FROM THE EARLIEST PERIOD TO THE PRESENT DAY
IL FLOTTE SANS ETRE SUBMERGE
FROM THE EARLIEST PERIOD TO THE PRESENT DAY
GEORGE BARRIE & SON, PUBLISHERS
COPYRIGHT, 1899, BY GEORGE BARRIE & SON
GALLO-ROMAN AND PRE-MEDIAEVAL PERIODS
THE COURT AND THE UPPER CLASSES
THE BOURGEOIS AND THE LOWER CLASSES
If the capital of the French nation, situated on the river Seine, were simply the most beautiful, the wittiest, wickedest, and most artistic of towns, if—as has been so often asserted (and not exclusively by the citizens thereof)—the most commonplace and the most brilliant of human manifestations alike take on new qualities, texture, and interest the moment they become Parisien, then, indeed, would this city be entitled to be considered only with that mild offence which is the proper intellectual attitude before all so-claimed earthly superlatives. But Paris is by no means to be so disposed of. The very peccability of her wit is demonstrated by the extravagant claims which it permits itself. No God-given institution proclaims itself as such,—at least, noisily. It is the shadings to this brilliant picture, the exceeding width and depth and blackness of the sun-spots on this luminary of civilization, which relieve us from any easy toleration and compel us to the liveliest attention. One of her many qualities is that of representing and, too often, of acting for the whole country,—indeed, la centralisation is one of the four great evils (the others being the abuse of alcool, la pornographic, and the stationary birth-rate) which are recognized by its own citizens as menacing the nation. So that, in a general way, for both good and bad, Paris reads France.
Well, the heights and depths which we are called upon to contemplate are not unendurable, but they are certainly in many respects unexcelled. "France," says one of her most eloquent and dignified historians, "has justly been termed the soldier of God;" "Other continents have monkeys," says a learned German philosopher; "Europe has the French." Any community or locality which offers, or is considered by intelligent observers to offer, such a range as this, is certainly worthy of high renown and deep research, and it is not too much to say that Paris justifies her fame. Within her walls the human mind has displayed its loftiest development, and the human passions their most insane excesses; her art and her literature have erected beacon-lights for all the ages to come, and have but too frequently fallen into the depths of more than swinish filth; her science of government has ranged from the Code Napoleon to the statutes of Belial himself; her civilization has attained an elegance of refinement unknown to the Greeks, and her cigars and lucifer-matches are a disgrace to Christendom!
Happily, as in several other human institutions, there is more of good than of bad. The so-called "seamy side" of cities is not like that of flour-bags,—equal in extent and importance to the fair outer surface that meets the eye. Much as has been published of the depravity of Paris, it is not that, but the splendid activity of her material and intellectual civilization, the serious confronting of the heavy problems of humanity, the intelligent accumulation of the treasures of the mind and the hand, legislation, literature, art, science, that impress the intelligent visitor. Moreover, it is the annals of unhappy nations only that are said to be interesting, and it is impossible that a quick human interest should not attach to the contemplation of this capital which has attacked so many problems, maintained so many struggles, and endured such crushing reverses. In the light of her most troubled history the import becomes clear of the galley on her shield, and her motto: "Floats, but sinks not." But few capitals have been more frequently, apparently, on the point of being submerged. Even as these lines are being written, it is agitated by the protracted and cumulating effects of a military and social agitation which, in the language of the President of the Cabinet of Ministers, "is deplorable, which paralyzes all commerce and creates a situation intolerable to all."
Indeed, it may be said that the present moment is the most critical, the most dramatic, in the long history of the city and the nation, and that an entirely new interest will henceforth attach itself to this crowned capital which sees herself in the inevitable future forever uncrowned. Never before has the pitiless march of events, the pitiless accumulation of irrefutable evidence, the testimony of so many observers, at home and abroad, so seemed to demonstrate that all the methods of government had been exhausted, and that the nation had attained her summit of power and was doomed to steady decline. Down to Louis XIV, her hope was thought to lie in the consolidation of the royal authority and the suppression of the feudal power of the nobles; down to 1789, in the tiers etat and the States-General; after the Commune of 1871, in the maintenance of a Republic supported by universal suffrage. The ideals of 1830 and of 1848 have been practically attained; there are, finally, no new and more liberal political expedients to hope for,—and never has France seen herself so distanced by her neighbors. Her contemporary literature groans with the accumulation of these facts—from the ineptitude of her rulers, national and colonial, down to the dependence upon the foreigner for wood for her street pavements and the canned provisions for her army. Behind that "gap in the Vosges" upon which, as one of her statesmen remarks, she cannot forever fix her gaze, she sees her great and hated rival doubling in power. In 1860, Germany had the same population as France; to-day, she has that of France and Spain combined. "Never has such a displacement of power been so quickly produced between two rival peoples. And no one among us seems to regard it, though not one of the problems which torment us is as grave as this one. Our agriculture, our industry, our commerce decline; we seem to be in decadence! How could it be otherwise? There are, in the neighboring hive, beyond the Rhine, sixteen millions of workers who were not there forty years ago,—that is the explanation of the progress of our neighbors as well as of the stagnation of our own activity. All the more that the quality of the French tends to diminish with their quantity; ... we can foresee the day when there will be two Germans against one Frenchman, and this prospect fills us with fear for the future of our country, for we cannot comfort ourselves with illusions, we cannot believe in the perpetual peace, we know that history is a Vie Victis continual."
Therefore, let us hasten to contemplate this great and most admirable Babylon before Cyrus comes.
Paris, Rue Boissonade.
GALLO-ROMAN AND PRE-MEDIAEVAL PERIODS
Lucotocia, says that somewhat inexact geographer, Strabo, "is the city of the Parisii, who dwell along the river Seine, and inhabit an island formed by the river." Ptolemy, who has been thought to have been somewhat better informed concerning the Parisii than with regard to any of the other small tribes of Gaul, calls their capital LUCOTECIA; but both they and their town appear for the first time in history fifty-three years before the birth of Christ, when Caesar, in his Commentaries, relates, himself, that he summoned a general assembly of the Gauls at LUTETIA, the capital of the Parisii. At this date, he was already master of the greater part of the country now called France. More than four hundred years later, Julian, surnamed the Apostate, nephew of Constantine the Great, after having passed more than two years in this city, which he called "his dear LEUCETIA," was proclaimed emperor here by his soldiers, who refused to obey the orders of Constantius and return to the East. It is surmised by the scholars that the imperial author of the Misopogon adopted this form of the name of the town on the Seine through an affectation of deriving it from the Greek, in which language he wrote, and, as is still evident in those of his works which have survived, in a style remarkably pure.
Lutetia, of which the modern French make Lutece, is supposed to have been derived from the Celtic louk-teih, which signified the place of morasses; and the name of the Parisii from the Celtic par, a species of boat, and gwys, in composition ys, man, whence parys, boatmen,—these islanders being supposed to have been skilful navigators. But they are said to have called themselves Loutouchezi,—that is to say, a residence in the midst of the waters. Other etymologists cast doubts upon all these deductions, and the matter is not very important. The early Parisians were one of the smallest of the Gaulish tribes, and preferred the islands to the mainland as a safer place of residence; they were surrounded by the Carnutes, Senones, and other, stronger people whose names have not been perpetuated. Of their ten islands and sand-banks, which were preserved until late in the Middle Ages, there are now only two remaining, the Ile Saint-Louis and Ile de la Cite. The ancient town, like the modern one, lay in the centre of a "tertiary" basin, about sixty-five metres, or two hundred and ten feet, above the level of the sea, broken here and there by low hills. The modern historian, Duruy, quotes Strabo as finding a proof of divine providence in the fortunate configuration of the soil of Gaul; and that writer testifies that the whole country was inhabited, even in the marshes and woods. "The cause of this is, however, rather a dense population than the industry of the inhabitants. For the women there are both very prolific and excellent nurses, while the men devote themselves rather to war than to husbandry."
