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Title: History of European Morals From Augustus to Charlemagne (Vol. 1 of - 2)
Author: Lecky, William Edward Hartpole, 1838-1903
Language: English
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                                History of

                             European Morals

                       From Augustus to Charlemagne


                   William Edward Hartpole Lecky, M.A.

                              Ninth Edition

                              In Two Volumes

                                 Vol. 1.


                         Longmans, Green, And Co.



Advertisement To The Third Edition.
Chapter I. The Natural History Of Morals.
Chapter II. The Pagan Empire.
Chapter III. The Conversion Of Rome.


I have availed myself of the interval since the last edition, to subject
this book to a minute and careful revision, removing such inaccuracies as
I have been able myself to discover, as well as those which have been
brought under my notice by reviewers or correspondents. I must especially
acknowledge the great assistance I have derived in this task from my
German translator, Dr. H. Jolowicz—now, unhappily, no more—one of the most
conscientious and accurate scholars with whom I have ever been in
communication. In the controversial part of the first chapter, which has
given rise to a good deal of angry discussion, four or five lines which
stood in the former editions have been omitted, and three or four short
passages have been inserted, elucidating or supporting positions which had
been misunderstood or contested.

_January 1877._


The questions with which an historian of Morals is chiefly concerned are
the changes that have taken place in the moral standard and in the moral
type. By the first, I understand the degrees in which, in different ages,
recognised virtues have been enjoined and practised. By the second, I
understand the relative importance that in different ages has been
attached to different virtues. Thus, for example, a Roman of the age of
Pliny, an Englishman of the age of Henry VIII., and an Englishman of our
own day, would all agree in regarding humanity as a virtue, and its
opposite as a vice; but their judgments of the acts which are compatible
with a humane disposition would be widely different. A humane man of the
first period might derive a keen enjoyment from those gladiatorial games,
which an Englishman, even in the days of the Tudors, would regard as
atrociously barbarous; and this last would, in his turn, acquiesce in many
sport which would now be emphatically condemned. And in addition to this
change of standard, there is a continual change in the order of precedence
which is given to virtues. Patriotism, chastity, charity, and humility are
examples of virtues, each of which has in some ages been brought forward
as of the most supreme and transcendent importance, and the very basis of
a virtuous character, and in other ages been thrown into the background,
and reckoned among the minor graces of a noble life. The heroic virtues,
the amiable virtues, and what are called more especially the religious
virtues, form distinct groups, to which, in different periods, different
degrees of prominence have been assigned; and the nature, causes, and
consequences of these changes in the moral type are among the most
important branches of history.

In estimating, however, the moral condition of an age, it is not
sufficient to examine the ideal of moralists. It is necessary also to
enquire how far that ideal has been realised among the people. The
corruption of a nation is often reflected in the indulgent and selfish
ethics of its teachers; but it sometimes produces a reaction, and impels
the moralist to an asceticism which is the extreme opposite of the
prevailing spirit of society. The means which moral teachers possess of
acting upon their fellows, vary greatly in their nature and efficacy, and
the age of the highest moral teaching is often not that of the highest
general level of practice. Sometimes we find a kind of aristocracy of
virtue, exhibiting the most refined excellence in their teaching and in
their actions, but exercising scarcely any appreciable influence upon the
mass of the community. Sometimes we find moralists of a much less heroic
order, whose influence has permeated every section of society. In
addition, therefore, to the type and standard of morals inculcated by the
teachers, an historian must investigate the realised morals of the people.

The three questions I have now briefly indicated are those which I have
especially regarded in examining the moral history of Europe between
Augustus and Charlemagne. As a preliminary to this enquiry, I have
discussed at some length the rival theories concerning the nature and
obligations of morals, and have also endeavoured to show what virtues are
especially appropriate to each successive stage of civilisation, in order
that we may afterwards ascertain to what extent the natural evolution has
been affected by special agencies. I have then followed the moral history
of the Pagan Empire, reviewing the Stoical, the Eclectic, and the Egyptian
philosophies, that in turn flourished, showing in what respects they were
the products or expressions of the general condition of society, tracing
their influence in many departments of legislation and literature, and
investigating the causes of the deep-seated corruption which baffled all
the efforts of emperors and philosophers. The triumph of the Christian
religion in Europe next demands our attention. In treating this subject, I
have endeavoured, for the most part, to exclude all considerations of a
purely theological or controversial character, all discussions concerning
the origin of the faith in Palestine, and concerning the first type of its
doctrine, and to regard the Church simply as a moral agent, exercising its
influence in Europe. Confining myself within these limits, I have examined
the manner in which the circumstances of the Pagan Empire impeded or
assisted its growth, the nature of the opposition it had to encounter, the
transformations it underwent under the influence of prosperity, of the
ascetic enthusiasm, and of the barbarian invasions, and the many ways in
which it determined the moral condition of society. The growing sense of
the sanctity of human life, the history of charity, the formation of the
legends of the hagiology, the effects of asceticism upon civic and
domestic virtues, the moral influence of monasteries, the ethics of the
intellect, the virtues and vices of the decaying Christian Empire and of
the barbarian kingdoms that replaced it, the gradual apotheosis of secular
rank, and the first stages of that military Christianity which attained
its climax at the Crusades, have been all discussed with more or less
detail; and I have concluded my work by reviewing the changes that have
taken place in the position of women, and in the moral questions connected
with the relations of the sexes.

In investigating these numerous subjects, it has occasionally, though
rarely, happened that my path has intersected that which I had pursued in
a former work, and in two or three instances I have not hesitated to
repeat facts to which I had there briefly referred. I have thought that
such a course was preferable to presenting the subject shorn of some
material incident, or to falling into what has always the appearance of an
unpleasing egotism, by appealing unnecessarily to my own writings.
Although the history of the period I have traced has never, so far as I am
aware, been written from exactly the point of view which I have adopted, I
have, of course, been for the most part moving over familiar ground, which
has been often and ably investigated; and any originality that may be
found in this work must lie, not so much in the facts which have been
exhumed, as in the manner in which they have been grouped, and in the
significance that has been ascribed to them. I have endeavoured to
acknowledge the more important works from which I have derived assistance;
and if I have not always done so, I trust the reader will ascribe it to
the great multitude of the special histories relating to the subjects I
have treated, to my unwillingness to overload my pages with too numerous
references, and perhaps, in some cases, to the difficulty that all who
have been much occupied with a single department of history must sometimes
have, in distinguishing the ideas which have sprung from their own
reflections, from those which have been derived from books.

There is one writer, however, whom I must especially mention, for his name
occurs continually in the following pages, and his memory has been more
frequently, and in these latter months more sadly, present to my mind than
any other. Brilliant and numerous as are the works of the late Dean
Milman, it was those only who had the great privilege of his friendship,
who could fully realise the amazing extent and variety of his knowledge;
the calm, luminous, and delicate judgment which he carried into so many
spheres; the inimitable grace and tact of his conversation, coruscating
with the happiest anecdotes, and the brightest and yet the gentlest
humour; and, what was perhaps more remarkable than any single faculty, the
admirable harmony and symmetry of his mind and character, so free from all
the disproportion, and eccentricity, and exaggeration that sometimes make
even genius assume the form of a splendid disease. They can never forget
those yet higher attributes, which rendered him so unspeakably reverend to
all who knew him well—his fervent love of truth, his wide tolerance, his
large, generous, and masculine judgments of men and things; his almost
instinctive perception of the good that is latent in each opposing party,
his disdain for the noisy triumphs and the fleeting popularity of mere
sectarian strife, the fond and touching affection with which he dwelt upon
the images of the past, combining, even in extreme old age, with the
keenest and most hopeful insight into the progressive movements of his
time, and with a rare power of winning the confidence and reading the
thoughts of the youngest about him. That such a writer should have devoted
himself to the department of history, which more than any other has been
distorted by ignorance, puerility, and dishonesty, I conceive to be one of
the happiest facts in English literature, and (though sometimes diverging
from his views) in many parts of the following work I have largely availed
myself of his researches.

I cannot conceal from myself that this book is likely to encounter much,
and probably angry, contradiction from different quarters and on different
grounds. It is strongly opposed to a school of moral philosophy which is
at present extremely influential in England; and, in addition to the many
faults that may be found in its execution, its very plan must make it
displeasing to many. Its subject necessarily includes questions on which
it is exceedingly difficult for an English writer to touch, and the
portion of history with which it is concerned has been obscured by no
common measure of misrepresentation and passion. I have endeavoured to
carry into it a judicial impartiality, and I trust that the attempt,
however imperfect, may not be wholly useless to my readers.

LONDON: _March 1869_.


