The Project Gutenberg eBook of Historical Parallels, vol. 2 of 3)

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Title: Historical Parallels, vol. 2 of 3)

Author: Arthur Thomas Malkin

Release date: November 6, 2014 [eBook #47303]

Language: English

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Marathon—Battle of Tours—Poema del Cid—Siege of Vienna by the Turks in 1683—Battle of Morgarten—Battle of Sempach 5
Thermopylæ—Battle of St. Jacques, near Basle—Siege of Malta in 1565—Destruction of the “Sacred Band” in the Greek Revolution—Roncesvalles 55
Salamis—Siege of Leyden—Spanish Armada 86
Sequel of the Life of Miltiades—of Aristides—of Themistocles 127
Prosecution of the Persian war—Rise of Athens to maritime empire and consequent undermining of the aristocratical interest—Administration of Cimon—of Pericles—Education of the Athenians—Commencement [iv]of the Peloponnesian war 141
Historians of the Plague—Sketch of the four chief pestilences recorded—Origin of the disease—Plague of Athens—Of Constantinople—Of Florence—Of Milan—State of medical knowledge—Plague of London 164





Marathon—Battle of Tours—Poëma del Cid—Siege of Vienna by the Turks in 1683—Battle of Morgarten—Battle of Sempach.

Upon the expulsion of Hippias the direction of Athenian politics passed into the hands of Cleisthenes, son of Megacles, the head of the Alemæonidæ. He soon found a rival in Isagoras, a man of noble extraction, whose popularity with the rich and noble preponderated over his[6] own; and being in consequence driven to advocate the popular cause, and thus recovering the ascendant, he introduced several changes tending to make the constitution more democratical. Isagoras sought to regain his advantage by foreign aid; and at his suggestion Cleomenes, one of the kings of Sparta, required the expulsion of the Alemæonidæ, as an atonement for the sacrilegious murder of Cylon’s partisans, in which they had been the chief actors. Offensive as such an interference appears, the religious feelings of Greece gave weight to the requisition, which was besides backed by the whole power of Sparta: and in obedience to it, Cleisthenes and his chief supporters withdrew. Not content with this, the Spartan king went with a small force to Athens, and proceeded to banish seven hundred families as concerned in the sacrilege, to change the forms of the constitution, and place all power in the hands of Isagoras and his friends. But he miscalculated the forbearance of the Athenians. Fearful as they were of a rupture with their powerful rival, they flew to arms, and besieged Cleomenes in the citadel. On the third day he and his troops surrendered on condition that they should be allowed to depart, and Cleisthenes, returning, reassumed the direction of affairs.

His first object was to find some assistance in the war which appeared inevitable; and as the Persian empire was now at its height, he sent ambassadors to Sardis, where the satrap or governor of Lydia resided, to request admission to the Persian alliance. The satrap inquired who the Athenians were, and where they lived, and then scornfully answered, that if they would give earth and water to King Darius, in token of subjection, their request should be granted; otherwise they must depart. The ambassadors complied, but on returning to Athens they were strongly censured. This was the first public transaction between Greece and Persia.

As was expected, the Lacedæmonians invaded Attica, but the Corinthians refused to support them, and this attempt to procure the restoration of Hippias failed. Thus baffled, they summoned a meeting of their allies,[7] at which the banished chief was invited to be present; but here again their views were frustrated by the agency of the Corinthians. Hippias returning to Sigeum went thence to Sardis, with the view of persuading the satrap Artaphernes to reduce Athens, and replace him in the monarchy, under vassalage to the Persian monarch. The Athenians on receiving these tidings sent to request Artaphernes not to listen to their banished subjects; but they were met by a peremptory command to receive back Hippias as they wished to be safe. From this time they considered themselves openly at war with Persia.

Under these circumstances, when an insurrection broke out among the Asiatic Greeks of Ionia and Æolis, the Athenians readily gave their assistance to the revolters. Twenty ships of theirs, with five of the Eretrians, joined the Ionian fleet; the collective force disembarked at Ephesus, marched sixty miles into the interior, took Sardis by surprise, and burnt it. Returning, they were entirely defeated under the walls of Ephesus, and the Athenians then withdrew their ships, and took no further part in the war. These events took place b.c. 499.

After the Ionians were subdued, Darius bent himself to revenge the destruction of Sardis upon the Athenians and Eretrians. In the year 492 Mardonius led an army against them through Macedonia, but it suffered such severe losses by land and sea, that he returned to winter in Asia, without having reached even the borders of Greece. The following year heralds were sent into Greece to demand of every city earth and water in token of submission. Many obeyed, but Lacedæmon and Athens refused, and cruelly threw the heralds at the one place into a pit, at the other into a well, bidding them take from thence earth and water. In 490 Darius sent a second armament under command of Datis and Artaphernes. They crossed the Ægean Sea, to avoid the tedious march through Macedonia, landed in Eubœa, reduced and enslaved the Eretrians, and thence under the guidance of Hippias sailed to Marathon, on the north-east coast of Attica.


Athens was fortunate in numbering among her citizens, at this critical period, men able, in the proud boast of Themistocles, to make a great city of a small one. In the time of Pisistratus, the Dolonci, a tribe of Thracians who lived in the Thracian Chersonese, being pressed in war by the Apsinthii, sent to the Delphic oracle to request advice. They were directed to invite him who should first admit them to his hospitality, to become the founder of a colony in their country. Departing, they passed through Phocis and Bœotia without being offered entertainment by any person; then entering Attica, they passed the house of Miltiades, son of Cypselus, an Athenian of the noblest extraction, being descended from the heroes Æacus and the Salaminian Ajax, whose son Philæus became an Athenian citizen, and founded the family of which we speak. Miltiades was sitting in his porch, and observing persons in a foreign dress pass by, bearing lances in their hands, a practice long disused by the Athenians, he called to them, and offered them refreshment and rest. Upon this they explained the object of their mission, and entreated him to comply with the god’s directions. Miltiades, discontented with the superiority assumed by Pisistratus, was well inclined to accede to their request. He went immediately to Delphi to obtain further directions from the oracle, and was determined by the answer he received to remove to the Chersonese, whither he conducted as many of his fellow-citizens as chose to follow him, and on his arrival was made tyrant of the Chersonese by the Thracians.[1]

Miltiades died childless, and was succeeded by his nephew Stesagoras, son of Cimon, who also died childless, being murdered after a short residence in the country; and on this Hippias and Hipparchus, who then[9] bore rule in Athens, and whose policy was to encourage monarchical, or as the Greeks would have called it, tyrannical government in every country connected with Attica, sent out Miltiades, son of Cimon, and brother to the deceased, to assume his authority. Upon his arrival Miltiades confined himself to the house, as if to show respect for his brother’s memory; the chief men of the country collected from all the towns of the Chersonese to honour him by sharing in his mourning, and were thrown into prison. He married Hegesipyle, daughter of Olorus, king of Thrace, probably to strengthen himself by an alliance with that powerful neighbour, and took 500 mercenaries into pay. Thus, at Athens, in the Chersonese, and at Florence, that authority which originally was the free gift of the people, was changed in the second or third generation into an arbitrary government maintained by force; and hence all elective governments may draw a warning, not to suffer two members of the same family to be placed in succession at the head of the state, however great their merits.

Miltiades assumed the sovereignty b.c. 515. Darius invaded Scythia b.c. 507 or 508, and he, like many other Greeks, followed in that monarch’s train by compulsion. In revenge for that invasion, according to Herodotus, and perhaps in consequence of the anger expressed by them against the Ionians for not breaking the bridge over the Ister, the Scythians overran the Chersonese, and obliged Miltiades to fly; but he was recalled by his Thracian subjects, a circumstance creditable to his conduct as a ruler, however questionable the means by which he obtained his authority. Meanwhile, between the years 500 and 493, the Asiatic Greeks, supported by the islanders, had rebelled from Darius and had been subdued, and the Persian fleet, after reducing the islands Chios, Lesbos, and Tenedos, sailed for the Hellespont, and laid waste the Grecian cities on the European shore. Miltiades, whether he had been concerned in the revolt, or feared that the king might owe him no gratitude for having advised the destruction of the bridge over the Ister, waited no longer than till the Persian fleet reached[10] Tenedos, and then filled five triremes with his effects, and returned to Athens. He was closely pursued, and one of the ships, on board of which his son had embarked, was taken: the youth was taken as a valuable prize to Darius, who treated him with great humanity and gave him an estate and wife. Miltiades and the others reached Athens, and found there a new danger. He was prosecuted for the very indefinite crime of “tyrannising in the Chersonese,” but obtained an acquittal, and rose into favour with the people, for he was elected one of the strategi, or board of generals. Aristides was among his colleagues.

When the Athenians heard that the Persians were come, they marched to Marathon; but before quitting the city they sent to Sparta a citizen named Phidippides, who was a running messenger by trade. And he on his return related that as he crossed the Parthenian mountain, which is above Tegea, the god Pan called to him by name, and bade him tell the Athenians, that in neglecting his worship they neglected a deity well disposed towards them, who had often done them service, and would again. After the victory the Athenians, believing this to be true, dedicated to Pan a temple in the Acropolis, and instituted yearly sacrifices in his honour.

The many marvellous stories related by Herodotus have thrown considerable discredit both upon his veracity and his judgment: of late his value has been very generally recognised. There can be no doubt but that in giving this relation he strictly discharged his duty as an historian. The fact of a temple being dedicated proves the tale to have been generally credited, and not of his making. It was his business not to pass it over in silence; and even if he had been sceptical, his object in writing was not to amend the national religion. We must suppose it therefore to have been devised either by Phidippides himself, or, which is more likely, by the Athenian leaders, to encourage the people to their unequal contest. Several similar stories of preternatural assistance promised and bestowed, are current in Spanish history. “Now it came to pass, that while King Don[11] Ferrando lay before Coimbra there came a pilgrim from the land of Greece on pilgrimage to Santiago: his name was Estiano, and he was a bishop. And as he was praying in the church he heard certain of the townsmen and of the pilgrims saying that Santiago was wont to appear in battle like a knight, in aid of the Christians. And when he heard this it nothing pleased him, and he said unto them, ‘Friends, call him not a knight, but rather a fisherman.’ Upon this it pleased God that he should fall asleep, and in his sleep Santiago appeared to him with a good and cheerful countenance, holding in his hand a bunch of keys, and said unto him, ‘Thou thinkest it a fable that they should call me a knight, and sayest that I am not so: for this reason am I come unto thee, that thou mayest never more doubt my knighthood: for a knight of Jesus Christ I am, and a helper of the Christians against the Moors.’ While he was thus saying, a horse was brought him, the which was exceeding white, and the Apostle Santiago mounted upon it, being well clad in bright and fair armour, after the manner of a knight. And he said to Estiano, ‘I go to help King Don Ferrando, who has lain these seven months before Coimbra, and to-morrow, with these keys which thou seest, I will open the gates of the city unto him at the hour of tierce, and deliver it into his hand.’ Having said this, he departed. And the bishop, when he awoke in the morning, called together the clergy and people of Compostella, and told them what he had seen and heard. And as he said, even so did it come to pass; for tidings came on that day, and on the hour of tierce the gates of the city had been opened.”[2]

Patron saints soon succeeded to patron deities. It is said that the statue of Jupiter, which of old presided in the Capitol over the Roman world, is now doing duty as St. Peter in the metropolitan church of Rome. If this be true, it is a cutting satire on the facility with which the passions, the superstitions, and even the rites of Paganism were carried into Christianity by imperfect[12] converts, and confirmed by a corrupted and avaricious priesthood.

While the Athenians were stationed near Marathon, the Platæans marched to their aid with the whole force of their state. The connexion of Platæa with Athens lasted so long, and was maintained with such consistency and good faith, no very common distinction in the politics of Greece, that it is worth while to trace its origin and progress. Platæa, a small state of Bœotia, was originally a member of a federal union formed by the independent cities of that province, over which Thebes, the largest and most powerful of them, presided. The Thebans, however, in every part of their history, seem to have been unsatisfied with influence, and to have endeavoured to exert direct authority over the weaker members of the confederacy. On some such occasion, Cleomenes, the king of Sparta, of whom we have already made mention, happened to be on the spot; and as Lacedæmon was then confessedly the first power of Greece, the Platæans naturally applied to him for assistance, and offered, as Herodotus expresses it, “to give themselves to the Lacedæmonians:” that is to say, to contract that close connexion with Sparta, and own that sort of allegiance to it, by which the weaker states of Greece generally connected themselves with some one of the principal powers. In later times this was generally determined by the interests of the predominant party in the smaller state. If the democratical party was uppermost, it probably connected itself with Athens; if the aristocratical, with Sparta. At the earlier period in question, however, the pre-eminence of Sparta was pretty generally acknowledged, and would, perhaps, have been sufficient to determine the Platæans to seek its protection rather than that of any other state, even independently of the accidental presence of Cleomenes. The Lacedæmonians, however, refused to admit them into the connexion which they wished for. “We live,” he said, “at a great distance from you, and ours would be but a cold sort of assistance, for you might be reduced to slavery over and over again before any of us even heard[13] of it. We advise you, therefore, to give yourselves to the Athenians, who are your neighbours, and besides that are no bad helpmates.” The advice was not bad, and may appear not unfriendly. Herodotus, however, gives it a different construction, and one well warranted by the general course of Lacedæmonian policy. “This was the advice of the Lacedæmonians; not so much from any good will to the Platæans, as from the wish to bring the Athenians into trouble by placing them in collision with the Bœotians.” The Platæans, however, took the advice, whatever were the motives from which it proceeded. They sent an embassy to Athens at the time that the Athenians were celebrating one of their great public festivals, who took their seats as suppliants at the altar, and “gave” their state to the Athenians. The Thebans immediately marched against Platæa, and the Athenians to its relief. The Corinthians, however, interfered, and, by the consent of both parties, acted as arbitrators between them. In this capacity they traced a boundary between the conflicting states, and decreed that the Thebans were not to interfere with any people situated in Bœotia who did not choose to be members of the Bœotian confederacy. After delivering this just judgment the Corinthians went away, and the Athenians, whose work seemed to be done, marched homewards. On their march, however, the Bœotians set upon them, and were very rightly served in being defeated in the battle which ensued. The Athenians considered themselves entitled to profit by their victory, and established a boundary-line more favourable to Platæa than that decreed by the Corinthians. These transactions happened in the year 519 b.c., twenty-nine years before the period of which we are treating. The connexion which had thus begun by an important service rendered by Athens to Platæa, appears to have been strengthened by other acts of assistance; for Herodotus tells us that the Athenians had already undergone repeated toils for them. Whatever these had been, the Platæans nobly performed their part of the obligation. On the present occasion they marched to the aid of Athens with their whole[14] force; we shall find them, in the next great war with Persia, serving, though an inland people, with their whole force on board the Athenian navy: and in all the contests which continually ravaged Greece, Platæa, as long as it continued a state, faithfully adhered to its ancient protector. At the commencement of the Peloponnesian war, the Athenians, unable effectually to protect so insulated a dependency, removed all its inhabitants, excepting a sufficient garrison, to Athens. The loyalty of the Platæans to their allegiance was their destruction. In the third year of the war the town was taken by the Lacedæmonians, those who remained in it put to death, the buildings, all except the temples, levelled with the ground, and its lands confiscated by the Theban state.

The Platæan force at Marathon is said to have been 1000 men; but there is no certain account of the armies. No writer rates the Persians at fewer than 100,000 men: the Greeks do not seem to have had more than 15,000[3] heavy-armed troops, and, according to the usual proportion, at least as many light-armed troops, principally slaves, in attendance on the heavy-armed citizens. Herodotus gives no calculation of the numbers on either side; some writers rate the Persian force very much above, the Athenian very much below those already mentioned; but according to every estimate the Persians had a very alarming superiority in number, and a no less formidable advantage in the general terror which the wide career of their conquests had produced, to such a degree, that, in the forcible expression of Plato, “the minds of all men were enslaved.” It is not, therefore, to be wondered that the ten generals were divided in opinion, and that while some, Miltiades was one of them, were for battle, others objected to it, on the ground that their force was too small. The decision finally rested with the polemarch, Callimachus,[4][15] and Miltiades succeeded in convincing him of the necessity of fighting, and of fighting at once.

It was the Athenian practice when a council of generals, as in the present instance, was appointed, that each should command for a day in turn. A more inconvenient arrangement could not well be devised, and it furnishes some proof of the simplicity of the military operations of those times, that it was found at all practicable.[5] On the present occasion, however, its inconvenience was much diminished by the conduct of the generals themselves; for when the concurrence of the polemarch in the opinion of Miltiades had determined its adoption, all the generals who had voted for battle gave up their days of command to Miltiades. According to Plutarch, Aristides was the first to do so, and the account agrees well with his disinterested patriotism: its credit, however, is impaired by the additional statement that all the generals followed his example, for Herodotus, a much better authority, confines the sacrifice to those who had originally wished for an engagement. Miltiades, however, although he accepted the power yielded to him, waited till his regular turn of command came round before he gave the signal for battle.

The scene of action was a narrow plain, bounded by the sea eastward and the hills westward, and closed at the northern side by a marsh, on the southern by mountains sweeping down to the sea. The Athenians were[16] ranged in the order of their tribes, beginning from the right wing, where Callimachus, the polemarch, was stationed, a post of honour which he held by virtue of his office.[6] At the opposite extremity, at the very end of the left wing, were placed the Platæans, and they did such faithful service that it became the usage of the Athenians at the great feast and assembly which they held every five years, that a herald should make a solemn prayer “for all good both to the Athenians and Platæans.” The great strength of the army was collected in the two wings. They were necessarily distant from each other, that the Persians might not outflank them; and the consequence was that the centre of the line, where Themistocles and Aristides, according to Plutarch, were stationed, was thinly manned, and weaker than any other part of it.

Every great undertaking was preceded, among the Greeks, by sacrifice, less from a feeling of religious obligation than for the auguries to be deduced from the inspection of the victims. These were pronounced favourable, and the Athenians were immediately let loose, and charged the enemy running. The distance between the two armies was not less than eight stadii (about a mile). The Persians therefore prepared to receive the attack, and expected an easy victory; “for they thought it madness in them, and madness of the most deadly kind, thus to charge, few as they were, and those few without cavalry or archery;” two descriptions of force in which they were themselves strongest, and to which, after their long course of success, they naturally attributed peculiar[17] importance. “But when the Athenians came to close quarters with the barbarians, they fought right worthily of notice. For they were the first of all the Greeks, as far as we know, who ran to charge the enemy, and they were the first who stood firm when they saw the Median dress, and the men who wore it; for until then it was a terror to the Greeks even to hear the name of the Medians.” The battle lasted long, and with various fortune. The best troops of the enemy, the Persians themselves, and the Sacæ,[7] were opposed to the weak centre of the Athenians, which they broke, and pursued the fliers into the inland country. On each wing, however, the Athenians and Platæans were victorious: and instead of pursuing the enemies to whom they had been opposed, they united, set upon the body who, having broken their centre, were now separated from the rest of the Persian army, and routed them. They then pursued the defeated forces with great slaughter to the sea, where they took to their ships. The conquerors rushed to seize them, and captured seven after a severe struggle, in which was slain Cynægeirus, brother of the poet Æschylus, and of Ameinias, whom we shall find acquiring high distinction at the battle of Salamis. His right hand was severed by the blow of a battle-axe as he grasped the upper part of a vessel’s stern,[8] and endeavoured to detain it; a mode of capture which may furnish some notion of the kind of shipping in use at that time. The anecdote is not striking enough for Justin and other compilers, who add, that when his right hand was struck off, he renewed the grasp with his left, and losing that also, seized the ship with his teeth, and hung upon it to his last breath. The whole Athenian loss is said to have been 192 killed, but among these were Callimachus the polemarch, Stesileos one of the generals, and many other men of name. Of[18] the Persians there fell about six thousand four hundred.[9] The remainder got on board their vessels, and endeavoured to surprise Athens by sailing round Cape Sunium. The vigilance of the Athenians, however, prevented them: they returned to their capital by a forced march, and when the barbarians were in the offing, they found the victorious army encamped and ready to receive them. This was not the purpose of their expedition; and, after a little hesitation, they set sail and returned to Asia. The dead were buried on the field of battle: a vast tumulus was raised over the Athenian citizens, and other monuments were erected to the Platæans and the slaves, who on this emergency were allowed, contrary to Grecian usage, to serve in the heavy-armed foot. The people of Marathon worshipped the slain as heroes. Around their tombs, says Pausanias, is to be heard throughout the night the neighing of horses and the noise of combatants. They have never indeed manifested themselves to those who have gone there purposely to see them, but such as have passed casually, and in ignorance, have met with no token of the anger of the gods.[10]

Warfare is so well calculated to develop all the energies, and among them some of the virtues of mankind, that its details frequently excite intense interest, even when we see and reprobate most distinctly the thousand evils consequent on an appeal to arms. There is something spirit-stirring in the narrative of personal hardihood, which carries us along in despite of our sober judgment, and enlists our sympathy, often in opposition to the dictates of reason and morality. Few men exist whose blood will not beat higher at a well-devised tale of gallant adventure: much more when the fictions, the extravagances[19] of romance are realized in history. “It is fearful, it is magnificent, to see how the arm and heart of one man may triumph over many.” But we can seldom enjoy this pleasure unrestrained by some apprehension that we are indulging the imagination at the expense of the judgment. It is only in cases of clear and unjustifiable oppression, where power has been exerted to the utmost to crush right, where men careless of death in comparison of oppression, weak in numbers, and confident only in the strength of their arms and the goodness of their cause, have met and overthrown the numerous forces of their enemy, that we can fully sympathize with the victor’s triumph. These conditions were fulfilled at Marathon. The Persian was the aggressor: he had interfered with the domestic government of the Athenians by endeavouring to force upon them a prince whom they had rejected; he followed up his mandate to restore Hippias by sending into their territory an apparently overwhelming force. A short-sighted policy would have counselled submission: but, it never was the interest of a small state to yield tamely to a powerful enemy. Resistance, even if unsuccessful, will cause it to be feared: a prompt submission delivers it over to be trampled upon. The Athenians met their enemy fearlessly, and beat him thoroughly, and they were rewarded for it by obtaining an eminence in war, in literature, in art, and in glory, unequalled and incomparable, considering their population and extent of land. Those more especially who fought and fell in this battle, have their reward in the deathless fame which waits upon their victory. It would be needless and endless to dwell on the testimonies to their deserving which later ages have produced. We shall therefore merely refer to the period of Athenian grandeur to observe, that it was from the Persian wars, and especially from Marathon, the battle which first showed the Persians not invincible, that the vain but high-spirited Athenians drew their most cherished recollections, their orators the themes of panegyric most grateful to the national pride of the assembled people.

In time of war it was customary to solemnize, every[20] winter, a public funeral at Athens, in honour of those who had fallen in the preceding campaign. The manner of the ceremony was this:—”Having set up a tent, they put into it the bones of the dead three days before the funeral, and every one bringeth whatsoever offerings he thinks good, in honour of his own relations. When the day comes of carrying them to their burial, certain cypress coffins are carried along in carts, for every tribe one, in which are the bones of the men of every tribe by themselves. There is likewise borne an empty hearse covered over, for such as appear not, nor were found among the rest, when they were taken up. The funeral is accompanied by any that will, whether citizen or stranger; and the women of their kindred are also by at the burial, lamenting and mourning. They then put them into a public monument, which standeth in the fairest suburb of the city (in which place they have ever interred all that died in the wars, except those that were slain in the fields of Marathon, who, because their virtue was thought extraordinary, were therefore buried on the spot), and when the earth is thrown over them, some one, thought to exceed the rest in virtue, wisdom, and dignity, chosen by the city, maketh an oration, wherein he giveth them such praises as are fit; which done, the company depart.”[11] Two specimens of this style of oratory, by two of the first names in Grecian literature, remain: the celebrated speech, written by Thucydides, in the name of Pericles, and one ascribed to Socrates by Plato. The reader will not be displeased to see in what terms the Athenian philosopher speaks of his countrymen’s deeds in the Persian war.

“Our fathers, and the fathers of these men deceased, and they themselves, being honourably born, and nurtured in all freedom, have individually and as a people done many noble deeds in sight of all men, conceiving that in the cause of freedom it was their duty to fight with Greeks in behalf of Greeks, and with barbarians in behalf of the whole Grecian race. The time would fail[21] me to relate as the subject merits, how they repelled Eumolpus, and the Amazons, and other invaders earlier than those, and how they supported the Argives against the Thebans, and the Heraclidæ against the Argives; and the poets who have hymned their valour in verse, have already made it known to all men. Were I then to attempt to set forth the same things in prose, I should but prove my own inferiority. I will therefore pass these matters, for they already have their due. Those deeds on which, worthy as they are, no poet has yet founded a worthy name, those yet uncelebrated are the theme on which it befits me to dwell, praising them myself, and wooing others to weave them into songs and other poetry, in a manner honourable to the men who acted them. First then of the things which I refer to, the children of this land, our ancestors, checked the Persian, when, at the head of Asia, he was in the act of enslaving Europe; wherefore it is just and fit that we should call them first to mind, and celebrate their valour. He, however, who would praise it fitly, must carry back his mind to that time when all Asia bowed before the third of the Persian kings: the first of whom, Cyrus, having liberated the Persians, his countrymen, by his own high spirit, enslaved their masters, the Medes, and ruled the rest of Asia as far as Egypt. His son, Cambyses, reduced such parts of Egypt and of Libya as were accessible; and the third, Darius, by land extended the boundary of his empire to Scythia, and with his fleet commanded both the sea and the islands, so that no man deemed himself equal to contend with him. The very minds of all men were enslaved, so many, so great, and so warlike nations had the Persian empire subdued.

“Darius accusing us and the Eretrians of the attack on Sardis, on that pretext sent five hundred thousand men in long ships and transports, and three hundred long ships, and ordered Datis, their general, as he would save his head, to bring the Athenians and Eretrians back with him. Datis sailed to Eretria, against men reputed then among the most warlike of the Greeks, not few in number, and overcame them in three days, and carefully[22] searched their whole land, that none should escape. His soldiers marched to the boundary of the country; they formed a line along it from sea to sea; they joined hands, and thus passed over the whole of it, that they might tell the king that none had escaped.[12] With the same design they sailed from Eretria to Marathon, as to a ready prey, thinking to carry off the Athenians enyoked with the Eretrians in the same fated evils. These things then being in part accomplished, and the rest in progress, no Greek succoured the Eretrians, none but the Lacedæmonians marched to Athens, and they arrived not till the day after the battle. The rest, stupified with alarm, remained at home, content with present safety. By this a man may appreciate the courage of those who met the power of the barbarians at Marathon, and chastised the insolent presumption of all Asia, and there first erected trophies over the barbarians; becoming thus examples and masters to prove the might of Persia not invincible, and show that all multitude and riches yield to valour. I say then that those men were the fathers not only of our bodies, but of our freedom, and the freedom of all on this mainland; for, by looking to that action, the Greeks took courage to venture other battles for safety, becoming pupils of the men of Marathon. The first prize of valour, then, we must bestow on them: the second on those who fought at Artemisium, and round the Isle of Salamis.”[13]

The battle of Marathon marks an important crisis in the history of Greece, and of the civilized world. The later contests of the Persian war at Thermopylæ and Salamis and Platæa, important as they were, were not played for so deep a stake; for the chief of the Grecian nations were then pledged to the war, and were besides encouraged by knowing the Persian power not insuperable. The panegyric of Plato is not overcharged. We have given the frank confession of Herodotus, that up to[23] that time the very name of the Medes was a terror to the Greeks; and if the Athenians had yielded to this panic, or had been defeated, European as well as Asiatic Greece would probably have become a province of the Persian empire. The contest, therefore, was that of liberty against despotism; of mental activity against the unimproving and unreflecting apathy in which the greatest part of Asia has slept, from the commencement of history; and a more important object has never been at hazard, unless where the cause of religion has depended on an appeal to arms.

Christianity is now so closely connected with the idea of superiority in knowledge, wealth, and war, that many readers may be surprised to hear of its having been seriously endangered by an external enemy since its first triumph and establishment. To our ancestors, however, the unparalleled rapidity and success with which the followers of Mahomet extended their religion and their empire, was a subject of serious and just alarm. Within fifty years of the prophet’s expulsion from Mecca, Constantinople itself, the metropolis of the Christian world, was besieged by the Caliph, the successor to his temporal authority: within a hundred years the Saracenic empire extended from the confines of India to the Pyrenees. In the year 714, scarcely three years from the first invasion of Spain, Musa, the victorious lieutenant of the Caliph, prepared to pass that mountain barrier, to extinguish the kingdoms of the Franks and Lombards, and to preach the doctrines of Mahomet in the church of the Vatican. He proposed to conquer the barbarians of Germany, to follow the Danube to the Euxine Sea, to overthrow the Constantinopolitan empire, and thus unite the eastern and western dominions of the Saracens. His ambitious progress was checked and himself recalled by the jealousy of his master; but in the year 731 Abderahman resumed the bold projects of his predecessor. Gascony and Languedoc were already subject to the sovereign of Damascus, when, in 732, that enterprising soldier led a vast army to complete the subjection of France. He[24] had already advanced unchecked to the banks of the Loire, when Charles Martel, the mayor of the palace, in name a household officer, but in authority the sovereign of France, collected his forces, and advanced to the deliverance of Europe. For six days the armies confronted each other, making trial of each other’s strength in skirmishes: on the seventh, one Saturday in the month of October, 732, the final battle, that of Tours,[14] took place which was to decide whether Europe should remain Christian, or the Cross sink under the Crescent. The light and active Saracens, whose defensive armour was merely a quilted jacket, and their weapons arrows and javelins, rushed fiercely to the attack; but they made little impression on the solid battalions of the Franks, bristling with spear-points, and protected by their close-locked shields. The latter were no match for their assailants in agility of manœuvring, but the weighty arm and steady foot made up for this deficiency. The Saracen cavalry charged up to their ranks in vain; they were compelled to rein their horses round, and when wearied and broken by their fruitless efforts, the Christians advanced and routed them with great slaughter. In the heat of the battle, Eudes, Duke of Aquitaine, led his troops round upon the enemy’s camp, overthrowing all before him, and contributed greatly to the victory by the tumult and confusion thus produced. “Then was Charles first called by the name of Martel (a sort of battle-axe); for as the martel crushes iron, steel, and all other metals, even so he broke and pounded his enemies and all other nations. Great wonder was it that, of all his host, he lost in this battle only 1500 persons.”[15] Abderahman sought in vain to rally his troops, and fell while fighting valiantly. Night separated the armies, and the Infidels profited by it to retreat, leaving their camp, their furniture, and their booty at the disposal of the victor. Charles did not pursue them, from which we may infer[25] that his own loss was severe. This disaster terminated the course of Arab conquest.

Contemporary authors have preserved scarcely any particulars of this battle; it is not till the close of the century that Paulus Diaconus, the Lombard historian, informs us that 375,000 Saracens were left dead on the field, their whole number being estimated by later authors at about 80,000. It is singular that, of the Frankish annalists, almost all content themselves with the bare statement that, in 732, a great battle was fought between the Saracens and Charles Martel: none pretend to give any circumstantial account of an occurrence so gratifying to national pride. Were our information fuller, the method of warfare adopted by the French in that age, and the difference between the European and Asiatic arms and tactics, would form interesting subjects for illustration. One thing we learn—that the French fought chiefly on foot, and were inexpert in the mounted service, and trusted little to their cavalry; from which it is evident that the usages of knighthood had made little progress at this period. In the want of this information we give a passage, in which the features of Christian and Moorish warfare, in a later age, are described with much spirit and minuteness by a contemporary author. Though not very closely connected with the subject, it is worth attention for its poetical merits, and is besides somewhat of a literary curiosity, being taken from the oldest narrative poem, as we believe, preserved in any living language. We speak of the “Poëma del Cid,” the history of the celebrated Ruy Diaz of Bivar, generally known by the name given to him by the Moors of Cid, or Lord; which is thus spoken of by Mr. Southey: “Sanchez is of opinion that it was composed about the middle of the twelfth century, some fifty years after the death of the Cid; there are some passages which induce me to believe it the work of a contemporary. Be that as it may, it is unquestionably the oldest poem in the Spanish language. In my judgment it is as decidedly, and beyond comparison, the finest.”[16]


The translation here given is placed, without the name of the author, in the Appendix to the Chronicle of the Cid. “I have never,” says the same high authority, “seen any other translation which so perfectly represented the manner, character, and spirit, of the original.” The subject of the passage is briefly this: the Cid being driven into banishment by the intrigues of his enemies, is accompanied by several of his friends and followers, for whom he undertakes to provide by carrying on a predatory warfare against the Moors. In the course of their adventures they surprise the castle of Alcoar, but are soon after surrounded and besieged by a superior army. After some difference of opinion, the Cid yields to the wishes of his followers, and determines on a sally, which is successful.

“They fain would sally forth, but he, the noble Cid,
Accounted it as rashness, and constantly forbid.
The fourth week was beginning, the third already past,
The Cid and his companions they are now agreed at last.
‘The water is cut off, the bread is well nigh spent;
To allow us to depart by night the Moors will not consent.
To combat with them in the field our numbers are but few,
Gentlemen, tell me your minds, what do you think to do?’
Minaya Alvar Fanez answered him again:
‘We are come here from fair Castile to live like banished men;
There are here six hundred of us, besides some nine or ten;
It is by fighting with the Moors that we have earned our bread;
In the name of God, that made us, let nothing more be said.
Let us sally forth upon them by the dawn of day.’
The Cid replied, ‘Minaya, I approve of what you say;
You have spoken for the best, and had done so without doubt.’
The Moors that were within the town they took and turned them out,
That none should know their secret: they laboured all that night;
They were ready for the combat with the morning light.
The Cid was in his armour, mounted at their head—
He spoke aloud among them—you shall hear the words he said:
‘We all must sally forth! There can not a man be spared.
[27]Two footmen only at the gates to close them and keep guard;
If we are slain in battle, they will bury us here in peace—
If we survive and conquer, our riches will increase.
And you, Pero Bermuez, the standard you must bear—
Advance it like a valiant man, comely and fair;
But do not venture forward before I give command.’
Bermuez took the standard; he went and kissed his hand.
The gates were then thrown open, and forth at once they rushed;
The outposts of the Moorish host back to the camp were pushed;
The camp was all in tumult, and there was such a thunder
Of cymbals and of drums, as if earth would cleave in sunder.
There you might see the Moors arming themselves in haste,
And the two main battles how they were forming fast;
Horsemen and footmen mixed, a countless troop and vast.
The Moors are moving forward—the battle soon must join:
‘My men, stand here in order, ranged upon a line:
Let not a man stir from his rank before I give the sign!’
Pero Bermuez heard the word, but he could not refrain,
He held the banner in his hand, he gave his horse the rein;
‘You see yon foremost squadron there, the thickest of the foes,
Noble Cid, God be your aid, for there your banner goes!
Let him that serves and honours it, show the duty that he owes.’
Earnestly the Cid called out, ‘For heaven’s sake be still!’
Bermuez cried, ‘I cannot hold;’ so eager was his will.
He spurred his horse and drove him on amid the Moorish rout,
They strove to win the banner, and compassed him about:
Had not his armour been so true, he had lost either life or limb.
The Cid cried out again, ‘For heaven’s sake succour him!’
“Their shields before their breasts, forth at once they go,
Their lances in the rest, levelled fair and low;
Their banners and their crests waving in a row,
Their heads all stooping down toward the saddle bow.
The Cid was in the midst, his shout was heard afar,
‘I am Ruy Diaz, the champion of Bivar;
Strike among them, gentlemen, for sweet mercies’ sake!’
There where Bermuez fought, amidst the foe they break;
Three hundred bannered knights, it was a gallant show:
Three hundred Moors they killed, a man with every blow.
When they wheeled and turned, as many more lay slain,
[28]You might see them raise their lances, and level them again,
There you might see the breast-plates, how they were cleft in twain,
And many a Moorish shield lie shattered on the plain,
The pennons that were white marked with a crimson stain,
The horses running wild whose riders had been slain.
The Christians call upon St. James, the Moors upon Mahound.
There were thirteen hundred of them slain on a little spot of ground.
Minaya Alvar Fanez smote with all his might,
He went as he was wont, and was foremost in the fight.
There was Galin Garcia, of courage firm and clear,
Felez Munioz, the Cid’s own cousin dear;
Antolinez of Burgos, a hardy knight and keen,
Munio Gustioz, his pupil that had been.
The Cid on his gilded saddle above them all was seen.
There was Martin Munioz, that ruled in Montmayor,
There were Alvar Ferez and Alvar Salvador:
These were the followers of the Cid, with many others more,
In rescue of Bermuez, and the standard that he bore.
Minaya is dismounted, his courser has been slain.
He fights upon his feet, and smites with might and main.
The Cid came in all haste to help him to horse again;
He saw a Moor well mounted, thereof he was full fain,
Through the girdle at a stroke he cast him to the plain:
He called to Minaya Fanez, and reached him out the rein,
‘Mount and ride, Minaya, you are my right hand,
We shall have need of you to-day, these Moors will not disband.’
Minaya leapt upon the horse, his sword was in his hand,
Nothing that came near him could resist him or withstand;
All that falls within his reach he dispatches as he goes.
The Cid rode to King Fariz, and struck at him three blows;
The third was far the best, it forced the blood to flow,
The stream ran from his side, and stained his arms below;
The King caught round the rein, and turned his back to go,
The Cid has won the battle with that single blow.”

The battle of Tours delivered Europe from the dread of Mahometan invasion from the West, and a few Spaniards sheltered in the mountains of Asturias succeeded ere long in erecting an independent kingdom, and ultimately in wresting the whole Peninsula from the Moors. But the recovery of what had been lost in two campaigns occupied near seven centuries of the most[29] inveterate and destructive warfare, in which the international hatred displayed of old between Greek and barbarian was revived, and further embittered by religious hatred. “And what a warfare! it was to burn the standing corn, to root up the vine and the olive, to hang the heads of their enemies from the saddle bow, and drive mothers and children before them with the lance; to massacre the men of a town in the fury of assault; to select the chiefs that they might be murdered in cold blood; to reserve the women for violation and the children for slavery; and this warfare year after year, till they rested from mere exhaustion. The soldiers of Ferran Gonzalez complained that they led a life like devils: ‘Our Lord,’ said they, ‘is like Satan, and we are like his servants, whose whole delight is in separating soul from body.’”[17] Meanwhile the struggle between the Cross and the Crescent was proceeding in the East with very different success, and before the surrender of Granada, the end of Moorish independence in Spain, the Ottoman empire was established in the south of Europe, and the city of Constantine acknowledged the divine mission of Mahomet. The Crescent has long been waning, never again, as far as human foresight can extend, to refill its horns; and in the present impotence of all Mahometan courts, and the apathy of their subjects, we seek in vain the resemblance of the mighty princes, and the fiery soldiery, whose enthusiasm operated the most sudden and extensive changes related in history. Tribe after tribe have swept each other from the plains of Asia, and with various success have carried their arms and their religion into Europe; and now the empire founded by the last of them in its decrepitude depends for its existence upon its Christian allies. Yet it is not a century and a half since the frontier of Germany was the scene of continual warfare; and since the utmost exertions of the warlike inhabitants of Poland and Hungary could scarcely[30] restrain the Turks from forcing their way into the heart of Europe, or preserve the capital of the Western from the fate experienced by the capital of the Eastern Empire. Vienna has been twice besieged by a Turkish army, and even so recently as the year 1683 owed her deliverance, when abandoned by her sovereign and in the extremity of distress, to the military talents of Sobieski, King of Poland, and the bravery of his subjects. The celebrated battle fought under the very walls of that capital is memorable as having finally delivered Europe from all fear of the Mahometan powers. Austria, since that period, has but ill discharged the debt of gratitude which she contracted under the walls of Vienna!

Encouraged and assisted by a revolt in Hungary, Kara Mustapha, the Grand Vizir of Turkey, burst into that kingdom at the head of 200,000 men, drove back such troops as the imperial general, the Duke of Lorraine, was able to collect, and, crossing the Danube, forced his way to Vienna, then sufficiently ill fortified, and ill prepared for a siege. Leopold, the reigning emperor of Germany, anticipating this storm, had obtained a promise of succours from the Diet of the empire, and concluded a subsidiary treaty with Sobieski for an army of 46,000 men. But the Germans were slow, and before they could be assembled Vienna was besieged. Leopold quitted his capital, and absented himself from the struggle to be made in defence of his hereditary dominions.

Tuln, situated on the Danube, about five leagues above Vienna, was appointed as the place of meeting for the armies. Sobieski, pressed to hasten by the imperial general, executed a forced march, accompanied only by a body of cavalry, and on his arrival had the mortification to find the imperial forces not yet arrived. The armies were at length united, but not before Vienna was reduced to extremity, and, indeed, nothing could have preserved it but the stupid security of the Turkish Vizir, who, with his vast numbers, suffered a very inferior force to construct a bridge over the Danube within five leagues of his camp, and delayed to assault a breached, half-garrisoned,[31] and defenceless town, in hope that it would surrender by capitulation, and that its riches would thus be preserved entire for the general instead of being placed at the disposal of the soldiery. These errors led doubly to his ruin, by at once enraging and dispiriting his own soldiers, and by granting opportunity and a precious delay to the enemy. Still the allied troops were separated from Vienna by five leagues of mountain road, and though their junction was completed on the 7th of September, it was not until the 11th that the difficulties of the march were overcome, though it was pressed so eagerly that the Germans abandoned their cannon, and the Poles alone brought artillery into the field of battle.

On the 11th they reached the last mountain on their route, named the Calembourg. There was yet time for the Vizir to repair his blunders, by merely taking possession of this height and occupying the passes, which must have stopped the Christian army at least long enough to give time for a final and successful assault. He neglected this, and the janissaries, out of patience at these repeated proofs of incapacity, exclaimed, “Come on, infidels, the very sight of your hats will make us fly.”

“On reaching this eminence, so fortunately unoccupied, an hour before night-fall, the Christians saw one of the noblest and most terrific exhibitions of human power; a vast plain and the islands in the Danube covered with tents, whose splendour suggested the idea of a festive encampment rather than the severity of war; a countless multitude of horses, camels, and buffalos; two hundred thousand combatants in movement; swarms of Tartars who hovered round the foot of the mountain in their usual disorder; the dreadful fire of the besiegers, to which the besieged replied as warmly as they could; and a mighty city, of which the steeple tops alone were distinguishable across the fire and smoke which overhung it.

“The besieged were apprised by signal of the coming succour. Men must have suffered all the extremities of a long siege, must have seen themselves and their families destined to perish by the sword, or live in slavery in a[32] heathen land, to appreciate the joy which Vienna felt, a joy soon checked by returning fear. Kara Mustapha with such an army might still expect success which he did not deserve. Sobieski, on viewing his dispositions, observed to the German generals, ‘This man is ill encamped, we shall beat him.’ The next day, Sept. 12, 1683, was to determine whether Vienna, under Mahomet IV., should experience the fate of Constantinople under Mahomet II., and whether the empire of the West would be re-united to the empire of the East; perhaps, even, whether Europe should continue Christian or not.

“Two hours before dawn the King of Poland and most of the generals received the sacrament, the Turks meanwhile performing their devotions, with cries of ‘Allah, Allah!’ shouts which were redoubled at sunrise, when the Christian army descended in close array, with slow and even steps, the cannon in front, and stopping every thirty or forty paces to fire and recharge. Their front was widened as they had room to enlarge it, while the Turks, in much confusion, viewed their enemy. It was then the Khan of the Tartars pointed out to the Vizir the pennoned lances of the Polish household cavalry, observing, ‘The king is at their head,’ words which much troubled him.

“Immediately after ordering the Tartars to put to death all their prisoners, 30,000 in number, a butchery worthy such a chief, he gave command to march toward the mountain, and at the same time make a general attack upon the city. The latter order came too late: the besieged had recovered courage, and the irritated janissaries had lost theirs.

“Meanwhile the Christians continued to descend, and the Turks advanced towards them. The battle began. The first line of the Christians, entirely composed of infantry, charged with such impetuosity, that it cleared the way for a line of cavalry which took its station in the intervals between the battalions. The king, the princes and generals advanced to the front, now fighting with the infantry, now with the cavalry; while the artillery[33] fired langridge at very small distance. The scene of the first encounter was broken by vineyards, elevations, and small hollows, at the entrance of which the enemy had left his own guns, and he suffered severely from those of the Christians. The combatants spread over this uneven ground, fought obstinately till noon; when the Comte de Maligni, brother to the King of Poland, established himself on a hill which commanded the Turkish flank; and they, driven from height to height, retreated into the plain, keeping along their entrenchments.[18]


“The whole army, and especially the left wing, highly inspirited, and shouting victory, wished to press on the retreating enemy without intermission: but the king checked this ardour, which he considered dangerous. The German cavalry was heavily mounted, and their horses would soon have been blown in the extent of plain which was to be crossed. Another and a stronger reason was, that the great inequalities of ground had entirely broken the order of battle. Some time was allowed to re-establish it; and the plain then became the theatre of a triumph which posterity will scarcely believe. Seventy thousand men rushed to encounter two hundred thousand. In the Turkish army, the Pacha of Diarbekir commanded the right, the Pacha of Buda the left wing; the Vizir was in the centre, with the Aga of the Janissaries, and the general of the Spahis.