The antiquity of the inhabitants of Gaul is now pushed back by the learned far beyond the days of Caesar. M. A. Thieullen, in two communications addressed to the Societe d'anthropologie at Paris (January and February, 1898), maintained that the chipped flint arrow-heads found at Chelles and Saint-Acheul, which have been considered as the earliest works of prehistoric man, are, in reality, in common with the polished stone hatchets of the Neolithic age, the products of an industry in a high state of development, the result of successive essays by numberless generations. In this theory he is supported by other scientists, among them the English geologist, Prestwich; and in this insistence upon the artistic quality of the chipped and polished flints and the prodigious number of rudimentary utensils which have preceded and accompanied them is found another argument in favor of the great antiquity of man and his existence in the tertiary period. The soil of Paris has furnished many of these superior flints, and the comparative state of civilization to which the locality early attained is further testified to by the discovery, in the early months of this year, 1898, by an enterprising proprietor on the edge of the forest of Fontainebleau, of the site of a prehistoric pottery on his grounds. This locality, opposite the village of Ecuelle, was already noted for the menhir, or prehistoric upright stone, standing on the right bank of the canal. The ancient potteries seem to have occupied a space about five hundred metres in length and two hundred in width; at the depth of sixty-five or seventy centimetres below the surface there is found "a black sand, burned, beaten down, trodden, which gives forth a resonant sound when attacked by the pick-axe; this arises from the fact that it has been, through a long series of centuries, tormented by the incessant passage of men and the innumerable fires of the furnaces." From the specimens of pottery extracted from this sand, it is concluded that this manufactory had been maintained from the Neolithic age down to the Gallo-Roman period. In the little village of La Mouthe, in the department of the Dordogne, farther south, have been discovered within the last few years, in a cavern, very curious and not unskilful outline drawings on the rock, sometimes touched up with color, of now extinct animals,—the extreme age of these works of art being demonstrated by the fact that they are in many cases partially covered with stalactites. The learned scientists who have uncovered and photographed these incised drawings conclude, from their appearance and from the fragments of animals' bones found in the cavern, that they are the work of men of the Neolithic age and the Palaeolithic, which preceded it. In short, there is every reason to believe, on the strength of all the testimony which modern science has wrested from the unwilling records of the past, that the earliest inhabitants of the islands of the Seine were contemporary with the mammoth, the cave-bear, the auroch, and the rhinoceros with cleft nostrils.
It is not to be supposed, however, that these very ancient texts are read without the necessary stumbling over obscure passages and much upsetting of cherished historical truth. The finest presentations of ancient records that we find in grave historians are now set aside by learned archaeologists in communications to the Academie des Sciences a Paris or the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres. Even the original number of islands in the Seine and Caesar's statements concerning the Gauls and their manners and customs are now disputed. When it comes to the origin of things and of peoples, the erudition is profound. M. G. de Mortillet proposes for the epoch quaternaire or pleistocene four successive divisions,—in their order of antiquity, the Chelleen, the Mousterien, the Solutreen, and the Magdalenien; M. Perrier du Carne thinks that the traces of the Solutre and of the Madeleine show them to have been derived from two races long contemporary on the same soil, of which the former were autochthonous and the latter, immigrants, who came in with the reindeer and followed him when he retreated northward. M. Piette objects to the word Magdalenien, and proposes to replace it by glyptique, for, during this period, man learned to carve bones with flint instruments; after the Solutre he places the epoch Eburneenne, and after that, the Tarandienne, characterized by instruments in reindeer's horns. After the quaternary period, Professor Alexandre Bertrand, of the Ecole du Louvre, places the Megalithiques, whom he thinks belonged to the great ethnological family of the Touranians which preceded the Aryans in Europe, and who erected the great stone monuments, dolmens, menhirs, cromlechs, etc., formerly called druidical, found in various parts of Europe. Several of these monuments megalithiques have been discovered in Paris and its environs,—a street of the Faubourg du Temple owes its name of Pierre-Levee (raised stone) to the fact that at its opening, in 1782, an enormous ancient rock was found artificially supported on two others, the funerary tumulus, or mound, which formerly covered it having disappeared.
As it is impossible to attribute any longer these prehistoric monuments to the "Celts," or to "their priests, the Druids," so do others of our historical illusions vanish. M. Duruy, in his learned Histoire de France, states that at the dawn of history the country known as Gaul was "divided between three or four hundred tribes (peuplades) belonging to the three great families,—the Celts, the Iberians, and the Belgians." M. Guizot says that "in the south were Iberians or Aquitanians, Phoenicians and Greeks; in the north and northwest, Kymrians or Belgians; everywhere else, Gauls or Celts, the most numerous settlers, who had the honor of giving their name to the country." M. Salomon Reinach, in his detailed description of the monuments in the Museum of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, under the general title of Antiquites nationales, declines to recognize the race celtique; in accord with the science of anthropology he distinguishes various Gaulish types and is aware that they nowhere present themselves in a pure state. Professor Bertrand "superposes" upon his Megalithiques, whose distinguishing trait in Europe is their use of polished stone, another race, numerically inferior and much less ancient; these are the "tribus celtiques or celtisees of the Aryan race." When they arrived in Gaul, they were already familiar with the use of metals, especially bronze, beginning to be acquainted with iron; they were pastoral and agricultural, and burned their dead. About the sixth century B.C. appeared a third group, the tribus galatiques, Helvetians, Kymrians, Belgians; they were wandering bands of warriors, who used iron implements only and buried their dead. "From the superposition, rather than from the fusion, of these divers elements has resulted that which is called la nation gauloise or celtique."
Naturally, the religions of these varied nations were as diversified as their origins. The Druids, according to Professor Bertrand, so far from forming the priesthood of a practically homogeneous race, can be said to have had no influence upon the religion of the people, who were alien to them and who remained faithful to their own worship of the spirits or powers in nature and to their superstitious practices. "Druidism was, then, neither a dogma, nor a religion, nor a particular theogony, but a social institution with an organization analogous to that of the great abbeys of Ireland in the fifth and sixth centuries, or to the Lamaism of Thibet. The Druids lived in communism, like the Lamas." Moreover, M. Bertrand refuses the Druids all their fine old qualities,—human sacrifices; worship of stones; solstitial ceremonies, such as the Yule-log and fires on the eve of Saint John; the herbs of Saint John; the worship of fountains; the worship of trees, and medical prescriptions. Even more, what Guizot calls their "noblest characteristic, a general and strong, but vague and incoherent, belief in the immortality of the soul," was less a particular doctrine of their own than a sentiment innate in the race; "they had only to develop ideas the germ of which had not been imported by them." Nevertheless, so well organized was their communal order that they were, before the Roman epoch, the only central, definite power capable of consecutiveness in its conceptions and of unity in its views, and their influence over a gross and ignorant people was proportionally great.
To the chamanisme, or belief in the spirits that pervade nature, and in the power of man over them by magic arts, of the original Touranians, the Celtic tribes brought the worship of natural forces,—the sun, fire, torrents, tempests, mountains, etc.; but neither they nor the Druids had any human figures or symbols in their pantheon. The invasions galatiques or kimrobelge, on the contrary, brought in from the Orient a cult already strongly anthropomorphous, and with these symbols, traditions, and divinities those of the Greeks and Romans became mingled to a greater or lesser degree that it is impossible to determine, because, as it appears, all that we really know of the Gaulish religion before the Roman conquest is reduced to a few lines in Polybius, in which can be found the name of Perkunas, the Perkun of the Slavs. Caesar identifies the gods of the Gauls with the Roman ones, Mercury, Apollo, Mars, Jupiter, and Minerva; and M. Andre Lefevre, in the Revue mensuelle de l'Ecole d'anthropologie, asks, without being able to answer: "How is it possible that such men as Caesar and Tacitus were able to confound with Mercury the supreme gods of the Gauls and the Germans; but, still more, how is it that the Gaul should have adopted with enthusiasm the Latin name and forgotten the Gaulish name of his supreme god?" M. Reinach is considered to have proved beyond a doubt that the god with the mallet, the Dispater of the Gallo-Roman period, was a sort of copy, in Gaulish attire, of the Egyptian Serapis; and the inscriptions of the imperial epoch testify to the diffusion of the worship of the divinities of Alexandria from Arles and Nimes, in the extreme south, to Besancon, almost on the borders of Switzerland, and Soissons, northeast of Paris. Nevertheless, those archaeologists who have thought they found traces of the art of Egypt and Babylon in that of the original cave-dwellers are now considered to have been deceiving themselves; and M. Reinach has modified the opinions he held a few years ago on the early religious art of Gaul. "In short, what we know of Gaulish mythology amounts to nothing, or practically nothing."
Various rude images and fragments of altars found under the modern pavements of Paris at different dates and localities—among others, under the choir of Notre-Dame in 1710—have revealed the names, if not the characters, of some of the ancient divinities of the soil, Esus, Jovis, Volcanus, Tarvos trigaramos, Cernunnos.