A brief enquiry into the nature and foundations of morals appears an
obvious, and, indeed, almost an indispensable preliminary, to any
examination of the moral progress of Europe. Unfortunately, however, such
an enquiry is beset with serious difficulties, arising in part from the
extreme multiplicity of detail which systems of moral philosophy present,
and in part from a fundamental antagonism of principles, dividing them
into two opposing groups. The great controversy, springing from the rival
claims of intuition and utility to be regarded as the supreme regulator of
moral distinctions, may be dimly traced in the division between Plato and
Aristotle; it appeared more clearly in the division between the Stoics and
the Epicureans; but it has only acquired its full distinctness of
definition, and the importance of the questions depending on it has only
been fully appreciated, in modern times, under the influence of such
writers as Cudworth, Clarke, and Butler upon the one side, and Hobbes,
Helvétius, and Bentham on the other.

Independently of the broad intellectual difficulties which must be
encountered in treating this question, there is a difficulty of a personal
kind, which it may be advisable at once to meet. There is a disposition in
some moralists to resent, as an imputation against their own characters,
any charge of immoral consequences that may be brought against the
principles they advocate. Now it is a peculiarity of this controversy that
every moralist is compelled, by the very nature of the case, to bring such
charges against the opinions of his opponents. The business of a moral
philosophy is to account for and to justify our moral sentiments, or in
other words, to show how we come to have our notions of duty, and to
supply us with a reason for acting upon them. If it does this adequately,
it is impregnable, and therefore a moralist who repudiates one system is
called upon to show that, according to its principles, the notion of duty,
or the motives for performing it, could never have been generated. The
Utilitarian accuses his opponent of basing the entire system of morals on
a faculty that has no existence, of adopting a principle that would make
moral duty vary with the latitude and the epoch, of resolving all ethics
into an idle sentiment. The intuitive moralist, for reasons I shall
hereafter explain, believes that the Utilitarian theory is profoundly
immoral. But to suppose that either of these charges extends to the
character of the moralist is altogether to misconceive the position which
moral theories actually hold in life. Our moral sentiments do not flow
from, but long precede our ethical systems; and it is usually only after
our characters have been fully formed that we begin to reason about them.
It is both possible and very common for the reasoning to be very
defective, without any corresponding imperfection in the disposition of
the man.

The two rival theories of morals are known by many names, and are
subdivided into many groups. One of them is generally described as the
stoical, the intuitive, the independent or the sentimental; the other as
the epicurean, the inductive, the utilitarian, or the selfish. The
moralists of the former school, to state their opinions in the broadest
form, believe that we have a natural power of perceiving that some
qualities, such as benevolence, chastity, or veracity, are better than
others, and that we ought to cultivate them, and to repress their
opposites. In other words, they contend, that by the constitution of our
nature, the notion of right carries with it a feeling of obligation; that
to say a course of conduct is our duty, is in itself, and apart from all
consequences, an intelligible and sufficient reason for practising it; and
that we derive the first principles of our duties from intuition. The
moralist of the opposite school denies that we have any such natural
perception. He maintains that we have by nature absolutely no knowledge of
merit and demerit, of the comparative excellence of our feelings and
actions, and that we derive these notions solely from an observation of
the course of life which is conducive to human happiness. That which makes
actions good is, that they increase the happiness or diminish the pains of
mankind. That which constitutes their demerit is their opposite tendency.
To procure “the greatest happiness for the greatest number,” is therefore
the highest aim of the moralist, the supreme type and expression of

It is manifest, however, that this last school, if it proceeded no further
than I have stated, would have failed to accomplish the task which every
moralist must undertake. It is easy to understand that experience may show
that certain actions are conducive to the happiness of mankind, and that
these actions may in consequence be regarded as supremely excellent. The
question still remains, why we are bound to perform them. If men, who
believe that virtuous actions are those which experience shows to be
useful to society, believe also that they are under a natural obligation
to seek the happiness of others, rather than their own, when the two
interests conflict, they have certainly no claim to the title of inductive
moralists. They recognise a moral faculty, or natural sense of moral
obligation or duty as truly as Butler or as Cudworth. And, indeed, a
position very similar to this has been adopted by several intuitive
moralists. Thus Hutcheson, who is the very founder in modern times of the
doctrine of “a moral sense,” and who has defended the disinterested
character of virtue more powerfully than perhaps any other moralist,
resolved all virtue into benevolence, or the pursuit of the happiness of
others; but he maintained that the excellence and obligation of
benevolence are revealed to us by a “moral sense.” Hume, in like manner,
pronounced utility to be the criterion and essential element of all
virtue, and is so far undoubtedly a Utilitarian; but he asserted also that
our pursuit of virtue is unselfish, and that it springs from a natural
feeling of approbation or disapprobation distinct from reason, and
produced by a peculiar sense, or taste, which rises up within us at the
contemplation of virtue or of vice.(1) A similar doctrine has more
recently been advocated by Mackintosh. It is supposed by many that it is a
complete description of the Utilitarian system of morals, that it judges
all actions and dispositions by their consequences, pronouncing them moral
in proportion to their tendency to promote, immoral in proportion to their
tendency to diminish, the happiness of man. But such a summary is clearly
inadequate, for it deals only with one of the two questions which every
moralist must answer. A theory of morals must explain not only what
constitutes a duty, but also how we obtain the notion of there being such
a thing as duty. It must tell us not merely what is the course of conduct
we _ought_ to pursue, but also what is the meaning of this word “ought,”
and from what source we derive the idea it expresses.

Those who have undertaken to prove that all our morality is a product of
experience, have not shrunk from this task, and have boldly entered upon
the one path that was open to them. The notion of there being any such
feeling as an original sense of obligation distinct from the anticipation
of pleasure or pain, they treat as a mere illusion of the imagination. All
that is meant by saying we ought to do an action is, that if we do not do
it, we shall suffer. A desire to obtain happiness and to avoid pain is the
only possible motive to action. The reason, and the only reason, why we
should perform virtuous actions, or in other words, seek the good of
others, is that on the whole such a course will bring us the greatest
amount of happiness.

We have here then a general statement of the doctrine which bases morals
upon experience. If we ask what constitutes virtuous, and what vicious
actions, we are told that the first are those which increase the happiness
or diminish the pains of mankind; and the second are those which have the
opposite effect. If we ask what is the motive to virtue, we are told that
it is an enlightened self-interest. The words happiness, utility, and
interest include, however, many different kinds of enjoyment, and have
given rise to many different modifications of the theory.

Perhaps the lowest and most repulsive form of this theory is that which
was propounded by Mandeville, in his “Enquiry into the Origin of Moral
Virtue.”(2) According to this writer, virtue sprang in the first instance
from the cunning of rulers. These, in order to govern men, found it
necessary to persuade them that it was a noble thing to restrain, instead
of indulging their passions, and to devote themselves entirely to the good
of the community. The manner in which they attained this end was by acting
upon the feeling of vanity. They persuaded men that human nature was
something nobler than the nature of animals, and that devotion to the
community rendered a man pre-eminently great. By statues, and titles, and
honours; by continually extolling such men as Regulus or Decius; by
representing those who were addicted to useless enjoyments as a low and
despicable class, they at last so inflamed the vanity of men as to kindle
an intense emulation, and inspire the most heroic actions. And soon new
influences came into play. Men who began by restraining their passions, in
order to acquire the pleasure of the esteem of others, found that this
restraint saved them from many painful consequences that would have
naturally ensued from over-indulgence, and this discovery became a new
motive to virtue. Each member of the community moreover found that he
himself derived benefit from the self-sacrifice of others, and also that
when he was seeking his own interest, without regard to others, no persons
stood so much in his way as those who were similarly employed, and he had
thus a double reason for diffusing abroad the notion of the excellence of
self-sacrifice. The result of all this was that men agreed to stigmatise
under the term “vice” whatever was injurious, and to eulogise as “virtue”
whatever was beneficial to society.

The opinions of Mandeville attracted, when they were published, an
attention greatly beyond their intrinsic merit, but they are now sinking
rapidly into deserved oblivion. The author, in a poem called the “Fable of
the Bees,” and in comments attached to it, himself advocated a thesis
altogether inconsistent with that I have described, maintaining that
“private vices were public benefits,” and endeavouring, in a long series
of very feeble and sometimes very grotesque arguments, to prove that vice
was in the highest degree beneficial to mankind. A far greater writer had
however already framed a scheme of morals which, if somewhat less
repulsive, was in no degree less selfish than that of Mandeville; and the
opinions of Hobbes concerning the essence and origin of virtue, have, with
no very great variations, been adopted by what may be termed the narrower
school of Utilitarians.

