid, I will order forth from the
camp and place in battle array all our troops, and they will strike the
enemy with terror." The Gallic horsemen cried out that they must all
bind themselves by the most sacred of oaths, and swear that none of them
would come again under roof, or see again wife, or children, or parent,
unless he had twice pierced through the ranks of the enemy. And all did
take this oath, and so prepared for the attack. Vercingetorix knew not
that Caesar, with his usual foresight, had summoned and joined to his
legions a great number of horsemen from the German tribes roving over the
banks of the Rhine, with which he had taken care to keep up friendly
relations. Not only had he promised them pay, plunder, and lands, but,
finding their horses ill-trained, he had taken those of his officers,
even those of the Roman knights and veterans, and distributed them
amongst his barbaric auxiliaries. The action began between the cavalry
on both sides; a portion of the Gallic had taken up position on the road
followed by the Roman army, to bar its passage; but whilst the fighting
at this point was getting more and more obstinate, the German horse in
Caesar's service gained a neighboring height, drove off the Gallic horse
that were in occupation, and pursued them as far as the river, near which
was Vercingetorix with his infantry. Disorder took place amongst this
infantry so unexpectedly attacked. Caesar launched his legions at them,
and there was a general panic and rout among the Gauls. Vercingetorix
had great trouble in rallying them, and he rallied them only to order a
general retreat, for which they clamored. Hurriedly striking his camp,
he made for Alesia (Semur in Auxois), a neighboring town and the capital
of the Mandubians, a peoplet in clientship to the AEduans. Caesar
immediately went in pursuit of the Gauls; killed, he says, three
thousand, made important prisoners, and encamped with his legions before
Alesia the day but one after Vercingetorix, with his fugitive army, had
occupied the place as well as the neighboring hills, and was hard at work
intrenching himself, probably without any clear idea as yet of what he
should do to continue the struggle.

Caesar at once took a resolution as unexpected as it was discreetly bold.
Here was the whole Gallic insurrection, chieftain and soldiery, united
together within or beneath the walls of a town of moderate extent. He
undertook to keep it there and destroy it on the spot, instead of having
to pursue it everywhere without ever being sure of getting at it. He had
at his disposal eleven legions, about fifty thousand strong, and five or
six thousand cavalry, of which two thousand were Germans. He placed them
round about Alesia and the Gallic camp, caused to be dug a circuit of
deep ditches, some filled with water, others bristling with palisades and
snares, and added, from interval to interval, twenty-three little forts,
occupied or guarded night and day by detachments. The result was a line
of investment about ten miles in extent. To the rear of the Roman camp,
and for defence against attacks from without, Caesar caused to be dug
similar intrenchments, which formed a line of circumvallation of about
thirteen miles. The troops had provisions and forage for thirty days.
Vercingetorix made frequent sallies to stop or destroy these works; but
they were repulsed, and only resulted in getting his army more closely
cooped up within the place. Eighty thousand Gallic insurgents were, as
it were, in prison, guarded by fifty thousand Roman soldiers.
Vercingetorix was one of those who persevere and act in the days of
distress just as in the spring-tide of their hopes. Before the works of
the Romans were finished, he assembled his horsemen, and ordered them to
sally briskly from Alesia, return each to his own land, and summon the
whole population to arms. He was obeyed; the Gallic horsemen made their
way, during the night, through the intervals left by the Romans' still
imperfect lines of investment, and dispersed themselves amongst their
various peoplets. Nearly everywhere irritation and zeal were at their
height. An assemblage of delegates met at Bibracte (Autun), and fixed
the amount of the contingent to be furnished by each nation, and a point
was assigned at which all those contingents should unite for the purpose
of marching together towards Alesia, and attacking the besiegers. The
total of the contingents thus levied on forty-three Gallic peoplets
amounted, according to Caesar, to two hundred and eighty-three thousand
men; and two hundred and forty thousand men, it is said, did actually
hurry up to the appointed place. Mistrust of such enormous numbers has
already been expressed by one who has lived through the greatest European
wars, and has heard the ablest generals reduce to their real strength the
largest armies. We find in M. Thiers' _History of the Consulate_ and
Empire, that at Austerlitz, on the 2d of December, 1805, Napoleon had but
from sixty-five to seventy thousand men, and the combined Austrians and
Russians but ninety thousand. At Leipzig, the biggest of modern battles,
when all the French forces on the one side, and the Austrian, Prussian,
Russian, and Swedish on the other, were face to face on the 18th of
October, 1813, they made all together about five hundred thousand men.
How can we believe, then, that nineteen centuries ago, Gaul, so weakly
populated and so slightly organized, suddenly sent two hundred and forty
thousand men to the assistance of eighty thousand Gauls besieged in the
little town of Alesia by fifty or sixty thousand Romans? But whatever
may be the case with the figures, it is certain that at the very first
moment the national impulse answered the appeal of Vercingetorix, and
that the besiegers of Alesia, Caesar and his legions, found that they
were themselves all at once besieged in their intrenchments by a cloud of
Gauls hurrying up to the defence of their compatriots. The struggle was
fierce, but short. Every time that the fresh Gallic army attacked the
besiegers, Vercingetorix and the Gauls of Alesia sallied forth, and
joined in the attack. Caesar and his legions, on their side, at one time
repulsed these double attacks, at another themselves took the initiative,
and assailed at one and the same time the besieged and the auxiliaries
Gaul had sent them. The feeling was passionate on both sides: Roman
pride was pitted against Gallic patriotism. But in four or five days the
strong organization, the disciplined valor of the Roman legions, and the
genius of Caesar carried the day. The Gallic re-enforcements, beaten and
slaughtered without mercy, dispersed; and Vercingetorix and the besieged
were crowded back within their walls without hope of escape. We have two
accounts of the last moments of this great Gallic insurrection and its
chief; one, written by Caesar himself, plain, cold, and harsh as its
author; the other, by two later historians, who were neither statesmen
nor warriors, Plutarch and Dion Cassius, has more detail and more
ornament, following either popular tradition or the imagination of the
writers. It may be well to give both. "The day after the defeat," says
Caesar, "Vercingetorix convokes the assembly, and shows that he did not
undertake the war for his own personal advantage, but for the general
freedom. Since submission must be made to fortune, he offers to satisfy
the Romans either by instant death or by being delivered to them alive.
A deputation there anent is sent to Caesar, who orders the arms to be
given up and the chiefs brought to him. He seats himself on his
tribunal, in the front of his camp. The chiefs are brought,
Vercingetorix is delivered over; the arms are cast at Caesar's feet.
Except the AEduans and Arvernians, whom Caesar kept for the purpose of
trying to regain their people, he had the prisoners distributed, head by
head, to his army as booty of war."

[Illustration: Vercingetorix surrenders to Caesar----81]

The account of Dion Cassius is more varied and dramatic. "After the
defeat," says he, "Vercingetorix, who was neither captured nor wounded,
might have fled; but, hoping that the friendship that had once bound him
to Caesar might gain him grace, he repaired to the Roman without previous
demand of peace by the voice of a herald, and appeared suddenly in his
presence, just as Caesar was seating himself upon his tribunal. The
apparition of the Gallic chieftain inspired no little terror, for he was
of lofty stature, and had an imposing appearance in arms. There was a
deep silence. Vercingetorix fell at Caesar's feet, and made supplication
by touch of hand without speaking a word. The scene moved those present
with pity, remembering the ancient fortunes of Vercingetorix and
comparing them with his present disaster. Caesar, on the contrary, found
proof of criminality in the very memories relied upon for salvation,
contrasted the late struggle with the friendship appealed to by
Vercingetorix, and so put in a more hideous light the odiousness of his
conduct. And thus, far from being moved by his misfortunes at the
moment, he threw him in chains forthwith, and subsequently had him put to
death, after keeping him to adorn his triumph."

Another historian, contemporary with Plutarch, Florus, attributes to
Vercingetorix, as he fell down and cast his arms at Caesar's feet, these
words: "Bravest of men, thou hast conquered a brave man." It is not
necessary to have faith in the rhetorical compliment, or to likewise
reject the mixture of pride and weakness attributed to Vercingetorix in
the account of Dion Cassius. It would not be the only example of a hero
seeking yet some chance of safety in the extremity of defeat, and abasing
himself for the sake of preserving at any price a life on which fortune
might still smile. However it be, Vercingetorix vanquished, dragged out,
after ten years' imprisonment, to grace Caesar's triumph, and put to
death immediately afterwards, lives as a glorious patriot in the pages of
that history in which Caesar appears, on this occasion, as a peevish
conqueror who took pleasure in crushing, with cruel disdain, the enemy he
had been at so much pains to conquer.

Alesia taken, and Vercingetorix a prisoner, Gaul was subdued. Caesar,
however, had in the following year (A. U. C. 703) a campaign to make to
subjugate some peoplets who tried to maintain their local independence.
A year afterwards, again, attempts at insurrection took place in Belgica,
and towards the mouth of the Loire; but they were easily repressed; they
had no national or formidable characteristics; Caesar and his lieutenants
willingly contented themselves with an apparent submission, and in the
year 705 A. U. C. the Roman legions, after nine years' occupation in the
conquest of Gaul, were able to depart therefrom to Italy and the East for
a plunge into civil war.


From the conquest of Gaul by Caesar, to the establishment there of the
Franks under Clovis, she remained for more than five centuries under
Roman dominion; first under the pagan, afterwards under the Christian
empire. In her primitive state of independence she had struggled for ten
years against the best armies and the greatest man of Rome; after five
centuries of Roman dominion she opposed no resistance to the invasion of
the barbarians, Germans, Goths, Alans, Burgundians, and Franks, who
destroyed bit by bit the Roman empire. In this humiliation and, one
might say, annihilation of a population so independent, so active, and so
valiant at its first appearance in history, is to be seen the
characteristic of this long epoch. It is worth while to learn and to
understand how it was.

[Illustration: Gaul subjugated by the Romans----83]

Gaul lived, during those five centuries, under very different rules and
rulers. They may be summed up under five names, which correspond with
governments very unequal in merit and defect, in good and evil wrought
for their epoch:

1st, the Caesars from Julius to Nero (from 49 B.C. to A.D. 68);
2d, the Flavians, from Vespasian to Domitian (from A.D. 69 to 95);
3d, the Antonines, from Nerva to Marcus Aurelius (from A.D. 96 to 180);
4th, the imperial anarchy, or the thirty-nine emperors and the thirty-one
tyrants, from Commodus to Carinus and Numerian (from A.D. 180 to 284);
5th, Diocletian (from A.D. 284 to 305).

Through all these governments, and in spite of their different results
for their contemporary subjects, the fact already pointed out as the
general and definitive characteristic of that long epoch, to wit, the
moral and social decadence of Gaul as well as of the Roman empire, never
ceased to continue and spread.