But if the scientists grope doubtingly in these twilights of history, the romancers relate boldly. One of them, M. Henri Lavedan, has been calling up the Parisienne of the Lacustrine age, "gran' maman archi-centennaire" of her of the present day. This is how she was. "Large, thick, and short, with a vigorous figure, shaking out coarse and matted hair, the feet bare, the arms bare, the breast half bare and unrestrained under her species of primitive corset. The body is that of a handsome and robust decent human animal, a tanned skin, somewhat hairy. The feet are large and powerful, like the hands, with cutting nails, square and hard. The visage, high in color, with features that are simple and elementary, is lit up by eyes grey or blue, eyes limpid and tranquil, which regard without vivacity, without appearing and disappearing lights, without surprise, the eyes of an animal under the yoke and resigned to it, eyes only too well acquainted with the eternal landscape which they have been reflecting ever since they were first opened. The step is slow, sure, heavy, and majestic. Under her petticoat of sombre color may be divined two great legs, the legs, almost, of a man, two legs of labor and of endurance. She sings naturally, this woman, when she is alone, vague songs, sort of fugues of savages, very simple, which seem to have neither beginning nor end, but in the company of others she is almost taciturn, replying by gestures, by signs, accomplishing her task with a passive regularity. She scarcely knows the lighter shades of sentiments and expressions. She laughs or she weeps. No smiling. When she laughs, it is with a large display of the solid white teeth of a carnivorous animal; when she weeps, it is with the deep sobs of a beaten child. She is strong and patient like the ox, she runs like the horse, she resists cold, heat, and fatigue; her sleep is profound and without dreams. She is more mother than wife, in the animal sense of the word; she is capable of courage, of rude goodness and of devotion, but all of these naturally and by instinct. Her life may be hard and long, she may retain until a very advanced age the plenitude of her vigor, and die splitting wood or turning the mill.
"Should the wife cease to please her husband, he sells her again; should she commit a fault, he strips her (the garments will serve for the new spouse); then he takes her by the hair and smothers her in the marsh. Nevertheless, however miserable may be her condition of a domestic animal, this creature has passions. Tacitus informs us that adultery was not unknown to the purchased wife. The male children belonged to the father, and always remained with him; as to the aged, the old relatives, useless and cumbering, they were put 'in a place apart,' a sort of hollow in the neighborhood of the hole for the hogs or the enclosure for the cattle, and there was thrown to them the remnants of the meals. The family sentiment, the voice of kindred blood, did not, as yet, make itself heard very distinctly."
This information may be supplemented by various extracts from the ancient historians, who give us the usual picture of early man in the barbarous stage, bellicose, blood-thirsty, brutal, having the one virtue of courage. Caesar says that when a man of importance died, his wives were tortured and put to death by fire if suspected of being instrumental in his taking off; but a short time before his conquests it was the custom to burn with the defunct his slaves and his favorite clients. It was also said that the women were not constrained in their choice of husbands, and that the latter were obliged to furnish an equivalent for the dowry brought by the wife. Human sacrifices were offered on certain great occasions, and it was thought possible that one of the upper stones of the great sepulchre discovered at Meudon in 1845, indicated one of the sites dedicated to these offerings.
Of the many attempts that have been made to restore the primitive man in his environments, one of the most learned and interesting is that shown by M. Cormon, the painter, in his series of large decorations for the plafond and walls of some ethnological museum, exhibited in the Salon of 1898. But an artist is an impossible archaeologist; the more of an artist he is, the more will he be unwilling to represent the merely bestial, as the scientist finds it; and though the original inhabitant of the valley of the Seine and other favored spots may have circulated in some such early landscape, and have garbed himself and tattooed himself somewhat as the painter here paints him, it is probable that there was far less of the picturesque and presentable about him, of grace of attitude and whiteness of skin in his women-folk, than in any artist's presentation on a self-respecting canvas.
The habitations of the early Parisian were equally unlike those familiar to the Cook's tourist. On the pedestal of an antique statue of Melpomene of heroic size in the Louvre is a relief representing the head of a supposed Gaul defending his house against a Roman soldier, and this sculpture, confirmed by others on the column of Antoninus at Rome of those of the German barbarians, gives this dwelling as a species of circular, upright hut, covered with a conical-shaped roof constructed of branches and reeds, or thatch, or perhaps of a half-spherical piece of wood.
In the soil of the tertiary, or quaternary, basin in which Paris lies are found traces of marine plants, oyster-shells, skeletons of fish, etc., which indicate that it has risen from the bottom of the sea. As every one knows, the Seine, flowing in a general direction from east to west, curves toward the north to traverse the heart of the city, the former Palais de l'Industrie, but just demolished, having occupied nearly the centre of the upward curve of this bow. On the south, the river receives the waters of the Bievre, a feeble stream which flows through a narrow valley, and, farther eastward, those of the river Marne. Under the Roman domination and that of the first Merovingian kings, that part of the city lying immediately south of the river seems to have become the most populous and important almost as soon as the narrow limits of the original islands became too confining. The pride of the Faubourg Saint-Germain may date itself back for some fifteen centuries. A central, principal street traversed the city from south to north, entering it in the general direction of the Rue Saint-Jacques, passing on the east side of the imperial palace whose ruins may still be seen in the Musee des Thermes, at the corner of the Boulevard Saint-Germain and Boulevard Saint-Michel. Under the Rue Saint-Jacques remains of the ancient pavement have been found at a great depth, and a fragment of it is preserved in the Musee de Cluny. The Roman street crossed the small arm of the Seine on a wooden bridge, near where is now the Petit-Pont, traversed the Ile de la Cite, at the western end of what is to-day the Place du Parvis-Notre-Dame, and crossed the larger branch of the river near the site of the present Pont Notre-Dame. On the northern shore, it followed for some distance nearly the course of the present Rue Saint-Denis, and then forked,—one branch continuing in a general northerly direction toward Senlis, and the other turning off to the northwest, in the direction of the Bourse, toward Clichy, Saint-Ouen, Saint-Denis, and, finally, Rouen by the valley of the Montmorency.
Of the stately buildings erected by the Roman officers sent to govern the city on the Seine and the province of which it was the capital, the only remains now above ground are those preserved in the Musee des Thermes, in somewhat curious juxtaposition with the late fifteenth-century Hotel de Cluny. These ruins represent the great Roman baths of the palace, the frigidarium, the piscine, the tepidarium, and, somewhat deeper, the hypocaustum, or furnace for heating. By their size and importance, these ancient walls testify to the dignity of the imperial palace which rose on this site, and, surrounded by its gardens, extended along the southern bank of the Seine. Of the date of the erection of this Palatium Thermarum seu Thermae Parisiaci nothing definite is known; it is generally ascribed to Constantius, surnamed Chlorus, "the pale," father of Constantine the Great, who died in 306 A.D. It is considered certain that it was occupied by Julian, and by Valentinian I, and Valens; after the expulsion of the Romans by the Franks, it served as a residence for the kings of the first and second race, and was still an important edifice in 1180 when Philippe-Auguste presented it to his chamberlain, Henri. About 1340 it passed into the possession of the Abbe of Cluny, Pierre de Chaslus.
These very antique walls are preserved by the national authorities in a manner that might be considered as more satisfactory to the lovers of the picturesque than to the archaeologists. They are exposed to all the disintegrating influences of the sun and rain, much blackened by the Parisian climate, which darkens everything exposed to it, and largely overgrown with creeping vines. They are constructed of squared stones interspersed with layers of brick, with rectangular and arched niches, filled-up arches at the base of which may be seen still the remnants of the prows of ships, and in the niches are still the remains of the earthenware pipes that conveyed the water to the baths. The student of architecture is interested to observe here that the Roman bricks were much longer than ours, and only about an inch and a half thick. Their original, cheerful red still shows occasionally through the Parisian blackness. He will, however, probably be somewhat disturbed by the fine indifference of the authorities to styles and chronologies. In the place of the missing wall of the piscine is set the arched porch of the cloister of the Benedictines of Argenteuil; inside the enclosures are tumulary stones, with inscriptions in Hebrew, found on the site of the publishing house of Hachette. In the pleasant green garden in front of these ruins, and in which the bare-legged Parisian children play at soldiers or at digging gravel in the paths, are more incongruous mediaeval bits of architecture and sculpture,—placid Madonnas and Annunciations, much defaced by time; gargoyles from the church of Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois, in what may be called the size of life, agonizing and tormented by queer little beasts like weasels under their throats or bellies, and, guarding the gateway at the angle of the boulevards, three great, deformed figures of the animals of the Evangelists, the Lion, the Eagle, and the Ox, from the tower of Saint-Jacques-la-Boucherie, where they have been replaced by copies.
For a number of centuries these ruins were forgotten, and were even concealed until 1810 under hanging-gardens constructed above them. In 1819 it was proposed to establish in the Thermes a museum for the Gaulish and Roman antiquities discovered in the soil of Paris; but this project was not carried out until 1836, when, through the action of the Prefect of the Seine and the Conseil Municipal, the remains of the Roman palace became the property of the city. Seven years later, the State having acquired the Hotel de Cluny and the collection Sommerard, the city offered the Palais des Thermes to the national government, and the two museums were united in one national one. The project of M. E. du Sommerard, of clearing away all the surrounding modern buildings, opening the new streets and planting the garden, was finally put in the way of being realized in 1856.