According to these writers we are governed exclusively by our own
interest.(3) Pleasure, they assure us, is the only good,(4) and moral good
and moral evil mean nothing more than our voluntary conformity to a law
that will bring it to us.(5) To love good simply as good, is
impossible.(6) When we speak of the goodness of God, we mean only His
goodness to us.(7) Reverence is nothing more than our conviction, that one
who has power to do us both good and harm, will only do us good.(8) The
pleasures of piety arise from the belief that we are about to receive
pleasure, and the pains of piety from the belief that we are about to
suffer pain from the Deity.(9) Our very affections, according to some of
these writers, are all forms of self-love. Thus charity springs partly
from our desire to obtain the esteem of others, partly from the
expectation that the favours we have bestowed will be reciprocated, and
partly, too, from the gratification of the sense of power, by the proof
that we can satisfy not only our own desires but also the desires of
others.(10) Pity is an emotion arising from a vivid realisation of sorrow
that may befall ourselves, suggested by the sight of the sorrows of
others. We pity especially those who have not deserved calamity, because
we consider ourselves to belong to that category; and the spectacle of
suffering against which no forethought could provide, reminds us most
forcibly of what may happen to ourselves.(11) Friendship is the sense of
the need of the person befriended.(12)

From such a conception of human nature it is easy to divine what system of
morals must flow. No character, feeling, or action is naturally better
than others, and as long as men are in a savage condition, morality has no
existence. Fortunately, however, we are all dependent for many of our
pleasures upon others. Co-operation and organisation are essential to our
happiness, and these are impossible without some restraint being placed
upon our appetites. Laws are enacted to secure this restraint, and being
sustained by rewards and punishments, they make it the interest of the
individual to regard that of the community. According to Hobbes, the
disposition of man is so anarchical, and the importance of restraining it
so transcendent, that absolute government alone is good; the commands of
the sovereign are supreme, and must therefore constitute the law of
morals. The other moralists of the school, though repudiating this notion,
have given a very great and distinguished place to legislation in their
schemes of ethics; for all our conduct being determined by our interests,
virtue being simply the conformity of our own interests with those of the
community, and a judicious legislation being the chief way of securing
this conformity, the functions of the moralist and of the legislator are
almost identical.(13) But in addition to the rewards and punishments of
the penal code, those arising from public opinion—fame or infamy, the
friendship or hostility of those about us—are enlisted on the side of
virtue. The educating influence of laws, and the growing perception of the
identity of interests of the different members of the community, create a
public opinion favourable to all the qualities which are “the means of
peaceable, sociable, and comfortable living.”(14) Such are justice,
gratitude, modesty, equity, and mercy; and such, too, are purity and
chastity, which, considered in themselves alone, are in no degree more
excellent than the coarsest and most indiscriminate lust, but which can be
shown to be conducive to the happiness of society, and become in
consequence virtues.(15) This education of public opinion grows
continually stronger with civilisation, and gradually moulds the
characters of men, making them more and more disinterested, heroic, and
unselfish. A disinterested, unselfish, and heroic man, it is explained, is
one who is strictly engrossed in the pursuit of his own pleasure, but who
pursues it in such a manner as to include in its gratification the
happiness of others.(16)

It is a very old assertion, that a man who prudently sought his own
interest would live a life of perfect virtue. This opinion is adopted by
most of those Utilitarians who are least inclined to lay great stress upon
religious motives; and as they maintain that every man necessarily pursues
exclusively his own happiness, we return by another path to the old
Platonic doctrine, that all vice is ignorance. Virtue is a judicious, and
vice an injudicious, pursuit of pleasure. Virtue is a branch of prudence,
vice is nothing more than imprudence or miscalculation.(17) He who seeks
to improve the moral condition of mankind has two, and only two, ways of
accomplishing his end. The first is, to make it more and more the interest
of each to conform to that of the others; the second is, to dispel the
ignorance which prevents men from seeing their true interest.(18) If
chastity or truth, or any other of what we regard as virtues, could be
shown to produce on the whole more pain than they destroy, or to deprive
men of more pleasure than they afford, they would not be virtues, but
vices.(19) If it could be shown that it is not for our own interest to
practise any of what are admitted to be virtues, all obligation to
practise them would immediately cease.(20) The whole scheme of ethics may
be evolved from the four canons of Epicurus. The pleasure which produces
no pain is to be embraced. The pain which produces no pleasure is to be
avoided. The pleasure is to be avoided which prevents a greater pleasure,
or produces a greater pain. The pain is to be endured which averts a
greater pain, or secures a greater pleasure.(21)

So far I have barely alluded to any but terrestrial motives. These, in the
opinion of many of the most illustrious of the school, are sufficient, but
others—as we shall see, I think, with great reason—are of a different
opinion. Their obvious resource is in the rewards and punishments of
another world, and these they accordingly present as the motive to virtue.
Of all the modifications of the selfish theory, this alone can be said to
furnish interested motives for virtue which are invariably and
incontestably adequate. If men introduce the notion of infinite
punishments and infinite rewards distributed by an omniscient Judge, they
can undoubtedly supply stronger reasons for practising virtue than can
ever be found for practising vice. While admitting therefore in emphatic
terms, that any sacrifice of our pleasure, without the prospect of an
equivalent reward, is a simple act of madness, and unworthy of a rational
being,(22) these writers maintain that we may reasonably sacrifice the
enjoyments of this life, because we shall be rewarded by far greater
enjoyment in the next. To gain heaven and avoid hell should be the spring
of all our actions,(23) and virtue is simply prudence extending its
calculations beyond the grave.(24) This calculation is what we mean by the
“religious motive.”(25) The belief that the nobility and excellence of
virtue could incite us, was a mere delusion of the Pagans.(26)

Considered simply in the light of a prudential scheme, there are only two
possible objections that could be brought against this theory. It might be
said that the amount of virtue required for entering heaven was not
defined, and that therefore it would be possible to enjoy some vices on
earth with impunity. To this, however, it is answered that the very
indefiniteness of the requirement renders zealous piety a matter of
prudence, and also that there is probably a graduated scale of rewards and
punishments adapted to every variety of merit and demerit.(27) It might be
said too that present pleasures are at least certain, and that those of
another world are not equally so. It is answered that the rewards and
punishments offered in another world are so transcendently great, that
according to the rules of ordinary prudence, if there were only a
probability, or even a bare possibility, of their being real, a wise man
should regulate his course with a view to them.(28)

Among these writers, however, some have diverged to a certain degree from
the broad stream of utilitarianism, declaring that the foundation of the
moral law is not utility, but the will or arbitrary decree of God. This
opinion, which was propounded by the schoolman Ockham, and by several
other writers of his age,(29) has in modern times found many
adherents,(30) and been defended through a variety of motives. Some have
upheld it on the philosophical ground that a law can be nothing but the
sentence of a lawgiver; others from a desire to place morals in permanent
subordination to theology; others in order to answer objections to
Christianity derived from apparently immoral acts said to have been
sanctioned by the Divinity; and others because having adopted strong
Calvinistic sentiments, they were at once profoundly opposed to
utilitarian morals, and at the same time too firmly convinced of the total
depravity of human nature to admit the existence of any trustworthy moral

In the majority of cases, however, these writers have proved substantially
utilitarians. When asked how we can know the will of God, they answer that
in as far as it is not included in express revelation, it must be
discovered by the rule of utility; for nature proves that the Deity is
supremely benevolent, and desires the welfare of men, and therefore any
conduct that leads to that end is in conformity with His will.(32) To the
question why the Divine will should be obeyed, there are but two answers.
The first, which is that of the intuitive moralist, is that we are under a
natural obligation of gratitude to our Creator. The second, which is that
of the selfish moralist, is that the Creator has infinite rewards and
punishments at His disposal. The latter answer appears usually to have
been adopted, and the most eminent member has summed up with great
succinctness the opinion of his school. “The good of mankind,” he says,
“is the subject, the will of God the rule, and everlasting happiness the
motive and end of all virtue.”(33)

We have seen that the distinctive characteristic of the inductive school
of moralists is an absolute denial of the existence of any natural or
innate moral sense or faculty enabling us to distinguish between the
higher and lower parts of our nature, revealing to us either the existence
of a law of duty or the conduct that it prescribes. We have seen that the
only postulate of these writers is that happiness being universally
desired is a desirable thing, that the only merit they recognise in
actions or feelings is their tendency to promote human happiness, and that
the only motive to a virtuous act they conceive possible is the real or
supposed happiness of the agent. The sanctions of morality thus constitute
its obligation, and apart from them the word “ought” is absolutely
unmeaning. Those sanctions, as we have considered them, are of different
kinds and degrees of magnitude. Paley, though elsewhere acknowledging the
others, regarded the religious one as so immeasurably the first, that he
represented it as the one motive of virtue.(34) Locke divided them into
Divine rewards and punishments, legal penalties and social penalties;(35)
Bentham into physical, political, moral or popular, and religious—the
first being the bodily evils that result from vice, the second the
enactments of legislators, the third the pleasures and pains arising from
social intercourse, the fourth the rewards and punishments of another

During the greater part of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the
controversy in England between those who derived the moral code from
experience, and those who derived it from intuitions of the reason, or
from a special faculty, or from a moral sense, or from the power of
sympathy, turned mainly upon the existence of an unselfish element in our
nature. The reality of this existence having been maintained by
Shaftesbury, was established with an unprecedented, and I believe an
irresistible force, by Hutcheson, and the same question occupies a
considerable place in the writings of Butler, Hume, and Adam Smith. The
selfishness of the school of Hobbes, though in some degree mitigated, may
be traced in every page of the writings of Bentham; but some of his
disciples have in this respect deviated very widely from their master, and
in their hands the whole tone and complexion of utilitarianism have been
changed.(37) The two means by which this transformation has been effected
are the recognition of our unselfish or sympathetic feelings, and the
doctrine of the association of ideas.