On quitting conquered Gaul to become master at Rome, Caesar neglected
nothing to assure his conquest and make it conducive to the establishment
of his empire. He formed, of all the Gallic districts that he had
subjugated, a special province which received the name of Gallia Comata
(Gaul of the long-hair), whilst the old province was called Gallia Toyata
(Gaul of the toga). Caesar caused to be enrolled amongst his troops a
multitude of Gauls, Belgians, Arvernians, and Aquitanians, of whose
bravery he had made proof. He even formed, almost entirely of Gauls, a
special legion called Alauda (lark), because it bore on the helmets a
lark with outspread wings, the symbol of wakefulness. At the same time
he gave in Gallia Comata, to the towns and families that declared for
him, all kinds of favors, the rights of Roman citizenship, the title of
allies, clients, and friends, even to the extent of the Julian name, a
sign of the most powerful Roman patronage. He had, however, in the old
Roman province, formidable enemies, especially the town of Marseilles,
which declared against him and for Pompey. Caesar had the place besieged
by one of his lieutenants, got possession of it, caused to be delivered
over to him its vessels and treasure, and left in it a garrison of two
legions. He established at Narbonne, Arles, Biterrce (Beziers) three
colonies of veteran legionaries devoted to his cause, and near Antipolis
(Antibes) a maritime colony called Forum Julii, nowadays Frejus, of which
he proposed to make a rival to Marseilles. Much money was necessary to
meet the expenses of such patronage and to satisfy the troops, old and
new, of the conqueror of Gaul and Rome. Now there was at Rome an ancient
treasure, founded more than four centuries previously by the Dictator
Camillus, when he had delivered Rome from the Gauls--a treasure reserved
for the expenses of Gallic wars, and guarded with religious respect as
sacred money. In the midst of all discords and disorders at Rome, none
had touched it. After his return from Gaul, Caesar one day ascended the
Capitol with his soldiers, and finding, in the temple of Saturn, the door
closed of the place where the treasure was deposited, ordered it to be
forced. L. Metellus, tribune of the people, made strong opposition,
conjuring Caesar not to bring on the Republic the penalty of such
sacrilege: but "the Republic has nothing to fear," said Caesar; "I have
released it from its oaths by subjugating Gaul. There are no more
Gauls." He caused the door to be forced, and the treasure was abstracted
and distributed to the troops, Gallic and Roman. Whatever Caesar may
have said, there were still Gauls, for at the same time that he was
distributing to such of them as he had turned into his own soldiers the
money reserved for the expense of fighting them, he was imposing upon
Gallia Comata, under the name of stipendium (soldier's pay), a levy of
forty millions of sesterces--a considerable amount for a devastated
country which, according to Plutarch, did not contain at that time more
than three millions of inhabitants, and almost equal to that of the
levies paid by the rest of the Roman provinces.

After Caesar, Augustus, left sole master of the Roman world, assumed in
Gaul, as elsewhere, the part of pacificator, repairer, conservator, and
organizer, whilst taking care, with all his moderation, to remain always
the master. He divided the provinces into imperial and senatorial,
reserving to himself the entire government of the former, and leaving the
latter under the authority of the senate. Gaul "of the long hair," all
that Caesar had conquered, was imperial province. Augustus divided it
into three provinces, Lugdunensian (Lyonese), Belgian, and Aquitanian.
He recognized therein sixty nations or distinct cityships which continued
to have themselves the government of their own affairs, according to their
traditions and manners, whilst conforming to the general laws of the
empire, and abiding under the supervision of imperial governors, charged
with maintaining everywhere, in the words of Pliny the Younger, "the
majesty of Roman peace." Luydunum (Lyons), which had been up to that
time of small importance and obscure, became the great town, the favorite
cityship and ordinary abiding-place of the emperors when they visited
Gaul. After having held at Narbonne (27 B.C.) a meeting of
representatives from the different Gallic nations, Augustus went several
times to Lyons, and even lived there, as it appears, a pretty long while,
to superintend, no doubt, from thence, and to get into working order the
new government of Gaul. After the departure of Augustus, his adopted son
Drusus, who had just fulfilled, in Belgica and on the Rhine, a mission at
the same time military and administrative, called together at Lyons
delegates from the sixty Gallic cityships, to take part (B.C.12 or 10) in
the inauguration of a magnificent monument raised, at the confluence of
the Rhone and Saone, in honor of Rome and Augustus as the tutelary
deities of Gaul. In the middle of a vast enclosure was placed a huge
altar of white marble, on which were engraved the names of the sixty
cityships "of the long hair." A colossal statue of the Gauls and sixty
statues of the Gallic cityships occupied the enclosure. Two columns of
granite, twenty-five feet high, stood close by the altar, and were
surmounted by two colossal Victories, in white marble, ten feet high.
Solemn festivals, gymnastic games, and oratorical and literary
exercitations accompanied the inauguration; and during the ceremony it
was announced, amidst popular acclamation, that a son had just been born
to Drusus at Lyons itself, in the palace of the emperor, where the
child's mother, Antonia, daughter of Marc Antony and Octavia (sister of
Augustus), had been staying for some months. This child was one day to
be the emperor Claudius.

[Illustration: FROM LA CROIX ROUSSE----86]

The administrative energy of Augustus was not confined to the erection of
monuments and to festivals; he applied himself to the development in Gaul
of the material elements of civilization and social order. His most
intimate and able adviser, Agrippa, being settled at Lyons as governor of
the Gauls, caused to be opened four great roads, starting from a
milestone placed in the middle of the Lyonnese forum, and going, one
centrewards to Saintes and the ocean, another southwards to Narbonne and
the Pyrenees, the third north-westwards and towards the Channel by Amiens
and Boulogne, and the fourth north-westwards and towards the Rhine.
Agrippa founded several colonies, amongst others Cologne, which bore his
name; and he admitted to Gallic territory bands of Germans who asked for
an establishment there. Thanks to public security, Romans became
proprietors in the Gallic provinces and introduced to them Italian
cultivation. The Gallic chieftains, on their side, began to cultivate
lands which had become their personal property. Towns were built or grew
apace and became encircled by ramparts, under protection of which the
populations came and placed themselves. The most learned and attentive
observer of nature and Roman society, Pliny the Elder, attests that under
Augustus Gallic agriculture and industry made vast progress.

But side by side with this work in the cause of civilization and
organization, Augustus and his Roman agents were pursuing a work of quite
a contrary tendency. They labored to extirpate from Gaul the spirit of
nationality, independence, and freedom; they took every pains to efface
everywhere Gallic memories and sentiments. Gallic towns were losing
their old and receiving Roman names: Augustonemetum, Augusta, and
Augustodunum took the place of Gergovia, Noviodunum, and Bibracte. The
national Gallic religion, which was Druidism, was attacked as well as the
Gallic fatherland, with the same design and by the same means; at one
time Augustus prohibited this worship amongst the Gauls converted into
Roman citizens, as being contrary to Roman belief; at another Roman
Paganism and Gallic Druidism were fused together in the same temples and
at the same altars, as if to fuse them in the same common indifference;
Roman and Gallic names became applied to the same religious
personification of such and such a fact or such and such an idea; Mars
and Camul were equally the god of war; Belen and Apollo the god of light
and healing; Diana and Arduinna the goddess of the chase. Everywhere,
whether it was a question of the terrestrial fatherland or of religious
faith, the old moral machinery of the Gauls was broken up or condemned to
rust, and no new moral machinery was allowed to replace it; it was
everywhere Roman and imperial authority that was substituted for the
free, national action of the Gauls.

It is incredible that this hostility on the part of the powers that be
towards moral sentiments, and this absence of freedom, should not have
gravely compromised the material interest of the Gallic population.
Public administration, however extensive its organization and energy, if
it be not under the superintendence and restraint of public freedom and
morality, soon falls into monstrous abuses, which itself is either
ignorant of or wittingly suffers. Examples of this evil, inherent in
despotism, abound even under the intelligent and watchful sway of
Augustus. Here is a case in point. He had appointed as procurator, that
is, financial commissioner, in "long-haired" Gaul, a native who, having
been originally a slave and afterwards set free by Julius Caesar, had
taken the Roman name of Licinius. This man gave himself up, during his
administration, to a course of the most shameless extortion. The taxes
were collected monthly; and so, taking advantage of the change of name
which flattery had caused in the two months of July and August, sacred to
Julius Caesar and Augustus respectively, he made his year consist of
fourteen months, so that he might squeeze out fourteen contributions
instead of twelve. "December," said he, "is surely, as its name
indicates, the tenth month of the year," and he added thereto, in honor
of the emperor, two others which he called the eleventh and twelfth.
During one of the trips which Augustus made into Gaul, strong complaints
were made against Licinius, and his robberies were denounced to the
emperor. Augustus dared not support him, and seemed upon the point of
deciding to bring him to justice, when Licinius conducted him to the
place where was deposited all the treasure he had extorted, and, "See, my
lord," said he, "what I have laid up for thee and for the Roman people,
for fear lest the Gauls possessing so much gold should employ it against
you both; for thee I have kept it, and to thee I deliver it." (Thierry,
_Histoire des Gaulois,_ t. iii. p. 295; Clerjon, _Histoire de Lyon,_
t. i. p. 178-180.) Augustus accepted the treasure, and Licinius remained
unpunished. In the case of financial abuses or other acts, absolute
power seldom resists such temptations.

We may hear it said, and we may read in the writings of certain modern
philosophers and scholars, that the victorious despotism of the Roman
empire was a necessary and salutary step in advance, and that it brought
about the unity and enfranchisement of the human race. Believe it not.
There is mingled good and evil in all the events and governments of this
world, and good often arises side by side with or in the wake of evil,
but it is never from the evil that the good comes; injustice and tyranny
have never produced good fruits. Be assured that whenever they have the
dominion, whenever the moral rights and personal liberties of men are
trodden under foot by material force, be it barbaric or be it scientific,
there can result only prolonged evils and deplorable obstacles to the
return of moral right and moral force, which, God be thanked, can never
he obliterated from the nature and the history of man. The despotic
imperial administration upheld for a long while the Roman empire, and not
without renown; but it corrupted, enervated, and impoverished the Roman
populations, and left them, after five centuries, as incapable of
defending themselves as they were of governing.

Tiberius pursued in Gaul, but with less energy and less care for the
provincial administration, the pacific and moderate policy of Augustus.
He had to extinguish in Belgica, and even in the Lyonnese province, two
insurrections kindled by the sparks that remained of national and Druidic
spirit. He repressed them effectually, and without any violent display
of vengeance. He made a trip to Gaul, took measures, quite insufficient,
however, for defending the Rhine frontier from the incessantly repeated
incursions of the Germans, and hastened back to Italy to resume the
course of suspicion, perfidy, and cruelty which he pursued against the
republican pride and moral dignity remaining amongst a few remnants of
the Roman senate. He was succeeded by Germanicus' unworthy son,
Caligula. After a few days of hypocrisy on the part of the emperor, and
credulous hope on that of the people, they found a madman let loose to
take the place of an unfathomable and gloomy tyrant. Caligula was much
taken up with Gaul, plundering it and giving free rein in it to his
frenzies, by turns disgusting or ridiculous. In a short and fruitless
campaign on the banks of the Rhine, he had made too few prisoners for the
pomp of a triumph; he therefore took some Gauls, the tallest he could
find, of triumphal size, as he said, put them in German clothes, made
them learn some Teutonic words, and sent them away to Rome to await in
prison his return and his ovation. Lyons, where he staid some time, was
the scene of his extortions and strangest freaks. He was playing at dice
one day with some of his courtiers, and lost; he rose, sent for the
tax-list of the province, marked down for death and confiscation some of
those who were most highly rated, and said to the company, "You people,
you play for a few drachmas; but as for me, I have just won by a single
throw one hundred and fifty millions." At the rumor of a plot hatched
against him in Italy, by some Roman nobles, he sent for and sold,
publicly, their furniture, jewels, and slaves. As the sale was a
success, he extended it to the old furniture of his own palaces in Italy:
"I wish to fit out the Gauls," said he; "it is a mark of friendship I owe
to the brave performed the part Roman people." He himself, at these
sales, performed the part of salesman and auctioneer, telling the history
of each article to enhance the price. "This belonged to my father,
Germanicus; that comes to me from Agrippa; this vase is Egyptian, it was
Antony's, Augustus took it at the battle of Actium." The imperial sales
were succeeded by literary games, at which the losers had to pay the
expenses of the prizes, and celebrate, in verse or prose, the praises of
the winners; and if their compositions were pronounced bad, they were
bound to wipe them out with a sponge or even with their tongues, unless
they preferred to be beaten with a rod or soused in the Rhone. One day,
when Caligula, in the character of Jupiter, was seated at his tribunal
and delivering oracles in the middle of the public thoroughfare, a man of
the people remained motionless in front of him, with eyes of astonishment
fixed upon him. "What seem I to thee?" asked the emperor, flattered, no
doubt, by this attention of the mob. "A great monstrosity," answered the
Gaul. And that, at the end of about four years, was the universal cry:
and against a mad emperor the only resource of the Roman world was at
that time assassination. The captain of Caligula's guards rid Rome and
the provinces of him.