The site of this palace, the ruins of which are among the most important in France, was on the lower slopes of Mount Lucotitius, afterward the mount of Sainte-Genevieve, overlooking both the city and the Roman road to Genabum (Orleans). Its dependent buildings and enclosures seem to have extended as far south as the Rue Soufflot, in front of the Pantheon, ruins of foundation-walls having been located at various periods in this quarter. Its magnificent baths were probably preserved during the earlier Christian centuries, when the civilization of the Romans had not entirely disappeared, until the siege of Paris by the Normans in the ninth century. On this (southern) side of the river have also been discovered the ruins of an amphitheatre, traces of a quarter or barracks for soldiers, another establishment of baths, the aqueduct of Arcueil, a great cemetery on the southern slopes of Mount Lucotitius, secondary roads, and a port on the smaller arm of the Seine. In the Luxembourg garden have been unearthed at various periods numerous fragments of painted walls; seven hundred large Roman medals in bronze and two hundred in silver, all enclosed in a species of chest of tiles, and covered with a silver plate, and supposed to have been the treasury of a rich Gallo-Roman country-house; a statuette of Mercury; a bust of Cybele; pits to preserve grain, etc.
Another of these important palaces or suburban villas was seated on the northern slopes of the Butte Montmartre, which rises some hundred metres above the level of the Seine, on the other side of the river,—a site which gave it an admirable extended view over the city and the surrounding plains. The most important ruins which have been discovered north of the river are the remnants of the aqueduct to convey water from Passy, large basins on the site of the Palais-Royal, various highways branching off to the north and east and extensive cemeteries near these roads, and numerous Roman medals and coins in various localities,—sufficient to demonstrate the existence of an extensive and important population. Montmartre is supposed to have derived its name from having been the site of a temple of Mars (Mons Martis); or from having been the scene of the martyrdom of Saint Denis, the first bishop of Paris, and his companions, A.D. 270 (Mons Martyrum).
Buried under the modern pavement of the Ile de la Cite, the Gaulish Oppidum, are many vestiges of the Roman occupation. In 1847 numerous remains of the construction of houses during this period and of what was considered to be a church dedicated to the Virgin were discovered under the open place in front of Notre-Dame; of these, careful drawings were made, engraved, and published in the Statistique monumentale de Paris and the structures then covered up again; in the following year, excavations made in the course of enlarging the Palais de Justice brought to light in the court of the Sainte-Chapelle and under the houses to the south of it remains of walls of the ancient Roman palace. The old historians of Paris, indeed, relying upon the testimony of Ammianus Marcellinus, state that one of the two Roman palaces was situated in the western end of the island which formed the ancient Lutetia. In 1844 the laying out of a new street between the Palais de Justice and the Hotel-Dieu revealed two portions of edifices the use of which was unknown, but which, by the thickness of their walls and the nature of their construction, were supposed to have formed some part of the public structures. It has been considered that these various vestiges of important buildings situated in the centre of Lutetia indicate that they surrounded an open market-place or commercial exchange.
But the discovery of one of the most important and interesting vestiges of the Gallo-Roman city was reserved for the latter part of the year 1869, when, in laying out the Rue Monge, on the eastern slopes of Mont Sainte-Genevieve, there was revealed the ancient amphitheatre, with which no Roman city of importance could dispense. Although these important vestiges lay only some twelve metres below the surface, and though at least two passages in mediaeval chronicles were known which alluded to the locality, this contribution to the history of the city was delayed to this late date. Alexandre Neckham, a professor in Paris, writing in 1180, mentions, in the course of four verses, the vast ruins of a Roman amphitheatre, dedicated to Venus, which was situated near the Abbey of Saint-Victor. Adrien de Valois cites a cartulary, or registry of a monastery, dated in 1310, in which mention is made of three sections of vineyards situated in the district known as les Areinnes. A date for the construction of this amphitheatre was conjectured by M. Adrien de Longperier, from the bringing together of three of the broken stones of the edifice—selected from the sixteen bearing inscriptions now in the Musee Carnavelet and from twelve others bearing similar inscriptions and evidently from the same source, but which were found in 1847 in the Parvis-Notre-Dame, having been taken in later days to construct the wall of fortification of the city. By placing three of these fragments in order, M. de Longperier was enabled to decipher the names of two of the Gaulish emperors who lived in the second half of the third century of our era, from which he concluded that it was a portion of the imperial inscription, and that the construction of the amphitheatre accordingly dated from this period. The pride of the Parisians, however, took offence at this interpretation, and it was considered as highly improbable that the Romans "should have delayed for more than two centuries and a half to construct, for the use of the population of a city as important as Lutece had become, a monument similar to those the ruins of which have been enumerated in more than fifty Gallo-Roman cities,—a figure which shows how much the diversions of the amphitheatre and the theatre were relished by the Gauls." M. Gourdon de Genouillac, in his history of Paris, decides that the structure dates from the second century.
It may be observed that, in the third century, Roman Gaul became a practically independent State,—from A.D. 258 to 273, from Posthumus to Tetricus, its connections with Italy ceased, and it maintained its own emperors and its own legions. This was in sympathy with the rising spirit of nationalities, awakened throughout the empire by Septimus Severus, but in this ephemeral empire of the Gauls the old Celtic influence had but little part. "If there took place," said M. Camille Jullian before the Academie des Inscriptions in 1896, "as we would willingly believe, a Celtic renaissance at the opening of the third century, it was entirely superficial, and doubtless slightly factitious; it resembled that reaction in the life, the language, the traditions of the provinces which the French Romanticism brought about in 1815. Like that, it in no way changed the ideas of the nation, it had no influence upon the political and social destinies of Gaul." With regard to the fondness of the ancient Gauls for histrionic and spectacular performances, we may quote M. Reinach again: "The qualities and the defects of the present inhabitants of France may all be found again among the Gaulish contemporaries of Cato and Caesar. The warlike humor, the facility of elocution, the curiosity—often turbulent, have remained, throughout the centuries, the portion, more or less enviable, of the inhabitants of Gaul."
An important publication in folio by Firmin-Didot, Paris a travers les Ages, gives the following description of the amphitheatre of Lutetia. "But few constructions are visible around the arena, elliptic in shape and measuring fifty-four metres on its long axis and forty-seven on the short one. This was the space reserved for the combats of animals, for the hunts and other spectacles. A podium, or enclosing wall, surrounded this arena in its entire circuit, and the thickness of this wall was such that it resisted the thrust of the sides of the Mount Lucotitius, on the eastern slopes of which the edifice was constructed. The places arranged for the spectators of the games, around the arena, were evidently placed, on the west, on the slope of Mount Lucotitius, where have been found walls converging toward the centre of the structure to support the tiers of seats running in the contrary direction. The benches may have been supported by constructions which have now disappeared; the various fragments of architecture discovered in the excavations must have formed part of the decoration of the edifice, as well as the stones that were employed in the military wall of fortification of Lutetia during the later period of decline."
The discovery of these ruins caused much excitement among the savants of Paris at the time. The Societe de Numismatique visited the excavations in a body, several archaeological and antiquarian associations united in drawing up a paper, which was presented to the Emperor, advocating the preservation of this "antique theatre of the popular festivals of the Gauls, the arena in which had perished for liberty of conscience the ancestors of the French nation, the field in which sleep the martyrs of Lutece." A petition was likewise addressed to the Chamber of Deputies; Napoleon III visited the locality in person; but the Municipal Council hesitated before the expenditure of 300,000 francs for this purpose, and the ground was actually purchased by the Compagnie Generale des Omnibus.
This interesting excavation, but little known even to the Parisians, has now been transformed into a public garden, in the quarter between the Pantheon and the Jardin des Plantes, and is well worth visiting. The ancient Mont Lucotitius still heaves itself under the modern Parisian pavement, and the grades frequently become so steep that they have to be abandoned, and terraces and retaining-walls substituted. Although much less than a half of the oval of the original arena has been uncovered, the explorations have reduced the houses on the Rue Monge to but little more than tall facades. From under their rear walls emerge the amphitheatre and some of the curving rows of seats in stone, the latter much restored. In the walls of the arena are two rectangular, barred entrances, and one lower, arched one, from which we may imagine the gladiators or the wild beasts emerging. The floor of the arena is left in a roughly gravelled condition; at present, nothing more formidable is to be encountered there than three very little French boys making mud-pies in the puddle formed by last night's rain. A fourth, still smaller, is at some distance, absorbed in some dry engineering of his own at the foot of the old wall. Seated in the steep little green park which rises above the terraced seats, crowned with trees and shrubberies, and vocal with a prodigious twittering of birds, are three or four idle, bare-headed young women in "shirt-waists," one with a lover, and an old gentleman with a red ribbon reading his morning newspaper. The traveller can place himself on one of the benches in this pleasant little greenery, look down on the infantile engineers below, and make appropriate reflections.
