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Earliest Times, by Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot

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Title: A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times
       Volume I. of VI.

Author: Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot

Release Date: April 8, 2004 [EBook #11951]
Last Updated: September 9, 2016

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by David Widger

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By M. Guizot

Volume 1 (of 6)

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Ideal Landscape of Ancient Gaul——13

Gyptis Presenting the Goblet to Euxenes——17

A Tribe of Gauls on an Expedition——27

The Gauls in Rome——39

The Women Defending the Cars——58

The Roman Army Invading Gaul——61

Mounted Gauls——66

Vercingetorix Surrenders to Caesar——81

Gaul Subjugated by the Romans——83

From La Croix Rousse——86

Eponina and Sabinus Hidden in a Vault——97

Druids Offering Human Sacrifices——111

The Huns at the Battle of Chalons——135

“Thus Didst Thou to the Vase of Soissons.”——139

Battle of Tolbiacum——144

The Sluggard King Journeying——156

“Thrust Him Away, Or Thou Diest in his Stead.”——160

The Execution of Brunehaut——175

The Battle of Tours——193

“The Arabs Had Decamped Silently in the Night.”——195

Charlemagne at the Head of his Army——212

Charlemagne Inflicting Baptism Upon the Saxons——215

The Submission of Wittikind——218

Death of Roland at Roncesvalles——227

Charlemagne and the General Assembly——239

Charlemagne Presiding at the School of The Palace——246

He Remained There a Long While, and his Eyes Were Filled With Tears.——255

Paris Besieged by the Normans——259

The Barks of the Northmen Before Paris——260

Count Eudes Re-entering Paris Right Through the Besiegers- —-262

Ditcar the Monk Recognizing The Head of Morvan——273

Hugh Capet Elected King——300

“Who Made Thee King?”——302

Gerbert, Afterwards Pope Sylvester Ii——304

Notre Dame——310

Knights and Peasants——312

Robert Had a Kindly Feeling for the Weak and Poor——313

“The Accolade.”——324

Normans Landing on English Coast——353

William the Conqueror Reviewing his Army——357

Edith Discovers the Body of Harold——360

“God Willeth It!”——383

The Four Leaders of the First Crusade——385

The Assault on St. Jean D’acre——386



Every history, and especially that of France, is one vast, long drama, in which events are linked together according to defined laws, and in which the actors play parts not ready made and learned by heart, parts depending, in fact, not only upon the accidents of their birth, but also upon their own ideas and their own will. There are, in the history of peoples, two sets of causes essentially different, and, at the same time, closely connected; the natural causes which are set over the general course of events, and the unrestricted causes which are incidental. Men do not make the whole of history it has laws of higher origin; but, in history, men are unrestricted agents who produce for it results and exercise over it an influence for which they are responsible. The fated causes and the unrestricted causes, the defined laws of events and the spontaneous actions of man’s free agency—herein is the whole of history. And in the faithful reproduction of these two elements consist the truth and the moral of stories from it.

Never was I more struck with this two-fold character of history than in my tales to my grandchildren. When I commenced with them, they, beforehand, evinced a lively interest, and they began to listen to me with serious good will; but when they did not well apprehend the lengthening chain of events, or when historical personages did not become, in their eyes, creatures real and free, worthy of sympathy or reprobation, when the drama was not developed before them with clearness and animation, I saw their attention grow fitful and flagging; they required light and life together; they wished to be illumined and excited, instructed and amused.

At the same time that the difficulty of satisfying this two-fold desire was painfully felt by me, I discovered therein more means and chances than I had at first foreseen of succeeding in making my young audience comprehend the history of France in its complication and its grandeur. When Corneille observed,—

“In the well-born soul Valor ne’er lingers till due seasons roll,”—

he spoke as truly for intelligence as for valor. When once awakened and really attentive, young minds are more earnest and more capable of complete comprehension than any one would suppose. In order to explain fully to my grandchildren the connection of events and the influence of historical personages, I was sometimes led into very comprehensive considerations and into pretty deep studies of character. And in such cases I was nearly always not only perfectly understood but keenly appreciated. I put it to the proof in the sketch of Charlemagne’s reign and character; and the two great objects of that great man, who succeeded in one and failed in the other, received from my youthful audience the most riveted attention and the most clear comprehension. Youthful minds have greater grasp than one is disposed to give them credit for, and, perhaps, men would do well to be as earnest in their lives as children are in their studies.

In order to attain the end I had set before me, I always took care to connect my stories or my reflections with the great events or the great personages of history. When we wish to examine and describe a district scientifically, we traverse it in all its divisions and in every direction; we visit plains as well as mountains, villages as well as cities, the most obscure corners as well as the most famous spots; this is the way of proceeding with the geologist, the botanist, the archeologist, the statistician, the scholar. But when we wish particularly to get an idea of the chief features of a country, its fixed outlines, its general conformation, its special aspects, its great roads, we mount the heights; we place ourselves at points whence we can best take in the totality and the physiognomy of the landscape. And so we must proceed in history when we wish neither to reduce it to the skeleton of an abridgment nor extend it to the huge dimensions of a learned work. Great events and great men are the fixed points and the peaks of history; and it is thence that we can observe it in its totality, and follow it along its highways. In my tales to my grandchildren I sometimes lingered over some particular anecdote which gave me an opportunity of setting in a vivid light the dominant spirit of an age or the characteristic manners of a people; but, with rare exceptions, it is always on the great deeds and the great personages of history that I have relied for making of them in my tales what they were in reality—the centre and the focus of the life of France.



December, 1869.

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The Frenchman of to-day inhabits a country, long ago civilized and Christianized, where, despite of much imperfection and much social misery, thirty-eight millions of men live in security and peace, under laws equal for all and efficiently upheld. There is every reason to nourish great hopes of such a country, and to wish for it more and more of freedom, glory, and prosperity; but one must be just towards one’s own times, and estimate at their true value advantages already acquired and progress already accomplished. If one were suddenly carried twenty or thirty centuries backward, into the midst of that which was then called Gaul, one would not recognize France. The same mountains reared their heads; the same plains stretched far and wide; the same rivers rolled on their course. There is no alteration in the physical formation of the country; but its aspect was very different. Instead of the fields all trim with cultivation, and all covered with various produce, one would see inaccessible morasses and vast forests, as yet uncleared, given up to the chances of primitive vegetation, peopled with wolves and bears, and even the urns, or huge wild ox, and with elks, too—a kind of beast that one finds no longer nowadays, save in the colder regions of north-eastern Europe, such as Lithuania and Courland. Then wandered over the champaign great herds of swine, as fierce almost as wolves, tamed only so far as to know the sound of their keeper’s horn. The better sort of fruits and of vegetables were quite unknown; they were imported into Gaul—the greatest part from Asia, a portion from Africa and the islands of the Mediterranean; and others, at a later period, from the New World. Cold and rough was the prevailing temperature. Nearly every winter the rivers froze sufficiently hard for the passage of cars. And three or four centuries before the Christian era, on that vast territory comprised between the ocean, the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean, the Alps, and the Rhine, lived six or seven millions of men a bestial life, enclosed in dwellings dark and low, the best of them built of wood and clay, covered with branches or straw, made in a single round piece, open to daylight by the door alone, and confusedly heaped together behind a rampart, not inartistically composed of timber, earth, and stone, which surrounded and protected what they were pleased to call a town.

Of even such towns there were scarcely any as yet, save in the most populous and least uncultivated portion of Gaul; that is to say, in the southern and eastern regions, at the foot of the mountains of Auvergne and the Cevennes, and along the coasts of the Mediterranean. In the north and the west were paltry hamlets, as transferable almost as the people themselves; and on some islet amidst the morasses, or in some hidden recess of the forest, were huge intrenchments formed of the trees that were felled, where the population, at the first sound of the war-cry, ran to shelter themselves with their flocks and all their movables. And the war-cry was often heard: men living grossly and idly are very prone to quarrel and fight. Gaul, moreover, was not occupied by one and the same nation, with the same traditions and the same chiefs. Tribes very different in origin, habits, and date of settlement, were continually disputing the territory. In the south were Iberians or Aquitanians, Phoenicians and Greeks; in the north and north-west, Kymrians or Belgians; everywhere else, Gauls or Celts, the most numerous settlers, who had the honor of giving their name to the country. Who were the first to come, then? and what was the date of the first settlement? Nobody knows. Of the Greeks alone does history mark with any precision the arrival in southern Gaul. The Phoenicians preceded them by several centuries; but it is impossible to fix any exact time. The information is equally vague about the period when the Kymrians invaded the north of Gaul. As for the Gauls and the Iberians, there is not a word about their first entrance into the country, for they are discovered there already at the first appearance of the country itself in the domain of history.

The Iberians, whom Roman writers call Aquitanians, dwelt at the foot of the Pyrenees, in the territory comprised between the mountains, the Garonne, and the ocean. They belonged to the race which, under the same appellation, had peopled Spain; but by what route they came into Gaul is a problem which we cannot solve. It is much the same in tracing the origin of every nation, for in those barbarous times men lived and died without leaving any enduring memorial of their deeds and their destinies; no monuments; no writings; just a few oral traditions, perhaps, which are speedily lost or altered. It is in proportion as they become enlightened and civilized, that men feel the desire and discover the means of extending their memorial far beyond their own lifetime. That is the beginning of history, the offspring of noble and useful sentiments, which cause the mind to dwell upon the future, and to yearn for long continuance; sentiments which testify to the superiority of man over all other creatures living upon our earth, which foreshadow the immortality of the soul, and which are warrant for the progress of the human race by preserving for the generations to come what has been done and learned by the generations that disappear.

By whatever route and at whatever epoch the Iberians came into the south-west of Gaul, they abide there still in the department of the Lower Pyrenees, under the name of Basques; a people distinct from all its neighbors in features, costume, and especially language, which resembles none of the present languages of Europe, contains many words which are to be found in the names of rivers, mountains, and towns of olden Spain, and which presents a considerable analogy to the idioms, ancient and modern, of certain peoples of northern Africa. The Phoenicians did not leave, as the Iberians did, in the south of France distinct and well-authenticated descendants. They had begun about 1100 B.C. to trade there. They went thither in search of furs, and gold and silver, which were got either from the sand of certain rivers, as for instance the Allege (in Latin Aurigera), or from certain mines of the Alps, the Cevennes, and the Pyrenees; they brought in exchange stuffs dyed with purple, necklaces and rings of glass, and, above all, arms and wine; a trade like that which is nowadays carried on by the civilized peoples of Europe with the savage tribes of Africa and America. For the purpose of extending and securing their commercial expeditions, the Phoenicians founded colonies in several parts of Gaul, and to them is attributed the earliest origin of Nemausus (Nimes), and of Alesia, near Semur. But, at the end of three or four centuries, these colonies fell into decay; the trade of the Phoenicians was withdrawn from Gaul, and the only important sign it preserved of their residence was a road which, starting from the eastern Pyrenees, skirted the Gallic portion of the Mediterranean, crossed the Alps by the pass of Tenda, and so united Spain, Gaul, and Italy. After the withdrawal of the Phoenicians this road was kept up and repaired, at first by the Greeks of Marseilles, and subsequently by the Romans.

As merchants and colonists, the Greeks were, in Gaul, the successors of the Phoenicians, and Marseilles was one of their first and most considerable colonies. At the time of the Phoenicians’ decay in Gaul, a Greek people, the Rhodians, had pushed their commercial enterprises to a great distance, and, in the words of the ancient historians, held the empire of the sea. Their ancestors had, in former times, succeeded the Phoenicians in the island of Rhodes, and they likewise succeeded them in the south of Gaul, and founded, at the mouth of the Rhone, a colony called Rhodanusia or Rhoda, with the same name as that which they had already founded on the north-east coast of Spain, and which is nowadays the town of Rosas, in Catalonia. But the importance of the Rhodians on the southern coast of Gaul was short-lived. It had already sunk very low in the year 600 B.C., when Euxenes, a Greek trader, coming from Phocea, an Ionian town of Asia Minor, to seek his fortune, landed from a bay eastward of the Rhone. The Segobrigians, a tribe of the Gallic race, were in occupation of the neighboring country. Nann, their chief, gave the strangers kindly welcome, and took them home with him to a great feast which he was giving for his daughter’s marriage, who was called Gyptis, according to some, and Petta, according to other historians. A custom which exists still in several cantons of the Basque country, and even at the centre of France in Morvan, a mountainous district of the department of the Nievre, would that the maiden should appear only at the end of the banquet, and holding in her hand a filled wine-cup, and that the guest to whom she should present it should become the husband of her choice. By accident, or quite another cause, say the ancient legends, Gyptis stopped opposite Euxenes, and handed him the cup. Great was the surprise, and, probably, anger amongst the Gauls who were present. But Nann, believing he recognized a commandment from his gods, accepted the Phocean as his son-in-law, and gave him as dowry the bay where he had landed, with some cantons of the territory around. Euxenes, in gratitude, gave his wife the Greek name of Aristoxena (that is, “the best of hostesses”), sent away his ship to Phocea for colonists, and, whilst waiting for them, laid in the centre of the bay, on a peninsula hollowed out harbor-wise, towards the south, the foundations of a town, which he called Massilia—thence Marseilles.

Gyptis Presenting the Goblet to Euxenes——17

Scarcely a year had elapsed when Euxenes’ ship arrived from Phocea, and with it several galleys, bringing colonists full of hope, and laden with provisions, utensils, arms, seeds, vine-cuttings, and olive-cuttings, and, moreover, a statue of Diana, which the colonists had gone to fetch from the celebrated temple of that goddess at Ephesus, and which her priestess, Aristarche, accompanied to its new country.

The activity and prosperity of Marseilles, both within and without, were rapidly developed. She carried her commerce wherever the Phoenicians and the Rhodians had marked out a road; she repaired their forts; she took to herself their establishments; and she placed on her medals, to signify dominion, the rose, the emblem of Rhodes, beside the lion of Marseilles. But Nann, the Gallic chieftain, who had protected her infancy, died; and his son, Conran, shared the jealousy felt by the Segobrigians and the neighboring peoplets towards the new corners. He promised and really resolved to destroy the new city. It was the time of the flowering of the vine, a season of great festivity amongst the Ionian Greeks, and Marseilles thought solely of the preparations for the feast. The houses and public places were being decorated with branches and flowers. No guard was set; no work was done. Conran sent into the town a number of his men, some openly, as if to take part in the festivities, others hidden at the bottom of the cars which conveyed into Marseilles the branches and foliage from the outskirts. He himself went and lay in ambush in a neighboring glen, with seven thousand men, they say, but the number is probably exaggerated, and waited for his emissaries to open the gates to him during the night. But once more a woman, a near relation of the Gallic chieftain, was the guardian angel of the Greeks, and revealed the plot to a young man of Marseilles, with whom she was in love. The gates were immediately shut, and so many Segobrigians as happened to be in the town were massacred. Then, when night came on, the inhabitants, armed, went forth to surprise Conran in the ambush where he was awaiting the moment to surprise them. And there he fell with all his men.

Delivered as they were from this danger, the Massilians nevertheless remained in a difficult and disquieting situation. The peoplets around, in coalition against them, attacked them often, and threatened them incessantly. But whilst they were struggling against these embarrassments, a grand disaster, happening in the very same spot whence they had emigrated half a century before, was procuring them a great accession of strength and the surest means of defence. In the year 542 B.C., Phocea succumbed beneath the efforts of Cyrus, King of Persia, and her inhabitants, leaving to the conqueror empty streets and deserted houses, took to their ships in a body, to transfer their homes elsewhere. A portion of this floating population made straight for Marseilles; others stopped at Corsica, in the harbor of Alalia, another Phocean colony. But at the end of five years they too, tired of piratical life and of the incessant wars they had to sustain against the Carthaginians, quitted Corsica, and went to rejoin their compatriots in Gaul.

Thenceforward Marseilles found herself in a position to face her enemies. She extended her walls all round the bay, and her enterprises far away. She founded on the southern coast of Gaul and on the eastern coast of Spain, permanent settlements, which are to this day towns: eastward of the Rhone, Hercules’ harbor, Moncecus (Monaco), Niccea (Nice), Antipolis (Antibes); westward, Heraclea Cacabaria (Saint-Gilles), Agaththae (Agdevall), Emporia; (Ampurias in Catalonia), &c., &c. In valley of the Rhone, several towns of the Gauls, Cabellio were (Cavaili like on), Greek Avenio (Avignon), Arelate (Arles), for instance, colonies, so great there was the number of travellers or established merchants who spoke Greek. With this commercial activity Marseilles united intellectual and scientific activity; her grammarians were among the first to revise and annotate the poems of Homer; and bold travellers from Marseilles, Euthymenes and Pytheas by name, cruised, one along the western coast of Africa beyond the Straits of Gibraltar, and the other the southern and western coasts of Europe, from the mouth of the Tanais (Don), in the Black Sea, to the latitudes and perhaps into the interior of the Baltic. They lived, both of them, in the second half of the fourth century B.C., and they wrote each a Periplus, or tales of their travels, which have unfortunately been almost entirely lost.

But whatever may have been her intelligence and activity, a single town situated at the extremity of Gaul and peopled with foreigners could have but little influence over so vast a country and its inhabitants. At first civilization is very hard and very slow; it requires many centuries, many great events, and many years of toil to overcome the early habits of a people, and cause them to exchange the pleasures, gross indeed, but accompanied with the idleness and freedom of barbarian life, for the toilful advantages of a regulated social condition. By dint of foresight, perseverance, and courage, the merchants of Marseilles and her colonies crossed by two or three main lines the forests, morasses, and heaths through the savage tribes of Gauls, and there effected their exchanges, but to the right and left they penetrated but a short distance. Even on their main lines their traces soon disappeared; and at the commercial settlements which they established here and there they were often far more occupied in self-defence than in spreading their example. Beyond a strip of land of uneven breadth, along the Mediterranean, and save the space peopled towards the south-west by the Iberians, the country, which received its name from the former of the two, was occupied by the Gauls and the Kymrians; by the Gauls in the centre, south-east and east, in the highlands of modern France, between the Alps, the Vosges, the mountains of Auvergne and the Cevennes; by the Kymrians in the north, north-west, and west, in the lowlands, from the western boundary of the Gauls to the ocean.

Whether the Gauls and the Kymrians were originally of the same race, or at least of races closely connected; whether they were both anciently comprised under the general name of Celts; and whether the Kymrians, if they were not of the same race as the Gauls, belonged to that of the Germans, the final conquerors of the Roman empire, are questions which the learned have been a long, long while discussing without deciding. The only facts which seem to be clear and certain are the following.

The ancients for a long while applied without distinction the name of Celts to the peoples who lived in the west and north of Europe, regardless of precise limits, language, or origin. It was a geographical title applicable to a vast but ill-explored territory, rather than a real historical name of race or nation. And so, in the earliest times, Gauls, Germans, Bretons, and even Iberians, appear frequently confounded under the name of Celts, peoples of Celtica.

Little by little this name is observed to become more restricted and more precise. The Iberians of Spain are the first to be detached; then the Germans. In the century preceding the Christian era, the Gauls, that is, the peoples inhabiting Gaul, are alone called Celts. We begin even to recognize amongst them diversities of race, and to distinguish the Iberians of Gaul, alias Aquitanians, and the Kymrians or Belgians from the Gauls, to whom the name of Celts is confined. Sometimes even it is to a confederation of certain Gallic tribes that the name Specially applies. However it be, the Gauls appear to have been the first inhabitants of western Europe. In the most ancient historical memorials they are found there, and not only in Gaul, but in Great Britain, in Ireland, and in the neighboring islets. In Gaul, after a long predominance, they commingled with other races to form the French nation. But, in this commingling numerous traces of their language, monuments, manners, and names of persons and places, survived and still exist, especially to the east and south—cast, in local customs and vernacular dialects. In Ireland, in the highlands of Scotland, in the Hebrides and the Isle of Man, Gauls (Gaels) still live under their primitive name. There we still have the Gaelic race and tongue, free, if not from any change, at least from absorbent fusion.

From the seventh to the fourth century B.C., a new population spread over Gaul, not at once, but by a series of invasions, of which the two principal took place at the two extremes of that epoch. They called themselves Kymrians or Kimrians, whence the Romans made Cimbrians, which recalls Cimmerii or Cimmerians, the name of a people whom the Greeks placed on the western bank of the Black Sea and in the Cimmerian peninsula, called to this day Crimea. During these irregular and successively repeated movements of wandering populations, it often happened that tribes of different races met, made terms, united, and finished by amalgamation under one name. All the peoples that successively invaded Europe, Gauls, Kymrians, Germans, belonged at first, in Asia, whence they came, to a common stern; the diversity of their languages, traditions, and manners, great as it already was at the time of their appearance in the West, was the work of time and of the diverse circumstances in the midst of which they had lived; but there always remained amongst them traces of a primitive affinity which allowed of sudden and frequent comings, amidst their tumultuous dispersion.

The Kymrians, who crossed the Rhine and flung themselves into northern Gaul towards the middle of the fourth century B.C., called themselves Bolg, or Belg, or Belgians, a name which indeed is given to them by Roman writers, and which has remained that of the country they first invaded. They descended southwards, to the banks of the Seine and the Marne. There they encountered the Kymrians of former invasions, who not only had spread over the country comprised between the Seine and the Loire, to the very heart of the peninsula bordered by the latter river, but had crossed the sea, and occupied a portion of the large island opposite Gaul, crowding back the Gauls, who had preceded them, upon Ireland and the highlands of Scotland. It was from one of these tribes and its chieftain, called Pryd or Prydain, Brit or Britain, that Great Britain and Brittany in France received the name which they have kept.

Each of these races, far from forming a single people bound to the same destiny and under the same chieftains, split into peoplets, more or less independent, who foregathered or separated according to the shifts of circumstances, and who pursued, each on their own account and at their own pleasure, their fortunes or their fancies. The Ibero-Aquitanians numbered twenty tribes; the Gauls twenty-two nations; the original Kymrians, mingled with the Gauls between the Loire and the Garonne, seventeen; and the Kymro-Belgians twenty-three. These sixty-two nations were subdivided into several hundreds of tribes; and these petty agglomerations were distributed amongst rival confederations or leagues, which disputed one with another the supremacy over such and such a portion of territory. Three grand leagues existed amongst the Gauls; that of the Arvernians, formed of peoplets established in the country which received from them the name of Auvergne; that of the AEduans, in Burgundy, whose centre was Bibracte (Autun); and that of the Sequanians, in Franche-Comte, whose centre was Vesontio (Besancon). Amongst the Kymrians of the West, the Armoric league bound together the tribes of Brittany and lower Normandy. From these alliances, intended to group together scattered forces, sprang fresh passions or interests, which became so many fresh causes of discord and hostility. And, in these divers-agglomerations, government was everywhere almost equally irregular and powerless to maintain order or found an enduring state. Kymrians, Gauls, or Iberians were nearly equally ignorant, improvident, slaves to the shiftings of their ideas and the sway of their passions, fond of war and idleness and rapine and feasting, of gross and savage pleasures. All gloried in hanging from the breast-gear of their horses, or nailing to the doors of their houses, the heads of their enemies. All sacrificed human victims to their gods; all tied their prisoners to trees, and burned or flogged them to death; all took pleasure in wearing upon their heads or round their arms, and depicting upon their naked bodies, fantastic ornaments, which gave them a wild appearance. An unbridled passion for wine and strong liquors was general amongst them: the traders of Italy, and especially of Marseilles, brought supplies into every part of Gaul; from interval to interval there were magazines established, whither the Gauls flocked to sell for a flask of wine their furs, their grain, their cattle, their slaves. “It was easy,” says an ancient historian, “to get the Ganymede for the liquor.” Such are the essential characteristics of barbaric life, as they have been and as they still are at several points of our globe, amongst people of the same grade in the scale of civilization. They existed in nearly an equal degree amongst the different races of ancient Gaul, whose resemblance was rendered much stronger thereby than their diversity in other respects by some of their customs, traditions, or ideas.

In their case, too, there is no sign of those permanent demarcations, those rooted antipathies, and that impossibility of unity which are observable amongst peoples whose original moral condition is really very different. In Asia, Africa, and America, the English, the Dutch, the Spanish, and the French have been and are still in frequent contact with the natives of the country—Hindoos, Malays, Negroes, and Indians; and, in spite of this contact, the races have remained widely separated one from another. In ancient Gaul not only did Gauls, Kymrians, and Iberians live frequently in alliance and almost intimacy, but they actually commingled and cohabited without scruple on the same territory. And so we find in the midst of the Iberians, towards the mouth of the Garonne, a Gallic tribe, the Viviscan Biturigians, come from the neighborhood of Bourges, where the bulk of the nation was settled: they had been driven thither by one of the first invasions of the Kymrians, and peaceably taken root there; Burdigaia, afterwards Bordeaux, was the chief settlement of this tribe, and even then a trading-place between the Mediterranean and the ocean. A little farther on, towards the south, a Kymrian tribe, the Bolans, lived isolated from its race, in the waste-lands of the Iberians, extracting the resin from the pines which grew in that territory. To the south-west, in the country situated between the Garonne, the eastern Pyrenees, the Cevennes, and the Rhone, two great tribes of Kymro-Belgians, the Bolg, Volg, Volk, or Voles, Arecomican and Tectosagian, came to settle, towards the end of the fourth century B. C., in the midst of the Iberian and Gallic peoplets; and there is nothing to show that the new comers lived worse with their neighbors than the latter had previously lived together.

It is evident that amongst all these peoplets, whatever may have been their diversity of origin, there was sufficient similitude of social condition and manners to make agreement a matter neither very difficult nor very long to accomplish.

On the other hand, and as a natural consequence, it was precarious and often of short duration: Iberian, Gallic, or Kymrian as they might be, these peoplets underwent frequent displacements, forced or voluntary, to escape from the attacks of a more powerful neighbor; to find new pasturage; in consequence of internal dissension; or, perhaps, for the mere pleasure of warfare and running risks, and to be delivered from the tediousness of a monotonous life. From the earliest times to the first century before the Christian era, Gaul appears a prey to this incessant and disorderly movement of the population; they change settlement and neighborhood; disappear from one point and reappear at another; cross one another; avoid one another; absorb and are absorbed. And the movement was not confined within Gaul; the Gauls of every race went, sometimes in very numerous hordes, to seek far away plunder and a settlement. Spain, Italy, Germany, Greece, Asia Minor, and Africa have been in turn the theatre of those Gallic expeditions which entailed long wars, grand displacements of peoples, and sometimes the formation of new nations. Let us make a slight acquaintance with this outer history of the Gauls; for it is well worth while to follow them a space upon their distant wanderings. We will then return to the soil of France, and concern ourselves only with what has passed within her boundaries.

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About three centuries B.C. numerous hordes of Gauls crossed the Alps and penetrated to the centre of Etruria, which is nowadays Tuscany. The Etruscans, being then at war with Rome, proposed to take them, armed and equipped as they had come, into their own pay. “If you want our hands,” answered the Gauls, “against your enemies, the Romans, here they are at your service—but on one condition: give us lands.”

A Tribe of Gauls on an Expedition——27

A century afterwards other Gallic hordes, descending in like manner upon Italy, had commenced building houses and tilling fields along the Adriatic, on the territory where afterwards was Aquileia. The Roman Senate decreed that their settlement should be opposed, and that they should be summoned to give up their implements and even their arms. Not being in a position to resist, the Gauls sent representatives to Rome. They, being introduced into the Senate, said, “The multitude of people in Gaul, the want of lands, and necessity forced us to cross the Alps to seek a home. We saw plains uncultivated and uninhabited. We settled there without doing any one harm. . . . We ask nothing but lands. We will live peacefully on them under the laws of the republic.”

Again, a century later, or thereabouts, some Gallic Kymrians, mingled with Teutons or Germans, said also to the Roman Senate, “Give us a little land as pay, and do what you please with our hands and weapons.”

Want of room and means of subsistence have, in fact, been the principal causes which have at all times thrust barbarous people, and especially the Gauls, out of their fatherland. An immense extent of country is required for indolent hordes who live chiefly upon the produce of the chase and of their flocks; and when there is no longer enough of forest or pasturage for the families that become too numerous, there is a swarm from the hive, and a search for livelihood elsewhere. The Gauls emigrated in every direction. To find, as they said, rivers and lands, they marched from north to south, and from east to west. They crossed at one time the Rhine, at another the Alps, at another the Pyrenees. More than fifteen centuries B.C. they had already thrown themselves into Spain, after many fights, no doubt, with the Iberians established between the Pyrenees and the Garonne. They penetrated north-westwards to the northern point of the Peninsula, into the province which received from them and still bears the name of Galicia; south-eastwards to the southern point, between the river Anas (nowadays Guadiana) and the ocean, where they founded a Little Celtica; and centrewards and southwards from Castile to Andalusia, where the amalgamation of two races brought about the creation of a new people, that found a place in history as Celtiberians. And twelve centuries after those events, about 220 B.C., we find the Gallic peoplet, which had planted itself in the south of Portugal, energetically defending its independence against the neighboring Carthaginian colonies. Indortius, their chief, conquered and taken prisoner, was beaten with rods and hung upon the cross, in the sight of his army, after having had his eyes put out by command of Hamilcar-Barca, the Carthaginian general; but a Gallic slave took care to avenge him by assassinating, some years after, at a hunting-party, Hasdrubal, son-in-law of Hamilcar, who had succeeded to the command. The slave was put to the torture; but, indomitable in his hatred, he died insulting the Africans.

A little after the Gallic invasion of Spain, and by reason perhaps of that very movement, in the first half of the fourteenth century B.C., another vast horde of Gauls, who called themselves Anahra, Ambra, Ambrons, that is, “braves,” crossed the Alps, occupied northern Italy, descended even to the brink of the Tiber, and conferred the name of Ambria or Umbria on the country where they founded their dominion. If ancient accounts might be trusted, this dominion was glorious and flourishing, for Umbria numbered, they say, three hundred and fifty-eight towns; but falsehood, according to the Eastern proverb, lurks by the cradle of nations. At a much later epoch, in the second century B.C., fifteen towns of Liguria contained altogether, as we learn from Livy, but twenty thousand souls. It is plain, then, what must really have been— even admitting their existence—the three hundred and fifty-eight towns of Umbria. However, at the end of two or three centuries, this Gallic colony succumbed beneath the superior power of the Etruscans, another set of invaders from eastern Europe, perhaps from the north of Greece, who founded in Italy a mighty empire. The Umbrians or Ambrons were driven out or subjugated. Nevertheless some of their peoplets, preserving their name and manners, remained in the mountains of upper Italy, where they were to be subsequently discovered by fresh and more celebrated Gallic invasions.

Those just spoken of are of such antiquity and obscurity, that we note their place in history without being able to say how they came to fill it. It is only with the sixth century before our era that we light upon the really historical expeditions of the Gauls away from Gaul, those, in fact, of which we may follow the course and estimate the effects.

Towards the year 587 B.C., almost at the very moment when the Phoceans had just founded Marseilles, two great Gallic hordes got in motion at the same time, and crossed, one the Rhine, the other the Alps, making one for Germany, the other for Italy. The former followed the course of the Danube and settled in Illyria, on the right bank of the river. It is too much, perhaps, to say that they settled; the greater part of them continued wandering and fighting, sometimes amalgamating with the peoplets they encountered, sometimes chasing them and exterminating them, whilst themselves were incessantly pushed forward by fresh bands coming also from Gaul. Thus marching and spreading, leaving here and there on their route, along the rivers and in the valleys of the Alps, tribes that remained and founded peoples, the Gauls had arrived, towards the year 340 B.C., at the confines of Macedonia, at the time when Alexander, the son of Philip, who was already famous, was advancing to the same point to restrain the ravages of the neighboring tribes, perhaps of the Gauls themselves. From curiosity, or a desire to make terms with Alexander, certain Gauls betook themselves to his camp. He treated them well, made them sit at his table, took pleasure in exhibiting his magnificence before them, and in the midst of his carouse made his interpreter ask them what they were most afraid of.

“We fear nought,” they answered, “unless it be the fall of heaven; but we set above everything the friendship of a man like thee.” “The Celts are proud,” said Alexander to his Macedonians; and he promised them his friendship. On the death of Alexander, the Gauls, as mercenaries, entered, in Europe and Asia, the service of the kings who had been his generals. Ever greedy, fierce, and passionate, they were almost equally dangerous as auxiliaries and as neighbors. Antigonus, King of Macedonia, was to pay the band he had enrolled a gold piece a head. They brought their wives and children with them, and at the end of the campaign they claimed pay for their following as well as for themselves: “We were promised,” said they, “a gold piece a head for each Gaul; and these are also Gauls.”

Before long they tired of fighting the battles of another; their power accumulated; fresh hordes, in great numbers, arrived amongst them about the year 281 B.C. They had before them Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly, Greece, rich, but distracted and weakened by civil strife. They effected an entrance at several points, devastating, plundering, loading their cars with booty, and dividing their prisoners into two parts; one offered in sacrifice to their gods, the other strung up to trees and abandoned to the gais and matars, or javelins and pikes of the conquerors.

Like all barbarians, they, both for pleasure and on principle, added insolence to ferocity. Their Brenn, or most famous chieftain, whom the Latins and Greeks call Brennus, dragged in his train Macedonian prisoners, short, mean, and with shaven heads, and exhibiting them beside Gallic warriors, tall, robust, long-haired, adorned with chains of gold, said, “This is what we are, that is what our enemies are.”

Ptolemy the Thunderbolt, King of Macedonia, received with haughtiness their first message requiring of him a ransom for his dominions if he wished to preserve peace. “Tell those who sent you,” he replied to the Gallic deputation, “to lay down their arms and give up to me their chieftains. I will then see what peace I can grant them.” On the return of the deputation, the Gauls were moved to laughter. “He shall soon see,” said they, “whether it was in his interest or our own that we offered him peace.” And, indeed, in the first engagement, neither the famous Macedonian phalanx, nor the elephant he rode, could save King Ptolemy; the phalanx was broken, the elephant riddled with javelins, the king himself taken, killed, and his head marched about the field of battle on the top of a pike.

Macedonia was in consternation; there was a general flight from the open country, and the gates of the towns were closed. “The people,” says an historian, “cursed the folly of King Ptolemy, and invoked the names of Philip and Alexander, the guardian deities of their land.”

Three years later, another and a more formidable invasion came bursting upon Thessaly and Greece. It was, according to the unquestionably exaggerated account of the ancient historians, two hundred thousand strong, and commanded by that famous, ferocious, and insolent Brennus mentioned before. His idea was to strike a blow which should simultaneously enrich the Gauls and stun the Greeks. He meant to plunder the temple at Delphi, the most venerated place in all Greece, whither flowed from century to century all kinds of offerings, and where, no doubt, enormous treasure was deposited. Such was, in the opinion of the day, the sanctity of the place, that, on the rumor of the projected profanation, several Greeks essayed to divert the Gallic Brenn himself, by appealing to his superstitious fears; but his answer was, “The gods have no need of wealth; it is they who distribute it to men.”

All Greece was moved. The nations of the Peloponnese closed the isthmus of Corinth by a wall. Outside the isthmus, the Beeotians, Phocidians, Locrians, Megarians, and AEtolians formed a coalition under the leadership of the Athenians; and, as their ancestors had done scarcely two hundred years before against Xerxes and the Persians, they advanced in all haste to the pass of Thermopylae, to stop there the new barbarians.

And for several days they did stop them; and instead of three hundred heroes, as of yore in the case of Leonidas and his Spartans, only forty Greeks, they say, fell in the first engagement. ‘Amongst them was a young Athenian, Cydias by name, whose shield was hung in the temple of Zeus the savior, at Athens, with this inscription:—







But soon, just as in the case of the Persians, traitors guided Brennus and his Gauls across the mountain-paths; the position of Thermopylae was turned; the Greek army owed its safety to the Athenian galleys; and by evening of the same day the barbarians appeared in sight of Delphi.

Brennus would have led them at once to the assault. He showed them, to excite them, the statues, vases, cars, monuments of every kind, laden with gold, which adorned the approaches of the town and of the temple: “‘Tis pure gold—massive gold,” was the news he had spread in every direction. But the very cupidity he provoked was against his plan; for the Gauls fell out to plunder. He had to put off the assault until the morrow. The night was passed in irregularities and orgies.

The Greeks, on the contrary, prepared with ardor for the fight. Their enthusiasm was intense. Those barbarians, with their half-nakedness, their grossness, their ferocity, their ignorance, and their impiety, were revolting. They committed murder and devastation like dolts. They left their dead on the field, without burial. They engaged in battle without consulting priest or augur. It was not only their goods, but their families, their life, the honor of their country, and the sanctuary of their religion, that the Greeks were defending, and they might rely on the protection of the gods. The oracle of Apollo had answered, “I and the white virgins will provide for this matter.” The people surrounded the temple, and the priests supported and encouraged the people. During the night small bodies of AEtolians, Amphisseans, and Phocidians arrived one after another. Four thousand men had joined within Delphi, when the Gallic bands, in the morning, began to mount the narrow and rough incline which led up to the town. The Greeks rained down from above a deluge of stones and other missiles. The Gauls recoiled, but recovered themselves. The besieged fell back on the nearest streets of the town, leaving open the approach to the temple, upon which the barbarians threw themselves. The pillage of the shrines had just commenced when the sky looked threatening; a storm burst forth, the thunder echoed, the rain fell, the hail rattled. Readily taking advantage of this incident, the priests and the augurs sallied from the temple clothed in their sacred garments, with hair dishevelled and sparkling eyes, proclaiming the advent of the god: “‘Tis he! we saw him shoot athwart the temple’s vault, which opened under his feet; and with him were two virgins, who issued from the temples of Artemis and Athena. We saw them with our eyes. We heard the twang of their bows, and the clash of their armor.” Hearing these cries and the roar of the tempest, the Greeks dash on—the Gauls are panic-stricken, and rush headlong down the bill. The Greeks push on in pursuit. Rumors of fresh apparitions are spread; three heroes, Hyperochus, Laodocus, and Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, have issued from their tombs hard by the temple, and are thrusting at the Gauls with their lances. The rout was speedy and general; the barbarians rushed to the cover of their camp; but the camp was attacked next morning by the Greeks from the town and by re-enforcements from the country places. Brennus and the picked warriors about him made a gallant resistance, but defeat was a foregone conclusion. Brennus was wounded, and his comrades bore him off the field. The barbarian army passed the whole day in flight. During the ensuing night a new access of terror seized them they again took to flight, and four days after the passage of Thermopylae some scattered bands, forming scarcely a third of those who had marched on Delphi, rejoined the division which had remained behind, some leagues from the town, in the plains watered by the Cephissus. Brennus summoned his comrades “Kill all the wounded and me,” said he; “burn your cars; make Cichor king; and away at full speed.” Then he called for wine, drank himself drunk, and stabbed himself. Cichor did cut the throats of the wounded, and traversed, flying and fighting, Thessaly and Macedonia; and on returning whence they had set out, the Gauls dispersed, some to settle at the foot of a neighboring mountain under the command of a chieftain named Bathanat or Baedhannatt, i.e., son of the wild boar; others to march back towards their own country; the greatest part to resume the same life of incursion and adventure. But they changed the scene of operations. Greece, Macedonia, and Thrace were exhausted by pillage, and made a league to resist. About 278 B.C. the Gauls crossed the Hellespont and passed into Asia Minor. There, at one time in the pay of the kings of Bithynia, Pergamos, Cappadocia, and Syria, or of the free commercial cities which were struggling against the kings, at another carrying on wars on their own account, they wandered for more than thirty years, divided into three great hordes, which parcelled out the territories among themselves, overran and plundered them during the fine weather, intrenched themselves during winter in their camp of cars, or in some fortified place, sold their services to the highest bidder, changed masters according to interest or inclination, and by their bravery became the terror of these effeminate populations and the arbiters of these petty states.

At last both princes and people grew weary. Antiochus, King of Syria, attacked one of the three bands,—that of the Tectosagians,—conquered it, and cantoned it in a district of Upper Phrygia. Later still, about 241 B.C., Eumenes, sovereign of Pergamos, and Attalus, his successor, drove and shut up the other two bands, the Tolistoboians and Troemians, likewise in the same region. The victories of Attalus over the Gauls excited veritable enthusiasm. He was celebrated as a special envoy from Zeus. He took the title of King, which his predecessors had not hitherto borne. He had his battles showily painted; and that he might triumph at the same time both in Europe and Asia, he sent one of the pictures to Athens, where it was still to be seen three centuries afterwards, hanging upon the wall of the citadel. Forced to remain stationary, the Gallic hordes became a people,—the Galatians,—and the country they occupied was called Galatia. They lived there some fifty years, aloof from the indigenous population of Greeks and Phrygians, whom they kept in an almost servile condition, preserving their warlike and barbarous habits, resuming sometimes their mercenary service, and becoming once more the bulwark or the terror of neighboring states. But at the beginning of the second century before our era, the Romans had entered Asia, in pursuit of their great enemy, Hannibal. They had just beaten, near Magnesia, Antiochus, King of Syria. In his army they had encountered men of lofty stature, with hair light or dyed red, half naked, marching to the fight with loud cries, and terrible at the first onset. They recognized the Gauls, and resolved to destroy or subdue them. The consul, Cn. Manlius, had the duty and the honor. Attacked in their strongholds on Mount Olympus and Mount Magaba, 189 B.C., the three Gallic bands, after a short but stout resistance, were conquered and subjugated; and thenceforth losing all national importance, they amalgamated little by little with the Asiatic populations around them. From time to time they are still seen to reappear with their primitive manners and passions. Rome humored them; Mithridates had them for allies in his long struggle with the Romans. He kept by him a Galatian guard; and when he sought death, and poison failed him, it was the captain of the guard, a Gaul named Bituitus, whom he asked to run him through. That is the last historical event with which the Gallic name is found associated in Asia.

Nevertheless the amalgamation of the Gauls of Galatia with the natives always remained very imperfect; for towards the end of the fourth century of the Christian era they did not speak Greek, as the latter did, but their national tongue, that of the Kymro-Belgians; and St. Jerome testifies that it differed very little from that which was spoken in Belgica itself, in the region of Troves.

The Romans had good ground for keeping a watchful eye, from the time they met them, upon the Gauls, and for dreading them particularly. At the time when they determined to pursue them into the mountains of Asia Minor, they were just at the close of a desperate struggle, maintained against them for four hundred years, in Italy itself; “a struggle,” says Sallust, “in which it was a question not of glory, but of existence, for Rome.” It was but just now remarked that at the beginning of the sixth century before our era, whilst, under their chieftain Sigovesus, the Gallic bands whose history has occupied the last few pages were crossing the Rhine and entering Germany, other bands, under the command of Bellovesus, were traversing the Alps and swarming into Italy. From 587 to 521 B.C. five Gallic expeditions, formed of Gallic, Kymric, and Ligurian tribes, followed the same route and invaded successively the two banks of the Po—the bottomless river, as they called it. The Etruscans, who had long before, it will be remembered, themselves wrested that country from a people of Gallic origin, the Umbrians or Ambrons, could not make head against the new conquerors, aided, may be, by the remains of the old population. The well-built towns, the cultivation of the country, the ports and canals that had been dug, nearly all these labors of Etruscan civilization disappeared beneath the footsteps of these barbarous hordes that knew only how to destroy, and one of which gave its chieftain the name of Hurricane (Elitorius, Ele-Dov). Scarcely five Etruscan towns, Mantua and Ravenna amongst others, escaped disaster. The Gauls also founded towns, such as Mediolanum (Milan), Brixia (Brescia), Verona, Bononia (Bologna), Sena-Gallica (Sinigaglia), &c. But for a long while they were no more than intrenched camps, fortified places, where the population shut themselves up in case of necessity. “They, as a general rule, straggled about the country,” says Polybius, the most correct and clear-sighted of the ancient historians, “sleeping on grass or straw, living on nothing but meat, busying themselves about nothing but war and a little husbandry, and counting as riches nothing but flocks and gold, the only goods that can be carried away at pleasure and on every occasion.”

During nearly thirty years the Gauls thus scoured not only Upper Italy, which they had almost to themselves, but all the eastern coast, and up to the head of the peninsula, encountering along the Adriatic, and in the rich and effeminate cities of Magna Graecia, Sybaris, Tarentum, Crotona, and Locri, no enemy capable of resisting them. But in the year 391 B.C., finding themselves cooped up in their territory, a strong band of Gauls crossed the Apennines, and went to demand from the Etruscans of Clusium the cession of a portion of their lands. The only answer Clusium made was to close her gates. The Gauls formed up around the walls. Clusium asked help from Rome, with whom, notwithstanding the rivalry between the Etruscan and Roman nations, she had lately been on good terms. The Romans promised first their good offices with the Gauls, afterwards material support; and thus were brought face to face those two peoples, fated to continue for four centuries a struggle which was to be ended only by the complete subjection of Gaul.

The details of that struggle belong specially to Roman history; they have been transmitted to us only by Roman historians; and the Romans it was who were left ultimately in possession of the battle-field, that is, of Italy. It will suffice here to make known the general march of events and the most characteristic incidents.

Four distinct periods may be recognized in this history; and each marks a different phase in the course of events, and, so to speak, an act of the drama. During the first period, which lasted forty-two years, from 391 to 349 B.C., the Gauls carried on a war of aggression and conquest against Rome. Not that such had been their original design; on the contrary, they replied, when the Romans offered intervention between them and Clusium, “We ask only for lands, of which we are in need; and Clusium has more than she can cultivate. Of the Romans we know very little; but we believe them to be a brave people, since the Etruscans put themselves under their protection. Remain spectators of our quarrel; we will settle it before your eyes, that you may report at home how far above other men the Gauls are in valor.”

But when they saw their pretensions repudiated and themselves treated with outrageous disdain, the Gauls left the siege of Clusium on the spot, and set out for Rome, not stopping for plunder, and proclaiming everywhere on their march, “We are bound for Rome; we make war on none but Romans;” and when they encountered the Roman army, on the 16th of duly, 390 B.C., at the confluence of the Allia and the Tiber, half a day’s march from Rome, they abruptly struck up their war-chant, and threw themselves upon their enemies. It is well known how they gained the day; how they entered Rome, and found none but a few gray-beards, who, being unable or unwilling to leave their abode, had remained seated in the vestibule on their chairs of ivory, with truncheons of ivory in their hands, and decorated with the insignia of the public offices they had filled. All the people of Rome had fled, and were wandering over the country, or seeking a refuge amongst neighboring peoples. Only the senate and a thousand warriors had shut themselves up in the Capitol, a citadel which commanded the city. The Gauls kept them besieged there for seven months. The circumstances of this celebrated siege are well known, though they have been a little embellished by the Roman historians. Not that they have spoken too highly of the Romans themselves, who, in the day of their country’s disaster, showed admirable courage, perseverance, and hopefulness. Pontius Cominius, who traversed the Gallic camp, swam the Tiber, and scaled by night the heights of the Capitol, to go and carry news to the senate; M. Manlius, who was the first, and for some moments the only one, to hold in check, from the citadel’s walls, the Gauls on the point of effecting an entrance; and M. Furius Camillus, who had been banished from Rome the preceding year, and had taken refuge in the town of Ardea, and who instantly took the field for his country, rallied the Roman fugitives, and incessantly harassed the Gauls—are true heroes, who have earned their weed of glory. Let no man seek to lower them in public esteem. Noble actions are so beautiful, and the actors often receive so little recompense, that we are at least bound to hold sacred the honor attached to their name.

The Gauls in Rome——39

The Roman historians have done no more than justice in extolling the saviors of Rome. But their memory would have suffered no loss had the whole truth been made known; and the claims of national vanity are not of the same weight as the duty one owes to truth. Now, it is certain that Camillus did not gain such decisive advantages over the Gauls as the Roman accounts would lead one to believe, and that the deliverance of Rome was much less complete. On the 13th of February, 389 B.C., the Gauls, it is true, allowed their retreat to be purchased by the Romans; and they experienced, as they retired, certain checks, whereby they lost a part of their booty. But twenty-three years afterwards they are found in Latium scouring in every direction the outlying country of Rome, without the Romans daring to go out and fight them. It was only at the end of five years, in the year 361 B.C., that, the very city being menaced anew, the legions marched out to meet the enemy. “Surprised at this audacity,” says Polybius, “the Gauls fell back, but merely a few leagues from Rome, to the environs of Tibur; and thence, for the space of twelve years, they attacked the Roman territory, renewing the campaign every year, often reaching the very gates of the city, and being repulsed indeed, but never farther than Tibur and its slopes.” Rome, however, made great efforts, every war with the Gauls was previously proclaimed a tumult, which involved a levy in mass of the citizens, without any exemption, even for old men and priests. A treasure, specially dedicated to Gallic wars, was laid by in the Capitol, and religious denunciations of the most awful kind hung over the head of whoever should dare to touch it, no matter what the exigency might be. To this epoch belonged those marvels of daring recorded in Roman tradition, those acts of heroism tinged with fable, which are met with amongst so many peoples, either in their earliest age, or in their days of great peril. In the year 361 B.C., Titus Manlius, son of him who had saved the Capitol from the night attack of the Gauls, and twelve years later M. Valerius, a young military tribune, were, it will be remembered, the two Roman heroes who vanquished in single combat the two Gallic giants who insolently defied Rome. The gratitude towards them was general and of long duration, for two centuries afterwards (in the year 167 B.C.) the head of the Gaul with his tongue out still appeared at Rome, above the shop of a money-changer, on a circular sign-board, called “the Kymrian shield” (scutum Cimbricum). After seventeen years’ stay in Latium, the Gauls at last withdrew, and returned to their adopted country in those lovely valleys of the Po which already bore the name of Cisalpine Gaul. They began to get disgusted with a wandering life. Their population multiplied; their towns spread; their fields were better cultivated; their manners became less barbarous. For fifty years there was scarcely any trace of hostility or even contact between them and the Romans. But at the beginning of the third century before our era, the coalition of the Samnites and Etruscans against Rome was near its climax; they eagerly pressed the Gauls to join, and the latter assented easily. Then commenced the second period of struggles between the two peoples. Rome had taken breath, and had grown much more rapidly than her rivals. Instead of shutting herself up, as heretofore, within her walls, she forthwith raised three armies, took the offensive against the coalitionists, and carried the war into their territory. The Etruscans rushed to the defence of their hearths. The two consuls, Fabius and Decius, immediately attacked the Samnites and Gauls at the foot of the Apennines, close to Sentinum (now Sentina). The battle was just beginning, when a hind, pursued by a wolf from the mountains, passed in flight between the two armies, and threw herself upon the side of the Gauls, who slew her; the wolf turned towards the Romans, who let him go. “Comrades,” cried a soldier, “flight and death are on the side where you see stretched on the ground the hind of Diana; the wolf belongs to Mars; he is unwounded, and reminds us of our father and founder; we shall conquer even as he.” Nevertheless the battle went badly for the Romans; several legions were in flight, and Decius strove vainly to rally them. The memory of his father came across his mind. There was a belief amongst the Romans that if in the midst of an unsuccessful engagement the general devoted himself to the infernal gods, “panic and flight” passed forthwith to the enemies’ ranks. “Why daily?” said Decius to the grand pontiff, whom he had ordered to follow him and keep at his side in the flight; “‘tis given to our race to die to avert public disasters.” He halted, placed a javelin beneath his feet, and covering his head with a fold of his robe, and supporting his chin on his right hand, repeated after the pontiff this sacred form of words:—

“Janus, Jupiter, our father Mars, Quirinus, Bellona, Lares, . . . ye gods in whose power are we, we and our enemies, gods Manes, ye I adore; ye I pray, ye I adjure to give strength and victory to the Roman people, the children of Quirinus, and to send confusion, panic, and death amongst the enemies of the Roman people, the children of Quirinus. And, in these words for the republic of the children of Quirinus, for the army, for the legions, and for the allies of the Roman people, I devote to the gods Manes and to the grave the legions and the allies of the enemy and myself.”

Then remounting, Decius charged into the middle of the Gauls, where he soon fell pierced with wounds; but the Romans recovered courage and gained the day; for heroism and piety have power over the hearts of men, so that at the moment of admiration they become capable of imitation.

During this second period Rome was more than once in danger. In the year 283 B.C. the Gauls destroyed one of her armies near Aretium (Arezzo), and advanced to the Roman frontier, saying, “We are bound for Rome; the Gauls know how to take it.” Seventy-two years afterwards the Cisalpine Gauls swore they would not put off their baldricks till they had mounted the Capitol, and they arrived within three days’ march of Rome. At every appearance of this formidable enemy the alarm at Rome was great. The senate raised all its forces and summoned its allies. The people demanded a consultation of the Sibylline books, sacred volumes sold, it was said, to Tarquinius Priscus by the sibyl Amalthea, and containing the secret of the destinies of the Republic. They were actually opened in the year 228 B.C., and it was with terror found that the Gauls would twice take possession of the soil of Rome. On the advice of the priests, there was dug within the city, in the middle of the cattle-market, a huge pit, in which two Gauls, a man and a woman, were entombed alive; for thus they took possession of the soil of Rome, the oracle was fulfilled, and the mishap averted. Thirteen years afterwards, on occasion of the disaster at Cann, the same atrocity was again committed, at the same place and for the same cause. And by a strange contrast, there was at the committing of this barbarous act, “which was against Roman usage,” says Livy, a secret feeling of horror, for, to appease the manes of the victims, a sacrifice was instituted, which was celebrated every year at the pit, in the month of November.

In spite of sometimes urgent peril, in spite of popular alarms, Rome, during the course of this period, from 299 to 258 B.C., maintained an increasing ascendency over the Gauls. She always cleared them off her territory, several times ravaged theirs, on the two banks of the Po,— called respectively Transpadan and Cispadan Gaul, and gained the majority of the great battles she had to fight. Finally in the year 283 B.C., the proprietor Drusus, after having ravaged the country of the Senonic Gauls, carried off the very ingots and jewels, it was said, which had been given to their ancestors as the price of their retreat. Solemn proclamation was made that the ransom of the Capitol had returned within its walls; and, sixty years afterwards, the Consul M. Cl. Marcellus, having defeated at Clastidium a numerous army of Gauls, and with his own hand slain their general, Virdumar, had the honor of dedicating to the temple of Jupiter the third “grand spoils” taken since the foundation of Rome, and of ascending the Capitol, himself conveying the armor of Virdumar, for he had got hewn an oaken trunk, round which he had arranged the helmet, tunic, and breastplate of the barbarian king.

Nor was war Rome’s only weapon against her enemies. Besides the ability of her generals and the discipline of her legions, she had the sagacity of her Senate. The Gauls were not wanting in intelligence or dexterity, but being too free to go quietly under a master’s hand, and too barbarous for self-government, carried away, as they were, by the interest or passion of the moment, they could not long act either in concert or with sameness of purpose. Far-sightedness and the spirit of persistence were, on the contrary, the familiar virtues of the Roman Senate. So soon as they had penetrated Cisalpine Gaul, they labored to gain there a permanent footing, either by sowing dissension amongst the Gallic peoplets that lived there, or by founding Roman colonies. In the year 283 B.C., several Roman families arrived, with colors flying and under the guidance of three triumvirs or commissioners, on a territory to the north-east, on the borders of the Adriatic. The triumvirs had a round hole dug, and there deposited some fruits and a handful of earth brought from Roman soil; then yoking to a plough, having a copper share, a white bull and a white heifer, they marked out by a furrow a large enclosure. The rest followed, flinging within the line the ridges thrown up by the plough. When the line was finished, the bull and the heifer were sacrificed with due pomp. It was a Roman colony come to settle at Sena, on the very site of the chief town of those Senonic Gauls who had been conquered and driven out. Fifteen years afterwards another Roman colony was founded at Ariminum (Rimini), on the frontier of the Bolan Gauls. Fifty years later still two others, on the two banks of the Po, Cremona and Placentia (Plaisance). Rome had then, in the midst of her enemies, garrisons, magazines of arms and provisions, and means of supervision and communication. Thence proceeded at one time troops, at another intrigues, to carry dismay or disunion amongst the Gauls.

Towards the close of the third century before our era, the triumph of Rome in Cisalpine Gaul seemed nigh to accomplishment, when news arrived that the Romans’ most formidable enemy, Hannibal, meditating a passage from Africa into Italy by Spain and Gaul, was already at work, by his emissaries, to insure for his enterprise the concurrence of the Transalpine and Cisalpine Gauls. The Senate ordered the envoys they had just then at Carthage to traverse Gaul on returning, and seek out allies there against Hannibal. The envoys halted amongst the Gallo-Iberian peoplets who lived at the foot of the eastern Pyrenees. There, in the midst of the warriors assembled in arms, they charged them in the name of the great and powerful Roman people, not to suffer the Carthaginians to pass through their territory. Tumultuous laughter arose at a request that appeared so strange. “You wish us,” was the answer, “to draw down war upon ourselves to avert it from Italy, and to give our own fields over to devastation to save yours. We have no cause to complain of the Carthaginians or to be pleased with the Romans, or to take up arms for the Romans and against the Carthaginians. We, on the contrary, hear that the Roman people drive out from their lands, in Italy, men of our nation, impose tribute upon them, and make them undergo other indignities.” So the envoys of Rome quitted Gaul without allies.

Hannibal, on the other hand, did not meet with all the favor and all the enthusiasm he had anticipated. Between the Pyrenees and the Alps several peoplets united with him; and several showed coldness, or even hostility. In his passage of the Alps the mountain tribes harassed him incessantly. Indeed, in Cisalpine Gaul itself there was great division and hesitation; for Rome had succeeded in inspiring her partisans with confidence and her enemies with fear. Hannibal was often obliged to resort to force even against the Gauls whose alliance he courted, and to ravage their lands in order to drive them to take up arms. Nay, at the conclusion of an alliance, and in the very camp of the Carthaginians, the Gauls sometimes hesitated still, and sometimes rose against Hannibal, accused him of ravaging their country, and refused to obey his orders. However, the delights of victory and of pillage at last brought into full play the Cisalpine Gauls’ natural hatred of Rome. After Ticinus and Trebia, Hannibal had no more zealous and devoted troops. At the battle of Lake Trasimene he lost fifteen hundred men, nearly all Gauls; at that of Canine he had thirty thousand of them, forming two thirds of his army; and at the moment of action they cast away their tunics and checkered cloaks (similar to the plaids of the Gals or Scottish Highlanders), and fought naked from the belt upwards, according to their custom when they meant to conquer or die. Of five thousand five hundred men that the victory of Cannae cost Hannibal, four thousand were Gauls. All Cisalpine Gaul was moved; enthusiasm was at its height; new bands hurried off to recruit the army of the Carthaginian who, by dint of patience and genius, brought Rome within an ace of destruction, with the assistance almost entirely of the barbarians he had come to seek at her gates, and whom he had at first found so cowed and so vacillating.

When the day of reverses came, and Rome had recovered her ascendency, the Gauls were faithful to Hannibal; and when at length he was forced to return to Africa, the Gallic bands, whether from despair or attachment, followed him thither. In the year 200 B.C., at the famous battle of Zama, which decided matters between Rome and Carthage, they again formed a third of the Carthaginian army, and showed that they were, in the words of Livy, “inflamed by that innate hatred towards the Romans which is peculiar to their race.”

This was the third period of the struggle between the Gauls and the Romans in Italy. Rome, well advised by this terrible war of the danger with which she was ever menaced by the Cisalpine Gauls, formed the resolution of no longer restraining them, but of subduing them and conquering their territory. She spent thirty years (from 200 to 170 B.C.) in the execution of this design, proceeding by means of war, of founding Roman colonies, and of sowing dissension amongst the Gallic peoplets. In vain did the two principal, the Boians and the Insubrians, endeavor to rouse and rally all the rest: some hesitated; some absolutely refused, and remained neutral. The resistance was obstinate. The Gauls, driven from their fields and their towns, established themselves, as their ancestors had done, in the forests, whence they emerged only to fall furiously upon the Romans. And then, if the engagement were indecisive, if any legions wavered, the Roman centurions hurled their colors into the midst of the enemy, and the legionaries dashed on at all risks to recover them. At Parma and Bologna, in the towns taken from the Gauls, Roman colonies came at once and planted them-selves. Day by day did Rome advance. At length, in the year 190 B.C., the wrecks of the one hundred and twelve tribes which had formed the nation of the Boians, unable any longer to resist, and unwilling to submit, rose as one man, and departed from Italy.

The Senate, with its usual wisdom, multiplied the number of Roman colonies in the conquered territory, treated with moderation the tribes that submitted, and gave to Cisalpine Gaul the name of the Cisalpine or Hither Gallic Province, which was afterwards changed for that of Gallia Togata or Roman Gaul. Then, declaring that nature herself had placed the Alps between Gaul and Italy as an insurmountable barrier, the Senate pronounced “a curse on whosoever should attempt to cross it.”







It was Rome herself that soon crossed that barrier of the Alps which she had pronounced fixed by nature and insurmountable. Scarcely was she mistress of Cisalpine Gaul when she entered upon a quarrel with the tribes which occupied the mountain-passes. With an unsettled frontier, and between neighbors of whom one is ambitious and the other barbarian, pretexts and even causes are never wanting. It is likely that the Gallic mountaineers were not careful to abstain, they and their flocks, from descending upon the territory that had become Roman. The Romans, in turn, penetrated into the hamlets, carried off flocks and people, and sold them in the public markets at Cremona, at Placentia, and in all their colonies.

The Gauls of the Alps demanded succor of the Transalpine Gauls, applying to a powerful chieftain, named Cincibil, whose influence extended throughout the mountains. But the terror of the Roman name had reached across. Cincibil sent to Rome a deputation, with his brother at their head, to set forth the grievances of the mountaineers, and especially to complain of the consul Cassius, who had carried off and sold several thousands of Gauls. Without making any concession, the Senate was gracious. Cassius was away; he must be waited for. Meanwhile the Gauls were well treated; Cincibil and his brother received as presents two golden collars, five silver vases, two horses fully caparisoned, and Roman dresses for all their suite. Still nothing was done.

Another, a greater and more decisive opportunity offered itself. Marseilles was an ally of the Romans. As the rival of Carthage, and with the Gauls forever at her gates, she had need of Rome by sea and land. She pretended, also, to the most eminent and intimate friendship with Rome. Her founder, the Phocean Euxenes, had gone to Rome, it was said, and concluded a treaty with Tarquinius Priscus. She had gone into mourning when Rome was burned by the Gauls; she had ordered a public levy to aid towards the ransom of the Capitol. Rome did not dispute these claims to remembrance. The friendship of Marseilles was of great use to her. In the whole course of her struggle with Carthage, and but lately, at the passage of Hannibal through Gaul, Rome had met with the best of treatment there. She granted the Massilians a place amongst her senators at the festivals of the Republic, and exemption from all duty in her ports. Towards the middle of the second century B.C. Marseilles was at war with certain Gallic tribes, her neighbors, whose territory she coveted. Two of her colonies, Nice and Antibes, were threatened. She called on Rome for help. A Roman deputation went to decide the quarrel; but the Gauls refused to obey its summons, and treated it with insolence. The deputation returned with an army, succeeded in beating the refractory tribes, and gave their land to the Massilians. The same thing occurred repeatedly with the same result. Within the space of thirty years nearly all the tribes between the Rhone and the Var, in the country which was afterwards Provence, were subdued and driven back amongst the mountains, with notice not to approach within a mile of the coast in general, and a mile and a half of the places of disembarkation. But the Romans did not stop there. They did not mean to conquer for Marseilles alone. In the year 123 B.C., at some leagues to the north of the Greek city, near a little river, then called the Coenus and nowadays the Arc, the consul C. Sextius Calvinus had noticed, during his campaign, an abundance of thermal springs, agreeably situated amidst wood-covered hills. There he constructed an enclosure, aqueducts, baths, houses, a town in fact, which he called after himself, Aquae Sextice, the modern Aix, the first Roman establishment in Transalpine Gaul. As in the case of Cisalpine Gaul, with Roman colonies came Roman intrigue and dissensions got up and fomented amongst the Gauls. And herein Marseilles was a powerful seconder; for she kept up communications with all the neighboring tribes, and fanned the spirit of faction. After his victories, the consul C. Sextius, seated at his tribunal, was selling his prisoners by auction, when one of them came up to him and said, “I have always liked and served the Romans; and for that reason I have often incurred outrage and danger at the hands of my countrymen.” The consul had him set free,—him and his family,—and even gave him leave to point out amongst the captives any for whom he would like to procure the same kindness. At his request nine hundred were released. The man’s name was Crato, a Greek name, which points to a connection with Marseilles or one of her colonies. The Gauls, moreover, ran of themselves into the Roman trap. Two of their confederations, the AEduans, of whom mention has already been made, and the Allobrogians, who were settled between the Alps, the Isere, and the Rhone, were at war. A third confederation, the most powerful in Gaul at this time, the Arvernians, who were rivals of the AEduans, gave their countenance to the Allobrogians. The AEduans, with whom the Massilians had commercial dealings, solicited through these latter the assistance of Rome. A treaty was easily concluded. The AEduans obtained from the Romans the title of friends and allies; and the Romans received from the AEduans that of brothers, which amongst the Gauls implied a sacred tie. The consul Domitius forthwith commanded the Allobrogians to respect the territory of the allies of Rome. The Allobrogians rose up in arms and claimed the aid of the Arvernians. But even amongst them, in the very heart of Gaul, Rome was much dreaded; she was not to be encountered without hesitation. So Bituitus, King of the Arvernians, was for trying accommodation. He was a powerful and wealthy chieftain. His father Luern used to give amongst the mountains magnificent entertainments; he had a space of twelve square furlongs enclosed, and dispensed wine, mead, and beer from cisterns made within the enclosure; and all the Arvernians crowded to his feasts. Bituitus displayed before the Romans his barbaric splendor. A numerous escort, superbly clad, surrounded his ambassador; in attendance were packs of enormous hounds; and in front; went a bard, or poet, who sang, with rotte or harp in hand, the glory of Bituitus and of the Arvernian people. Disdainfully the consul received and sent back the embassy. War broke out; the Allobrogians, with the usual confidence and hastiness of all barbarians, attacked alone, without waiting for the Arvernians, and were beaten at the confluence of the Rhone and the Sorgue, a little above Avignon. The next year, 121 B.C., the Arvernians in their turn descended from the mountains, and crossed the Rhone with all their tribes, diversely armed and clad, and ranged each about its own chieftain. In his barbaric vanity, Bituitus marched to war with the same pomp that he had in vain displayed to obtain peace. He sat upon a car glittering with silver; he wore a plaid of striking colors; and he brought in his train a pack of war-hounds. At the sight of the Roman legions, few in number, iron-clad, in serried ranks that took up little space, he contemptuously cried, “There is not a meal for my hounds.”

The Arvernians were beaten, as the Allobrogians had been. The hounds of Bituitus were of little use to him against the elephants which the Romans had borrowed from Asiatic usage, and which spread consternation amongst the Gauls. The Roman historians say that the Arvernian army was two hundred thousand strong, and that one hundred and twenty thousand were slain; but the figures are absurd, like most of those found in ancient chronicles. We know nowadays, thanks to modern civilization, which shows everything in broad daylight, and measures everything with proper caution, that only the most populous and powerful nations, and that at great expenditure of trouble and time, can succeed in moving armies of two hundred thousand men, and that no battle, however murderous it may be, ever costs one hundred and twenty thousand lives.

Rome treated the Arvernians with consideration; but the Allobrogians lost their existence as a nation. The Senate declared them subject to the Roman people; and all the country comprised between the Alps, the Rhone from its entry into the Lake of Geneva to its mouth, and the Mediterranean, was made a Roman consular province, which means that every year a consul must march thither with his army. In the three following years, indeed, the consuls extended the boundaries of the new province, on the right bank of the Rhone, to the frontier of the Pyrenees southward. In the year 115 B.C. a colony of Roman citizens was conducted to Narbonne, a town even then of importance, in spite of the objections made by certain senators who were unwilling, say the historians, so to expose Roman citizens “to the waves of barbarism.” This was the second colony which went and established itself out of Italy; the first had been founded on the ruins of Carthage.

Having thus completed their conquest, the Senate, to render possession safe and sure, decreed the occupation of the passes of the Alps which opened Gaul to Italy. There was up to that time no communication with Gaul save along the Mediterranean, by a narrow and difficult path, which has become in our time the beautiful route called the Corniche. The mountain tribes defended their independence with desperation; when that of the Stumians, who occupied the pass of the maritime Alps, saw their inability to hold their own, they cut the throats of their wives and children, set fire to their houses, and threw themselves into the flames. But the Senate pursued its course imperturbably. All the chief defiles of the Alps fell into its hands. The old Phoenician road, restored by the consul Domitius, bore thenceforth his name (Via Donaitia), and less than sixty years after Cisalpine Gaul had been reduced to a Roman province, Rome possessed, in Transalpine Gaul, a second province, whither she sent her armies, and where she established her citizens without obstruction. But Providence seldom allows men, even in the midst of their successes, to forget for long how precarious they are; and when He is pleased to remind them, it is not by words, as the Persians reminded their king, but by fearful events that He gives His warnings. At the very moment when Rome believed herself set free from Gallic invasions, and on the point of avenging herself by a course of conquest, a new invasion, more extensive and more barbarous, came bursting upon Rome and upon Gaul at the same time, and plunged them together in the same troubles and the same perils.