“The armies remained motionless for a while; the Christians in silence, the Turks redoubling their cries to the clang of trumpets. At that awful moment, a red flag rose in the centre of the infidels, and beside it the great standard of Mahomet, hallowed by the Mussulman creed. This charm, which at other times has given as much courage to those who fought under it, as the truth of their cause to the Christians, did not play its part now: the Vizir had deprived it of its efficacy.

“Sobieski gave the word to charge: the Polish cavalry sword in hand bore right upon the Vizir, whose station was pointed out by the standard. They dashed in the enemy’s foremost ranks, and penetrated to the numerous squadrons which surrounded him. None but the Spahis[35] disputed the victory; the rest, Walachians, Transylvanians, Moldavians, Tartars, even the Janissaries, showed no good will to the cause, the result of that hatred and contempt of their general which all felt. He would have re-established their confidence by showing kindness and courage; it was then too late. He addressed the Pacha of Buda, and other chiefs; they kept silence in despair. ‘And you,’ he said to the Tartarian chief, ‘will not you help me?’ The Khan replied that he knew the King of Poland, and that there was no safety with him but in flight, of which he immediately set the example. The Spahis were now in extremity. The Poles broke and overthrew them, the grand standard disappeared, and the Vizir ran away and communicated his own fears to all. The dismay spread rapidly to the wings, which were assailed at once by the various nations of the Christian army, the king animating all by his example and his orders. Terror took away all thought and power from this multitude of Turks, who, in so large a plain, ought under an able leader to have surrounded and smothered up their enemies; and but for night, the rout would have been complete; as it was, the result was only a precipitate retreat.

“Sobieski turned rapidly against the janissaries who remained in the works of the besiegers. They had disappeared, however, and Vienna was free. The conquering soldiery wished to rush into the Turkish camp, in which vast treasures had been abandoned,—a dangerous temptation while there remained a chance of the enemy’s rallying and returning under cover of the darkness: and to prevent this hazard the troops were ordered to remain under arms all night on pain of death. The Duke of Lorraine wished for an immediate pursuit, but the king declined it; a step which the length of the previous march, the fatigue of the battle, and the want of baggage, which had all been left behind, and would not arrive for three days, may justify. His enemies, however, have not hesitated to assert that the choice of the plunder had some influence on his calculations.

“At six o’clock in the morning the Turkish camp[36] was thrown open, but the avidity of the soldiers was checked by a dreadful sight: women every where lay slaughtered on the ground, some with their infants yet clinging to them. These were of a class very different from the camp followers of a Christian army. The Turks had slain their wives rather than suffer them to fall into the hands of the enemy. The children they had spared, and five or six hundred were collected and brought up in the Christian faith by the Bishop of Neustadt. A vast booty rewarded the victors, for the Turks, economical in peace, were magnificent in war, and rich armour, valuable dresses and furniture, and splendid tents were found in abundance; and a crowd of merchants were there who had converted the camp into a mart for all the luxury of Asia. A golden stirrup which the Vizir had lost was brought to Sobieski. ‘Carry it to the queen,’ he said, ‘and tell her, that he to whom it belonged is vanquished.’ One striking circumstance occurred amid the general misbehaviour of the Turks. Twenty-three janissaries were left in charge of the Vizir’s magazines, which were lodged in a villa belonging to the Emperor. They fled not with the rest, and were found there on the 14th, two days after the battle, when they slew those who first attempted to force the place, and only surrendered to the king in person, retaining their arms and baggage.”[19]

There is extant an original letter from Sobieski to his queen, on the evening after the battle, which cannot but be interesting.

“From the Vizir’s Tent, Midnight, Sept. 13.

“Only joy of my soul, charming and well-beloved Mariette!

“God be for ever praised! He has given our nation the victory—a triumph such as past ages have never beheld. All the artillery, the whole camp of the Mussulmans, with infinite riches, are become our prey. The approaches toward the city, the fields around us, are covered with the dead infidels, and the survivors flee in[37] consternation. Every moment our men bring in camels, mules, and sheep, which belonged to the enemy, besides a multitude of prisoners. We have also a great number of deserters, mostly renegades, well equipped and mounted. The victory has been so sudden and extraordinary, that both in the city and our camp the alarm did not all at once subside; every instant the enemy’s return was dreaded. In powder and ammunition he has left us the value of a million florins.

“This very night I have witnessed a spectacle which I had long desired to see. Our baggage-train set fire to the powder in several places; the explosion resembled the judgment day, but no one was hurt. On this occasion I remarked how clouds are formed in the atmosphere. But, after all, it is a bad job; there is above half a million lost.

“The Vizir in his flight has abandoned every thing, all but his horse and the dress he wore. I am his heir; the greater portion of his riches has become mine.

“As I advanced with the first line, driving the Vizir before me, I met one of his domestics, who conducted me to his private tents; they occupy a space equal in extent to Warsaw or Leopol. I have obtained all the ensigns and decorations usually borne before him. As to the great standard of Mahomet, which his sovereign had confided to him, I have sent it to the Holy Father by Talenti. We have also rich tents, superb equipages, and a thousand fanciful things, equally fine and valuable. I have not yet seen every thing, but what I have seen is beyond comparison superior to what we found at Kotzim. Here are four or five quivers, mounted with rubies and sapphires, which alone are worth many thousands of ducats. So, my life, you cannot say to me what Tartar women say to their husbands who return without booty, ‘Thou art no warrior, for thou hast brought me nothing; none but the foremost in battle ever gain anything.’”

After speaking of other trophies, he continues:

“To-day I have visited the capital; it could not have held out more than five days longer. The imperial[38] palace is full of holes made by the balls; these immense bastions, full of crevices and half fallen in, look frightful.

“All the imperial troops have done their duty well; they ascribe the victory to God and us. The moment the enemy gave way (and the chief struggle was where I stationed myself opposite the Vizir), all the cavalry of their army rode up to me at the right wing, the centre and left having little to do; among them were the Elector of Bavaria, the Prince of Waldeck, &c. They embraced me, kissed my cheek; the generals saluted my hands and feet; soldiers and officers, on foot and horseback, exclaimed, ‘Ah, unser brave könig;’ (Ah, our brave king.!) All obeyed me even better than my own soldiers.... The name of Saviour, as well as embraces, has been given me. I have been in two churches where the people kissed my hands, feet, clothes; others at a greater distance cried out, ‘Let us kiss your victorious hands.’

“To-day we follow up the pursuit into Hungary; the Electors say they will accompany me.”[20]

“The day after the battle the Comte de Stahrenberg, the governor of Vienna, came to salute its deliverer. The hero thought he might enjoy his triumph without offending the Emperor, and entered by the breaches amid cries of joy. His horse could scarcely pierce the crowd which contended to kiss his feet, to address him as their father, their preserver, and the greatest of princes. Vienna at that moment forgot that she had a jealous master. The gratitude of these unfortunates, and the pleasure of having delivered them, melted Sobieski to tears; and he declared that a throne had nothing equally flattering. Shouts of delight brought him to the cathedral, where he wished to pay his thanks to the God of battles. He perceived on the building a monument of[39] infamy: it was the Crescent, which Soliman the Great had caused to be placed there, as the condition on which he raised a former siege, which it was inconvenient to prosecute; this he caused to be thrown down, and it was trodden under foot by the people. The Te Deum was then chanted, the King himself leading the choir. No magistrate, and few of the leading men of the city, assisted at this ceremony; the people only were free enough from political restraint to join in the praise of God, and in thanking the victor. The preacher chose for his text these words, ‘There was a man sent by God, whose name was John.’ The application had already been made by Pope Pius V. after the battle of Lepanto, in which Don John of Austria defeated the Sultan Selim. There was however a vast difference between the two battles, for Christianity derived little advantage from that of Lepanto, while that of Vienna saved the German empire, and perhaps the Christian religion. Vienna converted into a Mahometan city, it is impossible to say where the progress of the Crescent would have stopped.

“The Emperor was much hurt at the demonstrations of gratitude offered to the King of Poland, all of which seemed tacit reproaches to himself for abandoning his own city to the protection of another. He endeavoured to conceal his disgust and ingratitude under the veil of etiquette; and an important question was raised, as to the manner in which an Emperor of Germany should receive one of his Electors. The brave Duke of Lorraine said, ‘With open arms, if he has saved the empire;’ but the Emperor was in no humour for such cordiality. It was arranged ultimately that the sovereigns should meet on horseback in the open country. Sobieski was at the head of his troops, magnificently armed; the Emperor came plainly dressed and attended by his court, and commenced the interview by haranguing upon the services which the Poles had in all times received from the friendship and protection of the Emperors. At last he let fall some slight expression of gratitude for the deliverance of Vienna. The King said, as he turned[40] his horse away, ‘My brother, I am very glad to have done you this little service,’[21] and concluded the conversation by causing his army to defile before the Emperor.”[22]

Leopold’s ingratitude was not confined to words. The promises and pledges which had been lavished to induce Sobieski to march to the relief of Vienna, were broken and neglected after the service had been rendered; and even worse than this, the Emperor refused to supply the Poles with provisions and beasts of burthen when proceeding to fight his own battles in Hungary. Sobieski recovered that kingdom which had been promised to him if he expelled the infidels, but he recovered it not for himself, but the Emperor. On October 12, a second victory, which he characterized as greater than that of Vienna, delivered it finally from the Ottoman yoke. The rejoicing of the Christian world was universal when the result of the campaign was known; for all, Catholic and Protestant, had been alike alarmed at the rapid and overpowering advance of the Turkish force. At Rome the rejoicings continued for a month, and the standard of the Prophet was borne in triumph from church to church, and from convent to convent, as the most glorious signal of the defeat and humiliation of the false religion.

It is melancholy to reflect that the close of this great man’s life was embittered by a factious nobility, an intriguing wife, and domestic discords. “Sick of the court, he fled into the forests, or wandered from one castle to another, or pitched his tent wherever a beautiful valley, picturesque landscapes, the mountain torrent, or any natural object attracted his attention. Sick, too, of the world, he sought for consolation in religion and philosophy. There might be something of pedantry in his manners, but he was sincerely attached to letters. He not only cultivated them with assiduity himself, but[41] recommended the study of them to others, and patronized all who excelled in them.

“At length the end of this great man approached. The immediate cause of his death is wrapped in mystery. He had been recommended to take a strong dose of mercury (his infirmities for some time had been neither few nor light): was it too strong for his constitution to support? so at least some thought; so even he appeared to suspect.”[23] He died on the double anniversary of his birth and his accession to the throne, twenty-three years after the latter event, in 1697, in the 68th year of his age; and by a singular coincidence, his birth and death were each signalized by a tempest of uncommon and fearful violence.

One might suppose that the spirit of Leopold had descended on all Austrian statesmen. Within a century of the triumphal entry of Sobieski into Vienna, Poland ceased to be an independent kingdom, and the co-operation of Austria was rewarded with a third of her spoils. It seems vain to expect gratitude in international dealings; yet we might almost have supposed that the recollection of the deliverance of Vienna would have deterred Austria from sharing in so unprovoked and profligate an injustice. The situation and the policy of Europe have altered strangely since the period of which we speak. Poland has fallen before the arms of Russia, and Turkey preserves a precarious independence only by the policy of Christian powers, the supine witnesses or interested sharers in the spoliation of a Christian kingdom, which, having been the bulwark of Europe against Turkey as long as Turkey was formidable, would have formed an equally effectual barrier against the encroachments of Russia.

There is another class of battles, from which the reader will expect some to be selected for comparison with the great events of the Persian war; those memorable struggles in which a disparity of force which seemed[42] to make resistance hopeless, has not deterred an invaded people from asserting its independence, nor secured the invader from total defeat. Among them the long series of battles by which the freedom of Switzerland was ascertained and secured claims a foremost place; and we are led to take our examples thence, rather than from other history, by a resemblance, perhaps not more than superficial, between the circumstances of the Cantons and of the Greek republics. In either case it was the same class who fought: the Swiss, like the Grecian armies, were composed not of mercenary men at arms, nor vassals bound to follow their lord in public or in private quarrel; but of citizens trained to the use of arms, and habituated to consider military service as a privilege. Among them none pleaded birth or wealth as excuses for not serving in the ranks, or disdained to fight except as the commander of others. We may also notice, that since the time of Charlemagne the infantry service had generally fallen into disrepute and neglect,[24] and the strength of armies was estimated by their heavy-armed cavalry, the only capacity in which a knight or noble would condescend to serve. As the Athenians were the first Greeks who[43] endured the sight of the Median dress, and the men who wore it, so the Swiss were the first infantry who dared unsupported to abide the furious charge of the high-born and high-spirited nobility. Here the nature of their country was a valuable auxiliary; and the brilliant successes which they wrought, partly by advantage of ground, but chiefly by their courage, strength, and constancy, aided by a real though not apparent superiority in arms and discipline, led, in conjunction with the invention of gunpowder, to a revolution in war, and re-established the infantry service in its due superiority.

From a number of battles almost equally worthy of our attention, we select two—those fought at Morgarten and Sempach. That of Morgarten claims our notice as the first of the series, and as that in which the disproportion of the combatants is most striking. We take our account from a contemporary chronicler, whose father was a soldier in the Austrian army. The writer’s prejudices are obvious; still he is honest enough to let it appear that the Swiss had done all that was consistent with honour and independence to avoid a war. The parties were, on the one side, the whole power of Austria, on the other the three Waldstetten, or Forest Cantons (with which Lucern was afterwards associated as a fourth), Schwitz, Uri, and Underwalden. The pretended ground of invasion was a quarrel between these mountaineers and the wealthy and powerful Abbey of Einsiedlen, which solicited the Duke of Austria’s assistance: the real ground is to be found in that prince’s jealousy of the principles of liberty asserted by the Swiss, and recently acted on by Tell and his confederates.

“In the year of our Lord 1315, a rural tribe of certain valleys begirt with high mountains, called Schwitz, revolted from its allegiance, trusting in those mountains as its firmest bulwark, and withheld the tribute and service due to Duke Leopold; who being much angered, collected an army of 20,000 men, select soldiers, most skilful and bold in battle, to overcome, spoil, and subdue[44] those rebel mountaineers. Therefore these soldiers met, as of one accord, to tame and humble the rustics, and, making very sure of the victory, and of the spoil and plunder of the land, they took ropes and halters to lead them away bound among their flocks and herds. The Schwitzers, hearing all this, were in much dread, and fortified the weaker passes into their country with walls and trenches, and commended themselves to God with prayers, fasting, and processions. Moreover they gave charge to various persons to go to the mountain paths, by which there was a way into their land, and there keep watch in the narrow straits. And all was done as had been ordered, and the whole people cried to God with much earnestness, and humbled their souls in fasting, men and women, and besought God with one voice that their herds might not be given as a prey, nor their wives as a booty, nor their homes be made a desolation, nor their honour and virtue a pollution. Therefore they prayed the Lord with their whole heart, that he would visit his people, saying, ‘Lord God of heaven and earth, behold these men’s pride, and have regard to our lowliness, and show that thou desertest not those who trust in thee, and humblest whosoever trusteth in himself, and boasteth his own valour.’ Then, repenting of their contumacy, they sought peace through the mediation of the Count of Toggenburg; but Duke Leopold was too much angered to receive their submission, and would hear of nothing but treading them under foot, and scattering them and their goods. So the Schwitzers took arms, and posted themselves in the narrow passes, and watched there day and night.”

Owing to the necessity of guarding the whole frontier, which was threatened on three points, only 1300 men could be collected to oppose the numerous and well-appointed army of Austria, of whom 600 belonged to Schwitz, 400 to Uri, and 300 to Underwalden. By the advice of Rudolph Reding, an aged veteran, whose judgment in such matters was considered decisive, they posted themselves near Morgarten, where a defile, bounded on[45] one side by Lake Egeri, and on the other by Mount Sattel, presented a favourable situation for a small body of men to resist the attack of a far larger force.

“And on the day of St. Othmar (Oct. 25) Duke Leopold, endeavouring to pass into their country by a way between a mountain and lake, named Egrer Seu, was much hindered by the height and steepness of the mountain. For the knights on horseback, boiling with the desire of action, and crowding into the front ranks, entirely prevented the infantry from ascending, seeing that there was scarce room to fix or to preserve the footing. But the Schwitzers, knowing from the above-named Count of Toggenburg that the attack would be made there, and perceiving how much their enemy would be hampered by the difficulty of the way, went down against them from their lurking-places, animated and in high heart, and attacked them like a fish in a net, and slew them without resistance. For they wore, according to custom, certain iron instruments[25] in their shoes, with which they could walk easily upon mountains, though never so steep, where the enemy and their horses could not so much as plant their feet. And they carried certain deadly weapons, called helnbarts in the vulgar tongue, very terrible, with which they cut asunder the best armed men as with a razor. That was no battle, but rather a slaughter of Duke Leopold’s people, as of a flock led to sacrifice. They spared no one, and cared to take no prisoners, but smote all persons indifferently, even to the death. Such as were not slain by them were drowned in the lake, endeavouring to escape by swimming; some, even of the infantry, hearing that their best soldiers were so cruelly struck down by the Schwitzers, leapt into the lake from mere fear, choosing rather to sink under its depths than to fall into the hands of so dreadful a foe. Fifteen hundred men are said to have fallen by the edge of the sword, besides those who were drowned: and by reason of the number of knights[46] who were lost there, knighthood was scarce in the surrounding country for a long time, for few perished save knights and other nobles, trained to arms from childhood. I myself, being then a school-boy, going out with others to meet my father with no small joy, saw Duke Leopold returning, like one half dead with sorrow. Well might he appear downcast and moody, for he there lost almost all the valour and strength of his army.”[26]

Fifty men, who had been banished from Schwitz in a period of civil discord, hearing of their country’s imminent danger, came to the frontier, and requested permission to serve in the army. The magistrates, whose uncalculating and resolute adherence to law, uninfluenced by expediency, has something noble in it, refused to sanction their appearance within the confines, and the exiles, equally determined in their patriotism, took post an an eminence beyond the frontier of the canton[27]. In this situation they contributed materially to the success of the day. They commenced the attack by rolling down rocks upon the Austrians as soon as they were entangled[47] in the difficulties of the valley; and their countrymen, posted further on upon the mountain side, seized promptly on the favourable moment, and by the novel and unexpected manner of their attack, and the vigour with which they wielded their long and massive halberts, favoured by the difficulties of the ground, improved a temporary disorder into a total defeat. The disinterested bravery of the exiles was recompensed by restoration to their civil rights.

Two other attacks at other points of their frontier were defeated by these gallant mountaineers on the same day, which was ever after commemorated by the Forest Cantons as a festival, and the names of those who fell at Morgarten were recited annually by the Schwitzers in the field of Rutli, the venerated spot in which the overthrow of the Austrian tyranny was planned.

When the French invaded the Forest Cantons in 1798, Morgarten was the scene of a second struggle as brave, but less successful. They attacked simultaneously in three quarters. “On the north side Aloys Reding met them on the same ground where his ancestor, Rudolph Reding, had defeated the Austrians five hundred years before, and the narrow field of Morgarten was twice drenched with the blood of patriots and their oppressors. The women of Schwitz were employed during the whole night of the 1st of May in dragging cannon over rocks and precipices, and carrying fascines for entrenchments; many of them worked with young children on their left arm. Fires were burning on the tops of all the mountains. During the 1st and 2nd of May there was incessant firing both at Morgarten and about Arth; a militia composed of peasants and shepherds made head on this extended line against repeated attacks of regular troops four times their number without giving way, broke them several times with the bayonet, and remained masters of the field everywhere. The loss of the invaders was tenfold their own, but the latter was irreparable; a few such victories and they were annihilated; many of the men had no rest for three or four days and nights, and scarcely any food; some of the posts[48] were only guarded by women. They were offered the free exercise of their religion, provided they adopted the Helvetic constitution, in which case the army was to leave the country immediately. Many were for fighting on; others, moved at the sight of their wives and children, wished to treat before it came to the worst. The general assembly, held on the 4th, was extremely agitated, and on the point of ending in bloodshed. At last a great majority decided in favour of the terms offered, and peace was signed on the 5th. The French loss was 2754 dead, exclusive of wounded; the people of Schwitz, 431 men and women.”[28]

Aloys Reding, a worthy descendant of a race of patriots, survived this battle some few years. Near the outlet of the Lake of Thun is a monument raised by private regard, with the single inscription, “To the memory of my friend, Aloys Reding,” which has given occasion to the following beautiful lines:

Around a wild and woody hill,
A gravelled pathway treading,

We reached a votive stone, that bears
The name of Aloys Reding.

Well judged the friend who placed it there
For silence and protection;

And haply with a finer care
Of dutiful affection.

The sun regards it from the west
Sinking in summer glory;

And while he sinks, affords a type
Of that pathetic story.

And oft he tempts the patriot Swiss
Amid the groves to linger,

Till all is dim, save this bright stone,
Touched by his golden finger[29].

The league of the three Cantons was successively joined by Lucern, Berne, and the rest of the Helvetic[49] body, not without exciting the deep ill-will and jealousy of Austria and all the surrounding nobles, of whom some claimed feudal rights over the revolted districts, others dreaded lest the spirit should spread to their own vassals, and work, as in effect it did, the destruction of their hereditary power and privileges. Hostilities were constantly recurring between neighbours so ill-mated; and the battles of Laupen, Tafwyl, Sempach, Næfels, Morat, and others of less note, bear testimony to the steadiness of purpose with which the feudal chiefs strove to crush a rising power diametrically opposed to their own interests and prejudices, and to the skill, courage, and constancy with which the Swiss maintained a contest apparently most unequal. The most remarkable perhaps is that of Sempach, in which another Leopold of Austria advanced with no less confidence against the audacious burghers of the Alps than had his predecessor seventy-one years before. His standard was followed by 167 lords spiritual and temporal, and a numerous and well-appointed army. The four Forest Cantons, with Zuric, Zug, and Glaris, were opposed to this force. Berne, the most powerful of the confederates, being herself at peace with Austria, declined to take any part in their defence.

The Duke directed his main attack on Sempach, a small town, which, in anticipation of the contest, had revolted from him and joined the Swiss. At the same time a division of his army, under the Baron de Bonstetten, threatened Zuric. In addition to the burghers of the city, 1600 men of the Forest Cantons, Zug and Glaris, were collected there; but the enemy’s plan of operations rendered it necessary to divide their force: and leaving the men of Zug and Zuric to defend their own territory from invasion, the rest of the Swiss, about 1400 in number, marched to meet the Austrian prince.

“Sempach, a small town about nine miles from Lucern, lies at the head of a lake nearly six miles in length, the country round it rising into meadows, thence into corn-fields, and lastly into extensive woods which[50] crowned the hills. The Confederates occupied these woods.

“Early on the 9th of July they reconnoitered the enemy’s army; they saw a numerous well-appointed host, each band led on by an illustrious baron, an avoyer, or one of the duke’s substitutes, whose pride or avarice had occasioned this war. A large body of cavalry, consisting entirely of nobles, who were emulous to achieve the reduction of the Swiss peasants without the aid of the infantry, bore the most formidable aspect. Among all the chiefs none was more conspicuous than Duke Leopold, at that time five-and-thirty years of age; manly, high-minded, full of martial ardour, elate with former victories, revengeful, and eager for the combat. It was harvest-time; his people reaped the corn: the nobles approached the walls of Sempach, and upbraided the citizens: one of them held up a halter, and said, ‘This is for your avoyer:’ others demanded that breakfast should be sent out to the reapers; these were answered, ‘The Swiss are bringing it.’ The duke seeing the Confederates on the eminences, forgot, or perhaps never knew, that cavalry attack with far greater advantage on an ascent than on a declivity; he unadvisedly ordered the nobles, whom their heavy armour rendered very unfit for the evolutions of infantry, to dismount, and sent their horses to a distance in the rear. He formed them in such close array that the long spears of the rear ranks reached the front of the line, and formed a thorny fence that was deemed impenetrable. John, Lord of Ochsenstein, commanded this formidable phalanx. The vanguard, consisting of fourteen hundred foot, headed by Frederick, Count of Zollern, was sent into the rear. If the duke actually meant to wait for the attack, he erroneously adopted the plan that becomes a commander who opposes a small to a superior force. To this he may have been induced by the romantic gallantry of his nobles, who scorned advantages gained by stratagem, or a manifest superiority of numbers, and deemed that a victory thus gained would leave the palm of valour undecided; and the bright qualities of Leopold fitted him much more[51] for high feats of chivalry than for the command of an army.

“John, Baron de Hassenberg, an experienced veteran, after examining the position and appearance of the enemy, intimated to the nobles that presumptuous hardiness often proves fatal, and recommended that the Baron de Bonstetten might be sent for without delay; but they reprobated his caution: and thus also, when the duke was admonished that in all engagements unforeseen accidents do happen; that the province of a chief is to conduct the army, and of the army to defend its chief; and that the loss of a commander is often more ruinous than that of half his force, he at first answered with a smile of indifference; but being urged with still greater solicitude he replied with warmth, ‘Shall Leopold look on from afar and see how his brave knights combat and die for him? No; I will conquer here on this land, which of right is mine, or perish with you for the advantage of my subjects.’

“The Confederates drew up on the eminence under cover of the wood. As long as the knights were mounted, they thought it scarce possible to stand the brunt of their attack in the plain and open country, and deemed it safer to abide their approach in their present position. No sooner, however, did they see the nobles dismount, than, suspecting a stratagem which they might not be able to guard against in the wood, they advanced towards the plain. Their contracted line consisted of four hundred men from Lucern, nine hundred from the other Forest Cantons, and about one hundred from Glaris, Zug, Gersau, Entlibuch, and Rotenburg. Each band, under its proper banner, was commanded by the landamman of its valley, and the Lucerners by their avoyer: they were armed with short weapons; some held the halberts which their fathers had wielded at Morgarten; several instead of shields had small boards tied round their left arms. According to ancient custom they knelt and implored a blessing from on high. The nobles closed their helmets; the Duke created knights; the sun stood high; the day was sultry.

“The Swiss, after their devotion, ran full speed, and[52] with loud clamour, across the plain, seeking an opening where they might break the line and spread havoc on each side of them; but they were opposed by a solid range of shields as by a wall, and by the numberless points of spears as by a thick fence of iron thorns. The men of Lucern, more exasperated than the rest at the unexpected impediments, made many fierce attempts to break the line, but all of them ineffectual. The knights moving with hideous rattle, attempted to bend their line into a crescent, meaning to outflank and surround the assailants. The banner of Lucern was now for a time in imminent danger, the avoyer having been severely wounded, and several of the principal leaders slain. Anthony du Port, a Milanese, who had settled in the valley of Uri, cried out, ‘Strike the poles of the spears, they are hollow:’ this was effected; but the broken spears were immediately replaced by fresh ones, and Du Port himself perished in the conflict. The knights, partly owing to their unskilfulness, and more to the unwieldiness of their armour, found it impracticable to form the intended crescent; but they stood firm and unshaken. The Confederates, who had now lost sixty men, became apprehensive of a movement of the vanguard from the rear, and did not think themselves altogether secure against a surprise from Bonstetten.

“This anxious suspense was at length decided by one heroic deed. Arnold Struthan de Winkelried, a knight of Underwalden, burst suddenly from the ranks. ‘I will open a passage,’ he cried, ‘into the enemy’s line. Provide for my wife and children, dear countrymen and confederates; honour my race!’ He threw himself instantly on the enemy’s pikes, grasped as many of them as he could reach, buried them in his bosom, and being tall and large of limb, bore them to the ground as he fell. His companions rushed over his body; the whole army of confederates followed, and their close files penetrated with irresistible force. The enemy, struck with amazement, fell one over another in endeavouring to avoid their shock; and the pressure, heat, and confusion thus produced proved fatal to many knights, who died without a wound, stifled by the weight of their armour. Others[53] of the Swiss meanwhile had mustered in the woods, and now hastened to reinforce the conquerors.

“One of the first who fell in the Austrian army was Frederick, the bastard of Brandis, a bold and strong man, who alone inspired as much fear as twenty others; and near him was killed Frietzhend, called the Long, who boasted that he alone would resist the Confederates. The servants of the nobles, who had been left with the baggage, seeing the fortune of the day, saved themselves upon their masters’ horses. The banner of Austria dropped from the hands of Henri d’Escheloh. Ulrich d’Ortenburg fell upon the flag of the Tyrol. Ulrich d’Aarburg rushed to preserve the former. He held it aloft, and endeavoured to restore the day, but without success. He fell mortally wounded; and collected his remaining strength to exclaim, ‘Save it, Austria, save it!’ The Duke broke through the press, and received the banner from his dying hand. It soon re-appeared above the combatants, steeped in blood, and borne by Leopold himself. A crowd of gentlemen collected for his defence, and fell around him. At length he exclaimed, ‘Since so many lords are dead by my side, I also, like them, will die with honour.’ He sprang forth from among his friends, rushed into the thickest of the enemy, and there met his doom: he fell, and while weighed down by his ponderous armour and struggling in vain to raise himself, he was approached by a common man from Schwitz, who levelled a blow at him. Leopold called out, ‘I am the Duke of Austria;’ but the man either heard him not, believed him not, or thought that in a day of battle the highest rank conferred no privilege: the Duke received a mortal wound. Martin Malterer, the banneret of Friburg in Brisgau, saw the disaster: he stood appalled: the banner dropped from his hand: he threw himself upon the corpse of his slaughtered sovereign to preserve it from insult, and there met his own fate.

“The Austrian infantry now, looking round in vain for their Duke, betook themselves to flight. The nobles called loudly for their horses; but the dust they saw[54] rising at a distance marked the road by which their faithless servants had long since led them away. Oppressed by their heavy armour, by heat, thirst, and fatigue, they still resolved to avenge their sovereign; and if they could not preserve their lives, at least not to fall easy victims to the resistless fury of their triumphant foes.

“Among the leaders of the Confederates fell Conrad, landamman of Uri; Sigrist, landamman of Underwalden above the Forest; and Peterman de Gundoldingen, the avoyer of Lucern. While the latter was bleeding to death, one of his townsmen approached him to learn his dying requests: he, unmindful of all private concerns, answered, ‘Tell our fellow-citizens never to continue an avoyer longer than one year in office; tell them that this is the last advice of Gundoldingen, who dies contented, wishing them repeated victories, and a long series of prosperous years;’ thus saying, he breathed his last. The banner of Hohenzollern was taken by a shepherd of Gersan. The services of the burghers of Bremgarten, who withdrew from the field covered with the blood of slaughtered foes, were so greatly prized by the Austrian princes, that they immortalized their valour by a change in the colours of their town livery. Nicholas Gutt, avoyer of Zoffingen, fell, together with twelve of his townsmen. Regardless of every concern but that of preventing his banner from falling into the hands of the enemy, he tore it into small pieces, and was found among the dead with the staff fast locked between his teeth. His successors in office have ever after been made to swear that they would maintain the banner ‘even as Nicholas Gutt had maintained it.’ Six hundred and fifty-six counts, lords, and knights, whose presence was wont to grace the court of Austria, were found among the slain; and it became proverbial among the Confederates, ‘that God had on this day sat in judgment on the wanton arrogance of the nobles.’”[30]



Thermopylæ[31]—Battle of St. Jaques, near Basle—Siege of Malta in 1565—Destruction of the “Sacred Band” in the Greek Revolution—Roncesvalles.

The plain of Thessaly is so entirely surrounded by mountains, that only one practicable, or at least only one frequented road leads southward from it into Greece; and even this is commanded by a difficult and dangerous pass, the celebrated Thermopylæ, where the first stand was made by Greece against Xerxes, and the noblest instance of Spartan heroism displayed. The ridge of Œta, which runs in an unbroken line from west to east, falls precipitously into the sea, leaving but a narrow slip of level ground, which had, in old times, been fortified by the Phocians who lay immediately south of Thessaly, and were separated from it only by Mount Œta, to check the depredations of their Thessalian neighbours. At this spot some hot springs burst from the mountain, whence the name Thermopylæ, which signifies the Warm Gates, and here the pass was about fifty feet wide; but to the northward it grew still narrower, and in one part required the assistance of masonry to make the road passable even for a single carriage. A more favourable spot for stopping an invading army could not have been selected, and it seems not impossible, that if the force of Greece, or even a large portion of it, had[56] been stationed there, the Persian advance might have been effectually checked. But in the time that union was most required, jealousy and selfishness swayed the Grecian councils. Thessaly was already lost, through the same fear which afterwards abandoned Attica to the invader; and now, when the fate of all Greece northward of the Isthmus was in the balance, the Peloponnesians were only anxious to fortify the approach to their own peninsula, and to remain near home, in case a debarkation should be made from the fleet. Under various pretences of religion each state kept back the contingent which it ought to have supplied, except Arcadia, which sent a force amounting to 2120 men. The rest of Peloponnesus contributed less than 1000 men, divided in the following proportions: Mycenæ, then a small, but still independent town, sent 80; Phlius, 200; Corinth, 400; and Sparta only 300 men, but these were powerful in the generous devotedness of Leonidas, their king and general. The whole force of Athens served in the fleet. But though the Peloponnesians themselves held back, they published a manifesto, to excite the northern Greeks to resistance. “These troops,” it is said, “were but the forerunners of a larger body that might be daily expected; the sea was well guarded by the Athenians, Æginetans, and others; and there was no ground for extravagant alarm, for it was no god, but a man, that waged war upon Greece; and there was no man to whom evil did not at some time happen, and the greatest evils to the most exalted persons: it was therefore probable that the invader’s hopes would be frustrated.” The little town of Thespiæ, to its eternal honour, sent 700 men;[32] Thebes, ill affected to the cause, but 400; the Phocians added 1000, and the Opuntian Locrians came with their whole force. Their number is not mentioned by Herodotus, but Pausanias estimates it “not to have exceeded 6000 men.”[33] Thus the army consisted of[57] about 11,200 heavy-armed citizens, attended perhaps by 13,000 light-armed soldiers, consisting chiefly of slaves, supposing the same proportion to have existed between the services as existed afterwards at the battle of Platæa, where each Spartan was attended by seven Helots, and the other Grecians, upon the average, by one slave a-piece.

On the approach of the Persians the disinclination of the Peloponnesians to the service was manifested by a proposal to retreat to the Isthmus. This was warmly opposed by the Locrians and Phocians, and finally negatived by Leonidas, who instead despatched a messenger to demand reinforcements. Meanwhile Xerxes sent forward a scout to observe the motions of the Grecian army. A wall, as has been mentioned, stretched across the level, behind which the greater part of it was quartered, so that he only saw an outpost of Spartans, who were amusing themselves with gymnastic exercises, and combing their long hair, and took no notice whatever of the intruder. On hearing what he had seen, Xerxes marvelled; and thinking it impossible that so insignificant a force should be resolute to contest the passage, he allowed them four days to disperse, and sent against them, on the fifth, the Medes and Cissians, with orders to take them alive and bring them into the royal presence. When they had been repulsed with slaughter, a chosen body of Persian foot, called the Immortals, advanced with confidence to fulfil the commands of their sovereign, and were in their turn compelled to retreat from the firm array of the Grecians; not, we are led to believe, from inferiority in the qualities, mental or bodily, which constitute the excellence of a soldier, but their numbers were useless in so confined a spot, and their short spears and light defensive armour proved ineffectual to penetrate the longer lances and iron panoply of their opponents. The attack, however, though still fruitless, was repeated in every various way that their ingenuity could devise, and the Persian monarch is said to have leaped thrice from his throne as he sat anxiously viewing the progress of his troops. On the morrow the battle was renewed in hope[58] of wearing out by fatigue and wounds the scanty force of the Grecians, but still it was in vain; and Xerxes was reduced to much perplexity, when he learnt from a Thessalian, Ephialtes the Malian, that another practicable road across the mountain existed. The traitor did not long enjoy the fruits of his perfidy, for a price was set on his head by the Amphictyonic council, and he was slain by one that had a private quarrel with him. It was known to Leonidas that such a path existed; and the Phocians were appointed to guard it, and posted at the summit of the pass. They could not see the enemy’s approach for the oaks with which the mountain was covered; but, about daybreak, were roused by the tread of men upon the fallen leaves. They flew to arms; but, being galled by the Persian missiles, they retreated to one side for the advantage of higher ground, and thus left a free passage to the enemy, who hastened to profit by their error, and left them in undisturbed possession of the post so injudiciously chosen. The army at Thermopylæ was already forewarned; first by the seer Megistias, who from the omens foretold the approach of death; then by deserters from the Persian camp, announcing the march of an army across the mountain; and lastly from the watchmen stationed on the heights, who brought news that it had forced the passage.

Their flank being thus turned, it became impossible for the Greeks to maintain their position; and now a question ensued concerning the measures to be adopted; one party recommending a retreat, while the other urged the duty of remaining to the last at their post. The dispute was terminated by the retreat and dispersion of the majority to their several homes, while the rest remained with Leonidas, resolved to die rather than turn their backs upon the enemy; or, as another story runs, which Herodotus is more inclined to credit, Leonidas himself dismissed his allies, seeing them slow in spirit to encounter death, retaining with him only the 300 Spartans, whose institutions forbade them to retreat, even when resistance was hopeless. The Thespians and Thebans alone remained: the Thebans very unwillingly;[59] but Leonidas detained them as hostages for the fidelity of their countrymen. The Thespians on the other hand insisted on remaining, saying that they would not go away, abandoning Leonidas and the Spartans, but rather abide and die with them. Demophilus, son of Diadromus, was their general. According to Pausanias, the eighty Mycenæans also remained. One motive for Leonidas’s devotion is to be found in the deep respect and attachment to national institutions which was only common to him with his countrymen: but he is said to have had a more peculiar and personal inducement. The Delphic oracle had foretold that Sparta herself, or one of her kings, must fall; and this prediction, in recalling the fame of Codrus, must have suggested the possibility of rivalling him. But rather than to either of these feelings we would attribute it to the belief that his death would be more useful to Greece than his life; the only motive perhaps which could justify the sacrifice of so many brave men, at the time when they were most needed. Greece did indeed require some noble example to rouse her councils to unanimity and firmness: and he who gave it has his due reward in the admiration of the brave and patriot spirits of all nations and of all succeeding ages.

The next morning, with the rising sun, Xerxes offered worship to that luminary, the great object of Persian veneration, in presence of his assembled army; and after a brief delay gave orders to advance against the enemy. Hitherto the Grecians seem to have taken post in the narrowest part of the valley, where, as has been mentioned, there was only room for one carriage to pass; but now, knowing that their fate was sealed, and anxious only to sell their lives dearly, they retreated to the broader part, which had formerly been fortified, with the view of allowing freer access, and insuring a more abundant destruction of their foes. And in truth the slaughter was commensurate with their desperation, for in the three days’ conflicts 20,000 Asiatics were left dead in the pass. We should be inclined to attribute to misinformation or mistake the statement, that in the[60] army of a warlike and conquering nation, like the Persians, the officers followed behind, furnished with scourges, with which they drove on their men to the attack, so that many were forced into the sea, and perished there, and still more trodden under foot in the press, while those who escaped were driven on the Grecian spears by the pressure from behind. At last these weapons were broken, and the combat assumed a closer character. Hand to hand they fought at the sword’s point; and now Leonidas, with others of the noblest Spartans, fell, and by his death added fresh ferocity to the combat. The possession of his body was disputed with an obstinacy which recalls the Homeric battles to our minds: two sons of Darius were slain in the struggle, in which the Greeks prevailed so far as to gain possession of the body, and four times to drive back the crowd of enemies. The scene was closed by the arrival of the Persians led by Ephialtes in the rear. The Thebans, who had hitherto co-operated with their countrymen, now separated themselves, and made submission, protesting, as indeed was true, that they had been among the first to give earth and water, and were present at Thermopylæ through compulsion.[34] The Lacedæmonians and Thespians retired to a hillock, where they continued the battle with their swords, and, when these were broken, with their hands and teeth, until they were slain to a man.

Such is the account of this celebrated conflict published by Herodotus less than thirty years after, at a time when many of the Thebans and of the Greeks who served in the Persian army must have been alive to correct any erroneous statements. But later historians, and[61] among them Diodorus and Plutarch, give a very different version; that, when news first arrived that a Persian force was on its march across the mountain, Leonidas led his men to a night attack, in which they penetrated to the royal pavilion, and, wandering about the camp in a vain attempt to discover the fugitive king, were at last dispersed and cut to pieces. But it seems hardly probable that the Spartan king, who had garrisoned the mountain pass in expectation that it would be attempted, should have devoted his soldiers to inevitable death, until he knew that his precautions had failed: and even without this corroboration the superior credit due to a contemporary would determine our adherence to the story of Herodotus.

Several sayings, which have gained notoriety, are ascribed to Leonidas upon Plutarch’s authority. To Xerxes, who sent to bid him lay down his arms, he replied, “Come and take them.” He admonished his soldiers, before their final battle, to dine as became men who were to sup with the dead. To one who said that the multitude of the Persian arrows would darken the sun, he answered, “Is it not an advantage for us to fight in the shade?”[35]

The body of Leonidas was beheaded and exposed on a cross by order of Xerxes: an act at variance with the usual generosity of the Persians, who were noted for the respect which they paid to bravery in an enemy. The Greeks were buried where they had fallen, the Spartans and Thespians apart from the rest, and a sepulchral barrow heaped over their remains, upon which the statue of a lion was subsequently placed in honour of Leonidas. Pillars were afterwards erected by the council of Amphictyons, with inscriptions to distinguish the resting-places of the slain. A tumulus still remains in the defile of Thermopylæ, topped by the ruins of a massive basement, which is supposed by Dr. Clarke to[62] be the monument above described, and to mark the very spot where this lofty sacrifice was completed. The following epitaph was engraved on the pillar erected in honour of those who fell before the departure of the allies: “Here four thousand Peloponnesians fought with three million of Persians.” The tomb of the Spartans was distinguished by these lines:—”Stranger, bear word to the Lacedæmonians that we lie here in obedience to their institutions.”[36] A pillar was also erected by the celebrated poet Simonides in commemoration of his friend, the seer Megistias, who being an Acarnanian, and therefore free to depart with the other Grecians, sent away his only son, but remained himself to perish with Leonidas. He placed on it this inscription:—

This tomb records Megistias’ honoured name,

Who, boldly fighting in the ranks of fame,
Fell by the Persians near Sperchius’ tide.

Both past and future well the prophet knew,

And yet, though death was open to his view,
He chose to perish at his general’s side.

At the time of the battle two Spartans, Aristodemus and Eurytus, were absent upon leave, being nearly blind from ophthalmia. Eurytus, on hearing that the Persians had turned the pass, called immediately for his armour, and, guided by a Helot, found his way to the battle in[63] time to perish there. Aristodemus considered his illness a fair excuse to remain away from it; and this would have passed current at Sparta, the historian thinks, but for the contrast afforded by the conduct of Eurytus. As it was, the Spartans were greatly incensed: on his return he found himself a marked and dishonoured man, with whom none would converse, to whom none would give, and from whom none would receive, fire: a common method among the ancients of testifying abhorrence and renouncing intercourse; and he was usually called Aristodemus the trembler. He afterwards obliterated his disgrace at the battle of Platæa, where he was killed, after having merited the first prize of valour: but his behaviour then was considered sufficient only to restore his character, not to entitle him to the honours paid to others, the most distinguished of the slain. Another Spartan, Pantites, who had been despatched into Thessaly as a messenger, it was supposed might have hastened his return so as to have been present, and was also dishonoured. On his return to Sparta he hanged himself in despair.

The magnitude of the interest at stake, and the brilliant talents employed in celebrating the events of the Persian war, have conspired to confer extraordinary celebrity upon the self-devotion of Leonidas and his comrades. To the great merit of it we fully subscribe: its disinterestedness cannot be questioned, its wisdom and utility are justified by the panic fear of Persia still prevalent in Greece, which required to be dispelled by some lofty and spirit-stirring act of patriotism: but having paid our tribute of admiration to these brave men, and to the steady valour and patient endurance of the Athenians, we have, as will appear more fully in the next chapter, little commendation to bestow on the rest of Greece. The division of the country into small independent states, conducive perhaps to its glory, as tending to produce that extraordinary activity of mind, that multitude of distinguished names which adorn its history, was too dearly purchased by the spirit of rivalry and narrow-minded patriotism which it generated; if that[64] feeling deserves to be called patriotism which looks merely to the aggrandisement of a single city at the expense of neighbours who should be endeared to her by the ties of blood, and by community of language, interests, and associations. One instance of this jealousy and disunion has already occurred in the tardy and ineffectual assistance sent by Peloponnesus to the northern states.