A still more important architectural feature of the ancient city was the great aqueduct which supplied the baths of the palace on the river, its fountains and those of the populous quarter around it. The waters of three or four small streams to the south of the capital were united and conveyed in a channel, lined with cement, 19,100 metres in length, which traversed the slopes of the hills on the eastern side of the Bievre, and remains of which have been found at various points. To cross the valley and the stream, an aqueduct was constructed on arches at the locality which took the name of Arcueil, and where some of the masonry is still preserved in modern construction, "this aqueduct being some four hundred metres long and fifty (?) high." It is computed that a supply of twenty-four cubic metres of water was furnished every twenty-four hours. Remains of other and smaller aqueducts have been discovered at various points in the city. At Passy, surrounding the present Trocadero, there were springs of mineral waters, which were conveyed to the city by terra-cotta pipes, passing along the banks of the Seine. In 1781, in the gardens of the Palais-Royal, were discovered the remains of great basins which are supposed to have been the piscines of the hygienic baths. Remains of Roman aqueducts have been found at various other localities in France, at Nimes, at Lyons, at Metz, etc., and that over the Gard is still standing in part.
Among the bridges constructed by the Gauls, Caesar mentions that of Melun on the Seine; one on the Allier, near Vichy; that of Genabum (Orleans), and that of Lutetia, over the larger arm of the Seine, on the site of the present Pont Notre-Dame. Of that over the Allier and of the Parisian one, some of the ancient piles have been found in the bed of the rivers.
Remains of the ancient wall of fortification of the capital have also been brought to light, at various localities and at different dates. The excavations in the Parvis-Notre-Dame in 1847 discovered a section of the Roman wall twenty-six metres in length, as well as the substructure of the porch and the front portion of the nave of the original basilica, constructed by Childebert and dedicated to the Virgin. These latter foundations, some thirty-two metres in front of the present cathedral, demonstrate by their position, and by the probable width of the primitive edifice in proportion to its length, that they were constructed to the west and inside of the enclosing wall of the city, a portion of which had been found under the choir of the cathedral. The basilica constructed by the son of Clovis probably rose on the site of the altars consecrated to the Roman or Gaulish gods, Jupiter, Vulcan, Esus, and others, and which, before the construction of the city wall, were visible from all sides. The enclosing wall, on the contrary, fenced in the basilica, since it was necessary to protect this part of the city, as well as all others. The somewhat unimposing aspect of Notre-Dame, which was founded in 1163, may be ascribed in part to the raising of the level of all the surrounding soil, for, as the histories tell us, so late as 1748, it was reached only by ascending a flight of thirteen steps, whereas now it is on the ordinary street-level.
This wall of defence was not commenced till about 406, when the barbarians began to invade Gaul, and was apparently constructed in great haste, if we may judge by the manner in which materials were borrowed from surrounding buildings of all kinds. It is described as being something over three and a half metres in thickness at its base, which was constructed in rough stone, frequently of small size, and sloping to a height of two metres. On this was erected a wall of dressed stones, each successive layer set back, like a step, so that at the top it was only some two metres in width. It might be thought that this manner of building offered considerable facilities to an escalading enemy.
On the largest stone of those discovered in 1711 under the choir of Notre-Dame was deciphered an inscription which recorded the erection of this altar to Jupiter, "very great, very beneficent," in the reign of Tiberius Caesar, by the corporation of nautae, or mariners, apparently the most powerful in the city, and the prows of the ships at the foot of the arches in the ancient palace of Thermes are supposed to have been connected with the same guild, though this architectural ornament is by no means uncommon in ancient art. It is from these Nautae Parisiaci that the modern city derives its arms,—a vessel with distended sails. (If any doubting tourist inquire concerning the maritime commerce of Paris, he will be proudly referred to the barges which may be seen at all the quais, and, even more, to the little steamers from London which contrive to get under the bridges.) In some of the modern records this ancient corporation is given great importance—with many sans doutes and il paraits—in the history of the city, both before and during the sway of the Romans. Caesar found it "fully organized," though it was founded on the Roman corporation of the Nautae Tyberis, navigators of the Tiber, composed of senators, magistrates, and knights, which transported grain and other merchandise from the port of Ostia to the capital; and it was the original of the later maison de la marchandise de l'eau, de l'hotel de Ville et du conseil municipal of Paris. The activity of the Lutetian shippers and navigators covered the territory bathed by the Seine, the Marne, and the Oise, all of them quite navigable. The ruins of the Gallo-Roman buildings discovered in the Cite in 1844, at the opening of the Rue de Constantine, were the remains of a market or forum for the sale of provisions; and the corporation had, near the port, an office or bureau for the regulation of this river commerce. Opposite the port, on the northern side of the Seine, they controlled also another point of landing, at the Greve, where, later, was established the prevote de l'eau, which developed into the Parisian municipality. The port on the Cite, on the larger arm of the Seine, received in the Middle Ages the name of Saint Landri, this bishop having had an oratory, and perhaps his residence, in the neighborhood. Under the Later Empire, in the reign of Posthumus, the northern suburb having increased in size and importance, a market was placed at the Champeaux, on the site of the present Halles Centrales, and the port of the Greve became, as it has remained ever since, a point of landing for merchandise coming from the upper Seine. The port on the southern side of the river, near the great road from Genabum, was established on the site of the mediaeval Quai de la Tournelle, the great tower which replaced that of the southern wall of fortification of the city built by Philippe-Auguste. This quai still serves at the present day as a landing-place for the barges.
In the reigns of Louis the Fat and Louis VII, the successors of the Nautae Parisiaci were known as mercatores aquae parisiaci, and they were the origin of the municipal body charged with the policing of the river navigation and commerce. Later in the Middle Ages, this small species of Hanseatic League had a commercial station at Marsons-sur-Seine, and its maritime jurisdiction extended as far as the city of Mantes, situated on the western limits of the territory of the Parisii. The sources of the Seine, near the farm of the Vergerots in the commune of Saint-Germain-la-Feuille, were held in great veneration in Gallo-Roman times, and a temple, the remains of which have been found, was erected in their honor. In 1867 the Municipal Council of Paris set up a monument "to the sources of the river which has given its name to the department of the Seine, and to which Paris owes its ancient prosperity."
The overrunning of Gaul by the barbarians, the latest historians tell us, did not present the imposing spectacle of a great invasion in which armed hosts of valiant and robust warriors trod down the effeminate and corrupted civilization of the Romans, pillaged and ravaged the seats of refinement and luxury in city and country, slew and carried into captivity without respect for age or sex.
Long before the invasions of the fifth century the Germans had been established in the empire, both as colonists and as soldiers. The legions composed of Germans are said to have been even more amenable to discipline than the Roman ones. The first who established themselves in Gaul were the Visigoths and the Burgundians; the former, flying before the Huns, appeared as suppliants on the frontiers of the empire in the closing years of the fourth century. Ataulf (Ataulphus), the successor of the imperial puppet Attalus, set up by the conquering Alaric, came into Gaul early in the fifth century, became the ally of the Emperor Honorius, married his sister Placida, and marched to the conquest of Spain. The Visigoths, being thus installed in Gaul, admitted the Burgondes (Burgundii) in a neighborly manner; we are even told that they considered themselves as honored by the friendship of the Romans, and pretended that they had a common origin. Their kings proclaimed themselves lieutenants of the emperors, and fed their vanity by the Roman titles with which they invested themselves. The historian Orosius says the Burgundii were a quiet people, with gentle manners, respecting the civil authorities, and living in friendly relations with the Gauls. Both Visigoths and Burgundii promptly abandoned their national religions and traditions and adopted Christianity, but they followed the Aryan sect,—"unfortunately," says Duruy. Some modern French historians, on the contrary, attribute the greatness of France to this circumstance. The Gallo-Romans were orthodox.
When the Huns, driving the Germans before them or passing over their bodies, appeared on the frontiers of Gaul in the year 451, they were met by an army commanded by a Roman, Aetius, but composed of Romans, Burgundii, Visigoths, Franks, and Saxons, which defeated them at the famous battle of the champs catalauniques, over the locality of which the historians are still disputing. When the Franks appeared, at the end of the fifth century, the army of Clovis contained a large number of Romans, and from the time of the sons of Clotaire, the entire population, without distinction of race, was called upon to do military duty. It is even said that it was only the Gallo-Roman chiefs of the armies who acquired military renown. Notwithstanding all this, there are still historians of the present day who speak of "the catastrophe of 406 breaking abruptly the bond which attached the barbarians to the Empire of the West." Some of these latter are disposed to see in Clovis, after his conversion, the founder of modern political society, a creator of a nationality, a maker of civilization,—titles which are freely denied him by others. His success was owing, it is said, not to his victories, but to his conversion. He was baptized by the Bishop of Reims, Remi, on Christmas Day, 496. "From that date, he had the alliance of the bishops throughout all Gaul against the Visigoths and the Burgondes, and his reign was assured."
