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AN INTRODUCTION TO THE
HISTORY OF WESTERN EUROPE
JAMES HARVEY ROBINSON
PROFESSOR OF HISTORY IN COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
History is no easy science; its subject, human society, is infinitely complex.
FUSTEL DE COULANGES
GINN & COMPANY
BOSTON NEW YORK CHICAGO LONDON
ENTERED AT STATIONERS' HALL
COPYRIGHT, 1902, 1903 BY JAMES HARVEY ROBINSON
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 612.1
The Athenum Press
GINN & COMPANY PROPRIETORS BOSTON U.S.A.
In introducing the student to the history of the development of European culture, the problem of proportion has seemed to me, throughout, the fundamental one. Consequently I have endeavored not only to state matters truly and clearly but also to bring the narrative into harmony with the most recent conceptions of the relative importance of past events and institutions. It has seemed best, in an elementary treatise upon so vast a theme, to omit the names of many personages and conflicts of secondary importance which have ordinarily found their way into our historical text-books. I have ventured also to neglect a considerable number of episodes and anecdotes which, while hallowed by assiduous repetition, appear to owe their place in our manuals rather to accident or mere tradition than to any profound meaning for the student of the subject.
The space saved by these omissions has been used for three main purposes. Institutions under which Europe has lived for centuries, above all the Church, have been discussed with a good deal more fullness than is usual in similar manuals. The life and work of a few men of indubitably first-rate importance in the various fields of human endeavor—Gregory the Great, Charlemagne, Abelard, St. Francis, Petrarch, Luther, Erasmus, Voltaire, Napoleon, Bismarck—have been treated with care proportionate to their significance for the world. Lastly, the scope of the work has been broadened so that not only the political but also the economic, intellectual, and artistic achievements of the past form an integral part of the narrative.
I have relied upon a great variety of sources belonging to the various orders in the hierarchy of historical literature; it is happily unnecessary to catalogue these. In some instances I have found other manuals, dealing with portions of my field, of value. In the earlier chapters, Emerton's admirable Introduction to the Middle Ages furnished many suggestions. For later periods, the same may be said of Henderson's careful Germany in the Middle Ages and Schwill's clear and well-proportioned History of Modern Europe. For the most recent period, I have made constant use of Andrews' scholarly Development of Modern Europe. For England, the manuals of Green and Gardiner have been used. The greater part of the work is, however, the outcome of study of a wide range of standard special treatises dealing with some short period or with a particular phase of European progress. As examples of these, I will mention only Lea's monumental contributions to our knowledge of the jurisprudence of the Church, Rashdall's History of the Universities in the Middle Ages, Richter's incomparable Annalen der Deutschen Geschichte im Mittelalter, the Histoire Gnrale, and the well-known works of Luchaire, Voigt, Hefele, Bezold, Janssen, Levasseur, Creighton, Pastor. In some cases, as in the opening of the Renaissance, the Lutheran Revolt, and the French Revolution, I have been able to form my opinions to some extent from first-hand material.
My friends and colleagues have exhibited a generous interest in my enterprise, of which I have taken constant advantage. Professor E.H. Castle of Teachers College, Miss Ellen S. Davison, Dr. William R. Shepherd, and Dr. James T. Shotwell of the historical department of Columbia University, have very kindly read part of my manuscript. The proof has been revised by my colleague, Professor William A. Dunning, Professor Edward P. Cheyney of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Ernest F. Henderson, and by Professor Dana C. Munro of the University of Wisconsin. To all of these I am much indebted. Both in the arduous preparation of the manuscript and in the reading of the proof my wife has been my constant companion, and to her the volume owes innumerable rectifications in arrangement and diction. I would also add a word of gratitude to my publishers for their hearty coperation in their important part of the undertaking.
The Readings in European History, a manual now in preparation, and designed to accompany this volume, will contain comprehensive bibliographies for each chapter and a selection of illustrative material, which it is hoped will enable the teacher and pupil to broaden and vivify their knowledge. In the present volume I have given only a few titles at the end of some of the chapters, and in the footnotes I mention, for collateral reading, under the heading "Reference," chapters in the best available books, to which the student may be sent for additional detail. Almost all the books referred to might properly find a place in every high-school library.
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, January 12, 1903.
I THE HISTORICAL POINT OF VIEW 1
II WESTERN EUROPE BEFORE THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS 8
III THE GERMAN INVASIONS AND THE BREAK-UP OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE 25
IV THE RISE OF THE PAPACY 44
V THE MONKS AND THE CONVERSION OF THE GERMANS 56
VI CHARLES MARTEL AND PIPPIN 67
VII CHARLEMAGNE 77
VIII THE DISRUPTION OF CHARLEMAGNE'S EMPIRE 92
IX FEUDALISM 104
X THE DEVELOPMENT OF FRANCE 120
XI ENGLAND IN THE MIDDLE AGES 133
XII GERMANY AND ITALY IN THE TENTH AND ELEVENTH CENTURIES 148
XIII THE CONFLICT BETWEEN GREGORY VII AND HENRY IV 164
XIV THE HOHENSTAUFEN EMPERORS AND THE POPES 173
XV THE CRUSADES 187
XVI THE MEDIVAL CHURCH AT ITS HEIGHT 201
XVII HERESY AND THE FRIARS 216
XVIII THE PEOPLE IN COUNTRY AND TOWN 233
XIX THE CULTURE OF THE MIDDLE AGES 250
XX THE HUNDRED YEARS' WAR 277
XXI THE POPES AND THE COUNCILS 303
XXII THE ITALIAN CITIES AND THE RENAISSANCE 321
XXIII EUROPE AT THE OPENING OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY 354
XXIV GERMANY BEFORE THE PROTESTANT REVOLT 369
XXV MARTIN LUTHER AND HIS REVOLT AGAINST THE CHURCH 387
XXVI COURSE OF THE PROTESTANT REVOLT IN GERMANY, 1521-1555 405
XXVII THE PROTESTANT REVOLT IN SWITZERLAND AND ENGLAND 421
XXVIII THE CATHOLIC REFORMATION—PHILIP II 437
XXIX THE THIRTY YEARS' WAR 465
XXX STRUGGLE IN ENGLAND FOR CONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNMENT 475
XXXI THE ASCENDENCY OF FRANCE UNDER LOUIS XIV 495
XXXII RISE OF RUSSIA AND PRUSSIA 509
XXXIII THE EXPANSION OF ENGLAND 523
XXXIV THE EVE OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 537
XXXV THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 558
XXXVI THE FIRST FRENCH REPUBLIC 574
XXXVII NAPOLEON BONAPARTE 592
XXXVIII EUROPE AND NAPOLEON 606
XXXIX EUROPE AFTER THE CONGRESS OF VIENNA 625
XL THE UNIFICATION OF ITALY AND GERMANY 642
XLI EUROPE OF TO-DAY 671
LIST OF BOOKS 689
LIST OF MAPS
PAGE 1 The Roman Empire at its Greatest Extent 8-9
2 The Barbarian Inroads 26-27
3 Europe in the Time of Theodoric 31
4 The Dominions of the Franks under the Merovingians 37
5 Christian Missions 63
6 Arabic Conquests 71
7 The Empire of Charlemagne 82-83
8 Treaty of Verdun 93
9 Treaty of Mersen 95
10 Fiefs and Suzerains of the Counts of Champagne 113
11 France at the Close of the Reign of Philip Augustus 129
12 The Plantagenet Possessions in England and France 141
13 Europe about A.D.1000 152-153
14 Italian Towns in the Twelfth Century 175
15 Routes of the Crusaders 190-191
16 The Crusaders' States in Syria 193
17 Ecclesiastical Map of France in the Middle Ages 205
18 Lines of Trade and Medival Towns 242-243
19 The British Isles 278-279
20 Treaty of Bretigny, 1360 287
21 French Possessions of the English King in 1424 294
22 France under Louis XI 298-299
23 Voyages of Discovery 349
24 Europe in the Sixteenth Century 358-359
25 Germany in the Sixteenth Century 372-373
26 The Swiss Confederation 422
27 Treaty of Utrecht 506-507
28 Northeastern Europe in the Eighteenth Century 513
29 Provinces of France in the Eighteenth Century 539
30 Salt Tax in France 541
31 France in Departments 568-569
32 Partitions of Poland 584
33 Europe at the Height of Napoleon's Power 614-615
34 Europe in 1815 626-627
35 Races of Austro-Hungary 649
36 Europe of To-day 666-667
I PAGE FROM AN ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT Frontispiece
II FAADE OF RHEIMS CATHEDRAL Facing page 264
III INTERIOR OF EXETER CATHEDRAL Facing page 266
IV BRONZE STATUES OF PHILIP THE GOOD AND CHARLES THE BOLD AT INNSBRUCK Facing page 300
V BRONZE DOORS OF THE CATHEDRAL AT PISA } } 342-343 VI GHIBERTI'S DOORS AT FLORENCE }
VII GIOTTO'S MADONNA } } 346-347 VIII HOLY FAMILY BY ANDREA DEL SARTO }
INTRODUCTION TO THE HISTORY OF WESTERN EUROPE
THE HISTORICAL POINT OF VIEW
[Sidenote: The scope of history.]