In the year 113 B.C. there appeared to the north of the Adriatic, on the right bank of the Danube, an immense multitude of barbarians, ravaging Noricum and threatening Italy. Two nations predominated; the Kymrians or Cimbrians, and the Teutons, the national name of the Germans. They came from afar, northward, from the Cimbrian peninsula, nowadays Jutland, and from the countries bordering on the Baltic which nowadays form the duchies of Holstein and Schleswig. A violent shock of earthquake, a terrible inundation, had driven them, they said, from their homes; and those countries do indeed show traces of such events. And Cimbrians and Teutons had been for some time roaming over Germany.

The consul Papirius Carbo, despatched in all haste to defend the frontier, bade them, in the name of the Roman people, to withdraw. The barbarians modestly replied that they had no intention of settling in Noricum, and if the Romans had rights over the country, they would carry their arms elsewhere. The consul, who had found haughtiness succeed, thought he might also employ perfidy against the barbarians. He offered guides to conduct them out of Noricum; and the guides misled them. The consul attacked them unexpectedly during the night, and was beaten.

However, the barbarians, still fearful, did not venture into Italy. They roamed for three years along the Danube, as far as the mountains of Macedonia and Thrace. Then retracing their steps, and marching eastward, they inundated the valleys of the Helvetic Alps, now Switzerland, having their numbers swelled by other tribes, Gallic or German, who preferred joining in pillage to undergoing it. The Ambrons, among others, a Gallic peoplet that had taken refuge in Helvetia after the expulsion of the Umbrians by the Etruscans from Italy, joined the Cimbrians and Teutons; and in the year 110 B.C. all together entered Gaul, at first by way of Belgica, and then, continuing their wanderings and ravages in central Gaul, they at last reached the Rhone, on the frontiers of the Roman province.

There the name of Rome again arrested their progress; they applied to her anew for lands, with the offer of their services. “Rome,” answered M. Silanus, who commanded in the province, “has neither lands to give you nor services to accept from you.” He attacked them in their camp, and was beaten.

Three consuls, L. Cassius, C. Servilius Omepio, and Cu. Manlius, successively experienced the same fate. With the barbarians victory bred presumption. Their chieftains met and deliberated whether they should not forthwith cross into Italy, to exterminate or enslave the Romans, and make Kymrian spoken at Rome. Scaurus, a prisoner, was in the tent, loaded with fetters, during the deliberation. He was questioned about the resources of his country. “Cross not the Alps,” said he; “go not into Italy: the Romans are invincible.” In a transport of fury the chieftain of the Kymrians, Boiorix by name, fell upon the Roman, and ran him through. Howbeit the advice of Scaurus was followed. The barbarians did not as yet dare to decide upon invading Italy; but they freely scoured the Roman province, meeting here with repulse, and there with re-enforcement from the peoplets who formed the inhabitants. The Tectosagian Voles, Hymrian in origin and maltreated by Rome, joined them. Then, on a sudden, whilst the Teutons and Ambrons remained in Gaul, the Kymrians passed over to Spain without apparent motive, and probably as an overswollen torrent divides, and disperses its waters in all directions. The commotion at Rome was extreme; never had so many or such wild barbarians threatened the Republic; never had so many or such large Roman armies been beaten in succession. There was but one man, it was said, who could avert the danger, and give Rome the ascendency. It was Marius, low-born, but already illustrious; esteemed by the Senate for his genius as a commander and for his victories; swaying at his will the people, who saw in him one of themselves, and admired without envying him; beloved and feared by the army for his bravery, his rigorous discipline, and his readiness to share their toils and dangers; stern and rugged; without education, eloquence, or riches; ill-suited for shining in public assemblies, but resolute and dexterous in action; verily made to dominate the vigorous but unrefined multitude, whether in camp or city, partly by participating their feelings, partly by giving them in his own person a specimen of the deserts and sometimes of the virtues which they esteem but do not possess.

He was consul in Africa, where he was putting an end to the war with Jugurtha. He was elected a second time consul, without interval and in his absence, contrary to all the laws of the Republic. Scarcely had he returned, when, on descending from the Capitol, where he had just received a triumph for having conquered and captured Jugurtha, he set out for Gaul. On his arrival, instead of proceeding, as his predecessors, to attack the barbarians at once, he confined himself to organizing and inuring his troops, subjecting them to frequent marches, all kinds of military exercises, and long and hard labor. To insure supplies he made them dig, towards the mouths of the Rhone, a large canal which formed a junction with the river a little above Arles, and which, at its entrance into the sea, offered good harborage for vessels. This canal, which existed for a long while under the name of Rossae Mariance (the dikes of Marius), is filled up nowadays; but at its southern extremity the village of Foz still preserves a remembrance of it. Trained in this severe school, the soldiers acquired such a reputation for sobriety and laborious assiduity, that they were proverbially called Marius’s mules.

He was as careful for their moral state as for their physical fitness, and labored to exalt their imaginations as well as to harden their bodies. In that camp, and amidst those toils in which he kept them strictly engaged, frequent sacrifices, and scrupulous care in consulting the oracles, kept superstition at a white heat. A Syrian prophetess, named Martha, who had been sent to Marius by his wife Julia, the aunt of Julius Caesar, was ever with him, and accompanied him at the sacred ceremonies and on the march, being treated with the greatest respect, and having vast influence over the minds of the soldiers.

Two years rolled on in this fashion; and yet Marius would not move. The increasing devastation of the country, fire, and famine, the despair and complaints of the inhabitants, did not shake his resolution. Nor was the confidence he inspired both in the camp and at Rome a whit shaken: he was twice re-elected consul, once while he was still absent, and once during a visit he paid to Rome to give directions to his party in person.

It was at Rome, in the year 102 B.C., that he learned how the Kymrians, weary of Spain, had recrossed the Pyrenees, rejoined their old comrades, and had at last resolved, in concert, to invade Italy; the Kymrians from the north, by way of Helvetia and Noricum, the Teutons and Ambrons from the south, by way of the maritime Alps. They were to form a junction on the banks of the Po, and thence march together on Rome. At this news Marius returned forthwith to Gaul, and, without troubling himself about the Kymrians, who had really put themselves in motion towards the north-east, he placed his camp so as to cover at one and the same time the two Roman roads which crossed at Arles, and by one of which the Ambro-Teutons must necessarily pass to enter Italy on the south.

They soon appeared “in immense numbers,” say the historians, “with their hideous looks and their wild cries,” drawing up their chariots and planting their tents in front of the Roman camp. They showered upon Marius and his soldiers continual insult and defiance. The Romans, in their irritation, would fain have rushed out of their camp, but Marius restrained them. “It is no question,” said he, with his simple and convincing common sense, “of gaining triumphs and trophies; it is a question of averting this storm of war and of saving Italy.” A Teutonic chieftain came one day up to the very gates of the camp, and challenged him to fight. Marius had him informed that if he were tired of life he could go and hang himself. As the barbarian still persisted, Marius sent him a gladiator.

However, he made his soldiers, in regular succession, mount the ramparts, to get them familiarized with the cries, looks, arms, and movements of the barbarians. The most distinguished of his officers, young Sertorius, who understood and spoke Gallic well, penetrated, in the disguise of a Gaul, into the camp of the Ambrons, and informed Marius of what was going on there.

At last the barbarians, in their impatience, having vainly attempted to storm the Roman camp, struck their own, and put themselves in motion towards the Alps. For six whole days, it is said, their bands were defiling beneath the ramparts of the Romans, and crying, “Have you any message for your wives? We shall soon be with them.”

Marius, too, struck his camp, and followed them. They halted, both of them, near Aix, on the borders of the Coenus, the barbarians in the valley, Marius on a hill which commanded it. The ardor of the Romans was at its height; it was warm weather; there was a want of water on the hill, and the soldiers murmured. “You are men,” said Marius, pointing to the river below, “and there is water to be bought with blood.” “Why don’t you lead us against them at once, then,” said a soldier, “whilst we still have blood in our veins?” “We must first fortify our camp,” answered Marius quietly.

The soldiers obeyed: but the hour of battle had come, and well did Marius know it. It commenced on the brink of the Coenus, between some Ambrons who were bathing and some Roman slaves gone down to draw water. When the whole horde of the Ambrons advanced to the battle, shouting their war-cry of Ambra! Ambra! a body of Gallic auxiliaries in the Roman army, and in the first rank, heard them with great amazement; for it was their own name and their own cry; there were tribes of Ambrons in the Alps subjected to Rome as well as in the Helvetic Alps; and Ambra! Ambra! resounded on both sides.

The battle lasted two days, the first against the Ambrons, the second against the Teutons. Both were beaten, in spite of their savage bravery, and the equal bravery of their women, who defended, with indomitable obstinacy, the cars with which they had remained almost alone, in charge of the children and the booty. After the women, it was necessary to exterminate the hounds who defended their masters’ bodies. Here again the figures of the historians are absurd, although they differ; the most extravagant raise the number of barbarians slain to two hundred thousand, and that of the prisoners to eighty thousand; the most moderate stop at one hundred thousand. In any case, the carnage was great, for the battle-field, where all these corpses rested without burial, rotting in the sun and rain, got the name of Campi Putridi, or Fields of Putrefaction, a name traceable even nowadays in that of Pourrires, a neighboring village.

The Women Defending the Cars——58

As to the booty, the Roman army with one voice made a free gift of it to Marius; but he, remembering, perhaps, what had been lately done by the barbarians after the defeat of the consuls Manlius and Czepio, determined to have it all burned in honor of the gods. He had a great sacrifice prepared. The soldiers, crowned with laurel, were ranged about the pyre; their general, holding on high a blazing torch, was about to apply the light with his own hand, when suddenly, on the very spot, whether by design or accident, came from Rome the news that Marius had just been for the fifth time elected consul. In the midst of acclamations from his army, and with a fresh chaplet bound upon his brow, he applied the torch in person, and completed the sacrifice.

Were we travelling in Provence, in the neighborhood of Aix, we should encounter, peradventure, some peasant who, whilst pointing out to us the summit of a lull whereon, in all probability, Marius offered, nineteen hundred and forty years ago, that glorious sacrifice, would say to us in his native dialect, “Aqui es lou deloubre do la Vittoria:” “There is the temple of victory.” There, indeed, was built, not far from a pyramid erected in honor of Marius, a little temple dedicated to Victory. Thither, every year, in the month of May, the population used to come and celebrate a festival and light a bonfire, answered by other bonfires on the neighboring heights. When Gaul became Christian, neither monument nor festival perished; a saint took the place of the goddess, and the temple of Victory became the church of St. Victoire. There are still ruins of it to this day; the religious procession which succeeded the pagan festival ceased only at the first outburst of the Revolution; and the vague memory of a great national event still mingles in popular tradition with the legends of the saint.

The Ambrons and Teutons beaten, there remained the Kymrians, who, according to agreement, had repassed the Helvetic Alps and entered Italy on the north-east, by way of the Adige. Marius marched against them in July of the following year, 101 B.C. Ignorant of what had occurred in Gaul, and possessed, as ever, with the desire of a settlement, they again sent to him a deputation, saying, “Give us lands and towns for us and our brethren.” “What brethren?” asked Marius. “The Teutons.” The Romans who were about Marius began to laugh. “Let your brethren be,” said Marius; “they have land, and will always have it; they received it from us.” The Kymrians, perceiving the irony of his tone, burst out into threats, telling Marius that he should suffer for it at their hands first, and afterwards at those of the Teutons when they arrived. “They are here,” rejoined Marius; “you must not depart without saluting your brethren;” and he had Teutobod, King of the Teutons, brought out with other captive chieftains. The envoys reported the sad news in their own camp, and three days afterwards, July 30, a great battle took place between the Kymrians and the Romans in the Raudine Plains, a large tract near Verceil.

It were unnecessary to dwell on the details of the battle, which resembled that of Aix; besides, fought as it was in Italy and by none but Romans, it has but little to do with a history of Gaul. It has been mentioned only to make known the issue of that famous invasion, of which Gaul was the principal theatre. For a moment it threatened the very existence of the Roman Republic. The victories of Marius arrested the torrent, but did not dry up its source. The great movement which drove from Asia to Europe, and from eastern to western Europe, masses of roving populations, followed its course, bringing incessantly upon the Roman frontiers new comers and new perils. A greater man than Marius, Julius Caesar in fact, saw that to effectually resist these clouds of barbaric assailants, the country into which they poured must be conquered and made Roman. The conquest of Gaul was the accomplishment of that idea, and the decisive step towards the transformation of the Roman republic into a Roman empire.







Historians, ancient and modern, have attributed to the Roman Senate, from the time of the establishment of the Roman province in Gaul, a long-premeditated design of conquering Gaul altogether. Others have said that when Julius Caesar, in the year of Rome 696, (58 B C.) got himself appointed proconsul in Gaul, his single aim was to form for himself there an army devoted to his person, of which he might avail himself to satisfy his ambition and make himself master of Rome. We should not be too ready to believe in these far-reaching and precise plans, conceived and settled so long beforehand, whether by a senate or a single man. Prevision and exact calculation do not count for so much in the lives of governments and of peoples. It is unexpected events, inevitable situations, the imperious necessities of successive epochs, which most often decide the conduct of the greatest powers and the most able politicians. It is after the fair, when the course of facts and their consequences has received full development, that, amidst their tranquil meditations, annalists and historians, in their learned way, attribute everything to systematic plans and personal calculations on the part of the chief actors. There is much less of combination than of momentary inspiration, derived from circumstances, in the resolutions and conduct of political chiefs, kings, senators, or great men. From the time that discord and corruption had turned the Roman Republic into a bloody and tyrannical anarchy, the Roman Senate no longer meditated grand designs, and its members were preoccupied only with the question of escaping or avenging proscriptions. When Caesar procured for himself the government for five years of the Gauls, the fact was, that, not desiring to be a sanguinary dictator like Scylla, or a gala chieftain like Pompey, he went and sought abroad, for his own glory and fortune’s sake, in a war of general Roman interest, the means and chances of success which were not furnished to him in Rome itself by the dogged and monotonous struggle of the factions.

The Roman Army Invading Gaul——61

In spite of the victories of Marius, and the destruction or dispersion of the Teutons and Cimbrians, the whole of Gaul remained seriously disturbed and threatened. At the north-east, in Belgica, some bands of other Teutons, who had begun to be called Germans (men of war), had passed over the left bank of the Rhine, and were settling or wandering there without definite purpose. In eastern and central Gaul, in the valleys of the Jura and Auvergne, on the banks of the Saone, the Allier, and the Doubs, the two great Gallic confederations, that of the AEduans and that of the Arvernians, were disputing the preponderance, and making war one upon another, seeking the aid, respectively, of the Romans and of the Germans. At the foot of the Alps, the little nation of Allobrogians, having fallen a prey to civil dissension, had given up its independence to Rome. Even in southern and western Gaul the populations of Agnitania were rising, vexing the Roman province, and rendering necessary, on both sides of the Pyrenees, the intervention of Roman legions. Everywhere floods of barbaric populations were pressing upon Gaul, were carrying disgnietude even where they had not themselves yet penetrated, and causing presentiments of a general commotion. The danger burst before long upon particular places and in connection with particular names which have remained historical. In the war with the confederation of the AEduans, that of the Arvernians called to their aid the German Ariovistus, chieftain of a confederation of tribes which, under the name of Suevians, were roving over the right bank of the Rhine, ready at any time to cross the river. Ariovistus, with fifteen thousand warriors at his back, was not slow in responding to the appeal. The AEdaans were beaten; and Ariovistus settled amongst the Gauls who had been thoughtless enough to appeal to him. Numerous bands of Suevians came and rejoined him; and in two or three years after his victory he had about him, it was said, one hundred and twenty thousand warriors. He had appropriated to them a third of the territory of his Gallic allies, and he imperiously demanded another third to satisfy other twenty-five thousand of his old German comrades, who asked to share his booty and his new country. One of the foremost AEduans, Divitiacus by name, went and invoked the succor of the Roman people, the patrons of his confederation. He was admitted to the presence of the Senate, and invited to be seated; but he modestly declined, and standing, leaning upon his shield, he set forth the sufferings and the claims of his country. He received kindly promises, which at first remained without fruit. He, however, remained at Rome, persistent in his solicitations, and carrying on intercourse with several Romans of consideration, notably with Cicero, who says of him, “I knew Divitiacus, the AEduan, who claimed proficiency in that natural science which the Greeks call physiology, and he predicted the future, either by augury or his own conjecture.” The Roman Senate, with the indecision and indolence of all declining powers, hesitated to engage, for the AEduans’ sake, in a war against the invaders of a corner of Gallic territory. At the same time that they gave a cordial welcome to Divitiacus, they entered into negotiations with Ariovistus himself; they gave him beautiful presents, the title of King, and even of friend; the only demand they made was, that he should live peaceably in his new settlement, and not lend his support to the fresh invasions of which there were symptoms in Gaul, and which were becoming too serious for resolutions not to be taken to repel them.

A people of Gallic race, the Helvetians, who inhabited present Switzerland, where the old name still abides beside the modern, found themselves incessantly threatened, ravaged, and invaded by the German tribes which pressed upon their frontiers. After some years of perplexity and internal discord, the whole Helvetic nation decided upon abandoning its territory, and going to seek in Gaul, westward, it is said, on the borders of the ocean, a more tranquil settlement. Being informed of this design, the Roman Senate and Caesar, at that time consul, resolved to protect the Roman province and their Gallic allies, the AEduans, against this inundation of roving neighbors. The Helvetians none the less persisted in their plan; and in the spring of the year of Rome 696 (58 B C.) they committed to the flames, in the country they were about to leave, twelve towns, four hundred villages, and all their houses; loaded their cars with provisions for three months, and agreed to meet at the southern point of the Lake of Geneva. They found on their reunion, says Caesar, a total of three hundred and sixty-eight thousand emigrants, including ninety-two thousand men-at-arms. The Switzerland which they abandoned numbers now two million five hundred thousand inhabitants. But when the Helvetians would have entered Gaul, they found there Caesar, who, after having got himself appointed proconsul for five years, had arrived suddenly at Geneva, prepared to forbid their passage. They sent to him a deputation, to ask leave, they said, merely to traverse the Roman province without causing the least damage. Caesar knew as well how to gain time as not to lose any: he was not ready; so he put off the Helvetians to a second conference. In the interval he employed his legionaries, who could work as well as fight, in erecting upon the left bank of the Rhone a wall sixteen feet high and ten miles long, which rendered the passage of the river very difficult, and, on the return of the Helvetian envoys, he formally forbade them to pass by the road they had proposed to follow. They attempted to take another, and to cross not the Rhone but the Saone, and march thence towards western Gaul. But whilst they were arranging for the execution of this movement, Caesar, who had up to that time only four legions at his disposal, returned to Italy, brought away five fresh legions, and arrived on the left bank of the Saone at the moment when the rear-guard of the Helvetians was embarking to rejoin the main body which had already pitched its camp on the right bank. Caesar cut to pieces this rear-guard, crossed the river, in his turn, with his legions, pursued the emigrants without relaxation, came in contact with them on several occasions, at one time attacking them or repelling their attacks, at another receiving and giving audience to their envoys without ever consenting to treat with them, and before the end of the year he had so completely beaten, decimated, dispersed and driven them back, that of three hundred and sixty-eight thousand Helvetians who had entered Gaul, but one hundred and ten thousand escaped from the Romans, and were enabled, by flight, to regain their country.

Mounted Gauls——66

AEduans, Sequanians, or Arvernians, all the Gauls interested in the struggle thus terminated, were eager to congratulate Caesar upon his victory; but if they were delivered from the invasion of the Helvetians, another scourge fell heavily upon them; Ariovistus and the Germans, who were settled upon their territory, oppressed them cruelly, and day by day fresh bands were continually coming to aggravate the evil and the danger. They adjured Caesar to protect them from these swarms of barbarians. “In a few years,” said they, “all the Germans will have crossed the Rhine, and all the Gauls will be driven from Gaul, for the soil of Germany cannot compare with that of Gaul, any more than the mode of life. If Caesar and the Roman people refuse to aid us, there is nothing left for us but to abandon our lands, as the Helvetians would have done in their case, and go seek, afar from the Germans, another dwelling-place.” Caesar, touched by so prompt an appeal to the power of his name and fame gave ear to the prayer of the Gauls. But he was for trying negotiation before war. He proposed to Ariovistus an interview “at which they aright treat in common of affairs of importance for both.” Ariovistus replied that “if he wanted anything of Caesar, he would go in search of him; if Caesar had business with him, it was for Caesar to come.” Caesar thereupon conveyed to him by messenger his express injunctions, “not to summon any more from the borders of the Rhine fresh multitudes of men, and to cease from vexing the AEduans and making war on them, them and their allies. Otherwise, Caesar would not fail to avenge their wrongs.” Ariovistus replied that “he had conquered the AEduans. The Roman people were in the habit of treating the vanquished after their own pleasure, and not the advice of another; he too, himself, had the same right. Caesar said he would avenge the wrongs of the AEduans; but no one had ever attacked him with impunity. If Caesar would like to try it, let him come; he would learn what could be done by the bravery of the Germans, who were as yet unbeaten, who were trained to arms, who for fourteen years had not slept beneath a roof.” At the moment he received this answer, Caesar had just heard that fresh bands of Suevians were encamped on the right bank of the Rhine, ready to cross, and that Ariovistus with all his forces was making towards Vesontio (Besancon), the chief town of the Sequanians. Caesar forthwith put himself in motion, occupied Vesontio, established there a strong garrison, and made his arrangements for issuing from it with his legions to go and anticipate the attack of Ariovistus. Then came to him word that no little disquietude was showing itself among the Roman troops; that many soldiers and even officers appeared anxious about the struggle with the Germans, their ferocity, the vast forests that must be traversed to reach them, the difficult roads, and the transport of provisions; there was an apprehension of broken courage, and perchance of numerous desertions. Caesar summoned a great council of war, to which he called the chief officers of his legions; he complained bitterly of their alarm, recalled to their memory their recent success against the Helvetians, and scoffed at the rumors spread about the Germans, and at the doubts with which there was an attempt to inspire him about the fidelity and obedience of his troops. “An army,” said he, “disobeys only the commander who leads them badly and has no good fortune, or is found guilty of cupidity and malversation. My whole life shows my integrity, and the war against the Helvetians my good fortune. I shall order forthwith the departure I had intended to put off. I shall strike the camp the very next night, at the fourth watch; I wish to see as soon as possible whether honor and duty or fear prevail in your ranks. If there be any refusal to follow me, I shall march with only the tenth legion, of which I have no doubt; that shall be my praetorian cohort.”

The cheers of the troops, officers and men, were the answer given to the reproaches and hopes of their general: all hesitation passed away; and Caesar set out with his army. He fetched a considerable compass, to spare them the passage of thick forests, and, after a seven days’ march, arrived at a short distance from the camp of Ariovistus. On learning that Caesar was already so near, the German sent to him a messenger with proposals for the interview which was but lately demanded, and to which there was no longer any obstacle, since Caesar had himself arrived upon the spot. And the interview really took place, with mutual precautions for safety and warlike dignity. Caesar repeated all the demands he had made upon Ariovistus, who, in his turn, maintained his refusal, asking, “What was wanted? Why had foot been set upon his lands? That part of Gaul was his province, just as the other was the Roman province. If Caesar did not retire, and withdraw his troops, he should consider him no more a friend, but an enemy. He knew that if he were to slay Caesar, he would recommend himself to many nobles and chiefs amongst the Roman people; he had learned as much from their own envoys. But if Caesar retired and left him, Ariovistus, in free possession of Gaul, he would pay liberally in return, and would wage on Caesar’s behalf, without trouble or danger to him, any wars he might desire.” During this interview it is probable that Caesar smiled more than once at the boldness and shrewdness of the barbarian. Ultimately some horsemen in the escort of Ariovistus began to caracole towards the Romans, and to hurl at them stones and darts. Caesar ordered his men to make no reprisals, and broke off the conference. The next day but one Ariovistus proposed a renewal; but Caesar refused, having decided to bring the quarrel to an issue. Several days in succession he led out his legions from their camp, and offered battle; but Ariovistus remained within his lines. Caesar then took the resolution of assailing the German camp. At his approach, the Germans at length moved out from their intrenchments, arrayed by peoplets, and defiling in front of cars filled with their women, who implored them with tears not to deliver them in slavery to the Romans. The struggle was obstinate, and not without moments of anxiety and partial check for the Romans; but the genius of Caesar and strict discipline of the legions carried the day. The rout of the Germans was complete; they fled towards the Rhine, which was only a few leagues from the field of battle. Ariovistus himself was amongst the fugitives; he found a boat by the river side, and recrossed into Germany, where he died shortly afterwards, “to the great grief of the Germans,” says Caesar. The Suevian bands, who were awaiting on the right bank the result of the struggle, plunged back again within their own territory. And so the invasion of the Germans was stopped as the emigration of the Helvetians had been; and Caesar had only to conquer Gaul.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vercingetorix Surrenders to Caesar——81

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

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

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







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

Gaul Subjugated by the Romans——83

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

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

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

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

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

From La Croix Rousse——86

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eponina and Sabinus Hidden in a Vault——97

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







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

Druids Offering Human Sacrifices——111

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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








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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After the commencement of the fifth century, from A.D. 406 to 409, it was no longer by incursions limited to certain points, and sometimes repelled with success, that the Germans harassed the Roman provinces: a veritable deluge of divers nations, forced one upon another, from Asia into Europe, by wars and migration in mass, inundated the Empire and gave the decisive signal for its fall. St. Jerome did not exaggerate when he wrote to Ageruchia, “Nations, countless in number and exceeding fierce, have occupied all the Gauls; Quadians, Vandals, Sarmatians, Alans, Gepidians, Herulians, Saxons, Burgundians, Allemannians, Pannonians, and even Assyrians have laid waste all that there is between the Alps and the Pyrenees, the ocean and the Rhine. Sad destiny of the commonwealth! Mayence, once a noble city, hath been taken and destroyed; thousands of men were slaughtered in the church. Worms hath fallen after a long siege. The inhabitants of Rheims, a powerful city, and those of Amiens, Arras, Terouanne, at the extremity of Gaul, Tournay, Spires, and Strasburg have been carried away to Germany. All hath been ravaged in Aquitania (Novempopulania), Lyonness, and Narbonness; the towns, save a few, are dispeopled; the sword pursueth them abroad and famine at home. I cannot speak without tears of Toulouse; if she be not reduced to equal ruin, it is to the merits of her holy Bishop Exuperus that she oweth it.”

Then took place throughout the Roman empire, in the East as well as in the West, in Asia and Africa as well as in Europe, the last grand struggle between the Roman armies and the barbaric nations. Armies is the proper term; for, to tell the truth, there was no longer a Roman nation, and very seldom a Roman emperor with some little capacity for government or war. The long continuance of despotism and slavery had enervated equally the ruling power and the people; everything depended on the soldiers and their generals. It was in Gaul that the struggle was most obstinate and most promptly brought to a decisive issue, and the confusion there was as great as the obstinacy. Barbaric peoplets served in the ranks and barbaric leaders held the command of the Roman armies: Stilieho was a Goth; Arbogastes and Mellobaudes were Franks; Ricimer was a Suevian. The Roman generals, Bonifacius, Aetius, AEgidius, Syagrius, at one time fought the barbarians, at another negotiated with such and such of them, either to entice them to take service against other barbarians, or to promote the objects of personal ambition, for the Roman generals also, under the titles of patrician, consul, or proconsul, aspired to and attained a sort of political independence, and contributed to the dismemberment of the empire in the very act of defending it. No later than A.D. 412, two German nations, the Visigoths and the Burgundians, took their stand definitively in Gaul, and founded there two new kingdoms: the Visigoths, under their kings Ataulph and Wallia, in Aquitania and Narbonness; the Burgundians, under their kings Gundichaire and Gundioch, in Lyonness, from the southern point of Alsatia right into Provence, along the two banks of the Saone and the left bank of the Rhone, and also in Switzerland. In 451 the arrival in Gaul of the Huns and their king Attila—already famous, both king and nation, for their wild habits, their fierce valor, and their successes against the Eastern empire—gravely complicated the situation. The common interest of resistance against the most barbarous of barbarians, and the renown and energy of Aetius, united, for the moment, the old and new masters of Gaul; Romans, Gauls, Visigoths, Burgundians, Franks, Alans, Saxons, and Britons, formed the army led by Aetius against that of Attila, who also had in his ranks Goths, Burgundians, Gepidians, Alans, and beyond Rhine Franks, gathered together and enlisted on his road. It was a chaos and a conflict of barbarians, of every name and race, disputing one with another, pell-mell, the remnants of the Roman empire torn asunder and in dissolution. Attila had already arrived before Orleans, and was laying siege to it. The bishop, St. Anianus, sustained a while the courage of the besieged, by promising them aid from Aetius and his allies. The aid was slow to come; and the bishop sent to Aetius a message: “If thou be not here this very day, my son, it will be too late.” Still Aetius came not. The people of Orleans determined to surrender; the gates flew open; the Huns entered; the plundering began without much disorder; “wagons were stationed to receive the booty as it was taken from the houses, and the captives, arranged in groups, were divided by lot between the victorious chieftains.” Suddenly a shout re-echoed through the streets: it was Aetius, Theodoric, and Thorismund, his son, who were coming with the eagles of the Roman legions and with the banners of the Visigoths. A fight took place between them and the Huns, at first on the banks of the Loire, and then in the streets of the city. The people of Orleans joined their liberators; the danger was great for the Huns, and Attila ordered a retreat. It was the 14th of June, 451, and that day was for a long while celebrated in the church of Orleans, as the date of a signal deliverance. The Huns retired towards Champagne, which they had already crossed at their coming into Gaul; and when they were before Troyes, the bishop, St. Lupus, repaired to Attila’s camp, and besought him to spare a defenceless city, which had neither walls nor garrison. “So be it!” answered Attila; “but thou shalt come with me and see the Rhine; I promise then to send thee back again.” With mingled prudence and superstition, the barbarian meant to keep the holy man as a hostage. The Huns arrived at the plains hard by Chalons-sur-Marne; Aetius and all his allies had followed them; and Attila, perceiving that a battle was inevitable, halted in a position for delivering it. The Gothic historian Jornandes says that he consulted his priests, who answered that the Huns would be beaten, but that the general of the enemy would fall in the fight. In this prophecy Attila saw predicted the death of Aetius, his most formidable enemy; and the struggle commenced. There is no precise information about the date; but “it was,” says Jornandes, “a battle which for atrocity, multitude, horror, and stubbornness has not the like in the records of antiquity.” Historians vary in their exaggerations of the numbers engaged and killed: according to some, three hundred thousand, according to others, one hundred and sixty-two thousand were left on the field of battle. Theodoric, King of the Visigoths, was killed. Some chroniclers name Meroveus as King of the Franks, settled in Belgica, near Tongres, who formed part of the army of Aetius. They even attribute to him a brilliant attack made on the eve of the battle upon the Gepidians, allies of the Huns, when ninety thousand men fell, according to some, and only fifteen thousand according to others. The numbers are purely imaginary, and even the fact is doubtful. However, the battle of Chalons drove the Huns out of Gaul, and was the last victory in Gaul, gained still in the name of the Roman empire, but in reality for the advantage of the German nations which had already conquered it. Twenty-four years afterwards the very name of Roman empire disappeared with Augustulus, the last of the emperors of the West.

The Huns at the Battle of Chalons——135

Thirty years after the battle of Chalons, the Franks settled in Gaul were not yet united as one nation; several tribes with this name, independent one of another, were planted between the Rhine and the Somme; there were some in the environs of Cologne, Calais, Cambrai, even beyond the Seine and as far as Le Mans, on the confines of the Britons. This is one of the reasons of the confusion that prevails in the ancient chronicles about the chieftains or kings of these tribes, their names and dates, and the extent and site of their possessions. Pharamond, Clodion, Meroveus, and Childeric cannot be considered as Kings of France, and placed at the beginning of her history. If they are met with in connection with historical facts, fabulous legends or fanciful traditions are mingled with them: Priam appears as a predecessor of Pharamond; Clodion, who passes for having been the first to bear and transmit to the Frankish kings the title of “long-haired,” is represented as the son, at one time of Pharamond, at another, of another chieftain named Theodemer; romantic adventures, spoiled by geographical mistakes, adorn the life of Childric. All that can be distinctly affirmed is, that, from A.D. 450 to 480, the two principal Frankish tribes were those of the Salian Franks and the Ripuarian Franks, settled, the latter in the east of Belgica, on the banks of the Moselle and the Rhine; the former, towards the west, between the Meuse, the ocean, and the Somme. Meroveus, whose name was perpetuated in his line, was one of the principal chieftains of the Salian Franks; and his son Childeric, who resided at Tournay, where his tomb was discovered in 1655, was the father of Clovis, who succeeded him in 481, and with whom really commenced the kingdom and history of France.

Clovis was fifteen or sixteen years old when he became King of the Salian Franks of Tournay. Five years afterwards his ruling passion, ambition, exhibited itself, together with that mixture of boldness and craft which was to characterize his whole life. He had two neighbors: one, hostile to the Franks, the Roman patrician Syagrius, who was left master at Soissons after the death of his father AEgidius, and whom Gregory of Tours calls “King of the Romans;” the other, a Salian-Frankish chieftain, just as Clovis was, and related to him, Ragnacaire, who was settled at Cambrai. Clovis induced Ragnacaire to join him in a campaign against Syagrius. They fought, and Syagrius was driven to take refuge in Southern Gaul with Alaric, king of the Visigoths. Clovis, not content with taking possession of Soissons, and anxious to prevent any troublesome return, demanded of Alaric to send Syagrius back to him, threatening war if the request were refused. The Goth, less bellicose than the Frank, delivered up Syagrius to the envoys of Clovis, who immediately had him secretly put to death, settled himself at Soissons, and from thence set on foot, in the country between the Aisne and the Loire, plundering and subjugating expeditions which speedily increased his domains and his wealth, and extended far and wide his fame as well as his ambition. The Franks who accompanied him were not long before they also felt the growth of his power; like him they were pagans, and the treasures of the Christian churches counted for a great deal in the booty they had to divide. On one of their expeditions they had taken in the church of Rheims, amongst other things, a vase “of marvellous size and beauty.” The Bishop of Rheims, St. Remi, was not quite a stranger to Clovis. Some years before, when he had heard that the son of Childeric had become king of the Franks of Tournai, he had written to congratulate him: “We are informed,” said he, “that thou halt undertaken the conduct of affairs; it is no marvel that thou beginnest to be what thy fathers ever were;” and, whilst taking care to put himself on good terms with the young pagan chieftain, the bishop added to his felicitations some pious Christian counsel, without letting any attempt at conversion be mixed up with his moral exhortations. The bishop, informed of the removal of the vase, sent to Clovis a messenger begging the return, if not of all his church’s ornaments, at any rate of that. “Follow us as far as Soissons,” said Clovis to the messenger; “it is there the partition is to take place of what we have captured: when the lots shall have given me the vase, I will do what the bishop demands.” When Soissons was reached, and all the booty had been placed in the midst of the host, the king said, “Valiant warriors, I pray you not to refuse me, over and above my share, this vase here.” At these words of the king, those who were of sound mind amongst the assembly answered, “Glorious king, everything we see here is thine, and we ourselves are submissive to thy commands. Do thou as seemeth good to thee, for there is none that can resist thy power.” When they had thus spoken a certain Frank, light-minded, jealous, and vain, cried out aloud as he struck the vase with his battle-axe, “Thou shalt have nought of all this save what the lots shall truly give thee.” At these words all were astounded; but the king bore the insult with sweet patience, and, accepting the vase, he gave it to the messenger, hiding his wound in the recesses of his heart. At the end of a year he ordered all his host to assemble fully equipped at the March parade, to have their arms inspected. After having passed in review all the other warriors, he came to him who had struck the vase. “None,” said he, “hath brought hither arms so ill kept as thine; nor lance, nor sword, nor battle-axe are in condition for service.” And wresting from him his axe he flung it on the ground. The man stooped down a little to pick it up, and forthwith the king, raising with both hands his own battle-axe, drove it into his skull, saying, “Thus didst thou to the vase of Soissons!” On the death of this fellow he bade the rest begone; and by this act made himself greatly feared.

'Thus Didst Thou to the Vase of Soissons.’——139

A bold and unexpected deed has always a great effect on men: with his Frankish warriors, as well as with his Roman and Gothic foes, Clovis had at command the instincts of patience and brutality in turn: he could bear a mortification and take vengeance in due season. Whilst prosecuting his course of plunder and war in Eastern Belgica, on the banks of the Meuse, Clovis was inspired with a wish to get married. He had heard tell of a young girl, like himself of the Germanic royal line, Clotilde, niece of Gondebaud, at that time king of the Burgundians. She was dubbed beautiful, wise, and well-informed; but her situation was melancholy and perilous. Ambition and fraternal hatred had devastated her family. Her father, Chilperic, and her two brothers, had been put to death by her uncle Gondebaud, who had caused her mother Agrippina to be thrown into the Rhone, with a stone round her neck; and drowned. Two sisters alone had survived this slaughter; the elder, Chrona, had taken religions vows, the other, Clotilde, was living almost in exile at Geneva, absorbed in works of piety and charity. The principal historian of this epoch, Gregory of Tours, an almost contemporary authority, for he was elected bishop sixty-two years after the death of Clovis, says simply,

“Clovis at once sent a deputation to Gondebaud to ask Clotilde in marriage. Gondebaud, not daring to refuse, put her into the hands of the envoys, who took her promptly to the king. Clovis at sight of her was transported with joy, and married her.” But to this short account other chroniclers, amongst them Fredegaire, who wrote a commentary upon and a continuation of Gregory of Tours’ work, added details which deserve reproduction, first as a picture of manners, next for the better understanding of history. “As he was not allowed to see Clotilde,” says Fredegaire, “Clovis charged a certain Roman, named Aurelian, to use all his wit to come nigh her. Aurelian repaired alone to the spot, clothed in rags and with his wallet upon his back, like a mendicant. To insure confidence in himself he took with him the ring of Clovis. On his arrival at Geneva, Clotilde received him as a pilgrim charitably, and, whilst she was washing his feet, Aurelian, bending towards her, said under his breath, ‘Lady, I have great matters to announce to thee if thou deign to permit me secret revelation.’ She consenting, replied, ‘Say on.’ ‘Clovis, king of the Franks,’ said he, ‘hath sent me to thee: if it be the will of God, he would fain raise thee to his high rank by marriage; and that thou mayest be certified thereof, he sendeth thee this ring.’ She accepted the ring with great joy, and said to Aurelian, ‘Take for recompense of thy pains these hundred sous in gold and this ring of mine. Return promptly to thy lord; if he would fain unite me to him by marriage, let him send without delay messengers to demand me of my uncle Gondebaud, and let the messengers who shall come take me away in haste, so soon as they shall have obtained permission; if they haste not, I fear lest a certain sage, one Aridius, may return from Constantinople, and if he arrive beforehand, all this matter will by his counsel come to nought.’ Aurelian returned in the same disguise under which he had come. On approaching the territory of Orleans, and at no great distance from his house, he had taken as travelling companion a certain poor mendicant, by whom he, having fallen asleep from sheer fatigue, and thinking himself safe, was robbed of his wallet and the hundred sous in gold that it contained. On awaking, Aurelian was sorely vexed, ran swiftly home and sent his servants in all directions in search of the mendicant who had stolen his wallet. He was found and brought to Aurelian, who, after drubbing him soundly for three days, let him go his way. He afterwards told Clovis all that had passed and what Clotilde suggested. Clovis, pleased with his success and with Clotilde’s notion, at once sent a deputation to Gondebaud to demand his niece in marriage. Gondebaud, not daring to refuse, and flattered at the idea of making a friend of Clovis, promised to give her to him. Then the deputation, having offered the denier and the sou, according to the custom of the Franks, espoused Clotilde in the name of Clovis, and demanded that she be given up to them to be married. Without any delay the council was assembled at Chalons, and preparations made for the nuptials. The Franks, having arrived with all speed, received her from the hands of Gondebaud, put her into a covered carriage, and escorted her to Clovis, together with much treasure. She, however, having already learned that Aridius was on his way back, said to the Frankish lords, “If ye would take me into the presence of your lord, let me descend from this carriage, mount me on horseback, and get you hence as fast as ye may; for never in this carriage shall I reach the presence of your lord.”

“Aridius, in fact, returned very speedily from Marseilles, and Gondebaud, on seeing him, said to him, ‘Thou knowest that we have made friends with the Franks, and that I have given my niece to Clovis to wife.’ ‘This,’ answered Aridius, ‘is no bond of friendship, but the beginning of perpetual strife; thou shouldst have remembered, my lord, that thou didst slay Clotilde’s father, thy brother Chilperic, that thou didst drown her mother, and that thou didst cut off her brothers’ heads and cast their bodies into a well. If Clotilde become powerful she will avenge the wrongs of her relatives. Send thou forthwith a troop in chase, and have her brought back to thee. It will be easier for thee to bear the wrath of one person, than to be perpetually at strife, thyself and thine, with all the Franks.’ And Gondebaud did send forthwith a troop in chase to fetch back Clotilde with the carriage and all the treasure; but she, on approaching Villers, where Clovis was waiting for her, in the territory of Troyes, and before passing the Burgundian frontier, urged them who escorted her to disperse right and left over a space of twelve leagues in the country whence she was departing, to plunder and burn; and that having been done with the permission of Clovis, she cried aloud, ‘I thank thee, God omnipotent, for that I see the commencement of vengeance for my parents and my brethren!’”

The majority of the learned have regarded this account of Fredegaire as a romantic fable, and have declined to give it a place in history. M. Fauriel, one of the most learned associates of the Academy of Inscriptions, has given much the same opinion, but he nevertheless adds, “Whatever may be their authorship, the fables in question are historic in the sense that they relate to real facts of which they are a poetical expression, a romantic development, conceived with the idea of popularizing the Frankish kings amongst the Gallo-Roman subjects.” It cannot, however, be admitted that a desire to popularize the Frankish kings is a sufficient and truth-like explanation of these tales of the Gallo-Roman chroniclers, or that they are no more than “a poetical expression,” a romantic development of the real facts briefly noted by Gregory of Tours; the tales have a graver origin and contain more truth than would be presumed from some of the anecdotes and sayings mixed up with them. In the condition of minds and parties in Gaul at the end of the fifth century the marriage of Clovis and Clotilde was, for the public of the period, for the barbarians and for the Gallo-Romans, a great matter. Clovis and the Franks were still pagans; Gondebaud and the Burgundians were Christians, but Arians; Clotilde was a Catholic Christian. To which of the two, Catholics or Arians, would Clovis ally himself? To whom, Arian, pagan, or Catholic, would Clotilde be married? Assuredly the bishops, priests, and all the Gallo-Roman clergy, for the most part Catholics, desired to see Clovis, that young and audacious Frankish chieftain, take to wife a Catholic rather than an Arian or a pagan, and hoped to convert the pagan Clovis to Christianity much more than an Arian to orthodoxy.

The question between Catholic orthodoxy and Arianism was, at that time, a vital question for Christianity in its entirety, and St. Athanasius was not wrong in attributing to it supreme importance. It may be presumed that the Catholic clergy, the bishop of Rheims, or the bishop of Langres, were no strangers to the repeated praises which turned the thoughts of the Frankish king towards the Burgundian princess, and the idea of their marriage once set afloat, the Catholics, priesthood or laity, labored undoubtedly to push it forward, whilst the Burgundian Arians exerted themselves to prevent it. Thus there took place, between opposing influences, religious and national, a most animated struggle. No astonishment can be felt, then, at the obstacles the marriage encountered, at the complications mingled with it, and at the indirect means employed on both sides to cause its success or failure. The account of Fredegaire is but a picture of this struggle and its incidents, a little amplified or altered by imagination or the credulity of the period; but the essential features of the picture, the disguise of Aurelian, the hurry of Clotilde, the prudent recollection of Aridius, Gondebaud’s alternations of fear and violence, and Clotilde’s vindictive passion when she is once out of danger, there is nothing in all this out of keeping with the manners of the time or the position of the actors. Let it be added that Aurelian and Aridius are real personages who are met with elsewhere in history, and whose parts as played on the occasion of Clotilde’s marriage are in harmony with the other traces that remain of their lives.

Battle of Tolbiacum——144

The consequences of the marriage justified before long the importance which had on all sides been attached to it. Clotilde had a son; she was anxious to have him baptized, and urged her husband to consent. “The gods you worship,” said she, “are nought, and can do nought for themselves or others; they are of wood, or stone, or metal.” Clovis resisted, saying, “It is by the command of our gods that all things are created and brought forth. It is plain that your God hath no power; there is no proof even that He is of the race of the gods.” But Clotilde prevailed; and she had her son baptized solemnly, hoping that the striking nature of the ceremony might win to the faith the father whom her words and prayers had been powerless to touch. The child soon died, and Clovis bitterly reproached the queen, saying, “Had the child been dedicated to my gods he would be alive; he was baptized in the name of your God, and he could not live.” Clotilde defended her God and prayed. She had a second son, who was also baptized, and fell sick. “It cannot be otherwise with him than with his brother,” said Clovis; “baptized in the name of your Christ, he is going to die.” But the child was cured, and lived; and Clovis was pacified and less incredulous of Christ. An event then came to pass which affected him still more than the sickness or cure of his children. In 496 the Allemannians, a Germanic confederation like the Franks, who also had been, for some time past, assailing the Roman empire on the banks of the Rhine or the frontiers of Switzerland, crossed the river, and invaded the settlements of the Franks on the left bank. Clovis went to the aid of his confederation and attacked the Allemannians at Tolbiac, near Cologne. He had with him Aurelian, who had been his messenger to Clotilde, whom he had made Duke of Melun, and who commanded the forces of Sens. The battle was going ill; the Franks were wavering, and Clovis was anxious. Before setting out he had, according to Fredegaire, promised his wife that if he were victorious he would turn Christian. Other chroniclers say that Aurelian, seeing the battle in danger of being lost, said to Clovis, “My lord king, believe only on the Lord of heaven whom the queen, my mistress, preacheth.” Clovis cried out with emotion, “Christ Jesus, Thou whom my queen Clotilde calleth the Son of the living God; I have invoked my own gods, and they have withdrawn from me; I believe that they have no power, since they aid not those who call upon them. Thee, very God and Lord, I invoke; if Thou give me victory over these foes, if I find in Thee the power that the people proclaim of Thee, I will believe on Thee, and will be baptized in Thy name.” The tide of battle turned: the Franks recovered confidence and courage; and the Allemannians, beaten and seeing their king slain, surrendered themselves to Clovis, saying, “Cease, of thy grace, to cause any more of our people to perish; for we are thine.”

On the return of Clovis, Clotilde, fearing he should forget his victory and his promise, “secretly sent,” says Gregory of Tours, “to St. Remi, bishop of Rheims, and prayed him to penetrate the king’s heart, with the words of salvation.” St. Remi was a fervent Christian and an able bishop; and “I will listen to thee, most holy father,” said Clovis, “willingly; but there is a difficulty. The people that follow me will not give up their gods. But I am about to assemble them, and will speak to them according to thy word.” The king found the people more docile or better prepared than he had represented to the bishop. Even before he opened his mouth the greater part of those present cried out, “We abjure the mortal gods; we are ready to follow the immortal God whom Remi preacheth.” About three thousand Frankish warriors, however, persisted in their intention of remaining pagans, and deserting Clovis, betook themselves to Ragnacaire, the Frankish king of Cambrai, who was destined ere long to pay dearly for this acquisition. So soon as St. Remi was informed of this good disposition on the part of king and people, he fixed Christmas Day of this year, 496, for the ceremony of the baptism of these grand neophytes. The description of it is borrowed from the historian of the church of Rheims, Frodoard by name, born at the close of the ninth century. He gathered together the essential points of it from the Life of Saint Remi, written, shortly before that period, by the saint’s celebrated successor at Rheims, Archbishop Hincmar. “The bishop,” says he, “went in search of the king at early morn in his bed-chamber, in order that, taking him at the moment of freedom from secular cares, he might more freely communicate to him the mysteries of the holy word. The king’s chamber-people receive him with great respect, and the king himself runs forward to meet him. Thereupon they pass together into an oratory dedicated to St. Peter, chief of the apostles, and adjoining the king’s apartment. When the bishop, the king, and the queen had taken their places on the seats prepared for them, and admission had been given to some clerics and also some friends and household servants of the king, the venerable bishop began his instructions on the subject of salvation. . . . Meanwhile preparations are being made along the road from the palace to the baptistery; curtains and valuable stuffs are hung up; the houses on either side of the street are dressed out; the baptistery is sprinkled with balm and all manner of perfume. The procession moves from the palace; the clergy lead the way with the holy gospels, the cross, and standards, singing hymns and spiritual songs; then comes the bishop, leading the king by the hand; after him the queen, lastly the people. On the road it is said that the king asked the bishop if that were the kingdom promised him: ‘No,’ answered the prelate, ‘but it is the entrance to the road that leads to it.’ . . . At the moment when the king bent his head over the fountain of life, ‘Lower thy head with humility, Sicambrian,’ cried the eloquent bishop; ‘adore what thou hast burned: burn what thou hast adored.’ The king’s two sisters, Alboflede and Lantechilde, likewise received baptism; and so at the same time did three thousand of the Frankish army, besides a large number of women and children.”

When it was known that Clovis had been baptized by St. Remi, and with what striking circumstance, great was the satisfaction amongst the Catholics. The chief Burgundian prelate, Avitus, bishop of Vienne, wrote to the Frankish king, “Your faith is our victory; in choosing for you and yours, you have pronounced for all; divine providence bath given you as arbiter to our age. Greece can boast of having a sovereign of our persuasion; but she is no longer alone in possession of this precious gift; the rest of the world cloth share her light.” Pope Anastasius hasted to express his joy to Clovis: “The Church, our common mother,” he wrote, “rejoiceth to have born unto God so great a king. Continue, glorious and illustrious son, to cheer the heart of this tender mother; be a column of iron to support her, and she in her turn will give thee victory over all thine enemies.”

Clovis was not a man to omit turning his Catholic popularity to the account of his ambition. At the very time when he was receiving these testimonies of good will from the heads of the Church, he learned that Gondebaud, disquieted, no doubt, at the conversion of his powerful neighbor, had just made a vain attempt, at a conference held at Lyons, to reconcile in his kingdom the Catholics and the Arians. Clovis considered the moment favorable to his projects of aggrandizement at the expense of the Burgundian king; he fomented the dissensions which already prevailed between Gondebaud and his brother Godegisile, assured to himself the latter’s complicity, and suddenly entered Burgundy with his army. Gondebaud, betrayed and beaten at the first encounter at Dijon, fled to the south of his kingdom, and went and shut himself up in Avignon. Clovis pursued and besieged him there. Gondebaud in great alarm asked counsel of his Roman confidant Aridius, who had but lately foretold to him what the marriage of his niece Clotilde would bring upon him. “On every side,” said the king, “I am encompassed by perils, and I know not what to do; lo! here be these barbarians come upon us to slay us and destroy the land.” “To escape death,” answered Aridius, “thou must appease the ferocity of this man. Now, if it please thee, I will feign to fly from thee and go over to him. So soon as I shall be with him, I will so do that he ruin neither thee nor the land. Only have thou care to perform whatsoever I shall ask of thee, until the Lord in His goodness deign to make thy cause triumph.” “All that thou shalt bid will I do,” said Gondebaud. So Aridius left Gondebaud and went his way to Clovis, and said, “Most pious king, I am thy humble servant; I give up this wretched Gondebaud, and come unto thy mightiness. If thy goodness deign to cast a glance upon me, thou and thy descendants will find in me a servant of integrity and fidelity.” Clovis received him very kindly and kept him by him, for Aridius was agreeable in conversation, wise in counsel, just in judgment, and faithful in whatever was committed to his care. As the siege continued, Aridius said to Clovis, “O king, if the glory of thy greatness would suffer thee to listen to the words of my feebleness, though thou needest not counsel, I would submit them to thee in all fidelity, and they might be of use to thee, whether for thyself or for the towns by the which thou dost propose to pass. Wherefore keepest thou here thine army, whilst thine enemy doth hide himself in a well-fortified place? Thou ravagest the fields, thou pillagest the corn, thou cuttest down the vines, thou fellest the olive trees, thou destroyest all the produce of the land, and yet thou succeedest not in destroying thine adversary. Rather send thou unto him deputies, and lay on him a tribute to be paid to thee every year. Thus the land will be preserved, and thou wilt be lord forever over him who owes thee tribute. If he refuse, thou shalt then do what pleaseth thee.” Clovis found the counsel good, ordered his army to return home, sent deputies to Gondebaud, and called upon him to undertake the payment every year of a fixed tribute. Gondebaud paid for the time, and promised to pay punctually for the future. And peace appeared made between the two barbarians.

Pleased with his campaign against the Burgundians, Clovis kept on good terms with Gondebaud, who was to be henceforth a simple tributary, and transferred to the Visigoths of Aquitania, and their king, Alaric II., his views of conquest. He had there the same pretexts for attack and the same means of success. Alaric and his Visigoths were Arians, and between them and the bishops of Southern Gaul, nearly all orthodox Catholics, there were permanent ill-will and distrust. Alaric attempted to conciliate their good-will: in 506 a Council met at Agde; the thirty-four bishops of Aquitania attended in person or by delegate; the king protested that he had no design of persecuting the Catholics; the bishops, at the opening of the Council, offered prayers for the king; but Alaric did not forget that immediately after the conversion of Clovis, Volusian, bishop of Tours, had conspired in favor of the Frankish king, and the bishops of Aquitania regarded Volusian as a martyr, for he had been deposed, without trial, from his see, and taken as a prisoner first to Toulouse, and afterwards into Spain, where in a short time he had been put to death. In vain did the glorious chief of the race of Goths, Theodoric the Great, king of Italy, father-in-law of Alaric, and brother- in-law of Clovis, exert himself to prevent any outbreak between the two kings. In 498, Alaric, no doubt at his father-in-law’s solicitation, wrote to Clovis, “If my brother consent thereto, I would, following my desires and by the grace of God, have an interview with him.” The interview took place at a small island in the Loire, called the Island d’Or or de St. Jean, near Amboise. “The two kings,” says Gregory of Tours, “conversed, ate, and drank together, and separated with mutual promises of friendship.” The positions and passions of each soon made the promises of no effect. In 505 Clovis was seriously ill; the bishops of Aquitania testified warm interest in him; and one of them, Quintian, bishop of Rodez, being on this account persecuted by the Visigoths, had to seek refuge at Clermont, in Auvergne. Clovis no longer concealed his designs. In 507 he assembled his principal chieftains; and, “It displeaseth me greatly,” said he, “that these Arians should possess a portion of the Gauls; march we forth with the help of God, drive we them from that land, for it is very goodly, and bring we it under our own power.” The Franks applauded their king; and the army set out on the march in the direction of Poitiers, where Alaric happened at that time to be. “As a portion of the troops was crossing the territory of Tours,” says Gregory, who was shortly afterwards its bishop, “Clovis forbade, out of respect for St. Martin, anything to be taken, save grass and water. One of the army, however, having found some hay belonging to a poor man, said, ‘This is grass; we do not break the king’s commands by taking it;’ and, in spite of the poor man’s resistance, he robbed him of his hay. Clovis, informed of the fact, slew the soldier on the spot with one sweep of his sword, saying, ‘What will become of our hopes of victory if we offend St. Martin?’” Alaric had prepared for the struggle; and the two armies met in the plain of Vouille, on the banks of the little river Clain, a few leagues from Poitiers. The battle was very severe. “The Goths,” says Gregory of Tours, “fought with missiles; the Franks sword in hand. Clovis met and with his own hand slew Alaric in the fray; at the moment of striking his blow, two Goths fell suddenly upon Clovis, and attacked him with their pikes on either side, but he escaped death, thanks to his cuirass and the agility of his horse.”

Beaten and kingless, the Goths retreated in great disorder; and Clovis, pursuing his march, arrived without opposition at Bordeaux, where he settled down with his Franks for the winter. When the war season returned, he marched on Toulouse, the capital of the Visigoths, which he likewise occupied without resistance, and where he seized a portion of the treasure of the Visigothic kings. He quitted it to lay siege to Carcassonne, which had been made by the Romans into the stronghold of Septimauia.

There his course of conquest was destined to end. After the battle of Vouille he had sent his eldest son Theodoric in command of a division, with orders to cross Central Gaul from west to east, to go and join the Burgundians of Gondebaud, who had promised his assistance, and in conjunction with them to attack the Visigoths on the banks of the Rhone and in Narbonness. The young Frank boldly executed his father’s orders, but the intervention of Theodoric the Great, king of Italy, prevented the success of the operation. He sent an army into Gaul to the aid of his son-in-law Alaric; and the united Franks and Burgundians failed in their attacks upon the Visigoths of the Eastern Provinces. Clovis had no idea of compromising by his obstinacy the conquests already accomplished; he therefore raised the siege of Carcassonne, returned first to Toulouse, and then to Bordeaux, took Angouleme, the only town of importance he did not possess in Aquitania; and feeling reasonably sure that the Visigoths, who, even with the aid that had cone from Italy, had great difficulty in defending what remained to them of Southern Gaul, would not come and dispute with him what he had already conquered, he halted at Tours, and staid there some time, to enjoy on the very spot the fruits of his victory and to establish his power in his new possessions.

It appears that even the Britons of Armorica tendered to him at that time, through the interposition of Melanins, bishop of Rennes, if not their actual submission, at any rate their subordination and homage.

Clovis at the same time had his self-respect flattered in a manner to which barbaric conquerors always attach great importance. Anastasius, Emperor of the East, with whom he had already had some communication, sent to him at Tours a solemn embassy, bringing him the titles and insignia of Patrician and Consul. “Clovis,” says Gregory of Tours, “put on the tunic of purple and the chlamys and the diadem; then mounting his horse, he scattered with his own hand and with much bounty gold and silver amongst the people, on the road which lies between the gate of the court belonging to the basilica of St. Martin and the church of the city. From that day he was called Consul and Augustus. On leaving the city of Tours he repaired to Paris, where he fixed the seat of his government.”

Paris was certainly the political centre of his dominions, the intermediate point between the early settlements of his race and himself in Gaul and his new Gallic conquests; but he lacked some of the possessions nearest to him and most naturally, in his own opinion, his. To the east, north, and south-west of Paris were settled some independent Frankish tribes, governed by chieftains with the name of kings. So soon as he had settled at Paris, it was the one fixed idea of Clovis to reduce them all to subjection. He had conquered the Burgundians and the Visigoths; it remained for him to conquer and unite together all the Franks. The barbarian showed himself in his true colors, during this new enterprise, with his violence, his craft, his cruelty, and his perfidy. He began with the most powerful of the tribes, the Ripuarian Franks. He sent secretly to Cloderic, son of Sigebert, their king, saying, “Thy father hath become old, and his wound maketh him to limp o’ one foot; if he should die, his kingdom will come to thee of right, together with our friendship.” Cloderic had his father assassinated whilst asleep in his tent, and sent messengers to Clovis, saying, “My father is dead, and I have in my power his kingdom and his treasures. Send thou unto me certain of thy people, and I will gladly give into their hands whatsoever amongst these treasures shall seem like to please thee.” The envoys of Clovis came, and, as they were examining in detail the treasures of Sigebert, Cloderic said to them, “This is the coffer wherein my father was wont to pile up his gold pieces.” “Plunge,” said they, “thy hand right to the bottom that none escape thee.” Cloderic bent forward, and one of the envoys lifted his battle-axe and cleft his skull. Clovis went to Cologne and convoked the Franks of the canton. “Learn,” said he, “that which hath happened. As I was sailing on the river Scheldt, Cloderic, son of my relative, did vex his father, saying I was minded to slay him; and as Sigebert was flying across the forest of Buchaw, his son himself sent bandits, who fell upon him and slew him. Cloderic also is dead, smitten I know not by whom as he was opening his father’s treasures. I am altogether unconcerned in it all, and I could not shed the blood of my relatives, for it is a crime. But since it hath so happened, I give unto you counsel, which ye shall follow if it seem to you good; turn ye towards me, and live under my protection.” And they who were present hoisted him on a huge buckler, and hailed him king.

After Sigebert and the Ripuarian Franks, came the Franks of Terouanne, and Chararic their king. He had refused, twenty years before, to march with Clovis against the Roman, Syagrius. Clovis, who had not forgotten it, attacked him, took him and his son prisoners, and had them both shorn, ordering that Chararic should be ordained priest and his son deacon. Chararic was much grieved. Then said his son to him, “Here be branches which were cut from a green tree, and are not yet wholly dried up: soon they will sprout forth again. May it please God that he who hath wrought all this shall die as quickly!” Clovis considered these words as a menace, had both father and son beheaded, and took possession of their dominions. Ragnacaire, king of the Franks of Cambrai, was the third to be attacked. He had served Clovis against Syagrins, but Clovis took no account of that. Ragnacaire, being beaten, was preparing for flight, when he was seized by his own soldiers, who tied his hands behind his back, and took him to Clovis along with his brother Riquier. “Wherefore hast thou dishonored our race,” said Clovis, “by letting thyself wear bonds?” “Twere better to have died;” and cleft his skull with one stroke of his battle-axe. Then turning to Riquier, “Hadst thou succored thy brother,” said he, “he had assuredly not been bound;” and felled him likewise at his feet. Rignomer, king of the Franks of Le Mans, met the same fate, but not at the hands, only by the order, of Clovis. So Clovis remained sole king of the Franks, for all the independent chieftains had disappeared.

It is said that one day, after all these murders, Clovis, surrounded by his trusted servants, cried, “Woe is me! who am left as a traveller amongst strangers, and who have no longer relatives to lend me support in the day of adversity!” Thus do the most shameless take pleasure in exhibiting sham sorrow after crimes they cannot disavow.

It cannot be known whether Clovis ever felt in his soul any scruple or regret for his many acts of ferocity and perfidy, or if he looked, as sufficient expiation, upon the favor he had bestowed on the churches and their bishops, upon the gifts he lavished on them, and upon the absolutions he demanded of them. In times of mingled barbarism and faith there are strange cases of credulity in the way of bargains made with divine justice. We read in the life of St. Eleutherus, bishop of Tournai, the native land of Clovis, that at one of those periods when the conscience of the Frankish king must have been most heavily laden, he presented himself one day at the church. “My lord king,” said the bishop, “I know wherefore thou art come to me.” “I have nothing special to say unto thee,” rejoined Clovis. “Say not so, O king,” replied the bishop; “thou hast sinned, and darest not avow it.” The king was moved, and ended by confessing that he had deeply sinned and had need of large pardon. St. Eleutherus betook himself to prayer; the king came back the next day, and the bishop gave him a paper on which was written by a divine hand, he said, “The pardon granted to royal offences which might not be revealed.” Clovis accepted this absolution, and loaded the church of Tournai with his gifts. In 511, the very year of his death, his last act in life was the convocation at Orleans of a Council, which was attended by thirty bishops from the different parts of his kingdom, and at which were adopted thirty-one canons that, whilst granting to the Church great privileges and means of influence, in many cases favorable to humanity and respect for the rights of individuals, bound the Church closely to the State, and gave to royalty, even in ecclesiastical matters, great power. The bishops, on breaking up, sent these canons to Clovis, praying him to give them the sanction of his adhesion, which he did. A few months afterwards, on the 27th of November, 511, Clovis died at Paris, and was buried in the church of St. Peter and St. Paul, nowadays St. Genevieve, built by his wife Queen Clotilde, who survived him.

It was but right to make the reader intimately acquainted with that great barbarian who, with all his vices and all his crimes, brought about, or rather began, two great matters which have already endured through fourteen centuries, and still endure; for he founded the French monarchy and Christian France. Such men and such facts have a right to be closely studied and set in a clear light by history. Nothing similar will be seen for two centuries, under the descendants of Clovis, the Merovingians; amongst them will be encountered none but those personages whom death reduces to insignificance, whatever may have been their rank in the world, and of whom Virgil thus speaks to Dante:—

          “Non ragionam di for, ma guarda e passa.”

     “Waste we no words on them: one glance and pass thou on.”
                                         Inferno, Canto III.







The Sluggard King Journeying——156

In its beginning and in its end the line of the Merovingians is mediocre and obscure. Its earliest ancestors, Meroveus, from whom it got its name, and Clodion, the first, it is said, of the long-haired kings, a characteristic title of the Frankish kings, are scarcely historical personages; and it is under the qualification of sluggard kings that the last Merovingians have a place in history. Clovis alone, amidst his vices and his crimes, was sufficiently great and did sufficiently great deeds to live forever in the course of ages; the greatest part of his successors belong only to genealogy or chronology. In a moment of self-abandonment and weariness, the great Napoleon once said, “What trouble to take for half a page in universal history!” Histories far more limited and modest than a universal history, not only have a right, but are bound to shed their light only upon those men who have deserved it by the eminence of their talents or the important results of their passage through life; rarity only can claim to escape oblivion. And save two or three, a little less insignificant or less hateful than the rest, the Merovingian kings deserve only to be forgotten. From A.D. 511 to A.D. 752, that is, from the death of Clovis to the accession of the Carlovingians, is two hundred and forty-one years, which was the duration of the dynasty of the Merovingians. During this time there reigned twenty-eight Merovingian kings, which reduces to eight years and seven months the average reign of each, a short duration compared with that of most of the royal dynasties. Five of these kings, Clotaire I., Clotaire II., Dagobert I., Thierry IV. and Childeric III., alone, at different intervals, united under their power all the dominions possessed by Clovis or his successors. The other kings of this line reigned only over special kingdoms, formed by virtue of divers partitions at the death of their general possessor. From A.D. 511 to 638 five such partitions took place. In 511, after the death of Clovis, his dominions were divided amongst his four sons; Theodoric, or Thierry I., was king of Metz; Clodomir, of Orleans; Childebert, of Paris; Clotaire I., of Soissons. To each of these capitals fixed boundaries were attached. In 558, in consequence of divers incidents brought about naturally or by violence, Clotaire I. ended by possessing alone, during three years, all the dominions of his fathers. At his death, in 561, they were partitioned afresh amongst his four sons; Charibert was king of Paris; Gontran of Orleans and Burgundy; Sigebert I., of Metz; and Childeric, of Soissons. In 567, Charibert, king of Paris, died without children, and a new partition left only three kingdoms, Austrasia, Neustria, and Burgundy. Austrasia, in the east, extended over the two banks of the Rhine, and comprised, side by side with Roman towns and districts, populations that had remained Germanic. Neustria, in the west, was essentially Gallo-Roman, though it comprised in the north the old territory of the Salian Franks, on the borders of the Scheldt. Burgundy was the old kingdom of the Burgundians, enlarged in the north by some few counties. Paris, the residence of Clovis, was reserved and undivided amongst the three kings, kept as a sort of neutral city into which they could not enter without the common consent of all. In 613, new incidents connected with family matters placed Clotaire II., son of Chilperic, and heretofore king of Soissons, in possession of the three kingdoms. He kept them united up to 628, and left them so to his son, Dagobert I., who remained in possession of them up to 638. At his death a new division of the Frankish dominions took place, no longer into three but two kingdoms, Austrasia being one, and Neustria and Burgundy the other. This was the definitive dismemberment of the great Frankish dominion to the time of its last two Merovingian kings, Thierry IV. and Childeric III., who were kings in name only, dragged from the cloister as ghosts from the tomb to play a motionless part in the drama. For a long time past the real power had been in the hands of that valiant Austrasian family which was to furnish the dominions of Clovis with a new dynasty and a greater king than Clovis.