This conversion, it is said, had been earnestly desired by his wife Clotilde, a niece of Gondebaud, King of the Burgondes, who had stipulated with her royal spouse that her first-born should be "consecrated to Christ by baptism." It also contributed greatly to his final establishment in Paris, a capital which he had long coveted and from which his predatory attacks had been constantly turned aside by the efforts of a virgin, Sainte-Genevieve, whom the Parisians still honor as their patron saint. The central position of this city, between the Rhine and the Loire, enabled him to keep a watchful eye upon Brittany, Aquitaine, the Burgondes, and the Frankish tribes of Belgium.
At his death, his kingdom was divided among his four sons, Paris, with Poitiers, Perigueux, Saintes, and Bordeaux, falling to the lot of Childebert. From the confused records of these barbaric times the names of two women issue, and have remained permanently engraven upon the tablets of history,—one of them as that of a personification of Christian and feminine virtues rare at any age and doubly so in these dark ages, and the other that of a monstrous queen whose crimes have made her immortal. Radegonde was a daughter of Bertaire, King of Thuringe, killed by his brother Hermanfried at the instigation of the wife of the latter; the murderer invited Thierry, King of Metz, and Clotaire, King of Soissons, sons of Clovis, to invade the kingdom, and in the partition of the booty, Radegonde fell to the share of Clotaire. Charmed by her original beauty, the king had her educated with unusual care, and, later, married her, but the queen sought only to forget her earthly dignities in ministering to the poor, in pious meditation, and in long conversations upon the Scriptures with some learned prelate. "She is a nun," said Clotaire, "and not a queen;" and he ended by killing her last surviving brother. Whereupon she fled to Noyon and implored Saint Medard at the altar to give her the protection of the Church; Clotaire threatened and protested, but finally permitted her to found a church and a convent at Poitiers, in which she immured herself till her death, in 587,—thirty-seven years. "During this long seclusion she constantly mingled with good works and with the austerity of religious exercises the culture of letters; constantly also did she guard her cherished traditions of the domestic hearth, and we find her living again in the awkward verses of the greatest poet of that time, Fortunatus, who had himself ordained priest that he might never be constrained to leave her."
At the death of Clotaire, the monarchy was again divided into four kingdoms, those of Paris, Soissons, Metz, and Burgundy,—soon reduced to three by the death of Charibert, King of Paris. The Burgondes were under the sway of Gontran, the Austrasien and Eastern Franks under Sigebert, and the mingled population of Franks and Gallo-Romans which were called Neustriens, or the Westerners, under Chilperic. Aquitaine was divided between the three, and Paris was already of so much importance that none of them was willing to yield her to the others, and it was agreed that no one should enter the city without the consent of the other two. The royal authority was weaker in Austrasie, now Belgium and Lorraine, the petty chiefs stronger, and the manners and customs more Germanic and barbaric; in Neustrie, now Ile-de-France, Normandy, etc., there were more ancient cities, mere remnants of the Roman civilization and vestiges of imperial administration. To the political rivalry to which this disparity gave rise was added the personal animosity of the two queens, Fredegonde and Brunehaut.
While Sigebert was fighting the Avars, barbarians from Asia, on the eastern frontier, his two brothers amused themselves by pillaging his western provinces. Chilperic had taken, for a most unwilling bride, a younger sister of Brunehaut, Galswinthe, daughter of a king of the Visigoths, notwithstanding the fierce jealousy of his mistress, or his first wife, Fredegonde; her empire was, however, soon regained, and Galswinthe was strangled in her sleep. Brunehaut incited her husband, Sigebert, to a war of vengeance; Paris was taken, and Chilperic only saved from ruin by his wife, who despatched two assassins against the King of the Neustriens. The rights of inheritance of her son, Clotaire, were impaired by the existence of two sons of Chilperic by a former marriage. One of them, Merovee, imprudently married the widowed Brunehaut, and his step-mother sent him to rejoin Sigebert. The Bishop of Rouen, Pretextat, who had already narrowly escaped with his life, in Paris, from the terrible queen, had blessed this marriage; he was killed on the steps of the altar while celebrating mass. Clovis, the brother of Merovee, followed; then one of his sisters, and Audovere, the mother. The king left Paris for Chelles one afternoon, for the chase; he had previously entered his wife's apartment while she was occupied with her toilette and struck her playfully on the shoulder with a light wand,—the queen mistook him for another, and answered, without turning round: "Tout beau! Landry," and other words of great familiarity. Then she perceived her error, and the king went out without a word; as he dismounted, on his return, some one slipped a knife into his heart, "and no one thought it worth while to run after the murderer."
Charibert, the short-lived king of Paris, had in his royal palace a serf named Leudaste, who, when a fellow-servant, Markowefe, attracted the monarch's favor and was made queen, contrived to ingratiate himself with her to such an extent that he was made grand equerry and, later, Comte de Tours. In his administration he proved himself capable of every outrage; but the death of Charibert compelled him to seek refuge with Chilperic, and he endeavored to win Fredegonde's favor as he had Markowefe's. When Tours fell into the hands of Chilperic, in 574, Leudaste was re-established in his office and resumed his old practices; two years later, upon a petition addressed to the king by the bishop, Saint Gregoire de Tours, he was dismissed. Thereupon he hatched a plot against the bishop and against the queen who had not interposed to save him; he declared to the king that the former had conspired to deliver Tours to the King of Austrasie, and that the queen had done him an even greater wrong, and he offered to produce witnesses. But his case fell to the ground; the king, threatened with excommunication by the clergy for bringing false charges against the revered prelate, threw all the responsibility upon Leudaste, and that individual, diligently sought for, had prudently disappeared.
He was accordingly solemnly excommunicated and declared anathema "from the crown of his head to the sole of his feet." After some two years passed in pillage and debauchery at the head of an organized band of brigands in the domains of Gontran, he obtained permission to return to Tours, and had the audacity to come and seek his pardon at the court of Neustrie. Chilperic tolerated his presence, but advised him to avoid the queen. As the sovereigns were one day attending mass in the basilica of Paris, Leudaste entered boldly, traversed the crowd, and knelt at the feet of Fredegonde, imploring her forgiveness. The king had him expelled from the church, but, instead of taking warning, he lingered in the shops around the market-place in the Cite, selecting jewels and rich stuffs with which to propitiate the queen; when she issued from the church and saw him, she despatched her guards to arrest him; one of them was wounded, and another gave him a sword-cut over the head; as he fled across the Petit-Pont, he fell and broke his leg. The manner and quality of a torture that should be appropriate for him were carefully discussed by the royal pair; he was tended by eminent physicians that he might be duly strengthened for it; but when Fredegonde learned that gangrene had appeared in his wounds, she had him dragged from his bed, stretched on the pavement with his neck on a great iron bar, and his head crushed by another heavy bar in the hands of the executioner.
After the murder of Chilperic, the people began to murmur, and the gentle King Gontran, according to Saint Gregoire of Tours, "in order to put an end to the evil custom of killing kings, went one day to a church where all the people were assembled for the mass, commanded silence through a deacon, and said: 'I conjure you, men and women who are here present, keep for me an assured fidelity, and do not kill me as you have lately killed my brothers. Allow me to live at least two or three years, that I may educate my young nephews, for fear that, after my death, it should happen that you should perish with these children, since there will remain of all my family no man strong enough to defend you.'"
Nevertheless, he had the courage to raise doubts as to the legitimacy of Fredegonde's son, Clotaire, and to postpone his baptism till she produced three bishops and three hundred other witnesses in his favor. Brunehaut's son, Childebert, was threatening the queen with an armed force; he and Gontran agreed to be each the other's heir in case they died without children, and on Gontran's death Childebert endeavored to take possession of Clotaire's domains also. Fredegonde had him poisoned: the dreary series of civil war and family murders began again; Clotaire II became in the end sole king of the Franks, and his mother died in her bed, "full of years." Her rival, Brunehaut, less fortunate, betrayed by her own followers, was, by Clotaire's orders, tied naked to the tail of a wild horse and dragged to death.
Such were the manners and customs of the Merovingians.