That human nature is so constituted that we naturally take a pleasure in
the sight of the joy of others is one of those facts which to an ordinary
observer might well appear among the most patent that can be conceived. We
have seen, however, that it was emphatically denied by Hobbes, and during
the greater part of the last century it was fashionable among writers of
the school of Helvétius to endeavour to prove that all domestic or social
affections were dictated simply by a need of the person who was beloved.
The reality of the pleasures and pains of sympathy was admitted by
Bentham;(38) but in accordance with the whole spirit of his philosophy, he
threw them as much as possible into the background, and, as I have already
noticed, gave them no place in his summary of the sanctions of virtue. The
tendency, however, of the later members of the school has been to
recognise them fully,(39) though they differ as to the source from which
they spring. According to one section our benevolent affections are
derived from our selfish feelings by an association of ideas in a manner
which I shall presently describe. According to the other they are an
original part of the constitution of our nature. However they be
generated, their existence is admitted, their cultivation is a main object
of morals, and the pleasure derived from their exercise a leading motive
to virtue. The differences between the intuitive moralists and their
rivals on this point are of two kinds. Both acknowledge the existence in
human nature of both benevolent and malevolent feelings, and that we have
a natural power of distinguishing one from the other; but the first
maintain and the second deny that we have a natural power of perceiving
that one is better than the other. Both admit that we enjoy a pleasure in
acts of benevolence to others, but most writers of the first school
maintain that that pleasure follows unsought for, while writers of the
other school contend that the desire of obtaining it is the motive of the

But by far the most ingenious and at the same time most influential system
of utilitarian morals is that which owes its distinctive feature to the
doctrine of association of Hartley. This doctrine, which among the modern
achievements of ethics occupies on the utilitarian side a position
corresponding in importance to the doctrine of innate moral faculties as
distinguished from innate moral ideas on the intuitive side, was not
absolutely unknown to the ancients, though they never perceived either the
extent to which it may be carried or the important consequences that might
be deduced from it. Some traces of it may be found in Aristotle,(40) and
some of the Epicureans applied it to friendship, maintaining that,
although we first of all love our friend on account of the pleasure he can
give us, we come soon to love him for his own sake, and apart from all
considerations of utility.(41) Among moderns Locke has the merit of having
devised the phrase, “association of ideas;”(42) but he applied it only to
some cases of apparently eccentric sympathies or antipathies. Hutcheson,
however, closely anticipated both the doctrine of Hartley and the
favourite illustration of the school; observing that we desire some things
as themselves pleasurable and others only as means to obtain pleasurable
things, and that these latter, which he terms “secondary desires,” may
become as powerful as the former. “Thus, as soon as we come to apprehend
the use of wealth or power to gratify any of our original desires we must
also desire them. Hence arises the universality of these desires of wealth
and power, since they are the means of gratifying all our desires.”(43)
The same principles were carried much farther by a clergyman named Gay in
a short dissertation which is now almost forgotten, but to which Hartley
ascribed the first suggestion of his theory,(44) and in which indeed the
most valuable part of it is clearly laid down. Differing altogether from
Hutcheson as to the existence of any innate moral sense or principle of
benevolence in man, Gay admitted that the arguments of Hutcheson to prove
that the adult man possesses a moral sense were irresistible, and he
attempted to reconcile this fact with the teaching of Locke by the
doctrine of “secondary desires.” He remarks that in our reasonings we do
not always fall back upon first principles or axioms, but sometimes start
from propositions which though not self-evident we know to be capable of
proof. In the same way in justifying our actions we do not always appeal
to the tendency to produce happiness which is their one ultimate
justification, but content ourselves by showing that they produce some of
the known “means to happiness.” These “means to happiness” being
continually appealed to as justifying motives come insensibly to be
regarded as ends, possessing an intrinsic value irrespective of their
tendency; and in this manner it is that we love and admire virtue even
when unconnected with our interests.(45)

The great work of Hartley expanding and elaborating these views was
published in 1747. It was encumbered by much physiological speculation
into which it is needless for us now to enter, about the manner in which
emotions act upon the nerves, and although accepted enthusiastically by
Priestley and Belsham, and in some degree by Tucker, I do not think that
its purely ethical speculations had much influence until they were adopted
by some leading utilitarians in the present century.(46) Whatever may be
thought of the truth, it is impossible to withhold some admiration from
the intellectual grandeur of a system which starting from a conception of
human nature as low and as base as that of Mandeville or Hobbes professes
without the introduction of a single new or nobler element, by a strange
process of philosophic alchemy, to evolve out of this original selfishness
the most heroic and most sensitive virtue. The manner in which this
achievement is effected is commonly illustrated by the passion of avarice.
Money in itself possesses absolutely nothing that is admirable or
pleasurable, but being the means of procuring us many of the objects of
our desire, it becomes associated in our minds with the idea of pleasure;
it is therefore itself loved; and it is possible for the love of money so
completely to eclipse or supersede the love of all those things which
money procures, that the miser will forego them all, rather than part with
a fraction of his gold.(47)

The same phenomenon may be traced, it is said, in a multitude of other
forms.(48) Thus we seek power, because it gives us the means of gratifying
many desires. It becomes associated with those desires, and is, at last,
itself passionately loved. Praise indicates the affection of the eulogist,
and marks us out for the affection of others. Valued at first as a means,
it is soon desired as an end, and to such a pitch can our enthusiasm rise,
that we may sacrifice all earthly things for posthumous praise which can
never reach our ear. And the force of association may extend even farther.
We love praise, because it procures us certain advantages. We then love it
more than these advantages. We proceed by the same process to transfer our
affections to those things which naturally or generally procure praise. We
at last love what is praiseworthy more than praise, and will endure
perpetual obloquy rather than abandon it.(49) To this process, it is said,
all our moral sentiments must be ascribed. Man has no natural benevolent
feelings. He is at first governed solely by his interest, but the infant
learns to associate its pleasures with the idea of its mother, the boy
with the idea of his family, the man with those of his class, his church,
his country, and at last of all mankind, and in each case an independent
affection is at length formed.(50) The sight of suffering in others
awakens in the child a painful recollection of his own sufferings, which
parents, by appealing to the infant imagination, still further strengthen,
and besides, “when several children are educated together, the pains, the
denials of pleasure, and the sorrows which affect one gradually extend in
some degree to all;” and thus the suffering of others becomes associated
with the idea of our own, and the feeling of compassion is engendered.(51)
Benevolence and justice are associated in our minds with the esteem of our
fellow-men, with reciprocity of favours, and with the hope of future
reward. They are loved at first for these, and finally for themselves,
while opposite trains of association produce opposite feelings towards
malevolence and injustice.(52) And thus virtue, considered as a whole,
becomes the supreme object of our affections. Of all our pleasures, more
are derived from those acts which are called virtuous, than from any other
source. The virtuous acts of others procure us countless advantages. Our
own virtue obtains for us the esteem of men and return of favours. All the
epithets of praise are appropriated to virtue, and all the epithets of
blame to vice. Religion teaches us to connect hopes of infinite joy with
the one, and fears of infinite suffering with the other. Virtue becomes
therefore peculiarly associated with the idea of pleasurable things. It is
soon loved, independently of and more than these; we feel a glow of
pleasure in practising it, and an intense pain in violating it.
Conscience, which is thus generated, becomes the ruling principle of our
lives,(53) and having learnt to sacrifice all earthly things rather than
disobey it, we rise, by an association of ideas, into the loftiest region
of heroism.(54)

The influence of this ingenious, though I think in some respect fanciful,
theory depends less upon the number than upon the ability of its
adherents. Though little known, I believe, beyond England, it has in
England exercised a great fascination over exceedingly dissimilar
minds,(55) and it does undoubtedly evade some of the objections to the
other forms of the inductive theory. Thus, when intuitive moralists
contend that our moral judgments, being instantaneous and effected under
the manifest impulse of an emotion of sympathy or repulsion, are as far as
possible removed from that cold calculation of interests to which the
utilitarian reduces them, it is answered, that the association of ideas is
sufficient to engender a feeling which is the proximate cause of our
decision.(56) Alone, of all the moralists of this school, the disciple of
Hartley recognises conscience as a real and important element of our
nature,(57) and maintains that it is possible to love virtue for itself as
a form of happiness without any thought of ulterior consequences.(58) The
immense value this theory ascribes to education, gives it an unusual
practical importance. When we are balancing between a crime and a virtue,
our wills, it is said, are necessarily determined by the greater pleasure.
If we find more pleasure in the vice than in the virtue, we inevitably
gravitate to evil. If we find more pleasure in the virtue than in the
vice, we are as irresistibly attracted towards good. But the strength of
such motives may be immeasurably enhanced by an early association of
ideas. If we have been accustomed from childhood to associate our ideas of
praise and pleasure with virtue, we shall readily yield to virtuous
motives; if with vice, to vicious ones. This readiness to yield to one or
other set of motives, constitutes disposition, which is thus, according to
these moralists, altogether an artificial thing, the product of education,
and effected by association of ideas.(59)