1. History, in the broadest sense of the word, is all that we know about everything that man has ever done, or thought, or hoped, or felt. It is the limitless science of past human affairs, a subject immeasurably vast and important but exceedingly vague. The historian may busy himself deciphering hieroglyphics on an Egyptian obelisk, describing a medival monastery, enumerating the Mongol emperors of Hindustan or the battles of Napoleon. He may explain how the Roman Empire was conquered by the German barbarians, or why the United States and Spain came to blows in 1898, or what Calvin thought of Luther, or what a French peasant had to eat in the eighteenth century. We can know something of each of these matters if we choose to examine the evidence which still exists; they all help to make up history.
[Sidenote: Object of this volume.]
The present volume deals with a small but very important portion of the history of the world. Its object is to give as adequate an account as is possible in one volume of the chief changes in western Europe since the German barbarians overcame the armies of the Roman Empire and set up states of their own, out of which the present countries of France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Spain, the Netherlands, and England have slowly grown. There are, however, whole libraries upon the history of each of these countries during the last fifteen hundred years, and it requires a volume or two to give a tolerably complete account of any single important person, like St. Francis, Cromwell, Frederick the Great, or Napoleon. Besides biographies and general histories, there are many special treatises upon the Church and other great institutions; upon the literature, art, philosophy, and law of the various countries. It is obvious, therefore, that only a very few of the historical facts known to scholars can possibly find a place in a single volume such as this. One who undertakes to condense what we know of Europe's past, since the times of Theodosius and Alaric, into the space of six hundred pages assumes a very grave responsibility. The reader has a right to ask not only that what he finds in the book shall be at once true and clearly stated, but that it shall consist, on the whole, of the most important and useful of all the things which might have been selected from the well-nigh infinite mass of true things that are known.
We gain practically nothing from the mere enumeration of events and dates. The student of history wishes to know how people lived; what were their institutions (which are really only the habits of nations), their occupations, interests, and achievements; how business was transacted in the Middle Ages almost without the aid of money; how, later, commerce increased and industry grew up; what a great part the Christian church played in society; how the monks lived and what they did for mankind. In short, the object of an introduction to medival and modern European history is the description of the most significant achievements of western civilization during the past fifteen hundred years,—the explanation of how the Roman Empire of the West and the wild and unknown districts inhabited by the German races have become the Europe of Gladstone and Bismarck, of Darwin and Pasteur.
In order to present even an outline of the great changes during this long period, all that was exceptional and abnormal must be left out. We must fix our attention upon man's habitual conduct, upon those things that he kept on doing in essentially the same way for a century or so. Particular events are important in so far as they illustrate these permanent conditions and explain how the western world passed from one state to another.
[Sidenote: We should study the past sympathetically.]
We must learn, above all, to study sympathetically institutions and beliefs that we are tempted at first to declare absurd and unreasonable. The aim of the historian is not to prove that a particular way of doing a thing is right or wrong, as, for instance, intrusting the whole government to a king or forbidding clergymen to marry. His object is to show as well as he can how a certain system came to be introduced, what was thought of it, how it worked, and how another plan gradually supplanted it. It seems to us horrible that a man should be burned alive because he holds views of Christianity different from those of his neighbors. Instead, however, of merely condemning the practice, we must, as historical students, endeavor to see why practically every one in the thirteenth century, even the wisest and most tender-hearted, agreed that such a fearful punishment was the appropriate one for a heretic. An effort has, therefore, been made throughout this volume to treat the convictions and habits of men and nations in the past with consideration; that is, to make them seem natural and to show their beneficent rather than their evil aspects. It is not the weakness of an institution, but the good that is in it, that leads men to adopt and retain it.
[Sidenote: Impossibility of dividing the past into clearly defined periods.]
[Sidenote: All general changes take place gradually.]
2. It is impossible to divide the past into distinct, clearly defined periods and prove that one age ended and another began in a particular year, such as 476, or 1453, or 1789. Men do not and cannot change their habits and ways of doing things all at once, no matter what happens. It is true that a single event, such as an important battle which results in the loss of a nation's independence, may produce an abrupt change in the government. This in turn may encourage or discourage commerce and industry and modify the language and the spirit of a people. Yet these deeper changes take place only very gradually. After a battle or a revolution the farmer will sow and reap in his old way, the artisan will take up his familiar tasks, and the merchant his buying and selling. The scholar will study and write and the household go on under the new government just as they did under the old. So a change in government affects the habits of a people but slowly in any case, and it may leave them quite unaltered.
The French Revolution, at the end of the eighteenth century, was probably the most abrupt and thoroughgoing change in the habits of a nation of which we have any record. But we shall find, when we come to study it, that it was by no means so sudden in reality as is ordinarily supposed. Moreover, the innovators did not even succeed in permanently altering the form of government; for when the French, after living under a monarchy for many centuries, set up a republic in 1792, the new government lasted only a few years. The nation was monarchical by habit and soon gladly accepted the rule of Napoleon, which was more despotic than that of any of its former kings. In reorganizing the state he borrowed much from the discarded monarchy, and the present French republic still retains many of these arrangements.
[Sidenote: The unity or continuity of history.]
This tendency of mankind to do, in general, this year what it did last, in spite of changes in some one department of life,—such as substituting a president for a king, traveling by rail instead of on horseback, or getting the news from a newspaper instead of from a neighbor,—results in what is called the unity or continuity of history. The truth that no abrupt change has ever taken place in all the customs of a people, and that it cannot, in the nature of things, take place, is perhaps the most fundamental lesson that history teaches.
Historians sometimes seem to forget this principle, when they claim to begin and end their books at precise dates. We find histories of Europe from 476 to 918, from 1270 to 1492, as if the accession of a capable German king in 918, or the death of a famous French king in 1270, or the discovery of America, marked a general change in European affairs. In reality, however, no general change took place at these dates or in any other single year. It would doubtless have proved a great convenience to the readers and writers of history if the world had agreed to carry out a definite programme and alter its habits at precise dates, preferably at the opening of each century. But no such agreement has ever been adopted, and the historical student must take things as he finds them. He must recognize that nations retain their old customs while they adopt new ones, and that a portion of a nation may advance while a great part of it stays behind.
[Sidenote: Meaning of the term 'Middle Ages.']
3. We cannot, therefore, hope to fix any year or event which may properly be taken as the beginning of that long period which followed the downfall of the Roman state in western Europe and which is commonly called the Middle Ages. Beyond the northern and western boundaries of the Roman Empire, which embraced the whole civilized world from the Euphrates to Britain, mysterious peoples moved about whose history before they came into occasional contact with the Romans is practically unknown. These Germans, or barbarians, as the Romans called them, were destined to put an end to the Roman Empire in the West. They had first begun to make trouble about a hundred years before Christ, when a great army of them was defeated by the Roman general, Marius. Julius Csar narrates, in polished Latin, familiar to all who have begun the study of that language, how fifty years later he drove back other bands. Five hundred years elapsed, however, between these first encounters and the founding of German kingdoms within the boundaries of the Empire. With their establishment the Roman government in western Europe may be said to have come to an end and the Middle Ages to have begun.
Yet it would be a great mistake to suppose that this means that the Roman civilization suddenly disappeared at this time. As we shall see, it had gradually changed during the centuries following the golden age of Augustus, who died A.D.14. Long before the German conquest, art and literature had begun to decline toward the level that they reached in the Middle Ages. Many of the ideas and conditions which prevailed after the coming of the barbarians were common enough before,—even the ignorance and want of taste which we associate particularly with the Middle Ages.
The term Middle Ages is, then, a vague one. It will be used in this volume to mean, roughly speaking, the period of nearly a thousand years that elapsed between the opening of the fifth century, when the disorder of the barbarian invasions was becoming general, and the fourteenth century, when Europe was well on its way to retrieve all that had been lost since the break-up of the Roman Empire.
[Sidenote: The 'dark ages.']
It used to be assumed, when there was much less interest in the period than there now is, that with the disruption of the Empire and the disorder that followed, practically all culture perished for centuries, that Europe entered upon the "dark ages." These were represented as dreary centuries of ignorance and violence in marked contrast to the civilization of the Greeks and Romans on the one hand, and to the enlightenment of modern times on the other. The more careful studies of the last half century have made it clear that the Middle Ages were not "dark" in the sense of being stagnant and unproductive. On the contrary, they were full of movement and growth, and we owe to them a great many things in our civilization which we should never have derived from Greece and Rome. It is the purpose of the first nineteen chapters of this manual to describe the effects of the barbarian conquests, the gradual recovery of Europe from the disorder of the successive invasions, and the peculiar institutions which grew up to meet the needs of the times. The remaining chapters will attempt to show how medival institutions, habits, and ideas were supplanted, step by step, by those which exist in Europe to-day.
WESTERN EUROPE BEFORE THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS
[Sidenote: Extent of the Roman Empire.]
4. No one can hope to understand the Middle Ages who does not first learn something of the Roman Empire, within whose bounds the Germans set up their kingdoms and began the long task of creating modern Europe.
At the opening of the fifth century there were no separate, independent states in western Europe such as we find on the map to-day. The whole territory now occupied by England, France, Spain, and Italy formed at that time only a part of the vast realms ruled over by the Roman emperor and his host of officials. As for Germany, it was still a region of forests, familiar only to the barbarous and half-savage tribes who inhabited them. The Romans tried in vain to conquer this part of Europe, and finally had to content themselves with keeping the German hordes out of the Empire by means of fortifications and guards along the Rhine and Danube rivers.
