The Mediaeval World.
|The Wandering of the peoples|
|1st period (Goths and Huns)||5th century|
|2nd period (Danes and Norsemen)||8th and 9th centuries|
|The attempts for a united Europe|
|Theodoric's kingdom||5th and 6th centuries|
|Charlemagne's empire||8th and 9th centuries|
|The Saracen invasions||8th, 9th, and l0th centuries|
|The Crusades||11th, 12th, and 13th centuries|
|The expedition of Drusus||9 B.C.|
|The sack of Rome||410 A.D.|
|The battle of Chalons||451|
|Theodoric's reign in Italy||493-525|
|The baptism of Clovis||496|
|The battle of Guadelete||711|
|The coronation of Charlemagne||800|
|Ragnar before Paris||845|
|Alfred's treaty with the Danes||878|
|Charles's treaty with Rollo||912|
To give even a partial list of the sources of this book would be to recite a succession of names of chronicles and of historians, with most of which the teacher would probably be unfamiliar. The repetition would serve no practical purpose save to give the volume an air of scholarship and erudition. Edward Freeman, the great English historian, has voiced the experience of all students of the early Middle Ages when he says: "The history of these years has to be made out by piecing together a great number of authorities, none of which are of first rate merit. We have an unusual wealth of accounts, such as they are, written by men who lived at the time; but there is none who claims high place as a narrator, still less is there any who could understand the full significance of his own days. Nor is there any who gave himself specially to remark and to record that particular chain of events with which we are specially concerned. All is fragmentary; one fact has to be found here and another there."
Yet the reader of to-day need not enter this vast and somewhat unexplored field of history without a guide. The reason why we turn to the history of the Middle Ages is not that the children may glean a few facts or learn a few names with an episode attached to each. It is because there is a continuity in this record of events, because these men were, all unconsciously to themselves, laying the foundations of the modern world. That the chroniclers of those early days were graphic in their stories and that the men and the times were picturesque and interesting is our good fortune. That is why children enjoy the stories. They will enjoy them all the more and remember them the longer if they see in the heroes not merely "famous men" but builders of the world of to day. Great historians have within the last century interpreted the Middle Ages in the light of modern thought. They have seen in the succession of events an epic of civilization. Kings and warriors have been to them actors in a great world drama. It is these men who must be our guides. They wrote essays and histories for older people; the author has tried to put their spirit into stories for children. To the thoughtful child the purpose of the tales will be plain; but it would have spoiled the artistic story side of the book to have the joints of the framework too visible. The following quotations and notes are given with the purpose of taking the teacher and older reader a little further into the author's plan, and in the hope that thereby the work may be made more simple and more rewarding.
The two mighty streams that protected the provinces of Europe. —Gibbon
In the drama of Europe the Rhine-Danube river line claims a place as one of the chief factors. Men and nations come and go; but pick up the story where we will, there are civilized peoples on one side of the line, barbarians on the other. Call the child's attention to this, and let him watch for the rivers in every story, till at the end he can trace them on the map and give some such outline as this.