It will be observed, however, that this theory, refined and imposing as it
may appear, is still essentially a selfish one. Even when sacrificing all
earthly objects through love of virtue, the good man is simply seeking his
greatest enjoyment, indulging a kind of mental luxury which gives him more
pleasure than what he foregoes, just as the miser finds more pleasure in
accumulation than in any form of expenditure.(60) There has been, indeed,
one attempt to emancipate the theory from this condition, but it appears
to me altogether futile. It has been said that men in the first instance
indulge in baneful excesses, on account of the pleasure they afford, but
the habit being contracted, continue to practise them after they have
ceased to afford pleasure, and that a similar law may operate in the case
of the habit of virtue.(61) But the reason why men who have contracted a
habit continue to practise it after it has ceased to give them positive
enjoyment, is because to desist, creates a restlessness and uneasiness
which amounts to acute mental pain. To avoid that pain is the motive of
the action.

The reader who has perused the passages I have accumulated in the notes,
will be able to judge with what degree of justice utilitarian writers
denounce with indignation the imputation of selfishness, as a calumny
against their system. It is not, I think, a strained or unnatural use of
language to describe as selfish or interested, all actions which a man
performs, in order himself to avoid suffering or acquire the greatest
possible enjoyment. If this be so, the term selfish is strictly applicable
to all the branches of this system.(62) At the same time it must be
acknowledged that there is a broad difference between the refined hedonism
of the utilitarians we have last noticed, and the writings of Hobbes, of
Mandeville, or of Paley. It must be acknowledged, also, that not a few
intuitive or stoical moralists have spoken of the pleasure to be derived
from virtue in language little if at all different from these writers.(63)
The main object of the earlier members of the inductive school, was to
depress human nature to their standard, by resolving all the noblest
actions into coarse and selfish elements. The main object of some of the
more influential of the later members of this school, has been to
sublimate their conceptions of happiness and interest in such a manner, as
to include the highest displays of heroism. As we have seen, they fully
admit that conscience is a real thing, and should be the supreme guide of
our lives, though they contend that it springs originally from
selfishness, transformed under the influence of the association of ideas.
They acknowledge the reality of the sympathetic feelings, though they
usually trace them to the same source. They cannot, it is true,
consistently with their principles, recognise the possibility of conduct
which is in the strictest sense of the word unselfish, but they contend
that it is quite possible for a man to find his highest pleasure in
sacrificing himself for the good of others, that the association of virtue
and pleasure is only perfect when it leads habitually to spontaneous and
uncalculating action, and that no man is in a healthy moral condition who
does not find more pain in committing a crime than he could derive
pleasure from any of its consequences. The theory in its principle remains
unchanged, but in the hands of some of these writers the spirit has wholly

Having thus given a brief, but, I trust, clear and faithful account of the
different modifications of the inductive theory, I shall proceed to state
some of the principal objections that have been and may be brought against
it. I shall then endeavour to define and defend the opinions of those who
believe that our moral feelings are an essential part of our constitution,
developed by, but not derived from education, and I shall conclude this
chapter by an enquiry into the order of their evolution; so that having
obtained some notion of the natural history of morals, we may be able, in
the ensuing chapters, to judge, how far their normal progress has been
accelerated or retarded by religious or political agencies.

“Psychology,” it has been truly said, “is but developed
consciousness.”(64) When moralists assert, that what we call virtue
derives its reputation solely from its utility, and that the interest or
pleasure of the agent is the one motive to practise it, our first question
is naturally how far this theory agrees with the feelings and with the
language of mankind. But if tested by this criterion, there never was a
doctrine more emphatically condemned than utilitarianism. In all its
stages, and in all its assertions, it is in direct opposition to common
language and to common sentiments. In all nations and in all ages, the
ideas of interest and utility on the one hand and of virtue on the other,
have been regarded by the multitude as perfectly distinct, and all
languages recognise the distinction. The terms honour, justice, rectitude
or virtue, and their equivalents in every language, present to the mind
ideas essentially and broadly differing from the terms prudence, sagacity,
or interest. The two lines of conduct may coincide, but they are never
confused, and we have not the slightest difficulty in imagining them
antagonistic. When we say a man is governed by a high sense of honour, or
by strong moral feeling, we do not mean that he is prudently pursuing
either his own interests or the interests of society. The universal
sentiment of mankind represents self-sacrifice as an essential element of
a meritorious act, and means by self-sacrifice the deliberate adoption of
the least pleasurable course without the prospect of any pleasure in
return. A selfish act may be innocent, but cannot be virtuous, and to
ascribe all good deeds to selfish motives, is not the distortion but the
negation of virtue. No Epicurean could avow before a popular audience that
the one end of his life was the pursuit of his own happiness without an
outburst of indignation and contempt.(65) No man could consciously make
this—which according to the selfish theory is the only rational and indeed
possible motive of action—the deliberate object of all his undertakings,
without his character becoming despicable and degraded. Whether we look
within ourselves or examine the conduct either of our enemies or of our
friends, or adjudicate upon the characters in history or in fiction, our
feelings on these matters are the same. In exact proportion as we believe
a desire for personal enjoyment to be the motive of a good act is the
merit of the agent diminished. If we believe the motive to be wholly
selfish the merit is altogether destroyed. If we believe it to be wholly
disinterested the merit is altogether unalloyed. Hence, the admiration
bestowed upon Prometheus, or suffering virtue constant beneath the blows
of Almighty malice, or on the atheist who with no prospect of future
reward suffered a fearful death, rather than abjure an opinion which could
be of no benefit to society, because he believed it to be the truth.
Selfish moralists deny the possibility of that which all ages, all
nations, all popular judgments pronounce to have been the characteristic
of every noble act that has ever been performed. Now, when a philosophy
which seeks by the light of consciousness to decipher the laws of our
moral being proves so diametrically opposed to the conclusions arrived at
by the great mass of mankind, who merely follow their consciousness
without endeavouring to frame systems of philosophy, that it makes most of
the distinctions of common ethical language absolutely unmeaning, this is,
to say the least, a strong presumption against its truth. If Molière’s
hero had been speaking prose all his life without knowing it, this was
simply because he did not understand what prose was. In the present case
we are asked to believe that men have been under a total delusion about
the leading principles of their lives which they had distinguished by a
whole vocabulary of terms.

It is said that the case becomes different when the pleasure sought is not
a gross or material enjoyment, but the satisfaction of performed virtue. I
suspect that if men could persuade themselves that the one motive of a
virtuous man was the certainty that the act he accomplished would be
followed by a glow of satisfaction so intense as more than to compensate
for any sacrifice he might have made, the difference would not be as great
as is supposed. In fact, however—and the consciousness of this lies, I
conceive, at the root of the opinions of men upon the subject—the pleasure
of virtue is one which can only be obtained on the express condition of
its not being the object sought. Phenomena of this kind are familiar to us
all. Thus, for example, it has often been observed that prayer, by a law
of our nature and apart from all supernatural intervention, exercises a
reflex influence of a very beneficial character upon the minds of the
worshippers. The man who offers up his petitions with passionate
earnestness, with unfaltering faith, and with a vivid realisation of the
presence of an Unseen Being has risen to a condition of mind which is
itself eminently favourable both to his own happiness and to the expansion
of his moral qualities. But he who expects nothing more will never attain
this. To him who neither believes nor hopes that his petitions will
receive a response such a mental state is impossible. No Protestant before
an image of the Virgin, no Christian before a pagan idol, could possibly
attain it. If prayers were offered up solely with a view to this benefit,
they would be absolutely sterile and would speedily cease. Thus again,
certain political economists have contended that to give money in charity
is worse than useless, that it is positively noxious to society, but they
have added that the gratification of our benevolent affections is pleasing
to ourselves, and that the pleasure we derive from this source may be so
much greater than the evil resulting from our gift, that we may justly,
according to the “greatest happiness principle,” purchase this large
amount of gratification to ourselves by a slight injury to our neighbours.
The political economy involved in this very characteristic specimen of
utilitarian ethics I shall hereafter examine. At present it is sufficient
to observe that no one who consciously practised benevolence solely from
this motive could obtain the pleasure in question. We receive enjoyment
from the thought that we have done good. We never could receive that
enjoyment if we believed and realised that we were doing harm. The same
thing is pre-eminently true of the satisfaction of conscience. A feeling
of satisfaction follows the accomplishment of duty for itself, but if the
duty be performed solely through the expectation of a mental pleasure
conscience refuses to ratify the bargain.