[Sidenote: Great diversity of races included within the Empire.]
The Roman Empire, which embraced southern and western Europe, western Asia, and even the northern portion of Africa, included the most diverse peoples and races. Egyptians, Arabs, Jews, Greeks, Germans, Gauls, Britons, Iberians,—all alike were under the sovereign rule of Rome. One great state embraced the nomad shepherds who spread their tents on the borders of Sahara, the mountaineers in the fastnesses of Wales, and the citizens of Athens, Alexandria, and Rome, heirs to all the luxury and learning of the ages. Whether one lived in York or Jerusalem, Memphis or Vienna, he paid his taxes into the same treasury, he was tried by the same law, and looked to the same armies for protection.
[Sidenote: Bonds which held the Empire together.]
At first it seems incredible that this huge Empire, which included African and Asiatic peoples as well as the most various races of Europe in all stages of civilization, could have held together for five centuries instead of falling to pieces, as might have been expected, long before the barbarians came in sufficient strength to establish their own kingdoms in its midst. When, however, we consider the bonds of union which held the state together it is easy to understand the permanence of the Empire. These were: (1) the wonderfully organized government which penetrated to every part of the realm and allowed little to escape it; (2) the worship of the emperor as the incarnation of the government; (3) the Roman law in force everywhere; (4) the admirable roads and the uniform system of coinage which encouraged intercommunication; and, lastly, (5) the Roman colonies and the teachers maintained by the government, for through them the same ideas and culture were carried to even the most distant parts of the Empire.
[Sidenote: The Roman government attempted to regulate everything.]
Let us first glance at the government and the emperor. His decrees were dispatched throughout the length and breadth of the Roman dominions; whatsoever pleased him became law, according to the well-known principle of the Roman constitution. While the cities were permitted some freedom in the regulation of their purely local affairs, the emperor and his innumerable and marvelously organized officials kept an eye upon even the humblest citizen. The Roman government, besides maintaining order, administering justice, and defending the boundaries, assumed many other responsibilities. It watched the grain dealers, butchers, and bakers; saw that they properly supplied the public and never deserted their occupation. In some cases it forced the son to follow the profession of his father. If it could have had its way, it would have had every one belong to a definite class of society, and his children after him. It kept the unruly poorer classes quiet in the towns by furnishing them with bread, and sometimes with wine, meat, and clothes. It provided amusement for them by expensive entertainments, such as races and gladiatorial combats. In a word, the Roman government was not only wonderfully organized, so that it penetrated to the utmost confines of its territory, but it attempted to guard and regulate almost every interest in life.
[Sidenote: The worship of the emperor.]
Every one was required to join in the worship of the emperor because he stood for the majesty of the Roman dominion. The inhabitants of each province might revere their particular gods, undisturbed by the government, but all were obliged as good citizens to join in the official sacrifices to the deified head of the state. The early Christians were persecuted, not only because their religion was different from that of their fellows, but because they refused to offer homage to the image of the emperor and openly prophesied the downfall of the Roman state. Their religion was incompatible with what was then deemed good citizenship, inasmuch as it forbade them to express the required veneration for the government.
[Sidenote: The Roman law.]
As there was one government, so there was one law for all the civilized world. Local differences were not considered; the same principles of reason, justice, and humanity were believed to hold whether the Roman citizen lived upon the Euphrates or the Thames. The law of the Roman Empire is its chief legacy to posterity. Its provisions are still in force in many of the states of Europe to-day, and it is one of the subjects of study in our American universities. It exhibited a humanity unknown to the earlier legal codes. The wife, mother, and infant were protected from the arbitrary power of the head of the house, who, in earlier centuries, had been privileged to treat the members of his family as slaves. It held that it was better that a guilty person should escape than that an innocent person should be condemned. It conceived humanity, not as a group of nations and tribes, each with its peculiar institutions and legal customs, but as one people included in one great empire and subject to a single system of law based upon reason and equity.
[Sidenote: Roads and public works.]
Magnificent roads were constructed, which enabled the messengers of the government and its armies to reach every part of the Empire with incredible speed. These highways made commerce easy and encouraged merchants and travelers to visit the most distant portions of the realm. Everywhere they found the same coins and the same system of weights and measures. Colonies were sent out to the confines of the Empire, and the remains of great public buildings, of theaters and bridges, of sumptuous villas and baths at places like Treves, Cologne, Bath, and Salzburg indicate how thoroughly the influence and civilization of Rome penetrated to the utmost parts of the territory subject to her rule.
[Sidenote: The same culture throughout the Roman Empire.]
The government encouraged education by supporting at least three teachers in every town of any considerable importance. They taught rhetoric and oratory and explained the works of the great writers. The Romans, who had no marked literary or artistic ability, had adopted the culture of the Greeks. This was spread abroad by the government teachers so that an educated man was pretty sure to find, even in the outlying parts of the great Empire, other educated men with much the same interests and ideas as his own. Everywhere men felt themselves to be not mere natives of this or that land but citizens of the world.
[Sidenote: Loyalty to the Empire and conviction that it was eternal.]
During the four centuries from the first emperor, Augustus, to the barbarian invasions we hear of no attempt on the part of its subjects to overthrow the Empire or to secede from it. The Roman state, it was universally believed, was to endure forever. Had a rebellious nation succeeded in throwing off the rule of the emperor and establishing its independence, it would only have found itself outside the civilized world.
[Sidenote: Reasons why the Empire lost its power to defend itself against the Germans.]
5. Just why the Roman government, once so powerful and so universally respected, finally became unable longer to defend its borders and gave way before the scattered attacks of the German peoples, who never combined in any general alliance against it, is a very difficult question to answer satisfactorily. The inhabitants of the Empire appear gradually to have lost their energy and self-reliance and to have become less and less prosperous. This may be explained partially at least by the following considerations: (1) the terrible system of taxation, which discouraged and not infrequently ruined the members of the wealthier classes; (2) the existence of slavery, which served to discredit honest labor and demoralized the free workingmen; (3) the steady decrease of population; (4) the infiltration of barbarians, who prepared the way for the conquest of the western portion of the Empire by their fellow-barbarians.
[Sidenote: Oppressive taxation.]
It required a great deal of money to support the luxurious court of the emperors and their innumerable officials and servants, and to supply "bread and circuses" for the populace of the towns. All sorts of taxes and exactions were consequently devised by ingenious officials to make up the necessary revenue. The crushing burden of the great land tax, the emperor's chief source of income, was greatly increased by the pernicious way in which it was collected. The government made a group of the richer citizens in each of the towns permanently responsible for the whole amount due from all the landowners within their district. It was their business to collect the taxes and make up any deficiency, it mattered not from what cause. This responsibility and the weight of the taxes themselves ruined so many landowners that the government was forced to decree that no one should desert his estates in order to escape the exactions. Only the very rich could stand the drain on their resources. The middle class sank into poverty and despair, and in this way the Empire lost just that prosperous class of citizens who should have been the leaders in business enterprises.
The sad plight of the poorer laboring classes was largely due to the terrible institution of slavery which prevailed everywhere in ancient times. So soon as the Romans had begun to conquer distant provinces the number of slaves greatly increased. For six or seven centuries before the barbarian invasions every kind of labor fell largely into their hands in both country and town. There were millions of them. A single rich landholder might own hundreds and even thousands, and it was a poor man that did not have several at least.
[Sidenote: The villa.]
Land was the only highly esteemed form of wealth in the Roman Empire, in spite of the heavy taxes imposed upon it. Without large holdings of land no one could hope to enjoy a high social position or an honorable office under the government. Consequently the land came gradually into the hands of the rich and ambitious, and the small landed proprietor disappeared. Great estates called villas covered Italy, Gaul, and Britain. These were cultivated and managed by armies of slaves, who not only tilled the land, but supplied their master, his household, and themselves with all that was needed on the plantation. The artisans among them made the tools, garments, and other manufactured articles necessary for the whole community, or "family," as it was called. Slaves cooked the food, waited on the proprietor, wrote his letters, and read to him. To a head slave the whole management of the villa was intrusted. A villa might be as extensive as a large village, but all its members were under the absolute control of the proprietor of the estate. A well-organized villa could supply itself with everything that it needed, and found little or no reason for buying from any outsider.
[Sidenote: Slavery brings labor into disrepute.]
Quite naturally, freemen came to scorn all manual labor and even trade, for these occupations were associated in their minds with the despised slave. Seneca, the philosopher, angrily rejects the suggestion that the practical arts were invented by a philosopher; they were, he declares, "thought out by the meanest bondman."
[Sidenote: Competition of slaves fatal to the freeman.]
Slavery did more than bring manual labor into disrepute; it largely monopolized the market. Each great household where articles of luxury were in demand relied upon its own host of dexterous and efficient slaves to produce them. Moreover, the owners of slaves frequently hired them out to those who needed workmen, or permitted them to work for wages, and in this way brought them into a competition with the free workman which was fatal to him.
[Sidenote: Improved condition of the slaves and their emancipation.]