Southern Gaul, that is to say, Aquitania, Vasconia, Narbonness, called Septimania, and the two banks of the Rhone near its mouths, were not comprised in these partitions of the Frankish dominions. Each of the copartitioners assigned to themselves, to the south of the Garonne and on the coasts of the Mediterranean, in that beautiful region of old Roman Gaul, such and such a district or such and such a town, just as heirs-at- law keep to themselves severally such and such a piece of furniture or such and such a valuable jewel out of a rich property to which they succeed, and which they divide amongst them. The peculiar situation of those provinces at their distance from the Franks’ own settlements contributed much towards the independence which Southern Gaul, and especially Aquitania, was constantly striving and partly managed to recover, amidst the extension and tempestuous fortunes of the Frankish monarchy. It is easy to comprehend how these repeated partitions of a mighty inheritance with so many successors, these dominions continually changing both their limits and their masters, must have tended to increase the already profound anarchy of Roman and Barbaric worlds thrown pell-mell one upon the other, and fallen a prey, the Roman to the disorganization of a lingering death, the barbaric to the fermentation of a new existence striving for development under social conditions quite different from those of its primitive life. Some historians have said that, in spite of these perpetual dismemberments of the great Frankish dominion, a real unity had always existed in the Frankish monarchy, and regulated the destinies of its constituent peoples. They who say so show themselves singularly easy to please in the matter of political unity and international harmony. Amongst those various States, springing from a common base and subdivided between the different members of one and the same family, rivalries, enmities, hostile machinations, deeds of violence and atrocity, struggles and wars soon became as frequent, as bloody, and as obstinate as they have ever been amongst states and sovereigns as unconnected as possible one with another. It will suffice to quote one case which was not long in coming. In 424, scarcely thirteen years after the death of Clovis and the partition of his dominions amongst his four sons, the second of them, Clodomir, king of Orleans, was killed in a war against the Burgundians, leaving three sons, direct heirs of his kingdom, subject to equal partition between them. Their grandmother, Clotilde, kept them with her at Paris; and “their uncle Childebert (king of Paris), seeing that his mother bestowed all her affection upon the sons of Clodomir, grew jealous; so, fearing that by her favor they would get a share in the kingdom, he sent secretly to his brother Clotaire (king of Soissons), saying, ‘Our mother keepeth by her the sons of our brother, and willeth to give them the kingdom of their father. Thou must needs, therefore, cone speedily to Paris, and we must take counsel together as to what shall be done with them; whether they shall be shorn and reduced to the condition of commoners, or slain and leave their kingdom to be shared equally between us.’ Clotaire, overcome with joy at these words, came to Paris. Childebert had already spread abroad amongst the people that the two kings were to join in raising the young children to the throne. The two kings then sent a message to the queen, who at that time dwelt in the same city, saying, ‘Send thou the children to us, that we may place them on the throne.’ Clotilde, full of joy, and unwitting of their craft, set meat and drink before the children, and then sent them away, saying, ‘I shall seem not to have lost my son if I see ye succeed him in his kingdom.’ The young princes were immediately seized, and parted from their servants and governors; and the servants and the children were kept in separate places. Then Childebert and Clotaire sent to the queen their confidant Arcadius (one of the Arvernian senators), with a pair of shears and a naked sword. When he came to Clotilde, he showed her what he bare with him, and said to her, ‘Most glorious queen, thy sons, our masters, desire to know thy will touching these children: wilt thou that they live with shorn hair or that they be put to death?’ Clotilde, astounded at this address, and overcome with indignation, answered at hazard, amidst the grief that overwhelmed her, and not knowing what she would say, ‘If they be not set upon the throne I would rather know that they were dead than shorn.’ But Areadius, caring little for her despair or for what she might decide after more reflection, returned in haste to the two kings, and said, ‘Finish ye your work, for the queen, favoring your plans, willeth that ye accomplish them.’ Forthwith Clotaire taketh the eldest by the arm, dasheth him upon the ground, and slayeth him without mercy with the thrust of a hunting-knife beneath the arm-pit. At the cries raised by the child, his brother casteth himself at the feet of Childebert, and clinging to his knees, saith amidst his sobs, ‘Aid me, good father, that I die not like my brother.’ Childebert, his visage bathed in tears, saith to Clotaire, ‘Dear brother, I crave thy mercy for his life; I will give thee whatsoever thou wilt as the price of his soul; I pray thee, slay him not.’ Then Clotaire, with menacing and furious mien, crieth out aloud, ‘Thrust him away, or thou diest in his stead: thou, the instigator of all this work, art thou, then, so quick to be faithless?’ At these words Childebert thrust away the child towards Clotaire, who seized him, plunged a hunting-knife in his side, as he had in his brother’s, and slew him. They then put to death the slaves and governors of the children. After these murders Clotaire mounted his horse and departed, taking little heed of his nephew’s death; and Childebert withdrew into the outskirts of the city. Queen Clotilde had the corpses of the two children placed in a coffin, and followed them, with a great parade of chanting, and immense mourning, to the basilica of St. Pierre (now St. Genevieve), where they were buried together. One was ten years old and the other seven. The third, named Clodoald (who died about the year 560, after having founded, near Paris, a monastery called after him St. Cloud), could not be caught, and was saved by some gallant men. He, disdaining a terrestrial kingdom, dedicated himself to the Lord, was shorn by his own hand, and became a church-man: he devoted himself wholly to good works, and died a priest. And the two kings divided equally between them the kingdom of Clodomir.” (Gregory of Tours, Histoire des Francs, III. xviii.)

'Thrust Him Away, Or Thou Diest in his Stead.’——160

The history of the most barbarous peoples and times assuredly offers no example, in one and the same family, of an usurpation more perfidiously and atrociously consummated. King Clodomir, the father of the two young princes thus dethroned and murdered by their uncles, had, during his reign, shown almost equal indifference and cruelty. In 523, during a war which, in concert with his brothers Childebert and Clotaire, he had waged against Sigismund, king of Burgundy, he had made prisoners of that king, his wife, and their sons, and kept them shut up at Orleans. The year after, the war was renewed with the Burgundians. “Clodomir resolved,” says Gregory of Tours, “to put Sigismund to death. The blessed Avitus, abbot of St. Mesrnin de Micy (an abbey about two leagues from Orleans), a famous priest in those days, said to him on this occasion, ‘If, turning thy thoughts towards God, thou change thy plan, and suffer not these folk to be slain, God will be with thee, and thou wilt gain the victory; but if thou slay them, thou thyself wilt be delivered into the hands of thine enemies, and thou wilt undergo their fate; to thee and thy wife and thy sons will happen that which thou wilt have done to Sigismund and his wife and his sons.’ But Clodomir, taking no heed of this counsel, said, ‘It were great folly to leave one enemy at home when I march out against another; one attacking me behind and another in front, I should find myself between two armies: victory will be surer and easier if I separate one from the other; when the first is once dead, it will be less difficult to get rid of the other also.’ Accordingly he put Sigismund to death, together with his wife and his sons, ordered them to be thrown into a well in the village of Coulmier, belonging to the territory of Orleans, and set out for Burgundy. After his first success Clodomir fell into an ambush and into the hands of his enemies, who cut off his head, stuck it on the end of a pike and held it up aloft. Victory, nevertheless, remained with the Franks; but scarcely had a year elapsed when Queen Guntheuque, Clodomir’s widow, became the wife of his brother Clotaire, and his two elder sons, Theobald and Gonthaire, fell beneath their uncle’s hunting-knife.”

Even in the coarsest and harshest ages the soul of man does not completely lose its instincts of justice and humanity. The bishops and priests were not alone in crying out against such atrocities; the barbarians themselves did not always remain indifferent spectators of them, but sometimes took advantage of them to rouse the wrath and warlike ardor of their comrades. “About the year 528, Theodoric, king of Metz, the eldest son of Clovis, purposed to undertake a grand campaign on the right bank of the Rhine against his neighbors the Thuringians, and summoned the Franks to a meeting. ‘Bethink you,’ said he, that of old time the Thuringians fell violently upon our ancestors, and did them much harm. Our fathers, ye know, gave them hostages to obtain peace; but the Thuringians put to death those hostages in divers ways, and once more falling upon our relatives, took from them all they possessed. After having hung children up, by the sinews of their thighs, on the branches of trees, they put to a most cruel death more than two hundred young girls, tying them by the legs to the necks of horses, which, driven by pointed goads in different directions, tore the poor souls in pieces; they laid others along the ruts of the roads, fixed them in the earth with stakes, drove over them laden cars, and so left them, with their bones all broken, as a meal for the birds and dogs. To this very day doth Hermannfroi fail in his promise, and absolutely refuse to fulfil his engagements: right is on our side; march we against them with the help of God.’ Then the Franks, indignant at such atrocities, demanded with one voice to be led into Thuringia. . . . Victory made them masters of it, and they reduced the country under their dominion. . . . Whilst the Frankish kings were still there, Theodoric would have slain his brother Clotaire. Having put armed men in waiting, he had him fetched to treat secretly of a certain matter. Then, having arranged, in a portion of his house, a curtain from wall to wall, he posted his armed men behind it; but, as the curtain was too short, it left their feet exposed. Clotaire, having been warned of the snare, entered the house armed and with a goodly company. Theodoric then perceived that he was discovered, invented some story, and talked of this, that, and the other. At last, not knowing how to get his treachery forgotten, he made Clotaire a present of a large silvern dish. Clotaire wished him good by, thanked him, and returned home. But Theodoric immediately complained to his own folks that he had sacrificed his silvern dish to no purpose, and said to his son Theodebert, ‘Go, find thy uncle, and pray him to give thee the present I made him.’ Theodebert went, and got what he asked. In such tricks did Theodoric excel.” (Gregory of Tours, III. vii.)

These Merovingian kings were as greedy and licentious as they were cruel. Not only was pillage, in their estimation, the end and object of war, but they pillaged even in the midst of peace and in their own dominions; sometimes, after the Roman practice, by aggravation of taxes and fiscal manoeuvres, at others after the barbaric fashion, by sudden attacks on places and persons they knew to be rich. It often happened that they pillaged a church, of which the bishop had vexed them by his protests, either to swell their own personal treasury, or to make, soon afterwards, offerings to another church of which they sought the favor. When some great family event was at hand, they delighted in a coarse magnificence, for which they provided at the expense of the populations of their domains, or of the great officers of their courts, who did not fail to indemnify themselves, thanks to public disorder, for the sacrifices imposed upon them. At the end of the sixth century, Chilperic, king of Neustria, had promised his daughter Rigonthe in marriage to Prince Recared, son of Leuvigild, king of the Visigoths of Spain. “A grand deputation of Goths came to Paris to fetch the Frankish princess. King Chilperic ordered several families in the fiscal domains to be seized and placed in cars. As a great number of them wept and were not willing to go, he had them kept in prison that he might more easily force them to go away with his daughter. It is said that several, in their despair, hung themselves, fearing to be taken from their parents. Sons were separated from fathers, daughters from mothers, and all departed with deep groans and maledictions, and in Paris there reigned a desolation like that of Egypt. Not a few, of superior birth, being forced to go away, even made wills whereby they left their possessions to the churches, and demanded that, so soon as the young girl should have entered Spain, their wills should be opened just as if they were already in their graves. . . . When King Chilperic gave up his daughter to the ambassadors of the Goths, he presented them with vast treasures. Her mother (Queen Fredegonde) added thereto so great a quantity of gold and silver and valuable vestments, that, at the sight thereof, the king thought he must have nought remaining. The queen, perceiving his emotion, turned to the Franks, and said to them, ‘Think not, warriors, that there is here aught of the treasures of former kings. All that ye see is taken from mine own possessions, for my most glorious king hath made me many gifts. Thereto have I added of the fruits of mine own toil, and a great part proceedeth from the revenues I have drawn, either in kind or in money, from the houses that have been ceded unto me. Ye yourselves have given me riches, and ye see here a portion thereof; but there is here nought of the public treasure.’ And the king was deceived into believing her words. Such was the multitude of golden and silvern articles and other precious things that it took fifty wagons to hold them. The Franks, on their part, made many offerings; some gave gold, others silver, sundry gave horses, but most of them vestments. At last the young girl, with many tears and kisses, said farewell. As she was passing through the gate an axle of her carriage broke, and all cried out alacic! which was interpreted by some as a presage. She departed from Paris, and at eight miles’ distance front the city she had her tents pitched. During the night fifty men arose, and, having taken a hundred of the best horses and as many golden bits and bridles, and two large silvern dishes, fled away, and took refuge with king Childebert. During the whole journey whoever could escape fled away with all that he could lay hands on. It was required also of all the towns that were traversed on the way, that they should make great preparations to defray expenses, for the king forbade any contribution from the treasury: all the charges were met by extraordinary taxes levied on the poor.” (Gregory of Tours, VI. xlv.)

“Close upon this tyrannical magnificence came unexpected sorrows, and close upon these outrages remorse. The youngest son of King Chilperic, Dagobert by name, fell ill. He was a little better, when his elder brother Chlodebert was attacked with the same symptoms. His mother Fredegonde, seeing him in danger of death, and touched by tardy repentance, said to the king, ‘Long hath divine mercy borne with our misdeeds; it hath warned us by fever, and other maladies, and we have not mended our ways, and now we are losing our sons; now the tears of the poor, the lamentations of widows, and the sighs of orphans are causing them to perish, and leaving us no hope of laying by for any one. We heap up riches and know not for whom. Our treasures, all laden with plunder and curses, are like to remain without possessors. Our cellars are they not bursting with wine, and our granaries with corn? Our coffers were they not full to the brim with gold and silver and precious stones and necklaces and other imperial ornaments? And yet that which was our most beautiful possession we are losing! Come then, if thou wilt, and let us burn all these wicked lists; let our treasury be content with what was sufficient for thy father Clotaire.’ Having thus spoken, and beating her breast, the queen had brought to her the rolls, which Mark had consigned to her of each of the cities that belonged to her, and cast them into the fire. Then, turning again to the king, ‘What!’ she cried, ‘dost thou hesitate? Do thou even as I; if we lose our dear children, at least escape we everlasting punishment.’ Then the king, moved with compunction, threw into the fire all the lists, and, when they were burned, sent people to stay the levy of those imposts. And afterwards their youngest child died, worn out with lingering illness. Overwhelmed with grief, they bare him from their house at Braine to Paris, and had him buried in the basilica of St. Denis. As for Chlodebert, they placed him on a litter, carried him to the basilica of St. Medard at Soissons, and, laying him before the tomb of the saint, offered vows for his recovery; but in the middle of the night, enfeebled and exhausted, he gave up the ghost. They buried him in the basilica of the holy martyrs Crispin and Crispinian. Then King Chilperic showed great largess to the churches and the monasteries and the poor.” (Gregory of Tours, V. xxxv.)

It is doubtful whether the maternal grief of Fredegonde were quite so pious and so strictly in accordance with morality as it has been represented by Gregory of Tours; but she was, without doubt, passionately sincere. Rash actions and violent passions are the characteristics of barbaric natures; the interest or impression of the moment holds sway over them, and causes forgetfulness of every moral law as well as of every wise calculation. These two characteristics show themselves in the extreme license displayed in the private life of the Merovingian kings: on becoming Christians, not only did they not impose upon themselves any of the Christian rules in respect of conjugal relations, but the greater number of them did not renounce polygamy, and more than one holy bishop, at the very time that he reprobated it, was obliged to tolerate it. “King Clotaire I. had to wife Ingonde, and her only did he love, when she made to him the following request: ‘My lord,’ said she, ‘hath made of his handmaid what seemed to him good; and now, to crown his favors, let my lord deign to hear what his handmaid demandeth. I pray you be graciously pleased to find for my sister Aregonde, your slave, a man both capable and rich, so that I be rather exalted than abased thereby, and be enabled to serve you still more faithfully.’ At these words Clotaire, who was but too voluptuously disposed by nature, conceived a fancy for Aregonde, betook himself to the country-house where she dwelt, and united her to him in marriage. When the union had taken place he returned to Ingonde, and said to her, ‘I have labored to procure for thee the favor thou didst so sweetly demand, and, on looking for a man of wealth and capability worthy to be united to thy sister, I could find no better than myself; know, therefore, that I have taken her to wife, and I trow that it will not displease thee.’ What seemeth good in my master’s eyes, that let him do,’ replied Ingonde: ‘only let thy servant abide still in the king’s grace.’”

Clotaire I. had, as has been already remarked, four sons: the eldest, Charibert, king of Paris, had to wife Ingoberge, “who had in her service two young persons, daughters of a poor work-man; one of them, named Marcovieve, had donned the religious dress, the other was called Meroflede, and the king loved both of them exceedingly. They were daughters, as has been said, of a worker in wool. Ingoberge, jealous of the affection borne to them by the king, had their father put to work inside the palace, hoping that the king, on seeing him in such condition, would conceive a distaste for his daughters; and, whilst the man was at his work, she sent for the king.

“Charibert, thinking he was going to see some novelty, saw only the workman afar off at work on his wool. He forsook Ingoberge, and took to wife Meroflede. He had also (to wife) another young girl named Theudoehilde, whose father was a shepherd, a mere tender of sheep, and had by her, it is said, a son who, on issuing from his mother’s womb, was carried straight-way to the grave.” Charibert afterwards espoused Marcovive, sister of Meroflede; and for that cause both were excommunicated by St. Germain, bishop of Paris.

Chilperic, fourth son of Clotaire I. and king of Soissons, “though he had already several wives, asked the hand of Galsuinthe, eldest daughter of Athanagild, king of Spain. She arrived at Soissons and was united to him in marriage; and she received strong evidences of love, for she had brought with her vast treasures. But his love for Fredegonde, one of the principal women about Chilperic, occasioned fierce disputes between them. As Galsuinthe had to complain to the king of continual insult and of not sharing with him the dignity of his rank, she asked him in return for the treasures which she had brought, and which she was ready to give up to him, to send her back free to her own country. Chilperic, artfully dissimulating, appeased her with soothing words; and then had her strangled by a slave, and she was found dead in her bed. When he had mourned for her death, he espoused Fredegonde after an interval of a few days.” (Gregory of Tours, IV. xxvi., xxviii.)

Amidst such passions and such morals, treason, murder and poisoning were the familiar processes of ambition, covetousness, hatred, vengeance, and fear. Eight kings or royal heirs of the Merovingian line died of brutal murder or secret assassination, to say nothing of innumerable crimes of the same kind committed in their circle, and left unpunished, save by similar crimes. Nevertheless, justice is due to the very worst times and the very worst governments; and it must be recorded that, whilst sharing in many of the vices of their age and race, especially their extreme license of morals, three of Clovis’s successors, Theodebert, king of Austrasia (from 534 to 548), Gontran, king of Burgundy (from 561 to 598), and Dogobert I., who united under his own sway the whole Frankish monarchy (from 622 to 688), were less violent, less cruel, less iniquitous, and less grossly ignorant or blind than the majority of the Merovingians.

“Theodebert,” says Gregory of Tours, “when confirmed in his kingdom, showed himself full of greatness and goodness; he ruled with justice, honoring the bishops, doing good to the churches, helping the poor, and distributing in many directions numerous benefits with a very charitable and very liberal hand. He generously remitted to the churches of Auvergne all the tribute they were wont to pay into his treasury.” (III. xxv.)

Gontran, king of Burgundy, in spite of many shocking and unprincipled deeds, at one time of violence, at another of weakness, displayed, during his reign of thirty-three years, an inclination towards moderation and peace, in striking contrast with the measureless pretensions and outrageous conduct of the other Frankish kings his contemporaries, especially King Chilperic his brother. The treaty concluded by Gontran, on the 38th of November, 587, at Andelot, near Langres, with his young nephew Childebert, king of Metz, and Queen Brunehant, his mother, contains dispositions, or, more correctly speaking, words, which breathe a sincere but timid desire to render justice to all, to put an end to the vindictive or retrospective quarrels and spoliations which were incessantly harassing the Gallo-Frankish community, and to build up peace between the two kings on the foundation of mutual respect for the rights of their lieges. “It is established,” says this treaty, “that whatsoever the kings have given to the churches or to their lieges, or with God’s help shall hereafter will to give to them lawfully, shall be irrevocable acquired; as also that none of the lieges, in one kingdom or the other, shall have to suffer damage in respect of whatsoever belongeth to him, either by law or by virtue of a decree, but shall be permitted to recover and possess things due to him. . . . And as the aforesaid kings have allied themselves, in the name of God, by a pure and sincere affection, it hath been agreed that at no time shall passage through one kingdom be refused to the Leudes (lieges—great vassals) of the other kingdom who shall desire to traverse them on public or private affairs. It is likewise agreed that neither of the two kings shall solicit the Leudes of the other or receive them if they offer themselves; and if, peradventure, any of these Leudes shall think it necessary, in consequence of some fault, to take refuge with the other king, he shall be absolved according to the nature of his fault and given back. It hath seemed good also to add to the present treaty that whichever, if either, of the parties happen to violate it, under any pretext and at any time whatsoever, it shall lose all advantages, present or prospective, therefrom; and they shall be for the profit of that party which shall have faithfully observed the aforesaid conventions, and which shall be relieved in all points from the obligations of its oath.” (Gregory of Tours, IX. xx.)

It may be doubted whether between Gontran and Childebert the promises in the treaty were always scrupulously fulfilled; but they have a stamp of serious and sincere intention foreign to the habitual relations between the other Merovingian kings.

Mention was but just now made of two women—two queens—Fredegonde and Brunehaut, who, at the Merovingian epoch, played important parts in the history of the country. They were of very different origin and condition; and, after fortunes which were for a long while analogous, they ended very differently. Fredegonde was the daughter of poor peasants in the neighborhood of Montdidier in Picardy, and at an early age joined the train of Queen Audovere, the first wife of King Chilperic. She was beautiful, dexterous, ambitious, and bold; and she attracted the attention, and before long awakened the passion of the king. She pursued with ardor and without scruple her unexpected fortune. Queen Audovere was her first obstacle and her first victim; and on the pretext of a spiritual relationship which rendered her marriage with Chilperic illegal, was repudiated and banished to a convent. But Fredegonde’s hour had not yet come; for Chilperic espoused Galsuinthe, daughter of the Visigothic king, Athanagild, whose youngest daughter, Brunehaut, had just married Chilperic’s brother, Sigebert, king of Austrasia. It has already been said that before long Galsuinthe was found strangled in her bed, and that Chilperic espoused Fredegonde. An undying hatred from that time arose between her and Brunehaut, who had to avenge her sister. A war, incessantly renewed, between the kings of Austrasia and Neustria followed. Sigebert succeeded in beating Chilperic, but, in 575, in the midst of his victory, he was suddenly assassinated in his tent by two emissaries of Fredegonde. His army disbanded; and his widow, Brunehaut, fell into the hands of Chilperic. The right of asylum belonging to the cathedral of Paris saved her life, but she was sent away to Rouen. There, at this very time, on a mission from his father, happened to be Merovee, son of Chilperic, and the repudiated Queen Audovere; he saw Brunehaut in her beauty, her attractiveness and her trouble; he was smitten with her and married her privately, and Praetextatus, bishop of Rouen, had the imprudent courage to seal their union. Fredegonde seized with avidity upon this occasion for persecuting her rival and destroying her step-son, heir to the throne of Chilperic. The Austrasians, who had preserved the child Childebert, son of their murdered king, demanded back with threats their queen Brunehaut. She was surrendered to them; but Fredegonde did not let go her other prey, Merovice. First imprisoned, then shorn and shut up in a monastery, afterwards a fugitive and secretly urged on to attempt a rising against his father, he was so affrightened at his perils, that he got a faithful servant to strike him dead, that he might not fall into the hands of his hostile step-mother. Chilperic had remaining another son, Clovis, issue, as Merovee was, of Queen Audovere. He was accused of having caused by his sorceries the death of the three children lost about this time by Fredegonde; and was, in his turn, imprisoned and before long poniarded. His mother Audovere was strangled in her convent. Fredegonde sought in these deaths, advantageous for her own children, some sort of horrible consolation for her sorrows as a mother. But the sum of crimes was not yet complete. In 584 King Chilperic, on returning from the chase and in the act of dismounting, was struck two mortal blows by a man who took to rapid flight, and a cry was raised all around of “Treason! ‘tis the hand of the Austrasian Childebert against our lord the king!” The care taken to have the cry raised was proof of its falsity; it was the hand of Fredegonde herself, anxious lest Chilperic should discover the guilty connection existing between her and an officer of her household, Landry, who became subsequently mayor of the palace of Neustria. Chilperic left a son, a few months old, named. Clotaire, of whom his mother Fredegonde became the sovereign guardian. She employed, at one time in defending him against his enemies, at another in endangering him by her plots, her hatreds and her assaults, the last thirteen years of her life. She was a true type of the strong-willed, artful, and perverse woman in barbarous times; she started low down in the scale and rose very high without a corresponding elevation of soul; she was audacious and perfidious, as perfect in deception as in effrontery, proceeding to atrocities either from cool calculation or a spirit of revenge, abandoned to all kinds of passion, and, for gratification of them, shrinking from no sort of crime. However, she died quietly at Paris, in 597 or 598, powerful and dreaded, and leaving on the throne of Neustria her son Clotaire II., who, fifteen years later, was to become sole king of all the Frankish dominions.

Brunehaut had no occasion for crimes to become a queen, and, in spite of those she committed, and in spite of her out-bursts and the moral irregularities of her long life, she bore, amidst her passion and her power, a stamp of courageous frankness and intellectual greatness which places her far above the savage who was her rival. Fredegonde was an upstart, of barbaric race and habits, a stranger to every idea and every design not connected with her own personal interest and successes; and she was as brutally selfish in the case of her natural passions as in the exercise of a power acquired and maintained by a mixture of artifice and violence. Brunehaut was a princess of that race of Gothic kings who, in Southern Gaul and in Spain, had understood and admired the Roman civilization, and had striven to transfer the remains of it to the newly-formed fabric of their own dominions. She, transplanted to a home amongst the Franks of Austrasia, the least Roman of all the barbarians, preserved there the ideas and tastes of the Visigoths of Spain, who had become almost Gallo-Romans; she clung stoutly to the efficacious exercise of the royal authority; she took a practical interest in the public works, highways, bridges, monuments, and the progress of material civilization; the Roman roads in a short time received and for a long while kept in Anstrasia the name of Brunehaut’s causeways; there used to he shown, in a forest near Bourges, Brunehaut’s castle, Brunehaut’s tower at Etampes, Brunehaut’s stone near Tournay, and Brunehaut’s fort near Cahors. In the royal domains and wheresoever she went she showed abundant charity to the poor, and many ages after her death the people of those districts still spoke of Brunehaut’s alms. She liked and protected men of letters, rare and mediocre indeed at that time, but the only beings, such as they were, with a notion of seeking and giving any kind of intellectual enjoyment; and they in turn took pleasure in celebrating her name and her deserts. The most renowned of all during that age, Fortunatus, bishop of Poitiers, dedicated nearly all his little poems to two queens; one, Brunehaut, plunging amidst all the struggles and pleasures of the world, the other St. Radegonde, sometime wife of Clotaire I., who had fled in all haste from a throne, to bury herself at Poitiers, in the convent she had founded there. To compensate, Brunehaut was detested by the majority of the Austrasian chiefs, those Leudes, landowners and warriors, whose sturdy and turbulent independence she was continually fighting against. She supported against them, with indomitable courage, the royal officers, the servants of the palace, her agents, and frequently her favorites. One of these, Lupus, a Roman by origin, and Duke of Champagne, “was being constantly insulted and plundered by his enemies, especially by Ursion Bertfried. At last, they, having agreed to slay him, marched against him with an army. At the sight, Brunehaut, compassionating the evil case of one of her lieges unjustly persecuted, assumed quite a manly courage, and threw herself amongst the hostile battalions, crying, “‘Stay, warriors; refrain from this wicked deed; persecute not the innocent; engage not, for a single man’s sake, in a battle which will desolate the country!’ ‘Back, woman,’ said Ursion to her; ‘let it suffice thee to have ruled under thy husband’s sway; now ‘tis thy son who reigns, and his kingdom is under our protection, not thine. Back! if thou wouldest not that the hoofs of our horses trample thee under as the dust of the ground!’ After the dispute had lasted some time in this strain, the queen, by her address, at last prevented the battle from taking place.” (Gregory of Tours, VI. iv.) It was but a momentary success for Brunehaut; and the last words of Ursion contained a sad presage of the death awaiting her. Intoxicated with power, pride, hate, and revenge, she entered more violently every day into strife not only with the Austrasian laic chieftains, but with some of the principal bishops of Austrasia and Burgundy, among the rest with St. Didier, bishop of Vienne, who, at her instigation, was brutally murdered, and with the great Irish missionary St. Columba, who would not sanction by his blessing the fruits of the royal irregularities. In 614, after thirty-nine years of wars, plots, murders, and political and personal vicissitudes, from the death of her husband Sigebert I., and under the reigns of her son Theodebert, and her grandsons Theodebert II. and Thierry II., Queen Brunehaut, at the age of eighty years, fell into the hands of her mortal enemy, Clotaire II., son of Fredegonde, now sole king of the Franks. After having grossly insulted her, he had her paraded, seated on a camel, in front of his whole army, and then ordered her to be tied by the hair, one foot, and one arm to the tail of an unbroken horse, that carried her away, and dashed her in pieces as he galloped and kicked, beneath the eyes of the ferocious spectators.

The Execution of Brunehaut——175

After the execution of Brunehaut and the death of Clotaire II., the history of the Franks becomes a little less dark and less bloody. Not that murders and great irregularities, in the court and amongst the people, disappear altogether. Dagobert I., for instance, the successor of Clotaire II., and grandson of Chilperic and Fredegonde, had no scruple, under the pressure of self-interest, in committing an iniquitous and barbarous act. After having consented to leave to his younger brother Charibert the kingdom of Aquitania, he retook it by force in 631, at the death of Charibert, seizing at the same time his treasures, and causing or permitting to be murdered his young nephew Chilperic, rightful heir of his father. About the same time Dagobert had assigned amongst the Bavarians, subjects of his beyond the Rhine, an asylum to nine thousand Bulgarians, who had been driven with their wives and children from Pannonia. Not knowing, afterwards, where to put or how to feed these refugees, he ordered them all to be massacred in one night; and scarcely seven hundred of them succeeded in escaping by flight. The private morals of Dagobert were not more scrupulous than his public acts. “A slave to incontinence as King Solomon was,” says his biographer Fredegaire, “he had three queens and a host of concubines.” Given up to extravagance and pomp, it pleased him to imitate the magnificence of the imperial court at Constantinople, and at one time he laid hands for that purpose, upon the possessions of certain of his “leudes” or of certain churches; at another he gave to his favorite church, the Abbey of St. Denis, “so many precious stones, articles of value, and domains in various places, that all the world,” says Fredegaire, “was stricken with admiration.” But, despite of these excesses and scandals, Dagobert was the most wisely energetic, the least cruel in feeling, the most prudent in enterprise, and the most capable of governing with some little regularity and effectiveness, of all the kings furnished, since Clovis, by the Merovingian race. He had, on ascending the throne, this immense advantage, that the three Frankish dominions, Austrasia, Neustria, and Burgundy were re-united under his sway; and at the death of his brother Charibert, he added thereto Aquitania. The unity of the vast Frankish monarchy was thus re-established, and Dagobert retained it by his moderation at home and abroad. He was brave, and he made war on occasion; but, he did not permit himself to be dragged into it either by his own passions or by the unlimited taste of his lieges for adventure and plunder. He found, on this point, salutary warnings in the history of his predecessors. It was very often the Franks themselves, the royal “leudes,” who plunged their kings into civil or foreign wars. In 530, two sons of Clovis, Childebert and Clotaire, arranged to attack Burgundy and its king Godomar. They asked aid of their brother Theodoric, who refused to join them. However, the Franks who formed his party said, “If thou refuse to march into Burgundy with thy brethren, we give thee up, and prefer to follow them.” But Theodoric, considering that the Arvernians had been faithless to him, said to the Franks, “Follow me, and I will lead you into a country where ye shall seize of gold and silver as much as ye can desire, and whence ye shall take away flocks and slaves and vestments in abundance!” The Franks, overcome by these words, promised to do whatsoever he should desire. So Theodoric entered Auvergne with his army, and wrought devastation and ruin in the province.

“In 555, Clotaire I. had made an expedition against the Saxons, who demanded peace; but the Frankish warriors would not hear of it. ‘Cease, I pray you,’ said Clotaire to them, ‘to be evil-minded against these men; they speak us fair; let us not go and attack them, for fear we bring down upon us the anger of God.’ But the Franks would not listen to him. The Saxons again came with offerings of vestments, flocks, even all their possessions, saying, ‘Take all this, together with half our country; leave us but our wives and little children; only let there be no war between us.’ But the Franks again refused all terms. ‘Hold, I adjure you,’ said Clotaire again to them; ‘we have not right on our side; if ye be thoroughly minded to enter upon a war in which ye may find your loss, as for me, I will not follow ye.’ Then the Franks, enraged against Clotaire, threw themselves upon him, tore his tent to pieces as they heaped reproaches upon him, and bore him away by force, determined to kill him if he hesitated to march with them. So Clotaire, in spite of himself, departed with them. But when they joined battle they were cut to pieces by their adversaries, and on both sides so many fell that it was impossible to estimate or count the number of the dead. Then Clotaire with shame demanded peace of the Saxons, saying that it was not of his own will that he had attacked them; and, having obtained it, returned to his own dominions.” (Gregory of Tours, III. xi., xii.; IV. xiv.)

King Dagobert was not thus under the yoke of his “leudes.” Either by his own energy, or by surrounding himself with wise and influential counsellors, such as Pepin of Landen, mayor of the palace of Austrasia, St. Arnoul, bishop of Metz, St. Eligius, bishop of Noyon, and St. Andoenus, bishop of Rouen, he applied himself to and succeeded in assuring to himself, in the exercise of his power, a pretty large measure of independence and popularity. At the beginning of his reign he held, in Austrasia and Burgundy, a sort of administrative and judicial inspection, halting at the principal towns, listening to complaints, and checking, sometimes with a rigor arbitrary indeed, but approved of by the people, the violence and irregularities of the grandees. At Langres, Dijon, St. Jean-de, Losne, Chalons-sur-Saline, Auxerre, Autun, and Sens, “he rendered justice,” says Fredegaire, “to rich and poor alike, without any charges, and without any respect of persons, taking little sleep and little food, caring only so to act that all should withdraw from his presence full of joy and admiration.” Nor did he confine himself to this unceremonious exercise of the royal authority. Some of his predecessors, and amongst them Childebert I., Clotaire I., and Clotaire II., had caused to be drawn up, in Latin and by scholars, digests more or less complete of the laws and customs handed down by tradition, amongst certain of the Germanic peoples established on Roman soil, notably the laws of the Salian Franks and Ripuarian Franks; and Dagobert ordered a continuation of these first legislative labors amongst the newborn nations. It was, apparently, in his reign that a digest was made of the laws of the Allemannians and Bavarians. He had also some taste for the arts, and the pious talents displayed by Saints Eloi and Ouen in goldsmith’s-work and sculpture, applied to the service of religion or the decoration of churches, received from him the support of the royal favor and munificence. Dagobert was neither a great warrior nor a great legislator, and there is nothing to make him recognized as a great mind or a great character. His private life, too, was scandalous; and extortions were a sad feature of its close. Nevertheless his authority was maintained in his dominions, his reputation spread far and wide, and the name of great King Dagobert was his abiding title in the memory of the people. Taken all in all, he was, next to Clovis, the most distinguished of Frankish kings, and the last really king in the line of the Merovingians. After him, from 638 to 732, twelve princes of this line, one named Sigebert, two Clovis, two Childeric, one Clotaire, two Dagobert, one Childebert, one Chilperic, and two Throdoric or Thierry, bore, in Neustria, Austrasia, and Burgundy, or in the three kingdoms united, the title of king, without deserving in history more than room for their names. There was already heard the rumbling of great events to come around the Frankish dominion; and in the very womb of this dominion was being formed a new race of kings more able to bear, in accordance with the spirit and wants of their times, the burden of power.








There is a certain amount of sound sense, of intelligent activity and practical efficiency, which even the least civilized and least exacting communities absolutely must look for in their governing body. When this necessary share of ability and influence of a political kind are decidedly wanting in the men who have the titles and the official posts of power, communities seek elsewhere the qualities (and their consequences) which they cannot do without. The sluggard Merovingians drove the Franks, Neustrians, and Austrasians to this imperative necessity. The last of the kings sprung from Clovis acquitted themselves too ill or not at all of their task; and the mayors of the palace were naturally summoned to supply their deficiencies, and to give the populations assurance of more intelligence and energy in the exercise of power. The origin and primitive character of these supplements of royalty were different according to circumstances; at one time, conformably with their title, the mayors of the palace really came into existence in the palace of the Frankish kings, amongst the “leudes,” charged, under the style of antrustions (lieges in the confidence of the king: in truste regia), with the internal management of the royal affairs and household, or amongst the superior chiefs of the army; at another, on the contrary, it was to resist the violence and usurpation of the kings that the “leudes,” landholders or warriors, themselves chose a chief able to defend their interests and their rights against the royal tyranny or incapacity. Thus we meet, at this time, with mayors of the palace of very different political origin and intention, some appointed by the kings to support royalty against the “leudes,” others chosen by the “leudes” against the kings. It was especially between the Neustrian and Austrasian mayors of the palace that this difference became striking. Gallo-Roman feeling was more prevalent in Neustria, Germanic in Austrasia. The majority of the Neustrian mayors supported the interests of royalty, the Austrasian those of the aristocracy of landholders and warriors. The last years of the Merovingian line were full of their struggles; but a cause far more general and more powerful than these differences and conflicts in the very heart of the Frankish dominions determined the definitive fall of that line and the accession of another dynasty. When in 687 the battle fought at Testry, on the banks of the Somme, left Pepin of Heristal, duke and mayor of the palace of Austrasia, victorious over Bertaire, mayor of the palace of Neustria, it was a question of something very different from mere rivalry between the two Frankish dominions and their chiefs.

At their entrance and settlement upon the left bank of the Rhine and in Gaul, the Franks had not abandoned the right bank and Germany; there also they remained settled and incessantly at strife with their neighbors of Germanic race, Thuringians, Bavarians, the confederation of Allemannians, Frisons, and Saxons, people frequently vanquished and subdued to all appearance, but always ready to rise either for the recovery of their independence, or, again, under the pressure of that grand movement which, in the third century, had determined the general invasion by the barbarians of the Roman empire. After the defeat of the Huns at Chalons, and the founding of the Visigothic, Burgundian, and Frankish kingdoms in Gaul, that movement had been, if not arrested, at any rate modified, and for the moment suspended. In the sixth century it received a fresh impulse; new nations, Avars, Tartars, Bulgarians, Slavons, and Lombards thrust one another with mutual pressure from Asia into Europe, from Eastern Europe into Western; from the North to the South, into Italy and into Gaul. Driven by the Ouigour Tartars from Pannonia and Noricum (nowadays Austria), the Lombards threw themselves first upon Italy, crossed before long the Alps, and penetrated into Burgundy and Provence, to the very gates of Avignon. On the Rhine and along the Jura the Franks had to struggle on their own account against the new comers; and they were, further, summoned into Italy by the Emperors of the East, who wanted their aid against the Lombards. Everywhere resistance to the invasion of barbarians became the national attitude of the Franks, and they proudly proclaimed themselves the defenders of that West of which they had but lately been the conquerors.

When the Merovingians were indisputably nothing but sluggard kings, and when Ebroin, the last great mayor of the palace of Neustria, had been assassinated (in 681), and the army of the Neustrians destroyed at the battle of Testry (in 687), the ascendency in the heart of the whole of Frankish Gaul passed to the Franks of Austrasia, already bound by their geographical position to the defence of their nation in its new settlement. There had risen up among them a family, powerful from its vast domains, from its military and political services, and already also from the prestige belonging to the hereditary transmission of name and power. Its first chief known in history had been Pepin of Landen, called The Ancient, one of the foes of Queen Brunehaut, who was so hateful to the Austrasians, and afterwards one of the privy councillors and mayor of the palace of Austrasia, under Dagobert I. and his son Sigebert II. He died in 639, leaving to his family an influence already extensive. His son Grimoald succeeded him as mayor of the palace, ingloriously; but his grandson, by his daughter Bega, Pepin of Heristal, was for twenty-seven years not only virtually, as mayor of the palace, but ostensibly and with the title of duke, the real sovereign of Austrasia and all the Frankish dominion. He did not, however, take the name of king; and four descendants of Clovis, Thierry III., Clovis III., Childebert III., and Dagobert III. continued to bear that title in Neustria and Burgundy, under the preponderating influence of Pepin of Heristal. He did, during his long sway, three things of importance. He struggled without cessation to keep or bring back under the rule of the Franks the Germanic nations on the right bank of the Rhine,—Frisons, Saxons, Thuringians, Bavarians, and Allemannians; and thus to make the Frankish dominion a bulwark against the new flood of barbarians who were pressing one another westwards.

He rekindled in Austrasia the national spirit and some political life by beginning again the old March parades of the Franks, which had fallen into desuetude under the last Merovingians. Lastly, and this was, perhaps, his most original merit, he understood of what importance, for the Frankish kingdom, was the conversion to Christianity of the Germanic peoples over the Rhine, and he abetted with all his might the zeal of the popes and missionaries, Irish, Anglo-Saxon, and Gallo-Roman, devoted to this great work. The two apostles of Friesland, St. Willfried and St. Willibrod, especially the latter, had intimate relations with Pepin of Heristal, and received from him effectual support. More than twenty bishoprics, amongst others those of Utrecht, Mayence, Ratisbonne, Worms, and Spire, were founded at this epoch; and one of those ardent pioneers of Christian civilization, the Irish bishop, St. Lievin, martyred in 656 near Ghent, of which he has remained the patron saint, wrote in verse to his friend Herbert, a little before his martyrdom, “I have seen a sun without rays, days without light, and nights without repose. Around me rageth a people impious and clamorous for my blood. O people, what harm have I done thee? ‘Tis peace that I bring thee; wherefore declare war against me? But thy barbarism will bring my triumph and give me the palm of martyrdom. I know in whom I trust, and my hope shall not be confounded. Whilst I am pouring forth these verses, there cometh unto me the tired driver of the ass that beareth me the usual provisions: he bringeth that which maketh the delights of the country, even milk and butter and eggs; the cheeses stretch the wicker-work of the far too narrow panniers. Why tarriest thou, good carrier? Quicken thy step; collect thy riches, thou that this morning art so poor. As for me I am no longer what I was, and have lost the gift of joyous verse. How could it be other-wise when I am witness of such cruelties?”

It were difficult to describe with more pious, graceful, and melancholy feeling a holier and a simpler life.

After so many firm and glorious acts of authority abroad, Pepin of Heristal at his death, December 16, 714, did a deed of weakness at home. He had two wives, Plectrude and Alpaide; he had repudiated the former to espouse the latter, and the church, considering the second marriage unlawful, had constantly urged him to take back Plectrude. He had by her a son, Grimoald, who was assassinated on his way to join his father lying ill near Liege. This son left a child, Theodoald, only six years old. This child it was whom Pepin, either from a grandfather’s blind fondness, or through the influence of his wife Plectrude, appointed to succeed him, to the detriment of his two sons by Alpaide, Charles and Childebrand. Charles, at that time twenty-five years of age, had already a name for capacity and valor. On the death of Pepin, his widow Plectrude lost no time in arresting and imprisoning at Cologne this son of her rival Alpaide; but, some months afterwards, in 715, the Austrasians, having risen against Plectrude, took Charles out of prison and set him at their head, proclaiming him Duke of Austrasia. He was destined to become Charles Martel.

He first of all took care to extend and secure his own authority over all the Franks. At the death of Pepin of Heristal, the Neustrians, vexed at the long domination of the Austrasians, had taken one of themselves, Ragenfried, as mayor of the palace, and had placed at his side a Merovingian sluggard king, Chilperic II., whom they had dragged from a monastery. Charles, at the head of the Austrasians, twice succeeded in beating, first near Cambrai and then near Soissons, the Neustrian king and mayor of the palace, pursued them to Paris, returned to Cologne, got himself accepted by his old enemy Queen Plectrude, and remaining temperate amidst the triumph of his ambition, he, too, took from amongst the surviving Merovingians a sluggard king, whom he installed under the name of Clotaire IV., himself becoming, with the simple title of Duke of Austrasia, master of the Frankish dominion.

Being in tranquillity on the left bank of the Rhine, Charles directed towards the right bank—towards the Frisons and the Saxons—his attention and his efforts. After having experienced, in a first encounter, a somewhat severe check, he took, from 715 to 718, ample revenge upon them, repressed their attempts at invasion of Frankish territory, and pursued them on their own, imposed tribute upon them, and commenced with vigor, against the Saxons in particular, that struggle, at first defensive and afterwards aggressive, which was to hold so prominent a place in the life and glorious but blood-stained annals of his grandson Charlemagne.

In the war against the Neustrians, at the battle of Soissons in 719, Charles had encountered in their ranks Eudes or Eudon, Duke of Aquitania and Vasconia, that beautiful portion of Southern Gaul situated between the Pyrenees, the Ocean, the Garonne, and the Rhone, who had been for a long time trying to shake off the dominion of the barbarians, Visigoths or Franks. At the death of Pepin of Heristal, the Neustrians had drawn into alliance with them, for their war against the Austrasians, this Duke Elides, to whom they gave, as it appears, the title of king. After their common defeat at Soissons, the Aquitanian prince withdrew precipitately into his own country, taking with him the sluggard king of the Neustrians, Chilperic II. Charles pursued him to the Loire, and sent word to him, a few months afterwards, that he would enter into friendship with him if he would deliver up Chilperic and his treasures; otherwise he would invade and ravage Aquitania. Eudes delivered up Chilperic and his treasures; and Charles, satisfied with having in his power this Merovingian phantom, treated him generously, kept up his royal rank, and at his death, which happened soon afterwards, replaced him by another phantom of the same line, Theodoric or Thierry IV.; whom he dragged from the abbey of Chelles, founded by Queen St. Bathilde, wife of Clovis II., and who for seventeen years bore the title of king, whilst Charles Martel was ruling gloriously, and was, perhaps, the savior of the Frankish dominions. When he contracted his alliance with the Duke of Aquitania, Charles Martel did not know against what enemies and perils he would soon have to struggle.

In the earlier years of the eighth century, less than a hundred years from the death of Mahomet, the Mussulman Arabs, after having conquered Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Northern Africa, had passed into Europe, invaded Spain, overthrown the kingdom of the Visigoths, driven back the remnants of the nation and their chief, Pelagius, to the north of the Peninsula, into the Asturias and Galicia, and pushed even beyond the Pyrenees, into old Narbonness, then called Septimania, their limitless incursions. These fiery conquerors did not amount at that time, according to the most probable estimates, to more than fifty thousand; but they were under the influence of religious and warlike enthusiasm at one and the same time; they were fanatics in the cause of Deism and of glory. “The Arab warrior during campaigns was not excused from any one of the essential duties of Islamism; he was bound to pray at least once a day, on rising in the morning, at the blush of dawn. The general of the army was its priest; he it was who, at the head of the ranks, gave the signal for prayer, uttered the words, reminded the troops of the precepts of the Koran, and enjoined upon them forgetfulness of personal quarrels.” One day, on the point of engaging in a decisive battle, Moussaben- Nossair, first governor of Mussulman Africa, was praying, according to usage, at the head of the troops; and he omitted the invocation of the name of the Khalif, a respectful formality indispensable on the occasion. One of his officers, persuaded that it was a mere slip on Moussa’s part, made a point of admonishing him. “Know thou,” said Moussa, “that we are in such a position and at such an hour that no other name must be invoked save that of the most high God.” Moussa was, apparently, the first Arab chief to cross the Pyrenees and march, plundering as he went, into Narbonness. The Arabs had but very confused ideas of Gaul; they called it Frandjas, and gave to all its inhabitants, without distinction, the name of Frandj. The Khalif Abdelmelek, having recalled Moussa, questioned him about the different peoples with which he had been concerned. “And of these Frandj,” said he, “what hast thou to tell me?” “They are a people,” answered Moussa, “very many in number and abundantly provided with everything, brave and impetuous in attack, but spiritless and timid under reverses.” “And how went the war betwixt them and thee?” added Abdelmelek: “was it favorable to thee or the contrary?” “The contrary! Nay, by Allah and the Prophet; never was my army vanquished; never was a battalion beaten; and never did the Mussulmans hesitate to follow me when I led them forty against fourscore.” (Fauriel, Histoire de la Gaule, &c., t. III., pp. 48, 67.)

In 719, under El-Idaur-ben-Abdel-Rhaman, a valiant and able leader, say the Arab writers, but greedy, harsh, and cruel, the Arabs pursued their incursions into Southern Gaul, took Narbonne, dispersed the inhabitants, spread themselves abroad in search of plunder as far as the borders of the Garonne, and went and laid siege to Toulouse. Eudes, Duke of Aquitania, happened to be at Bordeaux, and he hastily summoned all the forces of his towns and all the populations from the Pyrenees to the Loire, and hurried to the relief of his capital. The Arabs, commanded by a new chieftain, El-Samah, more popular amongst them than El-Haur, awaited him beneath the walls of the city determined to give him battle. “Have ye no fear of this multitude,” said El-Samah to his warriors; “if God be with us, who shall be against us? “Elides had taken equally great pains to kindle the pious courage of the Aquitanians; he spread amongst his troops a rumor that he had but lately received as a present from Pope Gregory II. three sponges that had served to wipe down the table at which the sovereign pontiffs were accustomed to celebrate the communion; he had them cut into little strips which he had distributed to all those of the combatants who wished for them, and thereupon gave the sword to sound the charge. The victory of the Aquitanians was complete; the Arab army was cut in pieces; El-Samah was slain, and with him, according to the victors’ accounts, full three hundred and seventy-five thousand of his troops. The most truth-like testimonies and calculations do not put down at more than from fifty to seventy thousand men, in fighting trim, the number of Arabs that entered Spain eight or ten years previously, even with the additions it must have received by means of the emigrations from Africa; and undoubtedly El-Samah could not have led into Aquitania more than from forty to forty-five thousand. However that may be, the defeat of the Arabs before Toulouse was so serious that, four or five centuries afterwards, Ibn-Hayan, the best of their historians, still spoke of it as the object of solemn commemoration, and affirmed that the Arab army had entirely perished there, without the escape of a single man. The spot in the Roman road, between Carcassonne and Toulouse, where the battle was fought, was one heap of dead bodies, and continued to be mentioned in the Arab chronicles under the name of Martyrs’ Causeway. But the Arabs of Spain were then in that unstable social condition and in that heyday of impulsive youthfulness as a people, when men are more apt to be excited and attracted by the prospect of bold adventures than discouraged by reverses. El-Samah, on crossing the Pyrenees to go plundering and conquering in the country of the Frandj, had left as his lieutenant in the Iberian peninsula Anbessa-ben-Sohim, one of the most able, most pious, most just, and most humane chieftains, say the Arab chronicles, that Islamism ever produced in Europe. He, being informed of El-Samah’s death before Toulouse, resolved to resume his enterprise and avenge his defeat. In 725, he entered Gaul with a strong army; took Carcassonne; reduced, either by force or by treaty, the principal towns of Septimania to submission; and even carried the Arab arms, for the first time, beyond the Rhone into Provence. At the news of this fresh invasion Duke Eudes hurried from Aquitania, collecting on his march the forces of the country, and, after having waited some time for a favorable opportunity, gave the Arabs battle in Provence. It was indecisive at first, but ultimately won by the Christians without other result than the retreat of Anbessa, mortally wounded, upon the right bank of the Rhone, where he died without having been able himself to recross the Pyrenees, but leaving the Arabs masters of Septimania, where they established themselves in force, taking Narbonne for capital and a starting-point for their future enterprises.

The struggle had now begun in earnest, from the Rhone to the Garonne and the Ocean, between the Christians of Southern Gaul and the Mussulmans of Spain. Duke Eudes saw with profound anxiety his enemies settled in Septimania, and ever on the point of invading and devastating Aquitania. He had been informed that the Khalif Hashem had just appointed to the governor-generalship of Spain Abdel-Rhaman (the Abderame of the Christian chronicles), regarded as the most valiant of the Spanish Arabs, and that this chieftain was making great preparations for resuming their course of invasion. Another peril at the same time pressed heavily on Duke Eudes: his northern neighbor, Charles, sovereign duke of the Franks, the conqueror, beyond the Rhine, of the Frisons and Saxons, was directing glances full of regret towards those beautiful countries of Southern Gaul, which in former days Clovis had won from the Visigoths, and which had been separated, little by little, from the Frankish empire. Either justly or by way of ruse Charles accused Duke Eudes of not faithfully observing the treaty of peace they had concluded in 720; and on this pretext he crossed the Loire, and twice in the same year, 731, carried fear and rapine into the possession of the Duke of Aquitania on the left bank of that river. Eudes went, not unsuccessfully, to the rescue of his domains; but he was soon recalled to the Pyrenees by the news he received of the movements of Abdel-Rhaman and by the hope he had conceived of finding, in Spain itself and under the sway of the Arabs, an ally against their invasion of his dominions. The military command of the Spanish frontier of the Pyrenees and of the Mussulman forces there encamped had been intrusted to Othman-ben-Abi-Nessa, a chieftain of renown, but no Arab, either in origin or at heart, although a Mussulman. He belonged to the race of Berbers, whom the Romans called Moors, a people of the north-west of Africa, conquered and subjugated by the Arabs, but impatient under the yoke. The greater part of Abi- Nessa’s troops were likewise Berbers and devoted to their chiefs. Abi- Nessa, ambitious and audacious, conceived the project of seizing the government of the Peninsula, or at the least of making himself independent master of the districts he governed; and he entered into negotiations with the Duke of Aquitania to secure his support. In spite of religious differences their interests were too similar not to make an understanding easy; and the secret alliance was soon concluded and confirmed by a precious pledge. Duke Eudes had a daughter of rare beauty, named Lampagie, and he gave her in marriage to Abi-Nessa, who, say the chronicles, became desperately enamoured of her.

But whilst Eudes, trusting to this alliance, was putting himself in motion towards the Loire to protect his possessions against a fresh attack from the Duke of the Franks, the governor-general of Spain, Abdel- Rhaman, informed of Abi-Nessa’s plot, was arriving with large forces at the foot of the Pyrenees, to stamp out the rebellion. Its repression was easy. “At the approach of Abdel-Rhaman,” say the chroniclers, “Abi-Nessa hastened to shut himself up in Livia [the ancient capital of Cerdagne, on the ruins of which Puycerda was built], flattering himself that he could sustain a siege and there await succor from his father-in-law, Eudes; but the advance-guard of Abdel-Rhaman followed him so closely and with such ardor that it left him no leisure to make the least preparation for defence. Abi-Nessa, had scarcely time to fly from the town and gain the neighboring mountains with a few servants and his well-beloved Lampagie. Already he had penetrated into an out-of-the-way and lonely pass, where it seemed to him he ran no more risk of being discovered. He halted, therefore, to rest himself and quench the thirst which was tormenting his lovely companion and himself, beside a waterfall which gushed from a mass of lofty rocks upon a piece of fresh, green turf. They were surrendering themselves to the delightful feeling of being saved, when, all at once, they hear a loud sound of steps and voices; they listen; they glance in the direction of the sound, and perceive a detachment of armed men, one of those that were out in search of them. The servants take to flight; but Lampagie, too weary, cannot follow them, nor can Abi-Nessa abandon Lampagie. In the twinkling of an eye they are surrounded by foes. The chronicler Isidore of Bdja says that Abi-Nessa, in order not to fall alive into their hands, flung himself from top to bottom of the rocks; and an Arab historian relates that he took sword in hand, and fell pierced with twenty lance-thrusts whilst fighting in defence of her he loved. They cut off his head, which was forthwith carried to Abdel- Rhaman, to whom they led away prisoner the hapless daughter of Eudes. She was so lovely in the eyes of Abdel-Rhaman, that he thought it his duty to send her to Damascus, to the commander of the faithful, esteeming no other mortal worthy of her.” (Fauriel, Historie de la Gaulle, &c., t. III., p. 115.)

Abdel-Rhaman, at ease touching the interior of Spain, reassembled the forces he had prepared for his expedition, marched towards the Pyrenees by Pampeluna, crossed the summit become so famous under the name of Port de Roncevaux, and debouched by a single defile and in a single column, say the chroniclers, upon Gallic Vasconia, greater in extent than French Biscay now is. M. Fauriel, after scrupulous examination, according to his custom, estimates the army of Abdel-Rhaman, whether Mussulman adventurers flocking from all parts, or Arabs of Spain, at from sixty-five to seventy thousand fighting men. Duke Eudes made a gallant effort to stop his march and hurl him back towards the mountains; but exhausted, even by certain small successes, and always forced to retire, fight after fight, up to the approaches to Bordeaux, he crossed the Garonne, and halted on the right bank of the river, to cover the city. Abdel-Rhaman who had followed him closely, forced the passage of the river, and a battle was fought, in which the Aquitanians were defeated with immense loss. “God alone,” says Isidore of Beja, “knows the number of those who fell.” The battle gained, Abdel-Rhaman took Bordeaux by assault and delivered it over to his army. The plunder, to believe the historians of the conquerors, surpassed all that had been preconceived of the wealth of the vanquished: “The most insignificant soldier,” say they, “had for his share plenty of topazes, jacinths, and emeralds, to say nothing of gold, a somewhat vulgar article under the circumstances.” What appears certain is that, at their departure from Bordeaux, the Arabs were so laden with booty that their march became less rapid and unimpeded than before.

In the face of this disaster, the Franks and their duke were evidently the only support to which Eudes could have recourse; and he repaired in all haste to Charles and invoked his aid against the common enemy, who, after having crushed the Aquitanians, would soon attack the Franks, and subject them in turn to ravages and outrages. Charles did not require solicitation. He took an oath of the Duke of Aquitania to acknowledge his sovereignty and thenceforth remain faithful to him; and then, summoning all his warriors, Franks, Burgundians, Gallo-Romans, and Germans from beyond the Rhine, he set himself in motion towards the Loire. It was time. The Arabs had spread over the whole country between the Garonne and the Loire; they had even crossed the latter river and penetrated into Burgundy as far as Autun and Sens, ravaging the country, the towns, and the monasteries, and massacring or dispersing the populations. Abdel-Rhaman had heard tell of the city of Tours and its rich abbey, the treasures whereof, it was said, surpassed those of any other city and any other abbey in Gaul. Burning to possess it, he recalled towards this point his scattered forces. On arriving at Poitiers he found the gates closed and the inhabitants resolved to defend themselves; and, after a fruitless attempt at assault, he continued his march towards Tours. He was already beneath the walls of the place when he learned that the Franks were rapidly advancing in vast numbers. He fell back towards Poitiers, collecting the troops that were returning to him from all quarters, embarrassed with the immense booty they were dragging in their wake. He had for a moment, say the historians, an idea of ordering his soldiers to leave or burn their booty, to keep nothing but their arms, and think of nothing but battle: however, he did nothing of the kind, and, to await the Franks, he fixed his camp between the Vienne and the Clain, near Poitiers, not far from the spot where, two hundred and twenty-five years before, Clovis had beaten the Visigoths; or, according to others, nearer Tours, at Mire, in a plain still called the Landes de Charlemagne.

The Battle of Tours——193

The Franks arrived. It was in the month of September or October, 732: and the two armies passed a week face to face, at one time remaining in their camps, at another deploying without attacking. It is quite certain that neither Franks nor Arabs, neither Charles nor Abdel-Rhaman themselves, took any such account, as we do in our day, of the importance of the struggle in which they were on the point of engaging; it was a struggle between East and West, South and North, Asia and Europe, the Gospel and the Koran; and we now say, on a general consideration of events, peoples, and ages, that the civilization of the world depended upon it. The generations that are passing upon earth see not so far, nor from such a height, the chances and consequences of their acts; the Franks and Arabs, leaders and followers, did not regard themselves, now nearly twelve centuries ago, as called upon to decide, near Poitiers, such future question; but vaguely, instinctively they felt the grandeur of the part they were playing, and they mutually scanned one another with that grave curiosity which precedes a formidable encounter between valiant warriors. At length, at the breaking of the seventh or eighth day, Abdel-Rhaman, at the head of his cavalry, ordered a general attack; and the Franks received it with serried ranks, astounding their enemies by their tall stature, stout armor, and their stern immobility. “They stood there,” says Isidore of Beja, “like solid walls or icebergs.” During the fight, a body of Franks penetrated into the enemy’s camp, either for pillage or to take the Arabs in the rear. The horsemen of Abdel-Rhaman at once left the general attack, and turned back to defend their camp or the booty deposited there. Disorder set in amongst them, and, before long, throughout their whole army; and the battle became a confused melley, wherein the lofty stature and stout armor of the Franks had the advantage. A great number of Arabs and Abdel-Rhaman himself were slain. At the approach of night both armies retired to their camps. The next day, at dawn, the Franks moved out of theirs, to renew the engagement. In front of them was no stir, no noise, no Arabs out of their tents and reassembling in their ranks. Some Franks were sent to reconnoitre, entered the enemy’s camp, and penetrated into their tents; but they were deserted. “The Arabs had decamped silently in the night, leaving the bulk of their booty, and by this precipitate retreat acknowledging a more severe defeat than they had really sustained in the fight.”

'The Arabs Had Decamped Silently in the Night.’——195

Foreseeing the effect which would be produced by their reverse in the country they had but lately traversed as conquerors, they halted nowhere, but hastened to reenter Septimania and their stronghold Narbonne, where they might await reenforcements from Spain. Duke Eudes, on his side, after having, as vassal, taken the oath of allegiance to Charles, who will be henceforth called Charles Martel (Hammer), that glorious name which he won by the great blow he dealt the Arabs, reentered his dominions of Aquitania and Vasconia, and applied himself to the reestablishment there of security and of his own power. As for Charles Martel, indefatigable alike after and before victory, he did not consider his work in Southern Gaul as accomplished. He wished to recover and reconstitute in its entirety the Frankish dominion; and he at once proceeded to reunite to it Provence and the portions of the old kingdom of Burgundy situated between the Alps and the Rhone, starting from Lyons. His first campaign with this object, in 733, was successful; he retook Lyons, Vienne, and Valence, without any stoppage up to the Durance, and charged chosen “leudes” to govern these provinces with a view especially to the repression of attempts at independence at home and incursions on the part of the Arabs abroad. And it was not long before these two perils showed head. The government of Charles Martel’s “leudes” was hard to bear for populations accustomed for some time past to have their own way, and for their local chieftains thus stripped of their influence. Maurontius, patrician of Arles, was the most powerful and daring of these chieftains; and he had at heart the independence of his country and his own power far more than Frankish grandeur. Caring little, no doubt, for the interests of religion, he entered into negotiations with Youssouf- ben-Abdel-Rhaman, governor of Narbonne, and summoned the Mussulmans into Provence. Youssouf lost no time in responding to the summons; and, from 734 to 736, the Arabs conquered and were in military occupation of the left bank of the Rhone from Arles to Lyons. But in 737 Charles Martel returned, reentered Lyons and Avignon, and, crossing the Rhone, marched rapidly on Narbonne, to drive the Arabs from Septimania. He succeeded in beating them within sight of their capital; but, after a few attempts at assault, not being able to become master of it, he returned to Provence, laying waste on his march several towns of Septimania, Agde, Maguelonne, and Nimes, where he tried, but in vain, to destroy the famous Roman arenas by fire, as one blows up an enemy’s fortress. A rising of the Saxons recalled him to Northern Gaul; and scarcely had he set out from Provence, when national insurrection and Arab invasion recommenced. Charles Martel waited patiently as long as the Saxons resisted; but as soon as he was at liberty on their score, in 739, he collected a strong army, made a third campaign along the Rhone, retook Avignon, crossed the Durance, pushed on as far as the sea, took Marseilles, and then Arles, and drove the Arabs definitively from Provence. Some Mussulman bands attempted to establish themselves about St. Tropez, on the rugged heights and among the forests of the Alps; but Charles Martel carried his pursuit even into those wild retreats, and all Southern Gaul, on the left bank of the Rhone, was incorporated in the Frankish dominion, which will be henceforth called France.

The ordinary revenues of Charles Martel clearly could not suffice for so many expeditions and wars. He was obliged to attract or retain by rich presents, particularly by gifts of lands, the warriors, old and new “leudes,” who formed his strength. He therefore laid hands on a great number of the domains of the Church, and gave them, with the title of benefices, in temporary holding, often converted into proprietorship, and under the style of precarious tenure, to the chiefs in his service. There was nothing new in this: the Merovingian kings and the mayors of the palace had more than once thus made free with ecclesiastical property; but Charles Martel carried this practice much farther than his predecessors had. He did more: he sometimes gave his warriors ecclesiastical offices and dignities. His liege Milo received from him the archbishoprics of Rheims and Troves; and his nephew Hugh those of Paris, Rouen, and Bayeux, with the abbeys of Fontenelle and Jumieges. The Church protested with all her might against such violations of her mission and her interest, her duties and her rights. She was so specially set against Charles Martel that, more than a century after his death, in 858, the bishops of France, addressing themselves to Louis the Germanic on this subject, wrote to him, “St. Eucherius, bishop of Orleans, who now reposeth in the monastery of St. Trudon, being at prayer, was transported into the realms of eternity; and there, amongst other things which the Lord did show unto him, he saw Prince Charles delivered over to the torments of the damned in the lowest regions of hell. And St. Eucherius demanding of the angel, his guide, what was the reason thereof, the angel answered that it was by sentence of the saints whom he had robbed of their possessions, and who, at the day of the last judgment, will sit with God to judge the world.”

Whilst thus making use, at the expense of the Church, and for political interests, of material force, Charles Martel was far from misunderstanding her moral influence and the need he had of her support at the very time when he was incurring her anathemas. Not content with defending Christianity against Islamism, he aided it against Paganism by lending the Christian missionaries in Germany and the north-west of Europe, amongst others St. Willibrod and St. Boniface, the most effectual assistance. In 724, he addressed to all religious and political authorities that could be reached by his influence, not only to the bishops, “but to the dukes, counts, their vicars, our palatines, all our agents, our envoys, and our friends this circular letter: ‘Know that a successor of the Apostles, our father in Christ, Boniface, bishop, hath come unto us saying that we ought to take him under our safeguard and protection. We do you to wit that we do so very willingly. Wherefore we have thought proper to give him confirmation thereof under our own hand, in order that, whithersoever he may go, he may there be in peace and safety in the name of our affection and under our safeguard; in such sort that he may be able everywhere to render, do, and receive justice. And if he come to find himself in any pass or necessity which cannot be determined by law, that he may remain in peace and safety until he be come into our presence, he and all who shall have hope in him or dependence on him. That none may dare to be contrary-minded towards him or do him damage; and that he may rest at all times in tranquillity and safety under our safeguard and protection. And in order that this may be regarded as certified, we have subscribed these letters with our own hand and sealed them with our ring.’”

Here were clearly no vague and meaningless words, written to satisfy solicitation, and without a thought of their consequences: they were urgent recommendations and precise injunctions, the most proper for securing success to the protected in the name of the protector. Accordingly St. Boniface wrote, soon after, from the heart of Germany, “Without the patronage of the prince of the Franks, without his order and the fear of his power, I could not guide the people, or defend the priests, deacons, monks, or handmaids of God, or forbid in this country the rites of the Pagans and their sacrilegious worship of idols.”

At the same time that he protected the Christian missionaries launched into the midst of Pagan Germany, Charles Martel showed himself equally ready to protect, but with as much prudence as good-will, the head of the Christian Church. In 741, Pope Gregory III. sent to him two nuncios, the first that ever entered France in such a character, to demand of him succor against the Lombards, the Pope’s neighbors, who were threatening to besiege Rome. These envoys took Charles Martel “so many presents that none had ever seen or heard tell of the like,” and amongst them the keys of St. Peter’s tomb, with a letter in which the Pope conjured Charles Martel not to attach any credit to the representations or words of Luitprandt, king of the Lombards, and to lend the Roman Church that effectual support which, for some time past, she had been vainly expecting from the Franks and their chief. “Let them come, we are told,” wrote the Pope, piteously, “this Charles with whom ye have sought refuge, and the armies of the Franks; let them sustain ye, if they can, and wrest ye from our hands.” Charles Martel was in fact on good terms with Luitprandt, who had come to his aid in his expeditions against the Arabs in Provence. He, however, received the Pope’s nuncios with lively satisfaction and the most striking proofs of respect; and he promised them, not to make war on the Lombards, but to employ his influence with King Luitprandt to make him cease from threatening Rome. He sent, in his turn, to the Pope two envoys of distinction, Sigebert, abbot of St. Denis, and Grimon, abbot of Corbie, with instructions to offer him rich presents and to really exert themselves with the king of the Lombards to remove the dangers dreaded by the Holy See. He wished to do something in favor of the Papacy to show sincere good-will, without making his relations with useful allies subordinate to the desires of the Pope.

Charles Martel had not time to carry out effectually with respect to the Papacy this policy of protection and at the same time of independence; he died at the close of this same year, October 22, 741, at Kiersy-sur-Oise, aged fifty-two years, and his last act was the least wise of his life. He had spent it entirely in two great works, the reestablishment throughout the whole of Gaul of the Franco-Gallo-Roman empire, and the driving back from the frontiers of this empire, of the Germans in the north and the Arabs in the south. The consequence, as also the condition, of this double success was the victory of Christianity over Paganism and Islamism. Charles Martel endangered these results by falling back into the groove of those Merovingian kings whose shadow he had allowed to remain on the throne. He divided between his two legitimate sons, Pepin, called the Short, from his small stature, and Carloman, this sole dominion which he had with so much toil reconstituted and defended. Pepin had Neustria, Burgundy, Provence, and the suzerainty of Aquitaine; Carloman, Austrasia, Thuringia, and Allemannia. They both, at their father’s death, took only the title of mayor of the palace, and, perhaps, of duke. The last but one of the Merovingians, Thierry IV., had died in 737. For four years there had been no king at all.