The history of Switzerland is, on the other hand, advantageously distinguished by the readiness which the different members of the Helvetic League have shown to succour each other, even where ruin seemed to be the consequence of interference. Before the admission of Berne into the Confederacy, that city, being menaced by a powerful army of nobles intent upon its destruction, sent a messenger to the cantons of Schwitz, Uri, and Underwalden, called the Waldstetten, or Forest Cantons, to represent the imminence of their danger and to implore succour. The people answered, “True friends appear in the time of need: go, tell your citizens we will prove it to them.” A body of nine hundred men immediately marched to the help of the Bernese, with whose assistance the celebrated battle of Laupen was fought and gained against immensely superior forces. Nor did Berne prove ungrateful for this timely aid. At a later period, the Forest Cantons being at war with Zuric, which had been detached by Austria from the interests of the Confederacy, and being threatened by the whole power of Austria itself, sent messengers to represent their situation to the Bernese, who had always been averse to the contest, and declined engaging in it. “Dear trusty Confederates,” they said, “remember the day of Laupen, when your ancestors, being threatened with utter ruin by the nobles, sent to us, to demand our aid. We were not at that time allied to you, and yet what did we say? ‘Need,’ we said, ‘is the test of friendship.’ You have heard of the tears of joy that were shed when our banners were seen approaching to your walls; you knew what Erlach said after the victory, ‘This day shall be an everlasting pledge of our union[65].’ From that day we have been allies. Men of Berne, sons of the conquerors of Laupen, we are now involved in great difficulties; the power of Austria, to which Zuric has basely surrendered, bears hard upon us; numbers of ours have perished within these few days, and our enemies expect great reinforcements from distant parts. We may be overpowered. Dear trusty Confederates, Need is the test of friendship.”[37] The name and recollection of Laupen had power to overrule the suggestions of prudence; the required succours were sent, and the Swiss were victorious.

Two of the many gallant struggles made by the Swiss in defence of their liberty have already been described. A third, the battle of St. Jaques, near Basle, has been called the Swiss Thermopylæ; and the name is justified, not by the circumstances of the battle, but by the indomitable courage and uniform fate of the conquered. The Dauphin of France, afterwards Louis XI., at the head of a large army of the mercenary troops called Armagnacs, from the Counts D’Armagnac, two of their chiefs, advanced against Basle for the purpose of breaking up the council of the church then sitting there in defiance of the Pope, and to assist Frederic of Austria, the Emperor of Germany, in recovering the possessions in Switzerland which his ancestors had lost. His force consisted of 8000 English and 14,000 French, and was still further increased by the vassals of Austria. Sixteen hundred men were detached by the Swiss with orders to throw themselves into Basle at all hazards. Two of the members of the council, returning from the city, met them on the eve before the battle, and informed them of the strength of the enemy and the difficulty of reaching Basle. They replied, “If things must needs so happen to-morrow, and we cannot break by force through the said obstacles, we will consign our souls to God, and our bodies to the Armagnacs.” They advanced, and the same evening routed a corps of horse 8000 strong. “Early the next morning they arrived[66] near a bridge over the Birs; and met emissaries from Basle, admonishing them not to attempt the passage of the river, the main army of the Dauphin being posted on its opposite banks. They might now have retreated with honour; but, flushed with the successes of the preceding day, and not doubting that, as they were now within a mile of Basle, the burghers would make a seasonable diversion in their favour, they resolved to accomplish the purpose for which they had been sent, or to perish in the attempt. They came to the bridge; but found it so strongly defended, that the forcing it was deemed wholly impracticable. They now threw themselves into the torrent, crossed it with the utmost speed, rushed up the opposite bank in the face of a numerous artillery, and began a dreadful slaughter, mowing down whole ranks of the enemy with their massive halberts, not, however, without great loss on their own part. Their forced marches, their previous conflicts, and their present arduous contest, had now so totally exhausted them, and their numbers were so greatly reduced, that in hopes of some respite they turned off to the right, and took shelter in the churchyard and orchard belonging to the hospital of St. Jacob, both surrounded by high walls. The burghers of Basle were at this critical moment preparing to send out a detachment; but the Dauphin, who expected the attempt, had posted eight thousand men on an eminence near the gate; who, had the garrison ventured the sally, would have cut off their retreat, and exposed them to inevitable destruction. The cannon of the French meanwhile had not only thrown down the walls round the hospital, but also set fire to the building; and the Confederates, in the midst of flames and ruins, found themselves at the same time exposed to the attacks of accumulated numbers, without any defence but their firmness and valour. They still might have retreated without any disparagement to their honour; but after a short consultation, they resolved to devote themselves for the good of their country, and fall together. The heroic deeds that were achieved in this memorable conflict, the number[67] of fierce assaults this devoted band sustained and repelled, how each warrior fell successively on the identical spot he had first occupied, are facts imperfectly related, but may be well inferred from the general circumstances of the action. They fought ten hours without intermission; till at length, exhausted but not conquered, they all (twelve only excepted) lay lifeless on the field of action. Each had four or five enemies around him, whom he had despatched before his fall. Burcard Monk, the faithless guide of the invaders, riding in the evening over the field of slaughter, exclaimed triumphantly, ‘This is indeed a bath of roses!’ An expiring Swiss heard him, raised himself on his knees, snatched a large stone, and hurled it at the head of the vaunting traitor, who died three days after of the contusion. The twelve who, when no hopes remained, retired from the carnage, with difficulty escaped the hands of the executioner, to which the law of Sempach doomed all who turned away from an enemy.

“The Dauphin concealed the number of his slain, by causing them to be immediately committed to the flames; but six hundred dead horses found on the field sufficiently evinced the magnitude of his loss. Fearful of such another victory, he drew off his forces into Alsace, committed depredations on both sides of the Rhine, and gave the Emperor ample reason to repent of having, called in such auxiliaries. After his retreat, the burghers of Basle gathered the bodies of the Confederates, and with solemn obsequies buried them in the churchyard of St. Jacob.”[38] Six thousand French are reported to have fallen. Æneas Sylvius, afterwards Pope Pius II., was present at the council of Basle, and gives a lively description of the battle in one of his letters. “Here was fought a stern and piteous battle. The Swiss tore the bloody arrows from their bodies; those even who had a hand lopped off rushed on the enemy and took a life in exchange for their own. Four Armagnacs attacked one Switzer, and felled him, when a comrade rushed upon[68] them, grasping his battle-axe, and slew two; the others fled. He carried off the yet breathing body to his comrades. Behind the Swiss there was a walled orchard, which they thought would protect them, so that they would only have to fight to the front. But the Germans and Armagnacs undermined the wall, which was the chief cause of the destruction of the Swiss. They fought in front and to the rear, man to man, sword to sword. The Swiss, like lions, forced their way unconquered through the army, slaying and overturning all, as men who know that they fight with no hope of victory, but to avenge their death: the battle lasted from the dawn till evening. At length the Swiss fell amidst the mighty host of the enemy, not conquered, but rather weary with conquering. A mournful and most bloody victory was it to the Armagnacs, and the field remained in their possession, from their superiority, not in bravery, but in numbers.”

The law of Sempach, which is mentioned above, furnishes a good specimen of the simplicity and resolution of the Swiss character. Modern treaties of alliance are hardly so brief, so emphatic, or so well observed.

“We, the eight Helvetic Cantons, and the city and district of Soleure, agree to preserve peace and unanimity amongst ourselves, and to uphold each other, so that every individual may enjoy perfect security in his house, and be no ways molested either in his person or property. All traders shall be protected in their persons and merchandise. No one shall wantonly give cause for dissension, or be accessory in fomenting animosities; but when a war cannot be avoided, and our banners advance against an enemy, each of us will, after the example of our forefathers in their many perils, firmly unite, and march out together to redress our wrongs. Whoever deviates from his duty, or otherwise transgresses the laws, and is convicted thereof by two credible witnesses before the tribunal to which he is amenable, shall be sentenced to personal or pecuniary correction. Should any one in battle, or at an attack, be wounded so as to[69] be disabled from service, he shall nevertheless retain his station, and continue there amidst his companions, until the conflict is terminated, and danger is at an end. On no account must the field of battle be deserted: and (as an enemy has often rallied among the pillagers; and lately, at Sempach, the foe would have sustained greater loss had not our men been too eager after booty) no one shall betake himself to spoil until permitted by the commander. All the plunder taken shall be delivered to the commander, who shall make an equal distribution of it according to the number of men from each canton. Since Almighty God has declared churches to be his habitation, and has been pleased to effect the salvation of mankind by means of a woman, it is our will and positive decree that none of us shall break open, pillage, or burn, any church or chapel, or any way insult or molest a woman: this law shall suffer no exception, unless when enemies or their property are secreted in sanctuaries, or when women by their clamours impede the progress of our force. This we ordain, accept, and confirm by oath, at a general diet held at Zuric, on the 10th of July, in the year of our Lord 1393.”

Vertot, in his History of the Knights of Malta, relates a striking anecdote of similar courage and devotion. “When the Turks besieged that island in 1565, John de la Valette being then Grand Master, they first attacked the castle of St. Elmo, an outpost too small and too distant from the main works to hold out long against their continual assaults. The knights who were quartered there made a gallant resistance, but their cannon being dismounted, their defences breached, and their numbers thinned, they sent a deputation to the Grand Master to represent the deplorable condition of the place, that it was no longer tenable, and that sending over reinforcements to them was worse than useless, because it insensibly consumed the troops necessary for the defence of the island. Most of the Grand Crosses, who composed the council of the Order, coincided with these views, but the Grand Master was of a contrary opinion. He agreed, indeed, that the fort was not tenable, and[70] owned that he could not but lament the fate of the knights who in so dangerous a post were exposed to daily death; but he insisted that there are some circumstances in which it is necessary to hazard some of the limbs to save the body. The Viceroy of Sicily, to whom they looked for relief, had declared, that if that fort were lost he would not attempt to save the island. The whole safety of Malta, therefore, depended on the length of the siege, and it was absolutely necessary to protract it as long as possible. The Council came over to his opinion, and with their concurrence he impressed on the garrison that the preservation or loss of the island, and, perhaps, of the Order itself, depended on the time that they should hold out the place, and bade them call to mind the vows they had made at their profession, and that they were obliged to sacrifice their lives for the defence of the Order. Finally, he would not fail to send such reinforcements as the smallness of the fort would admit of, and, if necessary, would throw himself into the place, and there die with them.”

After a series of bloody assaults, from the 24th of May to the 21st of June, the garrison were reduced to extremity. They sent a swimmer across the port to the Grand Master, to request succour, and five large boats were soon fitted out and filled with knights. But the shore was now lined with Turkish artillery, and they were unable to effect a landing. “The besieged in the fort being now out of all hopes of succour, thought of nothing but ending their lives like good Christians and true religious. For which purpose they were all night long preparing themselves for it, by receiving the sacraments of the church: when this was over, and that nothing remained but the giving up their souls to God, they embraced one another with tenderness, and retired to their several posts in order to die with their weapons in their hands, and expire in the bed of honour. Such as were not able to walk by reason of their wounds, had themselves carried in chairs to the side of the breach, where, armed with swords, which they held with both their hands, they waited with a heroic resolution till[71] such time as their enemies, towards whom they were not able to advance, should come and attack them in their posts.

“The next day, the 23rd of June, the Turks, at daybreak, came on to the assault with great shouts, as if they were going to a victory which it would be impossible to dispute with them. But the Christian soldiers defended themselves with invincible bravery; one would have thought that the certainty of an approaching death which they were to share in common with the knights, had put them on the same level with respect to courage. They advanced to meet the enemy with as much intrepidity as if they had beaten them, and such as could not walk fired on the enemy with their pieces; and when by reason of their continual discharges they had spent all their powder, they supplied themselves from the pouches of their comrades who had dropped by their side: in fine, the knights having sustained an assault for four hours together, had but sixty persons left to defend the breach; but these were something more than men, who, by a noble contempt of death, still made their enemies tremble. The commander, seeing the place on the point of being forced by the Turks, recalled some Christian soldiers, who till then had maintained themselves upon the cavalier which lay before the fort. The basha, seeing the breach fortified with this small reinforcement, discontinued the assault in an instant, as if he had again been disheartened by so obstinate a resistance, and pretended to retire, but it was only to make his janissaries seize, not only on the cavalier, which was abandoned, but likewise on all such points as were higher than the breach, and overlooked the inside of the fort. The besieged employed this little suspension from fighting in dressing their wounds, not so much for the sake of preserving the poor remains of life as to enable themselves to fight for some moments longer with greater vigour. At eleven in the morning the Turks returned to the assault with new strength, and the janissaries, who from the top of the cavalier and other posts commanded the place with their muskets, pointed[72] out all such persons as they had a mind to kill. The greater part of them perished by the enemies’ fire; the bailiff of Negropont, together with most of the knights and soldiers that were left, being overwhelmed with numbers, died upon the breach; and this terrible assault was discontinued only for lack of combatants, not ending but with the death of the last knight.”[39]

The struggle recently concluded in Greece has been well calculated to awaken the sleeping energies of her people. It is, however, too recent, and the present generation has suffered too severely from the misrule and ignorance under which it was nurtured, for us either to judge severely their past faults and mistakes, or to augur over boldly concerning their future policy and conduct. That much of selfishness, cabal, and perfidy occurred in the late war, and materially retarded the expulsion of the Turks, is certain; but no one can now assert that Hellenic courage is extinct, and, for Hellenic virtue, we hope to see it much more prominent in the national character than it ever yet has been. The Greeks have long been considered a degraded race: the more civilized, and especially the trading part of them, proverbially mean and dishonest; the mountaineers possessed of the few and capricious virtues, together with the many vices, of barbarians. The time for these general charges is now at an end. From henceforth Greece, we trust, will again rank among the independent nations of Europe: it depends on herself whether she will merit the affection and sympathy which the recollection of her former splendour and long suffering inspires. Nor do we hesitate to believe that she will do so, and to appeal in proof of this to the number of her sons who for years have frequented happier parts of Europe for the sake of a more enlightened and extended education than they could obtain at home. Those who worked their deliverance from a bondage of such ancient date, were necessarily tainted with the vices which that bondage engendered: but as the advantages which the rising generation has possessed become more[73] general, and as they succeed to the place and influence of their fathers, who can doubt but that the governors will learn to prefer the general good to their own factions, and corrupt and precarious interests, and the people to appreciate the blessing of internal order, to form true judgments of the national welfare, and to compel attention to it?

On the breaking out of the revolution the students dispersed among the European universities were among the first to offer themselves as soldiers in support of it. Armed in the European manner, they enrolled themselves in a corps called ἳερος λοχος, the sacred band, a title taken from the brief period of Theban splendour under Epaminondas, and assumed as the motto of their standards θανατος ἠ ἐλευθρια, death or freedom, and the inscription of the Spartan shield, ἠ τὰν ἠ ἐπὶ τὰν,[40] this, or upon this. The greater part had never felt hardship, nor handled a military weapon before, yet they endured fatigue, privation, and discipline with submission and fortitude, setting an example to the rest which was badly followed. There were about 500 men of this corps with Alexander Ypsilante in his last campaign in Moldavia, on whom he justly placed his chief reliance, and their bravery and unfortunate fate is worthy to be placed by the side of the story of Thermopylæ.

In June, 1821, a severe action took place at Tergowitz, in which the Greeks were worsted, and the Sacred Band much cut up, not without severe loss on the part of the enemy. On the 19th the battle was renewed at Tergoressi. Ypsilante charged at the head of the Sacred Band with an impetuosity which broke the foremost ranks of the Turks. But at the moment when victory[74] seemed to be declaring in their favour, Constantine Douca, an officer of the Greek cavalry, not content with deserting his country in her need, charged treacherously upon his countrymen. Being thus unexpectedly supported, the Turks rallied, and Ypsilante, almost surrounded, with difficulty drew off his troops. The same night he commenced his retreat towards Rimnik, closely pursued, and a third action took place at break of day, at a place called Drageschan, in which another traitor, named Caravia, who commanded the remainder of the cavalry, deserted with them, and the infantry who remained were cut to pieces. The Sacred Band made a gallant defence: the Mussulman infantry thrice charged them, and were thrice repulsed, but the cavalry swept around them, unable to break their ranks, and brought them down by repeated pistol shots. There escaped but about a score, who, with their general, forced a passage through the enemy.

“I cannot describe to you the feelings of respect and regret with which I walked over the ground that covered the remains of these young heroes. I had not long before visited the field of Marathon, and the recollections of it, and of Dr. Johnson’s effusion, were fresh in my mind; but the impressions of both were cold and feeble compared with those of Drageschan. Here was an act of courage and self-devotion among modern Greeks, that rivalled anything similar in the best days of their ancestors, and I was on the spot while the event was yet recent, and their bodies, if I may so say, scarce cold in the clay that covered them. No one has hitherto dared to erect a tomb to designate the spot where they lie, but they live imperishably in the memory of their country; and when England and her allies shall replace it in its due rank among the nations of Christian Europe, a monument on the field of Drageschan will not be forgotten.”[41]

The battle of Roncesvalles occupies the same prominent[75] station in romance that Thermopylæ does in history. There are few who have not heard in childhood, how the twelve peers of Charlemagne, unequalled in arms, were surrounded by the Saracens in that fatal valley, and slain with their followers to a man, after performing prodigies of valour; or who have read the tale without hating the traitor Ganellon, the Ephialtes of the Christian army. The fact is simply this: Charlemagne’s rearguard, as he returned from an invasion of Spain, was surrounded and cut off with its commander, his nephew Roland or Orlando (the rest of the Paladins are chiefly fabulous), not by the Saracens, but by the Pyrenean mountaineers. The mighty superstructure of falsehood which has been raised on this foundation owes its existence chiefly to the pretended Chronicle of Turpin, Archbishop of Rheims, contemporary with Charlemagne; a work whose real author has not been ascertained, but which was not written before the eleventh century. Its monstrous fictions were pronounced authentic by Pope Calixtus II., a.d. 1122, and have been carefully embodied in the Chronicles of the monks of St. Denys, the most voluminous compilers of their age. So much for the way in which history is manufactured. It has been freely translated by Caxton, and enlarged with incidents from other sources, in a book entitled “The Hystory and Lyf of the Most Noble Crysten Prince Charles the Grete, Kyng of Fraunce and Emperour of Rome, reduced from the latyn and romaunse tongue to thexaltacyon of the crysten faith, and the confusyon of the hethen Sarazyns and myscreants, which is a werk wel contemplatyf for to lyve wel.—The which werk was fynysshed in the reducing of hit into englysshe the xviii day of Juyn, the second yere of Kyng Richard the thyrd, the yere of our Lord Mcccclxxxv. And imprynted the fyrst day of decembre, the same yere of our Lorde, and the fyrst yere of Kyng Harry the seventh.” This book is a good specimen of the studies then fashionable, and also of the style of the father of English printing; who, like very many of the early practisers of that art, was eminent as a man of letters as well as a craftsman. In[76] this capacity, and as a curious instance of what has passed for history, we quote his narrative of the battle of Roncesvalles, though it be rather long, in hope that the quaintness both of the matter and manner may be found amusing: to those who still feel an interest in the amusements of their childhood, it will need no apology. The story is familiar through the medium of Italian and French romance; but comparatively few are likely to have seen it in its ancient dress.

“HOW the treason was comprysed by Ganellon, and of the deth of crysten men, and how Ganellon is repreuyd by thauctour. Capitulo i.

“In this tyme were in Cezarye two kynges sarazyns moche myghty, that one was named Marfurius, and that other Bellegardus his brother. Whyche were sente by thadmyral of Babylonne into Spayne, the whych were under Kyng Charles, and made to hym sygne of love and of subjectyon, and went by hys commaundement holyly, and under the shadow of deceptyon. Themperour seyng that they were not crystens, and for to get seignourye over them, he sent for Ganellon in whome he had fyaunce; that they sholde doo baptyse them, or elles that they sholde sende to him trybute in sygne of fydelite of their contre. Ganellon the traytre went thyder, and dyd to them the message, and after that he had with them many deceyvable wordes, they sent hym ageyn to Charles wyth xxx hors, laden with gold and sylver, wyth clothes of sylke and other rychesses, and iiii hondred hors, laden wyth swete wyn for to gyve to the men of warre for to drynke; and also they sent above thys to them, a thousand fayr wymmen sarazyns in grete poynte and yonge of age. And alle thys in sygne of love and of obeissaunce: and after they gaf to Ganellon xx hors charged wyth gold and sylver, sylkes and other precyosytes, that by his moyen he sholde brynge in to theyr handes the companye of Charles, if he myghte doo it.

“Thenne Ganellon was surprysed wyth this fals avaryce,[77] whych consumeth alle the sweteness of charyte that is in persones, for to have gold, or sylver and other richesses; and made a pacte and covenaunte wyth the sarazyns for to betray his lord, hys neyghbours and crysten bretheren, and sware that he wold not faylle them of thenterpryse. But I merveille moche of Ganellon, whyche made thys treason without to have cause, coloured ne juste.

“O wycked Ganellon, thou were comen of noblesse, and thou hast doon a werk vylaynous, thou wert ryche and a grete lord, and for money thou hast betrayed thy mayster. Emonge alle other thou wert chosen for to goo to the sarazyns for grete trust emonge all the other, and for the fydelyte that was thought in thee; thou hast consented to trayson, and allone hast commyted infydelyte. Fro whens cometh thyn inyquyte, but of a fals wylle, plunged in thabysme of avaryce. Thy natural soveraign lorde, Rolland, Olyver, and the other, what have they doon to thee? yf thou have a wycked hate agaynst one person, wherefore consentest thou to destroy thynnocentes? was there noo persone that thou lovedest whan to all crysten men thou hast ben traytre? was there ony reason in thee whan thou hast ben capytayn agenst the fayth? what availeth the prowesse that thou hast made in tyme passed whan thyne end sheweth that thou hast doon wyckednes? O fals avaryce, and ardeur of concupiscence, he is not the fyrst that by the is comen to myschyef! by the Adam was to God dysobeysaunt, and the noble cyte of Troy the grande put to uttre ruyne and destructyon! Thus in thys manere Ganellon brought gold and sylver, wyn wymmen and other richesses as tofore he had enterprysed. Whan Charles sawe al this, he thought that al way doon in good entent, and equyte, and wythout barat.[42] The gret lordes and knyghtes toke the wyn for them, and Charles toke onely the gold and sylver, and the moyen people took the hethen wymmen. Themperour gaf consente to the wordes of Ganellon. For he spake moche wysely, and wrote in suche wyse[78] that Charles and alle hys hoost passed the porte of Cezarye, for Ganellon dyd hym to understonde, that the kynges aforesayd wold become crysten, and be baptysed, and swere fydelyte to themperour. And anone sent hys peple tofore, and he came after in the ryerewarde, and had sent Roulland, and Olyver, and the moost specyal of hys subgettes wyth a thousand[43] fyghtyng men, and were in Rouncyvale. Thenne the kynges Marfuryus and Bellegardus after the counceyl of Ganellon, wyth fyfty thousand sarasyns were hidde in a wode, abydyng and awaytyng the frenssh men, and there they abode ii dayes and two nyghtys and devyded theyr men in two partyes. In the first they put xx m sarasyns, and in that other they put xxx m sarasyns—In the vauntegarde of Charles were xx m crysten men, whyche anone were assayled wyth xx m sarasyns, and maad warre in such wyse, that they were constreyned to withdrawe them. For fro the morning unto the houre of tyerce, they feared not to fyght and smyte on them, wherefore the crysten men were moche wery, and had nede to reste theym. Nevertheles they dronken wel of the good swete wyn of the sarasyns moche largely. And after many of them that were dronke went and laye by the wymmen sarasynois, and also wyth other that they had brought oute of Fraunce. Wherefor the wylle of God was, that they sholde all be dede, to thende that their martyrdom and passyon myght be the cause of theyr salvacion and purgyng of theyr synne. For anone after the thyrty thousand sarasyns cam that were in the second batayl upon the frenssh men soo impetuously that they were al dede and slayn. Except Roulland, Baulduyn and Thyerry, the other were slayn and dede with speres, some flayn, some rosted, and other quartered, and submysed to many tormentes. And whan thys discomfiture was doon, Ganellon was with Charles, and also tharchebysshop Turpyn, whych knew nothyng of this werke so sorouful, sauf onely the traytre, whyche supposed that they had[79] al ben destroyed and put to deth. Of the languysshe that was comynge to Charles he wyst not how sone it was comynge.

OF the deth of kyng Marforius, and how Roulland was hurt wyth four speres mortally, after that al his peple were slayn. Capitulo ii.

“The bataylle as I have sayd tofore was moche sharpe. Whan Roulland, which was moche wery, retourned, he encountred in hys waye a sarasyn moche fyers, and blacke as boylled pytch and anone he toke hym at thentre of a wode, and bonde hym to a tree straytely, wythoute doyng to him any more harme, and after took and rode upon a hylle for to see the hoost of the sarasyns, and the crysten menne that were fledde, and sawe grete quantyte of paynyms. Wherefore anone he sowned and blew his horne of yvorie moche lowde. And wyth that noyse came to hym an hundred crysten men wel arayed and habylled wythoute moo. And whan they were come to hym, he retorned to the sarasyn that was bounde to the tree. And Roulland helde his sword over hym, saying that he shold deye, if he shewed to hym not clerely the kyng Marfuryus, and yf he so sholde do, he sholde not deye. The sarasyn was content, and sware that he sholde gladly do it for to save hys lyf, and soo he brought hym with hym unto the place where they sawe the paynyms, and shewed to Rolland whyche was the kynge, whych rode upon a redde hors, and other certayn tokenes. And in thys poynt, Roulland reconfermed in hys strengthe, trustying veryly in the myght of God, and in the name of Jhesus, as a lyon entred into the bataylle, and emonge them he encountred a sarasyn, whych was gretter than ony of the other, and gaf to hym so grete a stroke wyth Durindal his swerde upon the hede, that he cleft hym and hys hors in two partes, that the one parte went on one syde, and that other on the other syde. Wherefore the sarasyns were soo troubled and abasshed of the myght and puissaunce of Rolland, that they alle fled tofore hym, and[80] then abode the kyng Marfuryus wyth a fewe folke. Thenne Rolland sawe thys kynge. And wythout fere came to hym and putte hym to deth incontynent. And alle the hondred crysten men that were wyth Roulland in thys rencountre were dolorously slayn and put to deth, except onely Baulduyn and Thyerry, whych for fere fled into the wode. But after that Rolland had slayn kyng Marfuryus, he was sore oppressed and in suche wyse deteyned, that wyth four grete speres he was smyten and wounded mortally, and beten wyth stones, and hurte wyth dartes and other shotte mortally. And notwithstondyng these grevous hurtes and woundes yet maulgre al the sarasyns he sprange out of the bataylle, and sauved hymself the best wyse he myght. Bellegardus broder of Marfuryus, doubtyng that helpe and ayde sholde come to the crysten people, retorned into another countreye wyth hys peple moche hastely. And thempereur Charles had thenne passed the montagne of Roncyvale, and knewe nothynge of these thynges aforesayd, ne what he had doon.

HOW Rolland deyed holyly after many martyres and orysons made to God ful devoutely, and of the complaynte maad for hys swerde Durandal. Capitulo iii.

“Rolland the valyaunt, and champyon of the crysten fayth, was moche sorouful of the crysten men bycause they had noo socours. He was moche very gretely abasshed and moche affebled in hys persone, for he had lost moche of hys blode by his foure mortal woundes, of whych the leste of them was suffysaunt for hym to have deyed, and he had gret payn to get hym oute fro the Sarasyns, for to have a lytel commemoracyon of God before or the soule sholde depart fro hys body. So moche he enforced hym, that he came to the fote of a montayne nygh to the port of Cesarye, and brought hymself nygh to a rocke ryght by Roncyval, under a tree in a fayr medowe. Whan he sat doon on the grounde he byheld hys swerde, the best that ever was, named Durandal,[81] whych is as moche to say as gyvyng an hard stroke, whych was ryght fayr and rychely made: the handle was of fyn beryle shynynge mervaylously, on it it had a fayre crosse of gold in the whych was wryton the name of Jhesus. It was so good and fyn that sooner sholde the arme fayle than the swerde: he toke it oute of the shethe, and sawe it shyne moche bryght, and bycause it sholde chaunge hys maister he had moche sorrowe in hys herte, and wepynge, he said in this maner pytously, ‘O swerde of valure, the fayrest that ever was, thou were never but fayr, ne never fonde I the but good! Thou hast been so moche honoured that alway thou barest with the the name of the blessed Jhesus, sauvyour of the world, which has endowed the wyth the power of God. Who may comprehende thy valure! Alas, who shal have the after me! Whosomever hath the shall never be vanquysshed; alway shall he have good fortune! Alas, what shall I moreover say for the good swerde; many sarasyns have been destroyed by the; thynfydels and myscreaunts have ben slayn by the; the name of God is exalted by the; by the is made the path of sauvement! O how many tymes have I by the avenged thynjury made to God! O how many men have I smyton, and cutte asondre by the myddle! O my swerde whych has ben my comfort and my joye, whych never hurtest persone that myght escape fro deth. O my swerde, yf ony persone of noo value sholde have the, and I knewe it, I sholde deye for sorowe!’ After that Rolland had wept ynough he had fere that some paynym myght fynd it after hys deth. Wherfore he concluded in hymself to breke it, and toke it, and smote upon a rocke wyth all hys myght iii tymes wythout hurtynge ony thynge the swerde, and clefte the rocke to therthe, and colde in no wyse breke the swerde. Whan he sawe the facyon, and colde do no more therto, he toke his horne whych was of yvorie moche rychely made, and sowned and blewe it moche strongely, to thende that yf there were ony crysten men hyd in the wodes, or in the waye of theyr retournynge, that they sholde come to hym before they went any further, and tofore he rendered hys soule.[82] Then seynge that none came he sowned it ageyn by soo grete force and vertu, and soo impetously, that the horne roof asondre in the myddle, and the vaynes of hys necke braken asondre, and the synewes of hys bodye stratched. And that noyse or voys, by the grace of God came to the eeres of Charles, whych was eyght myles fro hym. The emperour heerynge the horne, he knewe well that Rolland had blowen it, and wolde have retorned ageyn; but Ganellon the traytre which knewe wel alle the fayt dystourned hym, in sayenge that Rolland had blowen hys horne for some wylde beest that he chaced for hys playsyr; for oft tyme he wold blowe hys horne for lytel thynge: and that he sholde not doubte of nothynge. And thus he dyd the kynge to understond, that he beleyved hym and made none other semblaunt. Nevertheles Rolland beynge in thys sorowe, he peased hys woundes al so wel as he myght, and stratched himself on the grasse to the fressheness for to forget hys thurst, whych was over grete.

“Here upon Baulduyn hys brother came unto hym, whyche was moche hevy and soroweful for hys brother Rolland whych was in that necessyte. And anone Roulland sayd to hym, ‘My frende and my brother, I have so grete thurst that I must nedes dye yf I have not drynke to aswage my thurst.’

“Baulduyn had grete payn in goynge here and there, and colde fynde noo water, and came to hym ageyn, and sayde he colde fynde none; and in grete anguysse he lepte on Roulland’s hors, and rode for to fetch Charles; for he knewe wel that Roulland was nyghe hys deth. Anone after came to hym Thyerry duc of Ardayne, whych wept upon Roulland so continually, that he myght not speke but wyth gret payn. Rolland confessed hym and dysposed hym of hys conscience, nevertheles that same day Rolland had receyved the body of our Lord. For the custom was that the subgettes of Charles that day whych they sholde fyght, were confessed and comuned wythoute fayllynge by men of the chyrche, whych alway were wyth them. Rolland whych knewe hys ende by entyer contemplacyon, hys eyen lyfte up to heven, and hys[83] hondes joyned, al stratched in the medowe, began to say thus, ‘Fayre Lorde God my maker, my redemour, son of the gloryous moder of comfort, thou knowest myn entencyon, thou knowest what I have doon. For the bounte that is in the, by the grete mercy of whyche thou art envyronned, by the grace whych in the aboundeth, by the meryte of thy passyon holy and bytter, wyth a good and humble hert I requyre the that tofore the thys daye my faultes, synnes, and ygnoraunces may be pardonned to me. And take no regarde to the trespaces that I have doon to the, but beholde that I deye for the and in the fayth that thou hast ordeyned: remembre that thou hangest on the tree of the crosse for the synnars, and so as thou hast redeemed me, I beseech the that I be not loste. Alas, my maker God omnipotent, wyth good wyll I departed out of my countreye for to defend thy name, and for to mayntene crystendom. Thou knowest that I have suffred many angoysses of hungre, of thurst, of hete, of colde, and many mortal woundes. And day and nyght to the my God I yelde me culpable. I mystrust not thy mercy, thou art pytous, thou art comen for the synnars, thou pardonest Mary Magdalen and the good theef on the crosse bycause they retourned unto the; they were synnars as I am; lyke as they dyd, I crye for mercy, and better yf I colde say it. Thou byheldest how Abraham was obeyssaunt to the of hys sone Isaac, wherefore he ferde moche the better; byholde me how I am obedyent to the commaundements of the chyrche. I byleve in the, I love the above all other, I love my neyghbour. O good Lord, I beseche the to pardone and forgive alle theym that thys daye ben deed in my companye, that they may be saved. Also my maker I requyre the to take heed of the pacyence of Job, for whych he was moche the better, that I deye here for thurst, and am alone. I am wounded mortally, and may not helpe myself; and take in pacyence alle the sorowe that I suffre, and am therwyth content when it pleaseth the. As all thys is trewe, pardone me, comforte my spyryte, receyve my soule, and brynge me to reste perdurable.’ Whan Rolland had prayed thus, he sette hys[84] handes on hys bodye, holdyng hys flesshe, and after sayd thre tymes, ‘Et in carne mea videbo Deum salvatorem meum,’ and after layed hys handes on hys eyen, and sayd, ‘Et oculi isti conspecturi sunt.’ ‘In thys flesshe that I hold I shall see my sauyour, and these eyen shal behold hym:’ and after, he sayd, that he sawe thynges celestyall, whych the eyen of man myght not see, nor the eeres here, ne the hert thynke, the glory whych God hath maad redy to them that love hym. And in sayenge, ‘In manus tuas Domine commendo spiritum meum,’ ‘Into thy handes, O Lord, I commende my spyryte,’ he layed hys armes upon his body in maner of a crosse, and gaf and rendred his soule to God the xvi kalends of Juyl.[44]

OF the rysyon of the deth of Roulland, and of the sorowe of Charles. Capitulo iiii.

“The day that Roulland the marter rendred hys soule unto God, I Turpyn, archbysshop of Raymes, was in the valeye of Rouncyval, tofore Charles the Emperour, and sayde masse for the soules whych were passed out of thys world. And as I was in the secrete of the masse I was ravysshed, and herd the aungellys of heven synge and make grete melodye. And I wyst not what it might be, ne wherfore they soo dyd. And as I sawe the aungellys mount into heven on hye, I saw comynge a grete legyon of knyghtes alle blacke ageynst me, the whych bere a praye whereof they made grete noyse. Whan they were tofore me in passynge, I sayd to them, and demaunded who they were, and what they bare. One of the deveylles aunswered and sayd, we bere the kyng Marfuryus into helle, for long agoon he hath well deserved it. And Roulland your trumpette, wyth Michel thaungel, and many other in his companye, is brought into joye perdurable to heven. And as the masse was fynysshed, I recounted to Charles the vysyon whyche I had seen, how thaungellys of heven bare the soule of Roulland into[85] Paradys, and the devylles bare the soule of a sarasyn into helle. Thus as I sayde these wordes Baulduyn whyche rode on Rolland’s hors came hastely, and sayd to Charles how the crysten men were dede and bytrayed, and how Rolland was hurte, and in what estate he had left hym.”




Salamis—Siege of Leyden—Spanish Armada.

While Leonidas was guarding Thermopylæ, the Grecian fleet took its station nearly opposite to him at Artemisium and the coast of Eubœa. The Euripus, the narrow channel extending between that island and the continent, was well calculated for defence by an inferior force; and as the voyage along the seaward side of the island was considered difficult and dangerous in the imperfection of ancient navigation, a reasonable hope was entertained that the progress of the invader might be stopped both by land and sea. His fleet originally consisted of 1208 galleys of war, besides transports and smaller vessels, and[87] had been reinforced by 120 ships from the Thracian Greeks; but this vast armament was considerably reduced on the coast of Thessaly, by a storm, in which, according to the lowest report, not less than four hundred galleys were destroyed. Numerically, the Grecian fleet was little calculated to engage such an enemy, for it reckoned but 271 trireme galleys, with a few of the smaller vessels called penteconters. “The penteconter, the vessel of Homer’s age, had, like the modern rowboat, only one tier of oars, and its complement of rowers was from fifty to sixty. The trireme, it is generally supposed, had three tiers of oars, by which it gained that swiftness so important in the ancient mode of naval action. Its ordinary complement of rowers was, at the time of which we are treating, from 150 to 160; besides whom it commonly carried forty soldiers, and sometimes more, but on emergencies, particularly when boarded, the whole crew acted with arms.”[45] Of the triremes now in the Grecian fleet, no less than 127 were furnished by Athens, and 40 by Corinth; the rest were supplied in smaller quotas by the other Peloponnesians and islanders. With this superiority in force the Athenians were fully entitled to claim the chief command: but such was the reputation of Sparta at this time, that the Peloponnesian states refused to serve except under a Spartan leader; and the Athenians, with a rare and most laudable moderation, waived their claim rather than run the hazard of discord at so critical a moment. The credit of this forbearance is ascribed to Themistocles.

The Grecian commanders felt their inferiority of force, and were as willing to abandon the Eubœans to their fate, as shortly after to desert the Athenians. The former petitioned Eurybiades, the Spartan admiral, to remain awhile for their protection, until they could remove their families and portable effects. Failing in their application, they went to Themistocles, the Athenian admiral, who for thirty talents, about 7000l., promised to detain the fleet; and succeeded, for Eurybiades was brought[88] over by five, and the Corinthian commander by three talents; the rest appears to have been converted to his own use. Disinterestedness is not to be reckoned among the many brilliant qualities of Themistocles: but his interference, however corrupt in its origin, was wise and beneficial; for to retreat from Artemisium would have been equivalent to deserting the army, and most injurious to the common cause. The Persian commanders, seeing the small force opposed to them, were chiefly afraid lest it should escape, and detached two hundred galleys round Eubœa to blockade the other end of the Euripus, and cut off all retreat. Meanwhile, three battles, unattended with any decisive result, were fought, in all of which the Greeks appear to have gained the advantage, and their spirits were heightened by a reinforcement of fifty-three Athenian triremes, bringing news that the detachment sent round Eubœa had been overtaken by a storm and totally destroyed. But they were severely handled in the last engagement; and the news of the battle of Thermopylæ determined them to retreat nearer to their homes. Previous to his departure, Themistocles engraved these words upon the rocks at the watering place of Artemisium: “Men of Ionia, you do ill in making war upon your fathers, and helping to enslave Greece.[46] By all means therefore come over to us, or, if that cannot be, remain neuter, and persuade the Carians to do the same. But if the necessity which compels you to the part you are engaged in is such as to make a secession impracticable, yet, when we come to action, avoid exertion against us; remembering that you are descended from one blood with us, and that the enmity of the Persians was first drawn upon us in your cause.” In this he probably had a double object: if possible, to induce the Asiatic Greeks to desert; and if not, at least[89] to render them suspected, and procure their exclusion in future from the Persian line.

The fleet doubling the promontory of Sunium, the southern point of Attica, took its second station in the bay of Salamis; a situation recommended to the Athenians by its proximity to their capital; and to the Peloponnesians by the neighbourhood of the Isthmus, the key of Peloponnesus. It was here recruited by fresh ships, so that the fleet now mustered 372 triremes, of which 180 were Athenian. The Athenians expected, with good reason, that the whole strength of Peloponnesus would assemble in Bœotia for the protection of Attica, and were thrown into great consternation on finding themselves deserted, and that their Dorian neighbours had returned to their favourite scheme of fortifying the Isthmus, and there making their final stand. No hope remained, except in unconditional submission or flight, and in this dilemma the people came to the high-minded resolution of abandoning their homes and fortunes to the invader, and seeking a temporary refuge in the neighbouring islands of Salamis and Ægina, and the territory of Trœzen on the opposite coast of the Saronic gulf. Still, when the time arrived, they were unwilling to move, until Themistocles, never at a loss for expedients, called the influence of superstition to his aid. It was believed that a sacred serpent kept watch over Pallas’s temple in the Acropolis. Every month a preparation of honey was placed before the shrine, and believed to be devoured by the animal: but the last offering, the priestess said, remained untouched, and hence the inference was drawn, that the goddess had deserted her city, which availed much towards reconciling the people to depart. Proclamation was therefore made, that the city should be committed to the charge of Pallas the protectress, and that all men of age to serve should embark on board the triremes, having provided for the security of their families as best they might. All complied, except some who were too poor to support themselves in a foreign land, and a few who, putting confidence in an ambiguous oracle, believed safety to be promised to such[90] as remained in the Acropolis. A law was passed for the recall of all exiles.

Meanwhile the Persian land-force advanced from Thermopylæ unopposed through Doris into Phocis, which alone, says Herodotus, “among the states in that quarter, did not join the Mede, for no other cause, as far as I can find upon inquiry, but from their hatred to the Thessalians; for if the Thessalians had adhered to the cause of Greece, the Phocians, as I believe, would then have joined the Mede.” But they could not pretend to withstand such an overwhelming force, and, retiring from the level country, took refuge in the recesses of Mount Parnassus; and the invader carried fire and desolation through the rich but deserted vale of the Cephisus. Arriving at the Bœotian border, Xerxes, while he prosecuted his march towards Athens, detached a force to seize the treasure at Delphi, “with the contents of which,” says the historian, “he was better acquainted than with what he had left at home; so general was its celebrity, especially for the offerings dedicated by Crœsus, son of Alyattes. The citizens were naturally in great alarm both for themselves and their temple, and consulted the oracle whether they should conceal or remove the sacred deposits. The god forbad their interference, saying that he was able to defend his own: but their confidence in their patron seems not to have been unmixed with scepticism, for they transported their families across the Corinthian Gulf into Achaia, and betook themselves to the wilds of Parnassus and other strongholds, leaving in the place only Aceratus, the expounder of oracles, together with sixty men.

“When the barbarians were near at hand, and beheld the temple, at that moment the prophet observed that the sacred arms which it was unlawful for any man to touch had been brought forth from the shrine and laid in front of the building;[47] and he went to tell the Delphians, who were there, this wonder. But greater marvels occurred when the Persians came opposite to the temple of[91] Athene Pronaia; though it is no small wonder that armour should spontaneously change its place; but that which next happened, among all manner of prodigies is most worthy of admiration: for then thunderbolts fell from heaven among them, and two crags, broken from Parnassus, were borne amongst them with a dreadful crash, and slew many; while a noise of shouting was heard from the temple of the goddess.

“From these things combined a panic seized the barbarians; and the Delphians, observing that they retreated, issued down and slew a considerable number; the rest fled straight to Bœotia. And those who returned said, as I hear, that they saw other prodigies besides, for that two warriors of more than mortal stature followed their retreat, slaying them. These the Delphians affirm to have been two heroes, natives of the country, Phylacus and Antinous, to whom ground is consecrated in the neighbourhood of the temple.”[48]

It is curious that two hundred years later, when the Gauls invaded Greece and attacked Delphi, the same answer was returned by the oracle, and the assailants were again defeated in consequence of a panic terror.[49] Stripped of the miraculous, these stories seem to denote that the measures of the Delphian leaders were prudent and successful. The first step was to inspire confidence, which was done by a favourable oracle, and by the reported supernatural removal of the armour; the next, to provide for defence,—and the plan adopted is indicated by the seasonable descent of the rocks. Suppose also that a thunderstorm did really occur thus seasonably, and the whole miraculous tale will be readily and credibly explained.

The main body of the army advanced through Bœotia, which now openly espoused the Persian cause, burning on their way the patriotic towns of Thespiæ and Platæa, and took possession of deserted Athens. The few who had sought refuge in the Acropolis, trusting in the oracle, alone refused submission, and, owing to the natural[92] strength of the fortress, were not reduced without considerable trouble.