It cannot be denied that a notable improvement in the condition of the slaves took place during the centuries immediately preceding the barbarian invasions. Their owners abandoned the horrible subterranean prisons in which the farm hands were once miserably huddled at night. The law, moreover, protected the slave from some of the worst forms of abuse; first and foremost, it deprived his master of the right to kill him. Slaves began to decrease in numbers before the German invasions. In the first place, the supply had been cut off after the Roman armies ceased to conquer new territory. In the second place, masters had for various reasons begun to emancipate their slaves on a large scale.
[Sidenote: The freedman.]
The freed slave was called a freedman, and was by no means in the position of one who was born free. It is true that he was no longer a chattel, a mere thing, but he had still to serve his former master,—who had now become his patron,—for a certain number of days in the year. He was obliged to pay him a part of his earnings and could not marry without his patron's consent.
[Sidenote: The coloni.]
[Sidenote: Resemblance between the coloni and the later serfs.]
Yet, as the condition of the slaves improved, and many of them became freedmen, the state of the poor freeman only became worse. In the towns, if he tried to earn his living, he was forced to mingle with those slaves who were permitted to work for wages and with the freedmen, and he naturally tended to sink to their level. In the country the free agricultural laborers became coloni, a curious intermediate class, neither slave nor really free. They were bound to the particular bit of land which some great proprietor permitted them to cultivate and were sold with it if it changed hands. Like the medival serf, they could not be deprived of their fields so long as they paid the owner a certain part of their crop and worked for him during a period fixed by the customs of the domain upon which they lived. This system made it impossible for the farmer to become independent, or for his son to be better off than he. The coloni and the more fortunate slaves tended to fuse into a single class; for the law provided that, like the coloni, certain classes of country slaves were not to be taken from the field which they had been accustomed to cultivate but were to go with it if it was sold.
Moreover, it often happened that the Roman proprietor had a number of dependents among the less fortunate landowners in his neighborhood. These, in order to escape the taxes and gain his protection as the times became more disorderly, surrendered their land to their powerful neighbor with the understanding that he should defend them and permit them to continue during their lifetime to cultivate the fields, the title to which had passed to him. On their death their children became coloni. This arrangement, as we shall find, serves in a measure to explain the feudalism of later times.
When a country is prosperous the population tends to increase. In the Roman Empire, even as early as Augustus, a falling off in numbers was apparent, which was bound to sap the vitality of the state. War, plague, the evil results of slavery, and the outrageous taxation all combined to hasten the depopulation; for when it is hard to make a living, men are deterred from marrying and find it difficult to bring up large families.
[Sidenote: Infiltration of Germans into the Empire.]
In order to replenish the population great numbers of the Germans were encouraged to settle within the Empire, where they became coloni. Constantine is said to have called in three hundred thousand of a single people. Barbarians were enlisted in the Roman legions to keep out their fellow-Germans. Julius Csar was the first to give them a place among his soldiers. The expedient became more and more common, until, finally, whole armies were German, entire tribes being enlisted under their own chiefs. Some of the Germans rose to be distinguished generals; others attained important positions among the officials of the government. In this way it came about that a great many of the inhabitants of the Roman Empire were Germans before the great invasions. The line dividing the Roman and the barbarian was growing indistinct. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the influx of barbarians smoothed the way for the break-up of the western part of the Empire. Although they had a great respect for the Roman state, they must have kept some of their German love of individual liberty and could have had little sympathy for the despotism under which they lived.
[Sidenote: Decline of literature and art.]
6. As the Empire declined in strength and prosperity and was gradually permeated by the barbarians, its art and literature fell far below the standard of the great writers and artists of the golden age of Augustus. The sculpture of Constantine's time was far inferior to that of Trajan's. Cicero's exquisitely finished style lost its charm for the readers of the fourth and fifth centuries, and a florid, inferior species of oratory took its place. Tacitus, who died about A.D.120, is perhaps the latest of the Latin authors whose works may be ranked among the classics. No more great men of letters arose. Few of those who understand and enjoy Latin literature to-day would think of reading any of the poetry or prose written after the beginning of the second century.
[Sidenote: Reliance upon mere compendiums.]
During the three hundred years before the invasions those who read at all did not ordinarily take the trouble to study the classics, but relied upon mere collections of quotations; and for what they called science, upon compendiums and manuals. These the Middle Ages inherited, and it was not until the time of Petrarch, in the fourteenth century, that Europe once more reached a degree of cultivation which enabled the more discriminating scholars to appreciate the best productions of the great authors of antiquity, both Greek and Latin.
[Sidenote: Preparation for Christianity.]
In spite of the general decline of which we have been speaking, the Roman world appeared to be making progress in one important respect. During the first and second centuries a sort of moral revival took place and a growing religious enthusiasm showed itself, which prepared the way for the astonishingly rapid introduction of the new Christian religion. Some of the pagan philosophers had quite given up the old idea which we find in Homer and Virgil, that there were many gods, and had reached an elevated conception of the one God and of our duty toward Him. "Our duty," writes the philosopher Epictetus at the end of the first century, "is to follow God, ... to be of one mind with Him, to devote ourselves to the performance of His commands." The emperor Marcus Aurelius (d. 180) expresses similar sentiments in his Meditations, the notes which he wrote for his own guidance. There was a growing abhorrence for the notorious vices of the great cities, and an ever-increasing demand for pure and upright conduct. The pagan religions taught that the souls of the dead continued to exist in Hades; but the life to come was believed to be a dreary existence at best.
[Sidenote: Promises of Christianity.]
Christianity brought with it a new hope for all those who would escape from the bondage of sin, of which the serious-minded were becoming more and more conscious. It promised, moreover, eternal happiness after death to all who would consistently strive to do right. It appealed to the desires and needs of all kinds of men and women. For every one who accepted the Gospel might look forward in the next world to such joy as he could never hope to experience in this.
[Sidenote: Christianity and paganism tend to merge into one another.]
The new religion, as it spread from Palestine among the Gentiles, was much modified by the religious ideas of those who accepted it. A group of Christian philosophers, who are known as the early fathers, strove to show that the Gospel was in accord with the aspirations of the best of the pagans. In certain ceremonies the former modes of worship were accepted by the new religion. From simple beginnings the church developed a distinct priesthood and an elaborate service. In this way Christianity and the higher forms of paganism tended to come nearer and nearer to each other as time went on. In one sense, it is true, they met like two armies in mortal conflict; but at the same time they tended to merge into one another like two streams which had been following converging courses. At the confluence of the streams stands Boethius (d. about 524), the most gifted of the later Roman writers. His beautiful book, The Consolation of Philosophy, was one of the most popular works during the Middle Ages, when every one believed that its author was a Christian. Yet there is nothing in the book to indicate that he was more than a religious pagan, and some scholars doubt if he ever fully accepted the new religion.
[Sidenote: The primitive, or apostolic, church.]
7. We learn from the letters of St. Paul that the earliest Christian communities found it necessary to have some organization. They chose certain officers, the bishops—that is to say, overseers—and the presbyters or elders, but St. Paul does not tell us exactly what were the duties of these officers. There were also the deacons, who appear to have had the care of the poor of the community. The first Christians looked for the speedy coming of Christ before their own generation should pass away. Since all were filled with enthusiasm for the Gospel and eagerly awaited the last day, they did not feel the need of an elaborate constitution. But as time went on the Christian communities greatly increased in size, and many joined them who had little or none of the original fervor and spirituality. It became necessary to develop a regular system of church government in order to control the erring and expel those who brought disgrace upon their religion by notoriously bad conduct.
[Sidenote: The 'catholic', or universal, church.]
A famous little book, The Unity of the Church, by Bishop Cyprian (d. 258) gives us a pretty good idea of the Church a few decades before the Christian religion was legalized by Constantine. This and other sources indicate that the followers of Christ had already come to believe in a "Catholic"—i.e., a universal—Church which embraced all the communities of true believers wherever they might be. To this one universal Church all must belong who hoped to be saved.
[Sidenote: Organization of the church before Constantine.]
A sharp distinction was already made between the officers of the Church, who were called the clergy, and the people, or laity. To the clergy was committed the government of the Church as well as the instruction of its members. In each of the Roman cities was a bishop, and at the head of the country communities, a priest (Latin, presbyter), who had succeeded to the original elders (presbyters) mentioned in the New Testament. Below the bishop and the priest were the lower orders of the clergy,—the deacon and sub-deacon,—and below these the so called minor orders—the acolyte, exorcist, reader, and doorkeeper. The bishop exercised a certain control over the priests within his territory. It was not unnatural that the bishops in the chief towns of the Roman provinces should be especially influential in church affairs. They came to be called archbishops, and might summon the bishops of the province to a council to decide important matters.
[Sidenote: The first general council, 325. Position of the Bishop of Rome during this period.]
In 311 the emperor Galerius issued a decree placing the Christian religion upon the same legal footing as paganism. Constantine, the first Christian emperor, carefully enforced this edict. In 325 the first general council of Christendom was called together under his auspices at Nica. It is clear from the decrees of this famous assembly that the Catholic Church had already assumed the form that it was to retain down to the present moment, except that there is no explicit recognition of the Bishop of Rome as the head of the whole church. Nevertheless, there were a number of reasons—to be discussed later—why the Bishop of Rome should sometime become the acknowledged ruler of western Christendom. The first of the Roman bishops to play a really important part in authentic history was Leo the Great, who did not take office until 440.