But when the works of men are wise and true, that is, in conformity with the lasting wants of peoples, and the natural tendency of social facts, they get over even the mistakes of their authors. Immediately after the death of Charles Martel, the consequences of dividing his empire became manifest. In the north, the Saxons, the Bavarians, and the Allemannians renewed their insurrections. In the south, the Arabs of Septimania recovered their hopes of effecting an invasion; and Hunald, Duke of Aquitaine, who had succeeded his father Eudes, after his death in 735, made a fresh attempt to break away from Frankish sovereignty and win his independence. Charles Martel had left a young son, Grippo, whose legitimacy had been disputed, but who was not slow to set up pretensions and to commence intriguing against his brothers. Everywhere there burst out that reactionary movement which arises against grand and difficult works when the strong hand that undertook them is no longer by to maintain them; but this movement was of short duration and to little purpose. Brought up in the school and in the fear of their father, his two sons, Pepin and Carloman, were inoculated with his ideas and example; they remained united in spite of the division of dominions, and labored together, successfully, to keep down, in the north the Saxons and Bavarians, in the south the Arabs and Aquitanians, supplying want of unity by union, and pursuing with one accord the constant aim of Charles Martel—abroad the security and grandeur of the Frankish dominion, at home the cohesion of all its parts and the efficacy of its government. Events came to the aid of this wise conduct. Five years after the death of Charles Martel, in 746 in fact, Carloman, already weary of the burden of power, and seized with a fit of religious zeal, abdicated his share of sovereignty, left his dominions to his brother Pepin, had himself shorn by the hands of Pope Zachary, and withdrew into Italy to the monastery of Monte Cassino. The preceding year, in 745, Hunald, Duke of Aquitaine, with more patriotic and equally pious views, also abdicated in favor of his son Waifre, whom he thought more capable than himself of winning the independence of Aquitaine, and went and shut himself up in a monastery in the island of Rhe, where was the tomb of his father Eudes. In the course of divers attempts at conspiracy and insurrection, the Frankish princes’ young brother, Grippo, was killed in combat whilst crossing the Alps. The furious internal dissensions amongst the Arabs of Spain and their incessant wars with the Berbers did not allow them to pursue any great enterprise in Gaul. Thanks to all these circumstances, Pepin found himself, in 747, sole master of the heritage of Clovis and with the sole charge of pursuing, in State and Church, his father’s work, which was the unity and grandeur of Christian France.

Pepin, less enterprising than his father, but judicious, persevering, and capable of discerning what was at the same time necessary and possible, was well fitted to continue and consolidate what he would, probably, never have begun and created.

Like his father, he, on arriving at power, showed pretensions to moderation, or, it might be said, modesty. He did not take the title of king; and, in concert with his brother Carloman, he went to seek, Heaven knows in what obscure asylum, a forgotten Merovingian, son of Chilperic II., the last but one of the sluggard kings, and made him king, the last of his line, with the title of Childeric III., himself, as well as his brother, taking only the style of mayor of the palace. But at the end of ten years, and when he saw himself alone at the head of the Frankish dominion, Pepin considered the moment arrived for putting an end to this fiction. In 751, he sent to Pope Zachary at Rome, Burchard, bishop of Wurtzhurg, and Fulrad, abbot of St. Denis, “to consult the Pontiff,” says Eginhard, “on the subject of the kings then existing amongst the Franks, and who bore only the name of king without enjoying a tittle of royal authority.” The Pope, whom St. Boniface, the great missionary of Germany, had prepared for the question, answered that “it was better to give the title of king to him who exercised the sovereign power;” and next year, in March, 752, in the presence and with the assent of the general assembly of “leudes” and bishops gathered together at Soissons, Pepin was proclaimed king of the Franks, and received from the hand of St. Boniface the sacred anointment. They cut off the hair of the last Merovingian phantom, Childeric III., and put him away in the monastery of St. Sithiu, at St. Omer. Two years later, July 28, 754, Pope Stephen II., having come to France to claim Pepin’s support against the Lombards, after receiving from him assurance of it, “anointed him afresh with the holy oil in the church of St. Denis to do honor in his person to the dignity of royalty,” and conferred the same honor on the king’s two sons, Charles and Carloman. The new Gallo-Frankish kingship and the Papacy, in the name of their common faith and common interests, thus contracted an intimate alliance. The young Charles was hereafter to become Charlemagne.

The same year, Boniface, whom, six years before, Pope Zachary had made Archbishop of Mayence, gave up one day the episcopal dignity to his disciple Lullus, charging him to carry on the different works himself had commenced amongst the churches of Germany, and to uphold the faith of the people. “As for me,” he added, “I will put myself on my road, for the time of my passing away approacheth. I have longed for this departure, and none can turn me from it; wherefore, my son, get all things ready, and place in the chest with my books the winding-sheet to wrap up my old body.” And so he departed with some of his priests and servants to go and evangelize the Frisons, the majority of whom were still pagans and barbarians. He pitched his tent on their territory and was arranging to celebrate there the Lord’s Supper, when a band of natives came down and rushed upon the archbishop’s retinue. The servitors surrounded him, to defend him and themselves; and a battle began. “Hold, hold, my children,” cried the arch-bishop; “Scripture biddeth us return good for evil. This is the day I have long desired, and the hour of our deliverance is at hand. Be strong in the Lord: hope in Him, and He will save your souls.” The barbarians slew the holy man and the majority of his company. A little while after, the Christians of the neighborhood came in arms and recovered the body of St. Boniface. Near him was a book, which was stained with blood, and seemed to have dropped from his hands; it contained several works of the Fathers, and amongst others a writing of St. Ambrose “on the Blessing of Death.” The death of the pious missionary was as powerful as his preaching in converting Friesland. It was a mode of conquest worthy of the Christian faith, and one of which the history of Christianity had already proved the effectiveness.

St. Boniface did not confine himself to the evangelization of the pagans; he labored ardently in the Christian Gallo-Frankish Church, to reform the manners and ecclesiastical discipline, and to assure, whilst justifying, the moral influence of the clergy by example as well as precept. The Councils, which had almost fallen into desuetude in Gaul, became once more frequent and active there; from 742 to 753 there may be counted seven, presided over by St. Boniface, which exercised within the Church a salutary action. King Pepin, recognizing the services which the Archbishop of Mayence had rendered him, seconded his reformatory efforts at one time by giving the support of his royal authority to the canons of the Councils, held often simultaneously with and almost confounded with the laic assemblies of the Franks, at another by doing justice to the protests of the churches against the violence and spoliation to which they were subjected. “There was an important point,” says M. Fauriel, “in respect of which the position of Charles Martel’s sons turned out to be pretty nearly the same as that of their father: it was touching the necessity of assigning to warriors a portion of the ecclesiastical revenues. But they, being more religious, perhaps, than Charles Martel, or more impressed with the importance of humoring the priestly power, were more vexed and more anxious about the necessity under which they found themselves of continuing to despoil the churches and of persisting in a system which was putting the finishing stroke to the ruin of all ecclesiastical discipline. They were more eager to mitigate the evil and to offer the Church compensation for their share in this evil to which it was not in their power to put a stop. Accordingly at the March parade held at Leptines in 743, it was decided, in reference to ecclesiastical lands applied to the military service: 1st, that the churches having the ownership of those lands should share the revenue with the lay holder; 2d, that on the death of a warrior in enjoyment of an ecclesiastical benefice, the benefice should revert to the Church; 3d, that every benefice by deprivation whereof any church would be reduced to poverty should be at once restored to her. That this capitular was carried out, or even capable of being carried out, is very doubtful; but the less Carloman and Pepin succeeded in repairing the material losses incurred by the Church since the accession of the Carlovingians, the more zealous they were in promoting the growth of her moral power and the restoration of her discipline. . . . That was the time at which there began to be seen the spectacle of the national assemblies of the Franks, the gatherings of the March parades transformed into ecclesiastical synods under the presidency of the titular legate of the Roman Pontiff, and dictating, by the mouth of the political authority, regulations and laws with the direct and formal aim of restoring divine worship and ecclesiastical discipline, and of assuring the spiritual welfare of the people.” (Fauriel, Histoire de la Gaule, &c., t. III., p. 224.)

Pepin, after he had been proclaimed king and had settled matters with the Church as well as the warlike questions remaining for him to solve permitted, directed all his efforts towards the two countries which, after his father’s example, he longed to reunite to the Gallo-Frankish monarchy, that is, Septimania, still occupied by the Arabs, and Aquitaine, the independence of which was stoutly and ably defended by Duke Eudes’ grandson, Duke Waifre. The conquest of Septimania was rather tedious than difficult. The Franks, after having victoriously scoured the open country of the district, kept invested during three years its capital, Narbonne, where the Arabs of Spain, much weakened by their dissensions, vainly tried to throw in re-enforcements. Besides the Mussulman Arabs the population of the town numbered many Christian Goths, who were tired of suffering for the defence of their oppressors, and who entered into secret negotiations with the chiefs of Pepin’s army, the end of which was, that they opened the gates of the town. In 759, then, after forty years of Arab rule, Narbonne passed definitively under that of the Franks, who guaranteed to the inhabitants free enjoyment of their Gothic or Roman law and of their local institutions. It even appears that, in the province of Spain bordering on Septimania, an Arab chief, called Soliman, who was in command at Gerona and Barcelona, between the Ebro and the Pyrenees, submitted to Pepin, himself and the country under him. This was an important event indeed in the reign of Pepin, for here was the point at which Islamism, but lately aggressive and victorious in Southern Europe, began to feel definitively beaten and to recoil before Christianity.

The conquest of Aquitaine and Vasconia was much more keenly disputed and for a much longer time uncertain. Duke Waifre was as able in negotiation as in war: at one time he seemed to accept the pacific overtures of Pepin, or, perhaps, himself made similar, without bringing about any result, at another he went to seek and found even in Germany allies who caused Pepin much embarrassment and peril. The population of Aquitaine hated the Franks; and the war, which for their duke was a question of independent sovereignty, was for themselves a question of passionate national feeling. Pepin, who was naturally more humane and even more generous, it may be said, in war than his predecessors had usually been, was nevertheless induced, in his struggle against the Duke of Aquitaine, to ravage without mercy the countries he scoured, and to treat the vanquished with great harshness. It was only after nine years’ war and seven campaigns full of vicissitudes that he succeeded, not in conquering his enemy in a decisive battle, but in gaining over some servants who betrayed their master. In the month of July, 759, “Duke Waifre was slain by his own folk, by the king’s advice,” says Fredegaire; and the conquest of all Southern Gaul carried the extent and power of the Gallo-Frankish monarchy farther and higher than it had ever yet been, even under Clovis.

In 753, Pepin had made an expedition against the Britons of Armorica, had taken Vannes, and “subjugated,” add certain chroniclers, “the whole of Brittany.” In point of fact Brittany was no more subjugated by Pepin than by his predecessors; all that can be said is, that the Franks resumed, under him, an aggressive attitude towards the Britons, as if to vindicate a right of sovereignty.

Exactly at this epoch Pepin was engaging in a matter which did not allow him to scatter his forces hither and thither. It has been stated already, that in 741 Pope Gregory III. had asked aid of the Franks against the Lombards who were threatening Rome, and that, whilst fully entertaining the Pope’s wishes, Charles Martel had been in no hurry to interfere by deed in the quarrel. Twelve years later, in 753, Pope Stephen, in his turn threatened by Astolphus, king of the Lombards, after vain attempts to obtain guarantees of peace, repaired to Paris, and renewed to Pepin the entreaties used by Zachary. It was difficult for Pepin to turn a deaf ear; it was Zachary who had declared that he ought to be made king; Stephen showed readiness to anoint him a second time, himself and his sons; and it was the eldest of these sons, Charles, scarcely twelve years old, whom Pepin, on learning the near arrival of the Pope, had sent to meet him and give brilliancy to his reception. Stephen passed the winter at St. Denis, and gained the favor of the people as well as that of the king. Astolphus peremptorily refused to listen to the remonstrances of Pepin, who called upon him to evacuate the towns in the exarchate of Ravenna, and to leave the Pope unmolested in the environs of Rome as well as in Rome itself. At the March parade held at Braine, in the spring of 754, the Franks approved of the war against the Lombards; and at the end of the summer Pepin and his army descended into Italy by Mount Cenis, the Lombards trying in vain to stop them as they debouched into the valley of Suza. Astolphus beaten, and, before long, shut up in Pavia, promised all that was demanded of him; and Pepin and his warriors, laden with booty, returned to France, leaving at Rome the Pope, who conjured them to remain a while in Italy, for to a certainty, he said, king Astolphus would not keep his promises. The Pope was right. So soon as the Franks had gone, the King of the Lombards continued occupying the places in the exarchate and molesting the neighborhood of Rome. The Pope, in despair and doubtful of his auxiliaries’ return, conceived the idea of sending “to the king, the chiefs, and the people of the Franks, a letter written, he said, by Peter, Apostle of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, to announce to them that, if they came in haste, he would aid them as if he were alive according to the flesh amongst them, that they would conquer all their enemies and make themselves sure of eternal life!” The plan was perfectly successful: the Franks once more crossed the Alps with enthusiasm, once more succeeded in beating the Lombards, and once more shut up in Pavia King Astolphus, who was eager to purchase peace at any price. He obtained it on two principal conditions: 1st, that he would not again make a hostile attack on Roman territory or wage war against the Pope or people of Rome; 2d, that he would henceforth recognize the sovereignty of the Franks, pay them tribute, and cede forthwith to Pepin the towns and all the lands, belonging to the jurisdiction of the Roman empire, which were at that time occupied by the Lombards. By virtue of these conditions, Ravenna, Rimini, Pesaro, that is to say, the Romagna, the Duchy of Urbino and a portion of the Marches of Ancona, were at once given up to Pepin, who, regarding them as his own direct conquest, the fruit of victory, disposed of them forthwith, in favor of the Popes, by that famous deed of gift which comprehended pretty nearly what has since formed the Roman States, and which founded the temporal independence of the Papacy, the guarantee of its independence in the exercise of the spiritual power.

At the head of the Franks as mayor of the palace from 741, and as king from 752, Pepin had completed in France and extended in Italy the work which his father, Charles Martel, had begun and carried on, from 714 to 741, in State and Church. He left France reunited in one and placed at the head of Christian Europe. He died at the monastery of St. Denis, September 18, 768, leaving his kingdom and his dynasty thus ready to the hands of his son, whom history has dubbed Charlemagne.







The most judicious minds are sometimes led blindly by tradition and habit, rather than enlightened by reflection and experience. Pepin the Short committed at his death the same mistake that his father, Charles Martel, had committed: he divided his dominions between his two sons, Charles and Carloman, thus destroying again that unity of the Gallo- Frankish monarchy which his father and he had been at so much pains to establish. But, just as had already happened in 746 through the abdication of Pepin’s brother, events discharged the duty of repairing the mistake of men. After the death of Pepin, and notwithstanding that of Duke Waifre, insurrection broke out once more in Aquitaine; and the old duke, Hunald, issued from his monastery in the island of Rhe to try and recover power and independence. Charles and Carloman marched against him; but, on the march, Carloman, who was jealous and thoughtless, fell out with his brother, and suddenly quitted the expedition, taking away his troops. Charles was obliged to continue it alone, which he did with complete success. At the end of this first campaign, Pepin’s widow, the Queen-mother Bertha, reconciled her two sons; but an unexpected incident, the death of Carloman two years afterwards in 771, re-established unity more surely than the reconciliation had re-established harmony. For, although Carloman left sons, the grandees of his dominions, whether laic or ecclesiastical, assembled at Corbeny, between Laon and Rheims, and proclaimed in his stead his brother Charles, who thus became sole king of the Gallo-Franco-Germanic monarchy. And as ambition and manners had become less tinged with ferocity than they had been under the Merovingians, the sons of Carloman were not killed or shorn or even shut up in a monastery: they retired with their mother, Gerberge, to the court of Didier, king of the Lombards. “King Charles,” says Eginhard, “took their departure patiently, regarding it as of no importance.” Thus commenced the reign of Charlemagne.

The original and dominant characteristic of the hero of this reign, that which won for him, and keeps for him after more than ten centuries, the name of Great, is the striking variety of his ambition, his faculties, and his deeds. Charlemagne aspired to and attained to every sort of greatness, military greatness, political greatness, and intellectual greatness; he was an able warrior, an energetic legislator, a hero of poetry. And he united, he displayed all these merits in a time of general and monotonous barbarism, when, save in the Church, the minds of men were dull and barren. Those men, few in number, who made themselves a name at that epoch, rallied round Charlemagne and were developed under his patronage. To know him well and appreciate him justly, he must be examined under those various grand aspects, abroad and at home, in his wars and in his government.

In Guizot’s History of Civilization in France is to be found a complete table of the wars of Charlemagne, of his many different expeditions in Germany, Italy, Spain, all the countries, in fact, that became his dominion. A summary will here suffice. From 769 to 813, in Germany and Western and Northern Europe, Charlemagne conducted thirty-one campaigns against the Saxons, Frisons, Bavarians, Avars, Slavons, and Danes; in Italy, five against the Lombards; in Spain, Corsica, and Sardinia, twelve against the Arabs; two against the Greeks; and three in Gaul itself, against the Aquitanians and the Britons; in all, fifty-three expeditions; amongst which those he undertook against the Saxons, the Lombards, and the Arabs, were long and difficult wars. It is undesirable to recount them in detail, for the relation would be monotonous and useless; but it is obligatory to make fully known their causes, their characteristic incidents, and their results.

It has already been seen that, under the last Merovingian kings, the Saxons were, on the right bank of the Rhine, in frequent collision with the Franks, especially with the Austrasian Franks, whose territory they were continually threatening and often invading. Pepin the Short had more than once hurled them back far from the very uncertain frontiers of Germanic Austrasia; and, on becoming king, he dealt his blows still farther, and entered, in his turn, Saxony itself. “In spite of the Saxons’ stout resistance,” says Eginhard (Annales, t. i., p. 135), “he pierced through the points they had fortified to bar entrance into their country, and, after having fought here and there battles wherein fell many Saxons, he forced them to promise that they would submit to his rule; and that, every year, to do him honor, they would send to the general assembly of the Franks a present of three hundred horses. When these conventions were once settled, he insisted, to insure their performance, upon placing them under the guarantee of rites peculiar to the Saxons; then he returned with his army to Gaul.”

Charlemagne at the Head of his Army——212

Charlemagne did not confine himself to resuming his father’s work; he before long changed its character and its scope. In 772, being left sole master of France after the death of his brother Carloman, he convoked at Worms the general assembly of the Franks, “and took,” says Eginhard, “the resolution of going and carrying war into Saxony. He invaded it without delay, laid it waste with fire and sword, made himself master of the fort of Ehresburg, and threw down the idol that the Saxons called Irminsul.” And in what place was this first victory of Charlemagne won? Near the sources of the Lippe, just where, more than seven centuries before, the German Arminius (Herrmann) had destroyed the legions of Varus, and whither Germanicus had come to avenge the disaster of Varus. This ground belonged to Saxon territory; and this idol, called Irminsul, which was thrown down by Charlemagne, was probably a monument raised in honor of Arminius (Herrmann-Saule, or Herrmann’s pillar), whose name it called to mind. The patriotic and hereditary pride of the Saxons was passionately roused by this blow; and, the following year, “thinking to find in the absence of the king the most favorable opportunity,” says Eginhard, they entered the lands of the Franks, laid them waste in their turn, and, paying back outrage for outrage, set fire to the church not long since built at Fritzlar, by Boniface, martyr. From that time the question changed its object as well as its aspect; it was no longer the repression of Saxon invasions of France, but the conquest of Saxony by the Franks, that was to be dealt with; it was between the Christianity of the Franks and the national Paganism of the Saxons that the struggle was to take place.

For thirty years such was its character. Charlemagne regarded the conquest of Saxony as indispensable for putting a stop to the incursions of the Saxons, and the conversion of the Saxons to Christianity as indispensable for assuring the conquest of Saxony. The Saxons were defending at one and the same time the independence of their country and the gods of their fathers. Here was wherewithal to stir up and foment, on both sides, the profoundest passions; and they burst forth, on both sides, with equal fury. Whithersoever Charlemagne penetrated he built strong castles and churches; and, at his departure, left garrisons and missionaries. When he was gone the Saxons returned, attacked the forts and massacred the garrisons and the missionaries. At the commencement of the struggle, a priest of Anglo-Saxon origin, whom St. Willibrod, bishop of Utrecht, had but lately consecrated, St. Liebwin in fact, undertook to go and preach the Christian religion in the very heart of Saxony, on the banks of the Weser, amidst the general assembly of the Saxons. “What do ye” said he, cross in hand; “the idols ye worship live not, neither do they perceive: they are the work of men’s hands; they can do nought either for themselves or for others. Wherefore the one God, good and just, having compassion on your errors, hath sent me unto you. If ye put not away your iniquity, I foretell unto you a trouble that ye do not expect, and that the King of Heaven hath ordained aforetime; there shall come a prince, strong and wise and indefatigable, not from afar, but from nigh at hand, to fall upon you like a torrent, in order to soften your hard hearts and bow down your proud heads. At one rush he shall invade the country; he shall lay it waste with fire and sword, and carry away your wives and children into captivity.” A thrill of rage ran through the assembly; and already many of those present had begun to cut, in the neighboring woods, stakes sharpened to a point to pierce the priest, when one of the chieftains named Buto cried aloud, “Listen, ye who are the most wise. There have often come unto us ambassadors from neighboring peoples, Northmen, Slavons or Frisons; we have received them in peace, and when their messages have been heard, they have been sent away with a present. Here is an ambassador from a great God, and ye would slay him!” Whether it were from sentiment or from prudence, the multitude was calmed, or at any rate restrained; and for this time the priest retired safe and sound.

Just as the pious zeal of the missionaries was of service to Charlemagne, so did the power of Charlemagne support and sometimes preserve the missionaries. The mob, even in the midst of its passions, is not throughout or at all times inaccessible to fear. The Saxons were not one and the same nation, constantly united in one and the same assembly and governed by a single chieftain. Three populations of the same race, distinguished by names borrowed from their geographical situation, just as had happened amongst the Franks in the case of the Austrasians and Neustrians, to wit, Eastphalian or eastern Saxons, Westphalian or western, and Angrians, formed the Saxon confederation. And to them was often added a fourth peoplet of the same origin, closer to the Danes and called North-Albingians, inhabitants of the northern district of the Elbe. These four principal Saxon populations were sub-divided into a large number of tribes, who had their own particular chieftains, and who often decided, each for itself, their conduct and their fate. Charlemagne, knowing how to profit by this want of cohesion and unity amongst his foes, attacked now one and now another of the large Saxon peoplets or the small Saxon tribes, and dealt separately with each of them, according as he found them inclined to submission or resistance. After having, in four or five successive expeditions, gained victories and sustained checks, he thought himself sufficiently advanced in his conquest to put his relations with the Saxons to a grand trial. In 777, he resolved, says Eginhard, “to go and hold, at the place called Paderborn (close to Saxony) the general assembly of his people. On his arrival he found there assembled the senate and people of this perfidious nation, who, conformably to his orders, had repaired thither, seeking to deceive him by a false show of submission and devotion. . . . They earned their pardon, but on this condition, however, that, if hereafter they broke their engagements, they would be deprived of country and liberty. A great number amongst them had themselves baptized on this occasion; but it was with far from sincere intentions that they had testified a desire to become Christians.”

Charlemagne Inflicting Baptism Upon the Saxons——215

There had been absent from this great meeting a Saxon chieftain called Wittikind, son of Wernekind, king of the Saxons at the north of the Elbe. He had espoused the sister of Siegfried, king of the Danes; and he was the friend of Ratbod, king of the Frisons. A true chieftain at heart as well as by descent, he was made to be the hero of the Saxons just as, seven centuries before, the Cheruscan Herrmann (Arminius) had been the hero of the Germans. Instead of repairing to Paderborn, Wittikind had left Saxony, and taken refuge with his brother-in-law, the king of the Danes. Thence he encouraged his Saxon compatriots, some to persevere in their resistance, others to repent them of their show of submission. War began again; and Wittikind hastened back to take part in it. In 778 the Saxons advanced as far as the Rhine; but, “not having been able to cross this river,” says Eginhard, “they set themselves to lay waste with fire and sword all the towns and all the villages from the city of Duitz (opposite Cologne) as far as the confluence of the Moselle. The churches as well as the houses were laid in ruins from top to bottom. The enemy, in his frenzy, spared neither age nor sex, wishing to show thereby that he had invaded the territory of the Franks, not for plunder, but for revenge!” For three years the struggle continued, more confined in area, but more and more obstinate. Many of the Saxon tribes submitted; many Saxons were baptized; and Siegfried, king of the Danes, sent to Charlemagne a deputation, as if to treat for peace. Wittikind had left Denmark; but he had gone across to her neighbors, the Northmen; and, thence re-entering Saxony, he kindled there an insurrection as fierce as it was unexpected. In 782 two of Charlemagne’s lieutenants were beaten on the banks of the Weser, and killed in the battle, together with four counts and twenty leaders, the noblest in the army; indeed the Franks were nearly all exterminated. “At news of this disaster,” says Eginhard, “Charlemagne, without losing a moment, re-assembled an army and set out for Saxony. He summoned into his presence all the chieftains of the Saxons and demanded of them who had been the promoters of the revolt. All agreed in denouncing Wittikind as the author of this treason. But as they could not deliver him up, because immediately after his sudden attack he had taken refuge with the Northmen, those who, at his instigation, had been accomplices in the crime, were placed, to the number of four thousand five hundred, in the hands of the king; and, by his order, all had their heads cut off the same day, at a place called Werden, on the river Aller. After this deed of vengeance the king retired to Thionville to pass the winter there.”

But the vengeance did not put an end to the war. “Blood calls for blood,” were words spoken in the English parliament, in 1643, by Sir Benjamin Rudyard, one of the best citizens of his country in her hour of revolution. For three years Charlemagne had to redouble his efforts to accomplish in Saxony, at the cost of Frankish as well as Saxon blood, his work of conquest and conversion: “Saxony,” he often repeated, “must be christianized or wiped out.” At last, in 785, after several victories which seemed decisive, he went and settled down in his strong castle of Ehresburg, “whither he made his wife and children come, being resolved to remain there all the bad season,” says Eginhard, and applying himself without cessation to scouring the country of the Saxons and wearing them out by his strong and indomitable determination. But determination did not blind him to prudence and policy. “Having learned that Wittikind and Abbio (another great Saxon chieftain) were abiding in the part of Saxony situated on the other side of the Elbe, he sent to them Saxon envoys to prevail upon them to renounce their perfidy, and come, without hesitation, and trust themselves to him. They, conscious of what they had attempted, dared not at first trust to the king’s word; but having obtained from him the promise they desired of impunity, and, besides, the hostages they demanded as guarantee of their safety, and who were brought to them, on the king’s behalf, by Amalwin, one of the officers of his court, they came with the said lord and presented themselves before the king in his palace of Attigny [Attigny-sur-Aisne, whither Charlemagne had now returned] and there received baptism.”

Charlemagne did more than amnesty Wittikind; he named him Duke of Saxony, but without attaching to the title any right of sovereignty. Wittikind, on his side, did more than come to Attigny and get baptized there; he gave up the struggle, remained faithful to his new engagements, and led, they say, so Christian a life, that some chroniclers have placed him on the list of saints. He was killed in 807, in a battle against Gerold, duke of Suabia, and his tomb is still to be seen at Ratisbonne. Several families of Germany hold him for their ancestor; and some French genealogists have, without solid ground, discovered in him the grandfather of Robert the Strong, great-grandfather of Hugh Capet. However that may be, after making peace with Wittikind, Charlemagne had still, for several years, many insurrections to repress and much rigor to exercise in Saxony, including the removal of certain Saxon peoplets out of their country and the establishment of foreign colonists in the territories thus become vacant; but the great war was at an end, and Charlemagne might consider Saxony incorporated in his dominions.

The Submission of Wittikind——218

He had still, in Germany and all around, many enemies to fight and many campaigns to re-open. Even amongst the Germanic populations, which were regarded as reduced under the sway of the king of the Franks, some, the Frisons and Saxons as well as others, were continually agitating for the recovery of their independence. Farther off towards the north, east, and south, people differing in origin and language—Avars, Huns, Slavons, Bulgarians, Danes, and Northmen—were still pressing or beginning to press upon the frontiers of the Frankish dominion, for the purpose of either penetrating within or settling at the threshold as powerful and formidable neighbors. Charlemagne had plenty to do, with the view at one time of checking their incursions and at another of destroying or hurling back to a distance their settlements; and he brought his usual vigor and perseverance to bear on this second struggle. But by the conquest of Saxony he had attained his direct national object: the great flood of population from East to West came, and broke against the Gallo-Franco- Germanic dominion as against an insurmountable rampart.

This was not, however, Charlemagne’s only great enterprise at this epoch, nor the only great struggle he had to maintain. Whilst he was incessantly fighting in Germany, the work of policy commenced by his father Pepin in Italy called for his care and his exertions. The new king of the Lombards, Didier, and the new Pope, Adrian I., had entered upon a new war; and Dither was besieging Rome, which was energetically defended by the Pope and its inhabitants. In 773, Adrian invoked the aid of the king of the Franks, whom his envoys succeeded, not without difficulty, in finding at Thionville. Charlemagne could not abandon the grand position left him by his father as protector of the Papacy and as patrician of Rome. The possessions, moreover, wrested by Didier from the Pope were exactly those which Pepin had won by conquest from King Astolphus, and had presented to the Papacy. Charlemagne was, besides, on his own account, on bad terms with the king of the Lombards, whose daughter, Desiree, he had married, and afterwards repudiated and sent home to her father, in order to marry Hildegarde, a Suabian by nation. Didier, in dudgeon, had given an asylum to Carloman’s widow and sons, on whose intrigues Charlemagne kept a watchful eye. Being prudent and careful of appearances, even when he was preparing to strike a heavy blow, Charlemagne tried, by means of special envoys, to obtain from the king of the Lombards what the Pope demanded. On Didier’s refusal he at once set to work, convoked the general meeting of the Franks, at Geneva, in the autumn of 773, gained them over, not without encountering some objections, to the projected Italian expedition, and forthwith commenced the campaign with two armies. One was to cross the Valais and descend upon Lombardy by Mount St. Bernard; Charlemagne in person led the other, by Mount Cenis. The Lombards, at the outlet of the passes of the Alps, offered a vigorous resistance; but when the second army had penetrated into Italy by Mount St. Bernard, Didier, threatened in his rear, retired precipitately, and, driven from position to position, was obliged to go and shut himself up in Pavia, the strongest place in his kingdom, whither Charlemagne, having received on the march the submission of the principal counts and nearly all the towns of Lombardy, came promptly to besiege him.

To place textually before the reader a fragment of an old chronicle will serve better than any modern description to show the impression of admiration and fear produced upon his contemporaries by Charlemagne, his person and his power. At the close of this ninth century a monk of the abbey of St. Gall, in Switzerland, had collected, direct from the mouth of one of Charlemagne’s warriors, Adalbert, numerous stories of his campaigns and his life. These stories are full of fabulous legends, puerile anecdotes, distorted reminiscences, and chronological errors, and they are written sometimes with a credulity and exaggeration of language which raise a smile; but they reveal the state of men’s minds and fancies within the circle of Charlemagne’s influence and at the sight of him. This monk gives a naive account of Charlemagne’s arrival before Pavia and of the king of the Lombards’ disquietude at his approach. Didier had with him at that time one of Charlemagne’s most famous comrades, Ogier the Dane, who fills a prominent place in the romances and epopoeas, relating to chivalry, of that age. Ogier had quarrelled with his great chief and taken refuge with the king of the Lombards. It is probable that his Danish origin and his relations with the king of the Danes, Gottfried, for a long time an enemy of the Franks, had something to do with his misunderstanding with Charlemagne. However that may have been, “when Didier and Ogger (for so the monk calls him) heard that the dread monarch was coming, they ascended a tower of vast height, whence they could watch his arrival from afar off and from every quarter. They saw, first of all, engines of war such as must have been necessary for the armies of Darius or Julius Caesar. ‘Is not Charles,’ asked Didier of Ogger, ‘with this great army?’ But the other answered, ‘No.’ The Lombard, seeing afterwards an immense body of soldiery gathered from all quarters of the vast empire, said to Ogger, ‘Certes, Charles advanceth in triumph in the midst of this throng.’ ‘No, not yet; he will not appear so soon,’ was the answer. ‘What should we do, then,’ rejoined Didier, who began to be perturbed, ‘should he come accompanied by a larger band of warriors?’ ‘You will see what he is when he comes,’ replied Ogger, ‘but as to what will become of us I know nothing.’ As they were thus parleying appeared the body of guards that knew no repose; and at this sight the Lombard, overcome with dread, cried, ‘This time ‘tis surely Charles.’ ‘No,’ answered Ogger, ‘not yet.’ In their wake came the bishops, the abbots, the ordinaries of the chapels royal, and the counts; and then Didier, no longer able to bear the light of day or to face death, cried out with groans, ‘Let us descend and hide ourselves in the bowels of the earth, far from the face and the fury of so terrible a foe. Trembling the while, Ogger, who knew by experience what were the power and might of Charles, and who had learned the lesson by long consuetude in better days, then said, ‘When ye shall behold the crops shaking for fear in the fields, and the gloomy Po and the Ticino overflowing the walls of the city with their waves blackened with steel (iron), then may ye think that Charles is coming.’ He had not ended these words when there began to be seen in the west, as it were a black cloud, raised by the north-west wind or by Boreas, which turned the brightest day into awful shadows. But as the emperor drew nearer and nearer, the gleam of arms caused to shine on the people shut up within the city a day more gloomy than any kind of night. And then appeared Charles himself, that man of steel, with his head encased in a helmet of steel, his hands garnished with gauntlets of steel, his heart of steel and his shoulders of marble protected by a cuirass of steel, and his left hand armed with a lance of steel which he held aloft in the air, for as to his right hand he kept that continually on the hilt of his invincible sword. The outside of his thighs, which the rest, for their greater ease in mounting a horseback, were wont to leave unshackled even by straps, he wore encircled by plates of steel. What shall I say concerning his boots? All the army were wont to have them invariably of steel; on his buckler there was nought to be seen but steel; his horse was of the color and the strength of steel. All those who went before the monarch, all those who marched at his side, all those who followed after, even the whole mass of the army, had armor of the like sort, so far as the means of each permitted. The fields and the highways were covered with steel: the points of steel reflected the rays of the sun; and this steel, so hard, was borne by a people with hearts still harder. The flash of steel spread terror through-out the streets of the city. ‘What steel! alack, what steel!’ Such were the bewildered cries the citizens raised. The firmness of manhood and of youth gave way at sight of the steel; and the steel paralyzed the wisdom of graybeards. That which I, poor tale-teller, mumbling and toothless, have attempted to depict in a long description, Ogger perceived at one rapid glance, and said to Didier, ‘Here is what ye have so anxiously sought:’ and whilst uttering these words he fell down almost lifeless.”

The monk of St. Gall does King Didier and his people wrong. They showed more firmness and valor than he ascribes to them: they resisted Charlemagne obstinately, and repulsed his first assaults so well that he changed the siege into an investment and settled down before Pavia, as if making up his mind for a long operation. His camp became a town; he sent for Queen Hildegarde and her court; and he had a chapel built, where he celebrated the festival of Christmas. But on the arrival of spring, close upon the festival of Easter, 774, wearied with the duration of the investment, he left to his lieutenants the duty of keeping it up, and, attended by a numerous and brilliant following, set off for Rome, whither the Pope was urgently pressing him to come.

On Holy Saturday, April 1, 774, Charlemagne found, at three miles from Rome, the magistrates and the banner of the city, sent forward by the Pope to meet him; at one mile all the municipal bodies and the pupils of the schools carrying palm-branches and singing hymns; and at the gate of the city, the cross, which was never taken out save for exarchs and patricians. At sight of the cross Charlemagne dismounted, entered Rome on foot, ascended the steps of the ancient basilica of St. Peter, repeating at each step a sign of respectful piety, and was received at the top by the Pope himself. All around him and in the streets a chant was sung, “Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord!” At his entry and during his sojourn at Rome Charlemagne gave the most striking proofs of Christian faith and respect for the head of the Church. According to the custom of pilgrims he visited all the basilicas, and in that of St. Maria Maggiore he performed his solemn devotions. Then, passing to temporal matters, he caused to be brought and read over, in his private conferences with the Pope, the deed of territorial gift made by his father Pepin to Stephen II., and with his own lips dictated the confirmation of it, adding thereto a new gift of certain territories which he was in course of wresting by conquest from the Lombards. Pope Adrian, on his side, rendered to him, with a mixture of affection and dignity, all the honors and all the services which could at one and the same time satisfy and exalt the king and the priest, the protector and the protected. He presented to Charlemagne a book containing a collection of the canons written by the pontiffs from the origin of the Church, and he put at the beginning of the book, which was dedicated to Charlemagne, an address in forty-five irregular verses, written with his own hand, which formed an anagram: “Pope Adrian to his most excellent son Charlemagne, king.” (Domino excellentissimo filio Carolo Magno regi Ipadrianus papa). At the same time he encouraged him to push his victory to the utmost and make himself king of the Lombards, advising him, however, not to incorporate his conquest with the Frankish dominions, as it would wound the pride of the conquered people to be thus absorbed by the conquerors, and to take merely the title of “King of the Franks and Lombards.” Charlemagne appreciated and accepted this wise advice; for he could preserve proper limits in his ambition and in the hour of victory. Three years afterwards he even did more than Pope Adrian had advised. In 777 Queen Hildegarde bore him a son, Pepin, whom in 781 Charlemagne had baptized and anointed king of Italy at Rome by the Pope, thus separating not only the two titles, but also the two kingdoms, and restoring to the Lombards a national existence, feeling quite sure that, so long as he lived, the unity of his different dominions would not be imperilled. Having thus regulated at Rome his own affairs and those of the Church, he returned to his camp, took Pavia, received the submission of all the Lombard dukes and counts, save one only, Aregisius, duke of Beneventum, and entered France again, taking with him as prisoner King Didier, whom he banished to a monastery, first at Liege and then at Corbie, where the dethroned Lombard, say the chroniclers, ended his days in saintly fashion.

The prompt success of this war in Italy, undertaken at the appeal of the Head of the Church, this first sojourn of Charlemagne at Rome, the spectacles he had witnessed, and the homage he had received, exercised over him, his plans, and his deeds, a powerful influence. This rough Frankish warrior, chief of a people who were beginning to make a brilliant appearance upon the stage of the world, and issue himself of a new line, had a taste for what was grand, splendid, ancient, and consecrated by time and public respect; he understood and estimated at its full worth the moral force and importance of such allies. He departed from Rome in 774, more determined than ever to subdue Saxony, to the advantage of the Church as well as of his own power, and to promote, in the South as in the North, the triumph of the Frankish Christian dominion.

Three years afterwards, in 777, he had convoked at Paderborn, in Westphalia, that general assembly of his different peoples at which Wittikind did not attend, and which was destined to bring upon the Saxons a more and more obstinate war. “The Saracen Ibn-al-Arabi,” says Eginhard, “came to this town, to present himself before the king. He had arrived from Spain, together with other Saracens in his train, to surrender to the king of the Franks himself and all the towns which the king of the Saracens had confided to his keeping.” For a long time past the Christians of the West had given the Mussulmans, Arab or other, the name of Saracens. Ibn-al-Arabi was governor of Saragossa, and one of the Spanish Arab chieftains in league against Abdel-Rhaman, the last offshoot of the Ommiad khalifs, who, with the assistance of the Berbers, had seized the government of Spain. Amidst the troubles of his country and his nation, Ibn-al-Arabi summoned to his aid, against Abdel-Rhaman, the Franks and the Christians, just as, but lately, Maurontius, duke of Arles, had summoned to Provence, against Charles Martel, the Arabs and the Mussulmans.

Charlemagne accepted the summons with alacrity. With the coming of spring in the following year, 778, and with the full assent of his chief warriors, he began his march towards the Pyrenees, crossed the Loire, and halted at Casseneuil, at the confluence of the Lot and the Garonne, to celebrate there the festival of Easter, and to make preparations for his expedition thence. As he had but lately done for his campaign in Italy against the Lombards, he divided his forces into two armies one composed of Austrasians, Neustrians, Burgundians, and divers German contingents, and commanded by Charlemagne in person, was to enter Spain by the valley of Roncesvalles, in the western Pyrenees, and make for Pampeluna; the other, consisting of Provenccals, Septimanians, Lombards, and other populations of the South, under the command of Duke Bernard, who had already distinguished himself in Italy, had orders to penetrate into Spain by the eastern Pyrenees, to receive on the march the submission of Gerona and Barcelona, and not to halt till they were before Saragossa, where the two armies were to form a junction, and which Ibn- al-Arabi had promised to give up to the king of the Franks. According to this plan, Charlemagne had to traverse the territories of Aquitaine and Vasconia, domains of Duke Lupus II., son of Duke Waifre, so long the foe of Pepin the Short, a Merovingian by descent, and in all these qualities little disposed to favor Charlemagne. However, the march was accomplished without difficulty. The king of the Franks treated his powerful vassal well; and Duke Lupus swore to him afresh, “or for the first time,” says M. Fauriel, “submission and fidelity; but the event soon proved that it was not without umbrage or without all the feelings of a true son of Waifre that he saw the Franks and the son of Pepin so close to him.”

The aggressive campaign was an easy and a brilliant one. Charles with his army entered Spain by the valley of Roncesvalles without encountering any obstacle. On his arrival before Pampeluna the Arab governor surrendered the place to him, and Charlemagne pushed forward vigorously to Saragossa. But there fortune changed. The presence of foreigners and Christians on the soil of Spain caused a suspension of interior quarrels amongst the Arabs, who rose in mass, at all points, to succor Saragossa. The besieged defended themselves with obstinacy; there was more scarcity of provisions amongst the besiegers than inside the place; sickness broke out amongst them; they were incessantly harassed from without; and rumors of a fresh rising amongst the Saxons reached Charlemagne. The Arabs demanded negotiation. To decide the king of the Franks upon an abandonment of the siege, they offered him “an immense quantity of gold,” say the chroniclers, hostages, and promises of homage and fidelity. Appearances had been saved; Charlemagne could say, and even perhaps believe, that he had pushed his conquests as far as the Ebro; he decided on retreat, and all the army was set in motion to recross the Pyrenees. On arriving before Pampeluna, Charlemagne had its walls completely razed to the ground, “in order that,” as he said, “that city might not be able to revolt.” The troops entered those same passes of Roncesvalles which they had traversed without obstacle a few weeks before; and the advance-guard and the main body of the army were already clear of them. The account of what happened shall be given in the words of Eginhard, the only contemporary historian whose account, free from all exaggeration, can be considered authentic. “The king,” he says, “brought back his army without experiencing any loss, save that at the summit of the Pyrenees he suffered somewhat from the perfidy of the Vascons (Basques). Whilst the army of the Franks, embarrassed in a narrow defile, was forced by the nature of the ground to advance in one long, close line, the Basques, who were in ambush on the crest of the mountain (for the thickness of the forest with which these parts are covered is favorable to ambuscade), descend and fall suddenly on the baggage-train and on the troops of the rear-guard, whose duty it was to cover all in their front, and precipitate them to the bottom of the valley. There took place a fight in which the Franks were killed to a man. The Basques, after having plundered the baggage-train, profited by the night, which had come on, to disperse rapidly. They owed all their success in this engagement to the lightness of their equipment and to the nature of the spot where the action took place; the Franks, on the contrary, being heavily armed and in an unfavorable position, struggled against too many disadvantages. Eginhard, master of the household of the king; Anselm, count of the palace; and Roland, prefect of the marches of Brittany, fell in this engagement. There were no means, at the time, of taking revenge for this cheek; for after their sudden attack, the enemy dispersed to such good purpose that there was no gaining any trace of the direction in which they should be sought for.”

Death of Roland at Roncesvalles——227

History says no more; but in the poetry of the people there is a longer and a more faithful memory than in the court of kings. The disaster of Roncesvalles and the heroism of the warriors who perished there became, in France, the object of popular sympathy and the favorite topic for the exercise of the popular fancy. The Song of Roland, a real Homeric poem in its great beauty, and yet rude and simple as became its national character, bears witness to the prolonged importance attained in Europe by this incident in the history of Charlemagne. Three centuries later the comrades of William the Conqueror, marching to battle at Hastings for the possession of England, struck up The Song of Roland “to prepare themselves for victory or death,” says M. Vitel, in his vivid estimate and able translation of this poetical monument of the manners and first impulses towards chivalry of the middle ages. There is no determining how far history must be made to participate in these reminiscences of national feeling; but, assuredly, the figures of Roland and Oliver, and Archbishop Turpin, and the pious, unsophisticated and tender character of their heroism are not pure fables invented by the fancy of a poet, or the credulity of a monk. If the accuracy of historical narrative must not be looked for in them, their moral truth must be recognized in their portrayal of a people and an age.

The political genius of Charlemagne comprehended more fully than would be imagined from his panegyrist’s brief and dry account all the gravity of the affair of Roncesvalles. Not only did he take immediate vengeance by hanging Duke Lupus of Aquitaine, whose treason had brought down this mishap, and by reducing his two sons, Adairic and Sancho, to a more feeble and precarious condition, but he resolved to treat Aquitaine as he had but lately treated Italy, that is to say, to make of it, according to the correct definition of M. Fauriel, “a special kingdom,” an integral portion, indeed, of the Frankish empire, but with an especial destination, which was that of resisting the invasions of the Andalusian Arabs, and confining them as much as possible to the soil of the Peninsula. This was, in some sort, giving back to the country its primary task as an independent duchy; and it was the most natural and most certain way of making the Aquitanians useful subjects by giving play to their national vanity, to their pretensions of forming a separate people, and to their hopes of once more becoming, sooner or later, an independent nation. Queen Hildegarde, during her husband’s sojourn at Casseneuil, in 778, had borne him a son, whom he called Louis, and who was, afterwards, Louis the Debonnair. Charlemagne, summoned a second time to Rome, in 781, by the quarrels of Pope Adrian I. with the imperial court of Constantinople, brought with him his two sons, Pepin aged only four years, and Louis only three years, and had them anointed by the Pope, the former King of Italy, and the latter King of Aquitaine. “On returning from Rome to Austrasia, Charlemagne sent Louis at once to take possession of his kingdom. From the banks of the Meuse to Orleans the little prince was carried in his cradle; but once on the Loire, this manner of travelling beseemed him no longer; his conductors would that his entry into his dominions should have a manly and warrior-like appearance; they clad him in arms proportioned to his height and age; they put him and held him on horseback; and it was in such guise that he entered Aquitaine. He came thither accompanied by the officers who were to form his council of guardians, men chosen by Charlemagne, with care, amongst the Frankish ‘leudes,’ distinguished not only for bravery and firmness, but also for adroitness, and such as they should be to be neither deceived nor seared by the cunning, fickle, and turbulent populations with whom they would have to deal.” From this period to the death of Charlemagne, and by his sovereign influence, though all the while under his son’s name, the government of Aquitaine was a series of continued efforts to hurl back the Arabs of Spain beyond the Ebro, to extend to that river the dominion of the Franks, to divert to that end the forces as well as the feelings of the populations of Southern Gaul, and thus to pursue, in the South as in the North, against the Arabs as well as against the Saxons and Huns, the grand design of Charlemagne, which was the repression of foreign invasions and the triumph of Christian France over Asiatic Paganism and Islamism.

Although continually obliged to watch, and often still to fight, Charlemagne might well believe that he had nearly gained his end. He had everywhere greatly extended the frontiers of the Frankish dominions and subjugated the populations comprised in his conquests. He had proved that his new frontiers would be vigorously defended against new invasions or dangerous neighbors. He had pursued the Huns and the Saxons to the confines of the empire of the East, and the Saracens to the islands of Corsica and Sardinia. The centre of the dominion was no longer in ancient Gaul; he had transferred it to a point not far from the Rhine, in the midst and within reach of the Germanic populations, at the town of Aix-la-Chapelle, which he had founded, and which was his favorite residence; but the principal parts of the Gallo-Frankish kingdom, Austrasia, Neustria, and Burgundy, were effectually welded in one single mass. What he had done with Southern Gaul has but just been pointed out: how he had both separated it from his own kingdom and still retained it under his control. Two expeditions into Armorica, without taking entirely from the Britons their independence, had taught them real deference, and the great warrior Roland, installed as count upon their frontier, warned them of the peril any rising would encounter. The moral influence of Charlemagne was on a par with his material power; he had everywhere protected the missionaries of Christianity; he had twice entered Rome, also in the character of protector, and he could count on the faithful support of the Pope at least as much as the Pope could count on him. He had received embassies and presents from the sovereigns of the East, Christian and Mussulman, from the emperors at Constantinople and the khalifs at Bagdad. Everywhere, in Europe, in Africa, and in Asia, he was feared and respected by kings and people. Such, at the close of the eighth century, were, so far as he was concerned, the results of his wars, of the superior capacity he had displayed, and of the successes he had won and kept.

In 799 he received, at Aix-la-Chapelle, news of serious disturbances which had broken out at Rome; that Pope Leo III. had been attacked by conspirators, who, after pulling out, it was said, his eyes and his tongue, had shut him up in the monastery of St. Erasmus, whence he had with great difficulty escaped, and that he had taken refuge with Winigisius, duke of Spoleto, announcing his intention of repairing thence to the Frankish king. Leo was already known to Charlemagne; at his accession to the pontificate, in 795, he had sent to him, as to the patrician and defender of Rome, the keys of the prison of St. Peter and the banner of the city. Charlemagne showed a disposition to receive him with equal kindness and respect. The Pope arrived, in fact, at Paderborn, passed some days there, according to Eginhard, and returned to Rome on the 30th of November, 799, at ease regarding his future, but without knowledge on the part of any one of what had been settled between the king of the Franks and him. Charlemagne remained all the winter at Aix-la-Chapelle, spent the first months of the year 800 on affairs connected with Western France, at Rouen, Tours, Orleans, and Paris, and, returning to Mayence in the month of August, then for the first time announced to the general assembly of Franks his design of making a journey to Italy. He repaired thither, in fact, and arrived on the 23d of November, 800, at the gates of Rome. The Pope received him there as he was dismounting; then, the next day, standing on the steps of the basilica of St. Peter and amidst general hallelujahs, he introduced the king into the sanctuary of the blessed apostle, glorifying and thanking the Lord for this happy event. Some days were spent in examining into the grievances which had been set down to the Pope’s account, and in receiving two monks arrived from Jerusalem to present to the king, with the patriarch’s blessing, the keys of the Holy Sepulchre and Calvary, as well as the sacred standard. Lastly, on the 25th of December, 800, “the day of the Nativity of our Lord,” says Eginhard, “the king came into the basilica of the blessed St. Peter, apostle, to attend the celebration of mass. At the moment when, in his place before the altar, he was bowing down to pray, Pope Leo placed on his head a crown, and all the Roman people shouted, ‘Long life and victory to Charles Augustus, crowned by God, the great and pacific emperor of the Romans!’ After this proclamation the pontiff prostrated himself before him and paid him adoration, according to the custom established in the days of the old emperors; and thenceforward Charles, giving up the title of patrician, bore that of Emperor and Augustus.”

Eginhard adds, in his Life of Charlemagne, “The king at first testified great aversion for this dignity, for he declared that, notwithstanding the importance of the festival, he would not on that day have entered the church, if he could have foreseen the intentions of the sovereign pontiff. However, this event excited the jealousy of the Roman emperors (of Constantinople), who showed great vexation at it; but Charles met their bad graces with nothing but great patience, and thanks to this magnanimity, which raised him so far above them, he managed, by sending to them frequent embassies and giving them in his letters the name of brother, to triumph over their conceit.”

No one, probably, believed in the ninth century, and no one, assuredly, will nowadays believe, that Charlemagne was innocent beforehand of what took place on the 25th of December, 800, in the basilica of St. Peter. It is doubtful, also, if he were seriously concerned about the ill-temper of the emperors of the East. He had wit enough to understand the value which always remains attached to old traditions, and he might have taken some pains to secure their countenance to his title of emperor; but all his contemporaries believed, and he also undoubtedly believed, that he had on that day really won and set up again the Roman empire.







What, then, was the government of this empire of which Charlemagne was proud to assume the old title? How did this German warrior govern that vast dominion which, thanks to his conquests, extended from the Elbe to the Ebro, from the North Sea to the Mediterranean; which comprised nearly all Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the north of Italy and of Spain, and which, sooth to say, was still, when Charlemagne caused himself to be made emperor, scarce more than the hunting-ground and the battle-field of all the swarms of barbarians who tried to settle on the ruins of the Roman world they had invaded and broken to pieces? The government of Charlemagne in the midst of this chaos is the striking, complicated, and transitory fact which is now to be passed in review.

A word of warning must be first of all given touching this word government, with which it is impossible to dispense. For a long time past the word has entailed ideas of national unity, general organization, and regular and efficient power. There has been no lack of revolutions which have changed dynasties and the principles and forms of the supreme power in the State; but they have always left existing, under different names, the practical machinery whereby the supreme power makes itself felt and exercises its various functions over the whole country. Open the Almanac, whether it be called the Imperial, the Royal, or the National, and you will find there always the working system of the government of France; all the powers and their agents, from the lowest to the highest, are there indicated and classed according to their prerogatives and relations. Nor have we there a mere empty nomenclature, a phantom of theory; things go on actually as they are described—the book is the reflex of the reality. It were easy to construct, for the empire of Charlemagne, a similar list of officers; there might be set down in it dukes, counts, vicars, centeniers, and sheriffs (seabini), and they might be distributed, in regular gradation, over the whole territory; but it would be one huge lie; for most frequently, in the majority of places, these magistracies were utterly powerless and themselves in complete disorder. The efforts of Charlemagne, either to establish them on a firm footing or to make them act with regularity, were continual, but unavailing. In spite of the fixity of his purpose and the energy of his action, the disorder around him was measureless and insurmountable. He might check it for a moment at one point; but the evil existed wherever his terrible will did not reach, and wherever it did the evil broke out again so soon as it had been withdrawn. How could it be otherwise? Charlemagne had not to grapple with one single nation or with one single system of institutions; he had to deal with different nations, without cohesion, and foreign one to another. The authority belonged, at one and the same time, to assemblies of free men, to landholders over the dwellers on their domains, and to the king over the “leudes” and their following. These three powers appeared and acted side by side in every locality as well as in the totality of the State. Their relations and their prerogatives were not governed by any generally- recognized principle, and none of the three was invested with sufficient might to prevail habitually against the independence or resistance of its rivals. Force alone, varying according to circumstances and always uncertain decided matters between them. Such was France at the accession of the second line. The co-existence of and the struggle between the three systems of institutions and the three powers just alluded to had as yet had no other result. Out of this chaos Charlemagne caused to issue a monarchy, strong through him alone and so long as he was by, but powerless and gone like a shadow when the man was lost to the institution.

Whoever is astonished either at this triumph of absolute monarchy through the personal movement of Charlemagne, or at the speedy fall of the fabric on the disappearance of the moving spirit, understands neither what can be done by a great man, when without him society sees itself given over to deadly peril, nor how unsubstantial and frail is absolute power when the great man is no longer by, or when society has no longer need of him.

It has just been shown how Charlemagne by his wars, which had for their object and result permanent and well-secured conquests, had stopped the fresh incursions of barbarians, that is, had stopped disorder coming from without. An attempt will now be made to show by what means he set about suppressing disorder from within and putting his own rule in the place of the anarchy that prevailed in the Roman world which lay in ruins, and in the barbaric world which was a prey to blind and ill-regulated force.

A distinction must be drawn between the local and central governments.

Far from the centre of the State, in what have since been called the provinces, the power of the emperor was exercised by the medium of two classes of agents, one local and permanent, the other despatched from the centre and transitory.

In the first class we find:—

1st. The dukes, counts, vicars of counts, centeniers, sheriffs (scabini), officers or magistrates residing on the spot, nominated by the emperor himself or by his delegates, and charged with the duty of acting in his name for the levying of troops, rendering of justice, maintenance of order, and receipt of imposts.

2d. The beneficiaries or vassals of the emperor, who held of him, sometimes as hereditaments, more often for life, and more often still without fixed rule or stipulation, lands; domains, throughout the extent of which they exercised, a little bit in their own name and a little bit in the name of the emperor, a certain jurisdiction and nearly all the rights of sovereignty. There was nothing very fixed or clear in the position of the beneficiaries and in the nature of their power; they were at one and the same time delegates and independent, owners and enjoyers of usufruct, and the former or the latter character prevailed amongst them according to circumstances. But, altogether, they were closely bound to Charlemagne, who, in a great number of cases, charged them with the execution of his orders in the lands they occupied.

Above these agents, local and resident, magistrates or beneficiaries, were the missi dominici, temporary commissioners, charged to inspect, in the emperor’s name, the condition of the provinces; authorized to penetrate into the interior of the free lands as well as of the domains granted with the title of benefices; having the right to reform certain abuses, and bound to render an account of all to their master. The missi dominici were the principal instruments Charlemagne had, throughout the vast territory of his empire, of order and administration.

As to the central government, setting aside for a moment the personal action of Charlemagne and of his counsellors, the general assemblies, to judge by appearances and to believe nearly all the modern historians, occupied a prominent place in it. They were, in fact, during his reign, numerous and active; from the year 776 to the year 813 we may count thirty-five of these national assemblies, March-parades and May-parades, held at Worms, Valenciennes, Geneva, Paderborn, Aix-la-Chapelle, Thionville, and several other towns, the majority situated round about the two banks of the Rhine. The number and periodical nature of these great political reunions are undoubtedly a noticeable fact. What, then, went on in their midst? What character and weight must be attached to their intervention in the government of the State? It is important to sift this matter thoroughly.

There is extant, touching this subject, a very curious document. A contemporary and counsellor of Charlemagne, his cousin-german Adalbert, abbot of Corbic, had written a treatise entitled Of the Ordering of the Palace (De Ordine Palatii), and designed to give an insight into the government of Charlemagne, with especial reference to the national assemblies. This treatise was lost; but towards the close of the ninth century, Hincmar, the celebrated archbishop of Rheims, reproduced it almost in its entirety, in the form of a letter or of instructions, written at the request of certain grandees of the kingdom who had asked counsel of him with respect to the government of Carloman, one of the sons of Charles the Stutterer. We read therein,

“It was the custom at this time to hold two assemblies every year. . . In both, that they might not seem to have been convoked without motive, there were submitted to the examination and deliberation of the grandees . . . and by virtue of orders from the king, the fragments of law called capitula, which the king himself had drawn up under the inspiration of God or the necessity for which had been made manifest to him in the intervals between the meetings.”

Two striking facts are to be gathered from these words: the first, that the majority of the members composing these assemblies probably regarded as a burden the necessity for being present at them, since Charlemagne took care to explain their convocation by declaring to them the motive for it and by always giving them something to do; the second, that the proposal of the capitularies, or, in modern phrase, the initiative, proceeded from the emperor. The initiative is naturally exercised by him who wishes to regulate or reform, and in his time it was especially Charlemagne who conceived this design. There is no doubt, however, but that the members of the assembly might make on their side such proposals as appeared to them suitable; the constitutional distrusts and artifices of our times were assuredly unknown to Charlemagne, who saw in these assemblies a means of government rather than a barrier to his authority. To resume the text of Hincmar:—

“After having received these communications, they deliberated on them two or three days or more, according to the importance of the business. Palace-messengers, going and coming, took their questions and carried back the answers. No stranger came near the place of their meeting until the result of their deliberations had been able to be submitted to the scrutiny of the great prince, who then, with the wisdom he had received from God, adopted a resolution which all obeyed.”

The definitive resolution, therefore, depended upon Charlemagne alone; the assembly contributed only information and counsel.

Hinemar continues, and supplies details worthy of reproduction, for they give an insight into the imperial government and the action of Charlemagne himself amidst those most ancient of the national assemblies.

“Things went on thus for one or two capitularies, or a greater number, until, with God’s help, all the necessities of the occasion were regulated.

“Whilst these matters were thus proceeding out of the king’s presence, the prince himself, in the midst of the multitude, came to the general assembly, was occupied in receiving the presents, saluting the men of most note, conversing with those he saw seldom, showing towards the elders a tender interest, disporting himself with the youngsters, and doing the same thing, or something like it, with the ecclesiastics as well as the seculars. However, if those who were deliberating about the matter submitted to their examination showed a desire for it, the king repaired to them and remained with them as long as they wished; and then they reported to him with perfect familiarity what they thought about all matters, and what were the friendly discussions that had arisen amongst them. I must not forget to say that, if the weather were fine, everything took place in the open air; otherwise, in several distinct buildings, where those who had to deliberate on the king’s proposals were separated from the multitude of persons come to the assembly, and then the men of greater note were admitted. The places appointed for the meeting of the lords were divided into two parts, in such sort that the bishops, the abbots, and the clerics of high rank might meet without mixture with the laity. In the same way the counts and other chiefs of the State underwent separation, in the morning, until, whether the king was present or absent, all were gathered together; then the lords above specified, the clerics on their side, and the laics on theirs, repaired to the hall which had been assigned to them, and where seats had been with due honor prepared for them. When the lords laical and ecclesiastical were thus separated from the multitude, it remained in their power to sit separately or together, according to the nature of the business they had to deal with, ecclesiastical, secular, or mixed. In the same way, if they wished to send for any one, either to demand refreshment, or to put any question and to dismiss him after getting what they wanted, it was at their option. Thus took place the examination of affairs proposed to them by the king for deliberation.

Charlemagne and the General Assembly——239

“The second business of the king was to ask of each what there was to report to him, or enlighten him touching the part of the kingdom each had come from. Not only was this permitted to all, but they were strictly enjoined to make inquiries, during the interval between the assemblies, about what happened within or without the kingdom; and they were bound to seek knowledge from foreigners as well as natives, enemies as well as friends, sometimes by employing emissaries, and without troubling themselves much about the manner in which they acquired their information. The king wished to know whether in any part, in any corner of the kingdom, the people were restless, and what was the cause of their restlessness; or whether there had happened any disturbance to which it was necessary to draw the attention of the council-general, and other similar matters. He sought also to know whether any of the subjugated nations were inclined to revolt; whether any of those that had revolted seemed disposed towards submission; and whether those that were still independent were threatening the kingdom with any attack. On all these subjects, whenever there was any manifestation of disorder or danger, he demanded chiefly what were the motives or occasion of them.”

There is need of no great reflection to recognize the true character of these assemblies: it is clearly imprinted upon the sketch drawn by Hincmar. The figure of Charlemagne alone fills the picture: he is the centre-piece of it and the soul of everything. ‘Tis he who wills that the national assemblies should meet and deliberate; ‘tis he who inquires into the state of the country; ‘tis he who proposes and approves of or rejects the laws; with him rest will and motive, initiative and decision. He has a mind sufficiently judicious, unshackled, and elevated to understand that the nation ought not to be left in darkness about its affairs, and that he himself has need of communicating with it, of gathering information from it, and of learning its opinions. But we have here no exhibition of great political liberties, no people discussing its interests and its business, interfering effectually in the adoption of resolutions, and, in fact, taking in its government so active and decisive a part as to have a right to say that it is self-governing, or, in other words, a free people. It is Charlemagne, and he alone, who governs; it is absolute government marked by prudence, ability, and grandeur.

When the mind dwells upon the state of Gallo-Frankish society in the eighth century, there is nothing astonishing in such a fact. Whether it be civilized or barbarian, that which every society needs, that which it seeks and demands first of all in its government, is a certain degree of good sense and strong will, of intelligence and innate influence, so far as the public interests are concerned; qualities, in fact, which suffice to keep social order maintained or make it realized, and to promote respect for individual rights and the progress of the general well-being. This is the essential aim of every community of men; and the institutions and guarantees of free government are the means of attaining it. It is clear that, in the eighth century, on the ruins of the Roman and beneath the blows of the barbaric world, the Gallo-Frankish nation, vast and without cohesion, brutish and ignorant, was incapable of bringing forth, so to speak, from its own womb, with the aid of its own wisdom and virtue, a government of the kind. A host of different forces, without enlightenment and without restraint, were everywhere and incessantly struggling for dominion, or, in other words, were ever troubling and endangering the social condition. Let there but arise, in the midst of this chaos of unruly forces and selfish passions, a great man, one of those elevated minds and strong characters that can understand the essential aim of society and then urge it forward, and at the same time keep it well in hand on the roads that lead thereto, and such a man will soon seize and exercise the personal power almost of a despot, and people will not only make him welcome, but even celebrate his praises, for they do not quit the substance for the shadow, or sacrifice the end to the means. Such was the empire of Charlemagne. Amongst annalists and historians, some, treating him as a mere conqueror and despot, have ignored his merits and his glory; others, that they might admire him without scruple, have made of him a founder of free institutions, a constitutional monarch. Both are equally mistaken. Charlemagne was, indeed, a conqueror and a despot; but by his conquests and his personal power he, so long as he was by, that is, for six and forty years, saved Gallo-Frankish society from barbaric invasion without and anarchy within. That is the characteristic of his government and his title to glory.

What he was in his wars and his general relations with his nation has just been seen; he shall now be exhibited in all his administrative activity and his intellectual life, as a legislator and as a friend to the human mind. The same man will be recognized in every ease; he will grow in greatness, without changing, as he appears under his various aspects.

There are often joined together, under the title of Capitularies (capitula, small chapters, articles) a mass of Acts, very different in point of dates and objects, which are attributed indiscriminately to Charlemagne. This is a mistake. The Capitularies are the laws or legislative measures of the Frankish kings, Merovingian as well as Carlovingian. Those of the Merovingians are few in number and of slight importance, and amongst those of the Carlovingians, which amount to one hundred and fifty-two, sixty-five only are due to Charlemagne. When an attempt is made to classify these last according to their object, it is impossible not to be struck with their incoherent variety; and several of them are such as we should nowadays be surprised to meet with in a code or in a special law. Amongst Charlemagne’s sixty-five Capitularies, which contain eleven hundred and fifty-one articles, may be counted eighty-seven of moral, two hundred and ninety-three of political, one hundred and thirty of penal, one hundred and ten of civil, eighty-five of religious, three hundred and five of canonical, seventy-three of domestic, and twelve of incidental legislation. And it must not be supposed that all these articles are really acts of legislation, laws properly so called; we find amongst them the texts of ancient national laws revised and promulgated afresh; extracts from and additions to these same ancient laws, Salle, Lombard, and Bavarian; extracts from acts of councils; instructions given by Charlemagne to his envoys in the provinces; questions that he proposed to put to the bishops or counts when they came to the national assembly; answers given by Charlemagne to questions addressed to him by the bishops, counts, or commissioners (missi dominici); judgments, decrees, royal pardons, and simple notes that Charlemagne seems to have had written down for himself alone, to remind him of what he proposed to do; in a word, nearly all the various acts which could possibly have to be framed by an earnest, far-sighted and active government. Often, indeed, these Capitularies have no imperative or prohibitive character; they are simple counsels, purely moral precepts. We read therein, for example,—

“Covetousness doth consist in desiring that which others possess, and in giving away nought of that which one’s self possesseth; according to the Apostle it is the root of all evil.”


“Hospitality must be practised.”

The Capitularies which have been classed under the heads of political, penal, and canonical legislation are the most numerous, and are those which bear most decidedly an imperative or prohibitive stamp; amongst them a prominent place is held by measures of political economy, administration, and police; you will find therein an attempt to put a fixed price on provisions, a real trial of a maximum for cereals, and a prohibition of mendicity, with the following clause:—

“If such mendicants be met with, and they labor not with their hands, let none take thought about giving unto them.”

The interior police of the palace was regulated thereby, as well as that of the empire:

“We do will and decree that none of those who serve in our palace shall take leave to receive therein any man who seeketh refuge there and cometh to hide there, by reason of theft, homicide, adultery, or any other crime. That if any free man do break through our interdicts, and hide such malefactor in our palace, he shall be bound to carry him on his shoulders to the public quarter, and be there tied to the same stake as the malefactor.”

Certain Capitularies have been termed religious legislation in contradistinction to canonical legislation, because they are really admonitions, religious exhortations, addressed not to ecclesiastics alone, but to the faithful, the Christian people in general, and notably characterized by good sense, and, one might almost say, freedom of thought.

For example,

“Beware of venerating the names of martyrs falsely so called, and the memory of dubious saints.”

“Let none suppose that prayer cannot be made to God save in three tongues [probably Latin, Greek, and Germanic, or perhaps the vulgar tongue; for the last was really beginning to take form], for God is adored in all tongues, and man is heard if he do but ask for the things that be right.”

These details are put forward that a proper idea may be obtained of Charlemagne as a legislator, and of what are called his laws. We have here, it will be seen, no ordinary legislator and no ordinary laws: we see the work, with infinite variations and in disconnected form, of a prodigiously energetic and watchful master, who had to think and provide for everything, who had to be everywhere the moving and the regulating spirit. This universal and untiring energy is the grand characteristic of Charlemagne’s government, and was, perhaps, what made his superiority most incontestable and his power most efficient.

It is noticeable that the majority of Charlemagne’s Capitularies belong to that epoch of his reign when he was Emperor of the West, when he was invested with all the splendor of sovereign power. Of the sixty-five Capitularies classed under different heads, thirteen only are previous to the 25th of December, 800, the date of his coronation as emperor at Rome; fifty-two are comprised between the years 801 and 804.