I. Boundary between the Roman Empire and the Barbarian.
1. Frontier fortified by the Romans (p. 2).
2. Romans try to cross over and fail (pp. 4—9).
3. Neutral meeting place (pp. 10—17).
4. The barbarian Goth crosses over to escape the more barbarian Hun (pp. 22, 23).
5. Alaric crosses back to be made king (p. 27).
6. Romans cross to beg the barbarian Attila not to enter the Empire (pp. 43—46).
7. Attila retires beyond the river in defeat (p. 52).
II. Boundary between Christendom and the Barbarian.
1. Clovis establishes it (pp. 85—91).
2. Charlemagne restores it (p. 107).
3. The Church sends Winfred across it to convert the barbarian tribes (pp. 151—158).
There is one sentiment, one in particular, which it is necessary to understand before we can form a true picture of a barbarian: it is the pleasure of personal independence,—the pleasure of enjoying, in full force and liberty, all his powers in the various ups and downs of fortune; the fondness for activity without labor; for a life of enterprise and adventure. Such was the prevailing character and disposition of the barbarians; such were the moral wants which put these immense masses of men into motion. . . . It was the rude barbarians of Germany who introduced this sentiment of personal independence, this love of individual liberty, into European civilization.—Guizot
In discussing Athanaric and the other Gothic heroes we should keep it constantly in mind that our interest in the barbarian is in him as an actor in the drama of civilization, as a builder of the modern world. We do not ignore his cruelties or vices; neither do we dwell on them. The Teuton fulfilled the definition of a barbarian by being "a man in a rude, savage, and uncivilized state." He was a true barbarian, but he was something more; else Kingsley's word would not have been spoken that "the hope and not the despair of the world lay in the Teuton." It was true, as Myers has said, that the Teutons "had neither arts, nor sciences, nor philosophies, nor literatures. But they had something better than all these things: they had personal worth. It was because of this, because of their free, independent spirit, of their unbounded capacity for growth, for culture, for accomplishment, that the future time became theirs."
Against the empire of the Ostrogoths the endless Asiatic horde moved on.—Hodgkin
Here the distinction may be made between the two kinds of barbarian: the Teuton, "who had in him the power of rising to the highest level"; and the Hun, who is classed with "dull barbarians, mighty in destruction, powerless in construction, essentially and incurably barbarous." Bring out for the children the contrast between the two: "the fair-haired, fair-skinned, long bearded, and majestic Goth on the one side; the little, swarthy, smooth-faced Tartar Hun on the other; here the shepherd merging into the agriculturist, there the mere hunter; here the barbarian standing on the threshold of civilization, there the irreclaimable savage."
The Huns are supposed to have originated in central China, and to have come into Europe by way of the Sea of Aral and the region north of the Caspian Sea. Let the child trace the long path of the migration on the map in his geography.
It has been well said that "the exclamation of the Goth Athanaric, when led into the market place of Constantinople, may stand for the feelings of his nation: 'The emperor is without doubt a god upon earth, and he who lifts a hand against him is guilty of his own blood.'"
So, under the health-bringing waters of the rapid Busento, sleeps Alareiks the Visigoth, equalled, may it not be said, by only three men in succeeding times as a changer of the course of history. And these three are Mohammed, Columbus, Napoleon.—Hodgkin
There is a story that as Alaric was making his march down from the Alps into Italy a monk came to him in his royal tent and warned him to refrain from slaughter and bloodshed such as would attend an invasion of the land. "I am impelled to this course in spite of myself," replied Alaric; "for something within urges me every day irresistibly onwards, saying, 'Proceed to Rome and make that city desolate.'" Such is the feeling of destiny with which ancient historians record the calamity.
The importance of the sack of Rome is immeasurably greater than its three days' occupation would suggest. As Freeman has said, Rome had so thoroughly spread herself over the whole of her world that "her actual capture and sack was a solemn and terror striking incident; it was a sign that an old day was passing away and that a new day was coming; it was a thing to be remembered in later days as no other event of those times was likely to be remembered; but at the moment it made little practical difference to any but those who immediately suffered by it. What really changed the face of Western Europe was not that Rome was taken but that Rome was threatened. It was the presence of Alaric in Italy, a presence of which the taking of Rome was as it were the formal witness, which opened the way for the separation of the Western lands from the Empire and for the beginning of the powers of the modern world."
The ransom demanded by the barbarians is particularly interesting,—gold and silver, the Nibelung treasure, as Kingsley has said; silken tunics, and hides dyed in scarlet; and three thousand pounds of pepper, which was an expensive luxury brought from India, and which suggests that the appetites of these northerners had become capricious in the southern lands.
The amount of abject, slavish fear which the little swarthy Kalmuck succeeded in instilling into millions of human hearts is not to be easily matched in the history of our race. . . . The impression left upon us by what history records of him is that of a gigantic bully.—Hodgkin
It is easy to make so many events turning points in the world's history that the words lose their meaning; but no one can over estimate the importance of these battles when the Huns were defeated and driven out of central Europe. The invasions of the Goths retarded civilization, but when the "tumult and the shouting die" we find the Goth perpetuating the Roman law and the Christian faith, "endeavoring everywhere to identify himself with the system he overthrew. For it is hardly too much to say," continues Bryce, "that the thought of antagonism to the Empire and the wish to extinguish it never crossed the mind of the barbarians [Teutons]." The Huns came with no purpose or ambition but to destroy.