[Sidenote: The Church in the Theodosian Code.]
Constantine's successors soon forbade pagan practices and began to issue laws which gave the Christian clergy important privileges. In the last book of the Theodosian Code, a great collection of the laws of the Empire, which was completed in 438, all the imperial decrees are to be found which relate to the Christian Church and the clergy. We find that the clergy, in view of their holy duties, were exempted from certain onerous offices and from some of the taxes which the laity had to pay. They were also permitted to receive bequests. The emperors themselves richly endowed the Church. Their example was followed by rulers and private individuals all through the Middle Ages, so that the Church became incredibly wealthy and enjoyed a far greater income than any state of Europe. The clergy were permitted to try certain cases at law, and they themselves had the privilege of being tried in their own church courts for minor criminal offenses. This last book of the Code begins with a definition of the Trinity; and much space is given to a description of the different kinds of unbelievers and the penalties attached to a refusal to accept the religion of the government.
[Sidenote: The Church survives the Empire.]
In these provisions of the Theodosian Code the later medival Church is clearly foreshadowed. The imperial government in the West was soon overthrown by the barbarian conquerors, but the Catholic Church conquered and absorbed the conquerors. When the officers of the Empire deserted their posts the bishops stayed to meet the on-coming invader. They continued to represent the old civilization and ideas of order. It was the Church that kept the Latin language alive among those who knew only a rude German dialect. It was the Church that maintained some little education in even the darkest period of confusion, for without the ability to read Latin its services could not have been performed and its officers could not have carried on their correspondence with one another.
[Sidenote: The Eastern Empire.]
8. Although the Roman Empire remained one in law, government, and culture until the Germans came in sufficient force to conquer the western portions of it, a tendency may nevertheless be noticed some time before the conquest for the eastern and western portions to drift apart. Constantine, who established his supremacy only after a long struggle with his rivals, hoped to strengthen the vast state by establishing a second capital, which should lie far to the east and dominate a region very remote from Rome. Constantinople was accordingly founded in 330 on the confines of Europe and Asia. This was by no means supposed to destroy the unity of the Empire. Even when Theodosius the Great arranged (395) that both his sons should succeed him, and that one should rule in the West and one in the East, he did not intend to divide the Empire. It is true that there continued to be thereafter two emperors, each in his own capital, but they were supposed to govern one empire conjointly and in "unanimity." New laws were to be accepted by both. The writers of the time do not speak of two states but continue to refer to "the Empire," as if the administration were still in the hands of one ruler. Indeed the idea of one government for all civilized mankind did not pass away but continued to influence men during the whole of the Middle Ages.
Although it was in the eastern part of the Empire that the barbarians first got a permanent foothold, the emperors at Constantinople were able to keep a portion of the old possessions of the Empire under their rule for centuries after the Germans had completely conquered the West. When at last the eastern capital of the Empire fell, it was not into the hands of the Germans, but into those of the Turks, who have held it since 1453.
There will be no room in this volume to follow the history of the Eastern Empire, although it cannot be entirely ignored in studying western Europe. Its language and civilization had always been Greek, and owing to this and the influence of the Orient, its culture offers a marked contrast to that of the Latin West, which was adopted by the Germans. Learning never died out in the East as it did in the West, nor did art reach so low an ebb.
[Sidenote: Constantinople the most wealthy and populous city of Europe during the early Middle Ages.]
For some centuries after the disruption of the Roman Empire in the West, the capital of the Eastern Empire enjoyed the distinction of being the largest and most wealthy city of Europe. Within its walls could be found the indications of a refinement and civilization which had almost disappeared in the Occident. Its beautiful buildings, its parks and paved streets, filled the traveler from the West with astonishment. When, during the Crusades, the western peoples were brought into contact with the learning and culture of Constantinople they were greatly and permanently impressed by them.
General Reading.—For an outline of the history of the Roman Empire during the centuries immediately preceding the barbarian invasions, see BOTSFORD, History of Rome, WEST, Ancient History to the Death of Charlemagne, MYERS, Rome: Its Rise and Fall, or MOREY, Outlines of Roman History,—all with plenty of references to larger works on the subject. The best work in English on the conditions in the Empire upon the eve of the invasions is DILL, Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire (Macmillan, $2.00). HATCH, The Influence of Greek Thought upon the Christian Church (Williams & Norgate, $1.00), and RENAN, The Influence of Rome on the Development of the Catholic Church (Williams & Norgate, $1.00), are very important for the advanced student. The best of the numerous editions of Gibbon's great work, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which covers the whole history of the Middle Ages, is that edited by Bury (The Macmillan Company, 7 vols., $14.00).
THE GERMAN INVASIONS AND THE BREAK-UP OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE
[Sidenote: The Huns force the Goths into the Empire. Battle of Adrianople, 378.]
9. Previous to the year 375 the attempts of the Germans to penetrate into the Empire appear to have been due to their love of adventure, their hope of enjoying some of the advantages of their civilized neighbors, or the need of new lands for their increasing numbers. And the Romans, by means of their armies, their walls, and their guards, had up to this time succeeded in preventing the barbarians from violently occupying their territory. But suddenly a new force appeared which thrust the Germans out upon the weakened Empire. The Huns, a Mongolian folk from central Asia, swept down upon the Goths, who were a German tribe settled upon the Danube, and forced a part of them to seek shelter across the river, within the boundaries of the Empire. Here they soon fell out with the imperial officials, and a great battle was fought at Adrianople in 378 in which the Goths defeated and slew the emperor, Valens. The Germans had now not only broken through the boundaries of the Empire, but they had also learned that they could defeat the Roman legions. The battle of Adrianople may, therefore, be said to mark the beginning of the conquest of the western part of the Empire by the Germans. For some years, however, after the battle of Adrianople the various bands of West Goths—or Visigoths, as they are often called—were induced to accept the terms offered by the emperor's officials and some of the Goths agreed to serve as soldiers in the Roman armies.
[Sidenote: Alaric takes Rome, 410.]
Before long one of the German chieftains, Alaric, became dissatisfied with the treatment that he received. He collected an army, of which the nucleus consisted of West Goths, and set out for Italy. Rome fell into his hands in 410 and was plundered by his followers. Alaric appears to have been deeply impressed by the sight of the civilization about him. He did not destroy the city, hardly even did serious damage to it, and he gave especial orders to his soldiers not to injure the churches or take their property.
[Sidenote: West Goths settle in southern Gaul and Spain.]
Alaric died before he could find a satisfactory spot for his people to settle upon permanently. After his death the West Goths wandered into Gaul, and then into Spain, which had already been occupied by other barbarian tribes,—the Vandals and Suevi. These had crossed the Rhine into Gaul four years before Alaric took Rome; for three years they devastated the country and then proceeded across the Pyrenees. When the West Goths reached Spain they quickly concluded peace with the Roman government. They then set to work to fight the Vandals, with such success that the emperor granted them a considerable district (419) in southern Gaul, where they established a West Gothic kingdom. Ten years after, the Vandals moved on into Africa, where they founded a kingdom and extended their control over the western Mediterranean. Their place in Spain was taken by the West Goths who, under their king, Euric (466-484), conquered a great part of the peninsula, so that their kingdom extended from the Loire to the Straits of Gibraltar.
[Sidenote: General dismemberment of the Empire in fifth century.]
It is quite unnecessary to follow the confused history of the movements of the innumerable bands of restless barbarians who wandered about Europe during the fifth century. Scarcely any part of western Europe was left unmolested; even Britain was conquered by German tribes, the Angles and Saxons.
[Sidenote: Attila and the Huns.]
[Sidenote: Battle of Chlons, 451.]
[Sidenote: Founding of Venice.]
To add to the universal confusion caused by the influx of the German tribes, the Huns, the Mongolian people who had first pushed the West Goths into the Empire, now began to fill western Europe with terror. Under their chief, Attila,—"the scourge of God," as the trembling Romans called him,—the savage Huns invaded Gaul. But the Roman inhabitants and the Germans joined against the invaders and defeated them in the battle of Chlons, in 451. After this rebuff Attila turned to Italy. But the impending danger was averted. Attila was induced by an embassy, headed by Pope Leo the Great, to give up his plan of marching upon Rome. Within a year he died and with him perished the power of the Huns, who never troubled Europe again. Their threatened invasion of Italy produced one permanent result however; for it was then that fugitives from the cities of northeastern Italy fled to the sandy islets just off the Adriatic shore and founded the town which was to grow into the beautiful and powerful city of Venice.
[Sidenote: The 'fall' of the Empire in the West, 476.]
10. The year 476 has commonly been taken as the date of the "fall" of the Western Empire and of the beginning of the Middle Ages. What happened in that year was this. Since Theodosius the Great, in 395, had provided that his two sons should divide the administration of the Empire between them, most of the emperors of the West had proved weak and indolent rulers. The barbarians wandered hither and thither pretty much at their pleasure, and the German troops in the service of the Empire amused themselves setting up and throwing down puppet emperors. In 476 the German mercenaries in the Roman army demanded that a third part of Italy be given to them. On the refusal of this demand, Odoacer, their leader, banished the last of the western emperors (whose name was, by the irony of fate, Romulus Augustus the Little) to a villa near Naples. Then Odoacer sent the insignia of empire to the eastern emperor with the request that he be permitted to rule Italy as the emperor's delegate, thus putting an end to the line of the western emperors.