The energy of Charlemagne as a warrior and a politician having thus been exhibited, it remains to say a few words about his intellectual energy. For that is by no means the least original or least grand feature of his character and his influence.

Modern times and civilized society have more than once seen despotic sovereigns filled with distrust towards scholars of exalted intellect, especially such as cultivated the moral and political sciences, and little inclined to admit them to their favor or to public office. There is no knowing whether, in our days, with our freedom of thought and of the press, Charlemagne would have been a stranger to this feeling of antipathy; but what is certain is, that in his day, in the midst of a barbaric society, there was no inducement to it, and that, by nature, he was not disposed to it. His power was not in any respect questioned; distinguished intellects were very rare; Charlemagne had too much need of their services to fear their criticisms, and they, on their part, were more anxious to second his efforts than to show towards him anything like exaction or independence. He gave rein, therefore, without any embarrassment or misgiving, to his spontaneous inclination towards them, their studies, their labors, and their influence. He drew them into the management of affairs. In Guizot’s History of Civilization in France there is a list of the names and works of twenty-three men of the eighth and ninth centuries who have escaped oblivion, and they are all found grouped about Charlemagne as his own habitual advisers, or assigned by him as advisers to his sons Pepin and Louis in Italy and Aquitania, or sent by him to all points of his empire as his commissioners (missi dominici), or charged in his name with important negotiations. And those whom he did not employ at a distance formed, in his immediate neighborhood, a learned and industrious society, a school of the palace, according to some modern commentators, but an academy, and not a school, according to others, devoted rather to conversation than to teaching. It probably fulfilled both missions; it attended Charlemagne at his various residences, at one time working for him at questions he invited them to deal with, at another giving to the regular components of his court, to his children and to himself, lessons in the different sciences called liberal, grammar, rhetoric, logic, astronomy, geometry, and even theology and the great religious problems it was beginning to discuss.

Charlemagne Presiding at the School of The Palace——246

Two men, Alcuin and Eginhard, have remained justly celebrated in the literary history of the age. Alcuin was the principal director of the school of the palace, and the favorite, the confidant, the learned adviser of Charlemagne. “If your zeal were imitated,” said he one day to the emperor, “perchance one might see arise in France a new Athens, far more glorious than the ancient—the Athens of Christ.” Eginhard, who was younger, received his scientific education in the school of the palace, and was head of the public works to Charlemagne, before becoming his biographer, and, at a later period, the intimate adviser of his son Louis the Debonnair. Other scholars of the school of the palace, Angilbert, Leidrade, Adalhard, Agobard, Theodulph, were abbots of St. Riquier or Corbie, archbishops of Lyons, and bishops of Orleans. They had all assumed, in the school itself, names illustrious in pagan antiquity; Alcuin called himself Flaeens; Angilbert, Homer; Theodulph, Pindar. Charlemagne himself had been pleased to take, in their society, a great name of old, but he had borrowed from the history of the Hebrews—he called himself David; and Eginhard, animated, no doubt, by the same sentiments, was Bezaleel, that nephew of Moses to whom God had granted the gift of knowing how to work skilfully in wood and all the materials which served for the construction of the ark and the tabernacle. Either in the lifetime of their royal patron, or after his death, all these scholars became great dignitaries of the Church, or ended their lives in monasteries of note; but, so long as they lived, they served Charlemagne or his sons not only with the devotion of faithful advisers, but also as followers proud of the master who had known how to do them honor by making use of them.

It was without effort and by natural sympathy that Charlemagne had inspired them with such sentiments; for he, too, really loved sciences, literature, and such studies as were then possible, and he cultivated them on his own account and for his own pleasure, as a sort of conquest. It has been doubted whether he could write, and an expression of Eginhard’s might authorize such a doubt; but, according to other evidence and even according to the passage in Eginhard, one is inclined to believe merely that Charlemagne strove painfully, and without much success, to write a good hand. He had learned Latin, and he understood Greek. He caused to be commenced, and, perhaps, himself commenced the drawing up of the first Germanic grammar. He ordered that the old barbaric poems, in which the deeds and wars of the ancient kings were celebrated, should be collected for posterity. He gave Germanic names to the twelve months of the year. He distinguished the winds by twelve special terms, whereas before his time they had but four designations. He paid great attention to astronomy. Being troubled one day at no longer seeing in the firmament one of the known planets, he wrote to Alcuin, “What thinkest thou of this Mars, which, last year, being concealed in the sign of Cancer, was intercepted from the sight of men by the light of the sun? Is it the regular course of his revolution? Is it the influence of the sun? Is it a miracle? Could he have been two years about performing the course of a single one?” In theological studies and discussions he exhibited a particular and grave interest. “It is to him,” say M.M. Ampere and Haureau, “that we must refer the honor of the decision taken in 794 by the Council of Frankfort in the great dispute about images; a temperate decision which is as far removed from the infatuation of the image-worshippers as from the frenzy of the image-breakers.” And at the same time that he thus took part in the great ecclesiastical questions, Charlemagne paid zealous attention to the instruction of the clergy, whose ignorance he deplored. “Ah,” said he one day, “if only I had about me a dozen clerics learned in all the sciences, as Jerome and Augustin were!” With all his puissance it was not in his power to make Jeromes and Augustins; but he laid the foundation, in the cathedral churches and the great monasteries, of episcopal and cloistral schools for the education of ecclesiastics, and carrying his solicitude still farther, he recommended to the bishops and abbots that, in those schools, “they should take care to make no difference between the sons of serfs and of free men, so that they might come and sit on the same benches to study grammar, music, and arithmetic.” (Capitularies of 789, art. 70.) Thus, in the eighth century, he foreshadowed the extension which, in the nineteenth, was to be accorded to primary instruction, to the advantage and honor not only of the clergy, but also of the whole people.

After so much of war and toil at a distance, Charlemagne was now at Aix- la-Chapelle, finding rest in this work of peaceful civilization. He was embellishing the capital which he had founded, and which was called the king’s court. He had built there a grand basilica, magnificently adorned. He was completing his own palace there. He fetched from Italy clerics skilled in church music, a pious joyance to which he was much devoted, and which he recommended to the bishops of his empire. In the outskirts of Aix-la-Chapelle “he gave full scope,” said Eginhard, “to his delight in riding and hunting. Baths of naturally-tepid water gave him great pleasure. Being passionately fond of swimming, he became so dexterous that none could be compared with him. He invited not only his sons, but also his friends, the grandees of his court, and sometimes even the soldiers of his guard, to bathe with him, insomuch that there were often a hundred and more persons bathing at a time. When age arrived he made no alteration in his bodily habits; but, at the same time, instead of putting away from him the thought of death, he was much taken up with it, and prepared himself for it with stern severity. He drew up, modified, and completed his will several times over. Three years before his death he made out the distribution of his treasures, his money, his wardrobe, and all his furniture, in the presence of his friends and his officers, in order that their voice might insure, after his death, the execution of this partition, and he set down his intentions in this respect in a written summary, in which he massed all his riches in three grand lots. The first two were divided into twenty-one portions, which were to be distributed amongst the twenty-one metropolitan churches of his empire. After having put these first two lots under seal, he willed to preserve to himself his usual enjoyment of the third so long as he lived. But after his death or voluntary renunciation of the things of this world, this same lot was to be subdivided into four portions. His intention was, that the first should be added to the twenty-one portions which were to go to the metropolitan churches; the second set aside for his sons and daughters, and for the sons and daughters of his sons, and redivided amongst them in a just and proportionate manner; the third dedicated, according to the usage of Christians, to the necessities of the poor; and, lastly, the fourth distributed in the same way, under the name of alms, amongst the servants, of both sexes, of the palace for their lifetime. . . . As for the books, of which he had amassed a large number in his library, he decided that those who wished to have them might buy them at their proper value, and that the money which they produced should be distributed amongst the poor.”

Having thus carefully regulated his own private affairs and bounty, he, two years later, in 813, took the measures necessary for the regulation, after his death, of public affairs. He had lost, in 811, his eldest son Charles, who had been his constant companion in his wars, and, in 810, his second son Pepin, whom he had made king of Italy; and he summoned to his side his third son Louis, king of Aquitaine, who was destined to succeed him. He ordered the convocation of five local councils which were to assemble at Mayence, Rheims, Chalons, Tours, and Arles, for the purpose of bringing about, subject to the king’s ratification, the reforms necessary in the Church. Passing from the affairs of the Church to those of the State, he convoked at Aix-la-Chapelle a general assembly of bishops, abbots, counts, laic grandees, and of the entire people, and, holding council in his palace with the chief amongst them, “he invited them to make his son Louis king-emperor; whereto all assented, saying that it was very expedient, and pleasing, also, to the people. On Sunday in the next month, August 813, Charlemagne repaired, crown on head, with his son Louis, to the cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle, laid upon the altar another crown, and, after praying, addressed to his son a solemn exhortation respecting all his duties as king towards God and the Church, towards his family and his people, asked him if he were fully resolved to fulfil them, and, at the answer that he was, bade him take the crown that lay upon the altar, and place it with his own hands upon his head, which Louis did amidst the acclamations of all present, who cried, ‘Long live the emperor Louis!’ Charlemagne then declared his son emperor jointly with him, and ended the solemnity with these words: ‘Blessed be Thou, O Lord God, who hast granted me grace to see with mine own eyes my son seated on my throne!’” And Louis set out again immediately for Aquitaine.

He was never to see his father again. Charlemagne, after his son’s departure, went out hunting, according to his custom, in the forest of Ardenne, and continued during the whole autumn his usual mode of life. “But in January, 814, he was taken ill,” says Eginhard, “of a violent fever, which kept him to his bed. Recurring forthwith to the remedy he ordinarily employed against fever, he abstained from all nourishment, persuaded that this diet would suffice to drive away or at the least assuage the malady; but added to the fever came that pain in the side which the Greeks call pleurisy; nevertheless the emperor persisted in his abstinence, supporting his body only by drinks taken at long intervals; and on the seventh day after that he had taken to his bed, having received the holy communion,” he expired about nine A.M., on Saturday, the 28th of January, 814, in his seventy-first year.

“After performance of ablutions and funeral duties, the corpse was carried away and buried, amidst the profound mourning of all the people, in the church he himself had built; and above his tomb there was put up a gilded arcade with his image and this superscription: ‘In this tomb reposeth the body of Charles, great and orthodox emperor, who did gloriously extend the kingdom of the Franks, and did govern it happily for forty-seven years. He died at the age of seventy years, in the year of the Lord 814, in the seventh year of the Indiction, on the 5th of the Kalends of February.’”

If we sum up his designs and his achievements, we find an admirably sound idea and a vain dream, a great success and a great failure.

Charlemagne took in hand the work of placing upon a solid foundation the Frankish-Christian dominion by stopping, in the north and south, the flood of barbarians and Arabs—Paganism and Islamism. In that he succeeded: the inundations of Asiatic populations spent their force in vain against the Gallic frontier. Western and Christian Europe was placed, territorially, beyond reach of attacks from the foreigner and infidel. No sovereign, no human being, perhaps, ever rendered greater service to the civilization of the world.

Charlemagne formed another conception and made another attempt. Like more than one great barbaric warrior, he admired the Roman empire that had fallen, its vastness all in one, and its powerful organization under the hand of a single master. He thought he could resuscitate it, durably, through the victory of a new people and a new faith, by the hand of Franks and Christians. With this view he labored to conquer, convert, and govern. He tried to be, at one and the same time, Caesar, Augustus, and Constantine. And for a moment he appeared to have succeeded; but the appearance passed away with himself. The unity of the empire and the absolute power of the emperor were buried in his grave. The Christian religion and human liberty set to work to prepare for Europe other governments and other destinies.

Great men do great things which would not get done without them; they set their mark plainly upon history, which realizes a portion of their ideas and wishes; but they are far from doing all they meditate, and they know not all they do. They are at one and the same time instruments and free agents in a general design which is infinitely above their ken, and which, even if a glimpse of it be caught, remains inscrutable to them— the design of God towards mankind. When great men understand that such is their position and accept it, they show sense, and they work to some purpose. When they do not recognize the limits of their free agency, and the veil which hides from their eyes the future they are laboring for, they become the dupes, and frequently the victims, of a blind pride, which events, in the long run, always end by exposing and punishing.

Amongst men of his rank, Charlemagne has had this singular good fortune, that his error, his misguided attempt at imperialism, perished with him, whilst his salutary achievement, the territorial security of Christian Europe, has been durable, to the great honor, as well as great profit, of European civilization.







From the death of Charlemagne to the accession of Hugh Capet,—that is, from 814 to 987,—thirteen kings sat upon the throne of France. What then became, under their reign and in the course of those hundred and seventy-three years, of the two great facts which swayed the mind and occupied the life of Charlemagne? What became, that is, of the solid territorial foundation of the kingdom of Christian France, through efficient repression of foreign invasion, and of the unity of that vast empire wherein Charlemagne had attempted and hoped to resuscitate the Roman empire?

The fate of those two facts is the very history of France under the Carlovingian dynasty; it is the only portion of the events of that epoch which still deserves attention nowadays, for it is the only one which has exercised any great and lasting influence on the general history of France.

Attempts at foreign invasion of France were renewed very often, and in many parts of Gallo-Frankish territory, during the whole duration of the Carlovingian dynasty, and, even though they failed, they caused the population of the kingdom to suffer from cruel ravages. Charlemagne, even after his successes against the different barbaric invaders, had foreseen the evils which would be inflicted on France by the most formidable and most determined of them, the Northmen, coming by sea, and landing on the coast. The most closely contemporaneous and most given to detail of his chroniclers, the monk of St. Gall, tells in prolix and pompous, but evidently heartfelt and sincere terms, the tale of the great emperor’s far-sightedness. “Charles, who was ever astir,” says he, “arrived by mere hap and unexpectedly, in a certain town of Narbonnese Gaul. Whilst he was at dinner, and was as yet unrecognized of any, some corsairs of the Northmen came to ply their piracies in the very port. When their vessels were descried, they were supposed to be Jewish traders according to some, African according to others, and British in the opinion of others; but the gifted monarch, perceiving, by the build and lightness of the craft, that they bare not merchandise, but foes, said to his own folk, ‘These vessels be not laden with merchandise, but manned with cruel foes.’ At these words all the Franks, in rivalry one with another, run to their ships, but uselessly: for the Northmen, indeed, hearing that yonder was he whom it was still their wont to call Charles the Hammer, feared lest all their fleet should be taken or destroyed in the port, and they avoided, by a flight of inconceivable rapidity, not only the glaives, but even the eyes of those who were pursuing then.

“Pious Charles, however, a prey to well-grounded fear, rose up from table, stationed himself at a window looking eastward, and there remained a long while, and his eyes were filled with tears. As none durst question him, this warlike prince explained to the grandees who were about his person the cause of his movement and of his tears: ‘Know ye, my lieges, wherefore I weep so bitterly? Of a surety I fear not lest these fellows should succeed in injuring me by their miserable piracies; but it grieveth me deeply that, whilst I live, they should have been nigh to touching at this shore, and I am a prey to violent sorrow when I foresee what evils they will heap upon my descendants and their people.’”

He Remained There a Long While, and his Eyes Were Filled With Tears.——255

The forecast and the dejection of Charles were not unreasonable. It will be found that there is special mention made, in the chronicles of the ninth and tenth centuries, of forty-seven incursions into France of Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, and Irish pirates, all comprised under the name of Northmen; and, doubtless, many other incursions of less gravity have left no trace in history. “The Northmen,” says M. Fauriel, “descended from the north to the south by a sort of natural gradation or ladder. The Scheldt was the first river by the mouth of which they penetrated inland; the Seine was the second; the Loire the third. The advance was threatening for the countries traversed by the Garonne; and it was in 844 that vessels freighted with Northmen for the first time ascended this last river to a considerable distance inland, and there took immense booty. . . . The following year they pillaged and burnt Saintes. In 846 they got as far as Limoges. The inhabitants, finding themselves unable to make head against the dauntless pirates, abandoned their hearths, together with all they had not time to carry away. Encouraged by these successes, the Northmen reappeared next year upon the coasts and in the rivers of Aquitaine, and they attempted to take Bordeaux, whence they were valorously repulsed by the inhabitants; but in 848, having once more laid siege to that city, they were admitted into it at night by the Jews, who were there in great force; the city was given up to plunder and conflagration; a portion of the people was scattered abroad, and the rest put to the sword.” Tours, Rouen, Angers, Orleans, Meaux, Toulouse, Saint-Lo, Bayeux, Evreux, Nantes, and Beauvais, some of them more than once, met the fate of Saintes, Limoges, and Bordeaux. The monasteries and churches, wherein they hoped to find treasures, were the favorite objects of the Nortlimen’s enterprises; in particular, they plundered, at the gates of Paris, the abbey of St. Germain des Pres and that of St. Denis, whence they carried off the abbot, who could not purchase his freedom, save by a heavy ransom. They penetrated more than once into Paris itself, and subjected many of its quarters to contributions or pillage. The populations grew into the habit of suffering and fleeing; and the local lords, and even the kings, made arrangement sometimes with the pirates either for saving the royal domains from the ravages, or for having their own share therein. In 850, Pepin, king of Aquitaine, and brother of Charles the Bald, came to an understanding with the Northmen who had ascended the Garonne, and were threatening Toulouse. “They arrived under his guidance,” says M. Fauriel, “they laid siege to it, took it and plundered it, not halfwise, not hastily, as folks who feared to be surprised, but leisurely, with all security, by virtue of a treaty of alliance with one of the kings of the country.” Throughout Aquitaine there was but one cry of indignation against Pepin, and the popularity of Charles was increased in proportion to all the horror inspired by the ineffable misdeed of his adversary. Charles the Bald himself, if he did not ally himself, as Pepin did, with the invaders, took scarce any interest in the fate of the populations, and scarcely more trouble to protect them, for Hincmar, archbishop of Rheims, wrote to him in 859, “Many folks say that you are incessantly repeating that it is not for you to mix yourself up with these depredations and robberies, and that every one has but to defend himself as best he may.”

It were tedious to relate or even to enumerate all these incursions of the Northmen, with their monotonous incidents. When their frequency and their general character have been notified, all has been done that is due to them from history. However, there are three on which it may be worth while to dwell particularly, by reason of their grave historical consequences, as well as of the dramatic details which have been transmitted to us about them.

In the middle and during the last half of the ninth century, a chief of the Northmen, named Hastenc or Hastings, appeared several times over on the coasts and in the rivers of France, with numerous vessels and a following. He had also with him, say the chronicles, a young Norwegian or Danish prince, Bieern, called Ironsides, whom he had educated, and who had preferred sharing the fortunes of his governor to living quietly with the king, his father. After several expeditions into Western France, Hastings became the theme of terrible, and very probably fabulous stories. He extended his cruises, they say, to the Mediterranean, and, having arrived at the coasts of Tuscany, within sight of a city which in his ignorance he took for Rome, he resolved to pillage it; but, not feeling strong enough to attack it by assault, he sent to the bishop to say he was very ill, felt a wish to become a Christian, and begged to be baptized. Some days afterwards, his comrades spread a report that he was dead, and claimed for him the honors of a solemn burial. The bishop consented; the coffin of Hastings was carried into the church, attended by a large number of his followers, without visible weapons; but, in the middle of the ceremony, Hastings suddenly leaped up, sword in hand, from his coffin; his followers displayed the weapons they had concealed, closed the doors, slew the priests, pillaged the ecclesiastical treasures, and re-embarked before the very eyes of the stupefied population, to go and resume, on the coasts of France, their incursions and their ravages.

Whether they were true or false, these rumors of bold artifices and distant expeditions on the part of Hastings aggravated the dismay inspired by his appearance. He penetrated into the interior of the country in Poitou, Anjou, Brittany, and along the Seine; pillaged the monasteries of Jumieges, St. Vaudrille, and St. Evroul; took possession of Chartres, and appeared before Paris, where Charles the Bald, intrenched at St. Denis, was deliberating with his prelates and barons as to how he might resist the Northmen or treat with them. The chronicle says that the barons advised resistance, but that the king preferred negotiation, and “sent the Abbot of St. Denis, the which was an exceeding wise man,” to Hastings, who, “after long parley, and by reason of large gifts and promises,” consented to stop his cruisings, to become a Christian, and to settle in the count-ship of Chartres, “which the king gave him as an hereditary possession, with all its appurtenances.” According to other accounts, it was only some years later, under the young king Louis III., grandson of Charles the Bald, that Hastings was induced, either by reverses or by payment of money, to cease from his piracies, and accept in recompense the countship of Chartres. Whatever may have been the date, he was, it is believed, the first chieftain of the Northmen who renounced a life of adventure and plunder, to become, in France, a great landed proprietor and a count of the king’s. Prince Bieern then separated from his governor, and put again to sea, “laden with so rich a booty that he could never feel any want of wealth; but a tempest swallowed up a great part of his fleet, and cast him upon the coasts of Friesland, where he died soon after, for which Hastings was exceeding sorry.”

A greater chieftain of the Northmen than Hastings was soon to follow his example, and found Normandy in France; but before Rolf, that is, Rollo, came and gave the name of his race to a French province, the piratical. Northmen were again to attempt a greater blow against France, and to suffer a great reverse.

In November, 885, under the reign of Charles the Fat, after having, for more than forty years, irregularly ravaged France, they resolved to unite their forces in order at length to obtain possession of Paris, whose outskirts they had so often pillaged without having been able to enter the heart of the place, in the Ile de la Cite, which had originally been and still was the real Paris. Two bodies of troops were set in motion; one, under the command of Rollo, who was already famous amongst his comrades, marched on Rouen; the other went right up the course of the Seine, under the orders of Siegfried, whom the Northmen called their king. Rollo took Rouen, and pushed on at once for Paris. Duke Renaud, general of the Gallo-Frankish troops, went to encounter him on the banks of the Eure, and sent to him, to sound his intentions, Hastings, the newly-made count of Chartres. “Valiant warriors,” said Hastings to Rollo, “whence come ye? What seek ye here? What is the name of your lord and master? Tell us this; for we be sent unto you by the king of the Franks.” “We be Danes,” answered Rollo, “and all be equally masters amongst us. We be come to drive out the inhabitants of this land, and to subject it as our own country. But who art thou, thou who speakest so glibly?” “Ye have sometime heard tell of one Hastings, who, issuing forth from amongst you, came hither with much shipping and made desert a great part of the kingdom of the Franks?” “Yes,” said Rollo, “we have heard tell of him; Hastings began well and ended ill.” “Will ye yield you to King Charles?” asked Hastings. “We yield,” was the answer, “to none; all that we shall take by our arms we will keep as our right. Go and tell this, if thou wilt, to the king, whose envoy thou boastest to be.” Hastings returned to the Gallo-Frankish army, and Rollo prepared to march on Paris. Hastings had gone back somewhat troubled in mind. Now there was amongst the Franks one Count Tetbold (Thibault), who greatly coveted the countship of Chartres, and he said to Hastings, “Why slumberest thou softly? Knowest thou not that King Charles doth purpose thy death by cause of all the Christian blood that thou didst aforetime unjustly shed? Bethink thee of all the evil thou hast done him, by reason whereof he purposeth to drive thee from his land. Take heed to thyself that thou be not smitten unawares.” Hastings, dismayed, at once sold to Tetbold the town of Chartres, and, removing all that belonged to him, departed to go and resume, for all that appears, his old course of life.

Paris Besieged by the Normans——259

On the 25th of November, 885, all the forces of the North-men formed a junction before Paris; seven hundred huge barks covered two leagues of the Seine, bringing, it is said, more than thirty thousand men. The chieftains were astonished at sight of the new fortifications of the city, a double wall of circumvallation, the bridges crowned with towers, and in the environs the ramparts of the abbeys of St. Denis and St. Germain solidly rebuilt. Siegfried hesitated to attack a town so well defended. He demanded to enter alone and have an interview with the bishop, Gozlin. “Take pity on thyself and thy flock,” said he to him; “let us but pass through this city; we will in no wise touch the town; we will do our best to preserve for thee and Count Eudes, all your possessions.” “This city,” replied the bishop, “hath been confided unto us by the Emperor Charles, king and ruler, under God, of the powers of the earth. He hath confided it unto us not that it should cause the ruin but the salvation of the kingdom. If peradventure these walls had been confided to thy keeping, as they have been to mine, wouldst thou do as thou biddest me?” “If ever I do so,” answered Siegfried, “may my head be condemned to fall by the sword and serve as food to the dogs! But if thou yield not to our prayers, so soon as the sun shall commence his course, our armies will launch upon thee their poisoned arrows; and when the sun shall end his course, they will give thee over to all the horrors of famine; and this will they do from year to year.” The bishop, however, persisted, without further discussion; being as certain of Count Eudes as he was of himself. Eudes, who was young and but recently made count of Paris, was the eldest son of Robert the Strong, count of Anjou, of the same line as Charlemagne, and but lately slain in battle against the Northmen. Paris had for defenders two heroes, one of the Church and the other of the Empire: the faith of the Christian and the fealty of the vassal; the conscientiousness of the priest and the honor of the warrior.

The Barks of the Northmen Before Paris——260

The siege lasted thirteen months, whiles pushed vigorously forward with eight several assaults, whiles maintained by close investment, and with all the alternations of success and reverse, all the intermixture of brilliant daring and obscure sufferings, that can occur when the assailants are determined and the defenders devoted. Not only a contemporary but an eye-witness, Abbo, a monk of St. Germain des Pres, has recounted the details in a long poem, wherein the writer, devoid of talent, adds nothing to the simple representation of events; it is history itself which gives to Abbo’s poem a high degree of interest. We do not possess, in reference to these continual struggles of the Northmen with the Gallo-Frankish populations, any other document which is equally precise and complete, or which could make us so well acquainted with all the incidents, all the phases of this irregular warfare between two peoples, one without a government, the other without a country. The bishop, Gozlin, died during the siege. Count Eudes quitted Paris for a time to go and beg aid of the emperor; but the Parisians soon saw him reappear on the heights of Montmartre with three battalions of troops, and he re-entered the town, spurring on his horse and striking light and left with his battle-axe through the ranks of the dumfounded besiegers. The struggle was prolonged throughout the summer; and when, in November, 886, Charles the Fat at last appeared before Paris, “with a large army of all nations,” it was to purchase the retreat of the Northmen at the cost of a heavy ransom, and by allowing them to go and winter in Burgundy, “whereof the inhabitants obeyed not the emperor.”

Some months afterwards, in 887, Charles the Fat was deposed, at a diet held on the banks of the Rhine, by the grandees of Germanic France; and Arnulf, a natural son of Carloman, the brother of Louis III., was proclaimed emperor in his stead. At the same time Count Eudes, the gallant defender of Paris, was elected king at Compiegne and crowned by the Archbishop of Sens. Guy, duke of Spoleto, descended from Charlemagne in the female line, hastened to France and was declared king at Langres by the bishop of that town, but returned with precipitation to Italy, seeing no chance of maintaining himself in his French kingship. Elsewhere, Boso, duke of Arles, became king of Provence, and the Burgundian Count Rodolph had himself crowned at St. Maurice, in the Valais, king of transjuran Burgundy. There was still in France a legitimate Carlovingian, a son of Louis the Stutterer, who was hereafter to become Charles the Simple; but being only a child, he had been rejected or completely forgotten, and, in the interval that was to elapse ere his time should arrive, kings were being made in all directions.

Count Eudes Re-entering Paris Right Through the Besiegers- —-262

In the midst of this confusion, the Northmen, though they kept at a distance from Paris, pursued in Western France their cruising and plundering. In Rollo they had a chieftain far superior to his vagabond predecessors. Though he still led the same life that they had, he displayed therein other faculties, other inclinations, other views. In his youth he had made an expedition to England, and had there contracted a real friendship with the wise King Alfred the Great. During a campaign in Friesland he had taken prisoner Rainier, count of Hainault; and Alberade, countess of Brabant, made a request to Rollo for her husband’s release, offering in return to set free twelve captains of the Northmen, her prisoners, and to give up all the gold she possessed. Rollo took only half the gold, and restored to the countess her husband. When, in 885, he became master of Rouen, instead of devastating the city, after the fashion of his kind, he respected the buildings, had the walls repaired, and humored the inhabitants. In spite of his violent and extortionate practices where he met with obstinate resistance, there were to be discerned in him symptoms of more noble sentiments and of an instinctive leaning towards order, civilization, and government. After the deposition of Charles the Fat and during the reign of Eudes, a lively struggle was maintained between the Frankish king and the chieftain of the Northmen, who had neither of them forgotten their early encounters. They strove, one against the other, with varied fortunes; Eudes succeeded in beating the Northmen at Montfaucon, but was beaten in Vermandois by another band, commanded, it is said, by the veteran Hastings, sometime count of Chartres. Rollo, too, had his share at one time of success, at another of reverse; but he made himself master of several important towns, showed a disposition to treat the quiet populations gently, and made a fresh trip to England, during which he renewed friendly relations with her king, Athelstan, the successor of Alfred the Great. He thus became, from day to day, more reputable as well as more formidable in France, insomuch that Eudes himself was obliged to have recourse, in dealing with him, to negotiations and presents. When, in 898, Eudes was dead, and Charles the Simple, at hardly nineteen years of age, had been recognized sole king of France, the ascendency of Rollo became such that the necessity of treating with him was clear. In 911, Charles, by the advice of his councillors, and, amongst them, of Robert, brother of the late king, Eudes, who had himself become count of Paris and duke of France, sent to the chieftain of the Northmen Franco, archbishop of Rouen, with orders to offer him the cession of a considerable portion of Neustria and the hand of his young daughter Giscle, on condition that he became a Christian and acknowledged himself the king’s vassal. Rollo, by the advice of his comrades, received these overtures with a good grace, and agreed to a truce for three months, during which they might treat about peace. On the day fixed, Charles accompanied by Duke Robert, and Rollo, surrounded by his warriors, repaired to St. Clair-sur-Epte, on the opposite banks of the river, and exchanged numerous messages. Charles offered Rollo Flanders, which the Northman refused, considering it too swampy; as to the maritime portion of Neustria, he would not be contented with it; it was, he said, covered with forests, and had become quite a stranger to the plough-share by reason of the Northmen’s incessant incursions; he demanded the addition of territories taken from Brittany, and that the princes of that province, Berenger and Alan, lords, respectively, of Redon and Del, should take the oath of fidelity to him. When matters had been arranged on this basis, “the bishops told Rollo that he who received such a gift as the duchy of Normandy was bound to kiss the king’s foot. ‘Never,’ quoth Rollo, ‘will I bend the knee before the knees of any, and I will kiss the foot of none.’ At the solicitation of the Franks he then ordered one of his warriors to kiss the king’s foot. The Northman, remaining bolt upright, took hold of the king’s foot, raised it to his mouth, and so made the king fall backward, which caused great bursts of laughter and much disturbance amongst the throng. Then the king and all the grandees who were about him, prelates, abbots, dukes, and counts, swore, in the name of the Catholic faith, that they would protect the patrician Rollo in his life, his members, and his folk, and would guarantee to him the possession of the aforesaid land, to him and his descendants forever. After which the king, well satisfied, returned to his domains; and Rollo departed with Duke Robert for the town of Rouen.”

The dignity of Charles the Simple had no reason to be well satisfied; but the great political question which, a century before, caused Charlemagne such lively anxiety, was solved; the most dangerous, the most incessantly renewed of all foreign invasions, those of the Northmen, ceased to threaten France. The vagabond pirates had a country to cultivate and defend; the Northmen were becoming French.

No such transformation was near taking place in the case of the invasions of the Saracens in Southern Gaul; they continued to infest Aquitania, Septimania, and Provence; their robber-hordes appeared frequently on the coasts of the Mediterranean and the banks of the Rhone, at Aigues-Mortes, at Marseilles, at Arles, and in Camargue; they sometimes penetrated into Dauphine, Rouergue, Limousin, and Saintonge. The author of this history saw, at the commencement of the present century, in the mountains of the Cevennes, the ruins of the towers built, a thousand years ago, by the inhabitants of those rugged countries, to put their families and their flocks under shelter from the incursions of the Saracens. But these incursions were of short duration, and most frequently undertaken by plunderers few in number, who retreated precipitately with their booty. Africa was not, as Asia was, an inexhaustible source of nations burning to push onward, one upon another, to go wandering and settling elsewhere. The people of the north move willingly towards the south, where living is easier and pleasanter; but the people of the south are not much disposed to migrate to the north, with its soil so hard to cultivate, and its leaden skies, and into the midst of its fogs and frosts. After a course of plundering in Aquitania or in Provence, the Arabs of Spain and of Africa were eager to recross the Pyrenees or the Mediterranean, and regain their own lovely climate, and their life of easefulness that never palled. Furthermore, between Christians and Mussulmans the religious antipathy was profound. The Christian missionaries were not much given to carrying their pious zeal into the home of the Mussulman; and the Mussulmans were far less disposed than the pagans to become Christians. To preserve their conquests, the Arabs of Spain had to struggle against the refugee Goths in the Asturias; and Charlemagne, by extending those of the Franks to the Ebro, had given the Christian Goths a powerful alliance against the Spanish Mussulmans. For all these reasons, the invasions of the Saracens in the south of France did not threaten, as those of the Northmen did in the north, the security of the Gallo-Frankish monarchy, and the Gallo-Roman populations of the south were able to defend their national independence at the same time against the Saracens and the Franks. They did so successfully in the ninth and tenth centuries; and the French monarchy, which was being founded between the Loire and the Rhine, had thus for some time a breach in it, without ever suffering serious displacement.

A new people, the Hungarians, which was the only name then given to the Magyars, appeared at this epoch, for the first time, amongst the devastators of Western Europe. From 910 to 954, as a consequence of movements and wars on the Danube, Hungarian hordes, after scouring Central Germany, penetrated into Alsace, Lorraine, Champagne, Burgundy, Berry, Dauphine, Provence, and even Aquitaine; but this inundation was transitory, and if the populations of those countries had much to suffer from it, the Gallo-Frankish dominion, in spite of inward disorder and the feebleness of the latter Carlovingians, was not seriously endangered thereby.

And so the first of Charlemagne’s grand designs, the territorial security of the Gallo-Frankish and Christian dominion, was accomplished. In the east and the north, the Germanic and Asiatic populations, which had so long upset it, were partly arrested at its frontiers, partly incorporated regularly in its midst. In the south, the Mussulman populations which, in the eighth century, had appeared so near overwhelming it, were powerless to deal it any heavy blow. Substantially France was founded. But what had become of Charlemagne’s second grand design, the resuscitation of the Roman empire at the hands of the barbarians that had conquered it and become Christians?

Let us leave Louis the Debonnair his traditional name, although it is not an exact rendering of that which was given him by his contemporaries. They called him Louis the Pious. And so indeed he was, sincerely and even scrupulously pious; but he was still more weak than pious, as weak in heart and character as in mind, as destitute of ruling ideas as of strength of will; fluctuating at the mercy of transitory impressions, or surrounding influences, or positional embarrassments. The name of Debonnair is suited to him; it expresses his moral worth and his political incapacity, both at once.

As king of Aquitania, in the time of Charlemagne, Louis made himself esteemed and loved; his justice, his suavity, his probity, and his piety were pleasing to the people, and his weaknesses disappeared under the strong hand of his father. When he became emperor, he began his reign by a reaction against the excesses, real or supposed, of the preceding reign. Charlemagne’s morals were far from regular, and he troubled himself but little about the license prevailing in his family or his palace. At a distance he ruled with a tight and a heavy hand. Louis established at his court, for his sisters as well as his servants, austere regulations. He restored to the subjugated Saxons certain of the rights of which Charlemagne had deprived them. He sent out everywhere his commissioners (missi dominici) with orders to listen to complaints and redress grievances, and to mitigate his father’s rule, which was rigorous in its application, and yet insufficient to repress disturbance, notwithstanding its preventive purpose and its watchful supervision.

Almost simultaneously with his accession, Louis committed an act more serious and compromising. He had, by his wife Hermengarde, three sons, Lothaire, Pepin, and Louis, aged respectively nineteen, eleven, and eight. In 817 Louis summoned at Aix-la-Chapelle the general assembly of his dominions; and there, whilst declaring that “neither to those who were wisely-minded, nor to himself, did it appear expedient to break up, for the love he bare his sons and by the will of man, the unity of the empire, preserved by God himself,” he had resolved to share with his eldest son, Lothaire, the imperial throne. Lothaire was in fact crowned emperor; and his two brothers, Pepin and Louis, were crowned king, “in order that they might reign, after their father’s death and under their brother and lord, Lothaire, to wit: Pepin, over Aquitaine and a great part of Southern Gaul and of Burgundy; Louis, beyond the Rhine, over Bavaria and the divers peoplets in the east of Germany.” The rest of Gaul and of Germany, as well as the kingdom of Italy, was to belong to Lothaire, emperor and head of the Frankish monarchy, to whom his brothers would have to repair year by year to come to an understanding with him and receive his instructions. The last-named kingdom, the most considerable of the three, remained under the direct government of Louis the Debonnair, and at the same time of his son Lothaire, sharing the title of emperor. The two other sons, Pepin and Louis, entered, notwithstanding their childhood, upon immediate possession, the one of Aquitaine and the other of Bavaria, under the superior authority of their father and their brother, the joint emperors.

Charlemagne had vigorously maintained the unity of the empire, for all that he had delegated to two of his sons, Pepin and Louis, the government of Italy and Aquitaine, with the title of king. Louis the Debonnair, whilst regulating beforehand the division of his dominion, likewise desired, as he said, to maintain the unity of the empire. But he forgot that he was no Charlemagne.

It was not long before numerous mournful experiences showed to what extent the unity of the empire required personal superiority in the emperor, and how rapid would be the decay of the fabric when there remained nothing but the title of the founder.

In 816 Pope Stephen IV. came to France to consecrate Louis the Debonnair emperor. Many a time already the Popes had rendered the Frankish kings this service and honor. The Franks had been proud to see their king, Charlemagne, protecting Adrian I. against the Lombards; then crowned emperor at Rome by Leo III., and then having his two sons, Pepin and Louis, crowned at Rome, by the same Pope, kings respectively of Italy and of Aquitaine. On these different occasions, Charlemagne, whilst testifying the most profound respect for the Pope, had, in his relations with him, always taken care to preserve, together with his political greatness, all his personal dignity. But when, in 816, the Franks saw Louis the Pious not only go out of Rheims to meet Stephen IV., but prostrate himself, from head to foot, and rise only when the Pope held out a hand to him, the spectators felt saddened and humiliated at the sight of their emperor in the posture of a penitent monk.

Several insurrections burst out in the empire; the first amongst the Basques of Aquitaine; the next in Italy, where Bernard, son of Pepin, having, after his father’s death, become king in 812, with the consent of his grandfather Charlemagne, could not quietly see his kingdom pass into the hands of his cousin Lothaire at the orders of his uncle Louis. These two attempts were easily repressed, but the third was more serious. It took place in Brittany, amongst those populations of Armorica who were still buried in their woods, and were excessively jealous of their independence. In 818 they took for king one of their principal chieftains, named Morvan; and, not confining themselves to a refusal of all tribute to the king of the Franks, they renewed their ravages upon the Frankish territories bordering on their frontier. Louis was at that time holding a general assembly of his dominions at Aix-la-Chapelle; and Count Lantbert, commandant of the marches of Brittany, came and reported to him what was going on. A Frankish monk, named Ditcar, happened to be at the assembly: he was a man of piety and sense, a friend of peace, and, moreover, with some knowledge of the Breton king Morvan, as his monastery had property in the neighborhood. Him the emperor commissioned to convey to the king his grievances and his demands. After some days’ journey the monk passed the frontier, and arrived at a vast space enclosed on one side by a noble river, and on all the others by forests and swamps, hedges and ditches. In the middle of this space was a large dwelling, which was Morvan’s. Ditcar found it full of warriors, the king having, no doubt, some expedition on hand. The monk announced himself as a messenger from the emperor of the Franks. The style of announcement caused some confusion, at first, to the Briton, who, however, hasted to conceal his emotion under an air of good-will and joyousness, to impose upon his comrades. The latter were got rid of; and the king remained alone with the monk, who explained the object of his mission. He descanted upon the power of the Emperor Lotus, recounted his complaints, and warned the Briton, kindly and in a private capacity, of the danger of his situation, a danger so much the greater in that he and his people would meet with the less consideration, seeing that they kept up the religion of their Pagan forefathers. Morvan gave attentive ear to this sermon, with his eyes fixed on the ground, and his foot tapping it from time to time. Ditcar thought he had succeeded; but an incident supervened. It was the hour when Morvan’s wife was accustomed to come and look for him ere they retired to the nuptial couch. She appeared, eager to know who the stranger was, what he had come for, what he had said, what answer he had received. She preluded her questions with oglings and caresses; she kissed the knees, the hands, the beard, and the face of the king, testifying her desire to be alone with him. “O king and glory of the mighty Britons, dear spouse of mine, what tidings bringeth this stranger? Is it peace, or is it war?” “This stranger,” answered Morvan with a smile, “is an envoy of the Franks; but bring he peace or bring he war, is the affair of men alone; as for thee, content thee with thy woman’s duties.” Thereupon Ditcar, perceiving that he was countered, said to Morvan, “Sir king, ‘tis time that I return; tell me what answer I am to take back to my sovereign.” “Leave me this night to take thought thereon,” replied the Breton chief, with a wavering air. When the morning came, Ditcar presented himself once more to Morvan, whom he found up, but still half-drunk, and full of very different sentiments from those of the night before. It required some effort, stupefied and tottering as he was with the effects of wine and the pleasures of the night, to say to Ditcar, “Go back to thy king, and tell him from me that my land was never his, and that I owe him nought of tribute or submission. Let him reign over the Franks; as for me, I reign over the Britons. If he will bring war on me, he will find me ready to pay him back.”

The monk returned to Louis the Debonnair, and rendered account of his mission. War was resolved upon; and the emperor collected his troops, Allemannians, Saxons, Thuringians, Burgundians, and Aquitanians, without counting Franks or Gallo-Romans. They began their march, moving upon Vannes; Louis was at their head, and the empress accompanied him, but he left her, already ill and fatigued, at Angers. The Franks entered the country of the Britons, searched the woods and morasses, found no armed men in the open country, but encountered them in scattered and scanty companies, at the entrance of all the defiles, on the heights commanding pathways, and wherever men could hide themselves and await the moment for appearing unexpectedly. The Franks heard them, from amidst the heather and the brushwood, uttering shrill cries, to give warning one to another, or to alarm the enemy. The Franks advanced cautiously, and at last arrived at the entrance of the thick wood which surrounded Morvan’s abode. He had not yet set out with the pick of the warriors he had about him; but, at the approach of the Franks, he summoned his wife and his domestics, and said to them, “Defend ye well this house and these woods; as for me, I am going to march forward to collect my people; after which to return, but not without booty and spoils.” He put on his armor, took a javelin in each hand, and mounted his horse. “Thou seest,” said he to his wife, “these javelins I brandish: I will bring them back to thee this very day dyed with the blood of Franks. Farewell.” Setting out he pierced, followed by his men, through the thickness of the forest, and advanced to meet the Franks.

The battle began. The large numbers of the Franks, who covered the ground for some distance, dismayed the Britons, and many of them fled, seeking where they might hide themselves. Morvan, beside himself with rage, and at the head of his most devoted followers, rushed down upon the Franks as if to demolish them at a single stroke; and many fell beneath his blows. He singled out a warrior of inferior grade, towards whom he made at a gallop, and, insulting him by word of mouth, after the ancient fashion of the Celtic warriors, cried, “Frank, I am going to give thee my first present, a present which I have been keeping for thee a long while, and which I hope thou wilt bear in mind;” and launched at him a javelin, which the other received on his shield. “Proud Briton,” replied the Frank, “I have received thy present, and I am going to give thee mine.” He dug both spurs into his horse’s sides, and galloped down upon Morvan, who, clad though he was in a coat of mail, fell pierced by the thrust of a lance. The Frank had but time to dismount and cut off his head, when he fell himself, mortally wounded by one of Morvan’s young warriors, but not without having, in his turn, dealt the other his death-blow.

It spreads on all sides that Morvan is dead; and the Franks come thronging to the scene of the encounter. There is picked up and passed from hand to hand a head all bloody and fearfully disfigured. Ditcar the monk is called to see it, and to say whether it is that of Morvan; but he has to wash the mass of disfigurement, and to partially adjust the hair, before he can pronounce that it is really Morvan’s. There is then no more doubt; resistance is now impossible; the widow, the family, and the servants of Morvan arrive, are brought before Louis the Debonnair, accept all the conditions imposed upon them, and the Franks withdraw with the boast that Brittany is henceforth their tributary. (Faits et testes de Louis le Picux, a poem by Ermold le Noir, in M. Guizot’s Collection des Memoires relatifs L’Histoire de France, t. iv., p. 1-113.—Fauriel, Histoire de la Gaule, etc., t. iv., p. 77-88.)

Ditcar the Monk Recognizing The Head of Morvan——273

On arriving at Angers, Louis found the Empress Hermengarde dying; and two days afterwards she was dead. He had a tender heart, which was not proof against sorrow; and he testified a desire to abdicate and turn monk. But he was dissuaded from his purpose; for it was easy to influence his resolutions. A little later, he was advised to marry again, and he yielded. Several princesses were introduced; and he chose Judith of Bavaria, daughter of Count Welf (Guelf), a family already powerful and in later times celebrated. Judith was young, beautiful, witty, ambitious, and skilled in the art of making the gift of pleasing subserve the passion for ruling. Louis, during his expedition into Brittany, had just witnessed the fatal result of a woman’s empire over her husband; he was destined himself to offer a more striking and more long-lived example of it. In 823, he had, by his new empress Judith, a son, whom he called Charles, and who was hereafter to be known as Charles the Bald. This son became his mother’s ruling, if not exclusive, passion, and the source of his father’s woes. His birth could not fail to cause ill-temper and mistrust in Louis’s three sons by Hermengarde, who were already kings. They had but a short time previously received the first proof of their father’s weakness. In 822, Louis, repenting of his severity towards his nephew, Bernard of Italy, whose eyes he had caused to be put out as a punishment for rebellion, and who had died in consequence, considered himself bound to perform at Attigny, in the church and before the people, a solemn act of penance; which was creditable to his honesty and piety, but the details left upon the minds of the beholders an impression unfavorable to the emperor’s dignity and authority. In 829, during an assembly held at Worms, he, yielding to his wife’s entreaties and doubtless also to his own yearnings towards his youngest son, set at nought the solemn act whereby, in 817, he had shared his dominions amongst his three elder sons; and took away from two of them, in Burgundy and Allemannia, some of the territories he had assigned to them, and gave them to the boy Charles for his share. Lothaire, Pepin, and Louis thereupon revolted. Court rivalries were added to family differences. The emperor had summoned to his side a young Southron, Bernard by name, duke of Septimania and son of Count William of Toulouse, who had gallantly fought the Saracens. He made him his chief chamberlain and his favorite counsellor. Bernard was bold, ambitious, vain, imperious, and restless. He removed his rivals from court, and put in their places his own creatures. He was accused not only of abusing the emperor’s favor, but even of carrying on a guilty intrigue with the Empress Judith. There grew up against him, and, by consequence, against the emperor, the empress, and their youngest son a powerful opposition, in which certain ecclesiastics, and, amongst them, Wala, abbot of Corbie, cousin-german and but lately one of the privy counsellors of Charlemagne, joined eagerly. Some had at heart the unity of the empire, which Louis was breaking up more and more; others were concerned for the spiritual interests of the Church which Louis, in spite of his piety and by reason of his weakness, often permitted to be attacked. Thus strengthened, the conspirators considered themselves certain of success. They had the empress Judith carried off and shut up in the convent of St. Radegonde at Poitiers; and Louis in person came to deliver himself up to them at Compiegne, where they were assembled. There they passed a decree to the effect that the power and title of emperor were transferred from Louis to Lothaire, his eldest son; that the act whereby a share of the empire had but lately beer assigned to Charles was annulled; and that the act of 817, which had regulated the partition of Louis’s dominions after his death, was once more in force. But soon there was a burst of reaction in favor of the emperor; Lothaire’s two brothers, jealous of his late elevation, made overtures to their father; the ecclesiastics were a little ashamed at being mixed up in a revolt; the people felt pity for the poor, honest emperor; and a general assembly, meeting at Nimeguen, abolished the acts of Compiegne, and restored to Louis his title and his power. But it was not long before there was revolt again, originating this time with Pepin, king of Aquitaine. Louis fought him, and gave Aquitaine to Charles the Bald. The alliance between the three sons of Hermengarde was at once renewed; they raised an army; the emperor marched against them with his; and the two hosts met between Colmar and Bale, in a place called le Champ rouge (the field of red). Negotiations were set on foot; and Louis was called upon to leave his wife Judith and his son Charles, and put himself under the guardianship of his elder sons. He refused; but, just when the conflict was about to commence, desertion took place in Louis’s army; most of the prelates, laics, and men-at-arms who had accompanied him passed over to the camp of Lothaire; and the field of red became the field of falsehood (le Champ du mensonge). Louis, left almost alone, ordered his attendants to withdraw, “being unwilling,” he said, “that any one of them should lose life or limb on his account,” and surrendered to his sons. They received him with great demonstrations of respect, but without relinquishing the prosecution of their enterprise. Lothaire hastily collected an assembly, which proclaimed him emperor, with the addition of divers territories to the kingdoms of Aquitaine and Bavaria: and, three months afterwards, another assembly, meeting at Compiegne, declared the Emperor Louis to have forfeited the crown, “for having, by his faults and incapacity, suffered to sink so sadly low the empire which had been raised to grandeur and brought into unity by Charlemagne and his predecessors.” Louis submitted to this decision; himself read out aloud, in the church of St. Medard at Soissons, but not quite unresistingly, a confession, in eight articles, of his faults, and, laying his baldric upon the altar, stripped off his royal robe, and received from the hands of Ebbo, archbishop of Rheims, the gray vestment of a penitent.

Lothaire considered his father dethroned for good, and himself henceforth sole emperor; but he was mistaken. For six years longer the scenes which have just been described kept repeating themselves again and again; rivalries and secret plots began once more between the three victorious brothers and their partisans; popular feeling revived in favor of Louis; a large portion of the clergy shared it; several counts of Neustria and Burgundy appeared in arms in the name of the deposed emperor; and the seductive and able Judith came afresh upon the scene, and gained over to the cause of her husband and her son a multitude of friends. In 834, two assemblies, one meeting at St. Denis and the other at Thionville, annulled all the acts of the assembly of Compiegne, and for the third time put Louis in possession of the imperial title and power. He displayed no violence in his use of it; but he was growing more and more irresolute and weak, when, in 838, the second of his rebellious sons, Pepin, king of Aquitaine, died suddenly. Louis, ever under the sway of Judith, speedily convoked at Worms, in 839, once more and for the last time, a general assembly, whereat, leaving his son Louis of Bavaria reduced to his kingdom in Eastern Europe, he divided the rest of his dominions into two nearly equal parts, separated by the course of the Meuse and the Rhone. Between these two parts he left the choice to Lothaire, who took the eastern portion, promising at the same time to guarantee the western portion to his younger brother Charles. Louis the Germanic protested against this partition, and took up arms to resist it. His father, the emperor, set himself in motion towards the Rhine, to reduce him to submission; but, on arriving close to Mayence, he caught a violent fever, and died on the 20th of June, 840, at the castle of Ingelheim, on a little island in the river. His last acts were a fresh proof of his goodness towards even his rebellious sons, and of his solicitude for his last-born. He sent to Louis the Germanic his pardon, and to Lothaire the golden crown and sword, at the same time bidding him fulfil his father’s wishes on behalf of Charles and Judith.

There is no telling whether, in the credulousness of his good nature, Louis had, at his dying hour, any great confidence in the appeal he made to his son Lothaire, and in the impression which would be produced on his other son, Louis of Bavaria, by the pardon bestowed. The prayers of the dying are of little avail against violent passions and barbaric manners. Scarcely was Louis the Debonnair dead, when Lothaire was already conspiring against young Charles, and was in secret alliance, for his despoilment, with Pepin II., the late king of Aquitaine’s son, who had taken up arms for the purpose of seizing his father’s kingdom, in the possession of which his grandfather Louis had not been pleased to confirm him. Charles suddenly learned that his mother Judith was on the point of being besieged in Poitiers by the Aquitanians; and, in spite of the friendly protestations sent to him by Lothaire, it was not long before he discovered the plot formed against him. He was not wanting in shrewdness or energy; and, having first provided for his mother’s safety, he set about forming an alliance, in the cause of their common interests, with his other brother, Louis the Germanic, who was equally in danger from the ambition of Lothaire. The historians of the period do not say what negotiator was employed by Charles on this distant and delicate mission; but several circumstances indicate that the Empress Judith herself undertook it; that she went in quest of the king of Bavaria; and that it was she who, with her accustomed grace and address, determined him to make common cause with his younger against their eldest brother. Divers incidents retarded for a whole year the outburst of this family plot, and of the war of which it was the precursor. The position of the young King Charles appeared for some time a very bad one; but “certain chieftains,” says the historian Nithard, “faithful to his mother and to him, and having nothing more to lose than life or limb, chose rather to die gloriously than to betray their king.” The arrival of Louis the Germanic with his troops helped to swell the forces and increase the confidence of Charles; and it was on the 21st of June, 841, exactly a year after the death of Louis the Debonnair, that the two armies, that of Lothaire and Pepin on the one side, and that of Charles the Bald and Louis the Germanic on the other, stood face to face in the neighborhood of the village of Fontenailles, six leagues from Auxerre, on the rivulet of Audries. Never, according to such evidence as is forthcoming, since the battle on the plains of Chalons against the Huns, and that of Poitiers against the Saracens, had so great masses of men been engaged. “There would be nothing untruthlike,” says that scrupulous authority, M. Fauriel, “in putting the whole number of combatants at three hundred thousand; and there is nothing to show that either of the two armies was much less numerous than the other.” However that may be, the leaders hesitated for four days to come to blows; and whilst they were hesitating, the old favorite not only of Louis the Debonnair, but also, according to several chroniclers, of the Empress Judith, held himself aloof with his troops in the vicinity, having made equal promise of assistance to both sides, and waiting, to govern his decision, for the prospect afforded by the first conflict. The battle began on the 25th of June, at daybreak, and was at first in favor of Lothaire; but the troops of Charles the Bald recovered the advantage which had been lost by Louis the Germanic, and the action was soon nothing but a terribly simple scene of carnage between enormous masses of men, charging hand to hand, again and again, with a front extending over a couple of leagues. Before midday the slaughter, the plunder, the spoliation of the dead—all was over; the victory of Charles and Louis was complete the victors had retired to their camp, and there remained nothing on the field of battle but corpses in thick heaps or a long line, according as they had fallen in the disorder of flight or steadily fighting in their ranks. . . . “Accursed be this day!” cries Angilbert, one of Lothaire’s officers, in rough Latin verse; “be it unnumbered in the return of the year, but wiped out of all remembrance! Be it unlit by the light of the sun! Be it without either dawn or twilight! Accursed, also, be this night, this awful night in which fell the brave, the most expert in battle! Eye ne’er hath seen more fearful slaughter: in streams of blood fell Christian men; the linen vestments of the dead did whiten the champaign even as it is whitened by the birds of autumn!”

In spite of this battle, which appeared a decisive one, Lothaire made zealous efforts to continue the struggle; he scoured the countries wherein he hoped to find partisans: to the Saxons he promised the unrestricted re-establishment of their pagan worship, and several of the Saxon tribes responded to his appeal. Louis the Germanic and Charles the Bald, having information of these preliminaries, resolved to solemnly renew their alliance; and, seven months after their victory at Fontenailles, in February, 842, they repaired both of them, each with his army, to Argentaria, on the right bank of the Rhine, between Bale and Strasbourg, and there, at an open-air meeting, Louis first, addressing the chieftains about him in the German tongue, said, “Ye all know how often, since our father’s death, Lothaire hath attacked us, in order to destroy us, this my brother and me. Having never been able, as brothers and Christians, or in any just way, to obtain peace from him, we were constrained to appeal to the judgment of God. Lothaire was beaten and retired, whither he could, with his following; for we, restrained by paternal affection and moved with compassion for Christian people, were unwilling to pursue them to extermination. Neither then nor aforetime did we demand ought else save that each of us should be maintained in his rights. But he, rebelling against the judgment of God, ceaseth not to attack us as enemies, this my brother and me; and he destroyeth our peoples with fire and pillage and the sword. That is the cause which hath united us afresh; and, as we trove that ye doubt the soundness of our alliance and our fraternal union, we have resolved to bind ourselves afresh by this oath in your presence, being led thereto by no prompting of wicked covetousness, but only that we may secure our common advantage in case that, by your aid, God should cause us to obtain peace. If, then, I violate—which God forbid—this oath that I am about to take to my brother, I hold you all quit of submission to me and of the faith ye have sworn to me.”

Charles repeated this speech, word for word, to his own troops, in the Romance language, in that idiom derived from a mixture of Latin and of the tongues of ancient Gaul, and spoken, thenceforth, with varieties of dialect and pronunciation, in nearly all parts of Frankish Gaul. After this address, Louis pronounced and Charles repeated after him, each in his own tongue, the oath couched in these terms: “For the love of God, for the Christian people, and for our common weal, from this day forth and so long as God shall grant me power and knowledge, I will defend this my brother, and will be an aid to him in everything, as one ought to defend his brother, provided that he do likewise unto me; and I will never make with Lothaire any covenant which may be, to my knowledge, to the damage of this my brother.”

When the two brothers had thus sworn, the two armies, officers and men, took, in their turn, a similar oath, going bail, in a mass, for the engagements of their kings. Then they took up their quarters, all of them, for some time, between Worms and Mayence, and followed up their political proceeding with military fetes, precursors of the knightly tournaments of the middle ages. “A place of meeting was fixed,” says the contemporary historian Nithard, “at a spot suitable for this kind of exercises. Here were drawn up, on one side, a certain number of combatants, Saxons, Vasconians, Austrasians, or Britons; there were ranged, on the opposite side, an equal number of warriors, and the two divisions advanced, each against the other, as if to attack. One of them, with their bucklers at their backs, took to flight, as if to seek, in the main body, shelter against those who were pursuing them; then suddenly, facing about, they dashed out in pursuit of those before whom they had just been flying. This sport lasted until the two kings, appearing with all the youth of their suites, rode up at a gallop, brandishing their spears and chasing first one lot and then the other It was a fine sight to see so much temper amongst so many valiant folks, for great as were the number and the mixture of different nationalities, no one was insulted or maltreated, though the contrary is often the case amongst men in small numbers and known one to another.”

After four or five months of tentative measures or of incidents which taught both parties that they could not, either of them, hope to completely destroy their opponents, the two allied brothers received at Verdun, whither they had repaired to concert their next movement, a messenger from Lothaire, with peaceful proposals which they were unwilling to reject. The principal was that, with the exception of Italy, Aquitaine, and Bavaria, to be secured without dispute to their then possessors, the Frankish empire should be divided into three portions, that the arbiters elected to preside over the partition should swear to make it as equal as possible, and that Lothaire should have his choice, with the title of Emperor. About mid June, 842, the three brothers met on an island of the Saone, near Chalons, where they began to discuss the questions which divided them; but it was not till more than a year after, in August, 843, that assembling all three of them, with their umpires, at Verdun, they at last came to an agreement about the partition of the Frankish empire, save the three countries which it had been beforehand agreed to except. Louis kept all the provinces of Germany of which he was already in possession, and received besides, on the left bank of the Rhine, the towns of Mayence, Worms, and Spire, with the territory appertaining to them. Lothaire, for his part, had the eastern belt of Gaul, bounded on one side by the Rhine and the Alps, on the other by the courses of the Meuse, the Saone, and the Rhone, starting from the confluence of the two latter rivers, and, further, the country comprised between the Meuse and the Scheldt, together with certain countships lying to the west of that river. To Charles fell all the rest of Gaul: Vasconia or Biscaye, Septimania, the marches of Spain, beyond the Pyrenees, and the other countries of Southern Gaul which had enjoyed hitherto, under the title of the Kingdom of Aquitaine, a special government subordinated to the general government of the empire, but distinct from it, lost this last remnant of their Gallo-Roman nationality, and became integral portions of Frankish Gaul, which fell by partition to Charles the Bald, and formed one and the same kingdom under one and the same king.

Thus fell through and disappeared, in 843, by virtue of the treaty of Verdun, the second of Charlemagne’s grand designs, the resuscitation of the Roman empire by means of the Frankish and Christian masters of Gaul. The name of emperor still retained a certain value in the minds of the people, and still remained an object of ambition to princes; but the empire was completely abolished, and in its stead sprang up three kingdoms, independent one of another, without any necessary connection or relation. One of the three was thenceforth France.

In this great event are comprehended two facts; the disappearance of the empire and the formation of the three kingdoms which took its place. The first is easily explained. The resuscitation of the Roman empire had been a dream of ambition and ignorance on the part of a great man, but a barbarian. Political unity and central absolute power had been the essential characteristics of that empire. They became introduced and established, through a long succession of ages, on the ruins of the splendid Roman republic, destroyed by its own dissensions, under favor of the still great influence of the old Roman senate, though fallen from its high estate, and beneath the guardianship of the Roman legions and imperial pretorians. Not one of these conditions, not one of these forces, was to be met with in the Roman world reigned over by Charlemagne. The nation of the Franks and Charlemagne himself were but of yesterday; the new emperor had neither ancient senate to hedge at the same time that it obeyed him, nor old bodies of troops to support him. Political unity and absolute power were repugnant alike to the intellectual and the social condition, to the national manners and personal sentiments of the victorious barbarians. The necessity of placing their conquests beyond the reach of a new swarm of barbarians and the personal ascendency of Charlemagne were the only things which gave his government a momentary gleam of success in the way of unity and of factitious despotism under the name of empire. In 814, Charlemagne had made territorial security an accomplished fact; but the personal power he had exercised disappeared with him. The new Gallo-Frankish community recovered, under the mighty but gradual influence of Christianity, its proper and natural course, producing disruption into different local communities and bold struggles for individual liberties, either one with another, or against whosoever tried to become their master.

As for the second fact, the formation of the three kingdoms which were the issue of the treaty of Verdun, various explanations have been given of it. This distribution of certain peoples of Western Europe into three distinct and independent groups, Italians, Germans, and French, has been attributed at one time to a diversity of histories and manners; at another to geographical causes and to what is called the rule of natural frontiers; and oftener still to a spirit of nationality and to differences of language. Let none of these causes be gainsaid; they all exercised some sort of influence, but they are all incomplete in themselves and far too redolent of theoretical system. It is true that Germany, France, and Italy began, at that time, to emerge from the chaos into which they had been plunged by barbaric invasion and the conquests of Charlemagne, and to form themselves into quite distinct nations; but there were in each of the kingdoms of Lothaire, of Louis the Germanic, and of Charles the Bald, populations widely differing in race, language, manners, and geographical affinity, and it required many great events and the lapse of many centuries to bring about the degree of national unity they now possess. To say nothing touching the agency of individual and independent forces, which is always considerable, although so many men of intellect ignore it in the present day, what would have happened, had any one of the three new kings, Lothaire, or Louis the Germanic, or Charles the Bald, been a second Charlemagne, as Charlemagne had been a second Charles Martel? Who can say that, in such a case, the three kingdoms would have taken the form they took in 843?

Happily or unhappily, it was not so; none of Charlemagne’s successors was capable of exercising on the events of his time, by virtue of his brain and his own will, any notable influence. Not that they were all unintelligent, or timid, or indolent. It has been seen that Louis the Debonnair did not lack virtues and good intentions; and Charles the Bald was clear-sighted, dexterous, and energetic; he had a taste for information and intellectual distinction; he liked and sheltered men of learning and letters, and to such purpose that, instead of speaking, as under Charlemagne, of the school of the palace, people called the palace of Charles the Bald the palace of the school. Amongst the eleven kings who after him ascended the Carlovingian throne, several, such as Louis III. and Carloman, and, especially, Louis the Ultramarine (d’Outremer) and Lothaire, displayed, on several occasions, energy and courage; and the kings elected, at this epoch, without the pale of the Carlovingian dynasty—Eudes in 887 and Raoul in 923—gave proofs of a valor both discreet and effectual. The Carlovingians did not, as the Merovingians did, end in monkish retirement or shameful inactivity even the last of them, and the only one termed sluggard, Louis V., was getting ready, when he died, for an expedition in Spain against the Saracens. The truth is that, mediocre or undecided or addle-pated as they may have been, they all succumbed, internally and externally, without initiating and without resisting, to the course of events, and that, in 987, the fall of the Carlovingian line was the natural and easily accomplished consequence of the new social condition which had been preparing in France under the empire.







The reader has just seen that, twenty-nine years after the death of Charlemagne, that is, in 843, when, by the treaty of Verdun, the sons of Louis the Debonnair had divided amongst them his dominions, the great empire split up into three distinct and independent kingdoms—the kingdoms of Italy, Germany, and France. The split did not stop there. Forty-five years later, at the end of the ninth century, shortly after the death of Charles the Fat, the last of the Carlovingians who appears to have re-united for a while all the empire of Charlemagne, this empire had begotten seven instead of three kingdoms, those of France, of Navarre, of Provence or Cisjuran Burgundy, of Trans-juran Burgundy, or Lorraine, of Allemannia, and of Italy. This is what had become of the factitious and ephemeral unity of that Empire of the West which Charlemagne had wished to put in the place of the Roman empire.

We will leave where they are the three distinct and independent kingdoms, and turn our introspective gaze upon the kingdom of France. There we recognize the same fact; there the same work of dismemberment is going on. About the end of the ninth century there were already twenty-nine provinces or fragments of provinces which had become petty states, the former governors of which, under the names of dukes, counts, marquises, and viscounts, were pretty nearly real sovereigns. Twenty-nine great fiefs, which have played a special part in French history, date back to this epoch.

These petty states were not all of equal importance or in possession of a perfectly similar independence; there were certain ties uniting them to other states, resulting in certain reciprocal obligations which became the basis, or, one might say, the constitution of the feudal community; but their prevailing feature was, nevertheless, isolation, personal existence. They were really petty states begotten from the dismemberment of a great territory; those local governments were formed at the expense of a central power.

From the end of the ninth pass we to the end of the tenth century, to the epoch when the Capetians take the place of the Carlovingians. Instead of seven kingdoms to replace the empire of Charlemagne, there were then no more than four. The kingdoms of Provence and Trans-juran Burgundy had formed, by re-union, the kingdom of Arles. The kingdom of Lorraine was no more than a duchy in dispute between Allemannia and France. The Emperor Otho the Great had united the kingdom of Italy to the empire of. Allemannia. Overtures had produced their effects amongst the great states. But in the interior of the kingdom of France, dismemberment had held on its course; and instead of the twenty-nine petty states or great fiefs observable at the end of the ninth century, we find at the end of the tenth, fifty-five actually established. (Vide Guizot’s Histoire de la Civilisation, t. ii., pp. 238-246.)

Now, how was this ever-increasing dismemberment accomplished? What causes determined it, and little by little made it the substitute for the unity of the empire? Two causes, perfectly natural and independent of all human calculation, one moral and the other political. They were the absence from the minds of men of any general and dominant idea; and the reflux, in social relations and manners, of the individual liberties but lately repressed or regulated by the strong hand of Charlemagne. In times of formation or transition, states and governments conform to the measure, one had almost said to the height, of the men of the period, their ideas, their sentiments, and their personal force of character; when ideas are few and narrow, when sentiments spread only over a confined circle, when means of action and expansion are wanting to men, communities become petty and local, just as the thoughts and existence of their members are. Such was the state of things in the ninth and tenth centuries; there was no general and fructifying idea, save the Christian creed; no great intellectual vent; no great national feeling; no easy and rapid means of communication; mind and life were both confined in a narrow space, and encountered, at every step, stoppages and obstacles well nigh insurmountable. At the same time, by the fall of the empires of Rome and of Charlemagne, men regained possession of the rough and ready individual liberties which were the essential characteristic of Germanic manners: Franks, Visigoths, Burgundians, Saxons, Lombards, none of these new peoples had lived as the Greeks and Romans had, under the sway of an essentially political idea, the idea of city, state, and fatherland: they were free men, and not citizens; comrades, not members of one and the same public body. They gave up their vagabond life; they settled upon a soil conquered by themselves and partitioned amongst themselves; and there they lived each by himself, master of himself and all that was his, family, servitors, husbandmen, and slaves: the territorial domain became the fatherland, and the owner remained a free man, a local and independent chieftain, at his own risk and peril. And this, quite naturally, grew up feudal France, when the new comers, settled in their new abodes, were no more swayed or hampered by the vain attempt to re-establish the Roman empire.

The consequences of such a state of things and of such a disposition of persons were rapidly developed. Territorial ownership became the fundamental characteristic of and warranty for independence and social importance. Local sovereignty, if not complete and absolute, at least in respect of its principal rights, right of making war, right of judicature, right of taxation, and right of regulating the police, became one with the territorial ownership, which before long grew to be hereditary, whether, under the title of alleu (allodium), it had been originally perfectly independent and exempt from any feudal tie, or, under the title of benefice, had arisen from grants of land made by the chieftain to his followers, on condition of certain obligations. The offices, that is, the divers functions, military or civil, conferred by the king on his lieges, also ended by becoming hereditary. Having become established in fact, this heirship in lands and local powers was soon recognized by the law. A capitulary of Charles the Bald, promulgated in 877, contains the two following provisions:—

“If, after our death, any one of our lieges, moved by love for God and our person, desire to renounce the world, and if he have a son or other relative capable of serving the public weal, let him be free to transmit to him his benefices and his honor, according to his pleasure.”