He did just one sensible and useful thing during the whole of his stay in
Gaul: he had a light-house constructed to illumine the passage between
Gaul and Great Britain. Some traces of it, they say, have been

His successor, Claudius, brother of the great Germanicus, and married to
his own niece, the second Agrippina, was, as has been already stated,
born at Lyons, at the very moment when his father, Drusus, was
celebrating there the erection of an altar to Augustus. During his whole
reign he showed to the city of his birth the most lively good-will, and
the constant aim as well as principal result of this good-will was to
render the city of Lyons more and more Roman by effacing all Gallic
characteristics and memories. She was endowed with Roman rights,
monuments, and names, the most important or the most ostentatious; she
became the colony supereminently, the great municipal town of the Gauls,
the Claudian town; but she lost what had remained of her old municipal
government, that is of her administrative and commercial independence.
Nor was she the only one in Gaul to experience the good-will of Claudius.
This emperor, the mark of scorn from his infancy, whom his mother,
Antonia, called "a shadow of a man, an unfinished sketch of nature's
drawing," and of whom his grand-uncle, Augustus, used to say, "We shall
be forever in doubt, without any certainty of knowing whether he be or be
not equal to public duties," Claudius, the most feeble indeed of the
Caesars, in body, mind, and character, was nevertheless he who had
intermittent glimpses of the most elevated ideas and the most righteous
sentiments, and who strove the most sincerely to make them take the form
of deeds. He undertook to assure to all free men of "long-haired" Gaul
the same Roman privileges that were enjoyed by the inhabitants of Lyons;
and amongst others, that of entering the senate of Rome and holding the
great public offices. He made a formal proposal to that effect to the
senate, and succeeded, not without difficulty, in getting it adopted.
The speech that he delivered on this occasion has been to a great extent
preserved to us, not only in the summary given by Tacitus, but also in an
inscription on a bronze tablet, which split into many fragments at the
time of the destruction of the building in which it was placed. The two
principal fragments were discovered at Lyons, in 1528, and they are now
deposited in the Museum of that city. They fully confirm the most
equitable, and, it may be readily allowed, the most liberal act of policy
that emanated from the earlier Roman emperors. "Claudius had taken it
into his head," says Seneca, "to see all Greeks, Gauls, Spaniards, and
Britons clad in the toga." But at the same time he took great care to
spread everywhere the Latin tongue, and to make it take the place of the
different national idioms. A Roman citizen, originally of Asia Minor,
and sent on a deputation to Rome by his compatriots, could not answer in
Latin the emperor's questions. Claudius took away his privileges,
saying, "He is no Roman citizen who is ignorant of the language of Rome."

Claudius, however, was neither liberal nor humane towards a notable
portion of the Gallic populations, to wit, the Druids. During his stay
in Gaul he proscribed them and persecuted them without intermission;
forbidding, under pain of death, their form of worship and every exterior
sign of their ceremonies. He drove them away and pursued them even into
Great Britain, whither he conducted, A.D. 43, a military expedition,
almost the only one of his reign, save the continued struggle of his
lieutenants on the Rhine against the Germans. It was evidently amongst
the corporation of Druids and under the influence of religious creeds and
traditions, that there was still pursued and harbored some of the old
Gallic spirit, some passion for national independence, and some hatred of
the Roman yoke. In proportion as Claudius had been popular in Gaul did
his adopted son and successor, Nero, quickly become hated. There is
nothing to show that he even went thither, either on the business of
government or to obtain the momentary access of favor always excited in
the mob by the presence and prestige of power. It was towards Greece and
the East that a tendency was shown in the tastes and trips of Nero,
imperial poet, musician, and actor. L. Verus, one of the military
commandants in Belgica, had conceived a project of a canal to unite the
Moselle to the Saone, and so the Mediterranean to the ocean; but
intrigues in the province and the palace prevented its execution, and in
the place of public works useful to Gaul, Nero caused a new census to be
made of the population whom he required to squeeze to pay for his
extravagance. It was in his reign, as is well known, that a fierce fire
consumed a great part of Rome and her monuments. The majority of
historians accuse Nero of having himself been the cause of it; but at any
rate he looked on with cynical indifference, as if amused at so grand a
spectacle, and taking pleasure in comparing it to the burning of Troy.
He did more: he profited by it so far as to have built for himself, free
of expense, that magnificent palace called "The Palace of Gold," of which
he said, when he saw it completed, "At last I am going to be housed as a
man should be." Five years before the burning of Rome, Lyons had been a
prey to a similar scourge, and Seneca wrote to his friend Lucilius,
"Lugdunum, which was one of the show-places of Gaul, is sought for in
vain to-day; a single night sufficed for the disappearance of a vast
city; it perished in less time than I take to tell the tale." Nero gave
upwards of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars towards the
reconstruction of Lyons, a gift that gained him the city's gratitude,
which was manifested, it is said, when his fall became imminent. It was,
however, J. Vindex, a Gaul of Vienne, governor of the Lyonnese province,
who was the instigator of the insurrection which was fatal to Nero, and
which put Galba in his place.

When Nero was dead there was no other Caesar, no naturally indicated
successor to the empire. The influence of the name of Caesar had spent
itself in the crimes, madnesses, and incapacity of his descendants. Then
began a general search for emperors; and the ambition to be created
spread abroad amongst the men of note in the Roman world. During the
eighteen months that followed the death of Nero, three pretenders--Galba,
Otho, and Vitellius--ran this formidable risk. Galba was a worthy old
Roman senator, who frankly said, "If the vast body of the empire could be
kept standing in equilibrium without a head, I were worthy of the chief
place in the state." Otho and Vitellius were two epicures, both indolent
and debauched, the former after an elegant, and the latter after a
beastly fashion. Galba was raised to the purple by the Lyonnese and
Narbonnese provinces, Vitellius by the legions cantoned in the Belgic
province: to such an extent did Gaul already influence the destinies of
Rome. All three met disgrace and death within the space of eighteen
months; and the search for an emperor took a turn towards the East, where
the command was held by Vespasian (Titus Flavius Vespasianus, of Rieti in
the duchy of Spoleto), a general sprung from a humble Italian family, who
had won great military distinction, and who, having been proclaimed first
at Alexandria, in Judea, and at Antioch, did not arrive until many
months afterwards at Rome, where he commenced the twenty-six years' reign
of the Flavian family.

Neither Vespasian nor his sons, Titus and Domitian, visited Gaul, as
their predecessors had. Domitian alone put in a short appearance. The
eastern provinces of the empire and the wars on the frontier of the
Danube, towards which the invasions of the Germans were at that time
beginning to be directed, absorbed the attention of the new emperors.
Gaul was far, however, from remaining docile and peaceful at this epoch.
At the vacancy that occurred after Nero and amid the claims of various
pretenders, the authority of the Roman name and the pressure of the
imperial power diminished rapidly; and the memory and desire of
independence were reawakened. In Belgica the German peoplets, who had
been allowed to settle on the left bank of the Rhine, were very
imperfectly subdued, and kept up close communication with the independent
peoplets of the right bank. The eight Roman legions cantoned in that
province were themselves much changed; many barbarians had been enlisted
amongst them, and did gallant service; but they were indifferent, and
always ready for a new master and a new country. There were not wanting
symptoms, soon followed by opportunities for action, of this change in
sentiment and fact. In the very centre of Gaul, between the Loire and
the Allier, a peasant, who has kept in history his Gallic name of Marie
or Maricus, formed a band, and scoured the country, proclaiming national
independence. He was arrested by the local authorities and handed over
to Vitellius, who had him thrown to the beasts. But in the northern part
of Belgica, towards the mouths of the Rhine, where a Batavian peoplet
lived, a man of note amongst his compatriots and in the service of the
Romans, amongst whom he had received the name of Claudius Civilis,
embraced first secretly, and afterwards openly, the cause of
insurrection. He had vengeance to take for Nero's treatment, who had
caused his brother, Julius Paulus, to be beheaded, and himself to be put
in prison, whence he had been liberated by Galba. He made a vow to let
his hair grow until he was revenged. He had but one eye, and gloried in
the fact, saying that it had been so with Hannibal and with Sertorius,
and that his highest aspiration was to be like them. He pronounced first
for Vitellius against Otho, then for Vespasian against Vitellius, and
then for the complete independence of his nation against Vespasian. He
soon had, amongst the Germans on the two banks of the Rhine and amongst
the Gauls themselves, secret or declared allies. He was joined by a
young Gaul from the district of Langres, Julius Sabinus, who boasted
that, during the great war with the Gauls, his great-grandmother had
taken the fancy of Julius Caesar, and that he owed his name to him. News
had just reached Gaul of the burning down, for the second time, of the
Capitol during the disturbances at Rome on the death of Nero. The Druids
came forth from the retreats where they had hidden since Claudius'
proscription, and reappeared in the towns and country-places, proclaiming
that "the Roman empire was at an end, that the Gallic empire was
beginning, and that the day had come when the possession of all the world
should pass into the hands of the Transalpine nations." The insurgents
rose in the name of the Gallic empire, and Julius Sabinus assumed the
title of Caesar. War commenced. Confusion, hesitation, and actual
desertion reached the colonies and extended positively to the Roman
legions. Several towns, even Troves and Cologne, submitted or fell into
the hands of the insurgents. Several legions, yielding to bribery,
persuasion, or intimidation, went over to them, some with a bad grace,
others with the blood of their officers on their hands. The gravity of
the situation was not misunderstood at Rome. Petilius Cerealis, a
commander of renown for his campaigns on the Rhine, was sent off to
Belgica with seven fresh legions. He was as skilful in negotiation and
persuasion as he was in battle. The struggle that ensued was fierce, but
brief; and nearly all the towns and legions that had been guilty of
defection returned to their Roman allegiance. Civilis, though not more
than half vanquished, himself asked leave to surrender. The Batavian
might, as was said at the time, have inundated the country, and drowned
the Roman armies. Vespasian, therefore, not being inclined to drive men
or matters to extremity, gave Civilis leave to go into retirement and
live in peace amongst the marshes of his own land. The Gallic chieftains
alone, the projectors of a Gallic empire, were rigorously pursued and
chastised. There was especially one, Julius Sabinus, the pretended
descendant of Julius Caesar, whose capture was heartily desired. After
the ruin of his hopes he took refuge in some vaults connected with one of
his country houses. The way in was known only to two devoted freedmen of
his, who set fire to the buildings, and spread a report that Sabinus had
poisoned himself, and that his dead body had been devoured by the flames.
He had a wife, a young Gaul named Eponina, who was in frantic despair at
the rumor; but he had her informed, by the mouth of one of his freedmen,
of his place of concealment, begging her at the same time to keep up a
show of widowhood and mourning, in order to confirm the report already in
circulation. "Well did she play her part," to use Plutarch's expression,
"in her tragedy of woe." She went at night to visit her husband in his
retreat, and departed at break of day; and at last would not depart at
all. At the end of seven months, hearing great talk of Vespasian's
clemency, she set out for Rome, taking with her her husband, disguised as
a slave, with shaven head and a dress that made him unrecognizable. But
the friends who were in their confidence advised them not to risk as yet
the chance of imperial clemency, and to return to their secret asylum.
There they lived for nine years, during which "as a lioness in her den,
neither more nor less," says Plutarch, "Eponina gave birth to two young
whelps, and suckled them herself at her teat." At last they were
discovered and brought before Vespasian at Rome: "Caesar," said Eponina,
showing him her children, "I conceived them and suckled them in a tomb,
that there might be more of us to ask thy mercy."