There is no fact more conspicuous in human nature than the broad
distinction, both in kind and degree, drawn between the moral and the
other parts of our nature. But this on utilitarian principles is
altogether unaccountable. If the excellence of virtue consists solely in
its utility or tendency to promote the happiness of men, we should be
compelled to canonise a crowd of acts which are utterly remote from all
our ordinary notions of morality. The whole tendency of political economy
and philosophical history which reveal the physiology of societies, is to
show that the happiness and welfare of mankind are evolved much more from
our selfish than from what are termed our virtuous acts. The prosperity of
nations and the progress of civilisation are mainly due to the exertions
of men who while pursuing strictly their own interests, were unconsciously
promoting the interests of the community. The selfish instinct that leads
men to accumulate, confers ultimately more advantage upon the world than
the generous instinct that leads men to give. A great historian has
contended with some force that intellectual development is more important
to societies than moral development. Yet who ever seriously questioned the
reality of the distinction that separates these things? The reader will
probably exclaim that the key to that distinction is to be found in the
motive; but it is one of the paradoxes of the utilitarian school that the
motive of the agent has absolutely no influence on the morality of the
act. According to Bentham, there is but one motive possible, the pursuit
of our own enjoyment. The most virtuous, the most vicious, and the most
indifferent of actions, if measured by this test, would be exactly the
same, and an investigation of motives should therefore be altogether
excluded from our moral judgments.(66) Whatever test we adopt, the
difficulty of accounting for the unique and pre-eminent position mankind
have assigned to virtue will remain. If we judge by tendencies, a crowd of
objects and of acts to which no mortal ever dreamed of ascribing virtue,
contribute largely to the happiness of man. If we judge by motives, the
moralists we are reviewing have denied all generic difference between
prudential and virtuous motives. If we judge by intentions, it is certain
that however much truth or chastity may contribute to the happiness of
mankind, it is not with philanthropic intentions that those virtues are

It is often said that intuitive moralists in their reasonings are guilty
of continually abandoning their principles by themselves appealing to the
tendency of certain acts to promote human happiness as a justification,
and the charge is usually accompanied by a challenge to show any confessed
virtue that has not that tendency. To the first objection it may be
shortly answered that no intuitive moralist ever dreamed of doubting that
benevolence or charity, or in other words, the promotion of the happiness
of man, is a duty. He maintains that it not only is so, but that we arrive
at this fact by direct intuition, and not by the discovery that such a
course is conducive to our own interest. But while he cordially recognises
this branch of virtue, and while he has therefore a perfect right to
allege the beneficial effects of a virtue in its defence, he refuses to
admit that all virtue can be reduced to this single principle. With the
general sentiment of mankind he regards charity as a good thing only
because it is of use to the world. With the same general sentiment of
mankind he believes that chastity and truth have an independent value,
distinct from their influence upon happiness. To the question whether
every confessed virtue is conducive to human happiness, it is less easy to
reply, for it is usually extremely difficult to calculate the remote
tendencies of acts, and in cases where, in the common apprehension of
mankind, the morality is very clear, the consequences are often very
obscure. Notwithstanding the claim of great precision which utilitarian
writers so boastfully make, the standard by which they profess to measure
morals is itself absolutely incapable of definition or accurate
explanation. Happiness is one of the most indeterminate and undefinable
words in the language, and what are the conditions of “the greatest
possible happiness” no one can precisely say. No two nations, perhaps no
two individuals, would find them the same.(67) And even if every virtuous
act were incontestably useful, it by no means follows that its virtue is
derived from its utility.

It may be readily granted, that as a general rule those acts which we call
virtuous, are unquestionably productive of happiness, if not to the agent,
at least to mankind in general, but we have already seen that they have by
no means that monopoly or pre-eminence of utility which on utilitarian
principles, the unique position assigned to them would appear to imply. It
may be added, that if we were to proceed in detail to estimate acts by
their consequences, we should soon be led to very startling conclusions.
In the first place, it is obvious that if virtues are only good because
they promote, and vices only evil because they impair the happiness of
mankind, the degrees of excellence or criminality must be strictly
proportioned to the degrees of utility or the reverse.(68) Every action,
every disposition, every class, every condition of society must take its
place on the moral scale precisely in accordance with the degree in which
it promotes or diminishes human happiness. Now it is extremely
questionable, whether some of the most monstrous forms of sensuality which
it is scarcely possible to name, cause as much unhappiness as some
infirmities of temper, or procrastination or hastiness of judgment. It is
scarcely doubtful that a modest, diffident, and retiring nature,
distrustful of its own abilities, and shrinking with humility from
conflict, produces on the whole less benefit to the world than the
self-assertion of an audacious and arrogant nature, which is impelled to
every struggle, and developes every capacity. Gratitude has no doubt done
much to soften and sweeten the intercourse of life, but the corresponding
feeling of revenge was for centuries the one bulwark against social
anarchy, and is even now one of the chief restraints to crime.(69) On the
great theatre of public life, especially in periods of great convulsions
when passions are fiercely roused, it is neither the man of delicate
scrupulosity and sincere impartiality, nor yet the single-minded religious
enthusiast, incapable of dissimulation or procrastination, who confers
most benefit upon the world. It is much rather the astute statesman
earnest about his ends but unscrupulous about his means, equally free from
the trammels of conscience and from the blindness of zeal, who governs
because he partly yields to the passions and the prejudices of his time.
But however much some modern writers may idolize the heroes of success,
however much they may despise and ridicule those far nobler men, whose
wide tolerance and scrupulous honour rendered them unfit leaders in the
fray, it has scarcely yet been contended that the delicate
conscientiousness which in these cases impairs utility constitutes vice.
If utility is the sole measure of virtue, it is difficult to understand
how we could look with moral disapprobation on any class who prevent
greater evils than they cause. But with such a principle we might find
strange priestesses at the utilitarian shrine. “Aufer meretrices de rebus
humanis,” said St. Augustine, “turbaveris omnia libidinibus.”(70)

Let us suppose an enquirer who intended to regulate his life consistently
by the utilitarian principle; let us suppose him to have overcome the
first great difficulty of his school, arising from the apparent divergence
of his own interests from his duty, to have convinced himself that that
divergence does not exist, and to have accordingly made the pursuit of
duty his single object, it remains to consider what kind of course he
would pursue. He is informed that it is a pure illusion to suppose that
human actions have any other end or rule than happiness, that nothing is
intrinsically good or intrinsically bad apart from its consequences, that
no act which is useful can possibly be vicious, and that the utility of an
act constitutes and measures its value. One of his first observations will
be that in very many special cases acts such as murder, theft, or
falsehood, which the world calls criminal, and which in the majority of
instances would undoubtedly be hurtful, appear eminently productive of
good. Why then, he may ask, should they not in these cases be performed?
The answer he receives is that they would not really be useful, because we
must consider the remote as well as the immediate consequences of actions,
and although in particular instances a falsehood or even a murder might
appear beneficial, it is one of the most important interests of mankind
that the sanctity of life and property should be preserved, and that a
high standard of veracity should be maintained. But this answer is
obviously insufficient. It is necessary to show that the extent to which a
single act of what the world calls crime would weaken these great bulwarks
of society is such as to counterbalance the immediate good which it
produces. If it does not, the balance will be on the side of happiness,
the murder or theft or falsehood will be useful, and therefore, on
utilitarian principles, will be virtuous. Now even in the case of public
acts, the effect of the example of an obscure individual is usually small,
but if the act be accomplished in perfect secrecy, the evil effects
resulting from the example will be entirely absent. It has been said that
it would be dangerous to give men permission to perpetrate what men call
crimes in secret. This may be a very good reason why the utilitarian
should not proclaim such a principle, but it is no reason why he should
not act upon it. If a man be convinced that no act which is useful can
possibly be criminal, if it be in his power by perpetrating what is called
a crime to obtain an end of great immediate utility, and if he is able to
secure such absolute secrecy as to render it perfectly certain that his
act cannot become an example, and cannot in consequence exercise any
influence on the general standard of morals, it appears demonstrably
certain that on utilitarian principles he would be justified in performing
it. If what we call virtue be only virtuous _because_ it is useful, it can
only be virtuous _when_ it is useful. The question of the morality of a
large number of acts must therefore depend upon the probability of their
detection,(71) and a little adroit hypocrisy must often, not merely in
appearance but in reality, convert a vice into a virtue. The only way by
which it has been attempted with any plausibility to evade this conclusion
has been by asserting that the act would impair the disposition of the
agent, or in other words predispose him on other occasions to perform acts
which are generally hurtful to society. But in the first place a single
act has no such effect upon disposition as to counteract a great immediate
good, especially when, as we have supposed, that act is not a revolt
against what is believed to be right, but is performed under the full
belief that it is in accordance with the one rational rule of morals, and
in the next place, as far as the act would form a habit it would appear to
be the habit of in all cases regulating actions by a precise and minute
calculation of their utility, which is the very ideal of utilitarian