There are various accounts of the two patron saints of France and Paris. It is to Gregoire de Tours that we owe our first knowledge of Saint Denis, who, according to his statement, came to preach Christianity in Lutetia in the year 245, with the friar Rustique and the deacon Eleuthere. Dionysius, bishop of the Parisians, he says, full of zeal for the name of Christ, suffered many persecutions, and finally martyrdom. Other historians assign to Saint Martin, rather than to Saint Denis, the glory of having converted the Gauls to Christianity; some place his mission even before the year 100, and the Abbe Hilduin confounds him with Saint Denis the Areopagite. But, according to Gregoire, Denis, Rustique, and Eleuthere were beheaded in the year 272, by order of the prefet Percennius, on a mountain situated near Paris, which accordingly took the name of the Mont des Martyrs (Montmartre). The prefet had given orders to have the bodies thrown into the Seine, but a Roman lady, named Catulla, although not a Christian herself, caused them to be sought for in the night and piously buried in a locality known as Catolocus. Grain was sown over the graves, and when the fury of persecution was passed, they were disinterred and deposited in a tomb.
According to the popular legend (to which the municipal and national authority has given a sort of official sanction by M. Bonnat's very vigorous and realistic presentation on the walls of the Pantheon), after having had his head struck off, the saint arose on his feet, picked it up and walked away, carrying the severed organ in his hands, to the great surprise of the spectators. In this manner he traversed the space of a league, till he came to the spot where his church now stands, the angels meanwhile chanting around him Gloria tibi Domine, and others repeating three times the Alleluia. It was this unusual promenade that gave rise to the well-known proverb that it is only the first step that costs.
In 286 the weight of the Roman yoke and the persecutions of the Christians had become so cruel that there was a rebellion, headed by Salvianus Amandus and Lucius Pomponius AElianus, who put themselves at the head of the slaves and the colons of Paris and Meaux, were elevated on bucklers, and proclaimed emperors near the site of the present Hotel de la Ville. To them were speedily joined the bagaudes (insurgents) of the surrounding country, and it required a very serious effort on the part of the Roman troops, under the command of Maximien Hercule, associated with Diocletian in the government of the empire, to restore order.
Sainte-Genevieve, the patron saint of the Parisians, also perpetuated with her legend on the walls of the Pantheon, originally her church but now dedicated to the Grands Hommes of the nation, was born at Nanterre, near Paris, in 422, and guarded in the fields the flocks of her parents, Severe and Gerontia. She is said to have known Saint Germain d'Auxerre, and to have promised him to devote herself to the service of God; her reputation for sanctity, confirmed by several miracles accomplished, was such that when the city was thrown into a panic by the approach of Attila and his terrible Huns (begotten, it was asserted, in the deserts of Scythia by the union of sorceresses and infernal spirits) her voice was listened to as that of one qualified from on high. Nevertheless, there were certain obstinate ones who doubted her assurances of safety; there was even question of stoning her for false counsel; but she, mounting a little eminence, assured her fellow-citizens that, though Attila was indeed advancing, he would not attack their city; this she stated in the name of God. That was convincing, and, indeed, the dreaded conqueror turned his march toward Orleans, and was preparing to pillage it when he was vanquished by Aetius and Theodoric.
A second time she came to the rescue of the capital when it was suddenly attacked, in 476, by Childeric at the head of his Franks. His first efforts were directed toward cutting off all supplies by the river, and in this he was so successful that the Parisians speedily found themselves reduced to a diet of fish and roots, with no bread at all. Genevieve was touched by their sufferings, she embarked on a little flotilla of fishermen's boats, and succeeded in escaping through the enemy's lines in the most marvellous manner. Her return was anxiously awaited; for nine days there was no news of her, and the famine grew more cruel; finally, the lookouts on the towers perceived something in the distance on the bosom of the river; it approached; it was she, with eleven vessels filled with provisions of all kinds, of which she herself superintended the distribution. Each one of the nine days had been marked by some miracle, in the pursuance of her object. Monsieur Puvis de Chavannes has recently devoted a large mural painting to this pious legend. Nevertheless, Childeric took the city, in which he dwelt but very little.
Pagan though he was, he partook of the general veneration for the saintly virgin, and could refuse nothing to her earnest entreaties. It was during his reign that she conceived the idea of building a church to Saint Denis on the site of his tomb; by her prayers and entreaties she succeeded in inducing the clergy and the people of Paris to raise the necessary funds, and she commissioned a priest by the name of Genes to construct the edifice. Clovis, son and successor of Childeric, had no less consideration for her, but the basilica which he erected, in connection with his wife Clotilde, and in consequence of his vow made during the war with the Visigoths, was originally dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and did not take the name of Sainte-Genevieve until later. It was completed after his death by Clotilde, who caused to be interred in it the bodies of her spouse and the saint.
The famous chasse (shrine or casket) of Sainte-Genevieve, preserved in the abbey bearing her name which was completed in the reign of Philippe-Auguste, and enriched by successive gifts of various sovereigns, was constantly appealed to during many centuries, taken down, solemnly carried in procession through the streets escorted by barefooted clergy, whenever any of the innumerable evils from the hand of God or man afflicted her good city of Paris.
THE COURT AND THE UPPER CLASSES
FROM THE OPENING OF THE MIDDLE AGES TO THE PRESENT DAY
Any one traversing the handsome, formal garden which now occupies the site of the ancient palace of the Tuileries, official residence of the rulers of France after the red days of the Revolution, may perceive in the midmost of the central alley, directly in the axis of the long vista between Napoleon's two arches of triumph, that of the Carrousel and that of the Place de l'Etoile, an important marble group by the sculptor Mercie, set up on a high pedestal. This monument represents a vanquished and wounded French infantry soldier, with bandaged feet, sinking and clutching for support at the skirts of a robust peasant woman wearing the typical head-dress of Alsace-Lorraine, who snatches the real Chassepot, whitened to imitate marble (furnished by the courtesy of the Minister of War), from his failing grasp. The whiting is wearing away from the real Chassepot, the grime of the Parisian weather is settling into corners of eyes, under noses, etc.; the pathos and sentiment of the work suffer accordingly, and it may be doubted whether any pathetic, or would-be pathetic, work of sculpture is ever really effective, even if wrought by a very clever contemporary French artist. But it is to be noticed that on this national and historic site, in what might be called the physical centre of the nation, the most prominent monument commemorates, not the national glories and triumphs, but a humiliating and overwhelming national disaster. Facing the square of the Carrousel, between the arch and the Louvre, is the much vaster monument of Gambetta in marble and bronze, with long extracts from his orations in the evil days of '71 engraved on the tall shaft which rises behind him,—a most ostentatious commemoration of defeat. Farther west, the great Place de la Concorde is surrounded by handsome pavilions and balustrades, with eight stately, seated female figures of heroic size typifying the principal cities of France. To one of these the traveller's attention is at once directed by the funerary contributions in which she is half smothered,—draped flags, great wreaths and disks of immortelles and black bead-work, similar to those seen on the tombs in the cemeteries, with commemorative inscriptions: "From the Societies of the Inhabitants of Alsace-Lorraine;" "14th July, 1898" (the day of the national fete, commemorative of the fall of the Bastile); "France! Souviens toi!" on a huge yellow circle like a life-preserver, and, on a circular disk at the feet of the statue:
This curiously-garnished statue is that representing the city of Strasbourg, which is no longer a French city; and of all the others, which illustrate nothing particularly mortifying or mournful in the national history, no proclamation whatever is made. In the centre of the handsome court-yard of the new and imposing Hotel de Ville, the statue selected as the central jewel of this ecrin, as it were, is Mercie's Gloria Victis, the vanquished here being, again, France. (It should be stated, however, that if any work of contemporary sculpture is worthy of honor and of proud municipal recognition, it is this admirable bronze.)
Many of the great public places in the city of Paris, moreover, commemorate, more or less openly, what might be called the great stains on the history of the nation. The Place de la Concorde is that of the Guillotine, and the Luxor obelisk is the monument of the more than twenty-eight hundred victims beheaded by that axe. The Place de l'Hotel de Ville was formerly the Place de Greve, famous in all hangmen's annals,—burnings alive, tearings asunder by horses, breakings on the wheel, decapitations, hangings,—from Catherine de Medicis' Huguenot chiefs and the unlucky Comte de Montgomery; Lally-Tollendal, Governor of the Indies; Foulon, controleur-general of the finances and his son-in-law, hanged to the street lanterns by the mob, down to the famous regicides and the obscure and ignoble multitude of criminals of all ages. The Place de la Bastile commemorates the fortress-jail of that name,—one of the worst of all jails and one to be discreetly forgotten; the column of July, in the centre of this place, was erected in memory of the victims of the Revolution of 1830. The statue of Henri IV on the Pont-Neuf marks the spot where the Grand Master of the Templars and one of his officers were burned at the stake; on the carrefour of the Observatory, that of Marshal Ney, the locality where that brave soldier was shot by order of the Chamber of Peers; from the little bell-tower at the side of the church of Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois, back of the Louvre, the signal was sounded for the Saint Bartholomew. The Chatelet and the Conciergerie were famous prisons; the ruins of the palace on the Quai d'Orsay have been but just removed, to make room for the new depot of the Orleans railway, after having stood since 1871 a most eloquent monument of the excesses of the Commune. It was even proposed to leave the shattered walls of the Tuileries as a permanent record of the follies of an unbridled democracy!