[Illustration: Eponina and Sabinus hidden in a Vault----97]

But Vespasian was merciful only from prudence, and not by nature or from
magnanimity; and he sent Sabinus to execution. Eponina asked that she
might die with her husband, saying, "Caesar, do me this grace; for I have
lived more happily beneath the earth and in the darkness than thou in the
splendor of thy empire." Vespasian fulfilled her desire by sending her
also to execution; and Plutarch, their contemporary, undoubtedly
expressed the general feeling, when he ended his tale with the words,
"In all the long reign of this emperor there was no deed so cruel or so
piteous to see; and he was afterwards punished for it, for in a short
time all his posterity was extinct."

In fact the Caesars and the Flavians met the same fate; the two lines
began and ended alike; the former with Augustus and Nero, the latter with
Vespasian and Domitian; first a despot, able, cold, and as capable of
cruelty as of moderation, then a tyrant, atrocious and detested. And
both were extinguished without a descendant. Then a rare piece of good
fortune befell the Roman world. Domitian, two years before he was
assassinated by some of his servants whom he was about to put to death,
grew suspicious of an aged and honorable senator, Cocceius Nerva, who had
been twice consul, and whom he had sent into exile, first to Tarenturn,
and then in Gaul, preparatory, probably, to a worse fate. To this victim
of proscription application was made by the conspirators who had just got
rid of Domitian, and had to get another emperor. Nerva accepted, but not
without hesitation, for he was sixty-four years old; he had witnessed the
violent death of six emperors, and his grandfather, a celebrated jurist,
and for a long while a friend of Tiberius, had killed himself, it is
said, for grief at the iniquitous and cruel government of his friend.
The short reign of Nerva was a wise, a just, and a humane, but a sad one,
not for the people, but for himself. He maintained peace and order,
recalled exiles, suppressed informers, re-established respect for laws
and morals, turned a deaf ear to self-interested suggestions of
vengeance, spoliation, and injustice, proceeding at one time from those
who had made him emperor, at another from the Praetorian soldiers and the
Roman mob, who regretted Domitian just as they had Nero. But Nerva did
not succeed in putting a stop to mob-violence or murders prompted by
cupidity or hatred. Finding his authority insulted and his life
threatened, he formed a resolution which has been described and explained
by a learned and temperate historian of the last century, Lenain de
Tillemont (_Histoire des Empereurs,_ &c., t. ii. p. 59), with so much
justice and precision that it is a pleasure to quote his own words.
"Seeing," says he, "that his age was despised, and that the empire
required some one who combined strength of mind and body, Nerva, being
free from that blindness which prevents one from discussing and measuring
one's own powers, and from that thirst for dominion which often prevails
over even those who are nearest to the grave, resolved to take a partner
in the sovereign power, and showed his wisdom by making choice of
Trajan." By this choice, indeed, Nerva commenced and inaugurated the
finest period of the Roman empire, the period that contemporaries
entitled the golden age, and that history has named the age of the
Antonines. It is desirable to become acquainted with the real character
of this period, for to it belong the two greatest historical events--the
dissolution of ancient pagan, and the birth of modern Christian society.

Five notable sovereigns, Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and
Marcus Aurelius swayed the Roman empire during this period (A.D. 96-150).
What Nerva was has just been described; and he made no mistake in
adopting Trajan as his successor. Trajan, unconnected by origin, as
Nerva also had been, with old Rome, was born in Spain, near Seville, and
by military service in the East had made his first steps towards fortune
and renown. He was essentially a soldier--a moral and a modest soldier;
a friend to justice and the public weal; grand in what he undertook for
the empire he governed; simple and modest on his own score; respectful
towards the civil authority and the laws; untiring and equitable in the
work of provincial administration; without any philosophical system or
pretensions; full of energy and boldness, honesty and good sense. He
stoutly defended the empire against the Germans on the banks of the
Danube, won for it the province of Dacia, and, being more taken up with
the East than the West, made many Asiatic conquests, of which his
successor, Hadrian, lost no time in abandoning, wisely no doubt,
a portion. Hadrian, adopted by Trajan, and a Spaniard too, was
intellectually superior and morally very inferior to him. He was full
of ambition, vanity, invention, and restlessness; he was sceptical in
thought and cynical in manners; and he was overflowing with political,
philosophical, and literary views and pretensions. He passed the
twenty-one years of his reign chiefly in travelling about the empire,
in Asia, Africa, Greece, Spain, Gaul, and Great Britain, opening roads,
raising ramparts and monuments, founding schools of learning and museums,
and encouraging among the provinces, as well as at Rome, the march of
administration, legislation, and intellect, more for his own pleasure and
his own glorification than in the interest of his country and of society.
At the close of this active career, when he was ill and felt that he was
dying, he did the best deed of his life. He had proved, in the discharge
of high offices, the calm and clear-sighted wisdom of Titus Antoninus, a
Gaul, whose family came originally from Nimes; he had seen him one day
coming to the senate and respectfully supporting the tottering steps of
his aged father (or father-in-law, according to Aurelius Victor); and he
adopted him as his successor. Antoninus Pius, as a civilian, was just
what Trajan had been as a warrior--moral and modest; just and frugal;
attentive to the public weal; gentle towards individuals; full of respect
for laws and rights; scrupulous in justifying his deeds before the senate
and making them known to the populations by carefully posted edicts; and
more anxious to do no wrong or harm to anybody than to gain lustre from
brilliant or popular deeds. "He surpasses all men in goodness," said his
contemporaries, and he conferred on the empire the best of gifts, for he
gave it Marcus Aurelius for its ruler.

It has been said that Marcus Aurelius was philosophy enthroned. Without
any desire to contest or detract from that compliment, let it be added
that he was conscientiousness enthroned. It is his grand and original
characteristic that he governed the Roman empire and himself with a
constant moral solicitude, ever anxious to realize that ideal of personal
virtue and general justice which he had conceived, and to which he
aspired. His conception, indeed, of virtue and justice was incomplete,
and even false in certain cases; and in more than one instance, such as
the persecution of the Christians, he committed acts quite contrary to
the moral law which he intended to put in practice towards all men; but
his respect for the moral law was profound, and his intention to shape
his acts according to it, serious and sincere. Let us cull a few phrases
from that collection of his private thoughts, which he entitled _For
Self,_ and which is really the most faithful picture man ever left of
himself and the pains he took with himself. "There is," says he,
"relationship between all beings endowed with reason. The world is like
a superior city within which the other cities are but families. . . .
I have conceived the idea of a government founded on laws of general and
equal application. Beware lest thou Caesarze thyself, for it is what
happens only too often. Keep thyself simple, good, unaltered, worthy,
grave, a friend to justice, pious, kindly disposed, courageous enough for
any duty. . . . Reverence the gods, preserve mankind. Life is short;
the only possible good fruit of our earthly existence is holiness of
intention and deeds that tend to the common weal. . . . My soul, be
thou covered with shame! Thy life is well nigh gone, and thou hast not
yet learned how to live." Amongst men who have ruled great states, it is
not easy to mention more than two, Marcus Aurelius and Saint Louis, who
have been thus passionately concerned about the moral condition of their
souls and the moral conduct of their lives. The mind of Marcus Aurelius
was superior to that of Saint Louis; but Saint Louis was a Christian, and
his moral ideal was more pure, more complete, more satisfying, and more
strengthening for the soul than the philosophical ideal of Marcus
Aurelius. And so Saint Louis was serene and confident as to his fate and
that of the human race, whilst Marcus Aurelius was disquieted and sad--
sad for himself and also for humanity, for his country and for his times:
"O, my sole," was his cry, "wherefore art thou troubled, and why am I so

We are here brought closer to the fact which has already been
foreshadowed, and which characterizes the moral and social condition of
the Roman world at this period. It would be a great error to take the
five emperors just spoken of--Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and
Marcus Aurelius--as representatives of the society amidst which they
lived, and as giving in a certain degree the measure of its
enlightenment, its morality, its prosperity, its disposition, and
condition in general. Those five princes were not only picked men,
superior in mind and character to the majority of their contemporaries,
but they were men almost isolated in their generation; in them there was
a resumption of all that had been acquired by Greek and Roman antiquity
of enlightenment and virtue, practical wisdom and philosophical morality:
they were the heirs and the survivors of the great minds and the great
politicians of Athens and Rome, of the Areopagus and the Senate. They
were not in intellectual and moral harmony with the society they
governed, and their action upon it served hardly to preserve it partially
and temporarily from the evils to which it was committed by its own vices
and to break its fall. When they were thoughtful and modest as Marcus
Aurelius was, they were gloomy and disposed to discouragement, for they
had a secret foreboding of the uselessness of their efforts.

Nor was their gloom groundless: in spite of their honest plans and
of brilliant appearances, the degradation, material as well as moral,
of Roman society went on increasing. The wars, the luxury, the
dilapidations, and the disturbances of the empire always raised its
expenses much above its receipts. The rough miserliness of Vespasian and
the wise economy of Antoninus Pius were far from sufficient to restore
the balance; the aggravation of imposts was incessant; and the
population, especially the agricultural population, dwindled away more
and more, in Italy itself, the centre of the state. This evil disquieted
the emperors, when they were neither idiots nor madmen; Claudius,
Vespasian, Nerva, and Trajan labored to supply a remedy, and Augustus
himself had set them the example. They established in Italy colonies of
veterans to whom they assigned lands; they made gifts thereof to indigent
Roman citizens; they attracted by the title of senator rich citizens from
the provinces, and when they had once installed them as landholders in
Italy, they did not permit them to depart without authorization. Trajan
decreed that every candidate for the Roman magistracies should be bound
to have a third of his fortune invested in Italian land, "in order," says
Pliny the Younger, "that those who sought the public dignities should
regard Rome and Italy not as an inn to put up at in travelling, but as
their home." And Pliny the Elder, going as a philosophical observer to
the very root of the evil, says, in his pompous manner, "In former times
our generals tilled their fields with their own hands; the earth, we may
suppose, opened graciously beneath a plough crowned with laurels and held
by triumphal hands, maybe because those great men gave to tillage the
same care that they gave to war, and that they sowed seed with the same
attention with which they pitched a camp; or maybe, also, because
everything fructifies best in honorable hands, because everything is done
with the most scrupulous exactitude. . . . Nowadays these same fields
are given over to slaves in chains, to malefactors who are condemned to
penal servitude, and on whose brow there is a brand. Earth is not deaf
to our prayers; we give her the name of mother; culture is what we call
the pains we bestow on her . . . but can we be surprised if she render
not to slaves the recompense she paid to generals?"

What must have been the decay of population and of agriculture in the
provinces, when even in Italy there was need of such strong protective
efforts, which were nevertheless so slightly successful?

Pliny had seen what was the fatal canker of the Roman empire in the
country as well as in the towns: slavery or semi-slavery.