The fleet had been with difficulty detained thus long at Salamis, and now the enemy’s approach inspired general consternation: some hurried to their ships to seek safety in immediate flight; and a council being called, it was resolved by the majority of those who remained to retreat to the Isthmus, where, if defeated, they would have the support and protection of their countrymen. This was a consideration of no small importance, for the ancient vessels drew so little water, that they could be run close ashore before they grounded; and it has happened that ships so abandoned, and even taken possession of by the enemy, have been recovered by the opportune arrival of succours by land, who have dashed into the sea and overpowered the intruders. Mnesiphilus, an Athenian, met Themistocles departing from the assembly, and having heard what was determined, observed, “Then you have no longer a country to fight for: the fleet will separate: neither Eurybiades nor any one else will have power to retain it together, and Greece is ruined by lack of counsel.” Struck by the justice of his friend’s views, Themistocles returned to the Spartan admiral, and persuaded him to reassemble the council; and in his eagerness, before Eurybiades, as commander-in-chief, had explained the purpose for which they were met, he proceeded earnestly and at great length to enforce the impolicy of a retreat, when Adeimantus, the Corinthian captain, stopped him with the affronting reproof, “Themistocles, in the games men are beaten with rods who rise before their time.” He replied temperately, “But those who are left behind are never crowned,” and continued to urge the inexpediency of their present determination. “If they retreated,” he said, “they would give up Salamis, Megara, Ægina, thus leading the Persians to the very gates of Peloponnesus; and be obliged to risk a battle in the open sea, which would be doubly prejudicial to an armament inferior both in the number and the swiftness of its vessels. By remaining, on the contrary, they gained the advantage of fighting in a strait;[93] they preserved Salamis, where were the families of a large part of the Athenians; and protected Peloponnesus as effectually as if they fell back and fought at the Isthmus, without committing the error of suffering the enemy to advance unopposed so far. Moreover, if they obtained the victory, there was reason to expect that the enemy would never advance beyond Attica; and thus they would preserve from ravage Megara, Ægina, and above all Salamis, which was marked out by an oracle as the spot where they should overcome their enemy. Here Adeimantus again attacked him, bidding him be silent, as a man without a country, and objected to Eurybiades putting the proposal of one without a city to the vote; saying that Themistocles must first show what city he represented, then come and compare his own with others’ opinions. Themistocles replied in anger, with bitter taunts against Adeimantus and the Corinthians, that the Athenians possessed both the better country and the better city, so long as they had two hundred ships equipped for service, which no Grecian power, go where they would, could repel. He then turned to Eurybiades, and spoke with great earnestness. “If you abide here, and abiding, shall approve your courage—well: if not, you will be the ruin of Greece. For our ships bear the burden of the war. Be advised by me therefore. If not, we will immediately take our domestics, and make sail for Siris in Italy, which of old time is ours, and as oracles say is destined to be colonised by us: and you being abandoned by allies such as we are, will remember my words.” The concluding argument was irresistible, and they resolved to remain.[50]

The next morning an earthquake occurred at sunrise; upon which it was resolved to implore the favour and protection of Æacus,[51] and the heroes descended from[94] him, whose assistance, according to Grecian superstition, was especially to be depended on in those seas, where they had reigned, and where they were peculiarly worshipped. They paid their vows on the spot to Ajax and Telamon, in their native Salamis, and sent a vessel to offer the same tribute to the other heroes of the family at Ægina; and the appeal was believed, or at least fabled, to have been answered. One Dicæus, an Athenian exile high in the Persian service, asserted that one day, when he was in the Thriasian plain, which stretched from Eleusis northward, in company with Demaratus, the banished king of Sparta, who followed in Xerxes’ train, and was much consulted by the monarch throughout this war, they saw a cloud of dust, such as might be raised by the trampling of 30,000 men, advance from Eleusis. As they were wondering what this might be, they heard a noise, which seemed to him to be the song which the initiated[52] sang in praise of the mystic Iacchus. Dicæus then assured his companion that some great evil was about to befall the Persians; for the gods were manifestly quitting Eleusis on the desolation of Attica to proceed to the assistance of the Greeks, and if they should direct their course towards Peloponnesus, the blow would fall on the land army; if towards Salamis, then Xerxes would run great risk of losing his fleet. Demaratus wisely counselled him to keep silent, or his head might be in no less danger than the Persian marine; and presently the[95] dust rose into a cloud, which was borne off in the direction of Salamis![53]

The losses of the Persian fleet by storm and battle were repaired by reinforcements drawn from the islanders, Bœotians and others, upon its arrival at Phalerum, one of the ports of Athens. Xerxes in person presided at a council of war, when it was debated whether the fortune of another battle should be tried or no. All raised their voices in the affirmative, except Artemisia, a Grecian heroine, daughter of Lygdamis, and widow of another tyrant of Halicarnassus, who had joined the fleet with five galleys, which she herself commanded, attended regularly at the council board, and was high in the favour of the Persian monarch. She urged him to spare his ships, and not engage with an enemy as superior to his troops at sea as men to women; and said that nothing was to be gained by a battle, for he was already in possession of Attica, the great object of the campaign; and the adverse fleet, if he only remained quiet, would soon be compelled to disperse for want of provisions; while, if he advanced by land against Peloponnesus, it would immediately separate, and all would fly to their several homes, without caring to stay and fight in defence of the[96] Athenians. Xerxes acknowledged the advice to be good, but was guided by the opinion of the majority; and attributing former defeats to the want of his personal presence and encouragement, he determined to be a spectator of the battle, which was ordered to take place upon the morrow. That same night the land forces marched towards the Isthmus, which so much alarmed the Peloponnesians, already discontented and uneasy lest they should be defeated and blockaded in Salamis, that the indecision of Eurybiades was loudly reprobated, and it was tumultuously resolved not to stay to risk a battle in behalf of an already conquered country. In this crisis Themistocles had recourse to a measure singularly illustrative of the bold and crooked policy which he loved to pursue. He despatched a trusty dependant to the hostile fleet, to say that the Athenian admiral, being well disposed to the king, had sent him to give information that the Greeks were on the point of flight; and that now was the time to strike a decisive blow, because they were at variance with each other, and in an engagement many would espouse the Persian cause. The bait was taken; the Persians landed a detachment on the little islet of Psyttaleia, lying between Salamis and the main, to overpower the crews of any vessels that might be driven ashore there, and sent a force round Salamis to occupy the other end of the strait between that islet and the continent, in which the Greeks were posted, and thus deprive them of the possibility of retreat. All this passed in the course of one evening, during which the dissensions of the Greeks, ignorant that they were blockaded, had protracted their council to a late hour of the night, when Aristides, surnamed the Just, a man hostile above all others to Themistocles, and who, through his influence, had been banished from Athens, came to help his country in her distress as he best might, and forgot all private animosity in her service. Sailing from Ægina, he fell in with the enemy; and having heard that the Peloponnesians were urgent to retreat upon the Isthmus, he called Themistocles out from the assembly and addressed him thus: “It becomes us to contend, both at other seasons[97] and at this also, which of us two shall most benefit his country.” He added that they were now surrounded, and that deliberation concerning flight was vain, because Eurybiades and the Corinthians could not depart if they would: and bid Themistocles inform the assembly of this. Themistocles avowed in return that this was done by his own contrivance, adding, that since the Greeks would not fight of their own good will, it was necessary to compel them; and bid Aristides himself carry in the tidings to the council. While the dispute still raged, some believing, others rejecting the intelligence, it was confirmed by a Tenian vessel which deserted from the enemy.

At break of day, October 20th, b.c. 480, if we may trust implicitly to chronologers, they prepared for battle, and were no sooner in motion than the Persians advanced to meet them, Xerxes being stationed at the foot of Mount Ægaleos, near the port Phoron,[54] on a spot which commanded a view of the scene of action. The wind at that hour mostly blew fresh from the sea, and rolled up a strong current; two circumstances which gave the low-built Grecian ships a decided advantage over their loftier and more unwieldy opponents. For a naval conflict was chiefly carried on by means of the iron beaks with which vessels’ bows were armed, the great object being to strike an enemy upon the side, and thus, if the shock were direct and violent, sink her altogether, or at all events dash away her oars, and thus render her unmanageable. It was therefore of vital importance that they should readily obey the helm. Now a side wind had little effect upon the Grecian ships, but it disordered the Persian, which were built high in the bows and stern, to procure the advantage in a close engagement, when, as was the older usage, ship grappled with ship, and the issue, as in a land battle, depended chiefly upon the exertions of the heavy-armed soldiers: and by disordering them, it at once broke the momentum of their charge, and exposed them to what was so much dreaded, an oblique attack.[98] The Greeks, when fairly confronted with the first mass of the hostile fleet, were seized with something like a panic; and reversing the action of their oars fell back toward the land, still keeping their prows turned towards the enemy. Ameinias, brother to the poet Æschylus, and to Cynægirus, who was slain at Marathon after distinguishing his valour, broke the spell by dashing singly into the hostile ranks; and the rest then followed his example. It was said that at this moment a female figure appearing in the air gave the word to charge loud enough for the whole fleet to hear, exclaiming reproachfully, “How long for shame will ye yet back your vessels?” The event, however, seems not to have been very long doubtful. The Persians came to the attack without order, so that when the first line was routed, fresh ships crowding up from the rear, and eager to distinguish themselves under the eyes of their sovereign, ran foul of their comrades, and thus completing their wreck, were themselves thrown into confusion, and rendered unable to attack in concert, and with any probability of success. Numbers of ships were driven ashore on Salamis and destroyed, and while the action was going on Aristides landed with a body of troops upon the island Psyttaleia, and put to the sword all the Persians who were there, under the very eye of their monarch. When the Persians began to fall into confusion, the ship of Artemisia was hard pressed by an Athenian galley commanded by Ameinias, who had commenced the action, and was one of the three who were considered to have acquitted themselves best in the conflict. Being unable to retreat for the press of friendly vessels, she steered against the ship of Damasithymus, prince of Calynda in Lycia, and sunk him outright. Whether chance directed her against his vessel, or whether she selected it on account of any previous ill will, the historian professes his inability to inform us; the stratagem at least succeeded, for the Athenian took it for granted that he was pursuing one of his own side by mistake, and turned to seek some other enemy. On seeing this feat, Xerxes, who was eager to inquire by whom each action[99] worthy of observation was performed, expressed his admiration, supposing that it was a foe that had perished, and said that his men had turned women, and his women men. No historian has attempted to give a detailed account of such a scene of confusion as the battle must have presented, nor has any statement of the respective losses of the combatants been preserved. We may presume that of the Persians to have been immense, not only from the strong expression of Æschylus,[55] that the sea was scarce visible for the wrecks and gore which overspread it, and that the shores were covered with corpses, but from knowing that, when collected the next spring at Samos, their fleet numbered only 300 vessels. Immediately after the battle the remnant of the armament returned[100] to the Hellespont, so broken in spirit, that upon the sight of a few rocks lying near the promontory Zoster, the most projecting point on the western coast of Attica, they mistook them for the enemy, and dispersed in dismay.

The supernatural appearance at the moment of commencing the engagement is mentioned by Herodotus in terms that leave it doubtful whether it was a fiction propagated in the heat of action to remove a timidity fatal to the Grecian cause, or the growth of later times. If the former, it is a stratagem creditable to the ready wit of him who invented it, unless we rather believe it to have been a preconcerted fraud on the part of the Athenian commanders. The example of Pisistratus will prove that such a fraud was not alien to the character of the Athenians; and a similar story is related of Pericles, not half a century later. That eminent general and statesman, previous to a battle, observed a dark and extensive wood, consecrated to Pluto, situated so as to be visible to both armies alike. Within its shelter he stationed a man of extraordinary stature, whose appearance was rendered more imposing by all that dress and equipage could supply. His natural height increased by high-soled buskins, clothed in purple, and with flowing hair, he was placed in a lofty chariot drawn by white horses, with orders to advance upon the signal of battle being given, and call upon Pericles by name, and exhort him to confidence by the assurance that the gods were on the Athenian side. The effect was such that the enemy scarce waited for the first flight of javelins to turn their backs.[56] Not less useful to the Spanish cause was the belief that Santiago fought upon their side against the Moors. Ramiro, king of Arragon, had fought a whole day with the Moors: darkness separated the combatants, and preserved the Christian power from destruction. The king[101] having spent the first part of the night in deep anxiety concerning the fate of the morrow, was at length overtaken by sleep, and in a dream saw one who bade him be of good cheer, for that assuredly the Christians would gain the victory; and declared himself to be the Apostle James, to whose ward Spain was committed, and whose protection they should experience on the morrow provided they pacified their minds by wholesome confession, and, fortified with the holy sacrament, advanced with a firm hope to the renewal of the fray. The king communicated his dream to the prelates and barons, who hailed the assurance with joy, and having obeyed the saint’s injunctions, charged the Saracens in the name of God and St. James with such alacrity, that 60,000 were left dead upon the field. The apostle himself was conspicuous amidst the fight, mounted on a white horse, with a snow-white banner, charged with a red cross. From that time it has been usual with the Spaniards in all battles, especially with unbelievers and heathens, to call upon the name of God and St. James, which serves them for their watch-word.[57]

This disaster put a final stop to the advance of the Persians. Xerxes, wearied and discouraged by a series of misfortunes, willingly listened to a proposal, that he should return himself to Persia with the bulk of the army, and leave his brother-in-law, Mardonius, with 300,000 picked men, to complete the reduction of Greece. One story runs, that he crossed the Hellespont without fleet or army in an open boat: but not the smallest countenance is given by Herodotus to this report, which probably has no other foundation than the practice common to story-tellers in all ages, of adding ornament to what is in itself sufficiently striking. His retreat was protected by 60,000 men detached by Mardonius; but the sufferings of the multitude who followed him, and of whom no care could be taken, were dreadful. They left behind them a track, like that of locusts; even the grass and bark of trees were devoured; and[102] disease, the natural consequence of cold and hunger, carried off thousands whom the sword and famine had spared.

Xerxes seems to have entirely abandoned Attica, so that the Athenians returned without further contest to their homes: not, indeed, to enjoy them in quiet, but to give a fresh example of disinterestedness and devotion to the cause of their allies requited by ingratitude little short of treachery. Mardonius wintered in Thessaly, but, early in the spring, he sent ambassadors to detach, if possible, Athens from the Grecian cause. Xerxes, he said, had ordered him to announce that their offences should be fully forgiven, their territory restored, and increased by any other which they might choose, their temples rebuilt, and their independence secured, if they would only make submission to the king. “Why then,” he added, “are you so frenzied as to continue a war, in which you cannot conquer, nor yet resist for ever? For you know the multitude and the exploits of Xerxes’ army, and have heard what force is now under my command; and if you should vanquish me, which, however, you have no ground to hope, still you will be attacked by another armament many times as great.” The friendly envoy, Alexander, king of Macedonia, in vain added his own persuasions to these tempting offers: the reply is worthy of being preserved. “We know that the power of the Mede is many times greater than our own, so that it was unnecessary to reproach us therewith; but yet, being ardently desirous of liberty, we will defend ourselves as best we may. Tell Mardonius, therefore, that the Athenians say, so long as the sun shall run his present course, we never will submit ourselves to Xerxes, but will march against him, relying on the gods, who fight for us, and the heroes; whose temples and images he, holding them in no respect, has burnt.” To the Lacedæmonians, who sent a pressing embassy to remind them of their obligations to support the confederate cause, and, professing sympathy and regret for the losses which they had sustained, offered to support their women and those who were unserviceable[103] for war, they replied in a similar tone, that no wealth should bribe them to be accessory to the enslaving of Greece; and that to avenge the insulted honour of their gods was a sacred duty: they declined, though with thanks, the offer of assistance to support their families, and only requested, that since their reply would unquestionably produce an immediate invasion, the Lacedæmonians would be ready at the first notice to march into Bœotia, and save them, if possible, from being again obliged to abandon their country.[58]

In return for this devotion, the Spartans, as before, suffered Mardonius unopposed to occupy Attica, and, unmoved by the pressing entreaties of the Athenians, they remained at home, until it was suggested that to fortify the Isthmus would be of little use, if the sea were left free to the barbarians by the defection of the better half of the Grecian fleet. This observation produced immediate effect, and an army of 5000 Spartans and 35,000 Helots was instantly despatched, though not until the Persian invasion had again compelled the Athenians to remove their families and effects to Salamis. Mardonius, finding the Athenians immovable, burnt the city, which he had hitherto spared, and retreated into Bœotia, as offering a better field for the evolutions of his cavalry. There this eventful war was closed by the glorious victory of Platæa.

But it is not to Salamis and to Platæa that we wish especially to direct the reader’s admiration, for military virtue is a plant of hardy and extensive growth. It is the spectacle of a nation once and again quitting an endeared home (and there is much of misery comprised in these few words) in preference to owning a foreign master; and persevering in its exalted course, unchanged even by the ingratitude and injustice of those countrymen for whose welfare, conjointly with its own liberty, it rejected the most tempting offers of wealth and security, to which we look as the best justification of those high-flown eulogiums which the later Athenians[104] bestowed so liberally upon their ancestors. In seeking for a parallel case in modern history, the conflagration of Moscow at once suggests itself; but the obscurity which involves the origin of that remarkable and important event renders it impossible to determine how far the same spirit prompted the one and the other sacrifice; and the recent occurrence and notoriety of the latter furnishes an additional reason for passing it over. In its place, therefore, we shall select the most striking incident, perhaps, in the long and glorious war waged by the Low Countries for the recovery of their liberties:—the siege of Leyden, in the year 1574, when the Dutch, in greater straits than the Athenians, and unable either to defend or abandon their country, called in the powers of nature to their assistance, and sank it under the waters, rather than surrender its strongholds to the Spanish tyrant.

“Now follows the Siege of Leyden, which was particularly memorable for the condition of the succour, which so altered the order of affairs, as the besiegers became besieged; and look,—what unhappy success the assailed expected, the assailant made trial of the very same. Leyden is one of the chief towns of Holland; it is seated low, amongst, as may be said, a labyrinth of channels, part of which are running, part standing waters, and which cut through the territories thereof on all sides. The Rhine runs through it with one of its branches, which now is the weakest, but hath formerly been the most frequented; though this retain its ancient name, whereas the rest, as they draw near the sea, change it into that of other rivers. So many other channels are derived from this branch within the town itself in several parts, as the space, which is there broken off by the islands, is in a sort larger than what is united to the continent. But if it be divided by so many channels, it is rejoined by many more bridges. Of which there are about an hundred and fifty, where they may serve either for use or ornament; and the most of them are of stone. The town is well peopled; her streets are large buildings, well polished; it is well[105] flanked round about; her ditch is everywhere deep; and in fine she is in all circumstances of such condition, as the king’s men had good reason to use all endeavours to gain her, as also the rebels to keep possession of her.

“The royalists betook themselves with diligence to be masters of all avenues, whereby succour might be kept from the town. The parts thereabouts (as hath been said) are full of channels and rivers: wherefore it was thought necessary to block up all passages with sundry forts, by which the city might be come to, either by land or water; so as, ere long, there were little less than sixty forts built round about it, whereby almost all possibility of relieving it was taken away. The Leydenists this meanwhile were not wanting on their parts in preparing for defence. And judging that the royalists intended rather to take the town by famine than by the sword, they thought it not convenient to receive many foreign soldiers into the city; as well the longer to preserve their victuals, as for that they hoped they had men enough of their own to maintain and defend it.[59]

“John Douza, a famous Latin poet in those days, very nobly born, and of other high deserts, had the chief government of the affairs of the city. He failed not in acting his part well; he still encouraged the Leydenists, and fed them with hopes that the other cities would speedily join with them, and relieve them. In[106] confirmation of this, sometimes letters, sometimes messages came from without, and some news was cunningly raised within the town itself: though it were very true, that Orange and the rest of the rebels in that province laboured nothing more than how to keep a place of such consequence still at their devotion. ‘Twas now the month of August; and the Leydenists began already to suffer want of victuals. Therefore the states of the country met to treat of so weighty a business, and to find out some way whereby the city might be relieved; and this affair began to be mightily earnest. The deputies differed in their opinions, some thought that the town might be the easiliest got into by making a gallant assault by land, others held it might better be relieved by some river or channel; but the greatest part concluded that there was small hopes of doing it either one way or other, the king’s men having so strongly fortified themselves everywhere. Lewis Boisot, admiral of Holland, chanced to be at this meeting; a man very expert in maritime affairs, of a manlike spirit and good at execution; and one who was very well esteemed of over all the province. He, whilst they were hottest in the variety of their opinions, stept forth to propound his, and began to speak thus:—

“’I wish that our own misfortunes did not too deplorably teach us how perverse the fury of the sea proves sometimes to our countries. Who sees not how we are daily inforced to oppose our industry to the threats thereof? Nor have our mountainous banks been sufficient so to curb the tempest of her waves, but that sometime she hath swallowed up whole islands on some sides, and caused miserable and unheard-of ruins in other parts. We are now to seek for remedy, in this our present necessity, from these evils which do so often afflict us. Let nature work the same effect to-day, for our good, which she useth upon so many other occasions to do for our hurt. And by those weapons wherewith she makes war against us, let us by her example make war upon our enemies. Every one knows that at the two equinoxials of the year the ocean swells extraordinary[107] high upon our coasts; and, by the season of the year, we are shortly to expect the effects thereof. My counsel shall therefore be, that we may immediately, at the high tides, begin to let the waters loose into the neighbouring ground of Leyden: greater tides will hereafter follow. And thus, turning the siege upon the besiegers, we may hope to destroy our enemies within their own works, and at the same time to free the city from all danger. It may be thought impossible to relieve it by land, or by the ordinary way of channels or rivers; whereas, by the way which I have prescribed, we may believe that our enterprise will be smiled on by success. It will be in our power to let in the inundation where we please. We shall see the enemy strangely astonished and confused between the shame of abandoning the siege and the horror of continuing it. But being forced at last to fly, we shall see our own weapons and those of nature conspire together in slaughtering them on all sides; and shall see that punishment justly transferred on them which they with open violence prepared for the innocent. The country which shall be drowned will doubtlessly be somewhat indamaged thereby; but who would not bear with such an inconvenience, whereby their country shall receive so great a benefit? On the contrary, whose hair will not stand on end to think, that, after the loss of Harlem and of Leyden, all the whole province will shortly remain at the cruel will of the Spaniards? We must sometimes be wicked to be good. How oft do we cut off some one member for the welfare and safeguard of the rest of the body? Yet this evil will not prove finally so great, but that it will in time be paid with great usury. Some worldly actions prove so memorable, as they strike envy dumb and add new tongues to fame. This of ours will certainly be such, and will be everywhere highly celebrated. I, who so boldly give the advice, do as confidently pronounce the augury; and hope that the event will crown both of them with fortunate success.’

“At the hearing of so strange a proposition, the deputies were much confused, whether they should[108] accept of it or reject it. But it is oft-times seen that need, passing into necessity, necessity passeth luckily into desperation. And thus it proved in what we shall now relate. For all of them, joining at last in opinion that Leyden was not to be freed by any other way than by what Boisot had propounded, it was resolved that at all adventures, they would follow his advice. The chief banks or ditches of the Meuse and Isell between Rotterdam and Tergowe, were presently cut in divers places; and at the high tide the waters began to break in everywhere, and overflow all the grounds which lie between Tergowe, Rotterdam, Delf, and Leyden. At the sight of this unlooked-for inundation, the Spaniards were at first much astonished; but they were soon aware of the enemies’ design. The king’s forts were very many, as we have said, and divers of them were seated in the lowest places. These the inundation did quickly reach, and therefore they were quickly forsaken, and those who kept them went to join with those that kept the chiefest forts, which were so placed as they might be the more easily maintained. This meanwhile, when once the enemy had pitched upon the aforesaid resolution, they applied themselves apace to get together great store of vessels which should be fitting to relieve Leyden. They were very careful to build them with shallow bottoms, to the end that they might pass over such grounds where the waters were shallowest: the greatest part of them were built in Rotterdam by reason of the nearness and opportunity of its situation. Whole Holland was in great expectation what the success would prove, and therefore people flocked from all parts to help to build boats; many of which were to be in the form of gallies with oars, to the end that they might the easier get by the passes, and assault the forts, which were yet in the royalists’ possession. These boats were therefore furnished with many pieces of artillery, and such people as were judged fit to fight. Whilst they were making this preparation, the admiral of Holland endeavoured, with some ships prepared for that purpose, to force certain passes, and to bring some succour into Leyden; for the[109] besieged suffered very much for want of victuals, and did very earnestly solicit succour. But his design did not at that time take effect; for the waters were not yet so far increased, as that his vessels could come near Leyden. All Holland joined therefore in their prayers, that the sea might suddenly swell higher; and that the province, by raising the siege of Leyden, might receive so desired a misfortune.

“On the other side, the king’s men were not wanting in securing their forts, and repairing them with earth, hay, and whatsoever else they could come by of most commodious; and hoping that the waters would swell no higher, they persuaded themselves that they should, within a few days, finish their business. They very well knew the townsmen’s necessities; and that all their victuals being already spent, the affairs within were drawing to great extremity. While both sides were in these hopes and fears, the time came wherein nature, by way of her hidden causes, was likewise to work her effects. About the end of September the sea began to swell exceedingly, according as she useth to do in that season of the year; and pouring in at the high tides, no longer waves, but even mountains of waters, into the most inward channels and rivers, made so great an inundation, as all the country about Leyden seemed to be turned into a sea.[60] It cannot be said how much the rebels were hereby encouraged, and the king’s men discouraged. The former came presently forth with their fleet, which consisted of about one hundred and fifty bottoms, a great part whereof were made like gallies; and to these were added many other boats which served only to carry victuals. The whole fleet was thus assembled together about the beginning of October, and put to water in good order, to execute their designed relief: the gallies went on the outsides; the other greater vessels, which, if need should be, were to play upon the forts in the midst; and those which bore the victuals in[110] the rear. But there was no occasion of any great contention: for the king’s men, having valiantly defended themselves in sundry places, considering that they were not now to fight with men, but with the elements, thought rather how to withdraw themselves into places of safety, than rashly to oppose the enemy. Yet they could not forego their fortifications, neither so soon nor in so good order, but that many of them remained a prey either to the sword or to the water. And truly it was a miserable spectacle to behold from all parts, one slain, another drowned; and many endeavour to save themselves in the highest places, where, when they were freed from the waters, they were inexorably slain by the enemy.[61] ‘Tis said that above fifteen hundred of the king’s men perisht thus, and most of them Spaniards; as those who were chiefly employed in ordering the siege, and who desirous to bear away the greatest glory, fell into the greatest misfortune. Thus was Leyden at last relieved, after five months’ siege, to the exceeding great joy of the rebels and all that favoured them. But howsoever, the memory of this siege remained a long time very sorrowful in the city; for about ten thousand died within the town of hunger and other sufferings; and all the most unclean and vilest nourishment was already so consumed when the relief was brought in, and the besieged resolving rather to die than to yield; nothing was expected but that the city should give up her last breath, and remaining a miserable carcass, should be buried within her own walls and houses.”[62]


In this siege the Spanish general committed a fatal error in not trying an assault, which might probably have succeeded, since there were no regular troops within the town; a body of English auxiliaries who were placed in advance near Gouda, and intended by the Prince of Orange to form the garrison of Leyden, when dislodged, having behaved so ill in the first skirmish, that the citizens refused them entrance within the walls. And this step, which might have been their ruin, became the cause of their safety, for the additional number of consumers must have brought their provisions to an earlier end, besides that no troops, comparatively uninterested in the event, would have endured the extremity of distress to which the men of Leyden were reduced. Of the amount of their suffering, which the Italian historian just quoted barely notices, the reader will be enabled to form a fuller idea by a few particulars derived from other authorities.

“With extreme impatience they now expected the approach of those tides which are commonly the object of their dread and terror. The situation of the besieged was become the most desperate and deplorable. During seven weeks there had not been a morsel of bread within the city; and the only food had been the roots of herbs and weeds, and the flesh of dogs and horses. Even all these were at length consumed, and the people reduced to live on soup made of the hides of animals which had been killed. A pestilence succeeded to the famine, and carried off in a few weeks some thousands of the inhabitants. Those who survived, overwhelmed with anguish at the dismal scenes which they daily beheld, were scarcely able to perform the mournful office of burying the dead. In this dreadful situation they saw from their walls the flags and sails of the vessels destined for their relief, but had the mortification to perceive that it was utterly impossible for them to approach. It is not surprising that some of the people, finding their misery greater than they were able to endure, should have entertained the thoughts of surrendering the town to the enemy. Some conspiracies were again formed[112] for this purpose, but they were discovered and defeated by the vigilance of Douza, supported by a great majority of the people, to whom neither the pestilence, nor famine, nor death in its most hideous forms, appeared so dreadful as the tyranny of the Spaniards.

“A great number of people having come one day in a tumultuous manner to a magistrate whose name was Adrian, exclaiming that he ought either to give them food, or deliver the town into the hands of the enemy: ‘I have solemnly sworn,’ he replied, ‘that I will never surrender myself or my fellow-citizens to the cruel and perfidious Spaniard; and I will sooner die than violate my oath. I have no food, else I would give it you. But if my death can be of use to you, take, tear me in pieces, and devour me; I shall die with satisfaction, if I know that by my death I shall for one moment relieve you from your direful necessity.’ By this extraordinary answer, the people, struck with astonishment, were silenced, and their fury was for some time appeased.”[63]

In default of a better parallel to the battle of Salamis, we conclude this chapter with the overthrow of the Spanish Armada. The points of resemblance, such as they are, are sufficiently obvious and general, and consist in the magnitude of the interests at stake, in the alacrity shown by the English as well as by the Athenian people, and in the signal defeat of the greater by the less force. We may also direct attention to the circumstance, that in each case the defeated fleet was superior to its antagonist in the bulk no less than the number of its ships, and in each case owed its destruction mainly to that very superiority; the lighter and more manageable vessels proving an over-match for their formidable-looking opponents. The incident, however, is sufficiently striking to deserve notice, even if the resemblance were weaker, and if national vanity called less strongly for its insertion; independently of which we have some pleasure in giving the following high-sounding specimen of a contemporary historian, who has summoned all his[113] powers to match the dignity of his subject by the elevation of his style.

“Although this present yeere 1587 were but as the vigil of the next ensuing yeere 1588, concerning which yeere many ancient and strange prophecies in divers languages, and many excellent astronomers of sundry nations, had in very plain termes foretold, that the yeere 1588 should be most fatall and ominous unto all estates, concluding in these words, or to the like effect, viz. ‘And if in that yeere the world doe not perish and utterly decay, yet empires all, and kingdomes after shall, and no man to raise himself shall know no way, and that for ever after it shall be called the yeere of wonder,’ &c., yet for divers yeeres past, by reason of the aforesaid generall predictions, all Europe stood at gaze, vehemently expecting more strange and terrible alterations, both in imperiall and regall estates, than ever happened since the world began. Which sayd universall terror was this present yeere half abated, and plainely discovered that England was the maine subject of that time’s operation: for albeit, the Spanish provision for three yeeres past were discerned to be wonderous great, for speciall service by sea and land, yet used they all possible secrecy concerning their intent, until they were fully furnished.

“The queene and councell, for two yeeres space, caused the ministers to manifest unto their congregations the furious purpose of the Spanish king, dukes of Parma and Guyse, with the dangerous dissimulation of the French king, by whose paines and industry the whole communality became of one hearte and mind, and began to retaine a stronger opinion touching the Spaniards settled resolution for the invasion of England, than either queene or councell. The English nation were so combined in heart, that I here confesse I want art lively to expresse the sympathy of love between the subjects and the sovereigne.

“This yeere 1587, being fully spent, and each man’s mind, more forward than the spring, of infinite desire to grapple with the enemie, after many musters both of[114] horse and foote, and due survey of England’s chiefest strength, to wit, navigation, captaines, commanders, leaders, and fit officers were appointed unto their severall charges, over all which land forces, Robert Earle of Leicester was lord generall, and Henry Lord Hounsdon was generall for the queenes person.

“Cities, counties, townes and villages, the cinque-ports, and all other havens of England, manifested as great forwardnesse in their zealous love and dutie, as either subjects could perform or prince expect. To single out the admirable dexterity and bounty of any one particular place, or people, were apparent wrong to all, yet for a taste of trueth in all, thus much may bee sayd for London. After the councell had demaunded what the citty would doe in their prince and countryes right, the lord maior and aldermen humbly besought their honours to set downe what their wisedomes thought requisite in such a case: the lords demanded five thousand men, and fifteene ships; the city craved two days respite for answere, which was granted, and then entreated their lordships, in signe of their perfect love and loyaltie to their prince and country, kindly to accept tenne thousand men and thirty shippes, amply furnished. And even as London London-like gave president, the whole kingdome kept true ranke and equipage.

“The whole nobility, most nobly like themselves, and like planets of the higher orbes, in kind conjunction knit their hearts in one, whose princely valour equalling their love, assured their soveraigne of triumphant victory.”

The English fleet was divided into two squadrons, one under Lord Henry Seymour of sixteen ships, appointed to watch the narrow seas, and prevent communication between the Armada and the Duke of Parma, then commanding in Flanders; the other stationed on the western coast, to meet their formidable enemy upon his first approach to the British shore, composed of vessels of all sizes and descriptions, in number from eighty-five to one hundred. Lord Charles Howard, High Admiral of England, commanded in chief; Drake, a[115] name of fear to the Spaniard, was vice-admiral, and among many lords and gentlemen who held subordinate commands, the well-known seamen Hawkins and Frobisher filled worthy place and trust. The train bands or militia of the maritime counties, being summoned to be ready for service on their own coast, at the earliest warning, two strong armies were collected from the interior, one of 2000 horse and 34,000 foot for the defence of the queen’s person, and as a disposable force; the other was encamped at Tilbury; and the opposite town of Gravesend being fortified, it was proposed to connect the two banks and shut up the river by a bridge of boats.

“It was a pleasant sight to behold the soldiers as they marched towards Tilbury, their cheerful countenances, courageous words and gestures, dauncing and leaping wheresoever they came, and in the campe, their most felicity was hope of fight with the enemy, where oft times divers rumours ran of their foes’ approach, and that present battell would bee given them; then, were they as joyfull at such newes, as if lusty giants were to run a race: in this campe were many old soldiers and right brave commanders, who, although in their greatest force did never exceede the number of 3000 horse and 15,000 foot, yet there were ready in all places many thousands more to backe and second them, and it was found good policy not on the sudden to keepe too great an army in one place.

“Thus England being in all points furnished, and in good readiness for their own defence, I will speake a word or two concerning the Hollanders, then leave them awhile, and report of their adversaries’ estate and preparation.

“The Hollanders came in roundly with threescore sayle, brave shippes of war, fierce and full of spleene, not so much for England’s ayd, as in just occasion of their own defence, knowing the originall and ground of this hostility to proceed from themselves, with thirty years’ continued sharpe warre. These men foreseeing the greatnesse of the danger that might ensue if the Spaniards should chance to winne the day, and get the mastery over them, in due regard whereof their manly courage was inferior to none.


“The King of Spaine, after three yeares deliberate advice, was three yeeres preparing this twofold army in Spain, whereof he made Alphonso Perez, duke of Medina Sidonia, chiefe generall, and Don Martino Recaldo, of Cantabria, vice-admirall: which army, by the ayde of the clergy, the princes of Italy, as well friends as feodaries, the seven kingdomes in Spain, the entire state of Portugall, together with the help of mariners, pylots, munition, tackling and victuall from the north-west parts of Europe, was now fully furnished, about the middle of May, riding at anchor in the river Tagus, neare Lisbon, consisting of 128 vessels for warre, viz. carricks, galleons, argoseys, and four galliasses, 2555 pieces of great ordinance, 12,000 mariners, and 20,000 land soldiers, besides voluntaries, vitlers, hospitals, and shippes of artificers to attend them. When the king beheld this mighty host, observing well their matchless strength, and plenteous provision for sea and land, as well for others as themselves, to wit, oyle, wine, rice, salt, biskit, horses, mules, carts, carriages, powder, shot, saddles, apparel, pickaxes, and shovels, hee sayd, it might well be called the Invincible army. It was ever meant this army should have been at the Groyne[64] before this time, to have taken the full advantage of the yeere, for so the Dukes of Guise and Parma did expect, whose preparations, on all points, were in a better readinesse at the beginning of June, according to the king’s appointment, than they were afterward; for seeing the sommer half spent, they doubted whether the king would send his army this yeere, or no, but the king could not help it, for that his ships were furnished in divers ports, and through contrary winds could not be united until this present, so as they were constrained to anchor at Lisbon, where they should have hoysed sail at the Groyne, to wit, about the beginning of June.”

The terms of naval architecture just used require some explanation. Carracks, argosies, and galleons, were names for the largest species of sailing vessels in use. Some idea of their size may be formed from the dimensions of a Portuguese vessel captured in 1592. Her[117] burthen was 1600 tons, she carried 32 pieces of brass ordnance, and between 600 and 700 passengers, and was built with decks seven stories high. She is said to have been in length from the figure-head to the stern 165 feet; in breadth near 47. Carrack was a name given by the Portuguese to the vessels built for the Brazil and East-Indian trade: their capacity was chiefly in their depth. Galleasses were the largest vessels impelled by oars, and differed from galleys only in their superior size, and in the arrangement of the artillery.

A minute detail of the number and force of the Spanish fleet is given in Charnock’s History of Marine Architecture. It appears that the vessels classed as galleons mounted from 50 to 20, or even so few as 15 cannon, and the largest of them were from 1000 to 1600 tons burthen. The following summary will convey some notion of the size and equipment of the vessels in use, and show the immense superiority of the Spanish over the English force.

Tonnage.   No. of
Guns. Sailors Soldiers.
7,739 Portuguese
} 10 2 389 1,242 3,086
5,861 Biscayan   10 4 302 906 2,117
8,054 Castilian 15 2 474 1,793 2,924
8,692 Andalusian 10 1 315 776 2,365
7,192 Guypuiscoan 11 4 296 608 2,120
8,632 Italian 10 0 319 844 2,792
10,860 Medina 0 24 466 930 3,570
2,090 Mendoza[65] 0 25 204 746 1,481
———   —— —— —— ——— ———
59,120   66 62 2,765 7,845 20,455
Four Neapolitan Galleasses,
mounting    50 guns each
} 200 477 744 1,200
Four Portuguese 50 ” ”   200 424 440 888
  —— —— —— ——
400 901 1,184 2,088
2,765 7,845 20,455
—— —— ———
3,165 8,746 21,639


The English force is less minutely given: numerically it was superior to the Spanish, for it consisted of 175 vessels, besides others classed as victuallers; but the inferiority of the several ships in size and force will appear from a comparison of their tonnage and the number of their crews. The largest of the royal navy was of 1100 tons: the collective burthen of the fleet amounted only to 29,744 tons, barely more than half that of the Spanish navy, and their crews consisted of 14,501 men, opposed to a numerical force more than double their number. The number of guns and weight of metal of the English fleet, we have not been able to obtain—in this respect the disproportion was probably even greater. The reader will observe that we have not taken into account the Dutch squadron, which did good service in blocking up in their harbours the forces collected by the Duke of Parma, but never were opposed to the Spanish fleet.

The Armada in its passage from Lisbon to the Groyne was considerably injured by stress of weather, which still further delayed it, and June and July being almost spent, and no appearance of the enemy, it began to be thought that for that year at least the Spaniards would not come. Many of the volunteers, therefore, being indifferently provided for keeping the sea, dispersed themselves into different harbours, and the queen, economical even to parsimony, countenanced this imprudence by recalling from the high admiral four of her great ships. Meanwhile the Duke of Parma had assembled in Flanders 30,000 foot and 5000 horse, and collected in his ports 340 flat-bottomed vessels, great and small, to land his men readily upon an open strand, with store of all necessaries to make good his descent, even in the face of an enemy. The plan of the campaign was this: the Duke of Medina was ordered to steer direct to Flanders, place himself under the command of the Duke of Parma, who under convoy of the Armada should disembark in Kent or Essex, as near to London or to the camp as he could. It was also meant that the Duke of Guise should first have landed in the west, under protection of the Spanish navy as it passed along, to effect a diversion in favour of[119] the real attack; while, after the arrival of the Duke of Parma, the fleet, passing northward, was appointed to land in Yorkshire 12,000 men.

“The Spanish navy having refreshed themselves at Groyne, after twenty-eight days’ rest, set forward for England, about the 11th of July, in the greatest pompe that eye ever beheld, matchlesse in state, commaunding their passage whersoever they came, exceeding far the force of those two thousand warlike sayle of great Symeramis,[66] or the like number at commaund of the Egyptian Cleopatra, or those 1200 well prepared ships raised by Charles of Fraunce, with like full purpose of invasion, for revenge upon King Richard the Second, for dammage done by his graundsire Edward the Third, in his French conquest; but this proud navy hath more skilfull guides, and in the overweening of her strength sets forward boldly to perform her charge (though in stealing wise), as if necessity hadde constrained them to take advantage of home-bred traytors, or ambitious rebels, risen against their state, and not like souldiers, sent in cause of just hostilitie, to encounter with an honourable enemy, without due summons, or defiance unto armes, according to the law of nations.

“The 19th of July the English admirall, upon direct knowledge of the enemies approach, sends speedy summons unto all the English fleet, who still retained their former courage. The Spaniards by this time were entered the mouth of the narrow seas, whose number, state and strength being well observed by the lord admirall, and rightly considered, that it was now no time to dally or flatter in so imminent daunger, in depth of humane judgment, and discharge of duty to his prince and country, instantly addressed his letters by his brother[120] in law, Sir Edward Hobby, unto her majesty, signifying the great difference in power betwixt the English and the Spaniard, and therefore seeing the English navall forces far inferior to the Spanish army, advised the queene to send more ayde to the sea, and to make ready the chiefe strength of her land forces: at which newes the queene forthwith commands more ships to the sea, whereupon yet in voluntary manner, the earles of Oxford, Northumberland and Cumberland, Sir Thomas Cecill, Sir Robert Cecill, Sir Walter Rawleigh, master Thomas Gerrard, master Arthur Gorge, Sir Thomas Vavasor, and many other honourable personages, were suddenly embarked, committing themselves unto the present chaunce of warre.

“Gentlemen and yeomen of sundry shires, bordering on the sea, knowing many of the English shippes to bee very weakly furnished with victuall and munition, out of their singular zeale and loyalty sent cheerefully such provision as they either could make, or was provided for their families; yea, such was the integrity of the English, as the recusants offered their service, and were desirous to take their fortune with the common souldiers.

“The 21st July the Spaniards came as high as Plimmouth, where divers English shippes lay fast in harbor, the rest gave charge upon the enemie; the Armado then daraines[67] itselfe into the fashion of the crescent moone; each side prepares themselves speedily to fight with braves and bravadoes, their shrill sounding trumpets and their ratling drums lent mutuall courage unto both batalions, and loud thundring canons send swift messengers of death: both armies strive to get advantage of the wind, but the English, beeing much more quick and yare, winne their desire, and England’s admirall in person gave the onset, and for two houres space maintained a valiant fight untill night drew on, and wanting forty of the English fleete, which as yet could not by any meanes come unto their ayde, they tackt about.


“The next day the English navy beeing well encreased, gave charge and chase upon the enemie squadron after squadron, seconding each other like swift horsemen, that could nimbly come and goe, and fetch the wind for most advantage. Now begins the furious fight on either part, and manly souldiers firmly keepe their stand upon the starboord and larboord side, and as occasion serves, some cry keepe aloofe, others roome ho; if the seas were calme, it serves the English well to charge upon the greatest bulwarke of the Spanish fleete; and then their galliasses, as sergeants of the band, would issue foorth sometimes to succour their distressed friends, and otherwhiles with purpose to surprise such English as they saw becalmed, whose kindnesse oft the English with their broadsides would requite, sending their dole untill the Spaniards blood ranne out at scupper hole; but if the wind grew bigge and billowes played aloft, then the Spaniards with their lofty towers make full account to stem the English comming in their way: sometimes the English in their eager fight fell foule upon the daunger of their ennemies, and so continued from the evening unto the breake of day: the lord high admirall himselfe was one whole night within the maine battell of the Spanish army: both navies showed great valour in their dayly fight, which commonly continued within the reach of musket shot, and many times at push of pike without intermission, save only when for want of wind they were restrained: the English chiefetaines ever sought to single out the great commaunders of the Spanish hoste whose loftie castles held great scorne of their encounter: but whilest both armies were thus conjoyned, Don Pedro de Valdez, a chiefe commaunder of the army, fell fowle upon one of his fellowes, and brake his foremast, who being maimed and left behind, lay like a stiffe elephant in the open field, beset with eager hounds, who being commaunded to yeelde, sayd, he would yeelde to none but his equal, and asked in whose squadron hee was fallen, they answered into Drake’s squadron, then he sayd, fetch him for I will yeeld to none but to a commander like myself. Drake being returned from chasing[122] certain Easterlings, Don Pedro beganne to articulate, but Drake peremtorily told him, it was now no time to stand upon tearmes of composition, whereupon he yeelded; having caused all their jewels, plate, money, apparell, with whatever else their present state could any way afford, to bee layed open, to prevent the fury of the English when they came aboord.

“After that, another galleon by negligence was set on fire, and therewith consumed to the lower decke, under which lay store of gunpowder, never touched. The lord Thomas Howard, pittying their extream misery, but not being able to stay on boord through extreamity of stench, caused the remainder of those scorched men to be set on shore.

“The Spanish navie for sixe dayes space having endured many sharpe fights and fierce assaults coasting and discoasting from England to the coast of Fraunce, and from thence to England, and then to Fraunce again, the seaven and twentieth of July, towards night, they cast anchor nigh to Callis Roade, the English likewise rid at anchor very neere unto them.

“Now rides the Armada at her wished post, unto whom the Duke of Parma sends present word, that within three days their forces should conjoyne, and with first advantage of wind and tyde, transport their armies to the English coast, in meane space they would personally meet, and then determine betweene themselves what was further to be done.