“If a count of this kingdom happen to die, and his son be about our person, we will that our son; together with those of our lieges who may chance to be the nearest relatives of the deceased count, as well as with the other officers of the said countship and the bishop of the diocese wherein it is situated, shall provide for its administration until the death of the heretofore count shall have been announced to us and we have been enabled to confer on the son, present at our court, the honors wherewith his father was invested.”

Thus the king still retained the nominal right of conferring on the son the offices or local functions of the father, but he recognized in the son the right to obtain them. A host of documents testify that at this epoch, when, on the death of a governor of a province, the king attempted to give his countship to some one else than his descendants, not only did personal interest resist, but such a measure was considered a violation of right. Under the reign of Louis the Stutterer, son of Charles the Bald, two of his lieges, Wilhelm and Engelschalk, held two countships on the confines of Bavaria; and, at their death, their offices were given to Count Arbo, to the prejudice of their sons. “The children and their relatives,” says the chronicler, “taking that as a gross injustice, said that matters ought to go differently, and that they would die by the sword or Arbo should give up the courtship of their family.” Heirship in territorial ownerships and their local rights, whatever may have originally been their character; heirship in local offices or powers, military or civil, primarily conferred by the king; and, by consequence, hereditary union of territorial ownership and local government, under the condition, a little confused and precarious, of subordinated relations and duties between suzerain and vassal—such was, in law and in fact, the feudal order of things. From the ninth to the tenth century it had acquired full force.

This order of things being thus well defined, we find ourselves face to face with an indisputable historic fact: no period, no system has ever, in France, remained so odious to the public instincts. And this antipathy is not peculiar to our age, nor merely the fruit of that great revolution which not long since separated, as by a gulf, the French present from its past. Go back to any portion of French history, and stop where you will; and you will everywhere find the feudal system considered, by the mass of the population, a foe to be fought and fought down at any price. At all times, whoever dealt it a blow has been popular in France.

The reasons for this fact are not all, or even the chief of them, to be traced to the evils which, in France, the people had to endure under the feudal system. It is not evil plight which is most detested and feared by peoples; they have more than once borne, faced, and almost wooed it, and there are woful epochs, the memory of which has remained dear. It is in the political character of feudalism, in the nature and shape of its power, that we find lurking that element of popular aversion which, in France at least, it has never ceased to inspire.

It was a confederation of petty sovereigns, of petty despots, unequal amongst themselves, and having, one towards another, certain duties and rights, but invested in their own domains, over their personal and direct subjects, with arbitrary and absolute power. That is the essential element of the feudal system; therein it differs from every other aristocracy, every other form of government.

There has been no scarcity in this world of aristocracies and despotisms. There have been peoples arbitrarily governed, nay, absolutely possessed by a single man, by a college of priests, by a body of patricians. But none of these despotic governments was like the feudal system.

In the case where the sovereign power has been placed in the hands of a single man, the condition of the people has been servile and woful. At bottom the feudal system was somewhat better; and it will presently be explained why. Meanwhile, it must be acknowledged that that condition often appeared less burdensome, and obtained more easy acceptance than the feudal system. It was because, under the great absolute monarchies, men did, nevertheless, obtain some sort of equality and tranquillity. A shameful equality and a fatal tranquillity, no doubt; but such as peoples are sometimes contented with under the dominance of certain circumstances, or in the last gasp of their existence. Liberty, equality, and tranquillity were all alike wanting, from the tenth to the thirteenth century, to the inhabitants of each lord’s domains; their sovereign was at their very doors, and none of them was hidden from him, or beyond reach of his mighty arm. Of all tyrannies, the worst is that which can thus keep account of its subjects, and which sees, from its seat, the limits of its empire. The caprices of the human will then show themselves in all their intolerable extravagance, and, moreover, with irresistible promptness. It is then, too, that inequality of conditions makes itself more rudely felt; riches, might, independence, every advantage and every right present themselves every instant to the gaze of misery, weakness, and servitude. The inhabitants of fiefs could not find consolation in the bosom of tranquillity; incessantly mixed up in the quarrels of their lord, a prey to his neighbors’ devastations, they led a life still more precarious and still more restless than that of the lords themselves, and they had to put up at one and the same time with the presence of war, privilege, and absolute power. Nor did the rule of feudalism differ less from that of a college of priests or a senate of patricians than from the despotism of an individual. In the two former systems we have an aristocratic body governing the mass of the people; in the feudal system we have an aristocracy resolved into individuals, each of whom governs on his own private account a certain number of persons dependent upon him alone. Be the aristocratic body a clergy, its power has its root in creeds which are common to itself and its subjects. Now, in every creed common to those who command and those who obey there is a moral tie, an element of sympathetic equality, and on the part of those who obey a tacit adhesion to the rule. Be it a senate of patricians that reigns, it cannot govern so capriciously, so arbitrarily, as an individual. There are differences and discussions in the very bosom of the government; there may be, nay, there always are, formed factions, parties which, in order to arrive at their own ends, strive to conciliate the favor of the people, sometimes take in hand its interests, and, however bad may be its condition, the people, by sharing in its masters’ rivalries, exercises some sort of influence over its own destiny. Feudalism was not, properly speaking, an aristocratic government, a senate of kings—to use the language used by Cineas to Pyrrhus; it was a collection of individual despotisms, exercised by isolated aristocrats, each of whom, being sovereign in his own domains, had to give no account to another, and asked nobody’s opinion about his conduct towards his subjects.

Is it astonishing that such a system incurred, on the part of the peoples, more hatred than even those which had reduced them to a more monotonous and more lasting servitude? There was despotism, just as in pure monarchies, and there was privilege, just as in the very closest aristocracies. And both obtruded themselves in the most offensive, and, so to speak, crude form. Despotism was not tapered off by means of the distant and elevation of a throne; and privilege did not veil itself behind the majesty of a large body. Both were the appurtenances of an individual ever present and ever alone, ever at his subjects’ doors, and never called upon, in dealing with their lot, to gather his peers around him.

And now we will leave the subjects in the case of feudalism, and consider the masters, the owners of fiefs, and their relations one with another. We here behold quite a different spectacle; we see liberties, rights, and guarantees, which not only give protection and honor to those who enjoy them, but of which the tendency and effect are to open to the subject population an outlet towards a better future.

It could not, in fact, be otherwise: for, on the one hand, feudal society was not wanting in dignity and glory; and, on the other, the feudal system did not, as the theocracy of Egypt or the despotism of Asia did, condemn its subjects irretrievably to slavery. It oppressed them; but they ended by having the power as well as the will to go free.

It is the fault of pure monarchy to set up power so high, and encompass it with such splendor, that the possessor’s head is turned, and that those who are beneath it dare scarcely look upon it. The sovereign thinks himself a god; and the people fall down and worship him. But it was not so in society under owners of fiefs: the grandeur was neither dazzling nor unapproachable; it was but a short step from vassal to suzerain; they lived familiarly one with another, without any possibility that superiority should think itself illimitable, or subordination think itself servile. Thence came that extension of the domestic circle, that ennoblement of personal service, from which sprang one of the most generous sentiments of the middle ages, fealty, which reconciled the dignity of the man with the devotion of the vassal.

Further, it was not from a numerous aristocratic senate, but from himself, and almost from himself alone, that every possessor of fiefs derived his strength and his lustre. Isolated as he was in his domains, it was for him to maintain himself therein, to extend them, to keep his subjects submissive and his vassals faithful, and to correct those who were wanting in obedience to him, or who ignored their duties as members of the feudal hierarchy. It was, as it were, a people consisting of scattered citizens, of whom each, ever armed, accompanied by his following or intrenched in his castle, kept watch himself over his own safety and his own rights, relying far more on his own courage and his own renown than on the protection of the public authorities. Such a condition bears less resemblance to an organized and settled society than to a constant prospect of peril and war; but the energy and the dignity of the individual were kept up in it, and a more extended and better regulated society might issue therefrom.

And it did issue. This society of the future was not slow to sprout and grow in the midst of that feudal system so turbulent, so oppressive, so detested. For five centuries, from the invasion of the barbarians to the fall of the Carlovingians, France presents the appearance of being stationary in the middle of chaos. Over this long, dark space of anarchy, feudalism is slowly taking shape, at the expense, at one time, of liberty, at another, of order; not as a real rectification of the social condition, but as the only order of things which could possibly acquire fixity, as, in fact, a sort of unpleasant but necessary alternative. No sooner is the feudal system in force, than, with its victory scarcely secured, it is attacked in the lower grades by the mass of the people attempting to regain certain liberties, ownerships, and rights, and in the highest by royalty laboring to recover its public character, to become once more the head of a nation. It is no longer the case of free men in a vague and dubious position, unsuccessfully defending, against the nomination of the chieftains whose lands they inhabit, the wreck of their independence, whether Gallic, or Roman, or barbaric; it is the case of burgesses, agriculturists, and serfs, who know well what their grievances and who their oppressors are, and who are working to get free. It is no longer the case of a king doubtful about his title and the nature of his power, at one time a chieftain of warriors, at another the anointed of the Most High; here a mayor of the palace of some sluggard barbarian, there the heir of the emperors of Rome; a sovereign tossing about confusedly amidst followers or servitors eager at one time to invade his authority, at another to render themselves completely isolated: it is the case of one of the premier feudal lords exerting himself to become the master of all, to change his suzerainty into sovereignty. Thus, in spite of the servitude into which the people had sunk at the end of the tenth century, from this moment the enfranchisement of the people makes way. In spite of the weakness, or rather nullity, of the regal power at the same epoch, from this moment the regal power begins to gain ground. That monarchical system which the genius of Charlemagne could not found, kings far inferior to Charlemagne will little by little make triumphant. Those liberties and those guarantees which the German warriors were incapable of transmitting to a well-regulated society, the commonalty will regain one after another. Nothing but feudalism could have sprung from the womb of barbarism; but scarcely is feudalism established when we see monarchy and liberty nascent and growing in its womb.

From the end of the ninth to the end of the tenth century, two families were, in French history, the representatives and instruments of the two systems thus confronted and conflicting at that epoch, the imperial which was falling, and the feudal which was rising. After the death of Charlemagne, his descendants, to the number of ten, from Louis the Debonnair to Louis the Sluggard, strove obstinately, but in vain, to maintain the unity of the empire and the unity of the central power. In four generations, on the other hand, the descendants of Robert the Strong climbed to the head of feudal France. The former, though German in race, were imbued with the maxims, the traditions, and the pretensions of that Roman world which had been for a while resuscitated by their glorious ancestor; and they claimed it as their heritage. The latter preserved, at their settlement upon Gallo-Roman territory, Germanic sentiments, manners, and instincts, and were occupied only with the idea of getting more and more settled, and greater and greater in the new society which was little by little being formed upon the soil won by the barbarians, their forefathers. Louis the Ultra-marine and Lothaire were not, we may suppose, less personally brave than Robert the Strong and his son Eudes; but when the Northmen put the Frankish dominions in peril, it was not to the descendants of Charlemagne, not to the emperor Charles the Fat, but to the local and feudal chieftain, to Eudes, count of Paris, that the population turned for salvation: and Eudes it was who saved them.

In this painful parturition of French monarchy, one fact deserves to be remarked, and that is, the lasting respect attached, in the minds of the people, to the name and the reminiscences of the Carlovingian rule, notwithstanding its decay. It was not alone the lustre of that name, and of the memory of Charlemagne which inspired and prolonged this respect; a certain instinctive feeling about the worth of hereditary monarchy, as an element of stability and order, already existed amongst the populations, and glimpses thereof were visible amongst the rivals of the royal family in the hour of its dissolution. It had been consecrated by religion; the title of anointed of the Most High was united, in its case, to that of lawful heir. Why did Hugh the Great, duke of France, in spite of favorable opportunities and very palpable temptations, abstain perseveringly from taking the crown, and leave it tottering upon the heads of Louis the Ultramarine and Lothaire? Why did his son, Hugh Capet himself, wait, for his election as king, until Louis the Sluggard was dead, and the Carlovingian line had only a collateral and discredited representative? In these hesitations and lingerings of the great feudal chieftains, there is a forecast of the authority already vested in the principle of hereditary monarchy, at the very moment when it was about to be violated, and of the great part which would be played by that principle in the history of France.

At last the day of decision arrived for Hugh Capet. There is nothing to show that he had conspired to hasten it, but he had foreseen the probability of it, and, if he had done nothing to pave the way for it, he had held himself, so far as he was concerned, in readiness for it. During a trip which he made to Rome in 981, he had entered into kindly personal relations with the Emperor Otho II., king of Germany, the most important of France’s neighbors, and the most disposed to meddle in her affairs. In France, Hugh Capet had formed a close friendship with Adalberon, archbishop of Rheims, the most notable and most able of the French prelates. The event showed the value of such a friend. On the 21st of May, 987, King Louis V. died without issue; and, after his obsequies, the grandees of the kingdom met together at Senlis. We will here borrow the text of a contemporary witness, Richer, the only one of the chroniclers of that age who deserves the name of historian, whether for the authenticity of his testimony or the extent and clearness of his narrative. “The bishop,” he says, “took his place, together with the duke, in the midst of the assembly, and said to them, ‘I come and sit down amongst you to treat of the affairs of the state. Far from me be any design of saying anything but what has for aim the advantage of the common weal. As I do not see here all the princes whose wisdom and energy might be useful in the government of the kingdom, it seems to me that the choice of a king should be put off for some time, in order that, at a period fixed upon, all may be able to meet in assembly, and that every opinion, having been discussed and set forth in the face of day, may thus produce its full effect. May it please you, then, all of ye who are here assembled to deliberate, to bind yourselves in conjunction with me by oath to this illustrious duke, and to promise between his hands not to engage yourselves in any way in the election of a Head, and not to do anything to this end until we be re-assembled here to deliberate upon that choice.’ This opinion was well received and approved of by all: oath was taken between the hands of the duke, and the time was fixed at which the meeting should assemble again.”

Before the day fixed for re-assembling, the last of the descendants of Charlemagne, Charles, duke of Lower Lorraine, brother of the late King Lothaire, and paternal uncle of the late King Louis, “went to Rheims in quest of the archbishop, and thus spake to him about his rights to the throne: ‘All the world knoweth, venerable father, that, by hereditary right, I ought to succeed my brother and my nephew. I am wanting in nought that should be required, before all, from those who ought to reign, to wit, birth and the courage to dare. Wherefore am I thrust out from the territory which all the world knows to have been possessed by my ancestors? To whom could I better address myself than to you, when all the supports of my race have disappeared? To whom, bereft as I am of honorable protection, should I have recourse but to you? By whom, if not by you, should I be restored to the honors of my fathers? Please God things turn out favorably for me and for my fortunes! Rejected, what, can become of me save to be exhibited as a spectacle to all who look on me? Suffer yourself to be moved by some feeling of humanity: be compassionate towards a man who has been tried by so many reverses!’”

Such language was more calculated to inspire contempt than compassion. “The metropolitan, firm in his resolution, gave for answer these few words: ‘Thou hast ever been associated with the perjured, the sacrilegious, and the wicked of every sort, and now thou art still unwilling to separate from them: how canst thou, in company with such men, and by means of such men, seek to attain to the sovereign power?’ And when Charles replied that he must not abandon his friends, but rather gain over others, the bishop said to himself, ‘Now that he possesses no position of dignity, he hath allied himself with the wicked, whose companionship he will not, in any way, give up: what misfortune would it be for the good if he were elected to the throne!’ To Charles, however, he made answer that he would do nought without the consent of the princes; and so left him.”

At the time fixed, probably the 29th or 30th of June, 987, the grandees of Frankish Gaul who had bound themselves by oath re-assembled at Senlis. Hugh Capet was present with his brother Henry of Burgundy, and his brother-in-law Richard the Fearless, duke of Normandy. The majority of the direct vassals of the crown were also there—Foulques Nerra (the Black), count of Anjou; Eudes, count of Blois, Chartres, and Tours; Bouchard, count of Vent-Mine and Corbeil; Gautier, count of Vexin; and Hugh, count of Maine. Few counts came from beyond the Loire; and some of the lords in the North, amongst others Arnulf II., count of Flanders, and the lords of Vermandois were likewise missing. “When those present were in regular assembly, Archbishop Adalheron, with the assent of Duke Hugh, thus spake unto them: ‘Louis, of blessed memory, having been taken from us without leaving issue, it hath become necessary to engage seriously in seeking who may take his place upon the throne, to the end that the common weal remain not in peril, neglected and without a head. That is why on the last occasion we deemed it useful to put off this matter, in order that each of ye might come hither and submit to the assembly the opinion with which God should have inspired him, and that from all those sentiments might be drawn what is the general will. Here be we assembled: let us, then, be guided by our wisdom and our good faith to act in such sort that hatred stifle not reason, and affection distort not truth. We be not ignorant that Charles hath his partisans, who maintain that he ought to come to the throne transmitted to him by his relatives. But if we examine this question, the throne is not acquired by hereditary right, and we be bound to place at the head of the kingdom none but him who not only hath the distinction of corporeal nobility, but hath also honor to recommend him and magnanimity to rest upon. We read in the annals that to emperors of illustrious race, whom their own laches caused to fall from power, succeeded others, at one time similar, at another different; but what dignity could we confer on Charles, who hath not honor for his guide, who is enfeebled by lethargy, and who, finally, hath lost head so far that he hath no shame in serving a foreign king, and in misuniting himself to a woman taken from the rank of the knights his vassals? How could the puissant duke brook that a woman issuing from a family of his vassals should become queen, and have dominion over him? How could he walk behind her whose equals and even superiors bend the knee before him and place their hands beneath his feet? Examine carefully into the matter, and consider that Charles hath been rejected more through his own fault than that of others. Decide ye rather for the good than the ill of the common weal. If ye wish it ill, make Charles sovereign; if ye hold to its prosperity, crown Hugh, the illustrious duke. Let attachment to Charles seduce nobody, and let hatred towards the duke distract nobody, from the common interest. . . . Give us then, for our head, the duke, who has deeds, nobility, and troops to recommend him; the duke, in whom ye will find a defender not only of the common weal, but also of your private interests. Thanks to his benevolence, ye will have in him a father. Who hath had recourse to him and hath not found protection? Who, that hath been torn from the care of home, hath not been restored thereto by him?’

“This opinion having been proclaimed and well received, Duke Hugh was unanimously raised to the throne, crowned on the 1st of July by the metropolitan and the other bishops, and recognized as king by the Gauls, the Britons, the Normans, the Aquitanians, the Goths, the Spaniards, and the Gascons. Surrounded by the grandees of the kingdom, he passed decrees and promulgated laws according to royal custom, regulating successfully and disposing of all matters. That he might deserve so much good fortune, and under the inspiration of so many prosperous circumstances, he gave himself up to deep piety. Wishing to have a certainty of leaving, after his death, an heir to the throne, he conferred with his grandees, and after holding council with them he first sent a deputation to the metropolitan of Rheims, who was then at Orleans, and subsequently went himself to see him touching the association of his son Robert with himself upon the throne. The archbishop having told him that two kings could not be, regularly, created in one and the same year, he immediately showed a letter sent by Borel, duke of inner Spain, proving that that duke requested help against the barbarians. . . . The metropolitan, seeing advantage was likely to result, ultimately yielded to the king’s reasons; and when the grandees were assembled, at the festival of our Lord’s nativity, to celebrate the coronation, Hugh assumed the purple, and he crowned solemnly, in the basilica of Sainte- Croix, his son Robert, amidst the acclamations of the French.”

Hugh Capet Elected King——300

Thus was founded the dynasty of the Capetians, under the double influence of German manners and feudal connections. Amongst the ancient Germans royal heirship was generally confined to one and the same family; but election was often joined with heirship, and had more than once thrust the latter aside. Hugh Capet was head of the family which was the most illustrious in his time and closest to the throne, on which the personal merits of Counts Eudes and Robert had already twice seated it. He was also one of the greatest chieftains of feudal society, duke of the country which was already called France, and count of Paris—of that city which Clovis, after his victories, had chosen as the centre of his dominions. In view of the Roman rather than Germanic pretensions of the Carlovingian heirs and of their admitted decay, the rise of Hugh Capet was the natural consequence of the principal facts as well as of the manners of the period, and the crowning manifestation of the new social condition in France, that is, feudalism. Accordingly the event reached completion and confirmation without any great obstacle. The Carlovingian, Charles of Lorraine, vainly attempted to assert his rights; but after some gleams of success, he died in 992, and his descendants fell, if not into obscurity, at least into political insignificance. In vain, again, did certain feudal lords, especially in Southern France, refuse for some time their adhesion to Hugh Capet. One of them, Adalbert, count of Perigord, has remained almost famous for having made to Hugh Capet’s question, “Who made thee count?” the proud answer, “Who made thee king?” The pride, however, of Count Adalbert had more bark than bite. Hugh possessed that intelligent and patient moderation, which, when a position is once acquired, is the best pledge of continuance. Several facts indicate that he did not underestimate the worth and range of his title of king. At the same time that by getting his son Robert crowned with him he secured for his line the next succession, he also performed several acts which went beyond the limits of his feudal domains, and proclaimed to all the kingdom the presence of the king. But those acts were temperate and wise; and they paved the way for the future without anticipating it. Hugh Capet confined himself carefully to the sphere of his recognized rights as well as of his effective strength, and his government remained faithful to the character of the revolution which had raised him to the throne, at the same time that it gave warning of the future progress of royalty independently of and over the head of feudalism. When he died, on the 24th of October, 996, the crown, which he hesitated, they say, to wear on his own head, passed without obstacle to his son Robert, and the course which was to be followed for eight centuries, under the government of his descendants, by civilization in France, began to develop itself.

'Who Made Thee King?’——302

It has already been pointed out, in the case of Adalberon, archbishop of Rheims, what part was taken by the clergy in this second change of dynasty; but the part played by it was so important and novel that we must make a somewhat more detailed acquaintance with the real character of it and the principal actor in it. When, in 751, Pepin the Short became king in the place of the last Merovingian, it was, as we have seen, Pope Zachary who decided that “it was better to give the title of king to him who really exercised the sovereign power than to him who bore only its name.” Three years later, in 754, it was Pope Stephen II. who came over to France to anoint King Pepin, and, forty-six years afterwards, in 800, it was Pope Leo III. who proclaimed Charlemagne emperor of the West. From the Papacy, then, on the accession of the Carlovingians, came the principal decisions and steps. The reciprocal services rendered one to the other by the two powers, and still more, perhaps, the similarity of their maxims as to the unity of the empire, established between the Papacy and the Carlovingians strong ties of gratitude and policy; and, accordingly, when the Carlovingian dynasty was in danger, the court of Rome was grieved and troubled; it was hard for her to see the fall of a dynasty for which she had done so much and which had done so much for her. Far, then, from aiding the accession of the new dynasty, she showed herself favorable to the old, and tried to save it without herself becoming too deeply compromised. Such was, from 985 to 996, the attitude of Pope John XVI., at the crisis which placed Hugh Capet upon the throne. In spite of this policy on the part of the Papacy, the French Church took the initiative in the event, and supported the new king; the Archbishop of Rheims affirmed the right of the people to accomplish a change of dynasty, and anointed Hugh Capet and his son Robert. The accession of the Capetians was a work independent of all foreign influence, and strictly national, in Church as well as in State.

The authority of Adalberon was of great weight in the matter. As archbishop he was full of zeal, and at the same time of wisdom in ecclesiastical administration. Engaging in politics, he showed boldness in attempting a great change in the state, and ability in carrying it out without precipitation as well as without hesitation. He had for his secretary and teacher a simple priest of Auvergne, who exercised over this enterprise an influence more continuous and still more effectual than that of his archbishop. Gerbert, born at Aurillac, and brought up in the monastery of St. Geraud, had, when he was summoned to the directorate of the school of Rheims, already made a trip to Spain, visited Rome, and won the esteem of Pope John XIII. and of the Emperor Otho II., and had thus had a close view of the great personages and great questions, ecclesiastical and secular, of his time. On his establishment at Rheims, he pursued a double course with a double end: he was fond of study, science, and the investigation of truth, but he had also a taste for the sphere of politics and of the world; he excelled in the art of instructing, but also in the art of pleasing; and the address of the courtier was in him united with the learning of the doctor. His was a mind lofty, broad, searching, prolific, open to conviction, and yet inclined to give way, either from calculation or attraction, to contrary ideas, but certain to recur, under favorable circumstances, to its original purpose. There was in him almost as much changeableness as zeal for the cause he embraced. He espoused and energetically supported the elevation of a new dynasty and the independence of the Roman Church. He was very active in the cause of Hugh Capet; but he was more than once on the point of going over to King Lothaire or to the pretender Charles of Lorraine. He was in his time, even more resolutely than Bossuet in the seventeenth century, the defender and practiser of what have since been called the liberties of the Gallican Church, and in 992 he became, on this ground, Archbishop of Rheims; but, after having been interdicted, in 995, by Pope John XVI., from the exercise of his episcopal functions in France, he obtained, in 998, from Pope Gregory V., the archbishopric of Ravenna in Italy, and the favor of Otho III. was not unconnected, in 999, with his elevation to the Holy See, which he occupied for four years, with the title of Sylvester II., whilst putting in practice, but with moderation and dignity, maxims very different from those which he had supported, fifteen years before, as a French bishop. He became, at this later period of his life, so much the more estranged from France in that he was embroiled with Hugh Capet’s son and successor, King Robert, whose quondam preceptor he had been and of whose marriage with Queen Bertha, widow of Eudes, count of Blois, he had honestly disapproved.

Gerbert, Afterwards Pope Sylvester Ii——304

In 995, just when he had been interdicted by Pope John X VI. from his functions as Archbishop of Rheims, Gerbert wrote to the abbot and brethren of the monastery of St. Geraud, where he had been brought up, “And now farewell to your holy community; farewell to those whom I knew in old times, or who were connected with me by blood, if there still survive any whose names, if not their features, have remained upon my memory. Not that I have forgotten them through pride; but I am broken down, and—if it must be said—changed by the ferocity of barbarians; what I learned in my boyhood I forgot in my youth; what I desired in my youth, I despised in my old age. Such are the fruits thou hast borne for me, O pleasure! Such are the joys afforded by the honors of the world! Believe my experience of it: the higher the great are outwardly raised by glory, the more cruel is their inward anguish!”

Length of life brings, in the soul of the ambitious, days of hearty undeception; but it does not discourage them from their course of ambition. Gerbert was, amongst the ambitious, at the same time one of the most exalted in point of intellect and one of the most persistent as well as restless in attachment to the affairs of the world.







From 996 to 1108, the first three successors of Hugh Capet, his son Robert, his grandson Henry I., and his great-grandson Philip I., sat upon the throne of France; and during this long space of one hundred and twelve years the kingdom of France had not, sooth to say, any history. Parcelled out, by virtue of the feudal system, between a multitude of princes, independent, isolated, and scarcely sovereigns in their own dominions, keeping up anything like frequent intercourse only with their neighbors, and loosely united, by certain rules or customs of vassalage, to him amongst them who bore the title of king, the France of the eleventh century existed in little more than name: Normandy, Brittany, Burgundy, Aquitaine, Poitou, Anjou, Flanders, and Nivernais were the real states and peoples, each with its own distinct life and history. One single event, the Crusade, united, towards the end of the century, those scattered sovereigns and peoples in one common idea and one combined action. Up to that point, then, let us conform to the real state of the case, and faithfully trace out the features of the epoch, without attempting to introduce a connection and a combination which did not exist; and let us pass briefly in review the isolated events and personages which are still worthy of remembrance, and which have remained historic without having belonged exactly to a national history. Amongst events of this kind, one, the conquest of England, in 1066, by William the Bastard, duke of Normandy, was so striking, and exercised so much influence over the destinies of France, that, in the incoherent and disconnected picture of this eleventh century, particular attention must first be drawn to the consequences, as regarded France, of that great Norman enterprise.

After the sagacious Hugh Capet, the first three Capetians, Robert, Henry I., and Philip I., were very mediocre individuals, in character as well as intellect; and their personal insignificance was one of the causes that produced the emptiness of French history under their sway. Robert lacked neither physical advantages nor moral virtues: “He had a lofty figure,” says his biographer Helgaud, archbishop of Bourgcs, “hair smooth and well arranged, a modest eye, a pleasant and gentle mouth, a tolerably furnished beard, and high shoulders. He was versed in all the sciences, philosopher enough and an excellent musician, and so devoted to sacred literature that he never passed a day without reading the Psalter and praying to the Most High God together with St. David.” He composed several hymns which were adopted by the Church, and, during a pilgrimage he made to Rome, he deposited upon the altar of St. Peter his own Latin poems set to music. “He often went to the church of St. Denis, clad in his royal robes and with his crown on his head; and he there conducted the singing at matins, mass, and vespers, chanting with the monks and himself calling upon them to sing. When he sat in the consistory, he voluntarily styled himself the bishops’ client.” Two centuries later, St. Louis proved that the virtues of the saint are not incompatible with the qualities of the king; but the former cannot form a substitute for the latter, and the qualities of king were to seek in Robert. He was neither warrior nor politician; there is no sign that he ever gathered about him, to discuss affairs of state, the laic barons together with the bishops, and when he interfered in the wars of the great feudal lords, notably in Burgundy and Flanders, it was with but little energy and to but little purpose. He was hardly more potent in his family than in his kingdom. It has already been mentioned that, in spite of his preceptor Gerbert’s advice, he had espoused Bertha, widow of Eudes, count of Blois, and he loved her dearly; but the marriage was assailed by the Church, on the ground of kinship. Robert offered resistance, but afterwards gave way before the excommunication pronounced by Pope Gregory V., and then espoused Constance daughter of William Taillefer, count of Toulouse; and forth-with, says the chronicler Raoul Glaber, “were seen pouring into France and Burgundy, because of this queen, the most vain and most frivolous of all men, coming from Aquitaine and Auvergne. They were outlandish and outrageous equally in their manners and their dress, in their arms and the appointments of their horses; their hair came only half way down their head; they shaved their beards like actors; they wore boots and shoes that were not decent; and, lastly, neither fidelity nor security was to be looked for in any of their ties. Alack! that nation of Franks, which was wont to be the most virtuous, and even the people of Burgundy, too, were eager to follow these criminal examples, and before long they reflected only too faithfully the depravity and infamy of their models.” The evil amounted to something graver than a disturbance of court-fashions. Robert had by Constance three sons, Hugh, Henry, and Robert. First the eldest, and afterwards his two brothers, maddened by the bad character and tyrannical exactions of their mother, left the palace, and withdrew to Dreux and Burgundy, abandoning themselves, in the royal domains and the neighborhood, to all kinds of depredations and excesses. Reconciliation was not without great difficulty effected; and, indeed, peace was never really restored in the royal family. Peace was everywhere the wish and study of King Robert; but he succeeded better in maintaining it with his neighbors than with his children. In 1006, he was on the point of having a quarrel with Henry II., emperor of Germany, who was more active and enterprising, but fortunately not less pious, than himself. The two sovereigns resolved to have an interview at the Meuse, the boundary of their dominions. “The question amongst their respective followings was, which of the two should cross the river to seek audience on the other bank, that is, in the other’s dominions; this would be a humiliation, it was said. The two learned princes remembered this saying of Eclesiasticus: ‘The greater thou art, the humbler be thou in all things.’ The emperor, therefore, rose up early in the morning, and crossed, with some of his people, into the French king’s territory. They embraced with cordiality; the bishops, as was proper, celebrated the sacrament of the mass, and they afterwards sat down to dinner. When the meal was over, King Robert offered Henry immense presents of gold and silver and precious stones, and a hundred horses richly caparisoned, each carrying a cuirass and a helmet; and he added that all that the emperor did not accept of these gifts would be so much deducted from their friendship. Henry, seeing the generosity of his friend, took of the whole only a book containing the Holy Gospel, set with gold and precious stones, and a golden amulet, wherein was a tooth of St. Vincent, priest and martyr. The empress, likewise, accepted only two golden cups. Next day, King Robert crossed with his bishops into the territories of the emperor, who received him magnificently, and, after dinner, offered him a hundred pounds of pure gold. The king, in his turn, accepted only two golden cups; and, after having ratified their pact of friendship, they returned each to his own dominions.”

Notre Dame——310

Let us add to this summary of Robert’s reign some facts which are characteristic of the epoch. In A.D. 1000, in consequence of the sense attached to certain words in the Sacred Books, many Christians expected the end of the world. The time of expectation was full of anxieties; plagues, famines, and divers accidents which then took place in divers quarters, were an additional aggravation; the churches were crowded; penances, offerings, absolutions, all the forms of invocation and repentance multiplied rapidly; a multitude of souls, in submission or terror, prepared to appear before their Judge. And after what catastrophes? In the midst of what gloom or of what light? These were fearful questions, of which men’s imaginations were exhausted in forestalling the solution. When the last day of the tenth and the first of the eleventh centuries were past, it was like a general regeneration; it might have been said that time was beginning over again; and the work was commenced of rendering the Christian world worthy of the future. “Especially in Italy and in Gaul,” says the chronicler Raoul Glaber, “men took in hand the reconstruction of the basilicas, although the greater part had no need thereof. Christian peoples seemed to vie one with another which should erect the most beautiful. It was as if the world, shaking itself together and casting off its old garments, would have decked itself with the white robes of Christ.” Christian art, in its earliest form of the Gothic style, dates from this epoch; the power and riches of the Christian Church, in its different institutions, received, at this crisis of the human imagination, a fresh impulse.

Other facts, some lamentable and some salutary, began, about this epoch, to assume in French history a place which was destined before long to become an important one. Piles of fagots were set up, first at Orleans and then at Toulouse, for the punishment of heretics. The heretics of the day were Manicheans. King Robert and Queen Constance sanctioned by their presence this return to human sacrifices offered to God as a penalty inflicted on mental offenders against His word. At the same time a double portion of ire blazed forth against the Jews. “What have we to do,” it was said, “with going abroad to make war on Mussulmans? Have we not in the very midst of us the greatest enemies of Jesus Christ?” Amongst Christians acts of oppression and violence on the part of the great against the small became so excessive and so frequent that they excited in country parts, particularly in Normandy, insurrections which the insurgents tried to organize into permanent resistance. “In several counties of Normandy,” says William of Jumieges, “all the peasants, meeting in conventicles, resolved to live according to their own wills and their own laws, not only in the heart of the forests, but also on the borders of the rivers, and without care for any established rights. To accomplish this design, these mobs of madmen elected each two deputies, who were to form, at the central point, an assembly charged with the execution of their decrees. So soon as the duke (Richard II.) was informed thereof, he sent a large body of armed men to suppress this audacity in the country parts, and to disperse this rustic assembly. In execution of his orders, the deputies of the peasantry and many other rebels were forthwith arrested; their feet and hands were cut off, and they were sent home thus mutilated to deter their fellows from such enterprises, and to render them more prudent, for fear of worse. After this experience, the peasants gave up their meetings and returned to their ploughs.”

This is a literal translation of the monkish chronicler, who was far from favorable to the insurgent peasants, and was more for applauding the suppression than justifying the insurrection. The suppression, though undoubtedly effectual for the moment, and in the particular spots it reached, produced no general or lasting effect. About a century after the cold recital of William of Jumieges, a poet-chronicler, Robert Wace, in his Romance of Rou, a history in verse of Rollo and the first dukes of Normandy, related the same facts with far more sympathetic feeling and poetical coloring. “The lords do us nought but ill,” he makes the Norman peasants say; “with them we have nor gain nor profit from our labors; every day is, for us, a day of suffering, toil, and weariness; every day we have our cattle taken from us for road-work and forced service. We have plaints and grievances, old and new exactions, pleas and processes without end, money-pleas, market-pleas, road-pleas, forest-pleas, mill-pleas, black-mail-pleas, watch-and-ward-pleas. There are so many provosts, bailiffs, and sergeants, that we have not one hour’s peace; day by day they run us down, seize our movables, and drive us from our lands. There is no security for us against the lords; and no pact is binding with them. Why suffer all this evil to be done to us and not get out of our plight? Are we not men even as they are? Have we not the same stature, the same limbs, the same strength—for suffering? All we need is courage. Let us, then, bind ourselves together by an oath: let us swear to support one another; and if they will make war on us, have we not, for one knight, thirty or forty young peasants, nimble and ready to fight with club, with boar-spear, with arrow, with axe, and even with stones if they have not weapons? Let us learn to resist the knights, and we shall be free to cut down trees, to hunt and fish after our fashion, and we shall work our will in flood and field and wood.”

Knights and Peasants——312

Here we have no longer the short account and severe estimate of an indifferent spectator; it is the cry of popular rage and vengeance reproduced by the lively imagination of an angered poet. Undoubtedly the Norman peasants of the twelfth century did not speak of their miseries with such descriptive ability and philosophical feeling as were lent to them by Robert Wace; they did not meditate the democratic revolution of which he attributes to them the idea and almost the plan; but the deeds of violence and oppression against which they rose were very real, and they exerted themselves to escape by reciprocal violence from intolerable suffering. Thence date those alternations of demagogic revolt and tyrannical suppression which have so often ensanguined the land and put in peril the very foundations of social order. Insurrections became of so atrocious a kind that the atrocious chastisements with which they were visited seemed equally natural and necessary. It needed long ages, a repetition of civil wars and terrible political shocks, to put an end to this brutal chaos which gave birth to so many evils and reciprocal crimes, and to bring about, amongst the different classes of the French population, equitable and truly human relations.

So quick-spreading and contagious is evil amongst men, and so difficult to extirpate in the name of justice and truth!

However, even in the midst of this cruel egotism and this gross unreason of the tenth and eleventh centuries, the necessity, from a moral and social point of view, of struggling against such disgusting irregularities, made itself felt, and found zealous advocates. From this epoch are to be dated the first efforts to establish, in different parts of France, what was called God’s peace, God’s truce. The words were well chosen for prohibiting at the same time oppression and revolt, for it needed nothing less than law and the voice of God to put some restraint upon the barbarous manners and passions of men, great or small, lord or peasant. It is the peculiar and glorious characteristic of Christianity to have so well understood the primitive and permanent evil in human nature that it fought against all the great iniquities of mankind and exposed them in principle, even when, in point of general practice, it neither hoped nor attempted to sweep them away. Bishops, priests, and monks were, in their personal lives and in the councils of the Church, the first propagators of God’s peace or truce, and in more than one locality they induced the laic lords to follow their lead. In 1164, Hugh II., count of Rodez, in concert with his brother Hugh, bishop of Rodez, and the notables of the district, established the peace in the diocese of Rodez; “and this it is,” said the learned Benedictines of the eighteenth century, in the Art of Verifying Dates, “which gave rise to the toll of commune paix or pesade, which is still collected in Rouergue.” King Robert always showed himself favorable to this pacific work; and he is the first amongst the five kings of France, in other respects very different,—himself, St. Louis, Louis XII, Henry IV., and Louis XVI.,— who were particularly distinguished for sympathetic kindness and anxiety for the popular welfare. Robert had a kindly feeling for the weak and poor; not only did he protect them, on occasion, against the powerful, but he took pains to conceal their defaults, and, in his church and at his table, he suffered himself to be robbed without complaint, that he might not have to denounce and punish the robbers. “Wherefore at his death,” says his biographer Helgaud, “there were great mourning and intolerable grief; a countless number of widows and orphans sorrowed for the many benefits received from him; they did beat their breasts and went to and from his tomb, crying, ‘Whilst Robert was king and ordered all, we lived in peace, we had nought to fear. May the soul of that pious father, that father of the senate, that father of all good, be blest and saved! May it mount up and dwell forever with Jesus Christ, the King of kings!”

Robert Had a Kindly Feeling for the Weak and Poor——313

Though not so pious or so good as Robert, his son, Henry I., and his grandson, Philip I., were neither more energetic nor more glorious kings. During their long reigns (the former from 1031 to 1060, and the latter from 1060 to 1108) no important and well-prosecuted design distinguished their government. Their public life was passed at one time in petty warfare, without decisive results, against such and such vassals; at another in acts of capricious intervention in the quarrels of their vassals amongst themselves. Their home-life was neither less irregular nor conducted with more wisdom and regard for the public interest. King Robert had not succeeded in keeping his first wife, Bertha of Burgundy; and his second, Constance of Aquitaine, with her imperious, malevolent, avaricious, meddlesome disposition, reduced him to so abject a state that he never gave a gratuity to any of his servants without saying, “Take care that Constance know nought of it.” After Robert’s death, Constance, having become regent for her eldest son, Henry I., forthwith conspired to dethrone him, and to put in his place her second son, Robert, who was her favorite. Henry, on being delivered by his mother’s death from her tyranny and intrigues, was thrice married; but his first two marriages with two German princesses, one the daughter of the Emperor Conrad the Salic, the other of the Emperor Henry III., were so far from happy that in 1051 he sent into Russia, to Kieff, in search of his third wife, Anne, daughter of the Czar Yaroslaff the Halt. She was a modest creature who lived quietly up to the death of her husband in 1060, and, two years afterwards, in the reign of her son Philip I., rather than return to her own country, married Raoul, count of Valois, who put away, to marry her, his second wife, Haqueney, called Eleonore. The divorce was opposed at Rome before Pope Alexander II., to whom the archbishop of Rheims wrote upon the subject, “Our kingdom is the scene of great troubles. The queen-mother has espoused Count Raoul, which has mightily displeased the king. As for the lady whom Raoul has put away, we have recognized the justice of the complaints she has preferred before you, and the falsity of the pre-texts on which he put her away.” The Pope ordered the count to take back his wife; Raoul would not obey, and was excommunicated; but he made light of it, and the Princess Anne of Russia, actually reconciled, apparently, to Philip I., lived tranquilly in France, where, in 1075, shortly after the death of her second husband, Count Raoul her signature was still attached to a charter side by side with that of the king her son.

The marriages of Philip I. brought even more trouble and scandal than those of his father and grandfather. At nineteen years of age, in 1072, he had espoused Bertha, daughter of Florent I., count of Holland, and in 1078 he had by her the son who was destined to succeed him with the title of Louis the Fat. But twenty years later, 1092, Philip took a dislike to his wife, put her away and banished her to Montreuil-sur-Mer, on the ground of prohibited consanguinity. He had conceived, there is no knowing when, a violent passion for a woman celebrated for her beauty, Bertrade, the fourth wife, for three years past, of Foulques le Roehin (the brawler), count of Anjou. Philip, having thus packed off Bertha, set out for Tours, where Bertrade happened to be with her husband. There, in the church of St. John, during the benediction of the baptismal fonts, they entered into mutual engagements. Philip went away again; and, a few days afterwards, Bertrade was carried off by some people he had left in the neighborhood of Tours, and joined him at Orleans. Nearly all the bishops of France, and amongst others the most learned and respected of them, Yves, bishop of Chartres, refused their benediction to this shocking marriage; and the king had great difficulty in finding a priest to render him that service. Then commenced between Philip and the heads of the Catholic Church, Pope and bishops, a struggle which, with negotiation upon negotiation and excommunication upon excommunication, lasted twelve years, without the king’s being able to get his marriage canonically recognized; and, though he promised to send away Bertrade, he was not content with merely keeping her with him, but he openly jeered at excommunication and interdicts. “It was the custom,” says William of Malmesbury, “at the places where the king sojourned, for divine service to be stopped; and, as soon as he was moving away, all the bells began to peal. And then Philip would cry, as he laughed like one beside himself, ‘Dost hear, my love, how they are ringing us out?’” At last, in 1104, the Bishop of Chartres himself, wearied by the persistency of the king and by sight of the trouble in which the prolongation of the interdict was plunging the kingdom, wrote to the Pope, Pascal II., “I do not presume to offer you advice; I only desire to warn you that it were well to show for a while some condescension towards the weaknesses of the man, so far as consideration for his salvation may permit, and to rescue the country from the critical state to which it is reduced by the excommunication of this prince.” The Pope, consequently, sent instructions to the bishops of the realm; and they, at the king’s summons, met at Paris on the 1st of December, 1104. One of them, Lambert, bishop of Arras, wrote to the Pope, “We sent as a deputation to the king the bishops John of Orleans and Galon of Paris, charged to demand of him whether he would conform to the clauses and conditions set forth in your letters, and whether he were determined to give up the unlawful intercourse which had made him guilty before God. The king, having answered, without being disconcerted, that he was ready to make atonement to God and the holy Roman Church, was introduced to the assembly. He came barefooted, in a posture of devotion and humility, confessing his sin and promising to purge him of his excommunication by expiatory deeds. And thus, by your authority, he earned absolution. Then laying his hand on the book of the holy Gospels, he took an oath, in the following terms, to renounce his guilty and unlawful marriage: ‘Hearken, thou Lambert, bishop of Arras, who art here in place of the Apostolic Pontiff; and let the archbishops and bishops here present hearken unto me. I, Philip, king of the French, do promise not to go back to my sin, and to break off wholly the criminal intercourse I have heretofore kept up with Bertrade. I do promise that henceforth I will have with her no intercourse or companionship, save in the presence of persons beyond suspicion. I will observe, faithfully and without turning aside, these promises, in the sense set forth in the letters of the Pope, and as ye understand. So help me God and these holy Gospels!’ Bertrade, at the moment of her release from excommunication, took in person the same oath on the holy Gospels.”

According to the statement of the learned Benedictines who studiously examined into this incident, it is doubtful whether Philip I. broke off all intercourse with Bertrade. “Two years after his absolution, on the 10th of October, 1106, he arrived at Angers, on a Wednesday,” says a contemporary chronicler, “accompanied by the queen named Bertrade, and was there received by Count Foulques and by all the Angevines, cleric and laic, with great honors. The day after his arrival, on Thursday, the monks of St. Nicholas, introduced by the queen, presented themselves before the king, and humbly prayed him, in concert with the queen, to countenance, for the salvation of his soul and of the queen and his relatives and friends, all acquisitions made by them in his dominions, or that they might hereafter make, by gift or purchase, and to be pleased to place his seal on their titles to property. And the king granted their request.”

The most complete amongst the chroniclers of the time, Orderic Vital, says, touching this meeting at Angers of Bertrade’s two husbands, “This clever woman had, by her skilful management, so perfectly reconciled these two rivals, that she made them a splendid feast, got them both to sit at the same table, had their beds prepared, the ensuing night, in the same chamber, and ministered to them according to their pleasure.” The most judicious of the historians and statesmen of the twelfth century, the Abby Suger, that faithful minister of Louis the Fat, who cannot be suspected of favoring Bertrade, expresses himself about her in these terms: “This sprightly and rarely accomplished woman, well versed in the art, familiar to her sex, of holding captive the husbands they have outraged, had acquired such an empire over her first husband, the count of Anjou, in spite of the affront she had put upon him by deserting him, that he treated her with homage as his sovereign, often sat upon a stool at her feet, and obeyed her wishes by a sort of enchantment.”

These details are textually given as the best representation of the place occupied, in the history of that time, by the morals and private life of the kings. It would not be right, however, to draw therefrom conclusions as to the abasement of Capetian royalty in the eleventh century, with too great severity. There are irregularities and scandals which the great qualities and the personal glory of princes may cause to be not only excused but even forgotten, though certainly the three Capetians who immediately succeeded the founder of the dynasty offered their people no such compensation; but it must not be supposed that they had fallen into the plight of the sluggard Merovingians or the last Carlovingians, wandering almost without a refuge. A profound change had come over society and royalty in France. In spite of their political mediocrity and their indolent licentiousness, Robert, Henry I., and Philip I., were not, in the eleventh century, insignificant personages, without authority or practical influence, whom their contemporaries could leave out of the account; they were great lords, proprietors of vast domains wherein they exercised over the population an almost absolute power; they had, it is true, about them, rivals, large proprietors and almost absolute sovereigns, like themselves, sometimes stronger even, materially, than themselves and more energetic or more intellectually able, whose superiors, however, they remained on two grounds—as suzerains and as kings: their court was always the most honored and their alliance always very much sought after. They occupied the first rank in feudal society and a rank unique in the body politic such as it was slowly becoming in the midst of reminiscences and traditions of the Jewish monarchy, of barbaric kingship, and of the Roman empire for a while resuscitated by Charlemagne. French kingship in the eleventh century was sole power invested with a triple character—Germanic, Roman, and religious; its possessors were at the same time the chieftains of the conquerors of the soil, the successors of the Roman emperors and of Charlemagne, and the laic delegates and representatives of the God of the Christians. Whatever were their weaknesses and their personal short-comings, they were not the mere titularies of a power in decay, and the kingly post was strong and full of blossoms, as events were not slow to demonstrate.

And as with the kingship, so with the community of France in the eleventh century. In spite of its dislocation into petty incoherent and turbulent associations, it was by no means in decay. Irregularities of ambition, hatreds and quarrels amongst neighbors and relatives, outrages on the part of princes and peoples were incessantly renewed; but energy of character, activity of mind, indomitable will and zeal for the liberty of the individual were not wanting, and they exhibited themselves passionately and at any risk, at one time by brutal and cynical outbursts which were followed occasionally by fervent repentance and expiation, at another by acts of courageous wisdom and disinterested piety. At the commencement of the eleventh century, William III., count of Poitiers and duke of Aquitaine, was one of the most honored and most potent princes of his time; all the sovereigns of Europe sent embassies to him as to their peer; he every year made, by way of devotion, a trip to Rome, and was received there with the same honors as the emperor. He was fond of literature, and gave up to reading the early hours of the night; and scholars called him another Maecenas. Unaffected by these worldly successes intermingled with so much toil and so many miscalculations, he refused the crown of Italy, when it was offered him at the death of the Emperor Henry II., and he finished, like Charles V. some centuries later, by going and seeking in a monastery isolation from the world and repose. But, in the same domains and at the end of the same century, his grandson William VII. was the most vagabondish, dissolute, and violent of princes; and his morals were so scandalous that the bishop of Poitiers, after having warned him to no purpose, considered himself forced to excommunicate him. The duke suddenly burst into the church, made his way through the congregation, sword in hand, and seized the prelate by the hair, saying, “Thou shalt give me absolution or die.” The bishop demanded a moment for reflection, profited by it to pronounce the form of excommunication, and forthwith bowing his head before the duke, said, “And now strike!” “I love thee not well enough to send thee to paradise,” answered the duke; and he confined himself to depriving him of his see. For fury the duke of Aquitaine sometimes substituted insolent mockery. Another bishop, of Angouleme, who was quite bald, likewise exhorted him to mend his ways. “I will mend,” quoth the duke, “when thou shalt comb back thy hair to thy pate.” Another great lord of the same century, Foulques the Black, count of Anjou, at the close of an able and glorious lifetime, had resigned to his son Geoffrey Martel the administration of his countship. The son, as haughty and harsh towards his father as towards his subjects, took up arms against him, and bade him lay aside the outward signs, which he still maintained, of power. The old man in his wrath recovered the vigor and ability of his youth, and strove so energetically and successfully against his son that he reduced him to such subjection as to make him do several miles “crawling on the ground,” says the chronicle, with a saddle on his back, and to come and prostrate himself at his feet. When Foulques had his son thus humbled before him, he spurned him with his foot, repeating over and over again nothing but “Thou’rt beaten, thou’rt beaten!” “Ay, beaten,” said Geoffrey, “but by thee only, because thou art my father; to any other I am invincible.” The anger of the old man vanished at once: he now thought only how he might console his son for the affront put upon him, and he gave him back his power, exhorting him only to conduct himself with more moderation and gentleness towards his subjects. All was inconsistency and contrast with these robust, rough, hasty souls; they cared little for belying themselves when they had satisfied the passion of the moment.

The relations existing between the two great powers of the period, the laic lords and the monks, were not less bitter or less unstable than amongst the laics themselves; and when artifice, as often happened, was employed, it was by no means to the exclusion of violence. About the middle of the twelfth century, the abbey of Tournus, in Burgundy, had, at Louhans, a little port where it collected salt-tax, whereof it every year distributed the receipts to the poor during the first week in Lent. Girard, count of Macon, established a like toll a little distance off. The monks of Tournus complained; but he took no notice. A long while afterwards he came to Tournus with a splendid following, and entered the church of St. Philibert. He had stopped all alone before the altar to say his prayers, when a monk, cross in hand, issued suddenly from behind the altar, and, placing himself before the count, “How hast thou the audacity,” said he, “to enter my monastery and mine house, thou that dost not hesitate to rob me of my dues?” and, taking Girard by the hair, he threw him on the ground and belabored him heavily. The count, stupefied and contrite, acknowledged his injustice, took off the toll that he had wrongfully put on, and, not content with this reparation, sent to the church of Tournus a rich carpet of golden and silken tissue. In the middle of the eleventh century, Adhemar II., viscount of Limoges, had in his city a quarrel of quite a different sort with the monks of the abbey of St. Martial. The abbey had fallen into great looseness of discipline and morals; and the viscount had at heart its reformation. To this end he entered into concert, at a distance, with Hugh, abbot of Cluni, at that time the most celebrated and most respected of the monasteries. The abbot of St. Martial died. Adhemar sent for some monks from Cluni to come to Limoges, lodged them secretly near his palace, repaired to the abbey of St. Martial after having had the chapter convoked, and called upon the monks to proceed at once to the election of a new abbot. A lively discussion, upon this point, arose between the viscount and the monks. “We are not ignorant,” said one of them to him, “that you have sent for brethren from Cluni, in order to drive us out and put them in our places; but you will not succeed.” The viscount was furious, seized by the sleeve the monk who was inveighing, and dragged him by force out of the monastery. His fellows were frightened, and took to flight; and Adhemar immediately had the monks from Cluni sent for, and put them in possession of the abbey. It was a ruffianly proceeding; but the reform was popular in Limoges and was effected.

These trifling matters are faithful samples of the dominant and fundamental characteristic of French society during the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries, the true epoch of the middle ages. It was chaos, and fermentation within the chaos the slow and rough but powerful and productive fermentation of unruly life. In ideas, events, and persons there was a blending of the strongest contrasts: manners were rude and even savage, yet souls were filled with lofty and tender aspirations; the authority of religious creeds at one time was on the point of extinction, yet at another shone forth gloriously in opposition to the arrogance and brutality of mundane passions; ignorance was profound, and yet here and there, in the very heart of the mental darkness, gleamed bright centres of movement and intellectual labor. It was the period when Abelard, anticipating freedom of thought and of instruction, drew together upon Mount St. Genevieve thousands of hearers anxious to follow him in the study of the great problems of Nature and of the destiny of man and the world. And far away from this throng, in the solitude of the abbey of Bee, St. Anselm was offering to his monks a Christian and philosophical demonstration of the existence of God—“faith seeking understanding” (fides quoerens intellectuan), as he himself used to say. It was the period, too, when, distressed at the licentiousness which was spreading throughout the Church as well as lay society, two illustrious monks, St. Bernard and St. Norbert, not only went preaching everywhere reformation of morals, but labored at and succeeded in establishing for monastic life a system of strict discipline and severe austerity. Lastly, it was the period when, in the laic world, was created and developed the most splendid fact of the middle ages, knighthood, that noble soaring of imaginations and souls towards the ideal of Christian virtue and soldierly honor. It is impossible to trace in detail the origin and history of that grand fact which was so prominent in the days to which it belonged, and which is so prominent still in the memories of men; but a clear notion ought to be obtained of its moral character and its practical worth. To this end a few pages shall be borrowed from Guizot’s History of Civilization in France. Let us first look on at the admission of a knight, such as took place in the twelfth century. We will afterwards see what rules of conduct were imposed upon him, not only according to the oaths which he had to take on becoming knight, but according to the idea formed of knighthood by the poets of the day, those interpreters not only of actual life, but of men’s sentiments also. We shall then understand, without difficulty, what influence must have been exercised, in the souls and lives of men, by such sentiments and such rules, however great may have been the discrepancy between the knightly ideal and the general actions and passions of contemporaries.

“The young man, the esquire who aspired to the title of knight, was first stripped of his clothes and placed in a bath, which was symbolical of purification. On leaving the bath, he was clothed in a white tunic, which was symbolical of purity, and a red robe, which was symbolical of the blood he was bound to shed in the service of the faith, and a black sagum or close-fitting coat, which was symbolical of the death which awaited him as well as all men.

“Thus purified and clothed, the candidate observed for four and twenty hours a strict fast. When evening came, he entered church, and there passed the night in prayer, sometimes alone, sometimes with a priest and sponsors, who prayed with him. Next day, his first act was confession; after confession the priest gave him the communion; after the communion he attended a mass of the Holy Spirit; and, generally, a sermon touching the duties of knights and of the new life he was about to enter on. The sermon over, the candidate advanced to the altar with the knight’s sword hanging from his neck. This the priest took off, blessed, and replaced upon his neck. The candidate then went and knelt before the lord who was to arm him knight. ‘To what purpose,’ the lord asked him, ‘do you desire to enter the order? If to be rich, to take your ease and be held in honor without doing honor to knighthood, you are unworthy of it, and would be, to the order of knighthood you received, what the simoniacal clerk is to the prelacy.’ On the young man’s reply, promising to acquit himself well of the duties of knight, the lord granted his request.

“Then drew near knights and sometimes ladies to reclothe the candidate in all his new array; and they put on him, 1, the spurs; 2, the hauberk or coat of mail; 3, the cuirass; 4, the armlets and gauntlets; 5, the sword.

The Accolade.——324

“He was what was then called adubbed (that is, adopted, according to Du Cange). The lord rose up, went to him and gave him the accolade or accolee, three blows with the flat of the sword on the shoulder or nape of the neck, and sometimes a slap with the palm of the hand on the cheek, saying, ‘In the name of God, St. Michael and St. George, I make thee knight.’ And he sometimes added, ‘Be valiant, bold, and loyal.’

“The young man, having been thus armed knight, had his helmet brought to him; a horse was led up for him; he leaped on its back, generally without the help of the stirrups, and caracoled about, brandishing his lance and making his sword flash. Finally he went out of church and caracoled about on the open, at the foot of the castle, in presence of the people eager to have their share in the spectacle.”

Such was what may be called the outward and material part in the admission of knights. It shows a persistent anxiety to associate religion with all the phases of so personal an affair; the sacraments, the most august feature of Christianity, are mixed up with it; and many of the ceremonies are, as far as possible, assimilated to the administration of the sacraments. Let us continue our examination; let us penetrate to the very heart of knighthood, its moral character, its ideas, the sentiments which it was the object to impress upon the knight. Here again the influence of religion will be quite evident.

“The knight had to swear to twenty-six articles. These articles, however, did not make one single formula, drawn up at one and the same time and all together; they are a collection of oaths required of knights at different epochs and in more or less complete fashion from the eleventh to the fourteenth century. The candidate swore, 1, to fear, reverence, and serve God religiously, to fight for the faith with all their might, and to die a thousand deaths rather than ever renounce Christianity; 2, to serve their sovereign-prince faithfully, and to fight for him and fatherland right valiantly; 3, to uphold the rights of the weaker, such as widows, orphans, and damsels, in fair quarrel, exposing themselves on that account according as need might be, provided it were not against their own honor or against their king or lawful prince; 4, that they would not injure any one maliciously, or take what was another’s, but would rather do battle with those who did so; 5, that greed, pay, gain, or profit should never constrain them to do any deed, but only glory and virtue; 6, that they would fight for the good and advantage of the common weal; 7, that they would be bound by and obey the orders of their generals and captains who had a right to command them; 8, that they would guard the honor, rank, and order of their comrades, and that they would neither by arrogance nor by force commit any trespass against any one of them; 9, that they would never fight in companies against one, and that they would eschew all tricks and artifices; 10, that they would wear but one sword, unless they had to fight against two or more; 11, that in tourney or other sportive contest they would never use the point of their swords; 12, that being taken prisoner in a tourney, they would be bound, on their faith and honor, to perform in every point the conditions of capture, besides being bound to give up to the victors their arms and horses, if it seemed good to take them, and being disabled from fighting in war or elsewhere without their leave; 13, that they would keep faith inviolably with all the world, and especially with their comrades, upholding their honor and advantage, wholly, in their absence; 14, that they would love and honor one another, and aid and succor one another whenever occasion offered; 15, that, having made vow or promise to go on any quest or novel adventure, they would never put off their arms, save for the night’s rest; 16, that in pursuit of their quest or adventure they would not shun bad and perilous passes, nor turn aside from the straight road for fear of encountering powerful knights or monsters or wild beasts or other hinderance such as the body and courage of a single man might tackle; 17, that they would never take wage or pay from any foreign prince; 18, that in command of troops of men-at-arms, they would live in the utmost possible order and discipline, and especially in their own country, where they would never suffer any harm or violence to be done; 19, that if they were bound to escort dame or damsel, they would serve her, protect her, and save her from all danger and insult, or die in the attempt; 20, that they would never offer violence to dame or damsel, though they had won her by deeds of arms, against her will and consent; 21, that, being challenged to equal combat, they would not refuse, without wound, sickness, or other reasonable hinderance; 22, that, having undertaken to carry out any enterprise, they would devote to it night and day, unless they were called away for the service of their king and country; 23, that if they made a vow to acquire any honor, they would not draw back without having attained either it or its equivalent; 24, that they would be faithful keepers of their word and pledged faith, and that, having become prisoners in fair warfare, they would pay to the uttermost the promised ransom, or return to prison, at the day and hour agreed upon, on pain of being proclaimed infamous and perjured; 25, that on re-turning to the court of their sovereign, they would render a true account of their adventures, even though they had sometimes been worsted, to the king and the registrar of the order, on pain of being deprived of the order of knighthood; 26, that above all things they would be faithful, courteous, and humble, and would never be wanting to their word for any harm or loss that might accrue to them.”

It is needless to point out that in this series of oaths, these obligations imposed upon the knights, there is a moral development very superior to that of the laic society of the period. Moral notions so lofty, so delicate, so scrupulous, and so humane, emanated clearly from the Christian clergy. Only the clergy thought thus about the duties and the relations of mankind; and their influence was employed in directing towards the accomplishment of such duties, towards the integrity of such relations, the ideas and customs engendered by knighthood. It had not been instituted with so pious and deep a design, for the protection of the weak, the maintenance of justice, and the reformation of morals; it had been, at its origin and in its earliest features, a natural consequence of feudal relations and warlike life, a confirmation of the bonds established and the sentiments aroused between different masters in the same country and comrades with the same destinies. The clergy promptly saw what might be deduced from such a fact; and they made of it a means of establishing more peacefulness in society, and in the conduct of individuals a more rigid morality. This was the general work they pursued; and, if it were convenient to study the matter more closely, we might see, in the canons of councils from the eleventh to the fourteenth centuries, the Church exerting herself to develop more and more in this order of knight-hood, this institution of an essentially warlike origin, the moral and civilizing character of which a glimpse has just been caught in the documents of knighthood itself.

In proportion as knighthood appeared more and more in this simultaneously warlike, religious, and moral character, it more and more gained power over the imagination of men, and just as it had become closely interwoven with their creeds, it soon became the ideal of their thoughts, the source of their noblest pleasures. Poetry, like religion, took hold of it. From the eleventh century onwards, knighthood, its ceremonies, its duties, and its adventures, were the mine from which the poets drew in order to charm the people, in order to satisfy and excite at the same time that yearning of the soul, that need of events more varied and more captivating, and of emotions more exalted and more pure than real life could furnish. In the springtide of communities poetry is not merely a pleasure and a pastime for a nation; it is a source of progress; it elevates and develops the moral nature of men at the same time that it amuses them and stirs them deeply. We have just seen what oaths were taken by the knights and administered by the priests; and now, here is an ancient ballad by Eustache Deschamps, a poet of the fourteenth century, from which it will be seen that poets impressed upon knights the same duties and the same virtues, and that the influence of poetry had the same aim as that of religion:


Amend your lives, ye who would fain
The order of the knights attain;
Devoutly watch, devoutly pray;
From pride and sin, O, turn away!
Shun all that’s base; the Church defend;
Be the widow’s and the orphan’s friend;
Be good and Leal; take nought by might;
Be bold and guard the people’s right;—
This is the rule for the gallant knight.


Be meek of heart; work day by day;
Tread, ever tread, the knightly way;
Make lawful war; long travel dare;
Tourney and joust for lady fair;
To everlasting honor cling,
That none the barbs of blame may fling;
Be never slack in work or fight;
Be ever least in self’s own sight;—
This is the rule for the gallant knight.


Love the liege lord; with might and main
His rights above all else maintain;
Be open-handed, just, and true;
The paths of upright men pursue;
No deaf ear to their precepts turn;
The prowess of the valiant learn;
That ye may do things great and bright,
As did great Alexander hight;—
This is the rule for the gallant knight.

A great deal has been said to the effect that all this is sheer poetry, a beautiful chimera without any resemblance to reality. Indeed, it has just been remarked here, that the three centuries under consideration, the middle ages, were, in point of fact, one of the most brutal, most ruffianly epochs in history, one of those wherein we encounter most crimes and violence; wherein the public peace was most incessantly troubled; and wherein the greatest licentiousness in morals prevailed. Nevertheless it cannot be denied that side by side with these gross and barbarous morals, this social disorder, there existed knightly morality and knightly poetry. We have moral records confronting ruffianly deeds; and the contrast is shocking, but real. It is exactly this contrast which makes the great and fundamental characteristic of the middle ages. Let us turn our eyes towards other communities, towards the earliest stages, for instance, of Greek society, towards that heroic age of which Homer’s poems are the faithful reflection. There is nothing there like the contrasts by which we are struck in the middle ages. We do not see that, at the period and amongst the people of the Homeric poems, there was abroad in the air or had penetrated into the imaginations of men any idea more lofty or more pure than their every-day actions; the heroes of Homer seem to have no misgiving about their brutishness, their ferocity, their greed, their egotism, there is nothing in their souls superior to the deeds of their lives. In the France of the middle ages, on the contrary, though practically crimes and disorders, moral and social evils abound, yet men have in their souls and their imaginations loftier and purer instincts and desires; their notions of virtue and their ideas of justice are very superior to the practice pursued around them and amongst themselves; a certain moral ideal hovers above this low and tumultuous community, and attracts the notice and obtains the regard of men in whose life it is but very faintly reflected. The Christian religion, undoubtedly, is, if not the only, at any rate the principal cause of this great fact; for its particular characteristic is to arouse amongst men a lofty moral ambition by keeping constantly before their eyes a type infinitely beyond the reach of human nature, and yet profoundly sympathetic with it. To Christianity it was that the middle ages owed knighthood, that institution which, in the midst of anarchy and barbarism, gave a poetical and moral beauty to the period. It was feudal knighthood and Christianity together which produced the two great and glorious events of those times, the Norman conquest of England and the Crusades.







At the beginning of the eleventh century, Robert, called “The Magnificent,” the fifth in succession from the great chieftain Rollo who had established the Northmen in France, was duke of Normandy. To the nickname he earned by his nobleness and liberality some chronicles have added another, and call him “Robert the Devil,” by reason of his reckless and violent deeds of audacity, whether in private life or in warlike expeditions. Hence a lively controversy amongst the learned upon the question of deciding to which Robert to apply the latter epithet. Some persist in assigning it to the duke of Normandy; others seek for some other Robert upon whom to foist it. However that may be, in 1034 or 1035, after having led a fair life enough from the political point of view, but one full of turbulence and moral irregularity, Duke Robert resolved to undertake, barefooted and staff in hand, a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, “to expiate his sins if God would deign to consent thereto.” The Norman prelates and barons, having been summoned around him, conjured him to renounce his plan; for to what troubles and perils would not his dominions be exposed without lord or assured successor? “By my faith,” said Robert, “I will not leave ye lordless. I have a young bastard who will grow, please God, and of whose good qualities I have great hope. Take him, I pray you, for lord. That he was not born in wedlock matters little to you; he will be none the less able in battle, or at court, or in the palace, or to render you justice. I make him my heir, and I hold him seized, from this present, of the whole duchy of Normandy.” And they who were present assented, but not without objection and disquietude.