Landed property was overwhelmed with taxes, was subject to conditions
which branded it with a sort of servitude, and was cultivated by a
servile population, in whose hands it became almost barren. The large
holders were thus disgusted, and the small ruined or reduced to a
condition more and more degraded. Add to this state of things in the
civil department a complete absence of freedom and vitality in the
political; no elections, no discussion, no public responsibility;
characters weakened by indolence and silence, or destroyed by despotic
power, or corrupted by the intrigues of court or army. Take a step
farther; cast a glance over the moral department; no religious creeds and
nothing left of even Paganism but its festivals and frivolous or shameful
superstitions. The philosophy of Greece and the old Roman manner of life
had raised up, it is true, in the higher ranks of society Stoics and
jurists, the former the last champions of morality and the dignity of
human nature, the latter the last enlightened servants of the civil
community. But neither the doctrines of the Stoics nor the science and
able reasoning of the jurists were lights and guides within the reach and
for the use of the populace, who remained a prey to the vices and
miseries of servitude or public disorders, oscillating between the
wearisomeness of barren ignorance and the corruptiveness of a life of
adventure. All the causes of decay were at this time spreading
throughout Roman society; not a single preservative or regenerative
principle of national life was in any force or any esteem.

After the death of Marcus Aurelius the decay manifested and developed
itself, almost without interruption, for the space of a century, the
outward and visible sign of it being the disorganization and repeated
falls of the government itself. The series of emperors given to the
Roman world by heirship or adoption, from Augustus to Marcus Aurelius,
was succeeded by what may be termed an imperial anarchy; in the course of
one hundred and thirty-two years the sceptre passed into the hands of
thirty-nine sovereigns with the title of _emperor (Augustus)_, and was
clutched at by thirty-one pretenders, whom history has dubbed tyrants,
without other claim than their fiery ambition and their trials of
strength, supported at one time in such and such a province of the empire
by certain legions or some local uprising, at another, and most
frequently in Italy itself, by the Praetorian guards, who had at their
disposal the name of Rome and the shadow of a senate. There were
Italians, Africans, Spaniards, Gauls, Britons, Illyrians, and Asiatics;
and amongst the number were to be met with some cases of eminence in war
and politics, and some even of rare virtue and patriotism, such as
Pertinax, Septimius Severus, Alexander Severus, Deeius, Claudius
Gothicus, Aurelian, Tacitus, and Probus. They made great efforts, some
to protect the empire against the barbarians, growing day by day more
aggressive, others to re-establish within it some sort of order, and to
restore to the laws some sort of force. All failed, and nearly all died
a violent death, after a short-lived guardianship of a fabric that was
crumbling to pieces in every part, but still under the grand name of
Roman Empire. Gaul had her share in this series of ephemeral emperors
and tyrants; one of the most wicked and most insane, though issue of one
of the most valorous and able, Caracalla, son of Septimius Severus, was
born at Lyons, four years after the death of Marcus Aurelius. A hundred
years later Narbonne gave in two years to the Roman world three emperors,
Carus and his two sons, Carinus and Numerian. Amongst the thirty-one
tyrants who did not attain to the title of Augustus, six were Gauls; and
the last two, Amandus and AElianus, were, A.D. 285, the chiefs of that
great insurrection of peasants, slaves or half-slaves, who, under the
name of Bagaudians (signifying, according to Ducange, a wandering troop
of insurgents from field and forest), spread themselves over the north of
Gaul, between the Rhine and the Loire, pillaging and ravaging in all
directions, after having themselves endured the pillaging and ravages of
the fiscal agents and soldiers of the empire. A contemporary witness,
Lactantius, describes the causes of this popular outbreak in the
following words: "So enormous had the imposts become, that the tillers'
strength was exhausted; fields became deserts and farms were changed into
forests. The fiscal agents measured the land by the clod; trees,
vinestalks, were all counted. The cattle were marked; the people
registered. Old age or sickness was no excuse; the sick and the infirm
were brought up; every one's age was put down; a few years were added on
to the children's, and taken off from the old men's. Meanwhile the
cattle decreased, the people died, and there was no deduction made for
the dead."

It is said that to excite the confidence and zeal of their bands, the two
chiefs of the Bagaudians had medals struck, and that one exhibited the
head of Amandus, "Emperor, Caesar, Augustus, pious and prosperous," with
the word "Hope" on the other side.

When public evils have reached such a pitch, and nevertheless the day has
not yet arrived for the entire disappearance of the system that causes
them, there arises nearly always a new power which, in the name of
necessity, applies some remedy to an intolerable condition. A legion
cantoned amongst the Tungrians (Tongres), in Belgica, had on its
muster-roll a Dalmatian named Diocletian, not yet very high in rank,
but already much looked up to by his comrades on account of his
intelligence and his bravery. He lodged at a woman's, who was, they
said, a Druidess, and had the prophetic faculty. One day when he was
settling his account with her, she complained of his extreme parsimony:
"Thou'rt too stingy, Diocletian," said she; and he answered laughing,
"I'll be prodigal when I'm emperor." "Laugh not," rejoined she: "thou'lt
be emperor when thou hast slain a wild boar" (aper). The conversation
got about amongst Diocletian's comrades. He made his way in the army,
showing continual ability and valor, and several times during his changes
of quarters and frequent hunting expeditions he found occasion to kill
wild boars; but he did not immediately become emperor, and several of his
contemporaries, Aurelian, Tacitus, Probus, Carus, and Numerian, reached
the goal before him. "I kill the wild boars," said he to one of his
friends, "and another eats them." The last mentioned of these ephemeral
emperors, Numerian, had for his father-in-law and inseparable comrade a
Praetorian prefect named Arrius Aper. During a campaign in Mesopotamia
Numerian was assassinated, and the voice of the army pronounced Aper
guilty. The legions assembled to deliberate about Numerian's death and
to choose his successor. Aper was brought before the assembly under a
guard of soldiers. Through the exertions of zealous friends the
candidature of Diocletian found great favor. At the first words
pronounced by him from a raised platform in the presence of the troops,
cries of "Diocletian Augustus "were raised in every quarter. Other
voices called on him to express his feelings about Numerian's murderers.
Drawing his sword, Diocletian declared on oath that he was innocent of
the emperor's death, but that he knew who was guilty and would find means
to punish him. Descending suddenly from the platform, he made straight
for the Praetorian prefect, and saying, "Aper, be comforted; thou shalt
not die by vulgar hands; by the right hand of great AEneas thou fallest,"
he gave him his death-wound. "I have killed the prophetic wild boar,"
said he in the evening to his confidants; and soon afterwards, in spite
of the efforts of certain rivals, he was emperor.

"Nothing is more difficult than to govern," was a remark his comrades had
often heard made by him amidst so many imperial catastrophes. Emperor in
his turn, Diocletian treasured up this profound idea of the difficulty of
government, and he set to work, ably, if not successfully, to master it.
Convinced that the empire was too vast, and that a single man did not
suffice to make head against the two evils that were destroying it,--war
against barbarians on the frontiers, and anarchy within,--he divided the
Roman world into two portions, gave the West to Maximian, one of his
comrades, a coarse but valiant soldier, and kept the East himself. To
the anarchy that reigned within he opposed a general despotic
administrative organization, a vast hierarchy of civil and military
agents, everywhere present, everywhere masters, and dependent upon the
emperor alone. By his incontestable and admitted superiority, Diocletian
remained the soul of these two bodies. At the end of eight years he saw
that the two empires were still too vast; and to each Augustus he added a
Caesar,--Galerius and Constantius Chlorus,--who, save a nominal, rather
than real, subordination to the two emperors, had, each in his own state,
the imperial power with the same administrative system. In this
partition of the Roman world, Gaul had the best of it: she had for
master, Constantius Chlorus, a tried warrior, but just, gentle, and
disposed to temper the exercise of absolute power with moderation and
equity. He had a son, Constantine, at this time eighteen years of age,
whom he was educating carefully for government as well as for war. This
system of the Roman empire, thus divided between four masters, lasted
thirteen years; still fruitful in wars and in troubles at home, but
without victories, and with somewhat less of anarchy. In spite of this
appearance of success and durability, absolute power failed to perform
its task; and, weary of his burden and disgusted with the imperfection of
his work, Diocletian abdicated A.D. 303. No event, no solicitations of
his old comrades in arms and empire, could draw him from his retreat on
his native soil of Salona, in Dalmatia. "If you could see the vegetables
planted by these hands," said he to Maximian and Galerius, "you would not
make the attempt." He had persuaded or rather dragged his first
colleague, Maximian, into abdication after him; and so Galerius in the
East, and Constantius Chlorus in the West, remained sole emperors. After
the retirement of Diocletian, ambitions, rivalries, and intrigues were
not slow to make head; Maximian reappeared on the scene of empire, but
only to speedily disappear (A.D. 310), leaving in his place his son
Maxentius. Constantius Chlorus had died A.D. 306, and his son,
Constantine, had immediately been proclaimed by his army Caesar and
Augustus. Galerius died A.D. 311 and Constantine remained to dispute the
mastery with Maxentius in the West, and in the East with Maximinus and
Licinius, the last colleagues taken by Diocletian and Galerius. On the
29th of October, A.D. 312, after having gained several battles against
Maxentius in Italy, at Milan, Brescia, and Verona, Constantine pursued
and defeated him before Rome, on the borders of the Tiber, at the foot of
the Milvian bridge; and the son of Maximian, drowned in the Tiber, left
to the son of Constantins Chlorus the Empire of the West, to which that
of the East was destined to be in a few years added, by the defeat and
death of Licinius. Constantine, more clear-sighted and more fortunate
than any of his predecessors, had understood his era, and opened his eyes
to the new light which was rising upon the world. Far from persecuting
the Christians, as Diocletian and Galerius had done, he had given them
protection, countenance, and audience; and towards him turned all their
hopes. He had even, it is said, in his last battle against Maxentius,
displayed the Christian banner, the cross, with this inscription: Hoc
signo vinces ("with this device thou shalt conquer "). There is no
knowing what was at that time the state of his soul, and to what extent
it was penetrated by the first rays of Christian faith; but it is certain
that he was the first amongst the masters of the Roman world to perceive
and accept its influence. With him Paganism fell, and Christianity
mounted the throne. With him the decay of Roman society stops, and the
era of modern society commences.

[Illustration: Knights returning from Foray----311]


When Christianity began to penetrate into Gaul, it encountered there two
religions very different one from the other, and infinitely more
different from the Christian religion; these were Druidism and Paganism--
hostile one to the other, but with a hostility political only, and
unconnected with those really religious questions that Christianity was
coming to raise.

[Illustration: Christianity established in Gaul----111]

Druidism, considered as a religion, was a mass of confusion, wherein the
instinctive notions of the human race concerning the origin and destiny
of the world and of mankind were mingled with the Oriental dreams of
metempsychosis--that pretended transmigration, at successive periods, of
immortal souls into divers creatures. This confusion was worse
confounded by traditions borrowed from the mythologies of the East and
the North, by shadowy remnants of a symbolical worship paid to the
material forces of nature, and by barbaric practices, such as human
sacrifices, in honor of the gods or of the dead. People who are without
the scientific development of language and the art of writing do not
attain to systematic and productive religious creeds. There is nothing
to show that, from the first appearance of the Gauls in history to their
struggle with victorious Rome, the religious influence of Druidism had
caused any notable progress to be made in Gallic manners and
civilization. A general and strong, but vague and incoherent, belief in
the immortality of the soul was its noblest characteristic. But with the
religious elements, at the same time coarse and mystical, were united two
facts of importance: the Druids formed a veritable ecclesiastical
corporation, which had, throughout Gallic society, fixed attributes,
special manners and customs, an existence at the same time distinct and
national; and in the wars with Rome this corporation became the most
faithful representatives and the most persistent defenders of Gallic
independence and nationality. The Druids were far more a clergy than
Druidism was a religion; but it was an organized and a patriotic clergy.
It was especially on this account that they exercised in Gaul an
influence which was still existent, particularly in north-western Gaul,
at the time when Christianity reached the Gallic provinces of the south
and centre.