“The Flemings, Walloons, and the French came thicke and threefolde to behold the fleete, admiring the exceeding greatnesse of their shippes, and warlike order; the greatest kept the outside next the enemie, like strong castles, fearing no assault, the lesser placed in the middleward; fresh victuals straight were brought aboord, captaines and cavaliers for their money might have what they would, who gave the French so liberally as within twelve houres an egge was worth sixe pence, besides thanks.

“Whilest this lusty navie, like a demi-conqueror, ryd thus at anchor, the Spanish faction in sundry nations[123] had divulged that England was subdued, the queene taken and sent prisoner over the Alpes to Rome, where barefoote shee should make her humble reconciliation, &c.

“In Paris, Don Barnadino de Mendoza, ambassador from Spaine, entred into our lady church (Nôtre Dame) advancing his rapier in his right hand, and with a loud voyce cryed, Victorie, Victorie, and it was forthwith bruited that England was vanquished. But the next day when trueth was known of the Armadoes overthrow, certain pages of adverse faction unto Spain, in bitter scoffing manner, humbly prayed his lordship’s letters unto the Duke of Parma, in favour of their good fortune, to bestow on them some odde wast cast townes or villages, as London, Canterbury, or York, or so, whereat Mendoza, being much dismayed, obscured himself, not daring to show his face.

“France, Italy, and Germany, were very doubtfull of the English state, and in those places the English merchants well perceived their double eye, one while smyling on Spaines behalf, and then upon the English casting a fleering looke.

“The queenes navy having well observed the martiall order and invincible strength of the Spaniards, and that it was not possible to remove them by force of fight, and therewithall considered the present purpose of the duke of Parma, and their owne imminent daunger, omitted no time, but according to the present necessity, the generall with his councell of warre, concluded to make their first stratagem by fire, and thereupon, the 28th July, they emptied eight of their basest barkes, and put therein much combustible matter, which in the evening were subtilly set on fire, and with advantage both of wind and tyde, guided within the reach of canon shotte, before the Spaniards could discern the same; and then the flame grew fierce with sudden terror to the enemie, who thought these floates to have been like the sundry workes of wildfire lately made to break the bridge at Antwerpe, in which feare they all amazed with shrikes and loud outcries, to the great astonishment of the neere inhabitants,[124] crying, The fire of Antwerpe, the fire of Antwerpe; some cut cables, others let the hawsers slippe, and happiest they who could first bee gone, though few could telle what course to take.

“The first whereof that ran aground, was a galliasse, hard by Callis walls, where the English freely tooke the common spoyle, until they began to take the ordinance and to fire the shippe, whereat the governor being sore displeased, knowing the royalty thereof to be appropriate to himselfe, discharged his canons from the citadel, and drove the English from their benefite. The next was a galleon, which ranne ashoare in Flanders. Divers others fell into the hands of the Hollanders. The rest endeavoured by all meanes possible to cast anchor before Gravelyn or Dunkerke, hoping still to have supply from Parma.

“But the English forces being now wholly united, prevented their enemies conjoyning together, and followed their fortunes to the uttermost, continuing four dayes fight in more deadly manner than at any time before, and having incessant cause of fresh encouragement chased the Spaniards from place to place, until they hadde driven them into a desperate estate; so as of necessity, as well for that the wind was westerly, as that their enemies increased, and their own provision of sayles, anchors and cables greatly wasted, resolved to shape their course by the Orcades and the north of Ireland. In whose pursuit, if the English had been but meanly furnished with victual and munition, they would have brought them all unto their mercy, but when they saw them past the Orcades and the Scottish seas, they made retreat. And if the Spaniards had but two days longer continued fight, the English must have made a retreat for want of shotte and powder, and left the Spaniards to their most advantage.

“About the end of September the duke of Medina arrived in Spaine, being as much discountenanced at court, as discouraged in his journey; and of all his royall navy which he caryed foorth, there returned only threescore sayle, sore distressed, the rest whereof, some were taken[125] and spoyled by the English in the narrow seas, and some taken by the Hollanders, and some made a fayre escape by landing in Scotland; but the most perished upon the Irish coast, and slaine by Gallowglasses, whose generall losse was much lamented through Spaine, for that every noted family had lost a kinsman or a neere ally.

“Shippes under the command of the lord high admirall of England, this yeare, 1588:

Of shippes Royal 17
Attended by other warlike ships 12
And of lusty pinnaces 6
From London there were sent of brave, warlike ships 16
And of pinnaces 4
From Bristow there were sent of serviceable ships 3
And one pinnace 1
From Barstaple there were sent in this expedition, of ships 3
From Excester there were sent of ships 2
And one pinnace 1
From Plimmouth there were sent of ships well appointed 7
And one flye boat 1

“There was sent a pinnace of the lord admirall’s—also a pinnace of the lord Sheffield’s, and a pinnace of Sir William Winter’s.

“The merchant adventurers of England set foorth at their own proper charges, of lusty ships—10.

“Ships under the lord Henry Seymour in the narrow seas:—Of ships royall, accompanied with other very warlike ships well appointed, being in number—16.

“Besides all these, there were many other barkes, ships, and pinnaces, sent out of the north parts and west parts, as also particularly by divers persons, as by the lord admirall, by divers other lordes, knights, and gentlemen, and some others his followers, and by sundry other noble and vallerous gentlemen and gallant marchants, whereof I could never attaine the certaine knowledge, though I greatly sought it.”

The partisans of the two contending nations differ widely, as is to be expected, in their estimates of the loss[126] sustained. The victors said that eighty vessels and 18,000 men had perished: Strada rates it at thirty-two captured and wrecked, and 10,000 men: but he acknowledges that the result of the expedition filled all Spain with mourning.





Sequel of the Life of Miltiades—of Aristides—of Themistocles.

We shall hereafter have occasion to describe briefly the total change of the international relations and politics of the Greek communities, which ensued in consequence of[128] the Persian war. Athens was rewarded for her exertions and sufferings by half a century of increasing and almost uninterrupted splendour, under the successive guidance of Themistocles, Cimon, and Pericles. Still, as we do not write the history of Greece, we shall pass in silence over this brilliant period. Seasons of convulsion present the phenomena on which men dwell, and the eras by which they date, in the moral as well as in the physical world, where the silent process by which Nature elaborates her productions, the slow mouldering of mountains into new plains of inexhaustible fertility pass almost unobserved and unappreciated: but the attention is roused and compelled when the destructive powers of the hurricane and earthquake are let loose. But before we pass entirely from this subject, it will be well briefly to relate the further fortunes of those men to whom Athens owed, not only her greatness, but her existence.

The battle of Marathon raised Miltiades to the height of popularity. He availed himself of it to request an armament of ninety ships, with troops and money, not stating the object of his expedition to his countrymen, but merely promising to enrich them, if they would follow him, for that he would lead them to a land whence they should bring home gold without end. The Athenians, elated by this hope, consented; and he immediately sailed to the island of Paros, and laid siege to its capital, under pretence of exacting satisfaction because a Parian trireme had served in the Persian fleet. This, Herodotus says, was the pretence; but the real reason was a grudge against the Parians, because one of them, Lysagoras, had done him a bad turn with Hydarnes, the Persian governor of the Ionian coast. He therefore sent a herald to demand 100 talents (about 25,000l.), saying, that unless they complied, he would never lead away his troops till he had taken the city. But as to giving Miltiades the money, the Parians had no notion at all of that—they only thought how they might best protect themselves; and they laboured by night to double the height of the walls, wherever they seemed open to attack.


“So far,” says Herodotus, “all the Greeks agree.” The Parians had a little prodigy of their own to account for the failure of the enterprise. When Miltiades made little progress, and was in perplexity, a Parian woman, priestess of the infernal deities, came to him and bade him follow her advice, if it were of importance to him to possess the city. In obedience to her advice, he went to an eminence in front of the city, on which there was a temple dedicated to Ceres, and being unable to open the gates of the sacred enclosure, he leaped over it, and advanced towards the fence, with what specific purpose the historian relates not. On approaching the door he was seized with terror and shuddering, and hastily retreated as he had entered; but in leaping over the fence, he inflicted a severe injury upon his leg. Another story is told by Cornelius Nepos, that a forest upon the continent, which could be seen from the island, by some chance was set on fire during the night, and that the besiegers and the besieged alike concluded it a signal of coming help from the Persian monarch.[68] But all agree that Miltiades lay sick, and that the siege proceeded unfavourably, and that at last, Herodotus says on the 26th[130] day, he broke it up, and led home the fleet. The Athenians were very angry, and shortly after his return, Xanthippus, one of the Alcmæonid party, brought a capital charge against him, “on account of the deceit practised on the people.” Miltiades was too ill to defend himself, for his wound had mortified; but he appeared before the assembly in a litter, while his friends spoke in his behalf, expatiating on the services which he had rendered to the state, especially at Marathon. This being their chief dependence, we may presume that they felt they had a weak cause to support. The people remitted the capital punishment, but imposed a fine of fifty talents,[69] (12,500l.) Miltiades died soon after, and the fine was discharged by his celebrated son Cimon.

Such is the story as it is told by Herodotus. It is not theatrical enough for later writers, who have related how the victor of Marathon, being unable to discharge the fine imposed upon him, was cast into prison, and died there; and how his body was refused the rites of burial, until Cimon redeemed it by the sacrifice of his own liberty. The reader will do well to hesitate in receiving such ornamental passages in Grecian history, when uncorroborated by the earliest authorities. The silence of Herodotus alone would be sufficient to discredit this story. It has, however, been acutely inferred from a passage in Plato, that Miltiades was sentenced to imprisonment, probably till the fine was paid (a very necessary provision), but that this part of the sentence was not carried into effect.[70]

The death of Miltiades has been a favourite topic for declamation against popular ingratitude. If the Athenians were really deceived; if they supposed, as the promise of unbounded wealth might lead them to think,[131] that he intended to lead them against the Persians, and their anger was directed against the misapplication of the national resources to gratify private animosity, and plunder a kindred state; then was their conduct just and honourable. No claim to public gratitude ought to be allowed to screen a public delinquent from detection; when guilt is proved, past services may fitly be alleged in mitigation or remission of punishment. But we cannot implicitly believe in this virtuous indignation; and are inclined to suspect that if Miltiades had returned with one hundred talents, he would have heard nothing of prosecution, and that the failure, not the attack upon Paros, was the true grievance. During a siege of twenty-six days there was abundant time to recall the fleet, if the enterprise had been disapproved. Nepos indeed says that he was charged with having received a bribe from Persia to withdraw; and ascribes the readiness of the Athenians to convict, to a growing dread of his talents and popularity, and fear lest he should prove a second Pisistratus. This is not improbable; it is in perfect keeping with the institution of ostracism, which seems to have been first levelled against Aristides five or six years later.

The rival statesmen, Aristides and Themistocles, men diametrically opposite as well in character as in politics, were rising to the first honours before the battle of Marathon. Aristides was one of the ten generals appointed on that occasion, and the year after held the dignity of Archon. Simple, just, and disinterested, neither for his own nor his country’s advantage would he deviate from the plain rules of honesty; and he thus earned and merited the appellation of the Just. Themistocles on the contrary was avowedly actuated by party spirit; and his desire to raise his country seems to have been secondary to his desire to raise himself. Crooked as acute in his policy, he scrupled not as to the character of his means, if they were fitted to promote his end; and his strenuous exertions in the Persian war were so skilfully contrived, as to secure for himself a kind reception from the victor, if his first object, the deliverance[132] of Athens, failed. Two such men, of whom the former supported the aristocratical, the latter the democratical party, were not likely to remain at peace; and two or three years before the invasion of Xerxes, Themistocles had influence enough to procure a vote of ostracism against his rival. This was a species of banishment for five, ten, or twenty years, called ostracism from ostrakon, a shell, or piece of earthenware, because citizens wrote the name of him whom they wished to exile upon some such material, and cast it into a balloting box. To obtain a decree of this nature six thousand votes were required. Ostensibly it was neither a punishment nor disgrace, but merely intended as a safeguard lest even the virtues and services of great men should become dangerous to the liberty of their country. Themistocles, however, had a mind capable of laying aside private enmity when an emergency required it, and himself proposed a decree before the battle of Salamis, by which Aristides, with all other exiles, was recalled. Eminent alike, each upon his own element, as the one at Salamis, so the other commanded the Athenians at Platæa. On this occasion, the post of honour, the right wing, being held according to their constant custom by the Lacedæmonians, a dispute arose between the Athenians and Tegeatæ which should be placed in the left. Here Aristides displayed his prudence and moderation.[71] “We came here,” he said, “to fight, and not to talk. Since however the Tegeatæ have advanced their deeds of renown, both in old times and of late, it is necessary that we also should explain to you our claims to priority among Greeks.” Then briefly enumerating their ancient glories, and concluding with mention of Marathon, he added, “But this is no time to wrangle about place. We are ready to obey you, Lacedæmonians, wherever and against whomsoever you choose to station us; and wherever we are, will do our best. Command us, therefore, as men who will obey.” The whole army of the[133] Lacedæmonians shouted out, that the Athenians were more worthy than the Tegeatæ to lead the left wing.

We must refer to the history of Greece for the formation of a confederacy to prosecute the war against Persia, and for the events which disgusted the members of it with Sparta, and induced them to place Athens at their head. Aristides at this time commanded her fleet; and his known probity and moderation probably had much influence in procuring this distinction, the first step to her future empire. To him was referred the delicate task of apportioning the sums which each state should contribute to the general fund: and so justly did he execute this trust that all parties were satisfied; and in later times the tributaries to the Athenian treasury referred to the assessment of Aristides as a sort of golden age. He died, it is said, in the year 467 b.c., poor, but honoured, insomuch that he was buried at the public charge, and his children were provided for at the public expense. This is the best testimony to the honesty of a man through whose hands four hundred and sixty talents passed yearly.

The career of Themistocles was of a far more varied and eventful nature. His first recorded appearance in public life was signalised by a measure pregnant with important results; and doubly meritorious, as proving that at an early age he clearly distinguished the true policy of Athens, and because it did not seem likely to advance the fortunes of an aspiring man who sought to build his greatness upon popular favour. The revenues accruing from the silver mines of Laureium, instead of being applied to any public purpose, were distributed among the citizens, and furnished a gratuity of ten drachmæ (about eight shillings) to each man. Themistocles saw the importance of being strong at sea, and had influence or eloquence enough to obtain a decree to apply this income exclusively to ship-building, until two hundred triremes were completed with the money. This made the Athenians at once a great maritime power, whereas before they had but few ships, and those chiefly of the smaller class. This seems to have[134] taken place the year before the battle of Marathon. “Now, after this good beginning and success, he won the citizens by degrees to bend their force to sea, declaring to them how by land they were scant able to make head against their equals, whereas by their power at sea they should not only defend themselves from the barbarous people, but moreover be able to command all Greece. Hereupon he made them good mariners, and passing seamen, as Plato saith, where before they were stout and valiant soldiers by land. This gave his enemies occasion to cast it in his teeth afterwards, that he had taken away from the Athenians the pike and target, and had brought them to the galley and the oar, and so he got the upper hand of Miltiades, who in that inveighed against him. Now after he had thus his will by bringing the sea service to pass, whether thereby he did overthrow the justice of the commonweal or not, I leave that to the philosophers to dispute. But that the preservation of all Greece stood at that time on the sea, and that the galleys only were the cause of setting up Athens again, Xerxes himself is a sufficient witness, besides other proofs that might be brought thereof.”[72]

His brilliant services were duly acknowledged. At the first Olympic festival celebrated after the defeat of Xerxes, he occupied more attention than the contending champions; and even the Spartans, while they gave the prize of valour to their own admiral Eurybiades, awarded to him that of wisdom, and though generally little gratified by the visits of strangers, invited him to Lacedæmon, and appointed a guard of honour of three hundred citizens to attend him. Continuing in command of the Athenian squadron when the allied fleet began to exact satisfaction from those islanders who, probably against their will, had followed the Persian standard, he abused his high character and station by extorting large sums as the price of his protection from those islands or persons who were obnoxious to the charge of Medism, or having favoured the Persian cause. “Let others extol[135] Pausanias, or Xanthippus, or Leotychides; my praise shall be for Aristides, the best man of sacred Athens. For Latona detests Themistocles, the false, the unjust, the traitor; who for paltry pelf deserted the interest of Timocreon, his friend and host, and refused to restore him to his native Ialysus. Money guided the destructive course of the fleet; while the corrupt commander, restoring unjustly, persecuting unjustly, some into banishment, some to death, as the larger bribe persuaded, filled his coffers.”[73] Such were the charges brought against him by Timocreon, a Rhodian, who had been guilty of apostacy from the Grecian cause, and depended on Themistocles’ friendship to restore him to his country. In this particular case there seems to have been nothing to blame, and indeed the accusation is, that Themistocles did not pervert his power to gratify private ends: but the concurrent testimony of antiquity leads us to conclude that these charges of unjust and interested dealing rest upon a solid foundation.

We must refer to the History of Greece for an account of the bold and able measures by which he secured time to rebuild the walls of Athens, and for the improvement of the harbour Piræeus, which under his superintendence was connected with the city by walls built of squared blocks of marble, and became the most complete naval arsenal yet known. How long he continued to enjoy his high popularity and authority is not known: but he wanted moderation to retain what he had justly acquired. He offended the people by an unworthy vanity, and disgusted the allies by rapacity and ostentation, insomuch that reports were circulated of his holding correspondence with Persia, and aiming at the tyranny of Athens, if not of all Greece. And he had powerful enemies at home to take advantage of these errors, not so much in Aristides, whose honest opposition was untinged by personal or factious animosity, as in the Alcmæonidæ, and in Cimon, son of Miltiades, who at this time was in the commencement of his long, and brilliant,[136] and virtuous career. To them the democratical tenor of his policy and his personal superiority were alike distasteful; and they had influence enough to procure his banishment by ostracism for five years. This took place in the year 471 b.c. During this period, Pausanias, king of Sparta, was convicted of having engaged in a treasonable correspondence with the Persian monarch, and put to death; and the Lacedæmonians asserted that they had proof of Themistocles being concerned in the plot, and required that the same punishment might be inflicted upon him. Plutarch says that he flatly refused to join in the treason of Pausanias, but that he preserved the secret. His accusers required that he should be brought to trial, not in his own country, but before some general council of the Greek states, probably the council of Amphictyons, and they had sufficient influence with the party now in power at Athens to obtain their concurrence. Messengers were sent with authority to apprehend him, wherever they should find him. He fled first to the island of Corcyra, to which he had formerly been a benefactor. But the Corcyræans, alleging that they durst not keep him, conveyed him over to the continent of Epirus, and there being continually pursued, he was driven at last, like Coriolanus, to take shelter with an ancient enemy, Admetus, king of the Molossians. That prince being absent, he awaited his return seated before the domestic altar, holding in his arms his infant son: such being esteemed the most sacred and binding method of supplication among the Molossians. Admetus was touched, and, while he was able, gave the fugitive a secure retreat; but the Athenian and Lacedæmonian commissioners tracked his steps, and though his protector refused to give him up, he was obliged to fly. He now crossed the continent to Pydna, a seaport of Macedonia, and finding there a ship bound for Ionia, he embarked, and was carried by stress of weather among the Athenian fleet then besieging Naxos.[74] Fearing to be recognised, he called the master aside, told him who he was, and[137] why he fled, and declared that if he were taken, he would charge him with having been bribed to favour his escape. To avoid this, it was only requisite to confine the sailors closely to the ship until the weather served them to be gone. The master consented, and instead of landing at night, as was usual with Grecian mariners, they lay a day and night tempest-tossed at sea; and at length arrived safely at Ephesus. Themistocles now reaped the benefit of his double-dealing. He kept himself concealed, however, at first, because the Persians had set a price of two hundred talents upon his head, until he received an answer to the following letter, which he wrote to Artaxerxes, son of Xerxes, who had newly succeeded to his father’s throne: “I, Themistocles, am coming to thee, who of all the Grecians, as long as I was forced to resist thy father that invaded me, have done your house the most damage; yet the benefits I did him were more after once I with safety, he with danger, was to make retreat. And both a good turn is already due to me (writing here how he had forewarned him of the Grecians’ departure out of Salamis, and ascribing the not breaking of the bridge falsely to himself), and I now come prepared to do thee great services, being persecuted by the Grecians for thy friendship’s sake. But I desire to have a year’s respite, that I may declare unto thee the cause of my coming myself.”

“The king, as is reported, wondered at his design, and commanded him to do as he said. In this time of respite he learned as much as he could of the language and fashions of the place, and a year after, coming to the court, he was great with the king, more than ever had been any Grecian before; both for his former estimation, and the hope that he gave of bringing Greece into subjection, but especially in the proof that he had given of his wisdom. For Themistocles was a man in whom most truly was manifested the strength of natural judgment, wherein he had something worthy of admiration, different from other men. For by his natural prudence, without the help of instruction either before or after, he was both best able to form an opinion on the[138] spur of the moment with least deliberation, and the best diviner of the issue of matters to come. Of those things he was engaged in, he could give a good account; and what he was unpractised in, he was not to seek how to judge of conveniently. Also he foresaw, no man better, what was best or worse in any case that was doubtful. And to say all in few words, this man, by the natural goodness of his wit, and quickness of deliberation, was the ablest of all men to tell what was fit to be done on a sudden. But falling sick he ended his life: some say he died voluntarily by poison, because he thought himself unable to perform what he had promised to the king. His monument is in Magnesia in Asia, in the marketplace: for he had the government of that country, the king having bestowed upon him Magnesia, which yielded him fifty talents yearly for his bread, and Lampsacus for his wine (for this city was then thought to have store of wine), and Myus for his meat. His bones are said by his kinsman to have been brought home by his own appointment, and buried in Attica, unknown to the Athenians: for it was not lawful to bury one there that had fled for treason. These were the ends of Pausanias the Lacedæmonian and Themistocles the Athenian, the most famous men of all the Grecians of their time.”[75]

“Such were the ends of the two most famous men of Greece in their time.” That of Pausanias moves little compassion: he was a weak and vicious man, raised to an undeserved celebrity by hereditary rank, and by the mighty events with which the age was pregnant. He was a traitor, and he perished as such, worthy of pity only for the lingering torment of his death. Much more touching is the fate of Themistocles, driven on an unjust accusation, as we believe, from place to place, and at last forced to seek shelter from those to whom he had done the deepest harm, and thus apparently to justify those accusations which alone had reduced him to so unworthy a step. Melancholy we must needs call the close of his life, in spite of all the splendour that surrounded it: for who can believe that to such a man[139] wealth and luxury could compensate for exile, for the loss of all share and interest in the greatness which he had himself founded, and was now compelled to surrender into the guidance of unfriendly hands? The anecdote relating to his burial furnishes a touching illustration of the nature of his feelings at the close of life, and is itself almost sufficient to refute the charge of treason. Men seek not so fondly to be restored even in death to their native land, when they have deliberately resolved on subjecting it to the miseries of conquest by a foreign, in Grecian language, a barbarian race. That he had so far temporised with Pausanias as to give the Spartans plausible ground for their accusation is probable, and consistent with the tortuous policy which, unfortunately for his glory in honest men’s eyes, he always pursued. But to believe that he seriously laboured to establish that dominion which it was his boast to have overthrown; to pull down the fabric of Athenian greatness which his own hand had raised, and with which his glory was indissolubly connected; this would require the most cogent proofs, in place of which we have nothing but a bare report. We may derive a valuable moral from comparing the close of his life with that of Aristides. The latter, after a life spent in the highest commands, with unbounded opportunities for amassing wealth, died in poverty. Themistocles’ property, when he entered on public life, was valued at three talents; when he fled to Persia his effects were confiscated to the value of eighty or one hundred talents, and yet it is said that his friends saved the greater part, and remitted them into Asia to him. Yet who dare avow that he would choose the wealth and fate of Themistocles in preference to the honourable poverty of Aristides? who, that is not entirely devoted to wealth, could even feel such a preference? True it is that the crooked course of Themistocles procured a brilliant reception in the Persian court, when all other countries were closed against him: but it is also true that a more disinterested and open life would have obviated the necessity of seeking a foreign refuge. The rancour of party spirit might then have exiled him for a time, as it[140] exiled Aristides, but it could have done no more. All Greece would have exclaimed in mingled anger and contempt against him who should have dared to connect the name of Aristides with a charge of treason: all Greece was ready to believe Themistocles guilty on the sole evidence of his selfish and intriguing spirit.





Bust of Thucydides.

Prosecution of the Persian war—Rise of Athens to maritime empire, and consequent undermining of the aristocratical interest—Administration of Cimon—of Pericles—Education of the Athenians—Commencement of the Peloponnesian war.

No country, looking only to external circumstances, had ever a fairer opportunity of establishing a mighty empire than Greece, after the total overthrow of the Persian invasion. The power of Persia broken, Egypt in decay, Rome in its infancy, Carthage distant and intent upon western conquests, her own soldiery inspirited by success,[142] and preceded by that opinion of their invincibility which is an almost certain earnest of future victory, there seemed to be no power capable of withstanding Greece had she been zealous and unanimous in prosecuting foreign conquest. But instead of tracing the march of a victorious nation to empire, these pages will describe little but the growth of civil dissensions, bloody enmities, and long and destructive warfare between kindred states. Until the reign of Alexander, the Greeks never possessed a foot of land in Asia or Africa beyond the narrow territories, acquired long before the period of which we treat, of the numerous cities which lined the Mediterranean, and those smaller seas which communicate with it.

The cause of this want of foreign enterprise is to be sought chiefly in the non-existence of any acknowledged head of the nation, and in the selfishness and want of union which, as we have seen, characterized their councils even in the time of danger. Sparta, in right of her pre-eminent reputation in arms, claimed and was allowed to lead the confederate troops of Greece in the field; but in their councils she had only an equal voice. That reputation, and the lofty, self-denying, though stern and unlovely temper fostered by the institutions of Lycurgus, had excited so much respect, that at the games of assembled Greece the presence of a Spartan was enough to turn the eyes of the spectators from the competitors to himself: and the command of the fleet collected to oppose Xerxes was vested in a Spartan at the instance of the allies themselves, who, notwithstanding the smallness of the Lacedæmonian naval force, refused to serve under any other than a Spartan commander. But the pride and presumed treason of Pausanias soon disgusted the allies, and threw the naval command into the hands of the Athenians; and that people soon converted the force meant to prosecute the quarrel with Persia into an instrument of their own aggrandisement, and assumed an authority nothing less than despotic over free states, which had confederated with them as one equal with another. Hence arose two different and[143] often conflicting interests: the Athenians powerful by sea, the Lacedæmonians by land. Opposed in the nature of their government as in the nature of their strength, they became the rallying points to which two factions, implacable in their enmity, looked for support; and to the care with which they fomented the civil discords on which their power was based, the evils which we are about to describe may in great measure be referred. But the circumstances which led to this rivalry require to be more fully told.

The states which had confederated to repel the invasion of Xerxes did not rest satisfied with self-defence. After the battle of Salamis, the fleet proceeded to liberate the islands of the Ægean Sea, and the Grecian cities of Asia Minor; and the forces of those states gladly combined with their deliverers to prosecute the war against their common enemy. In the third year after the battle of Salamis, the haughtiness and misconduct of Pausanias so alienated the allies, that the Peloponnesians returned home, and the Asiatic, Hellespontine, and Island Greeks transferred the right of leading their united forces to the Athenians. Aristides’ high character for integrity appears to have been the chief instrument in procuring for his countrymen this great increase of power. By his advice they proceeded to draw out an assessment, in which each state, according to its strength, was rated to furnish a certain number of ships, and a stated sum of money, for the purposes of the confederacy; and the difficult and invidious task of apportioning the contributions was assigned to him. This he executed with such success that not a complaint of injustice or partiality was heard. The whole assessment amounted to 460 talents, about 101,000 English pounds. At his death, Cimon, hitherto the partner of his influence, succeeded to the sole possession of it. Cimon was one of the most honest of Grecian statesmen; but he was not governed by that scrupulous love of justice which distinguished Aristides. Under his guidance the first steps were taken towards making the contributions of Greece for the maintenance of the Persian war the means of establishing the[144] dominion of Athens over Grecian cities. The allied states by degrees grew weary of exertions to which they were no longer urged by a sense of danger; and when it was proposed that they should commute the personal service of their citizens for a sum of money, the Athenians undertaking to provide and man a fleet for the general purposes of the confederacy, the suggestion was readily adopted by many. “By this means Athens was at once obliged to build and employ more ships, and supplied with the means, while the navy of the allies proportionally declined. The Athenians, feeling their strength, became haughtier in their conduct, and more harsh in enforcing the same services which grew to be less punctually rendered. Hence rose wars with the defaulters, in which, Athens uniformly prevailing, the fleet of the conquered city was taken from it, and a heavier tribute levied: and since every such contest brought fresh power and wealth to the predominant state, and diminished the resources which could be at the command of any combination among its dependants, Athens, from the leader, became the mistress of her allies. The first state so subjected was the island Naxos, which revolted, and was conquered in the twelfth year of the Athenian command.”[76] Thus Athens became the best nursery for seamen in Greece, and increased her fleet at the expense of others, who grew weak from the very causes which made her strong. Moreover, having monopolized the naval arm, she was released from all shadow of control from the council of associate states, and was left at full liberty to employ her strength against the Persians, or the pirates, or her own refractory allies, as might best suit the exigencies of the moment. Her power reached its greatest height about the year 450 b.c., when it extended over almost all the islands of the Ægean, including Eubœa, and over the maritime Grecian settlements in Thrace, Macedonia, and Asia Minor. On the continent her influence directed the policy of Megaris, Bœotia, Phocis, and the Opuntian Locris; by the strong[145] towns of Naupactus and Pegæ, she commanded both ends of the Corinthian gulf; Trœzen was subject to her; her influence was predominant in Achaia; and Argos, always jealous of its overbearing neighbour, Lacedæmon, was bound by that jealousy in close alliance with the only countervailing power.

So great a change in the political influence of Athens did not occur without corresponding alterations in the private circumstances and temper of the citizens. Cimon was himself attached to aristocratical principles, and endeavoured to maintain close alliance with Lacedæmon; but still the necessary result of the policy and events which raised Athens to such extensive empire was to diminish the influence of the aristocracy of wealth and birth, and to throw a preponderating influence into the hands of the poorer class of citizens. Such, in Greece, was the invariable effect of cultivating naval power. The military force of every people consisted principally of hoplitæ, as they were called—literally, armed men, whose equipment consisted of body armour, greaves, a helmet, a large shield, a long spear, and sword. A body of these troops was always attended by a body of men more lightly armed, and fitter for reconnoitring, for the duty of outposts, and similar uses; but little to be relied on in the shock of battle, and principally composed of slaves and mercenaries. The heavy foot, on the contrary, in the flourishing times of Greece, were almost universally citizens, and citizens of the richer classes; for the state supplied no armour, and the poorest class could not afford to keep the expensive equipment necessary to pass muster in the ranks. The citizens of Athens were divided into four classes, according to their income. The two wealthiest were obliged to keep a horse, and serve in the cavalry, an expensive service in the barren country of Attica: the third class was obliged to be provided with the full equipment of a heavy-armed soldier: the fourth were allowed to serve in that capacity, if possessed of proper armour: if not, they were enrolled among the light-armed force, or served in the fleet. The poorer class, at Athens as elsewhere, was the most numerous;[146] and it is evident, from what has been said, that its importance would increase or diminish in proportion as the main exertions of the state were made by sea or by land. Where naval power was uncultivated the power of the sword fell into the hands of the rich: where war and commerce were alike carried on by sea, the lowest class became important by its services, as well as by its numbers. Hence the cultivation of maritime strength was always considered favourable to the cause of democracy.

The total devastation of Attica in the Persian invasion must, of course, have reduced great numbers from competence and comfort to poverty. For some time the lucrative war carried on against Persia at once filled the treasury, and enabled the state to supply the wants of this class by military pay. A further resource was found in the splendid liberality of Cimon, who, possessed of vast hereditary wealth, had the good fortune to increase it greatly by plunder and other perquisites of a commander-in-chief, without incurring the charge of dishonesty or rapaciousness. This wealth was freely spent in maintaining his influence. His gardens and orchards were thrown open to the public; a table was daily spread at his house for the free use of the poorer citizens; and he readily lent money to those who required it. Partly at his own, partly at the national expense, many splendid public buildings were erected while he ruled the councils of the state; and an example was given for the still more splendid subsequent improvements of Pericles. But in spite of his services and his magnificence, Cimon experienced a reverse of favour, to which his professed aristocratical principles, and avowed admiration and attachment to Sparta, contributed in no small degree. In the year 461 b.c. he was banished by ostracism, and a new party came into power, headed by Ephialtes and Pericles, then a young man just rising into eminence. These men were pledged to hostility to Sparta, and bound to gratify the poorer citizens, by whose favour they had been raised to direct the councils of the republic.

To preserve that favour it was necessary that the present administration should not be eclipsed by the[147] splendour and beneficence of the preceding one. But the means of the leaders were far inferior; nor from their private fortunes could they feed the hungry, and provide splendid places of resort for the tenants of hovels, as their magnificent predecessor had done. The only resource was to bribe the public with its own money; and with this view a law was proposed, by which the issues from the treasury, which hitherto had been controlled by the court of Areopagus, were placed under the immediate command of the people. The next step was to allow pay for attendance at the general assemblies and in the courts of justice, in each of which a considerable number of dicasts[77] sat, taken indiscriminately from the citizens. This measure was introduced and carried by Pericles, or, according to another statement, there was before a small sum allowed for these services, which was increased by him. The total number of persons who thus derived no small part of their subsistence from the public funds was very considerable; for in one alone of the courts fifty persons was the smallest number that ever sat, and the usual number was from two to five hundred. Sometimes two or more courts were consolidated, and then from one to two thousand persons sat in judgment at once. The effect of this law was twofold: it secured the popularity of those who had procured such a boon for the poor; it secured also a large attendance of the poor in the general assembly, for attendance there secured a sufficient provision for the wants of the day; and as stated assemblies occurred four times in thirty-five days, the payments for these and other extraordinary attendances, with public feasts, and sacrifices, and duty in the courts, formed nearly a subsistence for those who had neither property nor employment.

Not less careful was Pericles to gratify national pride by the splendour of his public improvements. In this respect he far outdid even Cimon, and stamped on Athens that character of magnificence in respect of its public[148] buildings, which has made it the wonder and admiration of strangers even to this day. One of the long walls, the temple of Eleusis, and the Odeon or musical theatre, were erected under his direction; and, above all, the Parthenon was built, and adorned with those celebrated sculptures, part of which, after the lapse of twenty-three centuries, have found a new resting-place in our national Museum. The Propylæa, or gateway leading into the Acropolis, was another of his works, “which are the more wonderful because they were completed in so short a time, and have lasted so long; and because, while perfect, each of them was redolent of antiquity in respect of beauty, and yet for grace and vigour it seems to this day as if each of them were newly finished; there resides in them such an ever-springing freshness, which prevents the injuries of time being felt, as if each of the said works were tenanted by an ever youthful spirit, a soul never waxing old, which still retains them in that vigour.”[78]

To meet the expenses of a line of policy such as we have described, the mere revenue of Attica was of course insufficient; but the impost originally contributed by the confederate Greeks towards avenging the aggression of Persia was rigorously exacted, and applied without scruple to the private purposes of the state and its governors. It was matter of great complaint throughout Greece, that the money raised for the common benefit of the nation should be perverted to the luxury of an overweening and oppressive city; and the political enemies of Pericles made it a constant subject of invective in the public assemblies, that the people of Athens were openly defamed for this act of robbery, and that it was “an overgreat injury to the rest of Greece, and too manifest a token of tyranny, to behold before their eyes how we do employ the money which they were enforced to gather for the maintenance of the wars against the barbarian, in gilding, building, and setting forth our city like a glorious woman, all to be gauded with gold and precious[149] stones; and how we do make images and build temples of wonderful and infinite charge. Pericles replied to the contrary, that the Athenians were not bound to make any account of this money unto their friends and allies, considering that they fought for their safety, and that they kept the barbarian far from Greece, without troubling them to set out any one man, horse, or ship of theirs, the money only excepted, which is no more theirs that paid it than theirs that received it, so they bestow it to that use they received it for. And their city being already well furnished with all things necessary for the wars, it was good reason they should bestow the surplus of their treasure in things which, in time to come, would make their fame eternal. Moreover, he said, that whilst they continue building, they should be presently rich, by reason of the diversity of work of all sorts, and other things which they should have need of; and to compass these things better, and to set them in hand, all manner of artificers and workmen that would labour, should be set on work. So should all the citizens and townsmen receive pay and wages of the common treasure, and the city by this means should be greatly beautified, and much more able to maintain itself.”[79]

As a defence the reply is valueless, but it shows how small a portion of reason or justice is sufficient to supply a pretext when backed by power, and points out the certain, and not unmerited, lot of those nations which give the sword out of their own hand, and trust to wealth to purchase defenders. Farther ground for discontent might be found in the increased amount of the tax, which, at the beginning of the Peloponnesian war, had been raised from four hundred and sixty talents, the sum levied by Aristides b.c. 477, to about six hundred talents.

To this splendour Pericles seems to have been led alike by policy and taste. The Athenians were naturally a vain people, and their self-complacency was nurtured by the unequalled rapidity with which their fame and power had increased. Every thing which ministered to that fame became precious in their eyes, and a good[150] instance of this is given by Plutarch, if we may trust the accuracy of that gossiping and amusing historian. “Pericles, perceiving that his enemies did still cry out upon him, that he did vainly waste and consume the common treasure, and that he bestowed on the works the whole revenue of the city, one day, when the people were assembled together, he asked before them all whether they thought that the cost bestowed were too much. The people answered him, a great deal too much. Well, then, said he, the charges shall be mine (if you think good), and none of yours; provided that no man’s name be written on the works, but mine only. When Pericles had said so, the people cried out aloud, that they would none of that (either that they wondered at the greatness of his mind, or else for that they would not give him the only honour and praise to have done so sumptuous and stately works), but willed him that he should see them finished at the common charges, without sparing for any cost.”[80] “In his political course,” says Professor Heeren, “Pericles was guided by a simple principle, to be the first in his own city, while he secured it the first place among cities.” Hence in arts, as well as in arms, he wished it to obtain pre-eminence; and, instead of following the narrow policy of Sparta, which discouraged in every way the approach of strangers, he endeavoured to make his city the resort and wonder of the world, and to adopt every means of turning the wealth of other nations into her treasury; and he was himself singularly qualified to direct the public taste, as well as the public arms, not merely by natural talents, but by a more refined education than, when he was young, generally fell to the lot of a Greek citizen. The celebrated philosopher Anaxagoras was his preceptor in youth; the musician Damon, characterized by Socrates as possessing every quality which could fit a man to take charge of youth, and said to be deeply versed in matters of government, was his friend and associate in riper years; in the company of the celebrated Aspasia he is said to have found advantages,[151] as well as fascinations, such as no other society in Greece could supply; and his personal accomplishments were set off by a style of oratory which, in polish and eloquence, surpassed all that had yet been heard, and singularly caught the minds of the Athenian people.

In all this there was much to refine and elevate the national taste; there was also much which injured the national character in more vital points, as we may now easily trace in the consequences. Few Athenians had recourse to any species of labour, except military service, to gain a subsistence. Of those who had no means, the number, the just claims, and the expectations were alike increased by the Persian invasion; and the events which followed it, first a long and profitable war, secondly the consecutive administrations of Cimon and Pericles, who lavished, the one his own, the other the national resources, to keep the poor in good humour, were well calculated to foster their natural dislike to labour, and equally natural desire to enjoy the produce of other men’s industry. The result was, that a people jealous to excess of its own supreme authority, and braggart of its own exertions in the cause of freedom, became a harsh and oppressive ally in name, but sovereign in reality (our language affords no term to express accurately the relation in which the dependant, ὑπήκοος, stood to the leading state), ruthlessly vindictive in punishing every attempt to shake off its yoke. “Had Athens commanded no resources but its own, it would have been impossible to support in idleness so large a portion of the people; but the subject states were liable to unlimited extortion. Any proposed exaction, however oppressive, was eagerly caught at by the swarm of idlers who looked for maintenance and pleasure to the lavish expenditure of the state, and their number and frequent attendance in the assembly would generally ensure the success of any measure which united them in its favour. Hence arose a crew of profligate demagogues, who obtained a paramount influence by being ready to propose, at any cost of justice, humanity, and ultimate advantage, whatever promised to the multitude[152] an immediate gain, and who frequently turned their ascendancy to profit, by taking presents from the allies, as the price of forbearance and protection. The populace drew both gain and pleasure from the submission of the allies; the pride of each was flattered, in proportion to his personal insignificance, by the homage paid him as a citizen of the sovereign republic; their hopes of individual enjoyment were all bound up in the continuance and extension of the empire, and the passions thence resulting were studiously exasperated by unprincipled orators: what wonder, then, that we shall henceforth find their sway as jealous as oppressive; and, in case of revolt, their vengeance as cruel as their rule had been unjust!”[81]

Another cause of the deterioration of the Athenian character is to be found in the growth of a new system of education about this period, and the introduction of new accomplishments, new teachers, and new principles. The brief notice of this subject, which we shall introduce, is principally derived from the only English writer who has treated it in a popular manner, and who is well calculated to discuss the question by his intimate acquaintance with Aristophanes and the Socratic writings, though his vehement dislike of all democracies, and especially the Athenian, is such as to make his testimony on some points rather suspicious; we allude to Mr. Mitchell, the translator of Aristophanes. It is to be premised, however, that these are matters on which great difference of opinion exists among scholars; and that many persons among those best qualified to judge take a very different view of the subject from that here given.

Before the age of Pericles, the education of an Athenian of rank and wealth consisted in obtaining, through the instructions of the grammarians, an intimate acquaintance with the writings of the older poets, especially Homer; after which he passed into the hands of the music-master, and the keeper of the gymnasium, or[153] school of bodily exercises. The two latter were the most important branches of education, not so much for purposes of display, as for the effect which they were held to possess in the formation of character. To those whose curiosity prompted some research into the secrets of nature, the schools of the philosophers offered abundant gratification. There they might hear treated the most abstruse topics of physical and metaphysical science; the nature of God, the nature and origin of the universe and its most striking phenomena, the nature of man, were all discussed with a zealous interest and attention on the part of the pupils, which appears to have led them into no small extravagances.[82] But some years previous to the Peloponnesian war, as the cause of democracy gained ground, and the minds of all men were fired by the examples of Themistocles, who had risen from the people, or Pericles, who had risen on the people, to fame and power, a species of knowledge more suited to practical purposes was eagerly sought after, and a class of teachers soon rose up to supply the want. These persons, the most distinguished of them not natives of Athens, were called sophists, and they boldly undertook to supply all deficiencies, and qualify their pupils for any station whatever which they might be called on to fill, or for any pursuit by which they hoped to rise to eminence. They professed to have acquired, and to be able to teach, all knowledge; and one of them, by way of advertising his own merits, appeared at the Olympic games with a stock of literary samples of various sorts, tragedy, epics, &c.; and further, with the announcement that every article of use or ornament about his person was the work of his own hands. This folly, if it were all, might excite a smile; but these men laid claim to a more mischievous power, that of being able to confound truth and falsehood, and to show how either of two contradictory propositions might be proved with equal certitude and success, according to the interest[154] or inclination of the disputant. Under a democracy, eloquence was the readiest path to power; and eloquence, they taught, was of all acquisitions the most important; that eloquence, and skill in word-splitting, by which, as Plato has farcically described it in the Euthydemus, it could be shown that a man could speak and be silent at the same time; that it was equally easy to a professor of this art to prove that a man knew or did not know the same thing, or that he both knew it and did not know it at the same time; and by which the sophists, in the above-named dialogue, prove to the satisfaction of their fellow-disputant, “that he had a father—that he had no father—that a dog was his father—that his father was everybody’s father—that his mother had a family equally numerous, in which horses, pigs, and crab-fish were all common brethren, with the same rights and ties of consanguinity and affection.”[83] This was the eloquence by which, according to the grave professions of Protagoras, the founder of the school, the worse might be made to appear the better cause, and right and wrong confounded; so that alike in the agora, in the courts of justice, or in social converse, no standard of right or wrong could be set up, except that which the convenience of the speaker should dictate. “As the first step towards this important acquisition, the pupil was carefully initiated in all the niceties of that language, whose mazes and subtleties sometimes led from premises apparently simple to conclusions which looked more like legerdemain than the effects of sober reasoning. He was then told that there were two sorts of persuasion; that by the one an auditor’s mind was imbued with actual knowledge, by the other with a knowledge consisting only in belief and opinion; and when he was asked which of these two persuasions rhetoric was meant to create in the courts of law and the public assemblies, he was answered, belief of knowledge without actuality; for rhetoric was defined to be the art of enabling an ignorant man to speak among the[155] ignorant, with more appearance of knowledge than the man who was actually master of the subject under discussion.”[84] Having imparted this valuable faculty to the pupil, the next step was to teach him to use it fearlessly, undeterred by any visionary considerations of right or wrong, of justice or injustice. With this view it was asserted, “that might makes right; that the property of the weak belongs to the strong; and that, whatever the law might say to the contrary, the voice of nature taught and justified the doctrine.” They proclaimed that the only wise persons were those who aspired to the direction of public affairs, and who were stopped in this attempt by no other consideration than the measure of their capacity; and they added that those who, without any command over themselves, could acquire a command over others, had a right to have their superior talent rewarded by possessing more than others. For temperance, self-restraint, and a dominion over the passions and desires, were set down by them as marks of dulness and stupidity, only calculated to excite derision. They asserted, with confidence, that nature itself made it both just and honourable, that he who wished to live happily, ought to permit his desires as large a sway as possible, and in no way to restrain them: they bargained indeed for the possession of courage and political wisdom in their scholars; but once in possession of these, a man, in their opinion, was at liberty to administer to his passions in all other respects, and to leave nothing unindulged which could contribute to their gratification. They declared that those who attached disgrace to this doctrine, did it only from a sense of shame at wanting the means to gratify their own passions; and their praises of moderation they asserted to be mere hypocrisy, and to proceed solely from the wish of enslaving better men than themselves. With the same power of self-indulgence, they maintained, these assertors of moderation would pursue the same path as those who were now the objects of their animadversions; they concluded[156] therefore that it was ridiculous in those who were above restraint, to lay a restraint upon themselves, and they proclaimed, in the most unqualified terms, that luxury, licentiousness, and intemperance were alone virtue and happiness, and that all other declarations were mere specious pretences, compacts contrary to nature, the triflings of men who deserved no manner of consideration.