[Sidenote: Theodoric conquers Odoacer and establishes the kingdom of the East Goths in Italy.]
It was not, however, given to Odoacer to establish an enduring German kingdom on Italian soil, for he was conquered by the great Theodoric, the king of the East Goths (or Ostrogoths). Theodoric had spent ten years of his early youth in Constantinople and had thus become familiar with Roman life. Since his return to his people he had been alternately a dangerous enemy and an embarrassing friend to the eastern emperor. The East Goths, under his leadership, had harassed and devastated various parts of the Eastern Empire, and had once threatened the capital itself. The emperor had repeatedly conciliated him by conferring upon him various honors and titles and by making large grants of money and land to his people. It must have been a great relief to the government when Theodoric determined to lead his people to Italy against Odoacer. "If I fail," Theodoric said to the emperor, "you will be relieved of an expensive and troublesome friend; if, with the divine permission, I succeed, I shall govern in your name and to your glory, the Roman Senate and that part of the Empire delivered from slavery by my victorious arms."
The struggle between Theodoric and Odoacer lasted for several years, but Odoacer was finally shut up in Ravenna and surrendered, only to be treacherously slain a few days later by Theodoric's own hand (493).
[Sidenote: The East Goths in Italy.]
The attitude of the East Goths toward the people already in possession of the land and toward the Roman culture is significant. Theodoric put the name of the eastern emperor on the coins that he issued and did everything in his power to insure the emperor's approval of the new German kingdom. Nevertheless, although he desired that the emperor should sanction his usurpation, Theodoric had no idea of being really subordinate to Constantinople.
The invaders appropriated one third of the land for themselves, but this was done with discretion and no disorder appears to have resulted. Theodoric maintained the Roman laws and institutions, which he greatly admired. The old offices and titles were retained, and Goth and Roman lived under the same Roman law. Order was restored and learning encouraged. In Ravenna, which Theodoric chose for his capital, beautiful buildings that date from his reign still exist.
[Sidenote: The East Goths were Arian heretics.]
On his death in 526, Theodoric left behind him an admirably organized state, but it had one conspicuous weakness. The Goths, although Christians, were unorthodox according to the standard of the Italian Christians. They had been converted by eastern missionaries, who taught them the Arian heresy earlier prevalent at Constantinople. This doctrine, which derived its name from Arius, a presbyter of Alexandria (d. 336), had been condemned by the Council of Nica. The followers of Arius did not have the same conception of Christ's nature and of the relations of the three members of the Trinity as that sanctioned at Rome. The East Goths were, therefore, not only barbarians,—which might have been forgiven them,—but were guilty, in the eyes of the orthodox Italians, of the unpardonable offense of heresy. Theodoric himself was exceptionally tolerant for his times. His conviction that "we cannot command in matters of religion because no one can be compelled to believe against his will," showed a spirit alien to the traditions of the Roman Empire and the Roman Church, which represented the orthodox belief.
[Sidenote: The German kingdoms of Theodoric's time.]
11. While Theodoric had been establishing his kingdom in Italy with such enlightenment and moderation, what is now France was coming under the control of the most powerful of the barbarian peoples, the Franks, who were to play a more important rle in the formation of modern Europe than any of the other German races. Besides the kingdoms of the East Goths and the Franks, the West Goths had their kingdom in Spain, the Burgundians had established themselves on the Rhone, and the Vandals in Africa. Royal alliances were concluded between the reigning houses of these nations, and for the first time in the history of Europe we see something like a family of nations, living each within its own boundaries and dealing with one another as independent powers. It seemed for a few years as if the process of assimilation between Germans and Romans was going to make rapid progress without involving any considerable period of disorder and retrogression.
[Sidenote: Extinction of Latin literature.]
But no such good fortune was in store for Europe, which was now only at the beginning of the turmoil from which it was to emerge almost completely barbarized. Science, art, and literature could find no foothold in the shifting political sands of the following centuries. Boethius, whom Theodoric put to death (in 524 or 525) for alleged treasonable correspondence with the emperor, was the last Latin writer who can be compared in any way with the classical authors in his style and mastery of the language. He was a scholar as well as a poet, and his treatises on logic, music, etc., were highly esteemed by following generations.
[Sidenote: Cassiodorus and his manuals.]
Theodoric's distinguished Roman counselor, Cassiodorus (d. 575), to whose letters we owe a great part of our knowledge of the period, busied himself in his old age in preparing text-books of the liberal arts and sciences,—grammar, arithmetic, logic, geometry, rhetoric, music, and astronomy. His manuals were intended to give the uninstructed priests a sufficient preparation for the study of the Bible and of the doctrines of the Church. His absurdly inadequate and, to us, silly treatment of these seven important subjects, to which he devotes a few pages each, enables us to estimate the low plane to which learning had fallen in Italy in the sixth century. Yet his books were regarded as standard treatises in these great fields of knowledge all through the Middle Ages. So medival Europe owed these, and other text-books upon which she was dependent for her knowledge, to the period when Latin culture was coming to an end.
[Sidenote: Scarcely any writers in western Europe during the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries.]
A long period of gloom now begins. Between the time of Theodoric and that of Charlemagne three hundred years elapsed, during which scarcely a writer was to be found who could compose, even in the worst of Latin, a chronicle of the events of his day. Everything conspired to discourage education. The great centers of learning—Carthage, Rome, Alexandria, Milan—were partially destroyed by the barbarians or the Arabs. The libraries which had been kept in the temples of the gods were often annihilated, along with the pagan shrines, by Christian enthusiasts, who were not sorry to see the heathen literature disappear with the heathen religion. Shortly after Theodoric's death the eastern emperor withdrew the support which the government had hitherto granted to public teachers and closed the great school at Athens. The only important historian of the sixth century was the half-illiterate Gregory, Bishop of Tours (d. 594), whose whole work is unimpeachable evidence of the sad state of intellectual affairs. He at least heartily appreciated his own ignorance and exclaims, in incorrect Latin, "Woe to our time, for the study of letters has perished from among us."
[Sidenote: Justinian destroys the kingdoms of the Vandals and the East Goths.]
12. The year after Theodoric's death one of the greatest of the emperors of the East, Justinian (527-565), came to the throne at Constantinople. He undertook to regain for the Empire the provinces in Africa and Italy that had been occupied by the Vandals and East Goths. His general, Belisarius, overthrew the Vandal kingdom in northern Africa in 534, but it was a more difficult task to destroy the Gothic rule in Italy. However, in spite of a brave defense, the Goths were so completely defeated in 553 that they agreed to leave Italy with all their movable possessions. What became of the remnants of the race we do not know. They had been too few to maintain their control over the mass of the Italians, who were ready, with a religious zeal which cost them dear, to open their gates to the hostile armies of Justinian.
[Sidenote: The Lombards occupy Italy.]
The destruction of the Gothic kingdom was a disaster for Italy. Immediately after the death of Justinian the country was overrun anew, by the Lombards, the last of the great German peoples to establish themselves within the bounds of the former Empire. They were a savage race, a considerable part of which was still pagan, and the Arian Christians among them appear to have been as hostile to the Roman Church as their unconverted fellows. The newcomers first occupied the region north of the Po, which has ever since been called Lombardy after them, and then extended their conquests southward. Instead of settling themselves with the moderation and wise statesmanship of the East Goths, the Lombards chose to move about the peninsula pillaging and massacring. Such of the inhabitants as could, fled to the islands off the coast. The Lombards were unable, however, to conquer all of Italy. Rome, Ravenna, and southern Italy continued to be held by the Greek empire. As time went on, the Lombards lost their wildness, accepted the orthodox form of Christianity, and gradually assimilated the civilization of the people among whom they lived. Their kingdom lasted over two hundred years, until it was overthrown by Charlemagne.
[Sidenote: The Franks; their importance and their method of conquest.]
13. None of the German peoples of whom we have so far spoken, except the Franks, ever succeeded in establishing a permanent kingdom. Their states were overthrown in turn by some other German nation, by the Eastern Empire, or, in the case of the West-Gothic kingdom in Spain, by the Mohammedans. The Franks, to whom we must now turn, were destined not only to conquer most of the other German tribes but even to extend their boundaries into districts inhabited by the Slavs.
When the Franks are first heard of in history they were settled along the lower Rhine, from Cologne to the North Sea. Their method of getting a foothold in the Empire was essentially different from that which the Goths, Lombards, and Vandals had adopted. Instead of severing their connection with Germany and becoming an island in the sea of the Empire, they conquered by degrees the territory about them. However far they might extend their control, they remained in constant touch with the barbarian reserves behind them. In this way they retained the warlike vigor that was lost by the races who were completely surrounded by the enervating influences of Roman civilization.
In the early part of the fifth century they had occupied the district which constitutes to-day the kingdom of Belgium, as well as the regions east of it. In 486, seven years before Theodoric founded his Italian kingdom, they went forth under their great king, Clovis (a name that later grew into Louis), and defeated the Roman general who opposed them. They extended their control over Gaul as far south as the Loire, which at that time formed the northern boundary of the kingdom of the West Goths. Clovis then enlarged his empire on the east by the conquest of the Alemanni, a German people living in the region of the Black Forest.