[Illustration: Druids offering Human Sacrifices----111]

The Greco-Roman Paganism was, at this time, far more powerful than
Druidism in Gaul, and yet more lukewarm and destitute of all religious
vitality. It was the religion of the conquerors and of the state, and
was invested, in that quality, with real power; but, beyond that, it had
but the power derived from popular customs and superstitions. As a
religious creed, the Latin Paganism was at bottom empty, indifferent, and
inclined to tolerate all religions in the state, provided only that they,
in their turn, were indifferent at any rate towards itself, and that they
did not come troubling the state, either by disobeying her rulers or by
attacking her old deities, dead and buried beneath their own still
standing altars.

Such were the two religions with which, in Gaul, nascent Christianity had
to contend. Compared with them it was, to all appearance, very small and
very weak; but it was provided with the most efficient weapons for
fighting and beating them, for it had exactly the moral forces which they
lacked. Christianity, instead of being, like Druidism, a religion
exclusively national and hostile to all that was foreign, proclaimed a
universal religion, free from all local and national partiality,
addressing itself to all men in the name of the same God, and offering to
all the same salvation. It is one of the strangest and most significant
facts in history, that the religion most universally human, most
dissociated from every consideration but that of the rights and
well-being of the human race in its entirety--that such a religion, be
it repeated, should have come forth from the womb of the most exclusive,
most rigorously and obstinately national religion that ever appeared in
the world, that is, Judaism. Such, nevertheless, was the birth of
Christianity; and this wonderful contrast between the essence and the
earthly origin of Christianity was without doubt one of its most
powerful attractions and most efficacious means of success.

Against Paganism Christianity was armed with moral forces not a whit less
great. Confronting mythological traditions and poetical or philosophical
allegories, appeared a religion truly religious, concerned solely with
the relations of mankind to God and with their eternal future. To the
pagan indifference of the Roman world the Christians opposed the profound
conviction of their faith, and not only their firmness in defending it
against all powers and all dangers, but also their ardent passion for
propagating it without any motive but the yearning to make their fellows
share in its benefits and its hopes. They confronted, nay, they welcomed
martyrdom, at one time to maintain their own Christianity, at another to
make others Christians around them; propagandism was for them a duty
almost as imperative as fidelity. And it was not in memory of old and
obsolete mythologies, but in the name of recent deeds and persons, in
obedience to laws proceeding from God, One and Universal, in fulfilment
and continuation of a contemporary and superhuman history,--that of Jesus
Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man,--that the Christians of the first
two centuries labored to convert to their faith the whole Roman world.
Marcus Aurelius was contemptuously astonished at what he called the
obstinacy of the Christians; he knew not from what source these nameless
heroes drew a strength superior to his own, though he was at the same
time emperor and sage. It is impossible to assign with exactness the
date of the first footprints and first labors of Christianity in Gaul.
It was not, however, from Italy, nor in the Latin tongue and through
Latin writers, but from the East and through the Greeks, that it first
came and began to spread. Marseilles--and the different Greek colonies,
originally from Asia Minor and settled upon the shores of the
Mediterranean or along the Rhone, mark the route and were the places
whither the first Christian missionaries carried their teaching: on this
point the letters of the Apostles and the writings of the first two
generations of their disciples are clear and abiding proof. In the west
of the empire, especially in Italy, the Christians at their first
appearance were confounded with the Jews, and comprehended under the same
name: "The Emperor Claudius," says Suetonius, "drove from Rome (A.D. 52)
the Jews who, at the instigation of Christus, were in continual
commotion." After the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus (A.D. 71), the
Jews, Christian or not, dispersed throughout the Empire; but the
Christians were not slow to signalize themselves by their religious
fervor, and to come forward everywhere under their own true name. Lyons
became the chief centre of Christian preaching and association in Gaul.
As early as the first half of the second century there existed there a
Christian congregation, regularly organized as a church, and already
sufficiently important to be in intimate and frequent communication with
the Christian Churches of the East and West. There is a tradition,
generally admitted, that St. Pothinus, the first Bishop of Lyons, was
sent thither from the East by the Bishop of Smyrna, St. Polycarp, himself
a disciple of St. John. One thing is certain, that the Christian Church
of Lyons produced Gaul's first martyrs, amongst whom was the Bishop, St.

It was under Marcus Aurelius, the most philosophical and most
conscientious of the emperors, that there was enacted for the first
time in Gaul, against nascent Christianity, that scene of tyranny and
barbarity which was to be renewed so often and during so many centuries
in the midst of Christendom itself. In the eastern provinces of the
Empire and in Italy the Christians had already been several times
persecuted, now with cold-blooded cruelty, now with some slight
hesitation and irresolution. Nero had caused them to be burned in the
streets of Rome, accusing them of the conflagration himself had kindled,
and, a few months before his fall, St. Peter and St. Paul had undergone
martyrdom at Rome. Domitian had persecuted and put to death Christians
even in his own family, and though invested with the honors of the
consulate. Righteous Trajan, when consulted by Pliny the Younger on the
conduct he should adopt in Bithynia towards the Christians, had answered,
"It is impossible, in this sort of matter, to establish any certain
general rule; there must be no quest set on foot against them, and no
unsigned indictment must be accepted; but if they be accused and
convicted, they must be punished." To be punished, it sufficed that they
were convicted of being Christians; and it was Trajan himself who
condemned St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, to be brought to Rome and
thrown to the beasts, for the simple reason that he was highly Christian.
Marcus Aurelius, not only by virtue of his philosophical
conscientiousness, but by reason of an incident in his history, seemed
bound to be farther than any other from persecuting the Christians.
During one of his campaigns on the Danube, A.D. 174, his army was
suffering cruelly from fatigue and thirst; and at the very moment when
they were on the point of engaging in a great battle against the
barbarians, the rain fell in abundance, refreshed the Roman soldiers, and
conduced to their victory. There was in the Roman army a legion, the
twelfth, called the _Melitine_ or the _Thundering,_ which bore on its
roll many Christian soldiers. They gave thanks for the rain and the
victory to the one omnipotent God who had heard their prayers, whilst the
pagans rendered like honor to Jupiter, the rain-giver and the thunderer.
The report about these Christians got spread abroad and gained credit in
the Empire, so much so that there was attributed to Marcus Aurelius a
letter, in which, by reason, no doubt, of this incident, he forbade
persecution of the Christians. Tertullian, a contemporary witness,
speaks of this letter in perfect confidence; and the Christian writers
of the following century did not hesitate to regard it as authentic.
Nowadays a strict examination of its existing text does not allow such a
character to be attributed to it. At any rate the persecutions of the
Christians were not forbidden, for in the year 177, that is, only three
years after the victory of Marcus Aurelius over the Germans, there took
place, undoubtedly by his orders, the persecution which caused at Lyons
the first Gallic martyrdom. This was the fourth, or, according to
others, the fifth great imperial persecution of the Christians.

Most tales of the martyrs were written long after the event, and came to
be nothing more than legends laden with details often utterly puerile or
devoid of proof. The martyrs of Lyons in the second century wrote, so to
speak, their own history; for it was their comrades, eye-witnesses of
their sufferings and their virtue, who gave an account of them in a long
letter addressed to their friends in Asia Minor, and written with
passionate sympathy and pious prolixity, but bearing all the,
characteristics of truth. It seems desirable to submit for perusal that
document, which has been preserved almost entire in the Ecclesiastical
History of Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea in the third century, and which
will exhibit, better than any modern representations, the state of facts
and of souls in the midst of the imperial persecutions, and the mighty
faith, devotion, and courage with which the early Christians faced the
most cruel trials.

"The servants of Christ, dwelling at Vienne and Lyons in Gaul, to the
brethren settled in Asia and Phrygia, who have the same faith and hope of
redemption that we have, peace, grace, and glory from God the Father and
Jesus Christ our Lord!

"None can tell to you in speech or fully set forth to you in writing the
weight of our misery, the madness and rage of the Gentiles against the
saints, and all that hath been suffered by the blessed martyrs. Our
enemy doth rush upon us with all the fury of his powers, and already
giveth us a foretaste and the first-fruits of all the license with which
he doth intend to set upon us. He hath omitted nothing for the training
of his agents against us, and he doth exercise them in a sort of
preparatory work against the servants of the Lord. Not only are we
driven from the public buildings, from the baths, and from the forum, but
it is forbidden to all our people to appear publicly in any place

"The grace of God hath striven for us against the devil: at the same time
that it hath sustained the weak, it hath opposed to the Evil One, as it
were, pillars of strength--men strong and valiant, ready to draw on
themselves all his attacks. They have had to bear all manner of insult;
they have deemed but a small matter that which others find hard and
terrible; and they have thought only of going to Christ, proving by their
example that the sufferings of this world are not worthy to be put in the
balance with the glory which is to be manifested in us. They have
endured, in the first place, all the outrages that could be heaped upon
them by the multitude, outcries, blows, thefts, spoliation, stoning,
imprisonment, all that the fury of the people could devise against hated
enemies. Then, dragged to the forum by the military tribune and the
magistrates of the city, they have been questioned before the people and
cast into prison until the coming of the governor. He, from the moment
our people appeared before him, committed all manner of violence against
them. Then stood forth one of our brethren, Vettius Epagathus, full of
love towards God and his neighbor, living a life so pure and strict that,
young as he was, men held him to be the equal of the aged Zacharias.--
He could not bear that judgment so unjust should go forth against us,
and, moved with indignation, he asked leave to defend his brethren, and
to prove that there was in them no kind of irreligion or impiety. Those
present at the tribunal, amongst whom he was known and celebrated, cried
out against him, and the governor himself, enraged at so just a demand,
asked him no more than this question, 'Art thou a Christian?'
Straightway with a loud voice, he declared himself a Christian, and was
placed amongst the number of the martyrs. . . .

"Afterwards the rest began to be examined and classed. The first, firm
and well prepared, made hearty and solemn confession of their faith.
Others, ill prepared and with little firmness, showed that they lacked
strength for such a fight. About ten of them fell away, which caused us
incredible pain and mourning. Their example broke down the courage of
others, who, not being yet in bonds, though they had already had much to
suffer, kept close to the martyrs, and withdrew not out of their sight.
Then were we all stricken with dread for the issue of the trial: not that
we had great fear of the torments inflicted, but because, prophesying the
result according to the degree of courage of the accused, we feared much
falling away. They took, day by day, those of our brethren who were
worthy to replace the weak; so that all the best of the two churches,
those whose care and zeal had founded them, were taken and confined.
They took, likewise, some of our slaves, for the governor had ordered
that they should be all summoned to attend in public; and they, fearing
the torments they saw the saints undergo, and instigated by the soldiers,
accused us falsely of odious deeds, such as the banquet of Thyestes, the
incest of OEdipus, and other crimes which must not be named or even
thought of, and which we cannot bring ourselves to believe that men were
ever guilty of. These reports having once spread amongst the people,
even those persons who had hitherto, by reason, perhaps, of relationship,
shown moderation towards us, burst forth into bitter indignation against
our people. Thus was fulfilled that which had been prophesied by the
Lord: 'The time cometh when whosoever shall kill you shall think that he
doeth God service.' Since that day the holy martyrs have suffered
tortures that no words can express.

"The fury of the multitude, of the governor, and of the soldiers, fell
chiefly upon Sanctus, a deacon of Vienne; upon Maturus, a neophyte still,
but already a valiant champion of Christ; upon Attalus also, born at
Pergamus, but who hath ever been one of the pillars of our Church; upon
Blandina, lastly, in whom Christ hath made it appear that persons who
seem vile and despised of men are just those whom God holds in the
highest honor by reason of the excellent love they bear Him, which is
manifested in their firm virtue, and not in vain show. All of us, and
even Blandina's mistress here below, who fought valiantly with the other
martyrs, feared that this poor slave, so weak of body, would not be in a
condition to freely confess her faith; but she was sustained by such
vigor of soul that the executioners, who from morn till eve put her to
all manner of torture, failed in their efforts, and declared themselves
beaten, not knowing what further punishment to inflict, and marvelling
that she still lived, with her body pierced through and through, and torn
piecemeal by so many tortures, of which a single one should have sufficed
to kill her. But that blessed saint, like a valiant athlete, took fresh
courage and strength from the confession of her faith; all feeling of
pain vanished, and ease returned to her at the mere utterance of the
words, 'I am a Christian, and no evil is wrought amongst us.'