Attila has often been compared to Napoleon, our latest world conqueror, and the passage in which Hodgkin, having spoken of their many unlikenesses, sums up their likenesses is so suggestive as to be worth quoting. "Like Attila, Napoleon destroyed far more than he could rebuild: his empire, like Attila's, lasted less than two decades of years; but, unlike Attila, . . . he outlived his own prosperity. . . . The insatiable pride, the arrogance which beat down the holders of ancient thrones and trampled them like dust beneath their feet, the wide-stretching schemes of empire, the haste which forbade their conquests to endure, . . . . and, above all, the terror which the mere sound of their names brought to fair cities and widely scattered races of men,—in all these points no one so well as Napoleon explains to us the character and career of Attila."
No man's history better shows the strange relations between the Teutons and the dying Empire.—Kingsley
It has been suggested that in this old Gothic custom that each young warrior must perform some exploit before he is recognized by the tribe, may be found the origin of the similar requirement of chivalry for knighthood.
The failing Emperors bought off the Teutons where they could; submitted to them where they could not; and readily enough turned on them when they had a chance.—Kingsley
One picture of the difficulties of the barbarian life, and one chronicle of the migration of a nation it has seemed worth while to give, lest in our stories the impression be made on the child of an easy and inevitable flow of events, and of swift successes and changes. We talk glibly of "The Wandering of the Peoples"; but for a nation to move a thousand miles is for them, and for the lands through which the journey is made, a convulsion like an earthquake prolonged for days and weeks and months.
In connection with the conditions which must accompany such a migration, Freeman has given us a wise caution. "The rough dealings," he says, "of a barbarian invader with men and things in the invaded land have nothing in common with the prolonged and carefully studied cruelties of a Visconti. . . . Ravage, plunder, even slaughter, done among the whirl of feelings which must accompany the armed entry into a strange land, are really not inconsistent with much true kindliness of heart lurking below."
The mere warrior and conqueror halts at the bidding of one who, warrior and conqueror no less than himself, is also the ruler, the lawgiver, the judge between contending men and nations.—Freeman
Historians are one in their estimate of the importance of Theodoric's position and work, and in our story he is a striking illustration of the transition from barbarian to noble which took place with all the barbarian nations except the Huns and the Saracens.
"The first real attempt," writes one historian, "to blend the peoples and maintain the traditions of Roman wisdom in the hands of a new and vigorous race was reserved for a more famous chieftain, the greatest of all the barbarian conquerors, the forerunner of the first barbarian Emperor, Theodoric the Ostrogoth." "No prince in history," writes another, "ever held a position of greater dignity, or used it with greater moderation." That his union of nations died with him is a sad testimony to his greatness. "Because he had done for a generation what no other man could do, his work was to pass away with his generation."
The greatness of Theodoric should not, however, overshadow the importance of Clovis, the founder of the Frankish kingdom. It was through the change, which in his life is so picturesque, from barbarian to Christian that Europe was to be transformed and to appear before many centuries "in the higher garb of Christendom."
Of strange tradition many a mystic trace,
Legend and vision, prophecy and sign;
Where wonders wild of Arabesque combine
With Gothic imagery of darker shade.
Sir Walter Scott
So Scott characterizes this legendary history of Spain at the opening of his poem based on this story, which has been also used by Southey as the subject of a poem. The frequent use of this incident as the theme of poets "does not," says Coppee, "seem to me due solely to its interest as a story: it has a meaning, and an important one; and thus we accept these legends as containing valuable contributions to the true history."