There was certainly ample reason for objection and disquietude. Not only was it a child of eight years of age to whom Duke Robert, at setting out on his pious pilgrimage, was leaving Normandy; but this child had been pronounced bastard by the duke his father at the moment of taking him for his heir. Nine or ten years before, at Falaise, his favorite residence, Robert had met, according to some at a people’s dance, according to others on the banks of a stream where she was washing linen with her companions, a young girl named Harlette or Harleve, daughter of a tanner in the town, where they show to this day, it is said, the window from which the duke saw her for the first time. She pleased his fancy, and was not more strait-laced than the duke was scrupulous; and Fulbert, the tanner, kept but little watch over his daughter. Robert gave the son born to him in 1027 the name of his glorious ancestor, William Longsword, the son and successor of Rollo. The child was reared, according to some, in his father’s palace, “right honorably as if he had been born in wedlock,” but, according to others, in the house of his grandfather, the tanner; and one of the neighboring burgesses, as he saw passing one of the principal Norman lords, William de Bellesme, surnamed “The Fierce Talvas,” stopped him, ironically saying, “Come in, my lord, and admire your suzerain’s son.” The origin of young William was in every mouth, and gave occasion for familiar allusions more often insulting than flattering. The epithet bastard was, so to speak, incorporated with his name; and we cannot be astonished that it lived in history, for, in the height of his power, he sometimes accepted it proudly, calling himself, in several of his charters, William the Bastard (Gulielmus Notlzus). He showed himself to be none the less susceptible on this point when in 1048, during the siege of Alencon, the domain of the Lord de Bellesme, the inhabitants hung from their walls hides all raw and covered with dirt, which they shook when they caught sight of William, with cries of “Plenty of work for the tanner!” “By the glory of God,” cried William, “they shall pay me dear for this insolent bra-very!” After an assault several of the besieged were taken prisoners; and he had their eyes pulled out, and their feet and hands cut off, and shot from his siege-machines these mutilated members over the walls of the city.

Notwithstanding his recklessness and his being engrossed in his pilgrimage, Duke Robert had taken some care for the situation in which he was leaving his son, and some measures to lessen its perils. He had appointed regent of Normandy, during William’s minority, his cousin, Alain V., duke of Brittany, whose sagacity and friendship he had proved; and he had confided the personal guardianship of the child, not to his mother. Harlette, who was left very much out in the cold, but to one of his most trusty officers, Gilbert Crespon, count of Brionne; and the strong castle of Vaudreuil, the first foundation of which dated back, it was said, to Queen Fredegonde, was assigned for the usual residence of the young duke. Lastly, to confirm with brilliancy his son’s right as his successor to the duchy of Normandy, and to assure him a powerful ally, Robert took him, himself, to the court of his suzerain, Henry I., king of France, who recognized the title of William the Bastard, and allowed him to take the oath of allegiance and homage. Having thus prepared, as best he could, for his son’s future, Robert set out on his pilgrimage. He visited Rome and Constantinople, everywhere displaying his magnificence, together with his humility. He fell ill from sheer fatigue whilst crossing Asia Minor, and was obliged to be carried in a litter by four negroes. “Go and tell them at home,” said he to a Norman pilgrim he met returning from the Holy Land, “that you saw me being carried to Paradise by four devils.” On arriving at Jerusalem, where he was received with great attention by the Mussulman emir in command there, he discharged himself of his pious vow, and took the road back to Europe. But he was poisoned, by whom or for what motive is not clearly known, at Nicaea, in Bithynia, where he was buried in the basilica of St. Mary—an honor, says the chronicle, which had never been accorded to anybody.

From 1025 to 1042, during William’s minority, Normandy was a prey to the robber-like ambition, the local quarrels, and the turbulent and brutal passions of a host of petty castle-holders, nearly always at war, either amongst themselves or with the young chieftain whose power they did not fear, and whose rights they disputed. In vain did Duke Alain of Brittany, in his capacity as regent appointed by Duke Robert, attempt to re-establish order; and just when he seemed on the road to success he was poisoned by those who could not succeed in beating him. Henry I., king of France, being ill-disposed at bottom towards his Norman neighbors and their young duke, for all that he had acknowledged him, profited by this anarchy to filch from him certain portions of territory. Attacks without warning, fearful murders, implacable vengeance, and sanguinary disturbances in the towns, were evils which became common, and spread. The clergy strove with courageous perseverance against the vices and crimes of the period. The bishops convoked councils in their dioceses; the laic lords, and even the people, were summoned to them; the peace of God was proclaimed; and the priests, having in their hands lighted tapers, turned them towards the ground and extinguished them, whilst the populace repeated in chorus, “So may God extinguish the joys of those who refuse to observe peace and justice.” The majority, however, of the Norman lords, refused to enter into the engagement. In default of peace, it was necessary to be content with the truce of God. It commenced on Wednesday evening at sunset and concluded on Monday at sunrise. During the four days and five nights comprised in this interval, all aggression was forbidden; no slaying, wounding, pillaging, or burning could take place; but from sunrise on Monday to sunset on Wednesday, for three clays and two nights, any violence became allowable, any crime might recommence.

Meanwhile William was growing up, and the omens that had been drawn from his early youth raised the popular hopes. It was reported that at his very birth, when the midwife had put him unswaddled on a little heap of straw, he had wriggled about and drawn together the straw with his hands, insomuch that the midwife said, “By my faith, this child beginneth full young to take and heap up: I know not what he will not do when he is grown.” At a little later period, when a burgess of Falaise drew the attention of the Lord William de Bellesme to the gay and sturdy lad as he played amongst his mates, the fierce vassal muttered between his teeth, “Accursed be thou of God! for I be certain that by thee mine honors will be lowered.” The child on becoming man was handsomer and handsomer, “and so lively and spirited that it seemed to all a marvel.” Amongst his mates, command became soon a habit with him; he made them form line of battle, he gave them the word of command, and he constituted himself their judge in all quarrels. At a still later period, having often heard talk of revolts excited against him, and of disorders which troubled the country, he was moved, in consequence, to fits of violent irritation, which, however, he learned instinctively to bide, “and in his child’s heart,” says the chronicle, “he had welling up all the vigor of a man to teach the Normans to forbear from all acts of irregularity.” At fifteen years of age, in 1042, he demanded to be armed knight, and to fulfil all forms necessary “for having the right to serve and command in all ranks.” These forms were in Normandy, by a relic, it is said, of the Danish and pagan customs, more connected with war and less with religion than elsewhere; the young candidates were not bound to confess, to spend a vigil in the church, and to receive from the priest’s hands the sword he had consecrated on the altar; it was even the custom to say that “he whose sword had been girded upon him by a long-robed cleric was no true knight, but a cit without spirit.” The day on which William for the first time donned his armor was for his servants and all the spectators a gala day. “He was so tall, so manly in face, and so proud of bearing, that it was a sight both pleasant and terrible to see him guiding his horse’s career, flashing with his sword, gleaming with his shield, and threatening with his casque and javelins.” His first act of government was a rigorous decree against such as should be guilty of murder, arson, and pillage; but he at the same time granted an amnesty for past revolts, on condition of fealty and obedience for the future.

For the establishment, however, of a young and disputed authority there is need of something more than brilliant ceremonies and words partly minatory and partly coaxing. William had to show what he was made of. A conspiracy was formed against him in the heart of his feudal court, and almost of his family. He had given kindly welcome to his cousin Guy of Burgundy, and had even bestowed on him as a fief the countships of Vernon and Brionne. In 1044 the young duke was at Valognes; when suddenly, at midnight, one of his trustiest servants, Golet, his fool, such as the great lords of the time kept, knocked at the door of his chamber, crying, “Open, open, my lord duke: fly, fly, or you are lost. They are armed, they are getting ready; to tarry is death.” William did not hesitate; he got up, ran to the stables, saddled his horse with his own hands, started off, followed a road called to this day the duke’s way, and reached Falaise as a place of safety. There news came to him that the conspiracy was taking the form of insurrection, and that the rebels were seizing his domains. William showed no more hesitation at Falaise than at Valognes; he started off at once, repaired to Poissy, where Henry I., king of France, was then residing, and claimed, as vassal, the help of his suzerain against traitors. Henry, who himself was brave, was touched by this bold confidence, and promised his young vassal effectual support. William returned to Normandy, summoned his lieges, and took the field promptly. King Henry joined him at Argence, with a body of three thousand men-at-arms, and a battle took place on the 10th of August, 1047, at Val des Dunes, three leagues from Caen. It was very hotly contested. King Henry, unhorsed by a lance-thrust, ran a risk of his life; but he remounted and valiantly returned to the melley. William dashed in wherever the fight was thickest, showing himself everywhere as able in command as ready to expose himself. A Norman lord, Raoul de Tesson, held aloof with a troop of one hundred and forty knights. “Who is he that bides yonder motionless?” asked the French king of the young duke. “It is the banner of Raoul de Tesson,” answered William; “I wot not that he hath aught against me.” But, though he had no personal grievance, Raoul de Tesson had joined the insurgents, and sworn that he would be the first to strike the duke in the conflict. Thinking better of it, and perceiving William from afar, he pricked towards him, and taking off his glove struck him gently on the shoulder, saying, “I swore to strike you, and so I am quit: but fear nothing more from me.” “Thanks, Raoul,” said William; “be well disposed, I pray you.” Raoul waited until the two armies were at grips, and when he saw which way victory was inclined, he hasted to contribute thereto. It was decisive: and William the Bastard returned to Val des Dunes really duke of Normandy.

He made vigorous but not cruel use of his victory. He demolished his enemies’ strong castles, magazines as they were for pillage no less than bulwarks of feudal independence; but there is nothing to show that he indulged in violence towards persons. He was even generous to the chief concocter of the plot, Guy of Burgundy. He took from him the countships of Vernon and Brionne, but permitted him still to live at his court, a place which the Burgundian found himself too ill at ease to remain in, so he returned to Burgundy, to conspire against his own eldest brother. William was stern without hatred and merciful without kindliness, only thinking which of the two might promote or retard his success, gentleness or severity.

There soon came an opportunity for him to return to the king of France the kindness he had received. Geoffrey Martel, duke of Anjou, being ambitious and turbulent beyond the measure of his power, got embroiled with the king his suzerain, and war broke out between them. The duke of Normandy went to the aid of King Henry and made his success certain, which cost the duke the fierce hostility of the count of Anjou and a four years’ war with that inconvenient neighbor; a war full of dangerous incidents, wherein William enhanced his character, already great, for personal valor. In an ambuscade laid for him by Geoffrey Martel he lost some of his best knights, “whereat he was so wroth,” says a chronicle, “that he galloped down with such force upon Geoffrey, and struck him in such wise with his sword that he dinted his helm, cut through his hood, lopped off his car, and with the same blow felled him to earth. But the count was lifted up and remounted, and so fled away.”

William made rapid advances both as prince and as man. Without being austere in his private life, he was regular in his habits, and patronized order and respectability in his household as well as in his dominions. He resolved to marry to his own honor, and to the promotion of his greatness. Baldwin the Debonnair, count of Flanders, one of the most powerful lords of the day, had a daughter, “Matilda, beautiful, well-informed, firm in the faith, a model of virtue and modesty.” William asked her hand in marriage. Matilda refused, saying, “I would rather be veiled nun than given in marriage to a bastard.” Hurt as he was, William did not give up. He was even more persevering than susceptible; but he knew that he must get still greater, and make an impression upon a young girl’s imagination by the splendor of his fame and power. Some years later, being firmly established in Normandy, dreaded by all his neighbors, and already showing some foreshadowings of his design upon England, he renewed his matrimonial quest in Flanders, but after so strange a fashion that, in spite of contemporary testimony, several of the modern historians, in their zeal, even at so distant a period, for observance of the proprieties, reject as fabulous the story which is here related on the authority of the most detailed account amongst all the chronicles which contain it. “A little after that Duke William had heard how the damsel had made answer, he took of his folk, and went privily to Lille, where the duke of Flanders and his wife and his daughter then were. He entered into the hall, and, passing on, as if to do some business, went into the countess’s chamber, and there found the damsel daughter of Count Baldwin. He took her by the tresses, dragged her round the chamber, trampled her under foot, and did beat her soundly. Then he strode forth from the chamber, leaped upon his horse, which was being held for him before the hall, struck in his spurs, and went his way. At this deed was Count Baldwin much enraged; and when matters had thus remained a while, Duke William sent once more to Count Baldwin to parley again of the marriage. The count sounded his daughter on the subject, and she answered that it pleased her well. So the nuptials took place with very great joy. And after the aforesaid matters, Count Baldwin, laughing withal, asked his daughter wherefore she had so lightly accepted the marriage she had aforetime so cruelly refused. And she answered that she did not then know the duke so well as she did now; for, said she, if he had not great heart and high emprise, he had not been so bold as to dare come and beat me in my father’s chamber.”

Amongst the historians who treat this story as a romantic and untruthlike fable, some believe themselves to have discovered, in divers documents of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, circumstances almost equally singular as regards the cause of the obstacles met with at first by Duke William in his pretensions to the hand of Princess Matilda, and as regards the motive for the first refusal on the part of Matilda herself. According to some, the Flemish princess had conceived a strong passion for a noble Saxon, Brihtric Meaw, who had been sent by King Edward the Confessor to the court of Flanders, and who was remarkable for his beauty. She wished to marry him, but the handsome Saxon was not willing; and Matilda at first gave way to violent grief on that account, and afterwards, when she became queen of England, to vindictive hatred, the weight of which she made him feel severely. Other writers go still farther, and say that, before being sought in marriage by William, Matilda had not fallen in love with a handsome Saxon, but had actually married a Flemish burgess, named Gerbod, patron of the church of St. Dertin, at St. Omer, and that she had by him two and perhaps three children, traces of whom recur, it is said, under the reign of William, king of England. There is no occasion to enter upon the learned controversies of which these different allegations have been the cause; it is sufficient to say that they have led to nothing but obscurity, contradiction, and doubt, and that there is more moral verisimilitude in the account just given, especially in Matilda’s first prejudice against marriage with a bastard, and in her conversation with her father, Count Baldwin, when she had changed her opinion upon the subject. Independently of the testimony of several chroniclers, French and English, this tradition is mentioned, with all the simplicity of belief, in one of the principal Flemish chronicles; and as to the ruffianly gallantry employed by William to win his bride, there is nothing in it very singular, considering the habits of the time, and we meet with more than one example of adventures, if not exactly similar, at any rate very analogous.

However that may be, this marriage brought William an unexpected opportunity of entering into personal relations with one of the most distinguished men of his age, and a man destined to become one of his own most intimate advisers. In 1019, at the council of Rheims, Pope Leo IX., on political grounds rather than because of a prohibited degree of relationship, had opposed the marriage of the duke of Normandy with the daughter of the duke of Flanders, and had pronounced his veto upon it. William took no heed; and, in 1052 or 1053, his marriage was celebrated at Rouen with great pomp; but this ecclesiastical veto weighed upon his mind, and he sought some means of getting it taken off. A learned Italian, Lanfranc, a juris-consult of some fame already, whilst travelling in France and repairing from Avranches to Rouen, was stopped near Brionne by brigands, who, having plundered him, left him, with his eyes bandaged, in a forest. His cries attracted the attention of passers-by, who took him to a neighboring monastery, but lately founded by a pious Norman knight retired from the world. Lanfranc was received in it, became a monk of it, was elected its prior, attracted to it by his learned teaching a host of pupils, and won therein his own great renown whilst laying the foundation for that of the abbey of Bee, which was destined to be carried still higher by one of his disciples, St. Anselm. Lanfranc was eloquent, great in dialectics, of a sprightly wit, and lively in repartee. Relying upon the pope’s decision, he spoke ill of William’s marriage with Matilda. William was informed of this, and in a fit of despotic anger, ordered Lanfranc to be driven from the monastery and banished from Normandy, and even, it is said, the dependency which he inhabited as prior of the abbey, to be burned. The order was executed; and Lanfranc set out, mounted on a sorry little horse given him, no doubt, by the abbey. By what chance is not known, but probably on a hunting-party, his favorite diversion, William, with his retinue, happened to cross the road which Lanfranc was slowly pursuing. “My lord,” said the monk, addressing him, “I am obeying your orders; I am going away, but my horse is a sorry beast; if you will give me a better one, I will go faster.” William halted, entered into conversation with Lanfranc, let him stay, and sent him back with a present to his abbey. A little while afterwards Lanfranc was at Rome, and defended before Pope Victor II. William’s marriage with Matilda: he was successful, and the pope took off the veto on the sole condition that the couple, in sign of penitence, should each found a religious house. Matilda, accordingly, founded at Caen, for women, the abbey of the Holy Trinity; and William, for men, that of St. Stephen. Lanfranc was the first abbot of the latter; and when William became king of England, Lanfranc was made archbishop of Canterbury and primate of the Church of England, as well as privy counsellor of his king. William excelled in the art, so essential to government, of promptly recognizing the worth of men, and of appropriating their influence to himself whilst exerting his own over them.

About the same time he gave his contemporaries, princes and peoples, new proofs of his ability and power. Henry I., king of France, growing more and more disquieted at and jealous of the duke of Normandy’s ascendency, secretly excited against him opposition and even revolt in his dominions. These dealings led to open war between the suzerain and the vassal, and the war concluded with two battles won by William, one at Mortemer near Neuchatel in Bray, the other at Varaville near Troarrh “After which,” said William himself, “King Henry never passed a night tranquilly on my ground.” In 1059 peace was concluded between the two princes. Henry I. died almost immediately afterwards, and on the 25th of August, 1060, his son Philip I. succeeded him, under the regency of Baldwin, count of Flanders, father of the Duchess Matilda. Duke William was present in state at the coronation of the new king of France, lent him effectual assistance against the revolts which took place in Gascony, reentered Normandy for the purpose of holding at Caen, in 1061, the Estates of his duchy, and at that time published the famous decree observed long after him, under the name of the law of curfew, which ordered “that every evening the bell should be rung in all parishes to warn every one to prayer, and house-closing, and no more running about the streets.”

The passion for orderliness in his dominion did not cool his ardor for conquest. In 1063, after the death of his young neighbor Herbert II., count of Maine, William took possession of this beautiful countship; not without some opposition on the part of the inhabitants, nor without suspicion of having poisoned his rival, Walter, count of Vexin. It is said that after this conquest William meditated that of Brittany; but there is every indication that he had formed a far vaster design, and that the day of its execution was approaching.

From the time of Rollo’s settlement in Normandy, the communications of the Normans with England had become more and more frequent, and important for the two countries. The success of the invasions of the Danes in England in the tenth century, and the reigns of three kings of the Danish line, had obliged the princes of Saxon race to take refuge in Normandy, the duke of which, Richard I., had given his daughter Emma in marriage to their grandfather, Ethelred II. When, at the death of the last Danish king, Hardicanute, the Saxon prince Edward ascended the throne of his fathers, he had passed twenty-seven years of exile in Normandy, and he returned to England “almost a stranger,” in the words of the chronicles, to the country of his ancestors; far more Norman than Saxon in his manners, tastes, and language, and surrounded by Normans, whose numbers and prestige under his reign increased from day to day. A hot rivalry, nationally as well as courtly, grew up between them and the Saxons. At the head of these latter was Godwin, count of Kent, and his five sons, the eldest of whom, Harold, was destined before long to bear the whole brunt of the struggle. Between these powerful rivals, Edward the Confessor, a pacific, pious, gentle, and undecided king, wavered incessantly; at one time trying to resist, and at another compelled to yield to the pretensions and seditions by which he was beset. In 1051 the Saxon party and its head, Godwin, had risen in revolt. Duke William, on invitation, perhaps, from King Edward, paid a brilliant visit to England, where he found Normans everywhere established and powerful, in Church as well as in State; in command of the fleets, ports, and principal English places. King Edward received him “as his own son, gave him arms, horses, hounds, and hawking-birds,” and sent him home full of presents and hopes. The chronicler, Ingulf, who accompanied William on his return to Normandy, and remained attached to him as private secretary, affirms that, during this visit, not only was there no question, between King Edward and the duke of Normandy, of the latter’s possible succession to the throne of England, but that never as yet had this probability occupied the attention of William.

It is very doubtful whether William had said nothing upon the subject to King Edward at that time; and it is certain, from William’s own testimony, that he had for a long while been thinking about it. Four years after this visit of the duke to England, King Edward was reconciled to and lived on good terms with the family of the Godwins. Their father was dead, and the eldest son, Harold, asked the king’s permission to go to Normandy and claim the release of his brother and nephew, who had been left as hostages in the keeping of Duke William. The king did not approve of the project. “I have no wish to constrain thee,” said he to Harold: “but if thou go, it will be without my consent: and, assuredly, thy trip will bring some misfortune upon thee and our country. I know Duke William and his crafty spirit; he hates thee, and will grant thee nought unless he see his advantage therefrom. The only way to make him give up the hostages will be to send some other than thyself.” Harold, however, persisted and went. William received him with apparent cordiality, promised him the release of the two hostages, escorted him and his comrades from castle to castle, and from entertainment to entertainment, made them knights of the grand Norman order, and even invited them, “by way of trying their new spurs,” to accompany him on a little warlike expedition he was about to undertake in Brittany. Harold and his comrades behaved gallantly: and he and William shared the same tent and the same table. On returning, as they trotted side by side, William turned the conversation upon his youthful connection with the king of England. “When Edward and I,” said he to the Saxon, “were living like brothers under the same roof, he promised, if ever he became king of England, to make me heir to his kingdom; I should very much like thee, Harold, to help me to realize this promise; and be assured that, if by thy aid I obtain the kingdom, whatsoever thou askest of me, I will grant it forthwith.” Harold, in surprise and confusion, answered by an assent which he tried to make as vague as possible. William took it as positive. “Since thou dost consent to serve me,” said he, “thou must engage to fortify the castle of Dover, dig a well of fresh water there, and put it into the hands of my men-at-arms; thou must also give me thy sister to be married to one of my barons, and thou must thyself espouse my daughter Adele.” Harold, “not witting,” says the chronicler, “how to escape from this pressing danger,” promised all the duke asked of him, reckoning, doubt-less, on disregarding his engagement; and for the moment William asked him nothing more.

But a few days afterwards he summoned, at Avranches according to some, and at Bayeux according to others, and, more probably still, at Bonneville-sur-Touques, his Norman barons; and, in the midst of this assembly, at which Harold was present, William, seated with his naked sword in his hand, caused to be brought and placed upon a table covered with cloth of gold two reliquaries. “Harold,” said he, “I call upon thee, in presence of this noble assemblage, to confirm by oath the promises thou didst make me, to wit, to aid me to obtain the kingdom of England after the death of King Edward, to espouse my daughter Adele, and to send me thy sister to be married to one of my people.” Harold, who had not expected this public summons, nevertheless did not hesitate any more than he had hesitated in his private conversation with William; he drew near, laid his hand on the two reliquaries, and swore to observe, to the best of his power, his agreement with the duke, should he live and God help. “God help!” repeated those who were present. William made a sign; the cloth of gold was removed, and there was discovered a tub filled to the edge with bones and relies of all the saints that could be got together. The chronicler-poet, Robert Wace, who, alone and long afterwards, recounts this last particular, adds that Harold was visibly troubled at sight of this saintly heap; but he had sworn. It is honorable to human nature not to be indifferent to oaths even when those who exact them have but small reliance upon them, and when he who takes them has but small intention of keeping them. And so Harold departed laden with presents, leaving William satisfied, but not over-confident.

When, on returning to England, Harold told King Edward what had passed between William and himself, “Did I not warn thee,” said the king, “that I knew William, and that thy journey would bring great misfortunes upon thyself and upon our nation? Grant Heaven that those misfortunes come not during my life!” The king’s wish was not granted. He fell ill; and on the 5th of January, 1066, he lay on his couch almost at the point of death. Harold and his kindred entered the chamber, and prayed the king to name a successor by whom the kingdom might be governed securely. “Ye know,” said Edward, “that I have left my kingdom to the Duke of Normandy; and are there not here, among ye, those who have sworn to assure his succession?” Harold advanced, and once more asked the king on whom the crown should devolve. “Take it, if it is thy wish, Harold,” said Edward; “but the gift will be thy ruin; against the duke and his barons thy power will not suffice.”—Harold declared that he feared neither the Norman nor any other foe. The king, vexed at this importunity, turned round in his bed, saying, “Let the English make king of whom they will, Harold or another; I consent;” and shortly after expired. The very day after the celebration of his obsequies, Harold was proclaimed king by his partisans, amidst no small public disquietude, and Aldred, archbishop of York, lost no time in anointing him.

William was in his park of Rouvray, near Rouen, trying a bow and arrows for the chase, when a faithful servant arrived from England, to tell him that Edward was dead and Harold proclaimed king. William gave his bow to one of his people, and went back to his palace at Rouen, where he paced about in silence, sitting down, rising up, leaning upon a bench, without opening his lips and without any one of his people’s daring to address a word to him. There entered his seneschal William de Bretenil, of whom “What ails the duke?” asked they who were present. “Ye will soon know,” answered he. Then going up to the duke, he said, “Wherefore conceal your tidings, my lord? All the city knows that King Edward is dead; and that Harold has broken his oath to you, and had himself crowned king.” “Ay,” said William, “it is that which doth weigh me down.” “My lord,” said William Fitz-Osbern, a gallant knight and confidential friend of the duke, “none should be wroth over what can be mended: it depends but on you to stop the mischief Harold is doing you; you shall destroy him, if it please you. You have right; you have good men and true to serve you; you need but have courage: set on boldly.” William gathered together his most important and most trusted counsellors; and they were unanimous in urging him to resent the perjury and injury. He sent to Harold a messenger charged to say, “William, duke of the Normans, doth recall to thee the oath thou swarest to him with thy mouth and with thy hand, on real and saintly relics.” “It is true,” answered Harold, “that I swore, but on compulsion; I promised what did not belong to me; my kingship is not mine own; I cannot put it off from me without the consent of the country. I cannot any the more, without the consent of the country, espouse a foreigner. As for my sister, whom the duke claims for one of his chieftains, she died within the year; if he will, I will send him the corpse.” William replied without any violence, claiming the conditions sworn, and especially Harold’s marriage with his daughter Adele. For all answer to this summons Harold married a Saxon, sister of two powerful Saxon chieftains; Edwin and Morkar. There was an open rupture; and William swore that “within the year he would go and claim, at the sword’s point, payment of what was due to him, on the very spot where Harold thought himself to be most firm on his feet.”

And he set himself to the work. But, being as far-sighted as he was ambitious, he resolved to secure for his enterprise the sanction of religious authority and the formal assent of the Estates of Normandy. Not that he had any inclination to subordinate his power to that of the Pope. Five years previously, Robert de Grandmesnil, abbot of St. Evroul, with whom William had got embroiled, had claimed to re-enter his monastery as master by virtue solely of an order from Pope Nicholas II. “I will listen to the legates of the Pope, the common father of the faithful,” said William, “if they come to me to speak of the Christian faith and religion; but if a monk of my Estates permit himself a single word beyond his place, I will have him hanged by his cowl from the highest oak of the nearest forest.” When, in 1000, he denounced to Pope Alexander II. the perjury of Harold, asking him at the same time to do him justice, he made no scruple about promising that, if the Pope authorized him to right himself by war, he would bring back the kingdom of England to obedience to the Holy See. He had Lanfranc for his negotiator with the court of Rome, and Pope Alexander II. had for chief counsellor the celebrated monk Hildebrand, who was destined to succeed him under the name of Gregory VII. The opportunity of extending the empire of the Church was too tempting to be spurned, and her future head too bold not to seize it whatever might be the uncertainty and danger of the issue; and in spite of hesitation on the part of some of the Pope’s advisers, the question was promptly decided in accordance with William’s demand. Harold and his adherents were excommunicated, and, on committing his bull to the hands of William’s messenger, the Pope added a banner of the Roman Church and a ring containing, it is said, a hair of St. Peter set in a diamond.

The Estates of Normandy were less easy to manage. William called them together at Lillebonne; and several of his vassals showed a zealous readiness to furnish him with vessels and victual and to follow him beyond the sea, but others declared that they were not bound to any such service, and that they would not lend themselves to it; they had calls enough already, and had nothing more to spare. William Fitz-Osbern scouted these objections. “He is your lord, and hath need of you,” said he to the recalcitrants; “you ought to offer yourselves to him, and not wait to be asked. If he succeed in his purpose, you will be more powerful as well as he; if you fail him, and he succeed without you, he will remember it: show that you love him, and what ye do, do with a good grace.” The discussion was keen. Many persisted in saying, “True, he is our lord; but if we pay him his rents, that should suffice: we are not bound to go and serve beyond the seas; we are already much burdened for his wars.” It was at last agreed that Fitz-Osbern should give the duke the assembly’s reply; for he knew well, they said, the ability of each. “If ye mind not to do what I shall say,” said Fitz-Osbern, “charge me not therewith.” “We will be bound by it, and will do it,” was the cry amidst general confusion. They repaired to the duke’s presence. “My lord,” said Fitz-Osbern, “I trow that there be not in the whole world such folk as these. You know the trouble and labor they have already undergone in supporting your rights; and they are minded to do still more, and serve you at all points, this side the sea and t’other. Go you before, and they will follow you; and spare them in nothing. As for me, I will furnish you with sixty vessels, manned with good fighters.” “Nay, nay,” cried several of those present, prelates and barons, “we charged you not with such reply; when he hath business in his own country, we will do him the service we owe him; we be not bound to serve him in conquering another’s territory, or to go beyond sea for him.” And they gathered themselves together in knots with much uproar.

“William was very wroth,” says the chronicler, “retired to a chamber apart, summoned those in whom he had most confidence, and by their advice called before him his barons, each separately, and asked them if they were willing to help him. He had no intention, he told them, of doing them wrong, nor would he and his, now or hereafter, ever cease to treat with them in perfect courtesy; and he would give them, in writing, such assurances as they were minded to devise. The majority of his people agreed to give him, more or less, according to circumstances; and he had everything reduced to writing.” At the same time he made an appeal to all his neighbors, Bretons, Manceaux, and Angevines, hunting up soldiers wherever he could find them, and promising all who desired them lands in England if he effected its conquest. Lastly he repaired in person, first to Philip I., king of France, his suzerain, then to Baldwin V., count of Flanders, his father-in-law, asking their assistance for his enterprise. Philip gave a formal refusal. “What the duke demands of you,” said his advisers, “is to his own profit and to your hurt; if you aid him, your country will be much burdened; and if the duke fail, you will have the English your foes forever.” The count of Flanders made show of a similar refusal; but privately he authorized William to raise soldiers in Flanders, and pressed his vassals to follow him. William, having thus hunted up and collected all the forces he could hope for, thought only of putting them in motion, and of hurrying on the preparations for his departure.

Whilst, in obedience to his orders, the whole expedition, troops and ships, were collecting at Dives, he received from Conan II., duke of Brittany, this message: “I learn that thou art now minded to go beyond sea and conquer for thyself the kingdom of England. At the moment of starting for Jerusalem, Robert, duke of Normandy, whom thou feignest to regard as thy father, left all his heritage to Alain, my father and his cousin: but thou and thy accomplices slew my father with poison at Vimeux, in Normandy. Afterwards thou didst invade his territory because I was too young to defend it; and, contrary to all right, seeing that thou art a bastard, thou hast kept it until this day. Now, therefore, either give me back this Normandy which thou owest me, or I will make war upon thee with all my forces.” “At this message,” say the chronicles, “William was at first somewhat dismayed; but a Breton lord, who had sworn fidelity to the two counts, and bore messages from one to the other, rubbed poison upon the inside of Conan’s hunting-horn, of his horse’s reins, and of his gloves. Conan, having unwittingly put on his gloves and handled the reins of his horse, lifted his hands to his face, and the touch having filled him with poisonous infection, he died soon after, to the great sorrow of his people, for he was an able and brave man, and inclined to justice. And he who had betrayed him quitted before long the army of Conan, and informed Duke William of his death.”

Conan is not the only one of William’s foes whom he was suspected of making away with by poison: there are no proofs; but contemporary assertions are positive, and the public of the time believed them, without surprise. Being as unscrupulous about means as ambitious and bold in aim, William was not of those whose character repels such an accusation. What, however, diminishes the suspicion is that, after and in spite of Conan’s death, several Breton knights, and, amongst others, two sons of Count Eudes, his uncle, attended at the trysting-place of the Norman troops and took part in the expedition.

Dives was the place of assemblage appointed for fleet and army. William repaired thither about the end of August, 1066. But for several weeks contrary winds prevented him from putting to sea; some vessels which made the attempt perished in the tempest; and some of the volunteer adventurers got disgusted, and deserted. William maintained strict discipline amongst this multitude, forbidding plunder so strictly that “the cattle fed in the fields in full security.” The soldiers grew tired of waiting in idleness and often in sickness. “Yon is a mad-man,” said they, “who is minded to possess himself of another’s land; God is against the design, and so refuses us a wind.”

About the 20th of September the weather changed. The fleet got ready, but could only go and anchor at St. Valery at the mouth of the Somme. There it was necessary to wait several more days; impatience and disquietude were redoubled; “and there appeared in the heavens a star with a tail, a certain sign of great things to come.” William had the shrine of St. Valery brought out and paraded about, being more impatient in his soul than anybody, but ever confident in his will and his good fortune. There was brought to him a spy whom Harold had sent to watch the forces and plans of the enemy; and William dismissed him, saying, “Harold hath no need to take any care or be at any charges to know how we be, and what we be doing; he shall see for himself, and shall feel before the end of the year.” At last, on the 27th of September, 1066, the sun rose on a calm sea and with a favorable wind; and towards evening the fleet set out. The Mora, the vessel on which William was, and which had been given to him by his wife, Matilda, led the way; and a figure in gilded bronze, some say in gold, representing their youngest son, William, had been placed on the prow, with the face towards England. Being a better sailer than the others, this ship was soon a long way ahead; and William had a mariner sent to the top of the mainmast to see if the fleet were following. “I see nought but sea and sky,” said the mariner. William had the ship brought to; and, the second time, the mariner said, “I see four ships.” Before long he cried, “I see a forest of masts and sails.” On the 29th of September, St. Michael’s day, the expedition arrived off the coast of England, at Pevensey, near Hastings, and “when the tide had ebbed, and the ships remained aground on the strand,” says the chronicles the landing was effected without obstacle; not a Saxon soldier appeared on the coast. William was the last to leave his ship; and on setting foot on the sand he made a false step and fell. “Bad sign!” was muttered around him; “God have us in His keeping!” “What say you, lords?” cried William: “by the glory of God, I have grasped this land with my hands; all that there is of it is ours.”

With what forces William undertook the conquest of England, how many ships composed his fleet, and how many men were aboard the ships, are questions impossible to be decided with any precision, as we have frequently before had occasion to remark, amidst the exaggerations and disagreements of chroniclers. Robert Wace reports, in his Romance of Rou, that he had heard from his father, one of William’s servants on this expedition, that the fleet numbered six hundred and ninety-six vessels, but he had found in divers writings that there were more than three thousand. M. Augustin Thierry, after his learned researches, says, in his history of the Conquest of England by the Normans, that “four hundred vessels of four sails, and more than a thousand transport ships, moved out into the open sea, to the sound of trumpets and of a great cry of joy raised by sixty thousand throats.” It is probable that the estimate of the fleet is pretty accurate, and that of the army exaggerated. We saw in 1830 what efforts and pains it required, amidst the power and intelligent ability of modern civilization, to transport from France to Algeria thirty-seven thousand men aboard three squadrons, comprising six hundred and seventy-five ships of all sorts. Granted that in the eleventh century there was more haphazard than in the nineteenth, and that there was less care for human life on the eve of a war; still, without a doubt, the armament of Normandy in 1066 was not to be compared with that of France in 1830, and yet William’s intention was to conquer England, whereas Charles X. thought only of chastising the dey of Algiers.

Whilst William was making for the southern coast of England, Harold was repairing by forced marches to the north in order to defend, against the rebellion of his brother Tostig and the invasion of a Norwegian army, his short-lived kingship thus menaced, at two ends of the country, by two formidable enemies. On the 25th of September, 1066, he gained at York a brilliant victory over his northern foe; and, wounded as he was, he no sooner learned that Duke William had on the 29th pitched his camp and planted his flag at Pevensey, than he set out in haste for the south. As he approached, William received, from what source is not known, this message: “King Harold hath given battle to his brother Tostig and the king of Norway. He hath slain them both, and hath destroyed their army. He is returning at the head of numerous and valiant warriors, against whom thine own, I trove, will be worth no more than wretched curs. Thou passest for a man of wisdom and prudence; be not rash, plunge not thyself into danger; I adjure thee to abide in thy intrenchments, and not to come really to blows.” “I thank thy master,” answered William, “for his prudent counsel, albeit he might have given it to me without insult. Carry him back this reply: I will not hide me behind ramparts; I will come to blows with Harold as soon as I may; and with the aid of Heaven’s good will I would trust in the valor of my men against his, even though I had but ten thousand to lead against his sixty thousand.” But the proud confidence of William did not affect his prudence. He received from Harold himself a message wherein the Saxon, affirming his right to the kingship by virtue of the Saxon laws and the last words of King Edward, summoned him to evacuate England with all his people; on which condition alone he engaged to preserve friendship with him, and all agreements between them as to Normandy. After having come to an understanding with his barons, William maintained his right to the crown of England by virtue of the first decision of King Edward, and the oaths of Harold himself. “I am ready,” said he, “to uphold my cause against him by the forms of justice, either according to the law of the Normans or according to that of the Saxons, as he pleases. If, by virtue of equity, Normans or English decide that Harold has a right to possess the kingdom, let him possess it in peace; if they acknowledge that it is to me that the kingdom ought to belong, let him give it up to me. If he refuse these conditions, I do not think it just that my people or his, who are not a whit to blame for our quarrel, should slay one another in battle; I am ready to maintain, at the price of my head against his, that it is to me and not to him that the kingdom of England belongs.” At this proposition Harold was troubled, and remained a while without replying; then, as the monk was urgent, “Let the Lord God,” said he, “judge this day betwixt me and William as to what is just.” The negotiation continued, and William summed it all up in these terms, which the monk reported to Harold in presence of the English chieftains: “My lord, the duke of Normandy biddeth you do one of these things: give up to him the kingdom of England, and take his daughter in marriage, as you sware to him on the holy relics; or, respecting the question between him and you, submit yourself to the Pope’s decision; or fight with him, body to body, and let him who is victorious and forces his enemy to yield have the kingdom.” Harold replied, “without opinion or advice taken,” says the chronicle, “I will not cede him the kingdom; I will not abide by the Pope’s award; and I will not fight with him.” William, still in concert with his barons, made a farther advance. “If Harold will come to an agreement with me,” he said, “I will leave him all the territory beyond the Humber, towards Scotland.” “My lord,” said the barons to the duke, “make an end of these parleys; if we must fight, let it be soon; for every day come folk to Harold.” “By my faith,” said the duke, “if we agree not on terms to-day, to-morrow we will join battle.” The third proposal for an agreement was as little successful as the former two; on both sides there was no belief in peace, and they were eager to decide the quarrel once for all.

Some of the Saxon chieftains advised Harold to fall back on London, and ravage all the country, so as to starve out the invaders. “By my faith,” said Harold, “I will not destroy the country I have in keeping; I, with my people, will fight.” “Abide in London,” said his younger brother, Gurth: “thou canst not deny that, perforce or by free will, thou didst swear to Duke William; but, as for us, we have sworn nought; we will fight for our country; if we alone fight, thy cause will be good in any case; if we fly, thou shalt rally us; if we fall, thou shalt avenge us.” Harold rejected this advice, “considering it shame to his past life to turn his back, whatever were the peril.” Certain of his people, whom he had sent to reconnoitre the Norman army, returned saying that there were more priests in William’s camp than warriors in his own; for the Normans, at this period, wore shaven chins and short hair, whilst the English let hair and beard grow. “Ye do err,” said Harold; “these be not priests, but good men-at-arms, who will show us what they can do.”

On the eve of the battle, the Saxons passed the night in amusement, eating, drinking, and singing, with great uproar; the Normans, on the contrary, were preparing their arms, saying their prayers, and “confessing to their priests—all who would.” On the 14th of October, 1066, when Duke William put on his armor, his coat of mail was given to him the wrong way. “Bad omen!” cried some of his people; “if such a thing had happened to us, we would not fight to-day.” “Be ye not disquieted,” said the duke; “I have never believed in sorcerers and diviners, and I never liked them; I believe in God, and in Him I put my trust.” He assembled his men-at-arms, and setting himself upon a high place, so that all might hear him, he said to them, “My true and loyal friends, ye have crossed the seas for love of me, and for that I cannot thank ye as I ought; but I will make what return I may, and what I have ye shall have. I am not come only to take what I demanded, or to get my rights, but to punish felonies, treasons, and breaches of faith committed against our people by the men of this country. Think, moreover, what great honor ye will have to-day if the day be ours. And bethink ye that, if ye be discomfited, ye be dead men without help; for ye have not whither ye may retreat, seeing that our ships be broken up, and our mariners be here with us. He who flies will be a dead man; he who fights will be saved. For God’s sake, let each man do his duty; trust we in God, and the day will be ours.”

William the Conqueror Reviewing his Army——357

The address was too long for the duke’s faithful comrade, William Fitz-Osborn. “My lord,” said he, “we dally; let us all to arms and forward, forward!” The army got in motion, starting from the hill of Telham or Heathland, according to Mr. Freeman, marching to attack the English on the opposite hill of Senlac. A Norman, called Taillefer, “who sang very well, and rode a horse which was very fast, came up to the duke. ‘My lord,’ said he, ‘I have served you long, and you owe me for all my service: pay me to day, an it please you; grant unto me, for recompense in full, to strike the first blow in the battle.’ ‘I grant it,’ quoth the duke. So Taillefer darted before him, singing the deeds of Charlemagne, of Roland, of Oliver, and of the vassals who fell at Roncesvalles.” As he sang, he played with his sword, throwing it up into the air and catching it in his right hand; and the Normans followed, repeating his songs, and crying, “God help! God help!” The English, intrenched upon a plateau towards which the Normans were ascending, awaited the assault, shouting, and defying the foe.

The battle, thus begun, lasted nine hours, with equal obstinacy on both sides, and varied success from hour to hour. Harold, though wounded at the commencement of the fray, did not cease for a moment to fight, on foot, with his two brothers beside him, and around him the troops of London, who had the privilege of forming the king’s guard when he delivered a battle. Rudely repulsed at the first charge, some bodies of Norman troops fell back in disorder, and a rumor spread amongst them that the duke was slain; but William threw himself before the fugitives, and, taking off his helmet, cried, “Look at me; here I am; I live, and by God’s help will conquer.” So they returned to the combat. But the English were firm; the Normans could not force their intrenchrnents; and William ordered his men to feign a retreat, and all but a flight. At this sight the English bore down in pursuit: “and still Norman fled and Saxon pursued, until a trumpeter, who had been ordered by the duke thus to turn back the Normans, began to sound the recall. Then were seen the Normans turning back to face the English, and attacking them with their swords, and amongst the English, some flying, some dying, some asking mercy in their own tongue.” The struggle once more became general and fierce. William had three horses killed under him; “but he jumped immediately upon a fresh steed, and left not long unavenged the death of that which had but lately carried him.” At last the intrenchments of the English were stormed; Harold fell mortally wounded by an arrow which pierced his skull; his two brothers and his bravest comrades fell at his side; the fight was prolonged between the English dispersed and the Normans remorselessly pursuing; the standard sent from Rome to the duke of Normandy had replaced the Saxon flag on the very spot where Harold had fallen; and, all around, the ground continued to get covered with dead and dying, fruitless victims of the passions of the combatants. Next day William went over the field of battle; and he was heard to say, in a tone of mingled triumph and sorrow, “Here is verily a lake of blood!”

There was, long after the battle of Senlac, or Hastings, as it is commonly called, a patriotic superstition in the country to the effect that, when the rain had moistened the soil, there were to be seen traces of blood on the ground where it had taken place.

Having thus secured the victory, William had his tent pitched at the very point where the standard which had come from Rome had replaced the Saxon banner, and he passed the night supping and chatting with his chieftains, not far from the corpses scattered over the battle-field. Next day it was necessary to attend to the burial of all these dead, conquerors or conquered. William was full of care and affection towards his comrades; and on the eve of the battle, during a long and arduous reconnoissance which he had undertaken with some of them, he had insisted upon carrying, for some time, in addition to his own cuirass, that of his faithful William Fitz-Osbern, who he saw was fatigued in spite of his usual strength; but towards his enemies William was harsh and resentful. Githa, Harold’s mother, sent to him to ask for her son’s corpse, offering for it its weight in gold. “Nay,” said William, “Harold was a perjurer; let him have for burial-place the sand of the shore, where he was so madly fain to rule.” Two Saxon monks from Waltham Abbey, which had been founded by Harold, came, by their abbot’s order, and claimed for their church the remains of their benefactor; and William, indifferent as he had been to a mother’s grief, would not displease an abbey. But when the monks set about finding the body of Harold, there was none to recognize it, and they had recourse to a young girl, Edith, Swan’s-neck, whom Harold had loved. She discovered amongst the corpses her lover’s mutilated body; and the monks bore it away to the church at Waltham, where it was buried. Some time later a rumor was spread abroad that Harold was wounded, and carried to a neighboring castle, perhaps Dover, whence he went to the abbey of St. John, at Chester, where he lived a long while in a solitary cell, and where William the Conqueror’s second son, Henry I., the third Norman king of England, one day went to see him and had an interview with him. But this legend, in which there is nothing chronologically impossible, rests on no sound basis of evidence, and is discountenanced by all contemporary accounts.

Edith Discovers the Body of Harold——360

Before following up his victory, William resolved to perpetuate the remembrance of it by a religious monument, and he decreed the foundation of an abbey on the very field of the battle of Hastings, from which it took its name, Battle Abbey. He endowed this abbey with all the neighboring territory within the radius of a league, “the very spot,” says his charter, “which gave me my crown.” He made it free of the jurisdiction of any prelate, dedicated it to St. Martin of Tours, patron saint of the soldiers of Gaul, and ordered that there should be deposited in its archives a register containing the names of all the lords, knights, and men of mark who had accompanied him on his expedition. When the building of the abbey began, the builders observed a want of water; and they notified William of the fact. “Work away,” said he: “if God grant me life, I will make such good provision for the place that more wine shall be found there than there is water in other monasteries.”

It was not everything, however, to be victorious, it was still necessary to be recognized as king. When the news of the defeat at Hastings and the death of Harold was spread abroad in the country, the emotion was lively and seemed to be profound; the great Saxon national council, the Wittenagemote, assembled at London; the remnants of the Saxon army rallied there; and search was made for other kings than the Norman duke. Harold left two sons, very young and not in a condition to reign; but his two brothers-in-law, Edwin and Morkar, held dominion in the north of England, whilst the southern provinces, and amongst them the city of London, had a popular aspirant, a nephew of Edward the Confessor, in Edgar surnamed Atheliny (the noble, the illustrious), as the descendant of several kings. What with these different pretensions, there were discussion, hesitation, and delay; but at last the young Edgar prevailed, and was proclaimed king. Meanwhile William was advancing with his army, slowly, prudently, as a man resolved to risk nothing and calculating upon the natural results of his victory. At some points he encountered attempts at resistance, but he easily overcame them, occupied successively Romney, Dover, Canterbury, and Rochester, appeared before London without trying to enter it, and moved on Winchester, which was the residence of Edward the Confessor’s widow, Queen Editha, who had received that important city as dowry. Through respect for her, William, who presented himself in the character of relative and heir of King Edward, did not enter the place, and merely called upon the inhabitants to take the oath of allegiance to him and do him homage, which they did with the queen’s consent. William returned towards London and commenced the siege, or rather investment of it, by establishing his camp at Berkhampstead, in the county of Hertford. He entered before long into secret communication with an influential burgess, named Ansgard, an old man who had seen service, and who, riddled with wounds, had himself carried about the streets in a litter. Ansgard had but little difficulty in inducing the authorities of London to make pacific overtures to the duke, and William had still less difficulty in convincing the messenger of the moderation of his designs. “The king salutes ye, and offers ye peace,” said Ansgard to the municipal authorities of London on his return from the camp: “‘tis a king who hath no peer; he is handsomer than the sun, wiser than Solomon, more active and greater than Charlemagne,” and the enthusiastic poet adds that the people as well as the senate eagerly welcomed these words, and renounced, both of them, the young king they had but lately proclaimed. Facts were quick in responding to this quickly produced impression; a formal deputation was sent to William’s camp; the archbishops of Canterbury and York, many other prelates and laic chieftains, the principal citizens of London, the two brothers-in- law of Harold, Edwin and Morkar, and the young king of yesterday, Edgar Atheling himself, formed part of it; and they brought to William, Edgar Atheling his abdication, and all the others their submission, with an express invitation to William to have himself made king, “for we be wont,” said they, “to serve a king, and we wish to have a king for lord.” William received them in presence of the chieftains of his army, and with great show of moderation in his desires. “Affairs,” said he, “be troubled still; there be still certain rebels; I desire rather the peace of the kingdom than the crown; I would that my wife should be crowned with me.” The Norman chieftains murmured whilst they smiled; and one of them, an Aquitanian, Aimery de Thouars, cried out, “It is passing modest to ask soldiers if they wish their chief to be king: soldiers are never, or very seldom, called to such deliberations: let what we desire be done as soon as possible.” William yielded to the entreaties of the Saxon deputies and to the counsels of the Norman chieftains but, prudent still, before going in person to London, he sent thither some of his officers with orders to have built there immediately, on the banks of the Thames, at a point which he indicated, a fort where he might establish himself in safety. That fort, in the course of time, became the Tower of London.

When William set out, some days afterwards, to make his entry into the city, he found, on his way to St. Alban’s, the road blocked with huge trunks of trees recently felled. “What means this barricade in thy domains?” he demanded of the abbot of St. Alban’s, a Saxon noble. “I did what was my duty to my birth and mission,” replied the monk: “if others, of my rank and condition, had done as much, as they ought to and could have done, thou hadst not penetrated so far into our country.”

On entering London after all these delays and all these precautions, William fixed, for his coronation, upon Christmas-day, December 25th, 1066. Either by desire of the prelate himself or by William’s own order, it was not the archbishop of Canterbury, Stigand, who presided, according to custom, at the ceremony; the duty devolved upon the archbishop of York, Aldred, who had but lately anointed Edgar Atheling. At the appointed hour, William arrived at Westminster Abbey, the latest work and the burial-place of Edward the Confessor. The Conqueror marched between two hedges of Norman soldiers, behind whom stood a crowd of people, cold and sad, though full of curiosity. A numerous cavalry guarded the approaches to the church and the quarters adjoining. Two hundred and sixty counts, barons, and knights of Normandy went in with the duke. Geoffrey, bishop of Coutanees, demanded in French, of the Normans, if they would that their duke should take the title of King of the English. The archbishop of York demanded of the English, in the Saxon tongue, if they would have for king the duke of Normandy. Noisy acclamations arose in the church and resounded outside. The soldiery, posted in the neighborhood, took the confused roar for a symptom of something wrong, and in their suspicious rage set fire to the neighboring houses. The flames spread rapidly. The people who were rejoicing in the church caught the alarm, and a multitude of men and women of every rank flung themselves out of the edifice. Alone and trembling, the bishops with some clerics and monks remained before the altar and accomplished the work of anointment upon the king’s head, “himself trembling,” says the chronicle. Nearly all the rest who were present ran to the fire, some to extinguish it, others to steal and pillage in the midst of the consternation. William terminated the ceremony by taking the usual oath of Saxon kings at their coronation, adding thereto, as of his own motion, a promise to treat the English people according to their own laws and as well as they had ever been treated by the best of their own kings. Then he went forth from the church King of England.

We will pursue no farther the life of William the Conqueror: for henceforth it belongs to the history of England, not of France. We have entered, so far as he was concerned, into pretty long details, because we were bound to get a fair understanding of the event and of the man; not only because of their lustre at the time, but especially because of the serious and long-felt consequences entailed upon France, England, and, we may say, Europe. We do not care just now to trace out those consequences in all their bearings; but we would like to mark out with precision their chief features, inasmuch as they exercised, for centuries, a determining influence upon the destinies of two great nations, and upon the course of modern civilization.

As to France, the consequences of the conquest of England by the Normans were clearly pernicious, and they have not yet entirely disappeared. It was a great evil, as early as the eleventh century, that the duke of Normandy, one of the great French lords, one of the great vassals of the king of France, should at the same time become king of England, and thus receive an accession of rank and power which could not fail to render more complicated and more stormy his relations with his French suzerain. From the eleventh to the fourteenth century, from Philip I. to Philip de Valois, this position gave rise, between the two crowns and the two states, to questions, to quarrels, to political struggles, and to wars which were a frequent source of trouble in France to the government and the people. The evil and the peril became far greater still when, in the fourteenth century, there arose between France and England, between Philip de Valois and Edward III., a question touching the succession to the throne of France and the application or negation of the Salic law. Then there commenced, between the two crowns and the two peoples, that war which was to last more than a hundred years, was to bring upon France the saddest days of her history, and was to be ended only by the inspired heroism of a young girl who, alone, in the name of her God and His saints, restored confidence and victory to her king and her country. Joan of Arc, at the cost of her life, brought to the most glorious conclusion the longest and bloodiest struggle that has devastated France and sometimes compromised her glory.

Such events, even when they are over, do not cease to weigh heavily for a long while upon a people. The struggles between the kings of England, dukes of Normandy, and the kings of France, and the long war of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries for the succession to the throne of France, engendered what historians have called “the rivalry between France and England;” and this rivalry, having been admitted as a natural and inevitable fact, became the permanent incubus and, at divers epochs, the scourge of French national existence. Undoubtedly there are, between great and energetic neighbors, different interests and tendencies, which easily become the seeds of jealousy and strife; but there are also, between such nations, common interests and common sentiments, which tend to harmony and peace. The wisdom and ability of governments and of nations themselves are shown in devoting themselves to making the grounds of harmony and peace stronger than those of discord and war. Anyhow common sense and moral sense forbid differences of interests and tendencies to be set up as a principle upon which to establish general and permanent rivalry, and, by consequence, a systematic hostility and national enmity. And the further civilization and the connections between different people proceed with this development, the more necessary and, at the same time, possible it becomes to raise the interests and sentiments which would hold them together above those which would keep them asunder, and to thus found a policy of reciprocal equity and of peace in place of a policy of hostile precautions and continual strife. “I have witnessed,” says M. Guizot, “in the course of my life, both these policies. I have seen the policy of systematic hostility, the policy practised by the Emperor Napoleon I. with as much ability and brilliancy as it was capable of, and I have seen it result in the greatest disaster France ever experienced. And even after the evidence of its errors and calamities this policy has still left amongst us deep traces and raised serious obstacles to the policy of reciprocal equity, liberty, and peace which we labored to support, and of which the nation felt, though almost against the grain, the justice and the necessity.” In that feeling we recognize the lamentable results of the old historic causes which have just been pointed out, and the lasting perils arising from those blind passions which hurry people away, and keep them back from their most pressing interests and their most honorable sentiments.

In spite of appearances to the contrary, and in view of her future interests, England was, in the eleventh century, by the very fact of the conquest she underwent, in a better position than France. She was conquered, it is true, and conquered by a foreign chieftain and a foreign army; but France also had been, for several centuries previously, a prey to conquest, and under circumstances much more unfavorable than those under which the Norman conquest had found and placed England. When the Goths, the Burgundians, the Franks, the Saxons, and the Normans themselves invaded and disputed over Gaul, what was the character of the event? Barbarians, up to that time vagabonds or nearly so, were flooding in upon populations disorganized and enervated. On the side of the German victors, no fixity in social life; no general or anything like regular government; no nation really cemented and constituted; but individuals in a state of dispersion and of almost absolute independence: on the side of the vanquished Gallo-Romans, the old political ties dissolved; no strong power, no vital liberty; the lower classes in slavery, the middle classes ruined, the upper classes depreciated. Amongst the barbarians society was scarcely commencing; with the subjects of the Roman empire it no longer existed; Charlemagne’s attempt to reconstruct it by rallying beneath a new empire both victors and vanquished was a failure; feudal anarchy was the first and the necessary step out of barbaric anarchy and towards a renewal of social order.

It was not so in England, when, in the eleventh century, William transported thither his government and his army. A people but lately come out of barbarism, conquered, on that occasion, a people still half barbarous. Their primitive origin was the same; their institutions were, if not similar, at any rate analogous; there was no fundamental antagonism in their habits; the English chieftains lived in their domains an idle, hunting life, surrounded by their liegemen, just as the Norman barons lived. Society, amongst both the former and the latter, was founded, however unrefined and irregular it still was; and neither the former nor the latter had lost the flavor and the usages of their ancient liberties. A certain superiority, in point of organization and social discipline, belonged to the Norman conquerors; but the conquered Anglo- Saxons were neither in a temper to allow themselves to be enslaved nor out of condition for defending themselves. The conquest was destined to entail cruel evils, a long oppression, but it could not bring about either the dissolution of the two peoples into petty lawless groups, or the permanent humiliation of one in presence of the other. There were, at one and the same time, elements of government and resistance, causes of fusion and unity in the very midst of the struggle.

We are now about to anticipate ages, and get a glimpse, in their development, of the consequences which attended this difference, so profound, in the position of France and of England, at the time of the formation of the two states.

In England, immediately after the Norman conquest, two general forces are confronted, those, to wit, of the two peoples. The Anglo-Saxon people is attached to its ancient institutions, a mixture of feudalism and liberty, which become its security. The Norman army assumes organization on English soil according to the feudal system which had been its own in Normandy. A principle of authority and a principle of resistance thus exist, from the very first, in the community and in the government. Before long the principle of resistance gets displaced; the strife between the peoples continues; but a new struggle arises between the Norman king and his barons. The Norman kingship, strong in its growth, would fain become tyrannical; but its tyranny encounters a resistance, also strong, since the necessity for defending themselves against the Anglo-Saxons has caused the Norman barons to take up the practice of acting in concert, and has not permitted them to set themselves up as petty, isolated sovereigns. The spirit of association receives development in England: the ancient institutions have maintained it amongst the English landholders, and the inadequacy of individual resistance has made it prevalent amongst the Norman barons. The unity which springs from community of interests and from junction of forces amongst equals becomes a counter-poise to the unity of the sovereign power. To sustain the struggle with success, the aristocratic coalition formed against the tyrannical kingship has needed the assistance of the landed proprietors, great and small, English and Norman, and it has not been able to dispense with getting their rights recognized as well as its own. Meanwhile the struggle is becoming complicated; there is a division of parties; a portion of the barons rally round the threatened kingship; sometimes it is the feudal aristocracy, and sometimes it is the king that summons and sees flocking to the rescue the common people, first of the country, then of the towns. The democratic element thus penetrates into and keeps growing in both society and government, at one time quietly and through the stolid influence of necessity, at another noisily and by means of revolutions, powerful indeed, but nevertheless restrained within certain limits. The fusion of the two peoples and the different social classes is little by little attaining accomplishment; it is little by little bringing about the perfect formation of representative government with its various component parts, royalty, aristocracy, and democracy, each invested with the rights and the strength necessary for their functions. The end of the struggle has been arrived at; constitutional monarchy is founded; by the triumph of their language and of their primitive liberties the English have conquered their conquerors. It is written in her history, and especially in her history at the date of the eleventh century, how England found her point of departure and her first elements of success in the long labor she performed, in order to arrive, in 1688, at a free, and, in our days, at a liberal government.

France pursued her end by other means and in the teeth of other fortunes. She always desired and always sought for free government under the form of constitutional monarchy; and in following her history, step by step, there will be seen, often disappearing and ever re-appearing, the efforts made by the country for the accomplishment of her hope. Why then did not France sooner and more completely attain what she had so often attempted? Amongst the different causes of this long miscalculation, we will dwell for the present only on the historical reason just now indicated: France did not find, as England did, in the primitive elements of French society the conditions and means of the political system to which she never ceased to aspire. In order to obtain the moderate measure of internal order, without which society could not exist; in order to insure the progress of her civil laws and her material civilization; in order even to enjoy those pleasures of the mind for which she thirsts so much,— France was constantly obliged to have recourse to the kingly authority and to that almost absolute monarchy which was far from satisfying her even when she could not do without it, and when she worshipped it with an enthusiasm rather literary than political, as was the case under Louis XIV. It was through the refined rather than profound development of her civilization, and through the zeal of her intellectual movement, that France was at length impelled not only towards the political system to which she had so long aspired, but into the boundless ambition of the unlimited revolution which she brought about and with which she inoculated all Europe. It is in the first steps towards the formation of the two societies, French and English, and in the elements, so very different, of their earliest existence, that we find the principal cause for their long-continued diversity in institutions and destinies.

“In 1823, forty-seven years ago, after having studied,” says M. Guizot, “in my Essays upon a Comparative History of France and England, the great fact which we have just now attempted to make clearly understood, I concluded my labor by saying, ‘Before our revolution, this difference between the political fates of France and England might have saddened a French-man: but now, in spite of the evils we have suffered and in spite of those we shall yet, perhaps, suffer, there is no room, so far as we are concerned, for such sadness. The advances of social equality and the enlightenments of civilization in France preceded political liberty; and it will thus be the more general and the purer. France may reflect, without regret, upon any history: her own has always been glorious, and the future promised to her will assuredly recompense her for all she has hitherto lacked.’ In 1870, after the experiences and notwithstanding the sorrows of my long life, I have still confidence in our country’s future. Never be it forgotten that God helps only those who help themselves and who deserve his aid.”







Amongst the great events of European history, none was for a longer time in preparation or more naturally brought about than the Crusades. Christianity, from her earliest days, had seen in Jerusalem her sacred cradle; it had been, in past times, the home of her ancestors, the Jews, and the centre of their history; and, afterwards, the scene of the life, death, and resurrection of her Divine Founder. Jerusalem became, more and more, the Holy City. To go to Jerusalem, to visit the Mount of Olives, Calvary, and the tomb of Jesus, was, in their most evil days, and in the midst of their obscurity and their martyrdoms, a pious passion with the early Christians. When, under Constantine, Christianity had ascended from the cross to the throne, Jerusalem had fresh attractions for Christian faith and Christian curiosity. Temples covered and surrounded the Holy Sepulchre; and at Bethlehem, Nazareth, Mount Tabor, and nearly all the places which Jesus had consecrated by His presence and His miracles were seen to rise up churches, chapels, and monuments dedicated to the memory of them. The Emperor Constantine’s mother, St. Helena, was, at seventy-eight years of age, the first royal pilgrim to the holy places. After the Pagan revival, vainly attempted by the Emperor Julian, the number and zeal of the Christian visitors to Jerusalem were redoubled. At the beginning of the fifth century, St. Jerome wrote, from his retreat at Bethlehem, that Judea overflowed with pilgrims, and that, round about the Holy Sepulchre, were heard sung, in divers tongues, the praises of the Lord. He, however, gave but scant encouragement to his friends to make the trip. “The court of heaven,” he wrote to St. Paulinus, “is as open in Britain as at Jerusalem;” and the disorder which sometimes accompanied the numerous assemblages of pilgrims became such that several of the most illustrious fathers of the Church, and amongst others St. Augustine and St. Gregory of Nyssa, exerted themselves to dissuade the faithful. “Take no thought,” said Augustine, “for long voyages; go where your faith is; it is not by ship, but by love, that we go to Him who is everywhere.”

Events soon rendered the pilgrimage to Jerusalem difficult, and for some time impossible. At the commencement of the seventh century, the Greek empire was at war with the sovereigns of Persia, successors of Cyrus and chiefs of the religion of Zoroaster. One of them, Khosroes II., invaded Judea, took Jerusalem, led away captive the inhabitants, together with their patriarch, Zacharias, and even carried off to Persia the precious relic which was regarded as the wood of the true cross, and which had been discovered, nearly three centuries before, by the Empress Helena, whilst excavations were making on Calvary for the erection of the church of the Holy Sepulchre. But fourteen years later, after several victories over the Persians, the Greek emperor, Heraclius, retook Jerusalem, and re-entered Constantinople in triumph with the coffer containing the sacred relic. He next year (in 629) carried it back to Jerusalem, and bore it upon his own shoulders to the top of Calvary; and on this occasion was instituted the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Great was the joy in Christendom; and the pilgrimages to Jerusalem resumed their course.

But precisely at this epoch there appeared an enemy far more formidable for the Christians than the sectaries of Zoroaster. In 622 Mahomet founded Islamism; and some years after his death, in 638, the second of the khalifs, his successors, Omar, sent two of his generals, Khaled and Abou-Obeidah, to take Jerusalem. For to the Mussulmans, also, Jerusalem was a holy city. Mahomet, it was said, had been thither; it was thence, indeed, that he had started on his nocturnal ascent to heaven. On approaching the walls, the Arabs repeated these words from the Koran: “Enter we the holy land which God hath promised us.” The siege lasted four months. The Christians at last surrendered, but only to Omar in person, who came from Medina to receive their submission. A capitulation concluded with their patriarch, Sophronius, guaranteed them their lives, their property, and their churches. “When the draft of the treaty was completed, Omar said to the patriarch, ‘Conduct me to the temple of David.’ Omar entered Jerusalem preceded by the patriarch, and followed by four thousand warriors, followers of the Prophet, wearing no other arms but their swords. Sophronius took him, first of all, to the Church of the Resurrection. ‘Be-hold,’ said he, ‘the temple of David.’ ‘Thou sayest not true,’ said Omar, after a few moments’ reflection; ‘the Prophet gave me a description of the temple of David, and it tallieth not with the building I now see.’ The patriarch then conducted him to the Church of Sion. ‘Here,’ said he, ‘is the temple of David.’ ‘It is a lie,’ rejoined Omar, and went his way, directing his steps towards the gate named Bab-Mohammed. The spot on which now stands the Mosque of Omar was so encumbered with filth that the steps leading to the street were covered with it, and that the rubbish reached almost to the top of the vault. ‘You can only get in here by crawling,’ said the patriarch. ‘Be it so,’ answered Omar. The patriarch went first; Omar, with his people, followed; and they arrived at the space which at this day forms the forecourt of the mosque. There every one could stand upright. After having turned his eyes to right and left, and attentively examined the place, ‘Allah alchbar!’ cried Omar; here is the temple of David, described to me by the Prophet.’”

He found the Sakhra (the rock which forms the summit of Mount Moriah,) and which, left alone after the different destructions of the different temples, became the theme of a multitude of traditions and legends, (Jewish and Mussulman) covered with filth, heaped up there by the Christians through hatred of the Jews. “Omar spread his cloak over the rock, and began to sweep it; and all the Mussulmans in his train followed his example.” (Le Temple de Jerusalem, a monograph, pp. 73-75, by Count Melchior de Vogue, ch. vi.) The Mosque of Omar rose up on the site of Solomon’s temple. The Christians retained the practice of their religion in their churches, but they were obliged to conceal their crosses and their sacred books. The bell no longer summoned the faithful to prayer; and the pomp of ceremonies was forbidden them. It was far worse when Omar, the most moderate of Mussulman fanatics, had left Jerusalem. The faithful were driven from their houses, and insulted in their churches; additions were made to the tribute they had to pay to the new masters of Palestine; they were prohibited from carrying arms and riding on horseback; a girdle of leather, which they might not lay aside, was their badge of servitude; their conquerors brooked not even that the Christians should speak the Arab tongue, reserved for disciples of the Koran; and the Christian people of Jerusalem had not the right of nominating their own patriarch without the intervention of the Saracens.

From the seventh to the eleventh century the situation remained very much the same. The Mussulmans, khalifs of Egypt or Persia, continued in possession of Jerusalem; and the Christians, native inhabitants or foreign visitors, continued to be oppressed, harassed, and humiliated there. At two periods their condition was temporarily better. At the commencement of the ninth century, Charlemagne reached even there with the greatness of his mind and of his power. “It was not only in his own land and his own kingdom,” says Eginhard, “that he scattered those gratuitous largesses which the Greeks call alms; but beyond the seas, in Syria, in Egypt, in Africa, at Jerusalem, at Alexandria, at Carthage, wherever he knew that there were Christians living in poverty, he had compassion on their misery, and he delighted to send them money.” In one of his capitularies of the year 810 we find this paragraph: “Alms to be sent to Jerusalem to repair the churches of God.” “If Charlemagne was so careful to seek the friendship of the kings beyond the seas, it was above all in order to obtain for the Christians living under their rule help and relief. . . . He kept up so close a friendship with Haroun-al- Raschid, king of Persia, that this prince preferred his good graces to the alliance of the sovereigns of the earth. Accordingly, when the ambassadors whom Charles had sent, with presents, to visit the sacred tomb of our divine Saviour, and the site of the resurrection, presented themselves before him, and expounded to him their master’s wish, Haroun did not content himself with entertaining Charles’s request; he wished, besides, to give up to him the complete proprietorship of those places hallowed by the certification of our redemption,” and he sent him, with the most magnificent presents, the keys of the Holy Sepulchre. At the end of the same century, another Christian sovereign, far less powerful and less famous, John Zimisces, emperor of Constantinople, in a war against the Mussulmans of Asia, penetrated into Galilee, made himself master of Tiberias, Nazareth, and Mount Tabor, received a deputation which brought him the keys of Jerusalem, “and we have placed,” he says himself, “garrisons in all the district lately subjected to our rule.” These were but strokes of foreign intervention, giving the Christians of Jerusalem gleams of hope rather than lasting diminution of their miseries. However, it is certain that, during this epoch, pilgrimages multiplied, and were often accomplished without obstacle. It was from France, England, and Italy that most of the pilgrims went, and some of them wrote, or caused to be written, an account of their trip,—amongst others the Italian Saint Valentine, the English Saint Willibald, and the French Bishop Saint Arculf, who had as companion a Burgundian hermit named Peter, a singular resemblance in quality and name to the zealous apostle of the Crusade three centuries later. The most curious of these narratives is that of a French monk, Bernard, a pilgrim of about the year 870. “There is at Jerusalem,” says he, “a hospice where admittance is given to all who come to visit the place for devotion’s sake, and who speak the Roman tongue; a church, dedicated to St. Mary, is hard by the hospice, and possesseth a very noble library, which it oweth to the zeal of the Emperor Charles the Great.” This pious establishment had attached to it fields, vineyards, and a garden situated in the valley of Jehosaphat.