[Sidenote: Conversion of Clovis, 496, and its consequences.]
The battle in which the Alemanni were defeated (496) is in one respect important above all the other battles of Clovis. Although still a pagan himself, his wife was an orthodox Christian convert. In the midst of the conflict, as he saw his line giving way, he called upon Jesus Christ and pledged himself to be baptized in His name if He would help the Franks to victory over their enemies. He kept his word and was baptized together with three thousand of his warriors. His conversion had the most momentous consequences for Europe. All the other German peoples within the Empire were Christians, but they were all Arian heretics; and to the orthodox Christians about them they seemed worse than heathen. This religious difference had prevented the Germans and Romans from inter-marrying and had retarded their fusion in other ways. But with the conversion of Clovis, there was at least one barbarian leader with whom the Bishop of Rome could negotiate as with a faithful son of the Church. It is from the orthodox Gregory of Tours that most of our knowledge of Clovis and his successors is derived. In Gregory's famous History of the Franks, the cruel and unscrupulous king appears as God's chosen instrument for the extension of the Catholic faith. Certainly Clovis quickly learned to combine his own interests with those of the Church, and the alliance between the pope and the Frankish kings was destined to have a great influence upon the history of western Europe.
[Sidenote: Conquests of Clovis.]
To the south of Clovis' new acquisitions in Gaul lay the kingdom of the Arian West Goths, to the southeast that of another heretical German people, the Burgundians. Gregory of Tours reports him as saying: "I cannot bear that these Arians should be in possession of a part of Gaul. Let us advance upon them with the aid of God; after we have conquered them let us bring their realms into our power." So zealous was the newly converted king that he speedily extended his power to the Pyrenees, and forced the West Goths to confine themselves to the Spanish portion of their realm. The Burgundians became a tributary nation and soon fell completely under the rule of the Franks. Then Clovis, by a series of murders, brought portions of the Frankish nation itself, which had previously been independent of him, under his scepter.
[Sidenote: Character of Frankish history.]
14. When Clovis died in 511 at Paris, which he had made his residence, his four sons divided his possessions among them. Wars between rival brothers, interspersed with the most horrible murders, fill the annals of the Frankish kingdom for over a hundred years after the death of Clovis. Yet the nation continued to develop in spite of the unscrupulous deeds of its rulers. It had no enemies strong enough to assail it, and a certain unity was preserved in spite of the ever-shifting distribution of territory among the members of the royal house.
[Sidenote: Extent of the Frankish kingdoms in the sixth century.]
The Frankish kings succeeded in extending their power over pretty nearly all the territory that is included to-day in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, as well as over a goodly portion of western Germany. By 555, when Bavaria had become tributary to the Frankish rulers, their dominions extended from the Bay of Biscay to a point east of Salzburg. Considerable districts that the Romans had never succeeded in conquering had been brought into the developing civilization of western Europe.
[Sidenote: Division of the Frankish territory into Neustria, Austrasia, and Burgundy.]
As a result of the divisions of the Frankish lands, fifty years after the death of Clovis three Frankish kingdoms appear on the map. Neustria, the western kingdom, with its center at Paris or Soissons, was inhabited mainly by the older Romanized people among whom the Franks had settled. To the east was Austrasia, with Metz and Aix-la-Chapelle as its chief cities. This region was completely German in its population. In these two there was the prophecy of the future France and Germany. Lastly, there was the old Burgundian realm. Of the Merovingian kings, as the line descended from Clovis was called, the last to rule as well as reign was Dagobert (d. 638), who united the whole Frankish territory once more under his scepter.
[Sidenote: The Frankish nobility.]
A new danger, however, threatened the unity of the Frankish kingdom, namely, the aspirations of the powerful nobles. In the earliest accounts which we have of the Germans there appear to have been certain families who enjoyed a recognized preminence over their companions. In the course of the various conquests there was a chance for the skillful leader to raise himself in the favor of the king. It was only natural that those upon whom the king relied to control distant parts of the realm should become dangerously ambitious and independent.
[Sidenote: The Mayors of the Palace.]
[Sidenote: Foundation of the power of Charlemagne's family, the so-called Carolingians.]
Among the positions held by the nobility none was reputed more honorable than those near the king's person. Of these offices the most influential was that of the Major Domus, or Mayor of the Palace, who was a species of prime minister. After Dagobert's death these mayors practically ruled in the place of the Merovingian monarchs, who became mere "do-nothing kings,"—rois fainants, as the French call them. The Austrasian Mayor of the Palace, Pippin of Heristal, the great-grandfather of Charlemagne, succeeded in getting, in addition to Austrasia, both Neustria and Burgundy under his control. In this way he laid the foundation of his family's renown. Upon his death, in 714, his task of consolidating and defending the vast territories of the Franks devolved upon his more distinguished son, Charles Martel, i.e., the Hammer.
[Sidenote: Fusion of the barbarians and the Roman population.]
15. As one looks back over the German invasions it is natural to ask upon what terms the newcomers lived among the old inhabitants of the Empire, how far they adopted the customs of those among whom they settled, and how far they clung to their old habits? These questions cannot be answered very satisfactorily; so little is known of the confused period of which we have been speaking that it is impossible to follow closely the amalgamation of the two races.
[Sidenote: The number of the barbarians.]
Yet a few things are tolerably clear. In the first place, we must be on our guard against exaggerating the numbers in the various bodies of invaders. The writers of the time indicate that the West Goths, when they were first admitted to the Empire before the battle of Adrianople, amounted to four or five hundred thousand persons, including men, women, and children. This is the largest band reported, and it must have been greatly reduced before the West Goths, after long wanderings and many battles, finally settled in Spain and southern Gaul. The Burgundians, when they appear for the first time on the banks of the Rhine, are reported to have had eighty thousand warriors among them. When Clovis and his army were baptized the chronicler speaks of "over three thousand" soldiers who became Christians upon that occasion. This would seem to indicate that the Frankish king had no larger force at this time.
Undoubtedly these figures are very meager and unreliable. But the readiness with which the Germans appear to have adopted the language and customs of the Romans would tend to prove that the invaders formed but a small minority of the population. Since hundreds of thousands of barbarians had been assimilated during the previous five centuries, the great invasions of the fifth century can hardly have made an abrupt change in the character of the population.
[Sidenote: Contrast between spoken and written Latin.]
The barbarians within the old empire were soon speaking the same conversational Latin which was everywhere used by the Romans about them. This was much simpler than the elaborate and complicated language used in books, which we find so much difficulty in learning nowadays. The speech of the common people was gradually diverging more and more, in the various countries of southern Europe, from the written Latin, and finally grew into French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. But the barbarians did not produce this change, for it had begun before they came and would have gone on without them. They did no more than contribute a few convenient words to the new languages.
The Germans appear to have had no dislike for the Romans nor the Romans for them, except as long as the Germans remained Arian Christians. Where there was no religious barrier the two races intermarried freely from the first. The Frankish kings did not hesitate to appoint Romans to important positions in the government and in the army, just as the Romans had long been in the habit of employing the barbarians. In only one respect were the two races distinguished for a time,—each had its particular law.
[Sidenote: The Roman and the German law.]
The West Goths in the time of Euric were probably the first to write down their ancient laws, using the Latin language. Their example was followed by the Franks, the Burgundians, and later by the Lombards and other peoples. These codes make up the "Laws of the Barbarians," which form our most important source of knowledge of the habits and ideas of the Germans at the time of the invasions. For several centuries following the conquest, the members of the various German tribes appear to have been judged by the laws of the particular people to which they belonged. The older inhabitants of the Empire, on the contrary, continued to have their lawsuits decided according to the Roman law. This survived all through the Middle Ages in southern Europe, where the Germans were few. Elsewhere the Germans' more primitive ideas of law prevailed until the thirteenth or fourteenth century. A good example of these is the picturesque medival ordeal by which the guilt or innocence of a suspected person was determined.
[Sidenote: Medival trials.]
The German laws did not provide for the trial, either in the Roman or the modern sense of the word, of a suspected person. There was no attempt to gather and weigh evidence and base the decision upon it. Such a mode of procedure was far too elaborate for the simple-minded Germans. Instead of a regular trial, one of the parties to the case was designated to prove that his assertions were true by one of the following methods: (1) He might solemnly swear that he was telling the truth and get as many other persons of his own class as the court required, to swear that they believed that he was telling the truth. This was called compurgation. It was believed that the divine vengeance would be visited upon those who swore falsely. (2) On the other hand, the parties to the case, or persons representing them, might meet in combat, on the supposition that Heaven would grant victory to the right. This was the so-called wager of battle. (3) Lastly, one or other of the parties might be required to submit to the ordeal in one of its various forms: He might plunge his arm into hot water, or carry a bit of hot iron for some distance, and if at the end of three days he showed no ill effects, the case was decided in his favor. He might be ordered to walk over hot plowshares, and if he was not burned, it was assumed that God had intervened by a miracle to establish the right. This method of trial is but one example of the rude civilization which displaced the refined and elaborate organization of the Romans.
[Sidenote: The task of the Middle Ages.]