“The sacred principles of justice were treated with a contempt equally daring. They often began with the bold definition that justice itself was nothing but the interest of the strongest; that the masterpiece of injustice was to appear a man of virtue without being really one; and they proceeded to prove (and in a town like Athens the demonstration perhaps was not difficult), that, on all occasions, the just man came off worse than the unjust. In the mutual compacts of private life, they said, the just man is always a loser, and the unjust a gainer. In public affairs, when a contribution is to be made, the one with equal property always contributes less than the other; whereas, when a disbursement is to be made, the former receives nothing, and the latter is a considerable gainer. If both are in office, one mischief at least happens to the just man; his private affairs go to ruin from being neglected, and the public give him no redress, merely because he is a just man; he becomes odious besides to his relations and friends, because he will not, for their service, overstep the bounds of right; whereas, to the unjust man the very reverse, said they, is the case. To paint this more forcibly, they drew the picture of a tyranny, where the unjust man was in the highest state of felicity, the voluntarily just in the lowest state of depression; and they proved that the former, though outraging every rule of humanity, was loaded with praises, not only those who were conscious of his crimes, but even those who had suffered by them, considering him as a happy man; for if injustice, added they, is ever blamed, the blame proceeds not from the fear of committing it, but from the fear of suffering by it. Improving upon this notion, they declared that to be[157] able to commit an injury was in itself a blessing, to receive an injury was in itself an evil; but that there was more of ill in receiving, than there was of good in committing, and that to set this right was the origin and object of legislation. Justice therefore they considered as the medium between the greatest of blessings, that of committing wrong with impunity, and the greatest evil, which consists in not being able to revenge an injury received; and hence, according to them, was derived the common attachment to justice, not as being a blessing in itself, but because persons being in a capacity to hurt others, oblige them to consider it as such; for he, they continued, who has power in his hands, and is really a man, would never submit to such a convention: it would indeed be complete folly to do so. Give the good man and the bad man, they triumphantly concluded, power to act as they pleased; present them with rings like that of Gyges, which should make them invisible, and what will be the consequence? The virtuous man would soon be found treading the very same path as the villain, and if he should be so ‘adamantine’ as to act otherwise, he would be considered as the most pitiful and stupid of his species. In public indeed every one would eulogise his virtues; but this would be done with a design of deceiving others, and in the fear of risking fortune if a contrary course were pursued.”[85]

The character and doctrines of the sophists have been made known to us chiefly by the writings of an inveterate enemy, and it is expedient therefore to collect any testimony which may confirm the picture, such as it is given by Plato. Such corroboration will be found in the unexceptionable testimony of the contemporary historian. His description of the state of morals in Athens at the time of the plague, is sufficient proof that some powerful influence had been at work to root out every principle of justice and morality; and we may trace in it the natural consequences of the sophistical tenets, as they are delivered[158] by Socrates, through the medium of Plato. We shall hereafter have occasion to quote this celebrated passage, and can therefore do no more here than refer to it.

The new-formed empire of Athens had lasted some forty years, and had allowed time for those changes, which we have endeavoured to describe, to exert their seductive influence on the national character, when circumstances, which it is not necessary here to relate, led to a quarrel between the Athenians and Corinthians, the latter being a principal member of that confederacy consisting chiefly of Peloponnesian states of which Sparta was the head. At their instance a congress of the confederates was held at Sparta, in which they complained loudly of their injuries, and reproved the sluggishness of the Spartan councils, which had suffered so many Grecian cities to be deprived of independence. Finally it was resolved that the treaties then existing between Sparta and her allies, and the Athenians, were broken, and that a subsequent meeting should be held, to consider the expediency of declaring war. This took place in the autumn of the year 432 b.c.

War, however, was not immediately declared. Several embassies passed between Sparta and Athens, partly for the sake of procrastinating a contest for which neither party felt quite ready, partly to produce discord and embarrass the Athenian government. One of these was commissioned to require that due atonement should be made for the murder of Cylon, to avert the anger of the gods from Greece. The Lacedæmonians required that all persons descended from the guilty family should be banished, in the number of whom Pericles was included by his maternal descent, not from any hope of obtaining his banishment, but with the view of throwing on him the odium of involving the city in war on his own account. He eluded the difficulty by reminding them of a similar instance of impiety committed by the Spartan government, which had never been atoned for, and bidding them first make due expiation for that. A second and a third embassy were sent, without producing any hopes[159] of a reconciliation; and when the people were convoked to consider of the last of these, Pericles addressed the assembly in a speech urging it decidedly to reject the haughty demands of the Peloponnesians, which were merely the forerunners of more extensive requisitions. He proceeded to encourage them by contrasting their own wealth with the scanty revenue of the Peloponnesians; a poverty which prevented the latter from engaging in long and distant wars, and which had kept them unacquainted with maritime affairs. He admitted that in one battle they might be victorious over all the rest of Greece; but asserted that they would neither expect nor be able to support a long and expensive war. He explained the manner in which he proposed to conduct the contest which he advised, abandoning Attica to the ravage of the enemy, and taking ample satisfaction by a series of predatory excursions round the coast of Peloponnesus. “It is a very different matter,” he continued, “that the whole of Attica, or that a small part even of Peloponnesus, should be laid waste. For our antagonists can find no other territory except by fighting for it; whereas for us there is abundance, both on the continent and in islands; for the dominion of the sea is a mighty thing; and consider, if we were islanders, who would be so secure from attack as ourselves? Now then we should aim at placing ourselves as nearly in that situation as possible, caring not for houses and lands, but looking to the safety of our city and the sovereignty of the sea, and taking care not to be led by passion to give battle to the Peloponnesians, who are much our superiors in number. For if we beat them, they will fight again in equal force; but if we are beaten, we lose our allies, wherein lies our strength. Let our lament be for men’s bodies, not for houses and lands, for these do not get men, but men get them.”[86]

The Athenians approved of what Pericles had said, and answered, that they would do nothing upon compulsion; but were willing to submit any disputes to arbitration,[160] according to the terms of existing treaties. And the Lacedæmonians departed home, and sent no more embassies.

This was the origin of that long and injurious struggle to Greece, commonly called the Peloponnesian war, in the illustration of which these pages will be chiefly employed. It has obtained a celebrity greater than even its own intrinsic importance might have gained for it, in consequence of having been narrated by a contemporary historian, to whose accuracy, impartiality, and profound knowledge, generation after generation have borne one never-varying testimony; and who has well fulfilled the lofty task which he proposed to himself, of leaving, as his memorial, no collection of idle stories, written to gain the favour of the moment, but an everlasting record of those things which have been, and which will again, according to the nature of man, recur in something of a similar form.[87]

Hostilities commenced in the year b.c. 431. The Lacedæmonian league comprised all the states of Peloponnesus, except Argos and Achaia, which were neutral; and nearly all northern Greece, except Thessaly and Acarnania, which sided with Athens. The Athenian confederacy contained, besides those two states, Corcyra, Zacynthus, and the newly established city of Naupactus, held by the Messenians, who had revolted from Sparta. Chios and Lesbos furnished ships of war, and were treated as allies; the other islands of the Ægean, except Melos and Thera, together with the Greek cities on the coast of Asia and of Thrace, except a few which had revolted, were tributary subjects, deprived of their ships of war, and subject to the uncontrolled will of the Athenian people. Of the means of Athens at this time, we have a tolerably minute account given by Thucydides. The annual revenue paid by the allies has been stated at about six hundred talents, besides other sources, such as port-dues and taxes. It is much to the credit of Pericles’ administration, that, notwithstanding his lavish expenditure,[161] there was in the treasury at this time six thousand talents of coined money, besides a quantity of uncoined gold and silver, in public and private dedications, vessels of sacrifice and divine service, and Persian spoils, amounting to five hundred talents more. There was also much valuable property in the temples, which they might use if necessary, and especially the golden ornaments and drapery of the statue of Minerva in the Parthenon, made of the purest metal, and forty talents in weight, which could be taken off without injury to the statue, and replaced when circumstances should admit of it. The military force of the state amounted to 13,000 heavy-armed foot, fit for foreign service; 16,000 of the same class, comprising the old and young, and foreigners resident in Athens, who were exempt from foreign service, but liable to be called upon for home duty; 1200 cavalry; 1600 archers; and 300 triremes fit to put to sea. Reckoning the crew of a trireme at 200 men, the crews of 130, which number put to sea at once in the first year of the war, would amount to 26,000 men.


Pericles. From a marble bust in the British Museum.

In accordance with the policy recommended by Pericles, and at his suggestion, the Athenians abandoned the whole of Attica to the ravages of the enemy. They removed into the city their families and household furniture, even to the wooden framework of their houses; their live stock was transported to Eubœa and the neighbouring islands. “Very grievous was this removal to them, because they had always been used, the greater part of them, to reside in the country.”[88] This preference of a country life the historian traces to the earliest times; the result no doubt of that superior security of life and property which induced the Athenians, at an earlier period than other Greeks, to desist from wearing arms as part of their usual dress. It was the more grievous, he adds, because after the Median war, in which all Attica was laid waste with fire and sword, their establishments had been newly restored; and, we may conjecture, with new comforts and elegances. Nor[162] was the inconvenience confined to quitting the homes to which they had been long attached. The introduction of such a multitude within the walls of a single city led, of course, to serious inconvenience. Some few had town houses, or found a home with friends and relations; others set up the framework of their houses or constructed habitations as they could in the unoccupied spaces within the walls; and the poorest sheltered themselves in the towers of the walls, or in the temples, or wherever a place of refuge could be found. Even that space of[163] ground which was called the Pelasgian,[89] of which an oracle had declared that it was “better uninhabited,” was not kept unoccupied by the superstition; “and the oracle,” says Thucydides, “seems to me to have turned out contrary to what was supposed, for the threatened evil came not by reason of the forbidden indwelling, but the necessity of the indwelling came through the war.”[90] Those evils, of which we have before spoken, arising from a large, indigent, and idle population, with little employment, except in state affairs, and little subsistence, except from the public treasury, must of course have been greatly increased by such an addition to the inhabitants of the city.




Medal of Boccaccio.

Historians of the plague—Sketch of the four chief pestilences recorded—Origin of the disease—Plague of Athens—Of Constantinople—Of Florence—Of Milan—State of medical knowledge—Plague of London.

A history of the plague, in the hands of one qualified to do justice to the subject by medical knowledge joined to extensive research, might be rendered attractive in no common degree. It has chanced that the phenomena, moral and physical, of several remarkable pestilences have been described by writers of unusual power, whose eloquence has communicated to them a literary interest, independent of that which they must otherwise have possessed[165] as striking passages in the history of man. Of these Thucydides is the earliest; and the plague which desolated Athens in the second year of the Peloponnesian war, though not the earliest mentioned in profane records, is the first of which any particular account has reached us. A sufferer as well as a spectator, he has related its symptoms, described the wretchedness which it inflicted on his country, and analyzed its moral effects with the accuracy and profoundness of reflection by which he is distinguished above all other historians; and no part of that work which he has delivered to us as an “everlasting possession”[91] has excited more admiration than this. Hippocrates, himself a contemporary, if not an eye-witness, has left a medical account of the same disease, and from these authorities Lucretius has composed one of the finest and most celebrated passages in his philosophical poem.[92] Procopius also has left a description of the plague[93] which during the reign of Justinian ravaged nearly all the known world, evidently modelled upon Thucydides, and not an unsuccessful imitation of him. In later times the great plagues of Florence and London have found worthy chroniclers in the two great novelists, Boccaccio, who was an eye-witness of that which he describes, and Defoe, the verisimilitude of whose narration is such, that it is difficult to believe it anything but what it proposes to be, the narrative of a person who had witnessed the eventful time of which he wrote. Defoe, however, was under three years old when the great plague of London broke out. Boccaccio appears, like Procopius, to have written in imitation, perhaps in emulation, of the Greek historian: Defoe has treated the subject in his peculiar style, and at much greater length than any of those whom we have named; and intermixing, as we must believe, a quantity of facts and observations, the result of minute inquiry, with a framework of fiction, has produced a narrative stamped, like all his works, with a singular appearance of reality, and remarkable for simple pathos and homely vigour of description.


We may divide pestilences into two classes: those which, as if dependent upon some noxious property of the air, have spread successively from country to country and devastated a large portion of the world, and those which have raged in a particular spot or within small limits, and which appear therefore to have been generated by some local accident, as is said to have occurred in Africa, b.c. 126 (A.U. 628), by the fetid exhalations from dead locusts,[94] or to have been introduced from other places, and to have been propagated rather by infection than the transmissive qualities of the air. To ascertain the specific difference between the two is probably beyond the reach of medical science; but the distinction is important, since the latter are susceptible of control by quarantine laws, which are powerless, perhaps worse than powerless, to arrest the former. Of these the most celebrated are quaintly described in a manuscript account of the great plague of London, preserved in the British Museum.[95]

“Of universall, or œcumenicall[96] plauges, the most spreading and destructive that I have met with in history are these four: ffirst that of Athens, which fell out in the Peloponnesian warr, before Christ 428, described most fully by that eminent historian, Thucydides, in his second booke, who had been sicke of it himselfe, but restored, and from him by that great promoter and enlightener of the Epicurean, or Corpuscular Philosophy,[167] the poet Lucretius, in the last part of his last booke. This plauge, though it bee vulgarly called the Athenian plauge, because it did great execution there in that city, yet indeed not on Athens alone, but as Thucydides tells us, beginning at Æthiopia overran Afrika and transferred itself into Asia, and thence into Europe.

“The second famous, or œcumenicall plauge which hath occurred to my reading, was in the raigne of Vibius Gallus, and Volusianus his sonne, according to Calvisius, of Christ 253. This plauge is also related to have had its originall in Æthiopia, and from thense to have diffused itself into all the provinces of the Roman empire, and to have lasted fifteen yeares without intermission. How it raged in Alexandria and Ægypt wee understand from an epistle of Dionysius, the bishop of that city at that time, recorded by Eusebius in his viith book, cap. 22. Hee tells us it fell promiscuously on the heathens and the Christians, though most heavily upon the former, that noe house was free from the dire effects of its rage. From other parts of Affrique wee understand from St. Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, in his excellent sermon de Mortalitate, made on purpose to animate and strengthen the Christians, who were joynt and fellow sufferers with the heathens, unde præsentis mortalitatis copia, as he tearms it—‘the large measure of the present mortality:’ and of its rage at Rome wee find observed out of the Roman history by Calvisius that there dyed of it daily to the number of 5000, and therefore Brightman and Mead, both men sufficiently learned, in their comentaryes upon the Revelations, interpret this plauge to be one of the fearful judgments foretold to breake forth upon the opening of the fourth scale, chap. vi. 8. And Justus Lipsius, a critick of noe ordinary reading, saith of this pestilence in his book de Constantia, lib. 2, ‘non alia unquam major lues, &c.’ that his reading did not afford him an example or president of a greater plauge, considering the many countreys it infected in the severall yeares that it lasted.

“The third universall plauge was that which happened in the raigne of Justinian, and took its beginning[168] in the yeare of Christ 532, and this also, as the former, is sayd to have descended from Æthiopia. Wee have a copious description of it by Procopius in his Persicorum, lib. 2. And we are informed by him that it raged very much in Byzantium, or Constantinople, for four months space, and that when it was in its height, there dyed of it every day 10,000 and upwards; and this is the pestilence related by Evagrius the ecclesiasticall historian, which lasted, as he says, fifty-two yeares, not continuall, but by severall returns and revolutions, and of this pestilence he was sick himselfe. And Greece shared not only in the contagion of it, but also Italy, as wee read in Paulus Diaconus, and it swept away Pope Pelagius, the predecessor of Gregory the Great, about the year 580; ffor I conceive this plauge to be that in the raigne of Justinian, propagated into remoter countreys, and lengthened out to this tearme, much according to the forementioned computation of Evagrius. It also overran Fraunce in the year 583, and this I conceive to be that which plauged the Britons here in that vacation betwixt the Romans government and the Saxons, in Vortigern’s tyme, when the living could scarce bury the dead.

“The fourth œcumenicall plauge which I have taken notice of, was in the year 1347, ‘quæ violentissima fuit, et totum mundum pervasit in annis sex et ita vastavit ut nec tertia pars hominum superesset:’ they are the words of Calvisius, ‘it was most violent and ran over the world in six years, and soe wasted Europe that not the third part of men were left alive.’ To omit other parts, and see what it did at home in our owne countreye, Mr. Cambden reports in his Britannia, that in the yeare 1348 this plauge was soe hot that in Wallingford, in Barkshire, it dyspeopled the town, reducing their twelve churches to one or two, which they now retayne. In London it had soe quick an edge, that in the space of twelve months there was buried in one churchyard, commonly called the Cistercian, or Charter-house, above 50,000. They write further that through the kingdom it made such havock that it tooke away more than half[169] the people; and it is noted there dyed in London alone, between the 1st of January and the 1st of July, 57,374. Soe Daniel, in 22, Edward III.”

It may be worthy of remark that of these plagues three are traced to Egypt or Ethiopia, while the fourth, as we shall presently see from Villani, is said to have originated in the north-east of Asia. Kircher, in his ‘Scrutinium de Peste,’ has given a catalogue of the most remarkable pestilences recorded, in which he mentions only one other universal plague, in the year 1400, but relates neither its origin nor its history. Another very destructive one broke out in the year 170 in Babylonia, which spread through the provinces, and carried off a vast number of persons at Rome. Galen was then living in the capital, and speaks of this disease as very similar to that described by Thucydides.

The present chapter will be employed in describing some of those pestilences which are most celebrated, either for the abilities exerted in describing them, or the ravages which they have committed; and will include the plagues of Athens, Constantinople, Florence, the plague of Milan in 1630, and of London in 1665. It is not our plan to give either a general history of the plague or a detailed account of the rise and fall, the symptoms and method of treatment of each particular scourge. The passages which we extract from Thucydides, Procopius, and Boccaccio, are complete in themselves; from those later pestilences, of which no master mind has given a comprehensive view, we have endeavoured to select such particulars and to quote such passages as show the moral consequences of the visitation, rather than to disgust by an often repeated story of suffering, or give a hospital chronicle of the varying intensity of the mischief from day to day.

We begin then with Thucydides’ account of the plague at Athens in the second year of the war.

“In the very beginning of summer, the Peloponnesians and their confederates, as before, two-thirds of the military power of each state, invaded Attica, under the command of Archidamus, son of Zeuxidamus, king of[170] Lacedæmon, and after they had encamped themselves wasted the country about them. And before they had been many days in Attica the plague first began among the Athenians, said also to have seized formerly on divers other parts, as about Lemnos and elsewhere, but so great a plague and mortality of men was never remembered to have happened in any place before. For at first, neither were the physicians able to cure it through ignorance of what it was, but died fastest themselves, as being the men that most approached the sick, nor any other art of man availed whatsoever. All supplications of the gods, and inquiries of oracles, and whatsoever other means they used of that kind, proved all unprofitable, and at the last, subdued by the greatness of the evil, they gave them all over.”

“It began (by report) first, in that part of Æthiopia that lieth above Ægypt, and thence fell down into Ægypt, and Afric, and into the greatest part of the territories of the king.[97] It invaded Athens on a sudden, and touched first upon those that dwelt in Piræus; insomuch as they reported the Peloponnesians had cast poison into their tanks, for springs there were not any in that place. But afterwards it reached the upper city, and then they died a great deal faster. Now let every man, physician or other, concerning the ground of this sickness, whence it sprung, and what causes he thinks able to produce so great an alteration, speak according to his own knowledge; for my own part, I will deliver but the manner of it, and lay open only such things as one may take his mark by, to discover the same if it come again, having been both sick of it myself, and seen others sick of the same.

“This year, by confession of all men, was of all other for other diseases most free and healthful. But if any man were sick before, his disease turned to this; if not, yet suddenly, without any apparent cause preceding, and being in perfect health, they were taken first with an extreme ache in their heads, redness and inflammation of[171] the eyes; and then inwardly their throats and tongues grew presently bloody, and sent out a preternatural and fetid breath. Upon this followed sneezing and hoarseness, and not long after the pain together with a mighty cough came down into the breast; and when once it was settled in the stomach it caused vomit, and with great torment came on all manner of evacuations of bile that physicians ever named. And most persons were taken with a hollow hiccough, bringing on violent convulsions, which in some ceased quickly, but in others were long before they gave over. Their bodies outwardly to the touch were neither very hot nor pale, but reddish, livid, and beflowered with little pimples and whelks; but so burned inwardly, as not to endure the lightest cloths or linen garment to be upon them, nor anything but mere nakedness; but rather most willingly to have cast themselves into cold water. And many of them that were not looked to, possessed with insatiate thirst, did this into the tanks. And whether they drank more or less, it was all one; and restlessness and wakefulness prevailed throughout. And while the disease was at the height, their bodies wasted not, but resisted the torment beyond all expectation, so that most of them died on the ninth or seventh day, of the inward fever, whilst they had yet strength, or if they had escaped that, then the disease falling down into their bellies, and causing there great exulcerations and immoderate looseness, they died many of them afterwards through weakness. For the disease (which took first the head) began above and came down, and passed through the whole body; and if a man survived through the worst part of it, still it caught hold of his extremities, and left its mark. For it fell upon the fingers and toes; and many survived with the loss of these members; some also with the loss of their eyes. And others presently upon their recovery were taken with such an oblivion of all things whatsoever, as they neither knew themselves nor their acquaintance.

“For this was a kind of sickness which far surmounted all expression of words, and both exceeded human nature in the cruelty wherewith it handled each one, and appeared[172] also otherwise to be none of those diseases that are bred amongst us, and that especially by this. For all, both birds and beasts, that use to feed on human flesh, though many men lay abroad unburied, either came not at them, or tasting perished. And the proof is this: there ensued a total failure of all such fowl, which were not then seen, neither about the carcasses, or any where else: but by the dogs, because they are familiar with men, this effect was seen much clearer.

“So that this disease (to pass over many strange particulars of the accidents that some had differently from others) was in general such as I have shown; and for other usual sicknesses, at that time no man was troubled with any, or if there were any they turned to this. Now they died, some for want of attendance, and some again with all the care and physic that could be used. Nor was there any to say certain medicine, that applied must have helped them; for if it did good to one, it did harm to another; and as far as strength and weakness of constitution were concerned, it carried off all alike, even those that were most carefully nursed. But the greatest misery of all was, the dejection of mind, in such as found themselves beginning to be sick (for they grew presently desperate, and gave themselves over without making any resistance), as also their dying thus like sheep, infected by mutual visitation; for the greatest mortality proceeded that way. For if men forbore through fear to visit them, then they died forlorn; whereby many houses were emptied, for want of some one that would tend the inhabitants. If they forbore not, then they died themselves, and principally the honestest men. For out of shame they would not spare themselves, but went in unto their friends, especially after it was come to this pass, that even their domestics, wearied with the lamentations of them that died, and overcome with the greatness of the calamity, were no longer moved therewith. Still those who had recovered felt the most compassion both on them that died and on them that lay sick, as having both known the misery themselves, and now no more subject to the danger. For this disease never took any[173] man the second time, so as to be mortal. And these men were both by others counted happy, and they also themselves, through excess of present joy, conceived a kind of light hope never to die of any other sickness hereafter.

“Besides the present affliction, the reception of the country people and of their substance into the city, oppressed both them and much more the people themselves that so came in. For having no houses, but dwelling at that time of the year in stifling booths, the mortality was now without all form; and dying men lay tumbling one upon another in the streets, and men half dead about every conduit through desire of water. The temples, also, where they took up their temporary abode, were all full of the dead that died within them; for, oppressed with violence of the calamity, and not knowing what to do, men grew careless both of holy and profane things alike. And the laws which they formerly used touching funerals were all now broken, every one burying where he could find room. And many for want of things necessary, after so many deaths before, had recourse to shameless burials of their dead. For when one had made a funeral pile,[98] another getting before him, would throw on his dead and set fire to it. And when one was burning, another would come, and, having cast thereon him whom he carried, go his way again.

“And the great licentiousness, which also in other kinds, was used in the city, began at first from this disease. For men more readily ventured on things which they formerly concealed, or durst not do freely and at their pleasure, seeing before their eyes such quick revolution of the rich dying, and men worth nothing inheriting their estates; insomuch as they judged it best to enjoy their fortunes briskly and merrily, considering them and their lives alike held but from day to day. As for pains, no man was forward in any action of honour to take any, because they thought it uncertain whether they should die or not before they achieved it. But that which produced[174] present enjoyment, or which immediately led to it, was now received to be both honourable and advantageous. Neither the fear of the gods, nor laws of men, awed any man. Not the former, because they concluded it was alike to worship or not worship, from seeing that alike they all perished: nor the latter, because no man expected his life would last till he received punishment of his crimes by judgment. But they thought there was now over their heads some far greater judgment decreed against them; before which fell they thought to enjoy some little part of their lives.

“Such was the misery into which the Athenians being fallen, were much oppressed; having not only their men killed by the disease within, but the enemy also laying waste their fields and villages without. In this sickness also (as it was not unlikely they would) they called to mind this verse, said also of the elder sort to have been uttered of old:—

A Doric war shall fall,
And a great plague withal.

“Now were men at variance about the word, some saying it was not Λοιμὸς (i. e. the Plague), that was by the ancients mentioned in that verse, but Λιμὸς (i.e. Famine). But upon the present occasion the word Λοιμὸς deservedly obtained. For as men suffered, so they made the verse to say. And I think, if after this there shall ever come another Doric war, and with it a famine, they are like to recite the verse accordingly. There was also reported by such as knew, a certain answer given by the oracle to the Lacedæmonians, when they inquired whether they should make this war or not, ‘that if they warred with all their power, they should have the victory, and that the god[99] himself would take their parts;’ and thereupon they thought the present misery to be a fulfilling of that prophecy. The Peloponnesians were no sooner entered Attica, but the sickness presently began, ‘and never came[175] into Peloponnesus, to speak of, but reigned principally in Athens, and in such other places afterwards as were most populous. And thus much of this disease.[100]

The disease remitted during the winter, but in the following summer broke out again, and carried off Pericles among its victims. In that one death Athens received more irretrievable injury than from the loss of all the multitude who perished, for he was the last of that succession of statesmen who founded and matured her greatness. Hitherto the directors, the virtual sovereigns of the state,[101] had been truly demagogues: they led, those who succeeded to their influence were led by, the people, and preserved their power by yielding to and encouraging passions which they ought to have controlled.[102] Two years later the plague broke out again. Altogether it carried off 4400 heavy armed soldiers, and 300 horsemen; that is, 4700 male citizens in the prime of life, between the ages fixed by law as the limits of active service, of the highest and middle ranks alone, besides an innumerable multitude of other persons.[103]

Aristophanes and Plato furnish abundant evidence, if farther evidence were necessary, that about this time a great change did take place in the manners and morals of the Athenians. The reader will find this subject, which is one of great interest, and would require a separate chapter for its investigation, noticed in our introductory chapter, and treated at considerable length in the preliminary discourse to Mitchell’s Aristophanes there[176] quoted. We here allude to it only to guard against the supposition that this total demoralization was brought about in the short space of a few months by the influence of terror and recklessness: a thing not in itself probable, not confirmed by the experience of similar visitations, and not the necessary meaning of the assertion, that “the licentiousness of the city flowed at first from this disease.” This was the crisis of the change; the pestilence determined the victory of an evil influence which had long been spreading, and marked the period from which that change was to be dated. Hitherto the open practice of the new doctrines had been repressed by laws, and by the received opinion of good and evil; but now that the insecurity of life and property banished thought of the future, by alike extinguishing both hope and fear, “for no man expected that his life would last till he received punishment of his crimes by judgment,” and that the general disorder and distress removed all check of public opinion, the doctrines of the sophists sprung at once to maturity, and bore abundant fruit after their kind.[104]

Another circumstance, apparently more trivial, is not unlikely to have had considerable effect—the collection of the whole Athenian people within the walls. A proverb tells us that idleness is the mother of all vice; and few things are more unfavourable to moral habits than the crowding of a large population within inconveniently narrow bounds. Both these sources of evil were united in Athens. The inconvenience experienced by the people for want of accommodation has been already described. For their employments, agriculture was the only business to which a free Athenian would personally apply himself, although the wealthy carried on manufactures by means of slaves; and from the practice of agriculture the Athenians were now entirely cut off. In consequence, a great number of families had no support[177] whatever, except what they derived from the public revenue, in the form of sacrifices, a large part of which was distributed among the people, public entertainments, and the pay for attending the public meetings and the courts of justice. Needy men readily embrace doctrines which place the property of others at their disposal; and thus the nation was already half demoralized when the plague broke out, and removed the fear of present punishment without enforcing that of future retribution. Temptation and bad example soon completed the work.

Procopius, a Greek historian of the sixth century, was a witness, and has left a minute description of the great plague which in the reign of Justinian ravaged nearly the whole of the known world. It is evidently modelled upon the celebrated passage in Thucydides which we have just extracted. The most remarkable circumstance in this pestilence is its extraordinary length. When Evagrius of Antioch wrote his Ecclesiastical History it had lasted fifty-two years, with alternate fits of relaxation and vigour; but during this long period the earth was never wholly free from its ravages.

“About this time a pestilence occurred, which almost put an end to the human race. Now it is always probable that daring men will propose some reason to explain those things which come down on us direct from heaven, as persons skilled in such matters love to deal in wonderful causes beyond man’s discovery, and to shape strange schemes of natural philosophy; knowing that what they utter is not sound, but satisfied if they can cheat the vulgar into believing it. But for this particular calamity we can in no way account, either in word or thought, except by referring it to God. For it fell on no particular portion of the earth, nor race of men, nor was it confined to any season of the year, which things might have given some pretence for thinking it of natural origin, but spread over all the earth, and ravaged all nations, the most unlike and opposite to each other, sparing neither constitution nor age. For whether men differed in place of abode, or in diet, or temperament, or in anything else in which they do differ from each other,[178] in this disease the variance availed nothing; and it fell on some in summer, on others in winter, and on others at the other seasons. Let would-be philosophers and speculators upon lofty things speak, then, each according to his own opinion. I proceed to show whence this disease came, and how it operated to destroy men.

“It began in Egypt, among the inhabitants of Pelusium, and, dividing, spread on one side to Alexandria and the rest of Egypt, and on the other into Palestine, and from thence over the whole earth, advancing by its proper way and at its proper season; for it seemed to advance according to a prescribed plan, and to abide in every country for an appointed time, sparing none as it passed, and extending on either side to the bounds of the habitable world, as if apprehensive lest any recess should escape. For it missed no island, no cave, no mountain summit inhabited by man; or if it did, and spared, or laid its hand but lightly on the dwellers there, then it returned at a later time, and never touching their neighbours, whom before it had attacked most bitterly, quitted not that spot until the measure of the dead was fully and justly made up,[105] proportionate to the mortality of the neighbourhood in the former season. The disease always began at the sea-side, and spread thence into the interior. It reached Constantinople, where I then happened to be, at midsummer in the second year of its progress. The manner of its attack was this: visions of spirits,[106] in all sorts of human shapes, were seen. The sufferers thought they met a man, who struck them, and were taken ill the same moment that they saw the spectre. At first men strove to turn aside these spirits, by uttering the holiest names, and hallowing themselves as best they could; but they gained nothing by this, for very many who fled even to the churches, perished there; and at[179] last, even when their friends called them, they would not attend, but shut themselves up at home, and pretended not to hear, though their very doors were yielding to the knocking; so terrified were they, lest it should be some spirit.[107] Others again were taken ill in a different way, and saw some one in a dream, who stood over them and struck them; or heard a warning voice, that they were numbered with the dead. But most fell sick in the following manner, unwarned of their fate either by sleeping or waking visions. They felt feverish on first rising, or while walking or otherwise employed. There was no change in colour, no heat, as when fever supervenes, no inflammation; but until evening the fever was so slight that it suggested no idea of danger, either to the patient or the physician; and indeed none that were ill of it expected to die. But on that day, or the next, or sometimes a few days after, the buboe appeared, mostly in the groin, but in the[180] arm-pit also, or behind the ears, or sometimes on the thighs.

“Thus far the course of the disease was alike in all; for the rest, I cannot tell whether the difference of symptoms arose from difference of constitutions, or is referable to the will alone of Him who sent it. For some fell into a deep stupor, others into raving madness, and each suffered agreeably to the kind of his disorder. For those who were attacked by stupor, forgetting everything to which they were accustomed, seemed always asleep. And if any person were in attendance on them, from time to time they took food; but some who were neglected perished for want of food. The maniacs, on the contrary, were afflicted by sleepiness, and continual apparitions, which attacked them, as they thought, meaning to kill them; so that they raised a great disturbance, and made horrid cries, endeavouring to escape. And their attendants, worn by constant labour, suffered most severely, insomuch that men pitied them no less than those who were ill, not from any danger of contagion[108] (for no physician nor other person fell sick from contact with the sick or dead; since many employed constantly in nursing or burying, against all expectations, survived this service, and many, for whose illness no cause could be discovered, died at once), but on account of their hard labour did they pity them. For it was necessary to replace the patients who would throw themselves out of bed, and roll on the floor, and to drive and hale them back as often as they tried to rush out of the house; and such as could find water wanted to plunge in, not from desire to drink, for they went mostly to the sea, but at the suggestion of a disordered mind.[109] And there was[181] also much trouble in administering food, to which they were very adverse. Many died of starvation, or by throwing themselves down heights. Mortification of the buboes carried off such as experienced neither stupor nor frenzy, and they died at last exhausted by agony. It would be supposed that the others underwent equal torture; but this was not so, the mental disease, however slight, precluding all sensation of pain.

“The physicians, embarrassed by their unacquaintance with the forms of the disease, and thinking that the element of it was secreted in the buboes, determined to examine the dead bodies; and opening these tumours, found in them something in the likeness of a coal. Some died immediately, some after many days; some threw out black pustules, the size of a lentil, all over their bodies, and these lived not one day longer, but died on the instant. Many were carried off at once by vomiting blood. One thing I have to observe, that the most eminent physicians predicted the death of many, who soon after, against all expectations, had nothing ailing, and persisted that many would live, who at that moment were on the point of dissolution. Thus, throughout the disease, there was nothing for which human reason could account,[110] but in almost every instance some unlooked-for event occurred. The bath did good to some, and no less harm to others. Many who were neglected, died; others unexpectedly survived. Medical treatment had contradictory effects on those who tried it; and, in brief, the wit of man found no means of safety, either to ward off or to overcome the evil, but its attack was without apparent cause, and the recovery spontaneous.

“The disease lasted in Constantinople four months, and was at its height for three. At first the number of dead was little greater than ordinary; then the evil increased till it amounted to 5000 daily, and at last to 10,000, and even more. At first every man took care himself to bury those in his household, casting them[182] secretly, or by open force, into other persons’ tombs; but at last all was confusion. For slaves remained without masters; and men, formerly rich and happy, were left without common attendance by the sickness and death of their slaves; and many houses were quite emptied of inhabitants: so that some remained many days without burial, because there were no persons that knew them. When the Emperor heard of this, he sent money and soldiers from the palace, and ordered Theodorus, an officer called by the Latins the Referendary, who received all petitions addressed to the Emperor, and signified his pleasure with respect to them, to take charge of this matter; so that they whose houses were not yet entirely desolated performed the funeral rites of their own connexions; and Theodorus, at the imperial expense, and partly also at his own, buried those bodies that had none to care for them. But when the tombs that were already constructed were filled with corpses, trenches were dug all about the city, into which every one cast the dead as he could, and went away; until the grave-diggers, wearied out, took off the roofs of the towers on the wall of the district called Sukai,[111] into which they cast the bodies promiscuously, and when they were full replaced the roofs. The fetid smell from hence reached the city, and much annoyed the inhabitants, especially when the wind lay in that quarter.

“All rites usual at burials were then neglected: there were no processions, no hymns, nor dirges; but it was sufficient if a man bore off a corpse upon his shoulders, and cast it down in the maritime quarter of the city. From thence the bodies, piled in heaps on barges, were carried oft wherever chance directed. At that time the factions[112] into which the people were before divided, relaxing from their mutual hate, applied themselves conjointly to pay due reverence to the dead, and buried all persons without distinction, whether they had any claim[183] on them or not. And those whose delight had been in base and evil pursuits, shook off their lawless course of life, and accurately performed the duties of religion, not from having repented and learnt to govern their passions, nor from being suddenly turned into lovers of virtue; for it is impossible to change thus easily the natural temper, or the result of long continued habit, except by means of a divine interposition. But all were terror-struck at the scenes which surrounded them, and, in the expectation of immediate death, could scarce help assuming a temporary decency of conduct. But these same men, when they were quit of the plague, and supposed themselves in safety, through its departure to some other quarter, returned even to a worse frame of mind than before, and displayed still greater profligacy in their lives, surpassing their former selves in wickedness and lawlessness. So that one might truly affirm that this disease, either by chance or pre-appointment, accurately distinguished and passed by the worst men. But this was shown afterwards.

“At this time you could hardly see any one buying or selling in Constantinople; but those who kept in health sat at home, and took care of the sick, or bewailed the departed. Or if you did meet anyone abroad, he was carrying a corpse. All trade was idle; the craftsmen desisted from their crafts, and all persons abandoned whatsoever works they had in hand; so that a perfect famine revelled in a city abounding usually in all good things. To have enough of bread, or of any thing else, was difficult, and was considered a great privilege, so that it was thought that some sick persons met with an untimely end for want of necessaries. To sum up, no robes of state were to be seen in Constantinople, especially while the Emperor himself was ill; but in a city where the court of the whole Roman empire was held, all persons dressed like private men, and remained at home. Such was the course of the pestilence in Constantinople and throughout the empire: it also fell upon the Persians and all other barbarians.”[113]


On comparing this pestilence with that of Athens, we cannot fail to observe their different effects upon the conduct and tempers of those who were exposed to their influence. In the one, party spirit (and the factions of Constantinople were pursued with a violence as desperate as their origin was trivial) was hushed, and the most profligate were awed into temporary decency; in the other, every chain of society was loosed, every duty toward God and man forgotten in the intoxication of danger, and the craving to drown thought in sensual pleasure. “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die,” was truly the maxim of the Athenians. Surely this difference can only be ascribed to the powerful effects produced by the received belief of a future existence upon the minds even of those who, under common circumstances, seemed regardless of such considerations. Among the Athenians practically no such belief existed; it was the creed of their poets, it was inculcated at their mysteries, but it was devoid of all authority to serve as a rule of conduct. In no age or place in which the Christian religion has been professed, however corrupted in principle or depraved in practice, has that general depravity, which is described by Thucydides, ensued in consequence of a similar calamity. The nearest approach to it is to be found in the great plague of Florence, as related by Boccacio. His account indeed, as being the introduction to a work of fiction, might be suspected of exaggeration for purposes of effect. It is, however, completely confirmed by Matteo Villani, in his continuation of the history of Giovanni Villani, his brother, who himself died in this plague. His narration gives some striking particulars of the duration and extent of the calamity, and of the evil consequences which it left behind it; which will serve well to introduce and corroborate the more picturesque and highly-coloured narrative of Boccacio.

The plague appears to have originated in 1346, in Upper India and China (Cathay), “and coming on day after day, and spreading from nation to nation, within the space of one year it comprehended the third part of the world, which is called Asia. And at the end of this[185] time it fixed on the nations of the Mare Maggiore[114] and on the coasts of the Mare Tirreno, in Syria and Turkey towards Egypt, and the shores of the Red Sea, and northwards on Russia and Greece, and Armenia, and other adjoining provinces.” From the Mare Maggiore the plague was brought to Sicily, Pisa, and Genoa by some Genoese and Catalonian vessels, which fled thence to escape from it but too late. “Then in the process of the time appointed by God to the nations all Sicily was involved in this deadly pestilence, and Africa, in her coasts and in her provinces towards the east, and on the shores of our Mare Tirreno. And the plague coming gradually westward, comprehended Sardinia and Corsica, and all the islands of that sea; and in like manner on the continent of Europe, it seized on the neighbouring parts towards the west, and extended itself southwards, with more violence of assault than in the northern parts. In 1348 all Italy had the disorder, except the city of Milan, and some parts about the Alps, where it pressed[186] little. And in this same year it began to pass the mountains, and to extend itself into Provence and Savoy and Dauphiné, and Burgundy, and along the seacoast of Marseilles, and of Aigue Morte,[115] and through Catalonia, so to the island of Majorca, and in Spain and Granada. And in 1349 it had taken in, on the extreme west, the coasts of the ocean in Europe and Africa, and Ireland, and the island of England and of Scotland, and other islands of the west, and all the land within, with nearly equal mortality, except in Brabant, where it did little mischief. And in 1350 it seized the Germans and Hungarians, Friesland, Denmark, the Goths and Vandals, and the other people and nations of the north.” The time during which the pestilence raged, in each country which it successively seized upon, is stated by Villani to have been about five lunar months,[116] lasting at Florence from the early part of April, 1348, to the beginning of September in the same year: and he estimates the mortality in that city and district, and in other regions, as far as report enabled him to form a judgment, at three out of five, of all sexes and ages, reckoning the poor with the rich; the poor, however, being somewhat the most diminished, because the pestilence began among them first, and they had less aid against it, and more discomforts and wants. The neglect, however, both of rich and poor, according to Villani, as well as Boccacio, appears to have been very general; but he adds a notice of the failure of the policy of those who withdrew themselves from the danger, and “shut themselves up in solitary places where the air was healthy, provided with every comfort for living,[187] where there was no suspicion of infection, yet in different countries the judgment of God, against which there is no shutting of the door, struck them down, just as the others who had taken no care for themselves. And many others who had made themselves ready for death to save their relations and friends in their sickness escaped, although they had the disorder, and many had it not at all, though they continued this service.”[117]

This is an unintentional, and therefore an unsuspicious testimony to the absence of really contagious properties in this pestilence, as well as in the one described by Procopius. Boccacio, on the contrary, describes the virulence of the contagion in the strongest terms.