But whilst there were a few isolated cases of Christians thus going to satisfy in the East their pious and inquisitive zeal, the Mussulmans, equally ardent as believers and as warriors, carried Westward their creed and their arms, established themselves in Spain, penetrated to the very heart of France, and brought on, between Islamism and Christianity, that grand struggle in which Charles Martel gained, at Poitiers, the victory for the Cross. It was really a definitive victory, and yet it did not end the struggle; the Mussulmans remained masters in Spain, and continued to infest Southern France, Italy, and Sicily, preserving even, at certain points, posts which they used as starting-points for distant ravages. Far then from calming down and resulting in pacific relations, the hostility between the two races became more and more active and determined; everywhere they opposed, fought, and oppressed one another, inflamed one against the other by the double feelings of faith and ambition, hatred and fear. To this general state of affairs came to be added, about the end of the tenth and beginning of the eleventh century, incidents best calculated to aggravate the evil. Hakem, khalif of Egypt from 996 to 1021, persecuted the Christians, especially at Jerusalem, with all the violence of a fanatic and all the capriciousness of a despot. He ordered them to wear upon their necks a wooden cross five pounds in weight; he forbade them to ride on any animal but mules or asses; and, without assigning any motive for his acts, he confiscated their goods and carried off their children. It was told to him one day that, when the Christians assembled in the temple at Jerusalem to celebrate Easter, the priests of the church rubbed balsam-oil upon the iron chain which held up the lamp over the tomb of Christ, and afterwards set fire, from the roof, to the end of the chain; the fire stole down to the wick of the lamp and lighted it; then they shouted with admiration, as if fire from heaven had come down upon the tomb, and they glorified their faith. Hakem ordered the instant demolition of the church of the Holy Sepulchre, and it was accordingly demolished. Another time a dead dog had been laid at the door of a mosque; and the multitude accused the Christians of this insult. Hakem ordered them all to be put to death. The soldiers were preparing to execute the order when a young Christian said to his friends, “It were too grievous that the whole Church should perish; it were better that one should die for all; only promise to bless my memory year by year.” He proclaimed himself alone to blame for the insult, and was accordingly alone put to death. It is from this story of the historian William of Tyre, that Tasso, in his Jerusalem Delivered, has drawn the admirable episode of Olindo and Sophronia; a fine example, and not the only one, of an act of tyranny and an act of virtue inspiring a great poet with the idea of a masterpiece. “All the deeds of Hakem were without motive,” says the Arab historian Makrisi, “and the dreams suggested to him by his frenzy are incapable of reasonable interpretation.”

These and many other similar stories reached the West, spread amongst the Christian people and roused them to pity for their brethren in the East and to wrath against the oppressors. And it was at a critical period, in the midst of the pious alarms and desires of atonement excited by the expectation of the end of the world a thousand years after the coming of the Lord, that the Christian population saw this way opened for purchasing remission of their sins by delivering other Christians from suffering, and by avenging the wrongs of their creed. On all sides arose challenges and appeals to the warlike ardor of the faithful. The greatest mind of the age, Gerbert, who had become Pope Sylvester II., constituted himself interpreter of the popular feeling. He wrote, in the name of the Church of Jerusalem, a letter addressed to the universal Church: “To work, then, soldier of Christ! Be our standard-bearer and our champion! And if with arms thou canst not do so, aid us with thy words, thy wealth. What is it, pray, that thou givest, and to whom, pray, dost thou give? Of thine abundance thou givest a small matter, and thou givest to Him who hath freely given thee all thou possessest; but He will not accept freely that which thou shalt give; for he will multiply thine offering and will pay it back to thee hereafter.” Some years after Gerbert, another great mind, the greatest among the popes of the middle ages, Gregory VII., proclaimed an expedition, at the head of which he would place himself, to go and deliver Jerusalem and the Christians of the East from the insults and the tyranny of the infidels.

Such being the condition of facts and minds, pilgrimages to Jerusalem became, from the ninth to the eleventh century, more and more numerous and considerable. “It would never have been believed,” says the contemporary chronicler Raoul Glaber, “that the Holy Sepulchre could attract so prodigious an influx. First the lower classes, then the middle, afterwards the most potent kings, the counts, the marquises, the prelates, and lastly, what had never heretofore been seen, many women, noble or humble, undertook this pilgrimage.” In 1026, William Traillefer, count of Angouleme; in 1028, 1035, and 1039, Foulques the Black, count of Anjou; in 1035, Robert the Magnificent, duke of Normandy, father of William the Conqueror; in 1086, Robert the Frison, count of Flanders; and many other great feudal lords quitted their estates, or, rather, their states, to go and—not deliver, not conquer, but—simply visit the Holy Land. It was not long before great numbers were joined to great names. In 1054, Liedbert, bishop of Cambrai, started for Jerusalem with a following of three thousand Picard or Flemish pilgrims; and in 1064, the archbishop of Mayence and the bishops of Spire, Cologne, Bamberg, and Utrecht set out on their way from the borders of the Rhine with more than ten thousand Christians behind them. After having passed through Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, Thrace, Constantinople, Asia Minor, and Syria, they were attacked in Palestine by hordes of Arabs, were forced to take refuge in the ruins of an old castle, and were reduced to capitulation; and when at last, “preceded by the rumors of their battles and their perils, they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received in triumph by the patriarch, and were conducted, to the sound of timbrels and with the flare of torches, to the church of the Holy Sepulchre. The misery they had fallen into excited the pity of the Christians of Asia; and, after having lost more than three thousand of their comrades, they returned to Europe to relate their tragic adventures and the dangers of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.” (Histoire des Croisades, by M. Michaud, t. i. p. 62.)

Amidst this agitation of Western Christendom, in 1076, two years after Pope Gregory VII. had proclaimed his approaching expedition to the Holy Land, news arrived in Europe to the effect that the most barbarous of Asiatics and of Mussulmans, the Turks, after having first served and then ruled the khalifs of Persia, and afterwards conquered the greater part of the Persian empire, had hurled themselves upon the Greek empire, invaded Asia Minor, Syria, and Palestine, and lately taken Jerusalem, where they practised against the Christians, old inhabitants or foreign visitors, priests and worshippers, dreadful cruelties and intolerable exactions, worse than those of the Persian or Egyptian khalifs.

It often happens that popular emotions, however profound and general, remain barren, just as in the vegetable world many sprouts appear at the surface of the soil and die without having grown and fructified. It is not sufficient for the bringing about of great events and practical results that popular aspirations should be merely manifested; it is necessary, further, that some great soul, some powerful will, should make itself the organ and agent of the public sentiment, and bring it to fecundity by becoming its personification. The Christian passion, in the eleventh century, for the deliverance of Jerusalem and the triumph of the Cross was fortunate in this respect. An obscure pilgrim, at first a soldier, then a married man and father of several children, then a monk and a vowed recluse, Peter the Hermit, who was born in the neighborhood of Amiens, about 1030, had gone, as so many others had, to Jerusalem “to say his prayers there.” Struck disconsolate at the sight of the sufferings and insults undergone by the Christians, he had an interview with Simeon, patriarch of Jerusalem, who “recognizing in him a man of discretion and full of experience in affairs of the world, set before him in detail all the evils with which the people of God, in the holy city, were afflicted. ‘Holy father,’ said Peter to him, ‘if the Roman Church and the princes of the West were informed, by a man of energy and worthy of belief, of all your calamities, of a surety they would essay to apply some remedy thereto by word and deed. Write, then, to our lord the pope and to the Roman Church, and to the kings and princes of the West, and strengthen your written testimony by the authority of your seal. As for me, I shrink not from taking upon me a task for the salvation of my soul; and with the help of the Lord I am ready to go and seek out all of them, solicit them, show unto them the immensity of your troubles, and pray them all to hasten on the day of your relief.’” The patriarch eagerly accepted the pilgrim’s offer; and Peter set out, going first of all to Rome, where he handed to Pope Urban II. the patriarch’s letters, and commenced in that quarter his mission of zeal. The pope promised him not only support, but active co-operation when the propitious moment for it should arrive. Peter set to work, being still the pilgrim everywhere, in Europe, as well as at Jerusalem. “He was a man of very small stature, and his outside made but a very poor appearance; yet superior powers swayed this miserable body; he had a quick intellect and a penetrating eye, and he spoke with ease and fluency. . . . We saw him at that time,” says his contemporary Guibert de Nogent, “scouring city and town, and preaching everywhere; the people crowded round him, heaped presents upon him, and celebrated his sanctity by such great praises that I remember not that like honor was ever rendered to any other person. He displayed great generosity in the disposal of all things that were given him. He restored wives to their husbands, not without the addition of gifts from himself, and he re-established, with marvellous authority, peace and good understanding between those who had been at variance. In all that he did or said he seemed to have in him something divine, insomuch that people went so far as to pluck hairs from his mule to keep as relics. In the open air he wore a woollen tunic, and over it a serge cloak which came down to his heels; he had his arms and feet bare; he ate little or no bread, and lived chiefly on wine and fish.”

In 1095, after the preaching errantry of Peter the Hermit, Pope Urban II. was at Clermont, in Auvergne, presiding at the grand council, at which thirteen archbishops and two hundred and five bishops or abbots were met together, with so many princes and lay-lords, that “about the middle of the month of November the towns and the villages of the neighborhood were full of people, and divers were constrained to have their tents and pavilions set up amidst the fields and meadows, notwithstanding that the season and the country were cold to an extreme.” The first nine sessions of the council were devoted to the affairs of the Church in the West; but at the tenth Jerusalem and the Christians of the East became the subject of deliberation. The Pope went out of the church wherein the Council was assembled and mounted a platform erected upon a vast open space in the midst of the throng. Peter the Hermit, standing at his side, spoke first, and told the story of his sojourn at Jerusalem, all he had seen of the miseries and humiliations of the Christians, and all he himself had suffered there, for he had been made to pay tribute for admission into the Holy City, and for gazing upon the spectacle of the exactions, insults, and tortures he was recounting. After him Pope Urban II. spoke, in the French tongue, no doubt, as Peter had spoken, for he was himself a Frenchman, as the majority of those present were, grandees and populace. He made a long speech, entertaining upon the most painful details connected with the sufferings of the Christians of Jerusalem, “that royal city which the Redeemer of the human race had made illustrious by His coming, had honored by His residence, had hallowed by His passion, had purchased by His death, had distinguished by His burial. She now demands of you her deliverance . . . men of France, men from beyond the mountains, nations chosen and beloved of God, right valiant knights, recall the virtues of your ancestors, the virtue and greatness of King Charlemagne and your other kings; it is from you above all that Jerusalem awaits the help she invokes, for to you, above all nations, God has vouchsafed signal glory in arms. Take ye, then, the road to Jerusalem for the remission of your sins, and depart assured of the imperishable glory which awaits you in the kingdom of heaven.”

From the midst of the throng arose one prolonged and general shout, “God willeth it! God willeth it!” The Pope paused for a moment; and then, making a sign with his hand as if to ask for silence, he continued, “If the Lord God were not in your souls, ye would not all have uttered the same words. In the battle, then, be those your war-cry, those words that came from God; in the army of the Lord let nought be heard but that one shout, ‘God willeth it! God willeth it!’ We ordain not, and we advise not, that the journey be undertaken by the old or the weak, or such as be not suited for arms, and let not women set out without their husbands or their brothers; let the rich help the poor; nor priests nor clerks may go without the leave of their bishops; and no layman shall commence the march save with the blessing of his pastor. Whosoever hath a wish to enter upon this pilgrimage, let him wear upon his brow or his breast the cross of the Lord, and let him, who, in accomplishment of his desire, shall be willing to march away, place the cross behind him, between his shoulders; for thus he will fulfil the precept of the Lord, who said, ‘He that doth not take up his cross and follow Me, is not worthy of Me.’”

God Willeth It!——383

The enthusiasm was general and contagious, as the first shout of the crowd had been; and a pious prelate, Adhemar, bishop of Puy, was the first to receive the cross from the Pope’s hands. It was of red cloth or silk, sewn upon the right shoulder of the coat or cloak, or fastened on the front of the helmet. The crowd dispersed to assume it and spread it.

Religious enthusiasm was not the only, but the first and the determining motive of the crusade. It is to the honor of humanity, and especially to the honor of the French nation, that it is accessible to the sudden sway of a moral and disinterested sentiment, and resolves, without prevision as well as without premeditation, upon acts which decide, for many a long year, the course and the fate of a generation, and, it may be, of a whole people. We have seen in our own day, in the conduct of populace, national assemblies, and armies, under the impulse not any longer of religious feeling, but of political and social agitation, France thus giving herself up to the rush of sentiments, generous indeed and pure, but without the least forecast touching the consequences of the ideas which inspired them or the acts which they entailed. It is with nations as with armies; the side of glory is that of danger; and great works are wrought at a heavy cost, not only of happiness, but also of virtue. It would be wrong, nevertheless, to lack respect for and to speak evil of enthusiasm: it not only bears witness to the grandeur of human nature, it justly holds its place and exercises its noble influence in the course of the great events which move across the scene of human errors and vices, according to the vast and inscrutable design of trod. It is quite certain that the crusaders of the eleventh century, in their haste to deliver Jerusalem from the Mussulmans, were far from foreseeing that, a few centuries after their triumph, Jerusalem and the Christian East would fall again beneath the yoke of the Mussulmans and their barbaric stagnation; and this future, had they caught but a glimpse of it, would doubtless have chilled their zeal. But it is not a whit the less certain that, in view of the end, their labor was not in vain; for, in the panorama of the world’s history, the crusades marked the date of the arrest of Islamism, and powerfully contributed to the decisive preponderance of Christian civilization.

The Four Leaders of the First Crusade——385

To religious enthusiasm there was joined another motive less disinterested, but natural and legitimate, which was the still very vivid recollection of the evils caused to the Christians of the West by the Mussulman invasions in Spain, France, and Italy, and the fear of seeing them begin again. Instinctively war was carried to the East to keep it from the West, just as Charlemagne had invaded and conquered the country of the Saxons to put an end to their inroads upon the Franks. And this prudent plan availed not only to give the Christians of the West a hope of security, it afforded them the pleasure of vengeance. They were about to pay back alarm for alarm, and evil for evil, to the enemy from whom they had suffered in the same way; hatred and pride, as well as piety, obtained satisfaction.

There is moreover great motive power in a spirit of enterprise and a taste for adventure. Care-for-nothingness is one of man-kind’s chief diseases, and if it plays so conspicuous a part in comparatively enlightened and favored communities, amidst the labors and the enjoyments of an advanced civilization, its influence was certainly not less in times of intellectual sloth and harshly monotonous existence. To escape therefrom, to satisfy in some sort the energy and curiosity inherent in man, the people of the eleventh century had scarcely any resource but war, with its excitement and distant excursions into unknown regions. Thither rushed the masses of the people, whilst the minds which were eager, above everything, for intellectual movement and for knowledge, thronged, on the mountain of St. Genevieve, to the lectures of Abelard. Need of variety and novelty, and an instinctive desire to extend their views and enliven their existence, probably made as many crusaders as the feeling against the Mussulmans and the promptings of piety.

The Council of Clermont, at its closing on the 28th of November, 1095, had fixed the month of August in the following year, and the feast of the Assumption, for the departure of the crusaders for the Holy Land; but the people’s impatience did not brook this waiting, short as it was in view of the greatness and difficulties of the enterprise. As early as the 8th of March, 1096, and in the course of the spring three mobs rather than armies set out on the crusade, with a strength, it is said, of eighty or one hundred thousand persons in one case, and of fifteen or twenty thousand in the other two. Persons, not men, for there were amongst them many women and children, whole families, in fact, who had left their villages, without organization and without provisions, calculating that they would be competent to find their own way, and that He who feeds the young ravens would not suffer to die of want pilgrims wearing His cross. Whenever, on their road, a town came in sight, the children asked if that were Jerusalem. The first of these mobs had for its head Peter the Hermit himself, and a Burgundian knight called Walter Havenought; the second had a German priest named Gottschalk; and the third a Count Emico, of Leiningen, potent in the neighborhood of Mayence. It is wrong to call them heads, for they were really nothing of the kind; their authority was rejected, at one time as tyrannical, at another as useless. “The grasshoppers,” was the saying amongst them in the words of Solomon’s proverbs, “have no king, and yet they go in companies.” In crossing Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, and the provinces of the Greek empire, these companies, urged on by their brutal passions or by their necessities and material wants, abandoned themselves to such irregularities that, as they went, princes and peoples, instead of welcoming them as Christians, came to treat them as enemies, of whom it was necessary to get rid at any price. Peter the Hermit and Gottschalk made honorable and sincere efforts to check the excesses of their following, which were a source of so much danger; but Count Emico, on the contrary, says William of Tyre, “himself took part in the plunder, and incited his comrades to crime.” Thus, at one time taking the offensive, at another compelled to defend themselves against the attacks of the justly irritated inhabitants, these three immense companies of pilgrims, these disorderly volunteers, with great difficulty arrived, after enormous losses, at the gates of Constantinople. Either through fear or through pity, the Greek emperor, Alexis (or Alexius) Comnenus, permitted them to pitch their camp there; “but before long, plenty, idleness, and the sight of the riches of Constantinople brought once more into the camp license, indiscipline, and a thirst after brigandage. Whilst awaiting the war against the Mussulmans, the pilgrims pillaged the houses, the palaces, and even the churches in the outskirts of Byzantium. To deliver his capital from these destructive guests, Alexis furnished them with vessels, and got them shipped off across the Bosphorus.”

The Assault on St. Jean D’acre——386

Whilst the crusade was commencing under these sad auspices, chieftains of more sense and better obeyed were preparing to give it another character and superior fortunes. Two great and real armies were forming in the north, the centre, and the south of France, and a third in Italy, amongst the Norman knights who had founded there the kingdom of Naples and Sicily, just before their countryman, William the Bastard, conquered England. The first of these armies had for its chief, Godfrey de Bouillon, duke of Lorraine, whom all his contemporaries have described as the model of a gallant and pious knight. He was the son of Eustace II., count of Boulogne, and “the lustre of nobility,” says Raoul of Caen, chronicler of his times, “was enhanced in his case by the splendor of the most exalted virtues, as well in affairs of the world as of heaven. As to the latter, he distinguished himself by his generosity towards the poor, and his pity for those who had committed faults. Furthermore, his humility, his extreme gentleness, his moderation, his justice, and his chastity were great; he shone as a light amongst the monks, even more than as a duke amongst the knights. And, nevertheless, he could also do the things which are of this world, fight, marshal the ranks, and extend by arms the domains of the Church. In his boyhood he learned to be first, or one of the first, to strike the foe; in youth he made it his habitual practice; and in advancing age he forgot it never. He was so perfectly the son of the warlike Count Eustace, and of his mother, Ida de Bouillon, a woman full of piety, and versed in literature, that at sight of him even a rival would have been forced to say of him, ‘For zeal in war, behold his father; for serving God, behold his mother.’ The second army, consisting chiefly of crusaders from Southern France, marched under the orders of Raymond IV., count of Toulouse, the oldest chieftain of the crusade, who still, however, united the ardor of youth with the experience of ripe age and the stubbornness of the graybeard. At the side of the Cid he had fought, and more than once beaten the Moors in Spain. He took with him to the East his third wife, Elvira, daughter of Alphonso VI., king of Castile, as well as a very young child he had by her, and he had made a vow, which he fulfilled, that he would return no more to his country, and would fight the infidels to the end of his days, in expiation of his sins. He was discreet though haughty, and not only the richest but the most economical of the crusader-chiefs: “Accordingly,” says Raoul of Caen, “when all the rest had spent their money, the riches of Count Raymond made him still more distinguished. The people of Provence, who formed his following, did not lavish their resources, but studied economy even more than glory,” and “his army,” adds Guibert of Nogent, “showed no inferiority to any other, save so far as it is possible to reproach the inhabitants of Provence touching their excessive loquacity.”

Bohemond, prince of Tarento, commanded the third army, composed principally of Italians and warriors of various origins come to Italy to share in the exploits and fortunes of his father, the celebrated Robert Guiscard, founder of the Norman kingdom of Naples, who was at one time the foe, and at another the defender, of Pope Gregory VII., and who died in the island of Cephalonia just as he was preparing to attempt the conquest of Constantinople. Bohemond had neither less ambition nor less courage and ability than his father. “His appearance,” says Anna Comnena, “impressed the eye as much as his reputation astounded the mind; his height surpassed that of all his comrades; his blue eyes gleamed readily with pride and anger; when he spoke you would have said he had made eloquence his study; and when he showed himself in armor, you might have believed that he had never done aught but handle lance and sword. Brought up in the school of Norman heroes, be concealed calculations of policy beneath the exterior of force, and, although he was of a haughty disposition, he knew how to be blind to a wrong when there was nothing to be gained by avenging it. He had learned from his father to regard as foes all whose dominions and riches he coveted; and he was not restrained by fear of God, or by man’s opinions, or by his own oaths. It was not the deliverance of the tomb of Christ which fired his zeal or decided him upon taking up the cross; but, as he had vowed eternal enmity to the Greek emperors, he smiled at the idea of traversing their empire at the head of an army, and, full of confidence in his fortunes, he hoped to make for himself a kingdom before arriving at Jerusalem.”

Bohemond had as friend and faithful comrade his cousin Tancred de Hauteville, great-grandson, through his mother, Emma, of Robert Guiscard, and, according to all his contemporaries, the type of a perfect Christian knight, neither more nor less. “From his boyhood,” says Raoul of Caen, his servitor before becoming his biographer, “he surpassed the young by his skill in the management of arms, and the old by the strictness of his morals. He disdained to speak ill of whoever it might be, even when ill had been spoken of himself. About himself he would say nought, but he had an insatiable desire to give cause for talking thereof. Glory was the only passion that moved that young soul; yet was it disquieted within him, and he suffered great anxiety from thinking that his knightly combats seemed contrary to the precepts of the Lord. The Lord bids us give our coat and our cloak to him who would take them from us; whereas the knight’s part is to strip all that remains from him from whom he hath already taken his coat and his cloak. These contradictory principles benumbed sometimes the courage of this man so full of propriety; but when the declaration of Pope Urban had assured remission of all their sins to all Christians who should go and fight the Gentiles, then Tancred awoke in some sort from his dream, and this new opportunity fired him with a zeal which cannot be expressed. He therefore made preparations for his departure; but, accustomed from his infancy to give to others before thinking of himself, he entered upon no great outlay, but contented himself with collecting in sufficient quantity knightly arms, horses, mules, and provisions necessary for his company.”

With these four chieftains, who have remained illustrious in history,— that grave wherein small reputations are extinguished,—were associated, for the deliverance of the Holy Land, a throng of feudal lords, some powerful as well as valiant, others valiant but simple knights; Hugh, count of Vermaudois, brother of Philip I., king of France; Robert of Normandy, called Shorthose, son of William the Conqueror; Robert, count of Flanders; Stephen, count of Blois; Raimbault, count of Orange; Baldwin, count of Hainault; Raoul of Beaugency; Gerard of Roussillon, and many others whose names contemporary chroniclers and learned moderns have gathered together. Not one of the reigning sovereigns of Europe, kings or emperors, of France, England, Spain, or Germany, took part in the first crusade. It was the feudal nation, great and small, castle owners and populace, who rose in mass for the deliverance of Jerusalem and the honor of Christendom.

These three great armies of crusaders got on the march from August to October, 1096, wending their way, Godfrey de Bouillon by Germany, Hungary, and Bulgaria; Bohemond by the south of Italy and the Mediterranean; and Count Raymond of Toulouse by Northern Italy, Friuli, and Dalmatia. They arrived one after the other in the empire of the East and at the gates of Constantinople. Godfrey de Bouillon was the first to appear there, and the Emperor Alexis Comnenus learned with dismay that other armies of crusaders would soon follow that which was already so large. It was not long before Bohemond and Raymond appeared. Alexis behaved towards these formidable allies with a mixture of pusillanimity and haughtiness, promises and lies, caresses and hostility, which irritated without intimidating them, and rendered it impossible for them to feel any confidence or conceive any esteem. At one time he was thanking them profusely for the support they were bringing him against the infidels; at another he was sending troops to harass them on their road, and, when they reached Constantinople, he demanded that they should swear fealty and obedience to him, as if they were his own subjects. One day he was refusing them provisions and attempting to subdue them by famine; and the next he was lavishing feasts and presents upon them. The crusaders, on their side, when provisions fell short, spread themselves over the country and plundered it without scruple; and, when they encountered hostile troops of Greeks, charged them without warning. When the emperor demanded of them fealty and homage, the count of Toulouse answered that he had not come to the East in search of a master. Godfrey do Bouillon, after resisting every haughty pretension, being as just as he was dignified, acknowledged that the crusaders ought to restore to the emperor the towns which had belonged to the empire, and an arrangement to that effect was concluded between them. Bohemond had a proposal submitted to Godfrey to join him in attacking the Greek empire and taking possession at once of Byzantium; but Godfrey rejected the proposal, with the reminder that he had come only to fight the infidels. The emperor, fully informed of the greediness as well as ambition of Bohemond, introduced him one day into a room full of treasures. “Here,” said Bohemond, “is wherewith to conquer kingdoms.” Alexis had the treasures removed to Bohemond’s, who at first refused, and ended by accepting them. It is even said that he asked the emperor for the title of Grand Domestic or of General of the Empire of the East. Alexis, who had held that dignity and who knew that it was the way to the throne, gave the Norman chieftain a present refusal, with a promise of it on account of future services to be rendered by him to the empire and the emperor.

The chiefs of the crusade were not alone in treating with disdain this haughty, wily, and feeble sovereign. During a ceremony at which some French princes were doing homage to the emperor, a Count Robert of Paris went and sat down free-and-easily beside him; when Baldwin, count of Hainault, took the intruder by the arm, saying, “When you are in a country you must respect its masters and its customs.” “Verily,” answered Robert, “I hold it shocking that this jackanapes should be seated, whilst so many noble captains are standing yonder.” When the ceremony was over, the emperor, who had, no doubt, heard the words, wished to have an explanation; so he detained Robert, and asked him who and whence he was. “I am a Frenchman,” quoth Robert; “and of noble birth. In my country there is, hard by a church, a spot repaired to by such as burn to prove their valor. I have been there often without any one’s daring to present himself before me.” The emperor did not care to take up this sort of challenge, and contented himself with replying to the warrior, “If you there waited for foes without finding any, you are now about to have what will satisfy you. I have, however, a piece of advice to give you; don’t put yourself at the head or the tail of the army; keep in the middle. I have learned how to fight with Turks; and that is the best place you can choose.” The crusaders and the Greeks were mutually contemptuous, the former with a ruffianly pride, the latter with an ironical and timid refinement.

This posture, on either side, of inactivity, ill-will, and irritation, could not last long. On the approach of the spring of 1097, the crusader chiefs and their troops, first Godfrey de Bouillon, then Bohemond and Tancred, and afterwards Count Raymond of Toulouse, passed the Bosphorus, being conveyed across either in their own vessels or those of the Emperor Alexis, who encouraged them against the infidels, and at the same time had the infidels supplied with information most damaging to the crusaders. Having effected a junction in Bithynia, the Christian chiefs resolved to go and lay siege to Nicaea, the first place, of importance, in possession of the Turks. Whilst marching towards the place they saw coming to meet then, with every appearance of the most woful destitution, Peter the Hermit, followed by a small band of pilgrims escaped from the disasters of their expedition, who had passed the winter, as he had, in Bithynia, waiting for more fortunate crusaders. Peter, affectionately welcomed by the chiefs of the army, recounted to them “in detail,” says William of Tyre, “how the people, who had preceded them under his guidance, had shown themselves destitute of intelligence, improvident, and unmanageable at the same time; and so it was far more by their own fault than by the deed of any other that they had succumbed to the weight of their calamities.” Peter, having thus relieved his heart and recovered his hopes, joined the powerful army of crusaders who had come at last; and, on the 15th of May, 1097, the siege of Nicaea began.

The town was in the hands of a Turkish sultan, Kilidge-Arslan, whose father, Soliman, twenty years before, had invaded Bithynia and fixed his abode at Nicrea. He, being informed of the approach of the crusaders, had issued forth, to go and assemble all his forces; but he had left behind his wife, his children, and his treasures, and he had sent messengers to the inhabitants, saying, “Be of good courage, and fear not the barbarous people who make show of besieging our city; to-morrow, before the seventh hour of the day, ye shall be delivered from your enemies.” And he did arrive on the 16th of May, says the Armenian historian, Matthias of Edessa, at the head of six hundred thousand horsemen. The historians of the crusaders are infinitely more moderate as to the number of their foes; they assign to Kilidge-Arslan only fifty or sixty thousand men, and their testimony is far more trustworthy, being that of the victors. In any case, the Christians and the Turks fought valiantly for two days under the walls of Niccea, and Godfrey de Bouillon did justice to his fame for valor and skill by laying low a Turk “remarkable amongst all,” says William of Tyre, “for his size and strength, whose arrows caused much havoc in the ranks of our men.” Kilidge-Arslan, being beaten, withdrew to collect fresh troops, and, after six weeks’ siege, the crusaders believed themselves on the point of entering Nicaea as masters, when, on the 26th of June, they saw floating on the ramparts the standard of the Emperor Alexis. Their surprise was the greater in that they had just written to the emperor to say that the city was on the point of surrendering, and they added, “We earnestly invite you to lose no time in sending some of your princes with sufficient retinue, that they may receive and keep in honor of your name the city which will deliver itself up to us. As for us, after having put it in the hands of your highness, we will not show any delay in pursuing, with God’s help, the execution of our projects.” Alexis had anticipated this loyal message. Being in constant secret communication with the former subjects of the Greek empire, and often even with their new masters the Turks, his agents in Nicaea had induced the inhabitants to surrender to him, and not to the Latins, who would treat them as vanquished. The irritation amongst the crusaders was extreme. They had promised themselves, if not the plunder of Nicaea, at any rate great advantages from their victory; and it was said in the camp that the convention concluded with the emperor contained an article purporting that “if, with God’s help, there were taken any of the towns which had belonged aforetime to the Greek empire all along the line of march up to Syria, the town should be restored to the emperor, together with all the adjacent territory and that the booty, the spoils, and all objects whatsoever found therein should be given up without discussion to the crusader in recompense for their trouble and indemnification for the expenses.” The wrath waxed still fiercer when it was know that the crusaders would not be permitted to enter more the ten at a time the town they had just taken, and that the Emperor Alexis had set at liberty the wife of Pilidge-Arslai together with her two sons and all the Turks led prisoners of war to Constantinople. The chiefs of the crusaders were then selves indignant and distrustful; but “they resolved with on accord,” says William of Tyre, “to hide their resentment, and they applied all their efforts to calming their people, while encouraging them to push on without delay to the end of the glorious enterprise.”

All the army of the crusaders put themselves in motion I cross Asia Minor from the north-west to the south-east, and to reach Syria. At their arrival before Nicaea they numbered, it is said, five hundred thousand foot and one hundred thousand horse, figures evidently too great, for everything indicates that at the opening of the crusade the three great armies, starting from France and Italy under Godfrey de Bouillon, Bohemond and Raymond of Toulouse, did not reach this number, and the, had certainly lost many during their long march through their sufferings and in their battles. However that may be, after they had marched all in one mass for two days, and had then extended themselves over a larger area, for the purpose, no doubt, of more easily finding provisions, the crusaders broke up into two main bodies, led, one by Godfrey de Bouillon and Raymond of Toulouse, the other by Bohemond and Tancred. On the 1st of July, at daybreak, this latter body, encamped at a short distance from Doryleum, in Phrygia, saw descending from the neighboring heights a cloud of enemies who burst upon the Christians, first rained a perfect hail of missiles upon them, and then penetrated into their camp, even to the tents assigned to the women, children, and old men, the numerous following of the crusaders. It was Kilidge-Arslan, who, after the fall of Nicaea, had raised this new army of Saracens, and was pursuing the conquerors on their march. The battle began in great disorder; the chiefs in person sustained the first shock; and the duke of Normandy, Robert Shorthose, took in his hand his white banner, embroidered with gold, and waving it over his head, threw himself upon the Turks, shouting, “God willeth it! God willeth it!” Bohemond obstinately sought out Kilidge-Arslan in the fray; but at the same time he sent messengers in all haste to Godfrey de Bouillon, as yet but a little way off, to summon him to their aid. Godfrey galloped up, and, with some fifty of his knights, preceding the rest of his army, was the first to throw himself into the midst of the Turks. Towards mid-day the whole of the first body arrived, with standards flying, with the sound of trumpets and with the shouting of warriors. Kilidge-Arslan and his troops fell back upon the heights whence they had descended. The crusaders, without taking breath, ascended in pursuit. The Turks saw themselves shut in by a forest of lances, and fled over wood and rock; and “two days afterwards they were still flying,” says Albert of Aix, “though none pursued them, unless it were God himself.” The victory of Doryleum opened the whole country to the crusaders, and they resumed their march towards Syria, paying their sole attention to not separating again.

It was not long before they had to grapple with other dangers against which bravery could do nothing. They were crossing, under a broiling sun, deserted tracts which their enemies had taken good care to ravage. Water and forage were not to be had; the men suffered intolerably from thirst; horses died by hundreds; at the head of their troops marched knights mounted on asses or oxen; their favorite amusement, the chase, became impossible for them; for their hawking-birds too—the falcons and gerfalcons they had brought with them—languished and died beneath the excessive heat. One incident obtained for the crusaders a momentary relief. The dogs which followed the army, prowling in all directions, one day returned with their paws and coats wet; they had, therefore, found water; and the soldiers set themselves to look for it, and, in fact, discovered a small river in a remote valley. They got water-drunk, and more than three hundred men, it is said, were affected by it and died.

On arriving in Pisidia, a country intersected by Water-courses, meadows, and woods, the army rested several days; but at that very point two of its most competent and most respected chiefs were very nearly taken from it. Count Raymond of Toulouse, who was also called Raymond of Saint- Gilles, fell so ill that the bishop of Orange was reading over him the prayers for the dying, when one of those present cried out that the count would assuredly live, for that the prayers of his patron saint, Gilles, had obtained for him a truce with death. And Raymond recovered. Godfrey de Bouillon, again, whilst riding in a forest, came upon a pilgrim attacked by a bear, and all but fallen a victim to the ferocious beast. The duke drew his sword and urged his horse against the bear, which, leaving the pilgrim, rushed upon the assailant. The frightened horse reared; Godfrey was thrown, and, according to one account, immediately remounted; but, according to another, he fell, on the contrary, together with his horse; however, he sustained a fearful struggle against the bear, and ultimately killed it by plunging his sword up to the hilt into its belly, says ‘William of Tyre, but with so great an effort, and after receiving so serious a wound, that his soldiers, hurrying up at the pilgrim’s report, found him stretched on the ground, covered with blood, and unable to rise, and carried him back to the camp, where he was, for several weeks, obliged to be carried about in a litter in the rear of the army.

Through all these perils they continued to advance, and they were approaching the heights of Taurus, the bulwark and gate of Syria, when a quarrel which arose between two of the principal crusader chiefs was like to seriously endanger the concord and strength of the army. Tancred, with his men, had entered Tarsus, the birthplace of St. Paul, and had planted his flag there. Although later in his arrival, Baldwin, brother of Godfrey de Bouillon, claimed a right to the possession of the city, and had his flag set up instead of Tancred’s, which was thrown into a ditch. During several days the strife was fierce and even bloody; the soldiers of Baldwin were the more numerous, and those of Tancred considered their chief too gentle, and his bravery, so often proved, scarcely sufficed to form an excuse for his forbearance. Chiefs and soldiers, however, at last, saw the necessity for reconciliation, and made mutual promises to sink all animosity. On returning to the general camp, Tancred was received with marked favor; for the majority of the crusaders, being unconcerned in the quarrel at Tarsus, liked him for his bravery and for his gentleness equally. Baldwin, on the contrary, was much blamed, even by his brother Godfrey; but he was far more ambitious on his own account than devoted to the common cause. He had often heard tell of Armenia and Mesopotamia, their riches and the large number of Christians living there, almost equally independent of Greeks and Turks; and, in the hope of finding there a chance of greatly improving his personal fortunes, he left the army of the crusaders at Maresa, on the very eve of the day on which the chiefs came to the decision that no one should for the future move away from the flag, and taking with him a weak detachment of two hundred horse and one thousand or twelve hundred foot, marched towards Armenia. His name and his presence soon made a stir there; and he got hold of two little towns which received him eagerly. Edessa, the capital of Armenia and metropolis of Mesopotamia, was peopled by Christians; and a Greek governor, sent from Constantinople by the emperor, lived there, on payment of a tribute to the Turks. Internal dissensions and the fear ever inspired by the vicinity of the Turks kept the city in a state of lively agitation; and bishop, people, and Greek governor, all appealed to Baldwin. He presented himself before Edessa with merely a hundred horsemen, having left the remainder of his forces in garrison at the town he had already occupied. All the population came to meet him, bearing branches of olive and singing chants in honor of their deliverer. But it was not long before outbreaks and alarms began again; and Baldwin looked on at then, waiting for power to be offered him. Still there was no advance; the Greek governor continued where be was; and Baldwin muttered threats of his departure. The popular disquietude was extreme; and the Greek governor, old and detested as he was, thought to smooth all by adopting the Latin chief and making him his heir. This, however, caused but a short respite; Baldwin left the governor to be massacred in a fresh outbreak; the people came and offered him the government, and he became Prince of Edessa, and, ere long, of all the neighboring country, without thinking any more of Jerusalem, of which, nevertheless, he was destined at no distant day to be king.

Whilst Baldwin was thus acquiring, for himself and himself alone, the first Latin principality belonging to the crusaders in the East, his brother Godfrey and the main Christian army were crossing the chain of Taurus and arriving before Antioch, the capital of Syria. Great was the fame, with Pagans and Christians, of this city; its site, the beauty of its climate, the fertility of its land, its fish-abounding lake, its river of Orontes, its fountain of Daphne, its festivals, and its morals, had made it, under the Roman empire, a brilliant and favorite abode. At the same time, it was there that the disciples of Jesus had assumed the name of Christians, and that St. Paul had begun his heroic life as preacher and as missionary. It was absolutely necessary that the crusaders should take Antioch; but the difficulty of the conquest was equal to the importance. The city was well fortified and provided with a strong citadel; the Turks had been in possession of it for fourteen years; and its governor Accien or Baghisian (Yagui-Sian, or brother of black, according to Oriental historians), appointed by the sultan of Persia, Malekschah, was shut up in it with seven thousand horse and twenty thousand foot. The first attacks of the Christians failed; and they had the prospect of a long siege. At the outset their situation had been easy and pleasant; they encountered no hostility from the country-people, who were intimidated or indifferent; they came and paid visits to the camp, and admitted the crusaders to their markets; the harvests, which were hardly finished, had been abundant: “the grapes,” says Guibert of Nogent, “were still hanging on the branches of the vines; on all sides discoveries were made of grain shut up, not in barns, but in subterranean vaults; and the trees were laden with fruit.” These facilities of existence, the softness of the climate, the pleasantness of the places, the frequency of leisure, partly pleasure and partly care-for-nothingness, caused amongst the crusaders irregularity, license, indiscipline, carelessness, and often perils and reverses. The Turks profited thereby to make sallies, which threw the camp into confusion and cost the lives of crusaders surprised or scattered about. Winter came; provisions grew scarce, and had to be sought at a greater distance and at greater peril; and living ceased to be agreeable or easy. Disquietude, doubts concerning the success of the enterprise, fatigue and discouragement made way amongst the army; and men who were believed to be proved, Robert Shorthose, duke of Normandy, William, viscount of Melun, called the Carpenter, on account of his mighty battle-axe, and Peter the Hermit himself, “who had never learned,” says Robert the monk, “to endure such plaguy hunger,” left the camp and deserted the banner of the cross, “that there might be seen, in the words of the Apocalypse, even the stars falling from heaven,” says Guibert of Nogent. Great were the scandal and the indignation. Tancred hurried after the fugitives and brought then back; and they swore on the Gospel never again to abandon the cause which they had preached and served so well. It was clearly indispensable to take measures for restoring amongst the army discipline, confidence, and the morals and hopes of Christians. The different chiefs applied themselves thereto by very different processes, according to their vocation, character, or habits. Adhdmar, bishop of Puy, the renowned spiritual chief of the crusade, Godfrey de Bouillon, Raymond of Toulouse, and the military chieftains renowned for piety and virtue made head against all kinds of disorder either by fervent addresses or severe prohibitions. Men caught drunk had their hair cut off; blasphemous and reckless gamesters were branded with a red-hot iron; and the women were shut up in separate tents. To the irregularities within were added the perils of incessant espionage on the part of the Turks in the very camp of the crusaders: and no one knew how to repress this evil. “Brethren and lords,” said Bohemond to the assembled princes, “let me undertake this business by myself; I hope, with God’s help, to find a remedy for this complaint.” Caring but little for moral reform, he strove to strike terror into the Turks, and, by counteraction, restore confidence to the crusaders. “One evening,” says William of Tyre, “whilst everybody was, as usual, occupied in getting supper ready, Bohemond ordered some Turks who had been caught in the camp to be brought out of prison and put to death forthwith; and then, having had a huge fire lighted, he gave instructions that they should be roasted and carefully prepared as if for being eaten. If it should be asked what operation was going on, he commanded his people to answer, ‘The princes and governors of the camp this day decreed at their council that all Turks or their spies who should henceforth be found in the camp should be forced, after this fashion, to furnish meat of their own carcasses to the princes as well as to the whole army!’” “The whole city of Antioch,” adds the historian, “was stricken with terror at hearing the report of words so strange and a deed so cruel. And thus, by the act and pains of Bohemond, the camp was purged of this pest of spies, and the results of the princes’ meetings were much less known amongst the foe.”

Bohemond did not confine himself to terrifying the Turks by the display of his barbarities; he sought and found traitors amongst them. During the incidents of the siege he had concocted certain relations with an inhabitant of Antioch, named Ferouz or Emir-Feir, probably a renegade Christian and seeming Mussulman, in favor with the Governor Accien or Baghisian, who had intrusted to him, him and his family, the ward of three of the towers and gates of the city. Emir-Feir, whether from religious remorse or on promise of a rich recompense, had, after the ambiguous and tortuous conversations which usually precede treason, made an offer to Bohemond to open to him, and, through him, to the crusaders, the entrance into Antioch. Bohemond, in covert terms, informed the chiefs, his comrades, of this proposal, leaving it to be understood that, if the capture of Antioch were the result of his efforts, it would be for him to become its lord. The count of Toulouse bluntly rejected this idea. “We be all brethren,” said he, “and we have all run the same risk; I did not leave my own country, and face, I and mine, so many dangers to conquer new lord-ships for any particular one of us.” The opinion of Raymond prevailed, and Bohemond pressed the matter no more that day. But the situation became more and more urgent; and armies of Mussulmans were preparing to come to the aid of Antioch. When these fresh alarms spread through the camp, Bohemond returned to the charge, saying, “Time presses; and if ye accept the overtures made to us, to-morrow Antioch will be ours, and we shall march in triumph on Jerusalem. If any find a better way of assuring our success, I am ready to accept it and renounce, on my own account, all conquest.” Raymond still persisted in his opposition; but all the other chiefs submitted to the overtures and conditions of Bohemond. All proper measures were taken, and Emir-Fein, being apprised thereof, had Bohemond informed that on the following night everything would be ready. At the appointed hour three-score warriors, with Bohemond at their head, repaired noiselessly to the foot of the tower indicated; a ladder was hoisted and Emir-Feir fastened it firmly to the top of the wall. Bohemond looked round and round, but no one was in a hurry to mount. Bohemond, therefore, himself mounted; and, having received recognition from Emir-Fein, he leaned upon the ramparts, called in a low voice to his comrades, and rapidly re-descended to reassure them and get them to mount with him. Up they mount; that and two other neighboring towers are given up to them; the three gates are opened, and the crusaders rush in. When day appeared, on the 3d of June, 1098, the streets of Antioch were full of corpses; for the Turks, surprised, had been slaughtered without resistance or had fled into the country. The citadel, filled with those who had been able to take refuge there, still held out; but the entire city was in the power of the crusaders, and the banner of Bohemond floated on an elevated spot over against the citadel.

In spite of their triumph the crusaders were not so near marching on Jerusalem as Bohemond had promised. Everywhere, throughout Syria and Mesopotamia, the Mussulmans were rising to go and deliver Antioch; an immense army was already in motion; there were eleven hundred thousand men according to Matthew of Edessa, six hundred and sixty thousand according to Foucher of Chartres, three hundred thousand according to Raoul of Caen, and only two hundred thousand according to William of Tyre and Albert of Aix. The discrepancy in the figures is a sufficient proof of their untruthfulness. The last number was enough to disquiet the crusaders, already much reduced by so many marches, battles, sufferings, and desertions. An old Mussulman warrior, celebrated at that time throughout Western Asia, Corbogha, sultan of Mossoul (hard by what was ancient Nineveh), commanded all the hostile forces, and four days after the capture of Antioch he was already completely round the place, enclosing the crusaders within the walls of which they had just become the masters. They were thus and all on a sudden besieged in their turn, having even in the very midst of them, in the citadel which still held out, a hostile force. Whilst they had been besieging Antioch, the Emperor Alexis Comnenus had begun to march with an army to get his share in their successes, and was advancing into Asia Minor when he heard that the Mussulmans, in immense numbers, were investing the Christian army in Antioch, and not in a condition, it was said, to hold out long. The emperor immediately retraced his steps towards Constantinople, and the crusaders found that they had no Greek aid to hope for. The blockade, becoming stricter day by day, soon brought about a horrible famine in Antioch. Instead of repeating here, in general terms, the ordinary descriptions of this cruel scourge, we will reproduce its particular and striking features as they have been traced out by contemporary chroniclers. “The Christian people,” says William of Tyre, “had recourse before long, to procure themselves any food whatever, to all sorts of shameful means. Nobles, free men, did not blush to hungrily stretch out the hand to nobodies, asking with troublesome pertinacity for what was too often refused. There were seen the very strongest, those whom their signal valor had rendered illustrious in the midst of the army, now supported on crutches, dragging themselves half-dead along the streets and in the public places; and, if they did not speak, at any rate they showed themselves, with countenances irrecognizable, silently begging alms of every passer-by. No self-respect restrained matrons or young women heretofore accustomed to severe restraints; they walked hither and thither, with pallid faces, groaning and searching everywhere for somewhat to eat; and they in whom the pangs of hunger had not extinguished every spark of modesty went and hid themselves in the most secret places, and gnawed their hearts in silence, preferring to die of want rather than beg in public. Children still in the cradle, unable to get milk, were exposed at the cross-roads, crying in vain for their usual nourishment; and men, women, and children, all threw themselves greedily upon any kind of food, wholesome and unwholesome, clean and unclean, that they could scrape together here and there, and none shared with another that which they picked up.” So many and such sufferings produced incredible dastardliness; and deserters escaped by night, in some cases throwing themselves down, at the risk of being killed, into the city-moat; in others getting down by help of a rope from the ramparts. Indignation blazed forth against the fugitives; they were called rope-dancers; and God was prayed to treat them as the traitor Judas. William of Tyre and Guibert of Nogent, after naming some, and those the very highest, end with these words: “Of many more I know not the names, and I am unwilling to expose all that are well known to me.”

“We are assured,” says William of Tyre, “that in view of such woes and such weaknesses, the princes, despairing of any means of safety, held amongst themselves a secret council, at which they decided to abandon the army and all the people, fly in the middle of the night, and retreat to the sea.” According to the Armenian historian Matthew of Edessa, the princes would seem to have resolved, in this hour of dejection, not to fly and leave the army to its fate, but “to demand of Corboghzi an assurance for all, under the bond of an oath, of personal safety, on the promise of surrendering Antioch to him; after which they would return home.” Several Arab historians, and amongst them Ibn-el-Athir, Aboul- Faradje, and Aboul-Feda confirm the statement of conditions. Whatever may have been the real turn taken by the promptings of weakness amongst the Christians, Godfrey de Bouillon and Adhemar, bishop of Puy, energetically rejected them all; and an unexpected incident, considered as miraculous, reassured the wavering spirits both of soldiers and of chiefs. A priest of Marseilles, Peter Bartholomew, came and announced to the chiefs that St. Andrew had thrice appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Go into the church of my brother Peter at Antioch; and hard by the high altar thou wilt find, on digging up the ground, the head of the spear which pierced our Redeemer’s side. That, carried in front of the army, will bring about the deliverance of the Christians.” The appointed search was solemnly conducted under the eye of twelve reputable witnesses, priests and knights; the whole army was in attendance at the closed gates of the church; the spear-head was found and carried off in triumph; a pious enthusiasm restored to all present entire confidence; and with loud shouts they demanded battle. The chiefs judged it proper to announce their determination to the chief of the Mussulmans; and for this mission they chose Peter the Hermit, who was known to them as a bold and able speaker. Peter, on arriving at the enemy’s camp, presented himself without any mark of respect before the Sultan, Corbogha, surrounded by his satraps, and said, “The sacred assembly of princes pleasing to God who are at Antioch doth send me unto thy Highness, to advise thee that thou art to cease from thy importunities, and that thou abandon the siege of a city which the Lord in His divine mercy hath given up to them. The prince of the apostles did wrest that city from idolatry, and convert it to the faith of Christ. Ye had forcibly but unjustly taken possession of it. They who be moved by a right lawful anxiety for this heritage of their ancestors make their demand of thee that thou choose between divers offers: either give up the siege of the city, and cease troubling the Christians, or, within three days from hence, try the power of our arms. And that thou seek not after any, even a lawful, subterfuge, they offer thee further choice between divers determinations: either appear alone in person to fight with one of our princes, in order that, if victorious, thou mayest obtain all thou canst demand, or, if vanquished, thou mayest remain quiet; or, again, pick out divers of thine who shall fight, on the same terms, with the same number of ours; or, lastly, agree that the two armies shall prove, one against the other, the fortune of battle.” “Peter,” answered Corbogha ironically, “it is not likely that the affairs of the princes who have sent thee be in such state that they can thus offer me choice betwixt divers proposals, and that I should be bound to accept that which may suit me best. My sword hath brought them to such a condition that they have not themselves any longer the power of choosing freely, and that they be constrained to shape and unshape their wishes according to my good pleasure. Go, then, and tell these fools that all whom I shall find in full possession of all the powers of the manly age shall have their lives, and shall be reserved by me for my master’s service, and that all other shall fall beneath my sword, as useless trees, so that there shall remain of them not even a faint remembrance. Had I not deemed it more convenient to destroy them by famine than to smite them with the sword, I should already have gotten forcible mastery of the city, and they would have reaped the fruits of their voyage hither by undergoing the law of vengeance.”

On returning to camp, Peter the Hermit was about to set forth in detail, before all the people of the crusaders, the answer of Corbogha, his pride, his threats, and the pomp with which he was surrounded; but Godfrey de Bouillon, “fearing lest the multitude, already crushed beneath the weight of their woes, should be stricken with fresh terror,” stopped Peter at the moment when he was about to begin his speech, and, taking him aside, prevailed upon him to tell the result of his mission in a few words, just that the Turks desired battle, and that it must be prepared for at once. “Forthwith all, from the highest to the lowest, testify the most eager desire to measure swords with the infidels, and seem to have completely forgotten their miseries, and to calculate upon victory. All resume their arms, and get ready their horses, their breastplates, their helmets, their shields, and their swords. It is publicly announced throughout the city that the next morning, before sunrise, every one will have to be in readiness, and join his host to follow faithfully the banner of his prince.”

Next day, accordingly, the 28th of June, 1098, the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, the whole Christian army issued from their camp, with a portion of the clergy marching at their head, and chanting the 68th Psalm, “Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered!” “I saw these things, I who speak,” says one of the chroniclers, Raymond d’Agiles, chaplain to the count of Toulouse: “I was there, and I carried the spear of the Lord.” The crusaders formed in twelve divisions; and, of all their great chiefs, the count of Toulouse alone was unable to assume the command of his; he was detained in Antioch by the consequences of a wound, and he had the duty of keeping in check the Turkish garrison, still masters of the citadel. The crusaders presented the appearance of old troops ill clad, ill provided, and surmounting by sheer spirit the fatigues and losses of a long war; many sick soldiers could scarcely march; many barons and knights were on foot; and Godfrey de Bouillon himself had been obliged to borrow a horse from the count of Toulouse. During the march a gentle rain refreshed souls as well as bodies, and was regarded as a favor from heaven. Just as the battle was commencing, Corbogha, struck by the impassioned, stern, and indomitable aspect of the crusaders, felt somewhat disquieted, and made proposals, it is said, to the Christian princes of what he had refused them the evening before—a fight between some of their knights and as many Saracens; but they in their turn rejected the proposition. There is a moment, during great struggles, when the souls of men are launched forth like bomb-shells, which nothing can stop or cause to recoil. The battle was long, stubborn, and, at some points, indecisive: Kilidge-Arslan, the indefatigable sultan of Nicaea, attacked Bohemond so briskly, that, save for the prompt assistance of Godfrey de Bouillon and Tancred, the prince of Antioch had been in great peril. But the pious and warlike enthusiasm of the crusaders at length prevailed over the savage bravery of the Turks; and Corbogha, who had promised the khalif of Bagdad a defeat of the Christians, fled away towards the Euphrates with a weak escort of faithful troops. Tancred pursued till nightfall the sultans of Aleppo and Damascus and the emir of Jerusalem. According to the Christian chroniclers, one hundred thousand infidels, and only four thousand crusaders, were left on the field of battle. The camp of the Turks was given over to pillage; and fifteen thousand camels, and it is not stated how many horses, were carried off. The tent of Corbogha himself was, for his conquerors, a rich prize and an object of admiration. It was laid out in streets, flanked by towers, as if it were a fortified town; gold and precious stones glittered in every part of it; it was capable of containing more than two thousand persons; and Bohemond sent it to Italy, where it was long preserved. The conquerors employed several days in conveying into Antioch the spoils of the vanquished; and “every crusader,” says Albert of Aix, “found himself richer than he had been at starting from Europe.”

This great success, with the wealth it was the means of spreading, and the pretensions and hopes it was the cause of raising amongst the crusaders, had for some time the most injurious effects. Division set in amongst them, especially amongst the chiefs. Some abandoned themselves to all the license of victory, others to the sweets of repose. Some, fatigued and disgusted, quietly prepared for and accomplished their return home; others, growing more and more ambitious and bold, aspired to conquests and principalities in the East. Why should not they acquire what Baldwin had acquired at Edessa, and what Bohemond was within an ace of possessing at Antioch? Others were jealous of the great fortunes made before their eyes: and Raymond of Toulouse was vexed at Bohemond’s rule in Antioch, and refused to give up to him the citadel. One and another troubled themselves little more about the main end of their crusade, the deliverance of Jerusalem, and devoted themselves to their personal interests. A few days after the defeat of the Turks, the council of princes deliberated upon the question of marching immediately upon Jerusalem, and then all these various inclinations came out. After a lively debate, the majority decided that they should wait till the heat of summer was over, the army rested from its fatigues, and the reinforcements expected from the West arrived. The common sort of crusaders were indignant at this delay: “Since the princes will not lead us to Jerusalem,” was said aloud, “choose we among the knights a brave man who will serve us faithfully, and, if the grace of God be with us, go we under his leading to Jerusalem. It is not enough for our princes that we have remained here a whole year, and that two hundred thousand men-at- arms have fallen here! Perish all they who would remain at Antioch, even as its inhabitants but lately perished!” But, murmuring all the while, they staid at Antioch, in spite of a violent epidemic, which took off, it was said, in a single month, fifty thousand persons, and amongst them the spiritual chief of the crusade, Adhemar, bishop of Puy, who had the respect and confidence of all the crusaders. To find some specious pretext, or some pious excuse for this inactivity, or simply to pass the time which was not employed as it had been sworn it should be, war-like expeditions were made into Syria and Mesopotamia; some emirs were driven from their petty dominions; some towns were taken; some infidels were massacred. The count of Toulouse persisted during several weeks in besieging Marrah, a town situated between Hamath and Aleppo. At last he took it, but there were no longer any inhabitants to be found in it; they had all taken refuge under ground. Huge fires lighted at the entrance of their hiding-place forced them to come out, and as they came they were all put to death or carried off as slaves; “which so terrified the neighboring towns,” says a chronicler, “that they yielded of their own free will and without compulsion.”

It was all at once ascertained that Jerusalem had undergone a fresh calamity, and fallen more and more beneath the yoke of the infidels. Abou-Kacem, khalif of Egypt, had taken it from the Turks; and his vizier, Afdhel, had left a strong garrison in it. A sharp pang of grief, of wrath, and of shame shot through the crusaders. “Could it be,” they cried, “that Jerusalem should be taken and retaken, and never by Christians?” Many went to seek out the count of Toulouse. He was known to be much taken up with the desire of securing the possession of Marrah, which he had just captured; still great confidence was felt in him. He had made a vow never to return to the West; he was the richest of the crusader princes; he was conjured to take upon himself the leadership of the army; to him had been intrusted the spear of the Lord discovered at Antioch; if the other princes should be found wanting, let him at least go forward with the people, in full assurance; if not, he had only to give up the spear to the people, and the people would go right on to Jerusalem, with the Lord for their leader. After some hesitation, Raymond declared that the departure should take place in a fortnight, and he summoned the princes to a preliminary meeting. On assembling “they found themselves still less at one,” says the chronicler, and the majority refused to budge. To induce them, it is said that Raymond offered ten thousand sous to Godfrey de Bouillon, the same to Robert of Normandy, six thousand to the count of Flanders, and five thousand to Tancred; but, at the same time, Raymond announced his intention of leaving a strong garrison in Marrah to secure its defence. “What!” cried the common folk amongst the crusaders, “disputes about Antioch and disputes about Marrah! We will take good care there be no quarrel touching this town; come, throw we down its walls; restore we peace amongst the princes, and set we the count at liberty: when Marrah no longer exists, he will no longer fear to lose it.” The multitude rushed to surround Marrah, and worked so eagerly at the demolition of its ramparts that the count of Toulouse, touched by this popular feeling as if it were a proof of the divine will, himself put the finishing touch to the work of destruction and ordered the speedy departure of the army. At their head marched he, barefooted, with his clergy and the bishop of Akbar, all imploring the mercy of God and the protection of the saints. After him marched Tancred with forty knights and many foot. “Who then may resist this people,” said Turks and Saracens one to another, “so stubborn and cruel, whom, for the space of a year, nor famine, nor the sword, nor any other danger could cause to abandon the siege of Antioch, and who now are feeding upon human flesh?” In fact a rumor had spread that, in their extreme distress for want of provisions, the crusaders had eaten corpses of Saracens found in the moats of Marrah.

Several of the chiefs, hitherto undecided, now followed the popular impulse, whilst others still hesitated. But on the approach of spring, 1099, more than eight months after the capture of Antioch, Godfrey of Bouillon, his brother, Eustace of Boulogne, Robert of Flanders, and their following, likewise began to march. Bohemond, after having accompanied them as far as Laodicea, left them with a promise of rejoining them before Jerusalem, and returned to Antioch, where he remained. Fresh crusaders arrived from Flanders, Holland, and England, and amongst them the Saxon prince, Edgar Atheling, who had for a brief interval been king of England, between the death of Harold and the coronation of William the Conqueror. The army pursued its way, pretty slowly, still stopping from time to time to besiege towns, which they took and which the chiefs continued to dispute for amongst themselves. Envoys from the khalif of Egypt, the new holder of Jerusalem, arrived in the crusaders’ camp, with presents and promises from their master. They had orders to offer forty thousand pieces of gold to Godfrey, sixty thousand to Bohemond, the most dreaded by the Mussulmans of all the crusaders, and other gifts to divers other chiefs. Aboul-Kacem further promised liberty of pilgrimage and exercise of the Christian religion in Jerusalem; only the Christians must not enter, unless unarmed. At this proposal the crusader chiefs cried out with indignation, and declared to the Egyptian envoys that they were going to hasten their march upon Jerusalem, threatening at the same time to push forward to the borders of the Nile. At the end of the month of flay, 1099, they were all masse upon the frontiers of Phoenicia and Palestine, numbering according to the most sanguine calculations, only fifty thousand fighting men.

Upon entering Palestine, as they came upon spots known in sacred history or places of any importance, the same feelings of greed and jealousy which had caused so much trouble in Asia Minor and Syria caused divisions once more amongst the crusaders. The chieftain, the simple warrior almost, who was the first to enter city, or burgh, or house, and plant his flag there halted in it and claimed to be its possessor; whilst those “whom nothing was dearer than the commandments of God,” say the chroniclers, pursued their march, barefooted, beneath the banner of the cross, deplored the covetousness and the quarrels of their brethren. When the crusaders arrived a Emmaus, some Christians of Bethlehem came and implore their aid against the infidels. Tancred was there; and he, with the consent of Godfrey, set out immediately, in the middle of the night, with a small band of one hundred horsemen, and went and planted his own flag on the top of the church at Bethlehem at the very hour at which the birth of Jesus Christ had been announced to the shepherds of Judea. Next day, June 10th 1099, on advancing, at dawn of day, over the heights of Emmaus, the army of the crusaders had, all at once, beneath their gaze the Holy City.

“Lo! Jerusalem appears in sight. Lo! every hand point, out Jerusalem. Lo! a thousand voices are heard as one in salutation of Jerusalem.

“After the great, sweet joy which filled all hearts at this first glimpse came a deep feeling of contrition, mingled with awful and reverential affection. Each scarcely dared to raise the eye towards the city which had been the chosen abode of Christ, where He died, was buried, and rose again.

“In accents of humility, with words low spoken, with stifled sobs, with sighs and tears, the pent-up yearnings of a people in joy and at the same time in sorrow sent shivering through the air a murmur like that which is heard in leafy forests what time the wind blows through the leaves, or like the dull sound made by the sea which breaks upon the rocks, or hisses as it foams over the beach.”

It was better to quote these beautiful stanzas from “Jerusalem Delivered” than to reproduce the pompous and monotonous phrases of the chroniclers. The genius of Tasso was capable of understanding and worthy to depict the emotions of a Christian army at sight of the Jerusalem they had come to deliver.

We will not pause over the purely military and technical details of the siege. It was calculated that there were in the city twenty thousand armed inhabitants and forty thousand men in garrison, the most valiant and most fanatical Mussulmans that Egypt could furnish. According to William of Tyre, the most judicious and the best informed of the contemporary historians, “When the crusaders pitched their camp over against Jerusalem, there had arrived there about forty thousand persons of both sexes, of whom there were at the most twenty thousand foot, well equipped, and fifteen hundred knights.” Raymond d’Agiles, chaplain to the count of Toulouse, reduces still further to twelve thousand the number of foot capable of bearing arms, and that of the knights to twelve or thirteen hundred. This weak army was destitute of commissariat and the engines necessary for such a siege. Before long it was a prey to the horrors of thirst. “The neighborhood of Jerusalem,” says William of Tyre, “is arid; and it is only at a considerable distance that there are to be found rivulets, fountains, or wells of fresh water. Even these springs had been filled up by the enemy a little before the arrival of our troops. The crusaders issued from the camp secretly and in small detachments to look for water in all directions; and just when they believed they had found some hidden trickier, they saw themselves surrounded by a multitude of folks engaged in the same search; disputes forthwith arose amongst them, and they frequently came to blows. Horses, mules, asses, and cattle of all kinds, consumed by heat and thirst, fell down and died; and their carcasses, left here and there about the camp, tainted the air with a pestilential smell.” Wood, iron, and all the materials needful for the construction of siege machinery were as much to seek as water. But a warlike and pious spirit made head against all. Trees were felled at a great distance from Jerusalem; and scaling-towers were roughly constructed, as well as engines for hurling the stones which were with difficulty brought up within reach of the city. “All ye who read this,” says Raymond d’Agiles, “think not that it was light labor; it was nigh a mile from the spot where the engines, all dismounted, had to be transported to that where they were remounted.” The knights protected against the sallies of the besieged the workmen employed upon this work. One day Tancred had gone alone to pray on the Mount of Olives and to gaze upon the holy city, when five Mussulmans sallied forth and went to attack him; he killed three of them, and the other two took to flight. There was at one point of the city ramparts a ravine which had to be filled up to make an approach; and the count of Toulouse had proclamation made that be would give a denier to every one who would go and throw three stones into it. In three days the ravine was filled up. After four weeks of labor and preparation, the council of princes fixed a day for delivering the assault; but as there had been quarrels between several of the chiefs, and, notably, between the count of Toulouse and Tancred, it was resolved that before the grand attack they should all be reconciled at a general supplication, with solemn ceremonies, for divine aid. After a strict fast, all the crusaders went forth armed from their quarters, and preceded by their priests, bare-footed and chanting psalms, they moved, in slow procession, round Jerusalem, halting at all places hallowed by some fact in sacred history, listening to the discourses of their priests, and raising eyes full of wrath at hearing the scoffs addressed to them by the Saracens, and seeing the insults heaped upon certain crosses they had set up and upon all the symbols of the Christian faith. “Ye see,” cried Peter the Hermit; “ye hear the threats and blasphemies of the enemies of God. Now this I swear to you by your faith; this I swear to you by the arms ye carry: to-day these infidels be still full of pride and insolence, but to-morrow they shall be frozen with fear; those mosques, which tower over Christian ruins, shall serve for temples to the true God, and Jerusalem shall hear no longer aught but the praises of the Lord.” The shouts of the whole Christian army responded to the hopes of the apostle of the crusade; and the crusaders returned to their quarters repeating the words of the prophet Isaiah: “So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the West, and His glory from the rising of the sun.”

On the 14th of July, 1099, at daybreak, the assault began at divers points; and next day, Friday, the 15th of July, at three in the afternoon, exactly at the hour at which, according to Holy Writ, Jesus Christ had yielded up the ghost, saying, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit,” Jerusalem was completely in the hands of the crusaders. We have no heart to dwell on the massacres which accompanied the victory so clearly purchased by the conquerors. The historians, Latin or Oriental, set down at seventy thousand the number of Mussulmans massacred on the ramparts, in the mosques, in the streets, underground, and wherever they had attempted to find refuge: a number exceeding that of the armed inhabitants and the garrison of the city. Battle-madness, thirst for vengeance, ferocity, brutality, greed, and every hateful passion were satiated without scruple, in the name of their holy cause. When they were weary of slaughter, “orders were given,” says Robert the monk, “to those of the Saracens who remained alive and were reserved for slavery, to clean the city, remove from it the dead, and purify it from all traces of such fearful carnage. They promptly obeyed; removed, with tears, the dead; erected outside the gates dead-houses fashioned like citadels or defensive buildings; collected in baskets dissevered limbs; carried them away, and washed off the blood that stained the floors of temples and houses.”

Eight or ten days after the capture of Jerusalem, the crusader chiefs assembled to deliberate upon the election of a king of their prize. There were several who were suggested for it and might have pretended to it. Robert Shorthose, duke of Normandy, gave an absolute refusal, “liking better,” says an English chronicler, “to give himself up to repose and indolence in Normandy than to serve, as a soldier, the King of kings: for which God never forgave him.” Raymond, count of Toulouse, was already advanced in years, and declared “that he would have a horror of bearing the name of king in Jerusalem, but that he would give his consent to the election of anyone else.” Tancred was and wished to be only the first of knights. Godfrey de Bouillon the more easily united votes in that he did not seek them. He was valiant, discreet, worthy, and modest; and his own servants, being privately sounded, testified to his possession of the virtues which are put in practice without any show. He was elected King of Jerusalem, and he accepted the burden whilst refusing the insignia. “I will never wear a crown of gold,” he said, “in the place where the Saviour of the world was crowned with thorns.” And he assumed only the title of Defender and Baron of the Holy Sepulchre.

It is a common belief amongst historians that after the capture of Jerusalem, and the election of her king, Peter the Hermit entirely disappeared from history. It is true that he no longer played an active part, and that, on returning to Europe, he went into retirement near Huy, in the diocese of Lige, where he founded a monastery, and where he died on the 11th of July, 1115. But William of Tyre bears witness that Peter’s contemporaries were not ungrateful to him, and did not forget him when he had done his work. “The faithful,” says he, “dwellers at Jerusalem, who, four or five years before had seen the venerable Peter there, recognizing at that time in the same city him to whom the patriarch had committed letters invoking the aid of the princes of the West, bent the knee before him, and offered him their respects in all humility. They recalled to mind the circumstances of his first voyage; and they praised the Lord who had endowed him with effectual power of speech and with strength to rouse up nations and kings to bear so many and such long toils for love of the name of Christ. Both in private and in public all the faithful at Jerusalem exerted themselves to render to Peter the Hermit the highest honors, and attributed to him alone, after God, their happiness in having escaped from the hard servitude under which they had been for so many years groaning, and in seeing the holy city recovering her ancient freedom.”








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