16. The account which has been given of the conditions in the Roman Empire, and of the manner in which the barbarians occupied its western part, makes clear the great problem of the Middle Ages. The Germans, no doubt, varied a good deal in their habits and spirit. The Goths differed from the Lombards, and the Franks from the Vandals; but they all agreed in knowing nothing of the art, literature, and science which had been developed by the Greeks and adopted by the Romans. The invaders were ignorant, simple, vigorous people, with no taste for anything except fighting and bodily comfort. Such was the disorder that their coming produced, that the declining civilization of the Empire was pretty nearly submerged. The libraries, buildings, and works of art were destroyed and there was no one to see that they were restored. So the western world fell back into a condition similar to that in which it had been before the Romans conquered and civilized it.
The loss was, however, temporary. The barbarians did not utterly destroy what they found, but utilized the ruins of the Roman Empire in their gradual construction of a new society. They received suggestions from the Roman methods of agriculture. When they reached a point where they needed them, they used the models offered by Roman roads and buildings. In short, the great heritage of skill and invention which had been slowly accumulated in Egypt, Phoenicia, and Greece, and which formed a part of the culture which the Romans diffused, did not wholly perish.
[Sidenote: Loss caused by the coming of the barbarians regained during Middle Ages.]
It required about a thousand years to educate the new race; but at last Europe, including districts never embraced in the Roman Empire, caught up once more with antiquity. When, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, first Italy, and then the rest of Europe, awoke again to the beauty and truth of the classical literature and began to emulate the ancient art, the process of educating the barbarians may be said to have been completed. Yet the Middle Ages had been by no means a sterile period. They had added their part to the heritage of the West. From the union of two great elements, the ancient civilization, which was completely revived at the opening of the sixteenth century, and the vigor and the political and social ideals of the Germans, a new thing was formed, namely, our modern civilization.
General Reading.—By far the most exhaustive work in English upon the German invasions is HODGKIN, Italy and her Invaders,—very bulky and costly (8 vols., $36.50). The author has, however, given some of the results of his work in his excellent Dynasty of Theodosius (Clarendon Press, $1.50), and his Theodoric the Goth (G.P. Putnam's Sons, $1.50). SERGEANT, The Franks (G.P. Putnam's Sons, $1.50), gives more than is to be found on the subject in either Emerton or Oman.
THE RISE OF THE PAPACY
[Sidenote: The greatness of the Church.]
17. While the Franks were slowly developing the strength which Charlemagne employed to found the most extensive realm that has existed in Europe since the Roman Empire, another government, whose power was far greater, whose organization was far more perfect, and whose vitality was infinitely superior to that of the Frankish empire, namely, the Christian Church, was steadily extending its sway and establishing the foundations of its later supremacy.
We have already seen how marvelously the Christian communities founded by the apostles and their fellow-missionaries multiplied until, by the middle of the third century, writers like Cyprian came to conceive of a "Catholic," or all-embracing, Church. We have seen how Constantine first made Christianity legal, and how his successors worked in the interest of the new religion; how carefully the Theodosian Code safeguarded the Church and the Christian clergy, and how harshly those were treated who ventured to hold another view of Christianity from that sanctioned by the government.
We must now follow this most powerful and permanent of all the institutions of the later Roman Empire into the Middle Ages. We must stop a moment to consider the sources of its power, and then see how the Western, or Latin, portion of Christendom fell apart from the Eastern, or Greek, region and came to form a separate institution under the longest and mightiest line of rulers that the world has ever seen, the Roman bishops. We shall see how a peculiar class of Christians, the monks, developed; how they joined hands with the clergy; how the monks and the clergy met the barbarians, subdued and civilized them, and then ruled them for centuries.
[Sidenote: Sources of the Church's power.]
The tremendous power of the Church in the Middle Ages was due, we may be sure, to the way in which it adapted itself to the ideas and needs of the time; for no institution can flourish unless it meets the wants of those who live under it.
[Sidenote: Contrast between pagan and Christian ideas.]
One great source of the Church's strength lay in the general fear of death and judgment to come, which Christianity had brought with it. The Greeks and Romans of the classical period thought of the next life, when they thought of it at all, as a very uninteresting existence compared with that on this earth. One who committed some signal crime might suffer for it after death with pains similar to those of the hell in which the Christians believed. But the great part of humanity were supposed to lead in the next world a shadowy existence, neither sad nor glad. Religion, even to the devout pagan, was mainly an affair of this life; the gods were to be propitiated with a view to present happiness and success.
Since no satisfaction could be expected in the next life, it was naturally deemed wise to make the most of this one. The possibility of pleasure ends—so the poet Horace urges—when we join the shades below, as we all must do soon. Let us, therefore, take advantage of every harmless pleasure and improve our brief opportunity to enjoy the good things of earth. We should, however, be reasonable and temperate, avoiding all excess, for that endangers happiness. Above all, we should not worry uselessly about the future, which is in the hands of the gods and beyond our control. Such were the convictions of the majority of thoughtful pagans.
[Sidenote: Other-worldliness of medival Christianity.]
Christianity opposed this view of life with an entirely different one. It laid persistent emphasis upon man's existence after death, which it declared infinitely more important than his brief sojourn in the body. Under the influence of the Church this conception of life had gradually supplanted the pagan one in the Roman world, and it was taught to the barbarians. The other-worldliness became so intense that thousands gave up their ordinary occupations and pleasures altogether, and devoted their entire attention to preparation for the next life. They shut themselves in lonely cells; and, not satisfied with giving up most of their natural pleasures, they inflicted bodily suffering upon themselves by hunger, cold, and stripes. They trusted that in this way they might avoid some of the sins into which they were prone to fall, and that, by self-inflicted punishment in this world, they might perchance escape some of that reserved for them in the next. As most of the writers and teachers of the Middle Ages belonged to this class of what may be called professional Christians, i.e., the monks, it was natural that their kind of life should have been regarded, even by those who continued to live in the world, as the ideal one for the earnest Christian.
[Sidenote: The Church the one agent of salvation.]
The barbarians were taught that their fate in the next world depended largely upon the Church. Its ministers never wearied of presenting the momentous alternative which faced every man so soon as this fleeting earthly existence should be over,—the alternative between eternal bliss and perpetual, unspeakable physical torment. Only those who had been duly baptized could hope to reach heaven; but baptism washed away only past sins and did not prevent constant relapse into new ones. These, unless their guilt was removed through the instrumentality of the Church, would surely drag the soul down to perdition.
[Sidenote: Miracles a source of the Church's power.]
The divine power of the Church was, furthermore, established in the eyes of the people by the miraculous works which her saints were constantly performing. They healed the sick and succored those in distress. They struck down with speedy and signal disaster those who opposed the Church or treated her holy rites with contempt. To the reader of to-day the frequency of the miracles recorded in medival writings seems astonishing. The chronicles and biographies are filled with accounts of them, and no one appears to have doubted their common occurrence.
[Sidenote: The Church and the Roman government.]
18. The chief importance of the Church for the student of medival history does not lie, however, in its religious functions, vital as they were, but rather in its remarkable relations to the civil government. At first the Church and the imperial government were on a friendly footing of mutual respect and support. So long as the Roman Empire remained strong and active there was no chance for the clergy to free themselves from the control of the emperor, even if they had been disposed to do so. He made such laws for the Church as he saw fit and the clergy did not complain. The government was, indeed, indispensable to them. It undertook to root out paganism by destroying the heathen shrines and preventing heathen sacrifices, and it harshly punished those who refused to accept the teachings sanctioned by the Church.
[Sidenote: The Church begins to seek independence.]
But as the barbarians came in and the great Empire began to fall apart, there was a growing tendency among the churchmen in the West to resent the interference of rulers whom they no longer respected. They managed gradually to free themselves in large part from the control of the civil government. They then proceeded themselves to assume many of the duties of government, which the weak and disorderly states into which the Roman Empire fell were unable to perform properly. In 502, a church council at Rome declared a decree of Odoacer's null and void, on the ground that no layman had a right to interfere in the affairs of the Church. One of the bishops of Rome (Pope Gelasius I, d. 496) briefly stated the principle upon which the Church rested its claims, as follows: "Two powers govern the world, the priestly and the kingly. The first is indisputably the superior, for the priest is responsible to God for the conduct of even the emperors themselves." Since no one denied that the eternal interests of mankind, which devolved upon the Church, were infinitely more important than those matters of mere worldly expediency which the state regulated, it was natural for the clergy to hold that, in case of conflict, the Church and its officers, rather than the king, should have the last word.
[Sidenote: The Church begins to perform the functions of government.]
It was one thing, however, for the Church to claim the right to regulate its own affairs; it was quite another for it to assume the functions which the Roman government had previously performed and which our governments perform to-day, such as the maintenance of order, the management of public education, the trial of lawsuits, etc. It did not, however, exactly usurp the prerogatives of the civil power, but rather offered itself as a substitute for it when no efficient civil government any longer existed. For there were no states, in the modern sense of the word, in western Europe for many centuries after the final destruction of the Roman Empire. The authority of the various kings was seldom sufficient to keep their realms in order. There were always many powerful landholders scattered throughout the kingdom who did pretty much what they pleased and settled their grudges against their fellows by neighborhood wars. Fighting was the main business as well as the chief amusement of the noble class. The king was unable to maintain peace and protect the oppressed, however anxious he may have been to do so.