Upon this plague, and upon the practice alluded to by Villani, of withdrawing into sequestered retreats, Boccacio has formed the groundwork of his celebrated collection of tales. In an introduction he describes the phenomena of the disease, and the appearance of the city; and relates how a mixed party of both sexes, casually assembled, resolved to quit a scene of such danger and misery, and seek security in the loneliness of the country, and recreation in each other’s society. The tales are supposed to be related by each in turn for the amusement of the rest. Boccacio’s description of the plague runs as follows:—

“It was in the year 1348 that the deadly pestilence reached the noble city of Florence, the fairest of all in Italy; a plague which, whether proceeding from the influence of the heavenly bodies, or sent for our iniquities upon men by the just anger of God for our correction, began some years before in the eastern regions, deprived these of an innumerable quantity of living beings, and then communicating from one place to another, spread itself miserably, without stopping, towards the west. Prudence and human foresight availed nought against it, though the city was carefully cleansed from much filth by officers appointed for that purpose, and all the sick were forbidden to enter it, and much attention given to the preservation[188] of health: nor was there more profit from the humble supplications made to God by devout persons, not once, but often, both in formal processions and in other manners: but the plague began to show forth its sad effects in horrible and wonderful fashion almost in the beginning of the above-named year. The symptoms were not such as they had been in the east, when bleeding at the nose was the sure sign of inevitable death; but at the beginning of the disease certain swellings appeared, alike in men and women, either in the groin or under the arm; some of which grew to the size of a common apple, some to that of an egg, and some more and some less, and the common people called them boils. And in a short time this deadly boil spread from the two parts of the body already mentioned, and began to rise indifferently in every part of the body, and soon after this the characteristic of the disease began to change into black or livid spots, which appeared on the arms and thighs, and every other part of the body of many patients, in some cases large and few, and in others small and thick. And as the boil had originally been, and still was, a most unfailing indication of approaching death, so were these spots whenever they appeared. Nor did it seem that the skill of any physician, or the power of any medicine, availed to cure these diseases, or was of any service; on the contrary, whether it were that the nature of the evil would not allow it, or that the medical attendants (the number of whom, besides the really skilful, had become exceedingly great, and comprised both men and women, who never had had any medical instruction), in their ignorance did not know whence it proceeded, and consequently could not take proper measures against it, the result was that not only few recovered, but almost all died within the third day from the appearance of the above-named symptoms, some a little sooner and some a little later, and most of them without any fever, or other incidental symptom. And the violence of the plague was the greater, because it spread from the sick to the sound by their mutual communication, just as fire catches dry or greasy substances when they are brought close to[189] it. And the evil went yet farther; for not only by conversation and intercourse with the sick did the sound get the disease, and the occasion of the like death, but even the touch of clothes, or anything else which had been touched or used by the sick, seemed to carry with it the same disease, and communicated it to the toucher. It is a marvel to hear the tale which I have to tell; indeed had not many, and I myself with my own eyes, seen it, I should hardly have dared to believe, much less to write it, however trustworthy had been my informant. I say then that such was the virulence of the plague in spreading from one subject to another, that not only man gave it to man, but this much more remarkable circumstance often visibly occurred, namely, that something which had belonged to a man sick or dead of the disease, being touched by another animal not of the human race, not only infected it with the disease, but killed it in a very short time; of which my own eyes, as I just now mentioned, among other instances, received proof one day in the following manner:—The rags of a poor man who died of the plague were thrown into the public street, and a couple of pigs came up, and routed among them a great deal with their snouts, as their manner is, and took them in their teeth, and shook them against their faces; and both, in a very little while after, reeling about some time as if they had taken poison, fell dead to the ground upon the rags which they had so roughly handled. Hence, and from many other similar or more alarming circumstances, there arose various fears and fancies in those who still remained alive, and almost all of them tended towards one very cruel conclusion, to avoid and fly from the sick, and everything belonging to them, for every one believed that by so doing he would secure himself. Some were of opinion that moderate living, and avoiding all excess, had much effect towards resisting this calamity: and these made their parties, and lived away from all others, and collecting together and shutting themselves up in houses where there were no sick, and for their better living using the most delicate food and the best wines with the utmost temperance, and avoiding all[190] luxury, there they tarried, without allowing themselves to speak to any one, or to hear any news from abroad of the dead or the ill, passing their time in music and such pleasures as they could obtain. Others held a contrary opinion, and asserted that the surest remedy for the disease was to drink freely, and to enjoy themselves, and to go about singing and amusing themselves, and to indulge their appetites in every way they could, and to laugh, and make sport of everything that occurred. And just as they said they acted, as far as they could; going night and day now to one tavern and now to another, drinking without stint or measure, and doing this for the most part in other men’s houses, provided only that they found anything there that was to their taste or fancy. And this they could easily do, because every one, as if he had no longer to live, had, as it were, abandoned his property, so that most houses had become common; and a stranger used them, if he happened to come to them, just as their own masters would have done. With all this brutal conduct, they always avoided the sick as much as they could. And in this affliction and wretchedness of the city, the respected authority of laws, both divine and human, was almost entirely fallen to decay and dissolved, from the condition of their ministers and officers; for these, like other men, were all dead or sick, or else left so destitute of assistants that they could perform no duty: so that every one might do whatever pleased him best.

“Many others held a middle course, not confining themselves so closely in their diet as the first, nor indulging themselves so freely as the second in drinking and other excesses. These used things in moderation, according to their appetites, and without shutting themselves up, went about, some of them carrying flowers in their hands, some scented herbs, and some divers kinds of spices, which they often applied to their noses, thinking it best to cherish the brain with scents of this kind, since all the air seemed thick and noisome with the stench of the dead bodies, and the diseased parts, and the medicines. Others were of a more inhuman opinion[191] (though perhaps a safer one), and said that there was no better remedy against pestilences, nor so good, as to run away from them. And many men and women, influenced by this reasoning, and caring for nothing but themselves, abandoned their own cities, their own houses, their habitations, and their relations, and their property, and went to other men’s country establishments, or at least to their own: as if the anger of God, when stirred up to punish the iniquity of men with this pestilence, would not follow them wherever they were, but had only determined to destroy those who were to be found within the walls of their city; or as if they thought that no one ought to remain in it, and that its last hour was come. And although these, with their various modes of thinking, did not all die, so also did they not all escape: on the contrary, many of every opinion growing sick everywhere, those who while themselves well had given the example to those who still remained so, were left to languish almost entirely deserted. And, not to mention that one fellow-citizen avoided another, and hardly any neighbour took any care of another, and relations seldom or never visited each other, with such alarm had this calamity seized on the hearts of men and women, that brother abandoned brother, and uncle nephew, and sister brother, and often the wife her husband; and, which is yet stranger and hardly credible, fathers and mothers were shy of visiting and attending upon their children, as if they were not their own. The result was, that the countless multitude of men and women who were ill, had nothing to depend upon, except either the kindness of friends, and these were few, or else the avarice of servants, who were induced by large and disproportionate wages to give their attendance. And even of them the number was small, and men and women they were of rude understanding, and generally unaccustomed to such services, and hardly of any use except to hand to the patients such things as they asked for, or to observe when they died: and often while rendering such services as these, they lost their lives for their pains. From this desertion of the sick by their neighbours, and relations,[192] and friends, and this scarcity of servants, there spread a practice such as had hardly ever been heard of, that no lady, however elegant, or fair, or young, if taken ill, would object to have a man in attendance on her, be he what he might, young or old, or was ashamed to discover to him any part of her person, just as she would have done to a woman, if the need of her disorder did but require it: and this perhaps in after times, rendered those who recovered less scrupulous in their conduct. The same want of attendance also occasioned the death of many, who might perhaps have escaped if they had had assistance; and thus partly for want of fitting services, which the sick could not have, and partly from the violence of the plague, the number of those who died day and night in the city was so great, that it was astounding even to hear, much more to see: and thus, almost of necessity, there arose among those who were left alive practices contrary to the former custom of the citizens.

“It was the custom, as we still it see to this day, that female relations and friends assembled in the house of the deceased, and there bewailed him, with his yet nearer female connexions. And his male neighbours and many of his townsmen, with his own nearest friends, met separately from the women before his house; and thither, according to his rank, came also the clergy, and the deceased was borne on the shoulders of men of his own rank, with funeral ceremony of wax tapers and chanting, to the church which he had chosen for a burial-place before his death. But these observances, after the fury of the plague began to rise, almost entirely ceased, and other new practices came in their room. For not only did people die without having many women about them, but there were a good many who passed away from this life without having any one to witness it: and few indeed were those, to whom were granted the piteous lamentations and bitter tears of their connexions. On the contrary, instead of these, were heard in most cases laughter, and jests, and good fellowship: and ladies for the most part laying aside the tenderness of[193] their sex, had very completely made themselves masters of this practice, as thinking it for their own safety. And few were there whose bodies were followed to the church by more than ten or a dozen of their neighbours; and the bier was not borne by honourable citizens, friends of the deceased, but a sort of grave-diggers who came from the lowest order of the people, and did these services for hire, took it up and carried it with hurried steps, not to the church which he had himself appointed before his death, but generally to the nearest, following four or six clergy with few tapers, and generally without any; and then the priests with the assistance of these grave-diggers, without troubling themselves about any over long or solemn offices, laid the corpse as quick as possible in the first burial-place which they found unoccupied. The condition of the lowest class, and probably of a great part of the middle class, was full of far greater wretchedness than this; for these were generally kept to their houses either by hope or by poverty, and thus remaining in their neighbourhoods, they sickened by thousands in the day, and receiving no service or assistance, they almost all died without any thing to save them. Many were there who came to their end both by day and night in the public streets, and many others who died in their own houses, and their neighbours had no knowledge that they were dead, till they discovered it by the stench of the putrefying corpses: and the whole place was full of these and others who died on every side. In most neighbourhoods one practice was observed; namely, that the people of the vicinity, moved as much by the fear that the putrefying of the dead bodies might injure themselves, as by the affection which they had borne to the departed, with their own hands, and by the assistance of porters, when they could get them, brought down from their houses the corpses of those who were already gone, and set them before their doors; and there, especially in the morning, any one who had gone about might have seen them without number. Then biers were brought thither, and there were some who for want of regular[194] biers laid the corpses on tables. Nor was it only once that one bier bore two or three corpses at the same time; but a long list might be made, where the same bier held the wife and the husband, or two or three brothers, or father and son, or some such load. And infinitely often did it happen, that when two priests were going with a crucifix for some corpse, three or four biers were carried after it; and the priests, when they thought they had one body to bury, had six, or eight, or sometimes more. Nevertheless, the dead were not honoured with any tears, or lights, or attendance; on the contrary, matters had come to that pass, that no more care was had of men who died, than now would be of goats: so that it very plainly appeared that the greatness of the calamity had taught even the simplest and most unthinking, the lesson which the natural course of events had not been able, by few and slight sufferings, to impress upon the wise, namely, the necessity of patience under suffering. So great was the number of the bodies which were every day, and almost every hour borne in concourse to every church, that the consecrated ground was not sufficient for the burials, especially if it were desired to give to every body a place of its own, according to the ancient practice. Great trenches therefore were dug in the burying-grounds of the churches, after every part was filled; into which the bodies which were brought afterwards were thrown by hundreds. There they were were stowed layer upon layer, like the merchandise in a ship, each layer covered with a little earth, till they reached the top of the trench. And not to go on any longer hunting out every particular of our past misery, which befel us in this city, I say that while the time was passing so cruelly in it, the surrounding country was not in any wise spared. For there, not to speak of the castles, which in proportion to their size were like the city, in the scattered villages and in the fields the poor and wretched labourers and their families, without any care of physician or aid of servant, by the way side, on the land they tilled, and in their houses, died alike by day and night, not like men, but almost[195] like beasts. So they became wanton in their habits, just like the townspeople, and paid no attention to their affairs or business; but all, as if they expected to die on the day which they found they had reached, would do nothing to secure the future produce of their cattle, and of the land, and of their own past labours, but exerted themselves as much as possible to consume those which they found at hand. Thus it happened that the kine, the asses, the sheep, the pigs, the goats, the poultry, and even the dogs, creatures most attached to mankind, driven out of their own houses, went about as it pleased them over the fields, where the corn was left, not merely unharvested, but uncut. And many of them, almost like reasoning beings, after they had fed well in the day, at night returned home without any guidance of their shepherd. What more can be said, leaving the country and returning to the city, but that such and so great was the cruelty of heaven, and perhaps in some degree that of men, that between March and the following July, between the virulence of the pestilential disease, and the bad attendance on the sick, or their abandonment in their need on account of the fear entertained by the sound, more than a hundred thousand human beings are confidently believed to have died within the walls of the city of Florence; though before this deadly occurrence, perhaps the whole number would not have been estimated so high. Oh, how many great palaces, how many fair houses, how many noble mansions, formerly fully inhabited, now remained empty, from their lords and mistresses to the lowest menial! Oh, how many memorable races, how many vast inheritances, how many splendid fortunes found themselves left without any right successor! How many gallant men, how many fair women, how many comely youths, whom not only any common observer, but Galen, Hippocrates, or Æsculapius would have judged in the soundest health, breakfasted in the morning with their relations, companions and friends, and then, the evening after, supped in the other world with their ancestors[196].”

The relaxation of morals consequent upon this pestilence is more fully described by Villani.

“In this season of the deadly pestilence, Pope Clement VI. made great general indulgences of the punishment of all sins to those who on repentance and confession requested it of their confessors, and died; and in this mortality every Christian, thinking that he was dying, set himself well in order, and with much contrition and repentance they gave up their souls to God. And the few wise men who remained alive expected many things, which through the corruption of sin, turned out otherwise, the very contrary most marvellously coming to pass. For they thought that such as God by his favour had kept alive, having seen the extermination of their nearest connexions, and having heard the like tidings of all the nations of the world, would have become of better condition, humble, virtuous, of the true faith, and would have kept themselves from iniquities and sins, and would have been full of love and charity one towards another. But now that the mortality was at an end, the contrary appeared; for men finding themselves few and rich by their heirships and successions to earthly goods, forgetting things past as if they had never been, gave into a more unhandsome and disorderly life than they had used before. For wandering about at leisure they dissolutely indulged in the sin of gluttony, banquets, taverns, delicate food, gaming, running without bridle into luxury, which they sought in strange clothing, and unusual fashions, and unseemly manners, changing the forms of all household goods. And the people, men and women, because of the exceeding abundance which they found of all things, would not labour at their accustomed trades, and would have the dearest and most delicate viands for their subsistence, and married at will; the maid-servants and all the lowest women dressing themselves in all the beautiful and valuable attire of the honourable ladies who were dead. And almost all our city, without any check, ran into a discreditable course of life, and so, and worse, did the other cities and provinces of the world. And according to all the accounts we have received, there was[197] no place where the living kept themselves in continence, when they had escaped from the divine wrath, supposing that the hand of God was weary. But, according to the prophet Isaiah, the wrath of God is not shortened, neither is his hand weary: but he has much pleasure in his mercy, and labours in long-suffering, that he may bring back sinners to conversion and repentance; and he punishes temperately.

“It was supposed that, through the failure of the people, there would for a long time be abundance of every thing which the earth produces; and, on the contrary, through the ingratitude of men, every thing came to unusual scarcity, and so continued a long time. In some countries there were several unusual famines. So also it was expected that there would be abundance of clothing, and of all other things which are of service to the human body beyond subsistence: and, in fact, the contrary came to pass for a long time; for most things were worth twice as much as they used to be before the aforesaid mortality, and more. And labour, and manufactures of all sorts, rose regularly to more than twice the ordinary rate. Lawsuits, disputes, controversies and riots arose on every side among the citizens of every country, on account of their inheritances and successions. And our city of Florence long filled her courts with them, with great expenditure and unusual charges. Wars were stirred up, and various scandals throughout all the universe, contrary to the common expectation of men.”

These Italian accounts might be suspected of exaggeration, but they are fully supported by ultramontane authority; and though the pestilence of 1348 is usually known as the plague of Florence (a distinction which it owes probably to Boccaccio), it raged even more destructively beyond the Florentine territory, and beyond the Italian peninsula. The French and English historians in particular bear testimony to the extent of misery produced by it. “Never in old times was it heard or seen that such a multitude of people lay dead: the evil seemed to grow by imagination and contagion,[198] for if a whole man visited a sick man, it was very seldom that he escaped. Thus in many towns and villages the priests fled to avoid attending upon the dying: in many places, out of twenty persons, not two remained alive. At Paris, in the hospital of the Hôtel Dieu, the mortality was such, that for a long time five hundred corpses were carried in carts daily to the burial-ground of the Innocents.”[118] “In Provence and Languedoc two-thirds of the people were estimated to have perished; in the rest of France one-third. Allowing for the inclination which all men have to magnify those calamities, the naked facts of which are terrible enough, there is here evidence of a mortality hardly to be equalled.”[119]

In England the same pestilence raged with destructive energy among the poor, but spared the higher orders. Hardly any of the nobility or bishops died, with this remarkable exception, that the see of Canterbury was thrice vacated by death in one year. It is also recorded that there was a great murrain among the cattle, and that neither beast nor bird of prey would touch their carcasses. Meat in consequence became exceedingly scarce, and the harvest having failed, not so much for deficiency of crops, as for want of hands to get it in, the distress was very great. About harvest-time a reaper was not to be had for less than eight-pence, nor a mower for less than twelve-pence a day, besides victuals, “which in those days was excessive wages, money having then a tenfold value to what it hath now.”

Another celebrated pestilence is that which desolated Milan in the year 1630. The duchy was then subject to Spain, and, like all the foreign dependencies and conquests of that once powerful kingdom, had reason to rue the day that gave it such a master. Domestic misrule, the licensed insolence of the nobles, the supine indifference of the government to all but political crimes, combined with the miseries of almost constant war to destroy the husbandman’s hopes and paralyse his industry. At length natural causes seemed to unite with[199] political ones to work evil to this unhappy country. In the year 1627 an unfavourable season and defective harvest produced an alarming scarcity, which was aggravated into famine by a second failure in the succeeding year. The consequences of this scarcity were soon evident in the vast number of persons without employment or means of subsistence, who were congregated in the streets of Milan. It was the pernicious fashion of that time for the gentry to maintain a number of idle and dissolute followers—men regardless of obligations human or divine, who owned no law except their master’s will, chosen and valued for their readiness to undertake and dexterity to execute his orders, alike unmindful of their guilt or danger. The rich walked the streets followed by a train of these bravoes (the Italian name is naturalized in our language), swords were drawn upon the slightest pretence, and their brawls openly insulted and defied the law. These men were the first to be turned adrift when vice and luxury began to feel the pressure of want.—”It would have been laughable,” says a contemporary, “had such a feeling been consistent with the consciousness of our own danger, to see the change in those persons who used to be bugbears to all. The nobles now walked unattended, civilly, hanging their ears (demissis auribus), as if to bespeak peace by their demeanour. No less striking was it to see their domestic bullies, who used to perfume the very air, reduced to beg half naked through the city.”[120] The sufferings of these ruffians would excite little sympathy, but the famine pressed equally upon the honest and industrious. The rich being compelled by increasing scarcity to contract their expenses, artificers and tradesmen, one after another, were thrown out of employ; and thus the streets were filled with a starving crowd, daily increased by those who flocked from the country and from neighbouring towns, reduced to depend upon charity, and allured to the capital by its superior wealth.


So great was the evil, such the scenes of misery presented to the eye in every street, that the municipal authorities resolved on opening two vast establishments—the lazaretto, or hospital for persons with infectious disorders, and a building usually appropriated to the reception of foundlings. To these places all mendicants and persons without means of subsistence were taken by the police, and maintained at the public expense. At one of these establishments 3000 persons were admitted within a few days, and fresh inmates were continually presenting themselves. Private munificence materially lightened the heavy charge thus laid upon the public treasury. But, then as now, numbers were so devoted to a vagabond life, that rather than accept food, clothing, and shelter, under the moderate restraints necessary to preserve order in such a multitude, they would have remained in rags, exposed to the inclemency of the weather, and dependent even for the bread of life upon casual relief. To quicken the diligence of the police, a small reward was given for each person whom they brought in. At length the discontent among those who were shut up, generated by the restrictions on their liberty, and heightened by a mortality far less probably than that which took place among them while scattered abroad, but more alarming because brought all at once into view, became so great, that the magistrates broke up these establishments, and the misery of unbounded beggary again prevailed throughout Milan.

During this period the pestilence lurked in the Grison mountains: it had even appeared in the capital; but the deaths were few, the disease spread not, and both magistrates and people, with a common infatuation, were eager to deny the existence of danger until it was too late to guard against it. In the autumn of 1629 a further evil visited this unhappy country. The Spanish governor had granted a free passage to a German army, intended to oppose the French interest in the duchy of Mantua. These men, with the brutal licentiousness which preeminently disgraced the mercenary soldiers of that age, inflicted all the miseries of war upon a friendly population.[201] Blood, rapine, and fire marked their path; the inhabitants concealed their property, and abandoned their houses, but it was often in vain; their persecutors spread over the country, and if discovered they were compelled by torture to reveal their stores. And as the first of these locusts left nothing for those who followed, the latter often vented their wrath and disappointment upon those poor people, whose only crime was having lost their all. Thus all who could fly, took shelter in the most retired fortresses, and there endured extreme hardship, until the last of these ill-omened allies had disappeared. And such was the devastation, that the miseries of their temporary shelter were little worse than those endured after their return home.[121]

Still further to increase the terrors of these troops, it was reported that they bore the plague along with them, from which indeed the German armies were said seldom to be entirely free. Superstition added to the general alarm. A comet appeared in 1628; another in 1630. Belief in the malign influence of these bodies was then general. Prophecies were current, said to be of ancient date, denouncing plague and famine in these years. It will be evident to the reader that no place could be better fitted to receive and nourish a pestilential disorder than Milan was at this time. Scarcity of food and want of cleanliness, inseparable from a poor and crowded population, and a summer of unusual heat, combined to favour the reception of the enemy. In November, 1629, a soldier quartered at Chiavenna returned to his home at Milan. He was taken ill, removed to the hospital, and died; and on examination the signs of plague were found on his body, and the subsequent death of all persons who had been under the same roof made it evident that the plague had gained entrance. But at first the progress of the disease was slow, so slow that doubts were entertained whether it were really the plague; and while the magistrates were dilatory and remiss[202] in taking the usual precautions, the common people were especially unwilling to admit so unpalatable and alarming a report. Fear of the sufferings, and disgust at the restrictions and discipline of an infected city, made them furious against all who warned them of their danger. The first physician in Milan, a man eminent for charity in the exercise of his profession as well as skill, and therefore highly venerated even by the populace, was assaulted by a mob, and obliged to fly for his life, upon no other provocation than his belief in the reality of the disease.


From a Medal of Cardinal Borromeo.

But unfortunately incredulity was of no avail to check its progress; and at last the magistrates were compelled to place guards and barriers at the gates, and to exclude all persons and all articles coming from suspected places.[203] Not only the sick, but all persons living in the same house with them, were removed to the lazaretto, or, if suffered to remain, were placed under the charge of an officer appointed to ensure their perfect seclusion. Those whose health was suspected were allowed to remain under similar but somewhat lighter restraint. And having done what was possible in the way of precaution with little benefit, for the mortality increased fearfully, the authorities turned for help to St. Charles Borromeo, the late Archbishop of Milan, whose body, enclosed in a crystal shrine, formed the most precious treasure of the cathedral. There was at least a propriety in applying to him in preference to any other saint in the calendar; for his liberality, and intrepidity, and zeal in his pastoral duties were eminently displayed in 1576, when Milan laboured under the same calamity.

It was determined therefore, with the permission of the church, to carry these relics in solemn procession round the city, and to implore the continued patronage and intercession of the saint, who in life had zealously watched over the temporal as well as the spiritual welfare of his people. It was ordered that no expense be spared to increase the splendour of the rite, and testify due reverence to the hallowed remains; and accordingly the streets through which the pomp was to pass were cleared, and cleansed, and decked with tapestry and other ornaments, as if for a festival. The houses of the poor, and those which the pestilence had left untenanted, were furnished at the expense of the city, or by the piety of some wealthy neighbour. The latter should rather have been left in their desolation, bare and mournful, to testify to the extent of the distress, and implore, more touchingly than words could do it, the divine protection. The shrine was borne through the chief streets surrounded by the priesthood, the nobles, and the magistrates, barefoot, and in penitential dresses, and followed by a multitude: and for a moment all minds were abstracted from their own and the common danger, to gaze upon the mitred skull, visible through its transparent covering, whose eyeless sockets and grinning jaws[204] might have seemed to mock the hopes so fondly and vainly entertained.

The procession took place on June 3rd: at its close the saint returned to his resting-place; and from that time forward the disease raged with redoubled fury, and the Milanese were reduced to despair. For eight days and nights, however, the shrine was deposited upon the high altar, surrounded by a concourse of votaries, beseeching help with tears and cries. The answer, our author says, was comprised in the number of the dying; and lest the interpretation should be doubtful, that number increased until 1800 perished daily. Strange infatuation! where every man should have avoided his dearest friend as charged with death, to congregate thousands in supplication against an enemy, to whom in that very act they gave a more extensive and deadly power!

The speedy burial of the dead is commonly one of the great difficulties in time of pestilence. Here it was little felt. There was a class of men called Monatti, professed attendants on the plague, and ever ready for, and rejoicing in the most dangerous and disgusting services. Ripamonte speaks of them as a class well known to everybody, and passes in silence over the origin of the name, and the nature of the reward which tempted, or the tie, whether hereditary or other, which bound them to so desperate a service: curious points on which we have failed to procure information elsewhere. It was the duty of these men to convey the sick to the hospitals, and attend them there; to watch over those who remained at home, and to carry away the dead for interment. Strange and revolting were these funeral processions. They were preceded by two men with bells, who warned all persons to avoid the way, that the Monatti were at hand, death and pestilence in their train. Then came carts with the dead piled in disorder, many stripped even of their last covering, when it was such as to excite the cupidity of the ruffians in charge of them; while the long hair of women trailing on the ground, and limbs and heads dangling over the sides, and answering to the rough movements of the vehicle, and fallen bodies[205] strewed along the ground,[122] presented a spectacle the more revolting for the grotesqueness that mingled with its horror. Meanwhile the Monatti sat carousing in the midst of death with indecent laughter and jests, and exultation in the general calamity; indulging the avowed hope that the mortality might never cease till the population of Milan was exterminated, and the wealth of her palaces left unowned and undefended, to be appropriated by the plunderer at will. Necessary as these ministers were, their presence added fresh miseries to those under which the city groaned. Reckless and desperate, hating others in proportion as they were loathed and despised, they were prepared for any crime that passion and interest might prompt. Their duty called them into all suspected houses, and at such a season every house lay open to suspicion. Every abode, every room therefore was exposed to their intrusion; and robbery was the most frequent, but not the worst end to which these ill-omened visits were perverted. Other profligates too assumed their dress and ensigns, and sometimes when the true and false Monatti met, strife and bloodshed added new horrors to the sick chamber or the dying bed.

The general distress, as misery is ever prone to credulity, was in no small degree increased by the most absurd and wicked reports. It was supposed that foreign princes had generated, or, at all events, were maintaining the plague, with the view of weakening the power of the state, and taking undisturbed possession of it, when reduced to a solitude. A belief was propagated, that persons were employed to besmear everything likely to be touched with the most foul and pestilential compounds. The walls of houses, the fastenings of doors, household implements, clothes, men’s persons, everything fit to spread the infection, nay, the very standing corn in the[206] fields, now ripe for the sickle, were thought to be poisoned by some unseen enemy. The belief originated in an unexplained appearance, the result most likely of some wanton joke or malicious deception. On the morning of April 23rd, the fronts of houses throughout the whole length of the city were observed by the earliest passengers to be marked with spots, appearing as if a sponge filled with the matter of the plague-sores had been pressed against them. The whole population ere long was in a commotion, and poured out to see this strange phenomenon; but this was before the fury of the pestilence, and the alarm created was forgotten, until revived by the increasing mortality. Then reports were circulated, and greedily received, that emissaries of hostile princes were diligently engaged in spreading infectious poison through the city; nay, that the powers of hell, as well as human principalities, were leagued against it, and that the devil had taken a house in Milan, where his head-quarters were established, and the pestiferous unguents prepared and distributed. One man related how, as he stood in front of the cathedral, he saw a chariot drawn by six white horses, and followed by a numerous attendance, in which a person sat, of princely demeanour, though his dark and deep-burnt complexion, his floating hair, the fire of his eye, and the threatening expression of his lip, gave such an air to the countenance as he had never beheld on mortal face. The stranger stopped before him, and bade him mount. He complied, and was carried to a house which appeared like many others; but on entering, he saw strange and wonderful things, in which majesty was mixed with horrors, delight with fear. In one part thick-flashing lightning dispelled the seeming night which reigned elsewhere: here a spectral senate held its meetings; there vast empty chambers and gardens extended, and from the brow of a dimly-seen rock waters poured abundantly into a basin placed to receive them; and he narrated a variety of other prodigies. The tempter concluded by showing him vast treasures, and promising that they should be his own, and every wish be gratified, if he would bow the knee[207] to him and do his bidding. But the temptation was insufficient to overcome his virtue, and he was suddenly transported back to the spot whence he had been taken. The motive for concocting such tales is as evident as their extravagance: yet they roused the populace to such fury and such jealous suspicion, that many fell victims not to any imprudence, but to the commonest and most natural actions, which the prevailing frenzy interpreted into the dreadful crime of anointing. In sight of Ripamonte, from whom we derive this account, an old man past eighty, well known as a daily frequenter of the church of St. Antony, was seen, on rising from his knees, to wipe the bench on which he meant to sit with the skirt of his cloak. Some women raised a cry, that the old man was anointing the seats. The church was more thronged than usual, for it was a festival-day. The people ran together in an instant: the old man was dragged by the hair, beaten, and kicked; the only thing that saved his life for an instant was the wish to carry him before the judges, and extort some knowledge of his accomplices. “I saw him,” says Ripamonte, “dragged away thus, and never heard more of him. I think that he must have died on the instant. Those who were induced by pity to inquire of his character, reported that he was a good and honest man.”

With the people in this temper, accusations and convictions for a crime probably fictitious were not wanting. The first victim was a person employed by the tribunal of health to make the daily round of a district, and report the names of all who were ill. He was accused by some women, who described his person, and swore that they saw him from their windows daub the walls with some preparation. Being put to the torture, he endured it with wonderful constancy until the fourth day, and then when the judges, wearied by his firmness, were about to release him, he made a sort of voluntary confession, and named one Mora, a barber, as the person who had given him the ointments. Other circumstances he added, grossly false, as that the barber had given him at the same time a potion which took away all power of confession,[208] until he had undergone a certain process of torture. The house of Mora was found full of medical or chemical vessels and preparations (it was then usual for barbers to practise surgery), which he declared were meant as preservatives to be distributed among his friends. The physicians who inspected them were of a different opinion, and declared them to be prepared for poisons; and on their report the barber was put to the torture, where, after several times alternately confessing and recanting, he at length made full acknowledgment of his guilt, and of all the methods which he had employed. Others, meanwhile, were apprehended upon the same charge, and made similar confessions under the cogent arguments of the rack; and all were put to death with circumstances of no common cruelty. Mora’s house was demolished, and a column built on the spot where it stood, with an inscription to commemorate his guilt. A sort of madness seems to have been epidemic, and it is not improbable that some persons may have been led to attempt the crime by the mere force of imagination, as sometimes a murder of unusual horror seems to work upon minds morbidly susceptible of such impressions, till they believe themselves irresistibly driven to commit the same offence. Some persons who were taken within the lazaretto, with boxes and bottles, as if prepared to collect the putrid humour of the plague-boils, which was believed to be the chief ingredient of these diabolical preparations, confessed their guilt, persisted in their confession under the severest tortures, and yet under the gallows asserted, that though they died willingly in expiation of other guilt, they were innocent in this point, even of the knowledge of unguents, or of the magical or diabolical practices which were said to be joined with them. One man who lay sick in the lazaretto, confessed that he had entered into a compact with the devil, and pointed out the spot where his poisons would be found. He died in raving madness (no uncommon symptom in the disease), calling for the means of self-destruction, and attempted to cut his throat with a sharp piece of money. A woman also confessed, and named her daughter as an[209] accomplice: and the instruments of infection were found in the possession of the latter. It added no small credit to these stories that four men were said to have been detected in the palace at Madrid, with medicaments prepared for communicating the plague, yet they escaped, and left no trace of their flight. This news came in a letter signed by the king’s own hand, addressed to the governor of the province, and warning him to be upon his guard. There is some justice in an observation made by our author, that it seemed fated through the whole of this business that things doubtful and things certain should be intermixed, and mutually involve each other in obscurity. The total disappearance of four men, detected in a crime of such moment, even in a royal palace, where of all places their apprehension would appear to be certain, bears such an air of mystification as throws discredit on the whole story: yet we cannot suppose the Spanish monarch a party to the practising of so mischievous a deceit upon his own suffering subjects; and scarcely any other person would dare, or could be interested, to get up a trick so dangerous, and apparently so unprofitable to the contrivers and actors in it. But the people, blinded by their fears, saw neither improbability nor inconsistency in these stories. Ripamonte, evidently himself a sceptic, professes that an author was not free to canvass this subject unreservedly, so obstinately was the belief fixed both in the higher and lower classes, who maintained this breath of rumour as devotedly as they clung to their homes and altars, and all that they held most sacred.

The Italians, owing perhaps to the common use of poisons among them, seem readily to have admitted such reports. When the plague broke out at Naples in 1656, it was said to have been introduced by the Spaniards, who suborned people to scatter poisoned dust in the streets. This was one of the methods which the Milanese anointers were reported to use. Tadini, one of the most eminent physicians then and there practising, who wrote an account of the plague,[123] says that he knew[210] two young women, who on crossing themselves with holy water on coming out of church observed that a clammy powder remained on their clothes and persons, wherever the sacred sign had been made. Returning home they were seized with giddiness, and died within two days. This seems a strong case, yet it may be doubted whether they died of the plague or of imagination, for no marks of the disease appeared on their bodies. Their mother, and those who had waited on them, perished in the same unaccountable way.

Through the whole of this trying season Cardinal Frederick Borromeo, the Archbishop of Milan, distinguished himself by an unceasing zeal in the cause of religion and charity. The ample revenues of his dignity, at all times liberally dispersed among those who needed assistance, were now devoted to the support of the lazarettos; and his private resources were increased by the zeal of the rich, who placed large sums of money at his disposal, confident that in his hands they would be most beneficially and discreetly employed. One remarkable instance of generosity is recorded. Two countrymen requested and obtained admission to the cardinal. “We are two brothers,” they said, “husbandmen, whom our father left in possession of a small farm: we have brought here 2000 gold pieces, which hard labour and economy have enabled us to accumulate, and now lay them at your feet, to be disposed to such charitable uses as shall appear best to you.” No less prodigal of his personal safety than of his wealth, this excellent prelate declared that he would never quit the city so long as the plague lasted; and he kept his word, notwithstanding the earnest and importunate solicitations of many who set a higher value on his life than he himself did. He visited the hospitals, the poor, gave free access to every person, however humble, who wished to see him, and directed his especial attention to requiring from the parochial clergy a strict discharge of their duties in this trying season, when the ministration of spiritual assistance to the sick and dying was esteemed more hazardous than mounting a breach or storming a battery. And it is just to observe that both the parochial and conventual[211] clergy displayed a noble zeal in encountering danger and labour, not only up to, but beyond the strict letter of their duty. They regulated the lazarettos and preserved such order as could be maintained in such establishments, and attended to the bodily and mental wants of their patients, hopeless of preserving their own life through the dangers to which they were exposed, and therefore undeterred by danger when good was to be done. On the contrary, none of the physicians would enter the hospitals. The tribunal of health and the municipal authorities requested the college of that faculty to depute some members of their body to perform that duty: it was answered, that they would send members who should go as far as the walls, keeping however outside the ditch surrounding the establishment, and there do what they could to help the sick, but that no one would consent to enter those roofs to his certain destruction. They tried in vain to bribe men to this service, and were obliged to seek physicians in France and Germany.

Ripamonte possessed a breviary which had been the cardinal’s, which contained many manuscript observations made by him during the progress of the plague. They contain among several curious anecdotes the following observations on the reports prevalent concerning the anointers: “Truth and falsehood are readily intermixed, and with respect to this factitious plague many things are said of which you may readily believe a part, and as readily disprove others: and thus I admit some of those stories; others may, I think, be rejected. This I do not hesitate to affirm, that many have thought they could acquit themselves of negligence in exposing themselves to infection, by asserting that the plague which they have themselves caught, has been the work of anointers.”

The practices which, whether falsely or truly, were said to exist, are these. Men begged through the city, offering poisoned papers under the appearance of petitions. The earth and its productions, eatables, money given in charity, were poisoned. The fastenings of doors, as being necessarily handled, were special objects of attack; as were also the basins of holy water placed in churches.[212] Poles were used to anoint what was out of reach, and bellows to scatter poisoned dust. “These and other things which were loudly proclaimed, I neither believe entirely,” says the cardinal, “nor yet think them reported entirely without foundation.” On the whole, without believing that these crimes were committed either at the instigation of foreign princes, or in virtue of an express compact with the devil, the cardinal seems decidedly to incline to the conclusion, that the pestilence was spread, if not originated, by artificial means; and to refer the guilt to soldiers (and the mercenaries of that day were men capable of any enormities), and other men of broken fortunes, who hoped to enrich themselves by plunder amid the general confusion, dismay, and death. Before we quit this subject, it is due to his reputation to state that he, and he alone, strongly disapproved of the procession with the body of St. Charles Borromeo, as furnishing the best opportunity to anointers, if such villains there were, and at all events of ensuring an increase of the disorder; since among such a multitude many persons were sure to bear about them the seeds of infection.

Towards the end of September the disease began to abate; and its decline was signalized by as impudent a fraud as has ever been practised, even in those earlier times when the power of the church and the blindness of the people were most remarkable. Attached to the Dominican convent there was a church of high reputation, dedicated to the Virgin, in gratitude for her signal kindness towards the city of Milan. On the night of September 22nd, the monks were collected, waiting for the matin service, when suddenly their several occupations of praying or sleeping were interrupted by the sound of the church bells. It soon appeared that they were rung miraculously, without touch of mortal fingers.[124] Some manifested wonder, others fear, according to their different tempers, but all were at a loss to explain the[213] prodigy, until a voice too awful to be human was heard to say, “Mother, I will take pity upon my people.” The interpretation of the miracle then was evident: the Virgin had sought and obtained from her Son the remission of the plague, and the next morning the oil which fed the lamp suspended before her image was found to possess a miraculous healing virtue, and was distributed drop by drop to all classes, who crowded, high and low, to receive it; not, we may presume, without a handsome tribute of gratitude to the protectress herself, and to her servants the Dominicans. Ripamonte, cautious of expressing a doubt concerning the anointers, breathes not a syllable from which a want of faith in this miracle can even be inferred: the church was the church of the Inquisition, and it was from the Dominican monks that the officers of that institution were chosen. The number of deaths, however, began to diminish about or somewhat earlier than this time, and grew smaller and smaller as the autumn advanced; and by the close of the year Milan was delivered from this dreadful scourge.

The number who died in these few months was registered at 140,000, but this is supposed to have been below the mark, because many persons were privately buried by their friends, to avoid introducing the Monatti into their houses.

The extravagant credulity of the Milanese, and the fury and crimes which sprung from that credulity, may be partially excused on the ground that in that age even learned men believed in the possibility of exciting pestilence by means half-medical, half-magical, and that evil spirits exercised a malign influence over the air, and interfered visibly in diffusing the evil. More than thirty years later, the Jesuit Kircher, a man of various and extensive knowledge, but of a mystic temper, and a firm believer in the power of magic and occult influences, speaks of this plague as produced by the arts of evil men. Nor does he want authorities to strengthen his belief, among whom we may mention Theophrastus, who speaks of a terrible plague produced by poisoners in his own time, and gives the receipt for the pestiferous mixture, the ingredients[214] of which are the putrid bodies of men deceased of the plague, and the bones, marrow, and poison of angry toads, approximating nearly to the receipt given by Ripamonte. To prove that demons may act as the ministers of God’s wrath to scatter the seeds of pestilence, he quotes Gregory of Nyssa, a father of the church in the fourth century, who relates in his Life of St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (the wonder-worker), that in a city of Greece, the people being collected in the theatre were much inconvenienced for want of room and made loud complaints, on which the evil spirit was to reply that there should soon be room enough in the city. And before the audience dispersed, so fierce a pestilence broke out among them, that in brief space a populous city was changed into a desert. Here the drift of the story is evident—it was a warning against theatrical amusements, which the Christians abhorred not only as profane, but as idolatrous, and a proof of the power of the devil over those who frequented them. The Pythagorean philosophers maintained similar doctrines as to the agency of spirits. Apollonius of Tyana, being at Ephesus during a pestilence, observed a demon under the habit of a fisherman busily employed in spreading the infection. He commanded that the fisherman should be stoned, and immediately the plague ceased. Similar stories are told of Pythagoras by Iamblichus. And the monkish writers helped mainly to encourage a belief of the interference of the devil in human affairs, by the many legends in which the spiritual adversary was introduced, to his own discomfiture and to the glory of some favourite saint.

It may reasonably be hoped, almost as much from the improved sanitary regulations and increased cleanliness of our cities, as from the progress of medical science, that no future pestilence will inflict upon Europe sufferings equal to those which have been described, and which are still to follow. To enable us, however, better to appreciate the value of this hope, we may refer shortly to the condition of that science about the period of which we have been speaking. The structure of the body, and the properties of minerals, were for the most part unknown[215] even to the best Greek and Latin physicians; and though anatomy had made considerable progress at the beginning of the seventeenth century, pharmacy had made little or none. The regular physicians were educated in the schools of universities, where they imbibed that profound respect for the authority of the ancients which characterized the universities of that day, and that love of exclusive privilege which has been charged upon universities in general. Brought up in the fear of Hippocrates and Galen, they received their sayings as oracular, and would probably rather have let a patient die, secundum artem, than have employed remedies unsanctioned by their authority. Chemistry meanwhile had made some progress, and in seeking the philosopher’s stone many valuable properties of minerals had been discovered: but the discreditable character of the alchemists, and professional jealousy and prejudice, combined to render those persons, who from their knowledge and their reputation might best have availed themselves of the remedies thus presented, unwilling to profit, or to let others profit, by discoveries made in so irregular a manner. The effect of this ill-judged adherence to the wisdom of antiquity was not of course to stifle the powerful preparations employed by Paracelsus, Van Helmont, and others, but to throw them exclusively into the hands of another party. Hence arose the contending sects of Galenists and chemists, the former employing none but vegetable productions, the latter ridiculing the Galenical pharmacy as cumbrous and ineffectual, and placing their dependance on the newly-discovered properties of mercury, antimony, sulphur, and other metals and earths. It was probably very much owing to this schism that the practice of medicine was so much infested by quacks towards the close of the sixteenth and early in the seventeenth century, more so perhaps than at any other period. The real power of the remedies discarded by the most influential professors of the healing art could not be hidden, and might easily be exaggerated; and hence arose a vast multitude of empirics, each with his elixir vitæ, or some infallible medicine or other, which vended[216] under a lofty name, and with the pretence of deep science, gained ready hold upon the credulity of the ignorant and the simple.

“He is a rare physician, do him right,
An excellent Paracelsian, and has done
Strange cures with mineral physic. He deals all
With spirits—he. He will not hear a word
Of Galen, or his tedious recipes.”[125]

Such was the state of medicine in England at this period: of its state in Italy we are not qualified to speak; but, from an instance presently to be quoted, it would seem to have been no more advanced than it was in England. And as there was no disease for which money could not purchase some infallible remedy, so the plague, as the object of most general apprehension, was best of all suited for the impostures of those whose treasury was the credulity of other people. A reference to any collection of tracts upon this subject, published before or during the year 1665, will satisfy the reader on this head: the examples which follow have occurred during a very cursory examination of one or two volumes, from which they might easily have been multiplied. We find in ‘A Ioyfull Iewell,.. first made and published in the Italian tung, by the famous and learned Knight and Doctor M. Leonardo Fioraventie,’ such receipts as this: “Of Elixir Vitæ, and how to make it, and of his great Vertues.” It consists of forty ingredients, such as ginger, juniper, sage, rose-leaves, aloes, figs, raisins, honey, &c., an equal quantity of each. This, if it did no good, could perhaps do little harm: but when it is professed that if any use it in time of pestilence, it is impossible he should be infected, the deceit becomes a source of serious evil. Another is worse, and joins blasphemy to impudence. “A great and miraculous secret to help the pestilence, with great ease and in a short time; a remedy and secret revealed of God miraculously. When a man hath a pestilent sore, let there be made a hole in the earth, and there let him be buryed all saving the[217] neck and head, and there let him stand xii or xiiii houres and he shall be holpen, and then take him forth: and merveyl not that I write this medicine, because the earth is our mother, and that which purifieth all things, as we see by experience that the earth taketh forth all spots in cloth, it susteineth and maketh flesh tender if we bury it v or vi hours in the earth.” Or “the water of the sea hath a marveylous remedy in it against the pestilence, if they wash them therein iiii or v houres togither, or if need require let him stand x or xii houres therein.” Truly a man would be well “holpen” by such remedies: yet this Fioraventi, a Bolognese physician and alchemist of the sixteenth century, enjoyed considerable reputation among his contemporaries. The chemists of course were not sparing in their censures of their adversaries the Galenists, and the ingenious and industrious Iatrochemist, Dr. George Thomson, makes the following observations, in which the reader may be inclined partly to join: “These, especially if they can but surreptitiously get some chymical medicines from us, will, at a hazard, try what a dry fume of gums will do, a costly pomander, a composition of figs, rue, and walnuts (a rueful medicine to trust to if all were known), Mathias’ plague water, or aqua epidemica (I wonder they forgat St. Luke’s water for mere credit’s sake), an electuary of London treacle and wood-sorrel (I am persuaded a leg of veal and green-sauce is far better), bole-armeniac (no whit better than tobacco-clay, except that ‘tis dearer and farther fetched). If these avail not, if they light upon rich families (let the poor shift for themselves), they will provide for them (taking a share with them) pearls, hyacinth-stone prepared (after their gross way), bezoar-stone of the east, unicorn’s horn (equivalent to harts-horn), lignum aloes—strange they omitted gold, but that I believe they mean to put into their own purse.”[126] The ridicule is not undeserved, when we find such articles[218] as crab’s eyes, julap of violets, oil of amber, confection of hyacinth, and other preparations of precious stones in the materia medica of the day. Dr. Thomson, however, has his own ‘Ternion of effectual Chymical Remedies,’ with which “noble chymical preparations if any desire to be accommodated in this sad time of contagion, let them repair to the place of his abode without Aldgate, nigh the Blew-Boare Inn.” Spirit of salt and oil of sulphur appear to have been favourite remedies with this class of practitioners.