That imperial figure which, like some magnificent colossus, flings its shadow athwart the boundary that divides the ancient from the modern era.—Mullinger
In whatever point of view, indeed, we regard the reign of Charlemagne, we always find its leading characteristic to be a desire to overcome barbarism, and to advance civilization.—Guizot
Up to this point the characters dealt with in this volume have been men whose modern interest was from a single point of view,—the conflict between barbarian and noble and the transition from barbarian to noble. Charlemagne is the first of a large number of many sided heroes, whose greatness lay in the share they had in all the movements of their time. The treatment of Charlemagne calls attention to the method of the series, already stated, of grouping characters and events about different phases of the progress of civilization rather than giving full biographies. Charlemagne is an admirable example of the advantages of this method. To give a continuous biography of the "central figure of the Middle Ages" is no easy or satisfactory matter. We may select certain parts of his life, but we must be constantly digressing to explain why this or that item or anecdote is important. If we try to tell most of the stories about him, we must present a curious jumble of his boyhood, his fondness for hunting, his success as a warrior in whose wake flowed rivers of blood, his coronation following immediately upon these victories, his patronage of arts and learning, and in the next breath his Bluebeard list of wives. Moreover, there is the Charlemagne of chivalry and romance clamoring for a place in the story.
It is our belief that the child will get a more just and more attractive impression of Charlemagne by coming upon him several times in the course of the story of the Middle Ages. Certainly he could not be better introduced than as the noble overcoming the barbarian. The child is now ready to appreciate his place in history, "repeating the attempt of Theodoric to breathe a Teutonic spirit into Roman forms," and bringing about "the union, so long in preparation, so mighty in its consequences, of the Roman and the Teuton, of the memories and the civilization of the South with the fresh energy of the North." "And from that moment," says Bryce, "modern history begins." Recall to the child at this point that it is nearly four hundred years since the first Teuton conquered Rome, but that Charlemagne is the first to receive the title of Emperor.
Yet Charlemagne's political empire fell to pieces at his death, and in the reason for its breaking up we come upon another aspect of Charlemagne's position. A new spirit, which was to triumph in Europe, was beginning to make itself felt,—the spirit of nationality; and in another book of the series, "Patriots and Tyrants," we see Charlemagne as the representative of the theory of empire standing over against Wittekind, the hero of national liberty. Again, the emperor's huge jeweled crown is one of the triumphs of the Renaissance art of which the story is told in "Craftsman and Artist." And so we find him in this series, as in the chronicles of history, appearing at every turn. The Charlemagne of chivalry and romance belongs to literature rather than history, and will be found in the author's companion series, The Open Road Library.
Read in connection with the "man of iron" picture Longfellow's version of the same incident in The Poet's Tale: Charlemagne of "Tales of a Wayside Inn."
The history of the schools of Charles the Great has modified the whole subsequent history of European culture.—Mullinger
Four great influences played the leading parts in the transformation of the barbarian peoples,—chivalry, feudalism, the school, the Church. A story has been found for the beginnings of each.
In The Student's Tale: Emma and Eginhard, Longfellow gives a charming picture of the time:
"When Alcuin taught the sons of Charlemagne,
In the free schools of Aix, how kings should reign,
And with them taught the children of the poor
How subjects should be patient and endure,
In Booth, it was a pleasant sight to see
That Saxon monk, with hood and rosary,
With inkhorn at his belt, and pen and book,
And mingled love and reverence in his look,
Or hear the cloister and the court repeat
The measured footfalls of his sandaled feet,
Or watch him with the pupils of his school,
Gentle of speech, but absolute of rule."
"Now give us men from the sunless plain,"
Cried the South to the North,
"By need of work in the snow and rain
Made strong, and brave by familiar pain!"
Cried the South to the North.
The relations between men from the north and dwellers in the south is a fascinating starting point for a study of history. It is hard at first to see any advantage which was to come from that second outbreak of the Wandering of the Peoples, when "the torrent of barbarism which Charles the Great had stemmed was rushing down upon his empire." But out of the blending of these peoples were to come the strong nations of the modern world.