"As for Sanctus, the executioners hoped that in the midst of the tortures
inflicted upon him--the most atrocious which man could devise--they would
hear him say something unseemly or unlawful; but so firmly did he resist
them, that, without even saying his name, or that of his nation or city,
or whether he was bond or free, he only replied in the Roman tongue, to
all questions, 'I am a Christian.' Therein was, for him, his name, his
country, his condition, his whole being; and never could the Gentiles
wrest from him another word. The fury of the governor and the
executioners was redoubled against him; and, not knowing how to torment
him further, they applied to his most tender members bars of red-hot
iron. His members burned; but he, upright and immovable, persisted in
his profession of faith, as if living waters from the bosom of Christ
flowed over him and refreshed him. . . . Some days after, these
infidels began again to torture him, believing that if they inflicted
upon his blistering wounds the same agonies, they would triumph over him,
who seemed unable to bear the mere touch of their hands; and they hoped,
also, that the sight of this torturing alive would terrify his comrades.
But, contrary to general expectation, the body of Sanctus, rising
suddenly up, stood erect and firm amidst these repeated torments, and
recovered its old appearance and the use of its members, as if, by Divine
grace, this second laceration of his flesh had caused healing rather than
suffering. . . .

"When the tyrants had thus expended and exhausted their tortures against
the firmness of the martyrs sustained by Christ, the devil devised other
contrivances. They were cast into the darkest and most unendurable place
in their prison; their feet were dragged out and compressed to the utmost
tension of the muscles; the jailers, as if instigated by a demon, tried
every sort of torture, insomuch that several of them, for whom God willed
such an end, died of suffocation in prison. Others, who had been
tortured in such a manner that it was thought impossible they should long
survive, deprived as they were of every remedy and aid from men, but
supported nevertheless by the grace of God, remained sound and strong in
body as in soul, and comforted and reanimated their brethren. . . .

"The blessed Pothinus, who held at that time the bishopric of Lyons,
being upwards of ninety, and so weak in body that he could hardly
breathe, was himself brought before the tribunal, so worn with old age
and sickness that he seemed nigh to extinction; but he still possessed
his soul, wherewith to subserve the triumph of Christ. Being brought by
the soldiers before the tribunal, whither he was accompanied by all the
magistrates of the city and the whole populace, that pursued him with
hootings, he offered, as if he had been the very Christ, the most
glorious testimony. At a question from the governor, who asked what the
God of the Christians was, he answered, 'If thou be worthy, thou shalt
know.' He was immediately raised up, without any respect or humanity,
and blows were showered upon him; those who happened to be nearest to him
assaulted him grievously with foot and fist, without the slightest regard
for his age; those who were farther off cast at him whatever was to their
hand; they would all have thought themselves guilty of the greatest
default if they had not done their best, each on his own score, to insult
him brutally. They believed they were avenging the wrongs of their gods.
Pothinus, still breathing, was cast again into prison, and two days after
yielded up his spirit.

"Then were manifested a singular dispensation of God and the immeasurable
compassion of Jesus Christ; an example rare amongst brethren, but in
accord with the intentions and the justice of the Lord. All those who,
at their first arrest, had denied their faith, were themselves cast into
prison and given over to the same sufferings as the other martyrs, for
their denial did not serve them at all. Those who had made profession of
being what they really were--that is, Christians--were imprisoned without
being accused of other crimes. The former, on the contrary, were
confined as homicides and wretches, thus suffering a double punishment.
The one sort found repose in the honorable joys of martyrdom, in the hope
of promised blessedness, in the love of Christ, and in the spirit of God
the Father; the other were a prey to the reproaches of conscience. It
was easy to distinguish the one from the other by their looks. The one
walked joyously, bearing on their faces a majesty mingled with sweetness,
and their very bonds seemed unto them an ornament, even as the broidery
that decks a bride . . . the other, with downcast eyes and humble and
dejected air, were an object of contempt to the Gentiles themselves, who
regarded them as cowards who had forfeited the glorious and saving name
of Christians. And so they who were present at this double spectacle
were thereby signally strengthened, and whoever amongst them chanced to
be arrested confessed the faith without doubt or hesitation. . . .

"Things having come to this pass, different kinds of death were inflicted
on the martyrs, and they offered to God a crown of divers flowers. It
was but right that the most valiant champions, those who had sustained a
double assault and gained a signal victory, should receive a splendid
crown of immortality. The neophyte Maturus and the deacon Sanctus, with
Blandina and Attalus, then, were led into the amphitheatre, and thrown to
the beasts, as a sight to please the inhumanity of the Gentiles. . . .
Maturus and Sanctus there underwent all kinds of tortures, as if they had
hitherto suffered nothing; or, rather, like athletes who had already been
several times victorious, and were contending for the crown of crowns,
they braved the stripes with which they were beaten, the bites of the
beasts that dragged them to and fro, and all that was demanded by the
outcries of an insensate mob, so much the more furious, because it could
by no means overcome the firmness of the martyrs or extort from Sanctus
any other speech than that which, on the first day, he had uttered: 'I am
a Christian.'

"After this fearful contest, as life was not extinct, their throats were
at last cut, when they alone had thus been offered as a spectacle to the
public instead of the variety displayed in the combat of gladiators.
Blandina, in her turn, tied to a stake, was given to the beasts: she was
seen hanging, as it were, on a sort of cross, calling upon God with
trustful fervor, and the brethren present were reminded, in the person of
a sister, of Him who had been crucified for their salvation. . . . As
none of the beasts would touch the body of Blandina, she was released
from the stake, taken back to prison, and reserved for another occasion.
. . . Attalus, whose execution, seeing that he was a man of mark, was
furiously demanded by the people, came forward ready to brave everything,
as a man deriving confidence from the memory of his life, for he had
courageously trained himself to discipline, and had always amongst us
borne witness for the truth. He was led all round the amphitheatre,
preceded by a board bearing this inscription in Latin: 'This is Attalus
the Christian.' The people pursued him with the most furious hootings;
but the governor, having learnt that he was a Roman citizen, had him
taken back to prison with the rest. Having subsequently written to
Caesar, he waited for his decision as to those who were thus detained.

"This delay was neither useless nor unprofitable, for then shone forth
the boundless compassion of Christ. Those of the brethren who had been
but dead members of the Church, were recalled to life by the pains and
help of the living; the martyrs obtained grace for those who had fallen
away; and great was the joy in the Church, at the same time virgin and
mother, for she once more found living those whom she had given up for
dead. Thus revived and strengthened by the goodness of God, who willeth
not the death of the sinner, but rather inviteth him to repentance, they
presented themselves before the tribunal, to be questioned afresh by the
governor. Caesar had replied that they who confessed themselves to be
Christians should be put to the sword, and they who denied sent away safe
and sound. When the time for the great market had fully come, there
assembled a numerous multitude from every nation and every province. The
governor had the blessed martyrs brought up before his judgment-seat,
showing them before the people with all the pomp of a theatre. He
questioned them afresh; and those who were discovered to be Roman
citizens were beheaded, the rest were thrown to the beasts.

"Great glory was gained for Christ by means of those who had at first
denied their faith, and who now confessed it contrary to the expectation
of the Gentiles. Those who, having been privately questioned, declared
themselves Christians were added to the number of the martyrs. Those in
whom appeared no vestige of faith, and no fear of God, remained without
the pale of the Church. When they were dealing with those who had been
reunited to it, one Alexander, a Phrygian by nation, a physician by
profession, who had for many years been dwelling in Gaul, a man well
known to all for his love of God and open preaching of the faith, took
his place in the hall of judgment, exhorting by signs all who filled it
to confess their faith, even as if he had been called in to deliver them
of it. The multitude, enraged to see that those who had at first denied,
turned round and proclaimed their faith, cried out against Alexander,
whom they accused of the conversion. The governor forthwith asked him
what he was, and at the answer, 'I am a Christian,' condemned him to the
beasts. On the morrow Alexander was again brought up, together with
Attalus, whom the governor, to please the people, had once more condemned
to the beasts. After they had both suffered in the amphitheatre all the
torments that could be devised, they were put to the sword. Alexander
uttered not a complaint, not a word; he had the air of one who was
talking inwardly with God. Attalus, seated on an iron seat, and waiting
for the fire to consume his body, said, in Latin, to the people, 'See
what ye are doing; it is in truth devouring men; as for us, we devour not
men, and we do no evil at all.' He was asked what was the name of God:
'God,' said he, 'is not like us mortals; He hath no name.'

"After all these martyrs, on the last day of the shows, Blandina was
again brought up, together with a young lad, named Ponticus, about
fifteen years old. They had been brought up every day before that they
might see the tortures of their brethren. When they were called upon to
swear by the altars of the Gentiles, they remained firm in their faith,
making no account of those pretended gods, and so great was the fury of
the multitude against them, that no pity was shown for the age of the
child or the sex of the woman. Tortures were heaped upon them; they were
made to pass through every kind of torment, but the desired end was not
gained. Supported by the exhortations of his sister, who was seen and
heard by the Gentiles, Ponticus, after having endured all magnanimously,
gave up the ghost. Blandina, last of all,--like a noble mother that hath
roused the courage of her sons for the fight, and sent them forth to
conquer for their king,--passed once more through all the tortures they
had suffered, anxious to go and rejoin them, and rejoicing at each step
towards death. At length, after she had undergone fire, the talons of
beasts, and agonizing aspersion, she was wrapped in a network and thrown
to a bull that tossed her in the air; she was already unconscious of all
that befell her, and seemed altogether taken up with watching for the
blessings that Christ had in store for her. Even the Gentiles allowed
that never a woman had suffered so much or so long.

"Still their fury and their cruelty towards the saints were not appeased.
They devised another way of raging against them; they cast to the dogs
the bodies of those who had died of suffocation in prison, and watched
night and day that none of our brethren might come and bury them. As for
what remained of the martyrs' half-mangled or devoured corpses, they left
them exposed under a guard of soldiers, coming to look on them with
insulting eyes, and saying, 'Where is now their God? Of what use to them
was this religion for which they laid down their lives?' We were
overcome with grief that we were not able to bury these poor corpses; nor
the darkness of night, nor gold, nor prayers could help us to succeed
therein. After being thus exposed for six days in the open air, given
over to all manner of outrage, the corpses of the martyrs were at last
burned, reduced to ashes, and cast hither and thither by the infidels
upon the waters of the Rhone, that there might be left no trace of them
on earth. They acted as if they had been more mighty than God, and could
rob our brethren of their resurrection: ''Tis in that hope,' said they,
'that these folk bring amongst us a new and strange religion, that they
set at nought the most painful torments, and that they go joyfully to
face death: let us see if they will rise again, if their God will come to
their aid and will be able to tear them from our hands.'"