The greatest and last plague which has appeared in London first showed itself in Westminster towards the end of the year 1664. In December a three months’ frost set in, which stopped its progress, but with the spring it returned, though doubtfully, and continued through May and June with more or less severity. At the beginning of August it set in with far greater violence, and was at its height about the beginning of September, when more than twelve thousand persons died weekly. Having reached this height, it began to decrease. By the beginning of November the city began to wear a more healthy aspect, and in December people were crowding back again as fast as they before had crowded out.[127] The total number of deaths is thus given:—

Within the city of London 9,887
In Westminster 8,403
Parishes without the Walls 28,888
Neighbourhood, including Hackney,
Islington, Lambeth, Rotherhithe,
&c., in all 12 parishes
} 21,420

Enough has been already said of the general appearance and course of such disorders. Instead therefore of another connected narrative, we shall only extract some[219] of the most remarkable incidents and reflections to be found in Defoe’s and Pepys’s journals.

“The face of London was now indeed strangely altered, I mean the whole mass of buildings, city, liberties, suburbs, Westminster, Southwark, and altogether; for as to the particular part called the city, or within the walls, that was not yet much infected; but in the whole, the face of things, I say, was much altered: sorrow and sadness sat upon every face, and though some part were not overwhelmed, yet all looked deeply concerned; and as we saw it apparently coming on, so every one looked on himself and his family as in the utmost danger: were it possible to represent those times exactly to those that did not see them, and give the reader due ideas of the horror that everywhere presented itself, it must make just impressions upon their minds, and fill them with surprise. London might well be said to be all in tears; the mourners did not go about the streets indeed, for nobody put on black, or made a formal dress of mourning for their nearest friends; but the voice of mourning was truly heard in the streets; the shrieks of women and children at the windows and doors of their houses, where their nearest relations were perhaps dying, or just dead, were so frequent to be heard as we passed the streets, that it was enough to pierce the stoutest heart in the world to hear them. Tears and lamentations were seen almost in every house, especially in the first part of the visitation, for towards the latter end, men’s hearts were hardened, and death was always so much before their eyes, that they did not so much concern themselves for the loss of their friends, expecting that they themselves should be summoned the next hour.”[128]

“At the beginning of this surprising time, while the fears of the people were young, they were increased strangely by several odd accidents, which put altogether, it was really a wonder the whole body of the people did not rise as one man, and abandon their dwellings, leaving the place as a space of ground designed by Heaven[220] for an Akeldama, doomed to be destroyed from the face of the earth, and that all that would be found in it would perish with it. I shall name but a few of these things; but sure they were so many, and so many wizards and cunning people propagating them, that I have often wondered there was any (women especially) left behind.

“In the first place, a blazing star or comet appeared for several months before the plague, as there did the year after, another, a little before the fire; the old women, and the phlegmatic hypochondriacal part of the other sex, whom I could almost call old women too, remarked, especially afterwards, though not till both those judgments were over, that those two comets passed directly over the city, and that so very near the houses, that it was plain they imported something peculiar to the city alone; and the comet before the pestilence was of a faint, dull, languid colour, and its motion very heavy, solemn, and slow; but that the comet before the fire was bright and sparkling; or as others said, flaming, and its motion swift and furious, and that accordingly one foretold a heavy judgment, slow but severe, terrible and frightful, as was the plague. But the other foretold a stroke, sudden, swift, and fiery, as was the conflagration; nay, so particular some people were, that as they looked upon that comet preceding the fire, they fancied that they not only saw it pass swiftly and fiercely, and could perceive the motion, with their eye, but even they heard it, that it made a rushing mighty noise, fierce and terrible, though at a distance, and but just perceivable.

“I saw both these stars, and I must confess, had had so much of the common notion of such things in my head, that I was apt to look upon them as the forerunners and warnings of God’s judgments, and especially, when the plague had followed the first, I yet saw another of the like kind, I could not but say, God had not yet sufficiently scourged the city.


[Medal in commemoration of the plague and fire of London. It represents the eye of God in the centre, and the two comets, one on each side; that on the right showering down pestilence upon the city. On the other side the city is represented on fire, while a violent east wind is urging the flames. The foreground is full of images of distress: a ship tossed by the waves; a man drowning; a withered tree: Death fighting with a man on horseback. The reverse of this curious piece, the history of which, when and by whom it was struck, is, we believe, unknown, is given in p. 230. Legend: “So he punishes.”]

“The apprehensions of the people were likewise strangely increased by the error of the times, in which I think the people, from what principle I cannot imagine, were more addicted to prophecies and astrological[221] conjurations, dreams, and old wives’ tales, than ever they were before or since. Whether this unhappy temper was originally raised by the follies of some people who got money by it, that is to say, by printing predictions and prognostications, I know not: but certain it is, books frightened them terribly, such as Lilly’s Almanac, Gadbury’s Astrological Predictions, Poor Robin’s Almanac, and the like; also several pretended religious books, one entitled, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest ye be partaker of her Plagues;’ another called, ‘Fair Warning;’ another, ‘Britain’s Remembrancer,’ and many such; all or most part of which foretold, directly or covertly, the ruin of the city. Nay, some were so enthusiastically bold as to run[222] about the streets with their oral predictions, pretending they were sent to preach to the city; and one in particular, who, like Jonah to Nineveh, cried in the streets, ‘Yet forty days, and London shall be destroyed.’ I will not be positive whether he said ‘yet forty days,’ or ‘yet a few days.’[129] Another ran about naked, except a pair of drawers about his waist, crying day and night, like a man that Josephus mentions, who cried, ‘Woe to Jerusalem!’ a little before the destruction of that city. So this poor naked creature cried, ‘O! the great and the dreadful God!’ and said no more, but repeated those words continually, with a voice and countenance full of horror, a swift pace, and nobody could ever find him to stop, or rest, or take any sustenance, at least that I could hear of. I met this poor creature several times in the streets, and would have spoken to him, but he would not enter into speech with me, or any one else, but kept on his dismal cries continually. These things terrified the people to the last degree; and especially when two or three times, as I have mentioned already, they found one or two in the bills dead of the plague at St. Giles’s.”[130]

Pepys. June 7.—“The hottest day that ever I felt in my life. This day, much against my will, I did see in Drury-lane two or three houses marked with a red cross upon the doors, and ‘Lord have mercy upon us’ writ there, which was a sad sight to me, being the first of that kind that to my remembrance I ever saw.”

June 17.—“It struck me very deep this afternoon, going with a hackney-coach down Holborn, from the[223] Lord Treasurer’s: the coachman I found to drive easily and easily, at last stood still, and came down hardly able to stand, and told me he was suddenly struck very sick, and almost blind, he could not see: so I light, and went into another coach with a sad heart for the poor man, and for myself also, lest he should have been struck with the plague.”

Defoe. “I went all the first part of the time freely about the streets, though not so freely as to run myself into apparent danger, except when they dug the great pit in the churchyard of our parish of Aldgate. A terrible pit it was, and I could not resist my curiosity to go and see it; as near as I may judge, it was about forty feet in length, and about fifteen or sixteen feet broad; and at the time I first looked at it, about nine feet deep: but it was said they dug it near twenty feet deep afterwards, in one part of it, till they could go no deeper for the water; for they had, it seems, dug several large pits before this; for though the plague was long a coming to our parish, yet when it did come, there was no parish in or about London where it raged with such violence as in the parishes of Aldgate and Whitechapel.

“It was about the 10th of September that my curiosity led, or rather drove me to go and see this pit again, when there had been near four hundred people buried in it; and I was not content to see it in the day time, as I had done before, for then there would have been nothing to have seen but the loose earth; for all the bodies that were thrown in were immediately covered with earth by those they called the buriers, which at other times were called bearers; but I resolved to go in the night, and see some of them thrown in. There was a strict order to prevent people coming to those pits, and that was only to prevent infection; but after some time that order was more necessary, for people that were infected, and near their end, and delirious also, would run to those pits wrapt in blankets, or rugs, and throw themselves in, and, as they said, bury themselves. I got admittance into the churchyard by being acquainted with the sexton who attended,[224] who, though he did not refuse me at all, yet earnestly persuaded me not to go; telling me very seriously, for he was a good religious and sensible man, that it was indeed their business and duty to venture and to run all hazards, and that in it they might hope to be preserved; but that I had no apparent call to it but my own curiosity, which, he said, he believed I would not pretend was sufficient to justify my running that hazard. I told him I had been pressed in my mind to go, and that perhaps it might be an instructing sight, and one that would not be without its uses. ‘Nay,’ said the good man, ‘if you will venture upon that score, in name of God go in, for, depend upon it, it will be a sermon to you; it may be the best you ever heard in your life. It is a speaking sight,’ said he, ‘and has a voice with it, and a loud one, to call us all to repentance;’ and with that he opened the door, and said, ‘Go if you will.’

“His discourse had shocked my resolution a little, and I stood wavering for a good while; but just at that interval I saw two links come over from the end of the Minories, and heard the bellman, and then appeared a dead-cart, as they called it, coming over the streets, so I could no longer resist my desire of seeing it, and went in.... It had in it sixteen or seventeen bodies; some were wrapt up in linen sheets, some in rugs, some little other than naked, or so loose that what covering they had fell from them in the shooting out of the cart, and they fell quite naked amongst the rest; but the matter was not much to them, nor the indecency to any one else, seeing they were all dead, and were to be huddled together into the common grave of mankind, as we may call it, for here was no difference made, but poor and rich went together; there was no other way of burials, neither was it possible there should, for coffins were not to be had for the prodigious numbers that fell in such a calamity as this.

“It was reported, by way of scandal upon the buriers, that if any corpse was delivered to them, decently wound up, as we called it then, in a winding sheet, tied over[225] the head and feet, which some did, and which was generally of good linen—I say it was reported that the buriers were so wicked as to strip them in the cart, and carry them quite naked to the ground; but as I cannot credit any thing so vile among Christians, and at a time so filled with terrors as that was, I can only relate it, and leave it undetermined.

“Innumerable stories also went about of the cruel behaviour and practice of nurses who attended the sick, and of their hastening on the fate of those they attended in their sickness[131].... It is to be observed, that the women were in all this calamity the most rash, fearless, and desperate creatures; and as there were vast numbers that went about as nurses to tend those that were sick, they committed a great many petty thieveries in the houses where they were employed, and some of them were publicly whipped for it, when perhaps they ought rather to have been hanged for examples, for numbers of houses were robbed on these occasions; till at length the parish officers were sent to recommend nurses to the sick, and always took an account of who it was they sent, so as that they might call them to account, if the house had been abused where they were placed. But these robberies extended chiefly to wearing clothes, linen, and what rings or money they could come at, when the person died who was under their care, but not to a general plunder of the houses; and I could give you an account of one of these nurses, who, several years after, being on her death-bed, confessed with the utmost horror the robberies she had committed at the time of her being a nurse, and by which she had enriched herself to a great degree; but as for murders, I do not find that there ever was any proof of the facts, in the manner as it has been reported, except as above. They did tell me indeed of a nurse in one place that laid a wet cloth on the face of a dying patient whom she tended, and so put an end to his life, who was just expiring[226] before; and another that smothered a young woman she was looking to when she was in a fainting fit, and would have come to herself; some that killed them by giving them one thing, some another, and some starved them by giving them nothing at all. But these stories had two marks of suspicion that always attended them, which caused me always to slight them, and to look upon them as mere stories that people continually frighted each other with. That, wherever it was that we heard it, they always placed the scene at the further end of the town opposite or most remote from where you were to hear it. In the next place, of whatsoever part you heard the story, the particulars were always the same, especially that of laying a wet double clout on a dying man’s face, and that of smothering a young gentlewoman, so that it was apparent, at least to my judgment, that there was more of tale than of truth in those things.”[132]

“I had some little obligations upon me to go to my brother’s house, which was in Coleman-street parish, and which he had left to my care, and I went at first every day, but afterwards only once or twice a week.

“In these walks I had many dismal scenes before my eyes; as particularly of persons falling dead in the streets, terrible shrieks and screechings of women, who in their agonies would throw open their chamber windows, and cry out in a dismal surprising manner. It is impossible to describe the variety of postures in which the passions of the poor people would express themselves.

“Passing through Tokenhouse-yard, in Lothbury, of a sudden a casement violently opened just over my head, and a woman gave three frightful screeches, and then cried, ‘Oh! death, death, death!’ in a most inimitable tone, and which struck me with horror and a chillness in my very blood. There was nobody to be seen in the whole street, neither did any other window open, for people had no curiosity now in any case; nor could any body help one another; so I went on to pass into Bell-alley.


Just in Bell-alley, on the right hand of the passage, there was a more terrible cry than that, though it was not so directed out at the window, but the whole family was in a terrible fright, and I could hear women and children run screaming about the rooms like distracted, when a garret-window opened, and somebody from a window the other side the alley called and asked, ‘What is the matter.’ Upon which, from the first window it was answered, ‘O Lord! my old master has hanged himself.’ The other asked again, ‘Is he quite dead?’ and the first answered, ‘Ay, ay, dead and cold.’ This person was a merchant and a deputy-alderman, and very rich. I care not to mention his name, though I knew his name too, but that would be a hardship to the family, which is now flourishing again.

“But this is but one. It is scarce credible what dreadful cases happened in particular families every day: people in the rage of the distemper, or in the torment of their swellings, which was indeed intolerable, running out of their own government, raving and distracted, and oftentimes laying violent hands upon themselves, throwing themselves out at their windows, shooting themselves, &c.; mothers murdering their own children in their lunacy; some dying of mere grief, as a passion; some of mere fright and surprise, without any infection at all; others frighted into idiotism and foolish distractions; some into despair and lunacy; others into melancholy madness.

“The pain of the swelling was in particular very violent, and to some intolerable; the physicians and surgeons may be said to have tortured many poor creatures, even to death. The swellings in some grew hard, and they applied violent drawing plasters or poultices to break them; and if these did not do, they cut and scarified them in a terrible manner. In some those swellings were made hard, partly by the force of the distemper, and partly by their being too violently drawn, and were so hard that no instrument could cut them; and then they burnt them with caustics, so that many died raving mad with the torment, and some in the[228] very operation. In these distresses, some for want of help to hold them down in their beds, or to look to them, laid hands upon themselves as above; some broke out into the streets, perhaps naked, and would run directly down to the river, if they were not stopped by the watchmen or other officers, and plunge themselves into the water, wherever they found it.”[133]

“One of the worst days we had in the whole time, as I thought, was in the beginning of September, when indeed good people were beginning to think that God was resolved to make a full end of the people in this miserable city. This was at that time when the plague was fully come into the eastern parishes. The parish of Aldgate, if I may give my opinion, buried above 1000 a week for two weeks, though the bills did not say so many; but it surrounded me at so dismal a rate, that there was not a house in twenty uninfected. In the Minories, in Houndsditch, and in those parts of Aldgate parish about the Butcher-row, and the alleys over against me, I say in those places death reigned in every corner. Whitechapel parish was in same condition, and though much less than the parish I lived in, yet buried near 600 a week, by the bills; and in my opinion near twice as many. Whole families, and indeed whole streets of families, were swept away together, insomuch as it was frequent for neighbours to call to the bellman to go to such and such houses and fetch out the people, for that they were all dead.

“And indeed the work of removing the dead bodies by carts was now grown so very odious and dangerous, that it was complained of that the bearers did not take care to clear such houses, where all the inhabitants were dead, but that some of the bodies lay unburied, till the neighbouring families were offended with the stench, and consequently infected. And this neglect of the officers was such, that the churchwardens and constables were summoned to look after it, and even the justices of the Hamlets were obliged to venture their lives among them to quicken and encourage them; for innumerable of the[229] bearers died of the distemper, infected by the bodies they were obliged to come so near; and had it had not been that the number of people who wanted employment, and wanted bread, as I have said before, was so great that necessity drove them to undertake any thing, and venture any thing, they would never have found people to be employed, and then the bodies of the dead would have lain above ground, and have perished and rotted in a dreadful manner.

“But the magistrates cannot be enough commended in this, that they kept such good order for the burying of the dead, that as fast as any of those they employed to carry off or bury the dead fell sick and died, as was many times the case, they immediately supplied the places with others, which, by reason of the great number of poor that was left out of business, was not hard to do. This occasioned that notwithstanding the infinite number of people which died, and were sick, almost all together, yet they were always cleared away and carried off every night, so that it was never to be said of London that the living were not able to bury the dead.

“As the desolation was greater during those terrible times, so the amazement of the people increased, and a thousand unaccountable things they would do in the violence of their fright, as others did the same in the agonies of their distemper, and this part was very affecting: some went roaring and crying, and wringing of their hands along the streets; some would go praying, and lifting up their hands to heaven, calling upon God for mercy. I cannot say, indeed, whether this was not in their distraction; but be it so, it was still an indication of a more serious mind, when they had the use of their senses, and was much better, even as it was, than the frightful yellings and cryings that every day, and especially in the evenings, were heard in some streets. I suppose the world has heard of the famous Solomon Eagle, an enthusiast: he, though not infected at all but in his head, went about denouncing of judgment upon the city in a frightful manner, sometimes quite naked, and with a pan of burning charcoal[230] on his head. What he said, or pretended indeed, I could not learn.


[Reverse of the medal given in p. 220. Here every thing is prosperous: a corn-field on the one side, a vineyard on the other; in front are ships riding in quiet, and the withered tree has put forth leaves. The figure in front, by the serpent about his arm, seems meant for St. Paul. Legend: ‘Mere goodness.’]

“I will not say whether that clergyman was distracted or not, or whether he did it out of pure zeal for the poor people, who went every evening through the streets of Whitechapel, and with his hands lifted up, repeated that part of the liturgy of the church continually, ‘Spare us, good Lord; spare thy people whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood.’ I say I cannot speak positively of these things, because these were only the dismal objects which represented themselves to me as I looked through my chamber windows, for I seldom opened the casements, while I confined myself within doors during that most violent raging of the pestilence; when indeed many began to think, and even to say, that there would none escape; and indeed I began to think so too, and therefore kept within doors for about a fortnight, and never stirred out. But I could not hold it. Besides there were some people who, notwithstanding the danger, did not omit[231] publicly to attend the worship of God, even in the most dangerous times. And though it is true that a great many of the clergy did shut up their churches and fled, as other people did, for the safety of their lives, yet all did not do so; some ventured to officiate, and to keep up the assemblies of the people by constant prayers, and some times sermons, or brief exhortations to repentance and reformation, and this as long as they would hear them. And dissenters did the like also, and even in the very churches, where the parish ministers were either dead or fled; nor was there any room for making any difference at such a time as this was.[134]

Pepys, Sept. 3.—Lord’s day.—“Up and put on my silk coloured suit, very fine, and my periwig, bought a good while since, but durst not wear, because the plague was in Westminister when I bought it; and it is a wonder what will be the fashion after the plague is done as to periwigs, for nobody will dare to buy any hair for fear of the infection, that it had been cut off the heads of people dead of the plague.”

It would be a great shame to laugh at Mr. Pepys after he has done so much to amuse the world: but these, and such as these, are the most curious and important particulars concerning the pestilence recorded in his minute and extensive diary.


London: William Clowes and Son, Stamford-street.



John Sobieski, king of Poland, from a medal struck after the deliverance of Vienna 5
Medal struck by the Dutch, after the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Above is the name of Jehovah encompassed by a glory, from which the Pope, Cardinals, and Monks are flying in grand confusion. Motto, “Whom God will destroy with the breath of his mouth.” 86
Another medal struck by the Dutch on the same occasion, representing the Pope, Cardinals, and Catholic Princes, sitting in conclave, blindfold, and trampling upon iron spikes. There are two mottos, “It is hard to kick against the pricks.” “O the blind minds, the blind hearts of men!” 126
Bust of Miltiades, from Visconté, Iconographie Grecque 127
Bust of Themistocles, from the same 140
Bust of Thucydides 141
Pericles. From a marble bust in the British Museum 161
Medal of Boccaccio 164
Medal of Cardinal Charles Borromeo, from a cast in the British Museum 202
Medal struck to commemorate the Plague and Fire of London
Obverse 220
Reverse 230

The medals have been engraved from the originals in the British Museum.


Aristides, 131, 132, 139, 140, 143.

Armada, Spanish, 112-126.

Athens, plague of, 166, 169-177.

Cid, Chronicle of, 25-28.

Cimon, policy of, 143-146.

Constantinople, plague of, 178-183.

Drageschan, battle of, 74.

Education, Athenians, 152-157.

Florence, plague of, 184-197.

Jaques, St., battle of, 64-69.

London, plague of, 218-23.

Marathon, battle of, 13-16.

Milan, plague of, 98-214.

Miltiades, 127-130.

Morgarten, battle of, 43-52.

Peloponnesian war, origin of, 158-163.

Pericles, policy of, 147-152.

Plague, historians who have described it, 164-166;

——principal recorded, 166-169;

——of Athens, 169-177;

——of Constantinople, 177-183;

——of Florence, 184-198;

——of Milan, 198-214;

——medical treatment and state of science, 214-218;

——of London, 218-231.

Reading, Aloys, 48.

Salamis, battle of, 86-103.

Siege of La Valette, 69-72;

——of Leyden, 103-112;

——methods of the ancients, their rudeness and little improvement, until the use of gunpowder, 22-27, 29-32;

——Introduction of cannon, 38, 39;

——of Numantia, 19-22;

——of Tyre, 25-28;

——Syracuse, by Marcellus, 28-31;

——by Athenians, 177;

——of Jerusalem, 32-36;

——of La Réole, 37;

——of Ostend, 39-50;

——of Magdeburg, 50-62;

——of Zaragoza, 63-77.

Sempach, battle of, 49-54; Law of, 68.

Sobieski, John, King of Poland, 30-41.

Sophists, 153-157.

Themistocles, character and policy of, 133-140.

Thermopylæ, battle of, 55-64

Tours, battle of, 23-25.

Valette, La, siege of, 69-72.

Vienne, siege by Turks, and battle, 30-41.

Xerxes, invasion of Greece by, 5-22, 55-64.


[1] This expression of Herodotus, that the Thracians themselves made Miltiades tyrant (κατεστήσαντο τύραννον), illustrates the meaning of the word: they invested him not with the power of oppressing them at pleasure, but with a form of authority for which the Grecian constitutions offered no precedent.

[2] Southey’s Chronicle of the Cid, Book I. iv.

[3] See Mitford, chap. vii. 4.

[4] The polemarch was the third in rank of the Archons, and was at the head of the military administration.

[5] A feeling of democratical equality, and the fear of making an individual too powerful, may probably have led to this division of military command at Athens. The absolute equality of the two consuls at Rome produced a similar effect when they both were present in the same army. The battle of Cannæ furnished a memorable example of its danger: after continual discord between Paulus Æmilius and Varro, the latter took advantage of his day of command to give the signal for battle, without even consulting his colleague, an old and experienced soldier: and the result was the delivery of Hannibal from a very critical position by the utter destruction of the Roman army.

[6] In earlier times this had been the post of the king (Eurip., Suppl., 657), and the polemarch, who succeeded in great measure to his military station, retained it. In the same manner, the second archon, who succeeded to the priestly functions of the king, retained the name of king, βασιλεὺς; and a similar instance is found in Roman history, where the title of king, rex, after it had become odious in political matters, was retained by the priest appointed to perform those sacred rites which the kings themselves had formerly performed.

[7] A Scythian tribe dwelling at the foot of Mount Imaus, on the confines of Thibet.

[8] Ἄφλαστα, apparently the ornamental finishing of the stern.

[9] For the topography of Marathon, the reader may consult Dr. Clarke’s Travels, and Colonel Leake’s paper on the Demi of Attica, with advantage. The flying Persians appear to have been entangled and stopped by a narrow pass, formed by a precipitous hill on one side, and a deep morass on the other. Hence this disproportionate slaughter.

[10] Lib. i. 32. Herod. lib. vi. c. 105, 120.

[11] Thucyd., ii. 34.

[12] Eubœa is long and very narrow, especially in the southern part, where Eretria was.

[13] Plato, Menexenus, § 8, 9, 10.

[14] This battle is usually so called, though it is said to have been fought near Poitiers. The exact locality is by no means certain.

[15] Croniques de St. Denys, liv. v. 26.

[16] Preface to the Chronicle of the Cid.

[17] Introduction to Chronicle of the Cid.

[18] A much more spirited and somewhat different account of the close of the battle is given from Salvandy, Histoire de Pologne, in the Foreign Quarterly Review, No. 14. We quote from the Review, not having been able to procure the original.

“Five o’clock p.m. had sounded, and Sobieski had given up for the day all hope of the grand struggle, when the provoking composure of Kara Mustapha, whom he espied in a splendid tent tranquilly taking coffee with his two sons, roused him to such a pitch that he instantly gave orders for a general assault. It was made simultaneously on the wings and centre. He made towards the Pacha’s tent, bearing down all opposition, and repeating with a loud voice, ‘Non nobis, non nobis, Domine Exercitium, sed nomini tuo da gloriam!’ ‘Not unto us, Lord God of Hosts, not unto us, but unto thy name give the praise!’ He was soon recognised by Tartar and Cossack, who had so often beheld him blazing in the view of the Polish chivalry; they drew back, while his name rapidly passed from one extremity to the other of the Ottoman lines, to the dismay of those who had refused to believe him present. ‘Allah!’ said the Tartar Khan, ‘but the wizard(a) is with them sure enough!’ At that moment the hussars, raising their national cry of ‘God for Poland!’ cleared a ditch which would long have arrested the infantry, and dashed into the deep ranks of the enemy. They were a gallant band; their appearance almost justified the saying of one of their kings, ‘that if the sky itself were to fall, they would bear it up on the points of their lances.’ The shock was rude, and for some minutes dreadful; but the valour of the Poles, still more the reputation of their leader, and more than all, the finger of God, routed these immense hosts; they gave way on every side, the Khan was borne along with the stream to the tent of the now despairing Vizir. ‘Canst not thou help me?’ said Kara Mustapha to the brave Tartar, ‘then I am lost indeed!’ ‘The Polish king is there!’ replied the other, ‘I know him well. Did I not tell thee that all we had to do was to get away as quick as possible?’”—Foreign Quarterly Review, No. xiv. p. 511.

(a) The name given him by the Tartars, after a series of extraordinary victories had fully impressed them with a belief in his supernatural powers.

[19] Histoire de Jean Sobieski, par l’Abbé Coyer, liv. vi.

[20] Foreign Quarterly Review, No. xiv. Lettres du Roi de Pologne, Jean Sobieski, à la Reine Marie Casimire, pendant la Campagne de Vienne; par N. A. de Salvandy.

[21] “Mon frère, je suis bien aise de vous avoir rendu ce petit service.”

[22] Histoire de Jean Sobieski, par l’Abbé Coyer, liv. vi.

[23] Foreign Quarterly, No. xiv. p. 517.

[24] This observation does not apply to Britain. The English archery were celebrated long before this period: they however were merely auxiliary, and were always supported by a strong body of men-at-arms. The strength of a Scottish army consisted of pikemen, who, when formed in close order, generally circular, often resisted the utmost efforts of the English cavalry. The cause of this deviation from the general usage was probably the poverty of the nation; the nobility could not afford to maintain large bodies of horsemen. We may observe that though Wallace was a knight, he appears always to have fought on foot; at least we have met with no passage, either in the Chronicles or in Blind Harry, which represents him mounted. Bruce, on the other hand, was an adept in the arms and exercises of chivalry, and ranked, by the confession of the English, as the third best knight in Europe, though far inferior to Wallace in personal strength.

[25] The same sort of instruments are still worn, especially in traversing the glaciers, and called crampons.

[26] Vitodurani Chronicon.

[27] Cimon, son of Miltiades, after having long conducted the policy of Athens, was banished owing to the jealousy of his countrymen, it being supposed that he was unduly attached to the Spartan interest. Previous to the battle of Tanagra, fought in Bœotia, between the Lacedæmonians and Athenians, he came to the camp of the latter, and requested permission to serve with the men of his tribe. This was refused, his enemies asserting that he wished to sow discord in the army, and he was ordered to quit the camp. Before his departure he requested Euthippus and others, his friends, who had shared with him the odium of being too well inclined to the cause of Sparta, to signalize their zeal and courage in the ensuing battle, and refute, by their actions, the stigma cast upon them. These men, to the number of a hundred, ranged themselves round Cimon’s armour, which they erected as their standard, and fell valiantly to a man by each other’s side, leaving to the Athenians much regret and repentance that they had wrongfully accused them.—Plut., Vit. Cimon.

[28] Simond’s Switzerland, vol. ii. chap, xxxix.

[29] Wordsworth.

[30] Planta, History of the Helvetic Confederacy. We have taken the liberty of making a few alterations in the text, to bring it nearer to the great work of Müller, of which this passage is a direct, but rather a free translation.

[31] Those who have travelled from Conway to Bangor since the new road was cut, will recollect a spot closely resembling Thermopylæ. The grandeur of the pass, however, is much injured by the change, and we strongly recommend all who are not particular about their horses’ knees or their own necks to take the old road.

[32] The whole force of Platæa served on board the Athenian fleet.

[33] Lib. x. 20.

[34] Plutarch, himself a Bœotian, is highly indignant at this statement, and also at the former, that the Thebans were detained as hostages. It must be owned that there is something wanting in explanation, since it is not clear how they could have been made to fight, if disinclined; but it seems equally clear that they were very deficient in that ardour which animated the Spartans and Thespians, and therefore cannot be supposed to have remained quite voluntarily.

[35] This speech is given by Herodotus to another Spartan, Dieneces, whom he mentions as famous for his smart sayings. The second is spurious, if we reject Plutarch’s assertion that the battle was fought by night.

[36] The epitaph is simple, and therefore in good taste; but we are bound to expose the braggart spirit which takes no notice of the Thespians and Locrians, who joined the Peloponnesians, not with a paltry quota, but with their whole force. We may also observe that national vanity has been further tampering with the numbers. Herodotus reckons Xerxes’ land force to consist of 2,100,000 men, and adds 541,610 for the fleet, making a total of 2,641,610 combatants. The camp-followers of various sorts he supposes may have amounted to an equal number. Incredible as it appears, his account is so particular that it has evidently been founded upon numerical data of some sort: it is hardly possible to estimate the amount of exaggeration and misstatement.

[37] Planta, Helv. Confed., book ii. cap. 2.

[38] Planta, Hist. Helvetic Confederacy.

[39] Vertot.

[40] In ancient Greece the shield served as a bier, to convey home the corpse of its slain owner. To return without it was universally considered disgraceful. “I have frequently seen these inscriptions on Greek standards, particularly the last: the direction was literally followed, for the body of the standard-bearer, who died defending it, was wrapped in it as a shroud, and so borne to the grave, and buried in it.”—Walsh’s Journey over-land from Constantinople, p. 218.

[41] Walsh, Journey over-land from Constantinople, p. 222; Hist. des Evénemens de la Grèce, par M. Raffenel.

[42] Trick.

[43] Twenty thousand, according to the Cronique de St. Denys.

[44] June 16

[45] Mitford, chap. viii., sect. 4.

[46] All Grecian colonies held the metropolis, or mother city, whence they were derived, in deep veneration. The Ionian states were founded by a great migration from Attica, and therefore looked up to the Athenians as the head of their tribe.

[47] A similar event is related to have occurred at Thebes, before the battle of Leuctra.

[48] Herod. viii. 37 and 38.

[49] History of Greece, p. 166.

[50] Herod. viii. 60, 62.

[51] Æacus, son of Jupiter and Ægina, was king of the island to which he gave his mother’s name. From him sprung Peleus and Telamon, with their descendants Achilles, Pyrrhus, Ajax, &c.

[52] Eleusis was famed for the celebration of mysteries, as they were called; which consisted in leading the aspirant through various terrific scenes and representations; after which, if his courage remained unshaken, he was instructed in a purer and more exalted system of religion than was openly taught in Greece. Secrecy on the part of the initiated was most strictly enforced. The immortality of the soul appears to have been the leading doctrine inculcated in these ceremonies; which seem traceable to the earliest periods of Grecian history, and were probably derived from Egypt. The initiated went yearly in solemn procession from Athens to Eleusis, and chaunted on these occasions the hymns alluded to.

[53] The correspondence between the above story and the following Spanish legend is singularly close.—“The night before the battle was fought at the Navas de Tolosa, in the dead of the night a mighty sound was heard in the whole city of Leon, as if it had been the tramp of a whole army passing through: and it went on to the royal monastery of St. Isidro, and there was great knocking at the gate thereof; and they called to a priest who was keeping vigil in the church, and told him that the captains of the army which he heard were the Cid Ruy Diaz, and Count Ferran Gonzalez; and that they came to call up King Don Fernando the Great, who lay buried in that church, that he might go with them to deliver Spain. And on the morrow that great battle of the Navas de Tolosa was fought, wherein 60,000 of the unbelievers were slain, which was one of the greatest and noblest battles ever won over the Moors.”—Chronicle of Cid, xi. 21. It occurred a.d. 1212.

[54] See Col. Leake on the Attic Demi.

[55] In the Persæ, a tragedy written to celebrate the overthrow of Xerxes, and containing a magnificent description of the battle of Salamis, of which the poet was an eye-witness, having served in all the brilliant actions of the Persian war, from Marathon to Platæa. The passage is too long for the whole to be inserted, but the description of the first onset of the Greeks may furnish a specimen of its character.

“But when the white-horsed morn o’er all the earth
Shed her fair splendour, from the Grecian fleet
A mighty sound rose tuneably, to wake
The sleeping Echo, which returned a loud
Heart-cheering answer from the island rock.
Confused the Persians stood; for not for flight
The Greeks rang forth that lofty battle-shout,
But hurrying on rejoicing to the fight
With high-souled valour. Then the trumpet’s clang
Kindled the battle; then the word was given,
And the quick oars with one united stroke
Dashed into spray the salt resounding surge,
And all bore down in sight. The right wing led
First, in fair order; the main armament
Pressed close behind, and all at once sent forth
A mighty shout; ‘On, children of the Greeks,
Set free your country, free your sons, your wives,
The temples of your country’s gods, the tombs
Of your forefathers—this day fights for all.’”

[56] Frontinus, Strategematicon, lib. I. ii. 10. Frontinus wrote towards the end of the first century of the Christian era, and the story, as far as we know, is not noticed earlier. It may therefore very probably be false.

[57] Vasæus, Hispaniæ Chronicon.

[58] Herod., viii. c. 140-144.

[59] The citizens replied to a summons to surrender, that they would not lack food, while their left arms remained, but feed on them, and fight for liberty with their right. Strada, de Bello Belgico, lib. viii. Vaunts of this kind are dangerous: the Leydenists, however, did no discredit to theirs. It was a maxim of the Maréchal de Grammout, that a governor who began by making a great to-do, and burnt his suburbs to make a brilliant defence, generally ended by making a very bad one. See the Mémoires de Grammont, chap, viii., where there is a capital story of the gallant defence of Lerida, by Don Gregorio Brice, bearing upon this point.

[60] Strada says, with an expression of incredulity however, that by means of this inundation vessels came over-land to Leyden from a distance of forty miles.

[61] The Dutch annoyed the Spaniards much with sharp hooks fastened to poles or ropes, by which they drew up the Spaniards into their shipping. One Peter Borgia was caught up with four hooks into a vessel holding six or seven men, and supposed to be mortally hurt: but presently, while they were deeply engaged in fishing for more men, he caught up a battle-axe, and set on them from behind with such fury, that he killed three, and frightened the rest overboard, and thus carried off to the Spanish camp a vessel laden with provisions.—Strada, Bell. Belg. lib. viii.

[62] Bentivoglio, Hist. of Wars in Flanders, Englished by Henry Earl of Monmouth, 1698.

[63] Watson’s Hist. of Philip II.

[64] Corunna.

[65] This is the classification of the provinces as given by Charnock.

[66] This fleet of Semiramis is probably about as real as Shakspere’s seacoast of Bohemia. What the amount of Cleopatra’s fleet might be we do not know; but at Actium she had only 60 ships. In the last example Stow is within bounds. Froissart says that 1287 ships were prepared on this occasion. What sort of cock-boats they were is another question.

[67] Draws up for battle.

[68] Robert Bruce was deceived by a similar accident. Having taken possession of Arran during his long struggle against the power of England, he meditated a descent upon the opposite country of Carrick, in Ayrshire, his own inheritance. Being ignorant of the strength and situation of the English, he despatched a trusty emissary, with orders to kindle a beacon fire, if he found that a descent was practicable. A brilliant light was seen on the appointed eve, but on Bruce’s landing, his emissary met him in much alarm, with news that the English were quartered in great strength at Turnberry Castle, his maternal inheritance; and that he knew not how, or by whom, the beacon fire had been lighted. Bruce however persevered in his enterprise and took the castle. It was long believed, and perhaps is so still, that the signal was supernatural, and that it regularly appeared on the anniversary of the Bruce’s landing on his native shore. The spot on which it was seen has been called the Bogle’s Brae, beyond the memory of man.

[69] We may repeat what has been before said, that these computations are merely approximations to expressing the value of the ancient money in modern denominations, without reference to the intrinsic value of the precious metals in Greece.

[70] Mitford, chap. vii. 5

[71] Herod. ix. 27.—He says “the Athenians answered.” Plutarch ascribes all the merit of it to Aristides, which is suitable both to his character and the rank he held.

[72] Plut., Themist.

[73] Mitford, chap. xi. 1.

[74] This fixes the date of these events to 460. Clinton.

[75] Thucyd. i. 137, 38.

[76] Library of Useful Knowledge: Greece, p. 46.

[77] We cannot with propriety use either of the terms judges or jurymen; the dicasts were both judge and jury.

[78] Plutarch, Pericles.

[79] Plutarch, North.

[80] Plutarch, Pericles: North.

[81] Library of Useful Knowledge: Hist. of Greece, p. 50.

[82] See the Preliminary Discourse to Mitchell’s Aristophanes, note, p. liv. xv.

[83] Mitchell, p. lviii.

[84] Mitchell, p. lxxv.

[85] Mitchell, p. lxxvii. lxxxi.

[86] Thucyd. i. 143.

[87] Thucyd. i. 22.

[88] Thucyd. ii. 14.

[89] See Dr. Arnold’s note, Thucyd. ii. 17.

[90] Thucyd. ii. 17.

[91] κτῆμα ἐς ἀεὶ, i. 22.

[92] Lib. vi.

[93] Persic. lib. ii.

[94] Kircher, Scrutinium de Peste. He quotes Diodorus (without reference), and Orosius, book v., as his authorities: the passage in Diodorus we have not been able to find.

[95]Λοιμογραφία, or an experimental relation of what hath happened remarkqueable in the last Plague in the city of London, &c. by W. Boghurst, apothecary in St. Giles’ in ye Feilds: London, 1666: MS. Sloane, 349.” Our attention was directed to this book as being likely to contain some curious details of the plague of 1665, but with the exception of this prefatory matter it is too exclusively medical to suit our purpose.

[96] “Oecumenical (ὀικουμενικὸς, from ὀικουμένη), relating to the whole habitable world.”—Johnson.

[97] Of Persia.

[98] A pile of wood, which, when they laid the corpse on it they fired, and afterwards buried the bones.

[99] Apollo, to whom the heathens attributed the immission of all epidemic or ordinary diseases.

[100] Thucyd. ii. 47, 54. Hobbes’s Translation has been used throughout the volume; it has been compared with the original, and corrected where necessary.

[101] It was in name a state democratical, but in fact a government of the principal man.—Thucyd. ii. 65.

[102] See the analysis of the Knights in chap. iv.

[103] See Thucyd. iii. 87. The Athenian army at the commencement of the war consisted of 13,000 heavy armed soldiers of the former class, and 1200 horsemen, including the horse archers, who were not citizens. Such being the mortality of the upper classes, we may safely suppose that a quarter of the whole population perished.—Thucyd. ii. 13.

[104] See Mitchell’s Preliminary Discourse, p. 74, 84, and the Platonic Dialogues there quoted. See also the Clouds, especially the concluding part, and the dialogue between the Logos Dikaios and Logos Adikos.

[105] Evagrius adds to this a greater marvel; that the citizens of infected places, who were absent from home, sickened and died, even where no other trace of the plague appeared.

[106] φάσματα δαιμόνων

[107] This curious passage may be illustrated from a pamphlet entitled ‘Medela Pestilentiæ, wherein is contained several Theological Queries concerning the Plague,’ &c., by Richard Kephale. “Some I have talked with, who have ingenuously confest they, at their first infection, have felt themselves manifestly stricken, being sensible of a blow suddenly given them, some on the head and neck, others on the back and side, &c.; sometimes so violently that they have been as it were knockt down to the ground, remaining so for a time senseless; whereof some have died instantly, others in a short time after.”—p. 49. This statement, however, is not entitled to implicit credit; for it is the writer’s object to prove the plague a direct infliction from God, without the intervention of secondary causes. “There are two sorts of plague, the one simple, the other putrid. The simple plague is the very influence of the striking angel executing the vengeance of God on the bodies of men. This kind of plague ariseth from no distemperature of blood, putrefaction of humours, or influence of stars, but falleth merely from the stroke of God’s punishing angel.” (Such were the plagues of old, as you may read in Exod. xii. and Numb. xi. 16, 25; also 2 Sam. xxiv. and 2 Kings xix.)—Ibid.

[108] This passage is remarkable as being probably the earliest assertion extant, of any disease known by the name of plague being uncommunicable by contact. Of all the following accounts of similar pestilences, the dread of contagion will be found to form one of the most striking features.

[109] More probably from that burning heat which Thucydides tells us produced the same effect at Athens.

[110] ὃυτως αἱτία τις ἦν ὀυδεμία ἐν ταυτῇ τῇ ν̓ σῳ ἐς ἀνθρώπου λογισμὸν φέρουσα.

[111] The fig-trees: it included the modern suburbs of Pera and Galata.

[112] For some notice of these singular and virulent factions, see chap. xiv.

[113] Procopius de Bello Persico, lib. ii, cap. 22, 23.

[114] The geography of this passage is not quite clear. Mare Maggiore appears to be the Mediterranean, which still retains that name: see the Vocab. della Crusca. In French, Mer Majeure is the Black Sea, according to Cotgrave and the Encyclopédie. If we adopt this interpretation, the author states that the plague spread from Asia to the Black Sea and the Mare Tirreno, probably the Tyrrhene or Adriatic Sea, and then returns to trace its progress in the Mediterranean. On the whole, the former interpretation seems the more probable, though it involves some repetition. The first gives a general statement of the course which the disease took from Asia to the coasts of the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas, and then proceeds to particularise. It seems to have spread from India through Persia to Syria, Arabia, and Asia Minor (called in the text Turkey towards Egypt), and from China, or the upper part of India, through the north of Asia to Russia and Greece. The Levant trade introduced it into Sicily, Italy, and the west of Africa, whence it seems to have spread backwards towards Egypt. From Italy it crossed the mountains, and spread northward, even to Denmark, &c., which indeed may have received the infection either from their northern or southern neighbours.

[115] A small town in the province of Languedoc, in the department of Gard. It was formerly a seaport, and Louis IX. of France twice embarked from it for the Holy Land, in 1248, 1269. By the gradual accretion of land at the mouth of the Rhone it is now three leagues from the sea, in a sandy plain, with unwholesome air, from the quantity of stagnant water about it.

[116] In France this pestilence is said to have lasted about eight months in each place which it attacked.—Sismondi, Hist. des Français.

[117] Matteo Villani, lib. i. cap. 1.

[118] Continuatio Nangii, ap: Sismondi.

[119] Sismondi, Histoire des Français.

[120] Ripamonte, De Peste Mediolani, p. 17. From this interesting work the whole of the following account of the plague of Milan is taken.

[121] The ‘Promessi Sposi’ of Manzoni contains a most vivid and interesting picture of this portion of the history of Milan.

[122] Ripamonte, book i. If the reader can consult the original, he will see that the description is not overcharged. The Monatti, he continued, practised all sorts of insult towards living and dead, and dragged bodies along as rudely as a butcher drives his calves to the shambles.

[123] Origine e Giornale successi della Gran Peste. Milan, 1648.

[124] Ripamonte does not tell us whether any body went up into the belfry to ascertain this.

[125] Alchemist, act ii. scene 3.

[126] Loimologia: a consolatory advice and some brief observations concerning the present art. By George Thomson, Dr. of Physick, 1665.

[127] Loimologia, or an Historical Account of the Plague in London. By Nath. Hodges, M.D.

[128] Defoe, pp. 24, 25.

[129] This is a remarkable instance of that air of minute attention to fidelity which gives such a remarkable air of reality even to those works of Defoe which are altogether fictitious. Though aware that the history of the plague is not to be taken as the record of his own adventures during it, it is hardly possible not to believe that he had been a hearer of the denunciation, which he is so careful not to report inaccurately.

[130] Defoe, pp. 28-32.

[131] Pp. 78, 85.

[132] Pp. 110, 112.

[133] Pp. 105, 108.

[134] Pp. 131, 135.