If our enquirer happens to be a man of strong imagination and of solitary
habits, it is very probable that he will be accustomed to live much in a
world of imagination, a world peopled with beings that are to him as real
as those of flesh, with its joys and sorrows, its temptations and its
sins. In obedience to the common feelings of our nature he may have
struggled long and painfully against sins of the imagination, which he was
never seriously tempted to convert into sins of action. But his new
philosophy will be admirably fitted to console his mind. If remorse be
absent the indulgence of the most vicious imagination is a pleasure, and
if this indulgence does not lead to action it is a clear gain, and
therefore to be applauded. That a course may be continually pursued in
imagination without leading to corresponding actions he will speedily
discover, and indeed it has always been one of the chief objections
brought against fiction that the constant exercise of the sympathies in
favour of imaginary beings is found positively to indispose men to
practical benevolence.(72)

Proceeding farther in his course, our moralist will soon find reason to
qualify the doctrine of remote consequences, which plays so large a part
in the calculations of utilitarianism. It is said that it is criminal to
destroy human beings, even when the crime would appear productive of great
utility, for every instance of murder weakens the sanctity of life. But
experience shows that it is possible for men to be perfectly indifferent
to one particular section of human life, without this indifference
extending to others. Thus among the ancient Greeks, the murder or
exposition of the children of poor parents was continually practised with
the most absolute callousness, without exercising any appreciable
influence upon the respect for adult life. In the same manner what may be
termed religious unveracity, or the habit of propagating what are deemed
useful superstitions, with the consciousness of their being false, or at
least suppressing or misrepresenting the facts that might invalidate them,
does not in any degree imply industrial unveracity. Nothing is more common
than to find extreme dishonesty in speculation coexisting with scrupulous
veracity in business. If any vice might be expected to conform strictly to
the utilitarian theory, it would be cruelty; but cruelty to animals may
exist without leading to cruelty to men, and even where spectacles in
which animal suffering forms a leading element exercise an injurious
influence on character, it is more than doubtful whether the measure of
human unhappiness they may ultimately produce is at all equivalent to the
passionate enjoyment they immediately afford.

This last consideration, however, makes it necessary to notice a new, and
as it appears to me, almost grotesque development of the utilitarian
theory. The duty of humanity to animals, though for a long period too much
neglected, may, on the principles of the intuitive moralist, be easily
explained and justified. Our circumstances and characters produce in us
many and various affections towards all with whom we come in contact, and
our consciences pronounce these affections to be good or bad. We feel that
humanity or benevolence is a good affection, and also that it is due in
different degrees to different classes. Thus it is not only natural but
right that a man should care for his own family more than for the world at
large, and this obligation applies not only to parents who are responsible
for having brought their children into existence, and to children who owe
a debt of gratitude to their parents, but also to brothers who have no
such special tie. So too we feel it to be both unnatural and wrong to feel
no stronger interest in our fellow-countrymen than in other men. In the
same way we feel that there is a wide interval between the humanity it is
both natural and right to exhibit towards animals, and that which is due
to our own species. Strong philanthropy could hardly coexist with
cannibalism, and a man who had no hesitation in destroying human life for
the sake of obtaining the skins of the victims, or of freeing himself from
some trifling inconvenience, would scarcely be eulogised for his
benevolence. Yet a man may be regarded as very humane to animals who has
no scruple in sacrificing their lives for his food, his pleasures, or his

Towards the close of the last century an energetic agitation in favour of
humanity to animals arose in England, and the utilitarian moralists, who
were then rising into influence, caught the spirit of their time and made
very creditable efforts to extend it.(73) It is manifest, however, that a
theory which recognised no other end in virtue than the promotion of human
happiness, could supply no adequate basis for the movement. Some of the
recent members of the school have accordingly enlarged their theory,
maintaining that acts are virtuous when they produce a net result of
happiness, and vicious when they produce a net result of suffering,
altogether irrespective of the question whether this enjoyment or
suffering is of men or animals. In other words, they place the duty of man
to animals on exactly the same basis as the duty of man to his fellow-men,
maintaining that no suffering can be rightly inflicted on brutes, which
does not produce a larger amount of happiness to man.(74)

The first reflection suggested by this theory is, that it appears
difficult to understand how, on the principles of the inductive school, it
could be arrived at. Benevolence, as we have seen, according to these
writers begins in interest. We first of all do good to men, because it is
for our advantage, though the force of the habit may at last act
irrespective of interest. But in the case of animals which cannot resent
barbarity, this foundation of self-interest does not for the most part(75)
exist. Probably, however, an association of ideas might help to solve the
difficulty, and the habit of benevolence generated originally from the
social relations of men might at last be extended to the animal world; but
that it should be so to the extent of placing the duty to animals on the
same basis as the duty to men, I do not anticipate, or (at the risk of
being accused of great inhumanity), I must add, desire. I cannot look
forward to a time when no one will wear any article of dress formed out of
the skin of an animal, or feed upon animal flesh, till he has ascertained
that the pleasure he derives from doing so, exceeds the pain inflicted
upon the animal, as well as the pleasure of which by abridging its life he
has deprived it.(76) And supposing that with such a calculation before
him, the utilitarian should continue to feed on the flesh of animals, his
principle might carry him to further conclusions, from which I confess I
should recoil. If, when Swift was writing his famous essay in favour of
employing for food the redundant babies of a half-starving population, he
had been informed that, according to the more advanced moralists, to eat a
child, and to eat a sheep, rest upon exactly the same ground; that in the
one case as in the other, the single question for the moralist is, whether
the repast on the whole produces more pleasure than pain, it must be owned
that the discovery would have greatly facilitated his task.

The considerations I have adduced will, I think, be sufficient to show
that the utilitarian principle if pushed to its full logical consequences
would be by no means as accordant with ordinary moral notions as is
sometimes alleged; that it would, on the contrary, lead to conclusions
utterly and outrageously repugnant to the moral feelings it is intended to
explain. I will conclude this part of my argument by very briefly
adverting to two great fields in which, as I believe, it would prove
especially revolutionary.

The first of these is the field of chastity. It will be necessary for me
in the course of the present work to dwell at greater length than I should
desire upon questions connected with this virtue. At present, I will
merely ask the reader to conceive a mind from which all notion of the
intrinsic excellence or nobility of purity was banished, and to suppose
such a mind comparing, by a utilitarian standard, a period in which
sensuality was almost unbridled, such as the age of Athenian glory or the
English restoration, with a period of austere virtue. The question which
of these societies was morally the best would thus resolve itself solely
into the question in which there was produced the greatest amount of
enjoyment and the smallest amount of suffering. The pleasures of domestic
life, the pleasures resulting from a freer social intercourse,(77) the
different degrees of suffering inflicted on those who violated the law of
chastity, the ulterior consequences of each mode of life upon well-being
and upon population, would be the chief elements of the comparison. Can
any one believe that the balance of enjoyment would be so unquestionably
and so largely on the side of the more austere society as to justify the
degree of superiority which is assigned to it?(78)

The second sphere is that of speculative truth. No class of men have more
highly valued an unflinching hostility to superstition than utilitarians.
Yet it is more than doubtful whether upon their principles it can be
justified. Many superstitions do undoubtedly answer to the Greek
conception of slavish “fear of the gods,” and have been productive of
unspeakable misery to mankind, but there are very many others of a
different tendency. Superstitions appeal to our hopes as well as to our
fears. They often meet and gratify the inmost longings of the heart. They
offer certainties when reason can only afford possibilities or
probabilities. They supply conceptions on which the imagination loves to
dwell. They sometimes even impart a new sanction to moral truths. Creating
wants which they alone can satisfy, and fears which they alone can quell,
they often become essential elements of happiness, and their consoling
efficacy is most felt in the languid or troubled hours when it is most
needed. We owe more to our illusions than to our knowledge. The
imagination, which is altogether constructive, probably contributes more
to our happiness than the reason, which in the sphere of speculation is
mainly critical and destructive. The rude charm which in the hour of
danger or distress the savage clasps so confidently to his breast, the
sacred picture which is believed to shed a hallowing and protecting
influence over the poor man’s cottage, can bestow a more real consolation
in the darkest hour of human suffering than can be afforded by the
grandest theories of philosophy. The first desire of the heart is to find
something on which to lean. Happiness is a condition of feeling, not a
condition of circumstances, and to common minds one of its first
essentials is the exclusion of painful and harassing doubt. A system of
belief may be false, superstitious, and reactionary, and may yet be
conducive to human happiness if it furnishes great multitudes of men with
what they believe to be a key to the universe, if it consoles them in
those seasons of agonizing bereavement when the consolations of
enlightened reason are but empty words, if it supports their feeble and
tottering minds in the gloomy hours of sickness and of approaching death.
A credulous and superstitious nature may be degraded, but in the many
cases where superstition does not assume a persecuting or appalling form
it is not unhappy, and degradation, apart from unhappiness, can have no
place in utilitarian ethics. No error can be more grave than to imagine
that when a critical spirit is abroad the pleasant beliefs will all
remain, and the painful ones alone will perish. To introduce into the mind
the consciousness of ignorance and the pangs of doubt is to inflict or
endure much suffering, which may even survive the period of transition.
“Why is it,” said Luther’s wife, looking sadly back upon the sensuous
creed which she had left, “that in our old faith we prayed so often and so
warmly, and that our prayers are now so few and so cold?”(79) It is
related of an old monk named Serapion, who had embraced the heresy of the
anthropomorphites, that he was convinced by a brother monk of the folly of
attributing to the Almighty a human form. He bowed his reason humbly to
the Catholic creed; but when he knelt down to pray, the image which his
imagination had conceived, and on which for so many years his affections
had been concentrated, had disappeared, and the old man burst into tears,
exclaiming, “You have deprived me of my God.”(80)