It is not without a painful effort that, even after so many centuries,
we can resign ourselves to be witnesses, in imagination only, of such a
spectacle. We can scarce believe that amongst men of the same period and
the same city so much ferocity could be displayed in opposition to so
much courage, the passion for barbarity against the passion for virtue.
Nevertheless, such is history; and it should be represented as it really
was: first of all, for truth's sake; then for the due appreciation of
virtue and all it costs of effort and sacrifice; and, lastly, for the
purpose of showing what obstacles have to be surmounted, what struggles
endured, and what sufferings borne, when the question is the
accomplishment of great moral and social reforms. Marcus Aurelius was,
without any doubt, a virtuous ruler, and one who had it in his heart to
be just and humane; but he was an absolute ruler, that is to say, one fed
entirely on his owns ideas, very ill-informed about the facts on which he
had to decide, and without a free public to warn him of the errors of his
ideas or the practical results of his decrees. He ordered the
persecution of the Christians without knowing what the Christians were,
or what the persecution would be, and this conscientious philosopher let
loose at Lyons, against the most conscientious of subjects, the zealous
servility of his agents, and the atrocious passions of the mob.

The persecution of the Christians did not stop at Lyons, or with Marcus
Aurelius; it became, during the third century, the common practice of the
emperors in all parts of the Empire: from A.D. 202 to 312, under the
reigns of Septimius Severus, Maximinus the First, Decius, Valerian,
Aurelian, Diocletian, Maximian, and Galerius, there are reckoned six
great general persecutions, without counting others more circumscribed or
less severe. The Emperors Alexander Severns, Philip the Arabian, and
Constantius Chlorus were almost the only exceptions to this cruel system;
and nearly always, wherever it was in force, the Pagan mob, in its
brutality or fanatical superstition, added to imperial rigor its own
atrocious and cynical excesses.

But Christian zeal was superior in perseverance and efficacy to Pagan
persecution. St. Pothinus the Martyr was succeeded as bishop at Lyons by
St. Irenaeus, the most learned, most judicious, and most illustrious of
the early heads of the Church in Gaul. Originally from Asia Minor,
probably from Smyrna, he had migrated to Gaul, at what particular date is
not known, and had settled as a simple priest in the diocese of Lyons,
where it was not long before he exercised vast influence, as well on the
spot as also during certain missions intrusted to him, and amongst them
one, they say, to the Pope St. Eleutherius at Rome. Whilst Bishop of
Lyons, from A.D. 177 to 202, he employed the five and twenty years in
propagating the Christian faith in Gaul, and in defending, by his
writings, the Christian doctrines against the discord to which they had
already been subjected in the East, and which was beginning to penetrate
to the West. In 202, during the persecution instituted by Septimius
Severus, St. Irenaeus crowned by martyrdom his active and influential
life. It was in his episcopate that there began what may be called the
swarm of Christian missionaries who, towards the end of the second and
during the third centuries, spread over the whole of Gaul, preaching the
faith and forming churches. Some went from Lyons at the instigation of
St. Irenaeus; others from Rome, especially under the pontificate of Pope
St. Fabian, himself martyred in 219; St. Felix and St. Fortunatus to
Valence, St. Ferreol to Besancon, St. Marcellus to Chalons-sur-Saone,
St. Benignus to Dijon, St. Trophimus to Arles, St. Paul to Narbonne,
St. Saturninus to Toulouse, St. Martial to Limoges, St. Andeol and
St. Privatus to the Cevennes, St. Austremoine to Clermont-Ferrand,
St. Gatian to Tours, St. Denis to Paris, and so many others that their
names are scarcely known beyond the pages of erudite historians, or the
very spots where they preached, struggled, and conquered, often at the
price of their lives. Such were the founders of the faith and of the
Christian Church in France. At the commencement of the fourth century
their work was, if not accomplished, at any rate triumphant; and when,
A.D. 312, Constantine declared himself a Christian, he confirmed the fact
of the conquest of the Roman world, and of Gaul in particular, by
Christianity. No doubt the majority of the inhabitants were not as yet
Christians; but it was clear that the Christians were in the ascendant
and had command of the future. Of the two grand elements which were to
meet together, on the ruins of Roman society, for the formation of modern
society, the moral element, the Christian religion, had already taken
possession of souls; the devastated territory awaited the coming of new
peoples, known to history under the general name of Germans, whom the
Romans called the barbarians.


About A.D. 241 or 242 the sixth Roman legion, commanded by Aurelian, at
that time military tribune, and thirty years later, emperor, had just
finished a campaign on the Rhine, undertaken for the purpose of driving
the Germans from Gaul, and was preparing for Eastern service, to make war
on the Persians. The soldiers sang,--

We have slain a thousand Franks and a thousand Sarmatians;
we want a thousand, thousand, Thousand Persians.

[Illustration: Germans invading Gaul----129]

That was, apparently, a popular burden at the time, for on the days of
military festivals, at Rome and in Gaul, the children sang, as they

We have cut off the heads of a thousand, thousand, thousand,
One man hath cut off the heads of a thousand, thousand, thousand,
Thousand, thousand;
May he live a thousand, thousand years, he who hath slain a
thousand, thousand!
Nobody hath so much of wine as he hath of blood poured out.

Aurelian, the hero of these ditties, was indeed much given to the pouring
out of blood, for at the approach of a fresh war he wrote to the

"I marvel, Conscript Fathers, that ye have so much misgiving about
opening the Sibylline books, as if ye were deliberating in an assembly of
Christians, and not in the temple of all the gods. . . . Let inquiry
be made of the sacred books, and let celebration take place of the
ceremonies that ought to be fulfilled. Far from refusing, I offer, with
zeal, to satisfy all expenditure required, with captives of every
nationality, victims of royal rank. It is no shame to conquer with the
aid of the gods; it is thus that our ancestors began and ended many a

Human sacrifices, then, were not yet foreign to Pagan festivals, and
probably the blood of more than one Frankish captive on that occasion
flowed in the temple of all the gods.

It is the first time the name of _Franks_ appears in history; and it
indicated no particular, single people, but a confederation of Germanic
peoplets, settled or roving on the right bank of the Rhine, from the Mayn
to the ocean. The number and the names of the tribes united in this
confederation are uncertain. A chart of the Roman empire, prepared
apparently at the end of the fourth century, in the reign of the Emperor
Honorius (which chart, called _tabula Peutingeri,_ was found amongst the
ancient MSS. collected by Conrad Peutinger, a learned German philosopher,
in the fifteenth century), bears over a large territory on the right bank
of the Rhine, the word _Francia,_ and the following enumeration: "The
Chaucians, the Ampsuarians, the Cheruscans, and the Chamavians, who are
also called Franks;" and to these tribes divers chroniclers added several
others, "the Attuarians, the Bructerians, the Cattians, and the
Sicambrians." Whatever may have been the specific names of these
peoplets, they were all of German race, called themselves Franks, that
is, "free-men," and made, sometimes separately, sometimes collectively,
continued incursions into Gaul,--especially Belgica and the northern
portions of Lyonness,--at one time plundering and ravaging, at another
occupying forcibly, or demanding of the Roman emperors lands whereon to
settle. From the middle of the third to the beginning of the fifth
century, the history of the Western empire presents an almost
uninterrupted series of these invasions on the part of the Franks,
together with the different relationships established between them and
the Imperial government. At one time whole tribes settled on Roman soil,
submitted to the emperors, entered their service, and fought for them,
even against their own German compatriots. At another, isolated
individuals, such and such warriors of German race, put themselves at the
command of the emperors, and became of importance. At the middle of the
third century, the Emperor Valerian, on committing a command to Aurelian,
wrote, "Thou wilt have with thee Hartmund, Haldegast, Hildmund, and
Carioviscus." Some Frankish tribes allied themselves more or less
fleetingly with the Imperial government, at the same time that they
preserved their independence; others pursued, throughout the Empire,
their life of incursion and adventure. From A.D. 260 to 268, under the
reign of Gallienus, a band of Franks threw itself upon Gaul, scoured it
from north-east to south-east, plundering and devastating on its way;
then it passed from Aquitania into Spain, took and burned Tarragona,
gained possession of certain vessels, sailed away, and disappeared in
Africa, after having wandered about for twelve years at its own will and
pleasure. There was no lack of valiant emperors, precarious and
ephemeral as their power may have been, to defend the Empire, and
especially Gaul, against those enemies, themselves ephemeral, but forever
recurring; Decius, Valerian, Gallienus, Claudius Gothicus, Aurelian, and
Probus gallantly withstood those repeated attacks of German hordes.
Sometimes they flattered themselves they had gained a definitive victory,
and then the old Roman pride exhibited itself in their patriotic
confidence. About A.D. 278, the Emperor Probes, after gaining several
victories in Gaul over the Franks, wrote to the senate,--

"I render thanks to the immortal gods, Conscript Fathers, for that they
have confirmed your judgment as regards me. Germany is subdued
throughout its whole extent; nine kings of different nations have come
and cast themselves at my feet, or rather at yours, as suppliants, with
their foreheads in the dust. Already all those barbarians are tilling
for you, sowing for you, and fighting for you against the most distant

"Order ye, therefore, according to your custom, prayers of thanksgiving,
for we have slain four thousand of the enemy; we have had offered to us
sixteen thousand men ready armed; and we have wrested from the enemy the
seventy most important towns. The Gauls, in fact, are completely
delivered. The crowns offered to me by all the cities of Gaul I have
submitted, Conscript Fathers, to your grace; dedicate ye them with your
own hands to Jupiter, all-bountiful, all-powerful, and to the other
immortal gods and goddesses. All the booty is re-taken, and, further, we
have made fresh captures, more considerable than our first losses; the
fields of Gaul are tilled by the oxen of the barbarians, and German teams
bend their necks in slavery to our husbandmen; divers nations raise
cattle for our consumption, and horses to remount our cavalry; our stores
are full of the corn of the barbarians--in one word, we have left to the
vanquished nought but the soil; all their other possessions are ours. We
had at first thought it necessary, Conscript Fathers, to appoint a new
Governor of Germany; but we have put off this measure to the time when
our ambition shall be more completely satisfied, which will be, as it
seems to us, when it shall have pleased Divine Providence to increase and
multiply the forces of our armies."

Probus had good reason to wish that "Divine Providence might be pleased
to increase the forces of the Roman armies," for even after his
victories, exaggerated as they probably were, they did not suffice for
their task, and it was not long before the vanquished recommenced war.
He had dispersed over the territory of the Empire the majority of the
prisoners he had taken. A band of Franks, who had been transported and
established as a military colony on the European shore of the Black Sea,
could not make up their minds to remain there. They obtained possession
of some vessels, traversed the Propontis, the Hellespont, and the
Archipelago, ravaged the coasts of Greece, Asia Minor, and Africa,
plundered Syracuse, scoured the whole of the Mediterranean, entered the
ocean by the Straits of Gibraltar, and, making their way up again along
the coasts of Gaul, arrived at last at the mouths of the Rhine, where
they once more found themselves at home amongst the vines which Probus,
in his victorious progress, had been the first to have planted, and with
probably their old taste for adventure and plunder.

After the commencement of the fifth century, from A.D. 406 to 409, it was
no longer by incursions limited to certain points, and sometimes repelled
with success, that the Germans harassed the Roman provinces: a veritable
deluge of divers nations, forced one upon another, from Asia into Europe,
by wars and migration in mass, inundated the Empire and gave the decisive
signal for its fall. St. Jerome did not exaggerate when he wrote to
Ageruchia, "Nations, countless in number and exceeding fierce, have
occupied all the Gauls; Quadians, Vandals, Sarmatians, Alans, Gepidians,
Herulians, Saxons, Burgundians, Allemannians, Pannonians, and even
Assyrians have laid waste all that there is between the Alps and the
Pyrenees, the ocean and the Rhine. Sad destiny of the commonwealth!
Mayence, once a noble city, hath been taken and destroyed; thousands of
men were slaughtered in the church. Worms hath fallen after a long
siege. The inhabitants of Rheims, a powerful city, and those of Amiens,
Arras, Terouanne, at the extremity of Gaul, Tournay, Spires, and
Strasburg have been carried away to Germany. All hath been ravaged in
Aquitania (Novempopulania), Lyonness, and Narbonness; the towns, save a

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