Of this incident of the Northmen before Paris, Keary has said with truth that "a volume could not better express than this one fact "the conditions of the time,—the ignorance of the invaders of the world into which they were forcing their way, and the mystery with which they were enshrouded by the superstitions of Europe about the north. This tale may be used also as a perfect illustration of the way history and legend grow up together. The simple fact of an attack, and a retreat in the fog is the historic material. In Norse legend the city with its vaporous mist becomes a part of the lower world; in Paris the story becomes a monkish legend of miracle.
Alfred is the most perfect character in history. . . . A saint without superstition, a scholar without ostentation, a warrior all whose wars were fought in the defense of his country, a conqueror whose laurels were never stained by cruelty, a prince never cast down by adversity, never lifted up to insolence in the hour of triumph—there is no other name in history to compare with his.—Freeman
It is always a delight to come upon Alfred in our reading of history, and we shall come upon him many times again. Here he is rendering England an immeasurable service in fighting and then civilizing the barbarian Danes. His distinction as the founder of England's navy gives him a place in "Sea Kings and Explorers"; his patronage of the arts gains him "honorable mention" in "Craftsman and Artist"; and no English speaking readers would be satisfied without seeing him also in his private life as "England's Darling" in "Kings and Common Folk."
A young Viking, Rolf, . . . was destined . . . to create the only permanent northern state within the limits of the ancient Carlovingian Empire.—Keary
The story of Rollo tells itself. It should only be noticed that in the ceremony which made him a vassal of the king, and in his distribution of land among his men, we have the signs of the feudalism which established property rights and organized men and tribes in a settled society which ended all nomadic life.
When at the fall of the western empire . . . she found herself surrounded by barbarian kings, by barbarian chieftains wandering from place to place, or shut up in their castles, with whom she had nothing in common, between whom and her there was as yet no tie . . . only one idea became predominant in the Church: it was to take possession of these newcomers—to convert them.—Guizot
In our earlier stories the spread of Christianity has seemed a political matter, accomplished by war. Personal missionary work always followed and sometimes preceded the national change from heathendom, "and the work that Winfred did, unlike that of Charlemagne, has never been undone, but, ever fresh and vigorous, bears fruit more and more abundantly."
Honor enough his merit brings,
He needs no alien praise
In whose train, Glory, like a king's
Follows through all his days.
Itinerarium Regis Ricardi
The story of the struggle between barbarian and noble on European soil is finished; the outline map of Europe is fairly well defined, though no permanent lines of division can be drawn within her borders. But in the Crusades we have an epilogue. The barbarian no longer invades Europe, but a war like Christendom, stimulated by the Church and organized by the institution of chivalry, seeks out the former invaders—the barbaric races of Arab, Moor, and Turk—in their homes, and wages with them a struggle of three centuries. With Richard the Crusader our drama closes. We do not even wait to see him imprisoned on his way home and rescued by Blondel; that tale belongs in "Cavalier and Courtier."
Sum it up before you leave it and see what a drama it is: Roman generals halted at the doors of barbarian Germany; Alaric and his Goths coming down upon Rome; Goths and Romans uniting to drive out the more barbarian hordes of the Huns; Theodoric, the Gothic civilizer, receiving homage from that fierce barbarian, Clovis the Frank; the barbaric Saracen defeating in Spain Roderick, the last king of the Goths, but falling back fifty years later before Charlemagne, the descendant of Clovis; Alfred defending England from the Danes, and Charlemagne's kingdom threatened by Rollo the Viking; last, Rollo's descendant, Richard the Lion-Hearted, crusading beyond the bounds of Europe in behalf of Christendom.
The foundations have been laid upon which every nation of modern Europe was to rise. If it seems that favorite heroes and familiar names have been omitted, the brief limits of sixteen stories and the opportunities of the remaining five volumes of the series must be the excuse. And if it seems that England's story has been under emphasized, the author would point once more to the later books, and repeat the words of Freeman in his lectures on "Western Europe in the Fifth Century": "Every event that I have dwelled on in continental history, every picture that I have striven to give of continental life, during this great period of the Wandering of the Nations, has been meant as an indirect contribution to the history of Britain and of the Teutonic conquerors of Britain."