This expansiveness, this frank parading of unseemly things, is supplemented by other public demonstrations of the passion of the hour. For some years after the fall of the Commune the national emotions found solace in stencilling in big letters on every possible wall or fronton or pediment, public or private,—Liberte. Egalite. Fraternite. The harassed citizen of the new republic looked up, or down, or sideways, at this official assurance of the sentiments breathed by all, high or low, and found comfort. Only, the wits of the agitated capital—who perceive some, but by no means all, of the opportunities which their fellow-citizens afford them—took occasion to read this text with the punctuation-mark—(.) point—after each noble word. Point is also the strongest of negations, so that the official declaration of faith was reduced to nullity,—"Liberty, none; Equality, none: Fraternity, not the slightest!"
All this seems to constitute a curious national trait, and in literature, in the daily journals, the observing traveller is again impressed with this unbosoming, which the Parisian himself would probably brand as naivete if he could perceive it. It flourishes perfectly side by side with his vanity; in fact, it probably has its origin in his vanity. "The Causes of Our Defeat in 1870," under various titles, have furnished and are still furnishing matter for interminable publication. In municipal affairs, the unshakable conviction that Paris is, simply, the only capital in the world does not in the least interfere with frank admissions concerning its limitations, which the least public-spirited villager in other climes would neither believe nor admit. Here, the journalist, the romancer, the historian, find in the most simple human demonstration, if it take place in the capital, something peculiarly and most admirably Parisien. Balzac, e.g., in the Double Famille, if we remember aright, brings two of his characters together late at night in a dusky street; the younger man thinks he recognizes the elder, but is not certain; he therefore approaches him doubtfully "as a Parisian does when he is undecided." This endless and childish delight in everything appertaining to his town, and the accompanying frank indifference to everything, pretty much, outside of it, is, in fact, so well known abroad that it has even brought down upon the Parisian's unconscious head the epithet that he would consider the uttermost of insults—"provincial!" He provincial! he who has invented those two withering words, "the provinces" and "bourgeois."
Nevertheless, this capital of all possible civilizations does not hesitate to admit that it must by all means do all in its power to attract the wealthy tourist of other nations, on whom its prosperity is so largely dependent, especially since it has no longer the attractions of a royal or imperial court to offer. No presentation of the city of Paris at the present day would be complete without documents giving the opinions of its own cultured and intelligent classes on its general characteristics and its most urgent needs. With regard to this question of dependence upon strangers, endless quotations might be cited, and two or three may well be printed here as more valuable contributions to this contemporary history than any speculations by mere foreigners. The Revue Encyclopedique, published weekly by the great house of Larousse, has a column which it devotes to ideas of general interest, underscored, and in this column appeared, in the issue of January 23, 1897, the following communication: "For some time past the Avenue de L'Opera, at Paris, has been lighted by electricity by means of incandescent lamps placed along the central axis of this great thoroughfare. This very handsome illumination serves only to accentuate more strongly the monotonous melancholy of the double row of commercial establishments the fronts of which are invariably closed at eight o'clock in the evening.... And sorrowful reflections are awakened of the brilliant evenings of thirty years ago, the movement of foreigners along the boulevards, the crowd of promenaders constantly changing before the dazzling show-windows of the end of the Second Empire. Why is not some effort made to revive this brilliant past by creating attractions capable of arousing the curiosity of the Parisians and, above all, of the foreigners? Could not some arrangement be made among all the shop-keepers of the grand boulevards and of the principal adjacent streets (Rue de la Paix, Rue Royale, Avenue de l'Opera, etc.), that one evening a week be devoted to the exceptional adornment of their establishments?" And the writer goes on to suggest, with Parisian ingenuity, that a jury of artists might even be constituted to decide which display was the most brilliant and the most worthy, and to award suitable recompense. "By this means it is probable that the street and the boulevard would resume their former animation, to the great profit of the trade in articles of luxury, so profoundly affected by the desertion of the foreigners."
In the year of grace, 1898, the Parisian world was greatly agitated by the fact that the Grand Prix de Paris was run at Longchamps on the 5th of June, and that, consequently, the Parisian season was brought to an ending most unreasonably early. These complaints were so insistent that they found voice in the Municipal Council and were brought before the Prefect of the Seine. It was contended that the treaty between the city and the Societe d'encouragement of improvement of the equine breed, its lessee at Longchamps, had been violated, inasmuch as the great event had taken place before the middle of June. But the Societe d'encouragement proved conclusively, by the terms of its lease from the city, that the date and the regulations of the race were left to its own judgment, and that, in point of fact, it had always taken place before the 15th of June. "But that which it is above all important to observe is, that the date of the Grand Prix is determined, not according to the whim of the Societe d'encouragement, but indeed by that of the English Derby, which regulates also that of the French Derby. It is necessary, in fact, that the same horses should take part in the three trials. The English, having set the date of their Derby this year on the 26th of May, the French Derby, which precedes it, had to be run on the 22d of May, and the Grand Prix de Paris, which occurs regularly ten days after the English Derby, could only be run on Sunday, the 5th of June. It is impossible, moreover, in any way to postpone this date, for the reason that the horses cannot be maintained in racing condition for any longer period of time."
Notwithstanding this conclusive reasoning, Le Temps, one of the most eminent and dignified journals of the capital, devoted a long article in its largest type, two days afterward, to the duty of the Conseil municipal in the matter. "This date is not, in fact, a matter of indifference to the interests of the city. It is, or it is considered to be, the moment selected for a general exodus of foreigners and even of Parisians in comfortable circumstances toward the seaside and other rural resorts. The shop-keepers therefore consider that they have cause for complaint if this moment arrive too early. The municipal councillors who have constituted themselves the spokesmen of their griefs have demanded and obtained a vote on a resolution having for its object the designation of the third Sunday in June, at the earliest, as the date of this equine solemnity.
[Illustration: TWO DAYS BEFORE SAINT BARTHOLOMEW'S.
Facsimile of a German copperplate engraving of the period.
LITERAL TRANSLATION OF THE LEGEND.
Here is to be seen what is set forth To lose their lives, young and old, At a wedding in Paris. So that to judgment shall be sure, There were killed the Admiral With his nobles altogether.
So, together with the servants, it is thought That three thousand were destroyed. The King of Navarre, also Conde, Is taken likewise of nobles more. The Huguenots, man, woman, child, Were rapidly disposed of.
Of whom the total number was found to be five thousand.
On the 22d day of August, in the year 1572. ]
"Whether this date may or may not be adopted, it seems to us that the interest which it awakens is entitled to unqualified commendation. The Municipal Council in no way goes outside of its proper sphere; on the contrary, it is well within it, when it concerns itself with the general interests of the city of Paris, when it seeks for means of retaining in it and attracting to it the largest possible number of foreigners and of very wealthy individuals whose presence and whose habits have for result the circulation of a great deal of money and the constant vivifying of the Parisian industries, which are, for the greater part, the industries of luxury. The Municipal Council understands perfectly that this question of the sojourn of strangers amongst us is in the highest degree an economical question which concerns the labor and the wages of the Parisian workmen, as it does also the general prosperity of the finances of the city. Therefore, far from criticising it for deliberating upon this question and others of a similar nature, we should rather regret that it has not turned its attention upon them with more constancy and consecutiveness.
"It is not, in fact, a simple matter of detail like that which has occupied the Municipal Council, which can ameliorate or even guarantee the situation of Paris in so far as it is a rendezvous or a residence for foreigners. These will not continue to come here and to remain here unless their sojourn is made agreeable and peaceful for them. This is something which should be considered, and it is a question which is closely connected with the general functions of our aediles. It is not to be imagined that with a few indirect measures this foreign colony, so essentially susceptible and flitting by nature, can be constrained to remain among us and expend its money against its own will. These are not birds that can be put in a cage, and, above all, retained there. Even those whose passion for the races is well developed will easily find a method of being present at the Grand Prix without domiciling themselves among us. They will only pass through; we shall see them no more. The essential point is, therefore, to watch with the utmost care, every day, that Paris shall never lose in their eyes its prestige and its attractions. From this will ensue, if we wish to deduce from it, practical regulations for the administration of the great city."