These are indeed facts which must be deeply painful to all who are
concerned with the history of opinion. The possibility of often adding to
the happiness of men by diffusing abroad, or at least sustaining pleasing
falsehoods, and the suffering that must commonly result from their
dissolution, can hardly reasonably be denied. There is one, and but one,
adequate reason that can always justify men in critically reviewing what
they have been taught. It is, the conviction that opinions should not be
regarded as mere mental luxuries, that truth should be deemed an end
distinct from and superior to utility, and that it is a moral duty to
pursue it, whether it leads to pleasure or whether it leads to pain. Among
the many wise sayings which antiquity ascribed to Pythagoras, few are more
remarkable than his division of virtue into two distinct branches—to be
truthful and to do good.(81)

Of the sanctions which, according to the utilitarians, constitute the sole
motives to virtue, there is one, as I have said, unexceptionably adequate.
Those who adopt the religious sanction, can always appeal to a balance of
interest in favour of virtue; but as the great majority of modern
utilitarians confidently sever their theory from all theological
considerations, I will dismiss this sanction with two or three remarks.

In the first place, it is obvious that those who regard the arbitrary will
of the Deity as the sole rule of morals, render it perfectly idle to
represent the Divine attributes as deserving of our admiration. To speak
of the goodness of God, either implies that there is such a quality as
goodness, to which the Divine acts conform, or it is an unmeaning
tautology. Why should we extol, or how can we admire, the perfect goodness
of a Being whose will and acts constitute the sole standard or definition
of perfection?(82) The theory which teaches that the arbitrary will of the
Deity is the one rule of morals, and the anticipation of future rewards
and punishments the one reason for conforming to it, consists of two
parts. The first annihilates the goodness of God; the second, the virtue
of man.

Another and equally obvious remark is, that while these theologians
represent the hope of future rewards, and the fear of future punishments,
as the only reason for doing right, one of our strongest reasons for
believing in the existence of these rewards and punishments, is our
deep-seated feeling of merit and demerit. That the present disposition of
affairs is in many respects unjust, that suffering often attends a course
which deserves reward, and happiness a course which deserves punishment,
leads men to infer a future state of retribution. Take away the
consciousness of desert, and the inference would no longer be made.

A third remark, which I believe to be equally true, but which may not be
acquiesced in with equal readiness, is that without the concurrence of a
moral faculty, it is wholly impossible to prove from nature that supreme
goodness of the Creator, which utilitarian theologians assume. We speak of
the benevolence shown in the joy of the insect glittering in the sunbeam,
in the protecting instincts so liberally bestowed among the animal world,
in the kindness of the parent to its young, in the happiness of little
children, in the beauty and the bounty of nature, but is there not another
side to the picture? The hideous disease, the countless forms of rapine
and of suffering, the entozoa that live within the bodies, and feed upon
the anguish of sentient beings, the ferocious instinct of the cat, that
prolongs with delight the agonies of its victim, all the multitudinous
forms of misery that are manifested among the innocent portion of
creation, are not these also the works of nature? We speak of the Divine
veracity. What is the whole history of the intellectual progress of the
world but one long struggle of the intellect of man to emancipate itself
from the deceptions of nature? Every object that meets the eye of the
savage awakens his curiosity only to lure him into some deadly error. The
sun that seems a diminutive light revolving around his world; the moon and
the stars that appear formed only to light his path; the strange fantastic
diseases that suggest irresistibly the notion of present dæmons; the
terrific phenomena of nature which appear the results, not of blind
forces, but of isolated spiritual agencies—all these things fatally,
inevitably, invincibly impel him into superstition. Through long centuries
the superstitions thus generated have deluged the world with blood.
Millions of prayers have been vainly breathed to what we now know were
inexorable laws of nature. Only after ages of toil did the mind of man
emancipate itself from those deadly errors to which by the deceptive
appearances of nature the long infancy of humanity is universally doomed.

And in the laws of wealth how different are the appearances from the
realities of things! Who can estimate the wars that have been kindled, the
bitterness and the wretchedness that have been caused, by errors relating
to the apparent antagonism of the interests of nations which were so
natural that for centuries they entangled the very strongest intellects,
and it was scarcely till our own day that a tardy science came to dispel

What shall we say to these things? If induction alone were our guide, if
we possessed absolutely no knowledge of some things being in their own
nature good, and others in their own nature evil, how could we rise from
this spectacle of nature to the conception of an all-perfect Author? Even
if we could discover a predominance of benevolence in the creation, we
should still regard the mingled attributes of nature as a reflex of the
mingled attributes of its Contriver. Our knowledge of the Supreme
Excellence, our best evidence even of the existence of the Creator, is
derived not from the material universe but from our own moral nature.(83)
It is not of reason but of faith. In other words it springs from that
instinctive or moral nature which is as truly a part of our being as is
our reason, which teaches us what reason could never teach, the supreme
and transcendent excellence of moral good, which rising dissatisfied above
this world of sense, proves itself by the very intensity of its aspiration
to be adapted for another sphere, and which constitutes at once the
evidence of a Divine element within us, and the augury of the future that
is before us.(84)

These things belong rather to the sphere of feeling than of reasoning.
Those who are most deeply persuaded of their truth, will probably feel
that they are unable by argument to express adequately the intensity of
their conviction, but they may point to the recorded experience of the
best and greatest men in all ages, to the incapacity of terrestrial things
to satisfy our nature, to the manifest tendency, both in individuals and
nations, of a pure and heroic life to kindle, and of a selfish and corrupt
life to cloud, these aspirations, to the historical fact that no
philosophy and no scepticism have been able permanently to repress them.
The lines of our moral nature tend upwards. In it we have the common root
of religion and of ethics, for the same consciousness that tells us that,
even when it is in fact the weakest element of our constitution, it is by
right supreme, commanding and authoritative, teaches us also that it is
Divine. All the nobler religions that have governed mankind, have done so
by virtue of the affinity of their teaching with this nature, by speaking,
as common religious language correctly describes it, “to the heart,” by
appealing not to self-interest, but to that Divine element of
self-sacrifice which is latent in every soul.(85) The reality of this
moral nature is the one great question of natural theology, for it
involves that connection between our own and a higher nature, without
which the existence of a First Cause were a mere question of archæology,
and religion but an exercise of the imagination.

I return gladly to the secular sanctions of utilitarianism. The majority
of its disciples assure us that these are sufficient to establish their
theory, or in other words, that our duty coincides so strictly with our
interest when rightly understood, that a perfectly prudent would
necessarily become a perfectly virtuous man.(86) Bodily vice they tell us
ultimately brings bodily weakness and suffering. Extravagance is followed
by ruin; unbridled passions by the loss of domestic peace; disregard for
the interests of others by social or legal penalties; while on the other
hand, the most moral is also the most tranquil disposition; benevolence is
one of the truest of our pleasures, and virtue may become by habit, an
essential of enjoyment. As the shopkeeper who has made his fortune, still
sometimes continues at the counter, because the daily routine has become
necessary to his happiness, so the “moral hero” may continue to practise
that virtue which was at first the mere instrument of his pleasures, as
being in itself more precious than all besides.(87)

This theory of the perfect coincidence of virtue and interest rightly
understood, which has always been a commonplace of moralists, and has been
advocated by many who were far from wishing to resolve virtue into
prudence, contains no doubt a certain amount of truth, but only of the
most general kind. It does not apply to nations as wholes, for although
luxurious and effeminate vices do undoubtedly corrode and enervate
national character, the histories of ancient Rome and of not a few modern
monarchies abundantly prove that a career of consistent rapacity,
ambition, selfishness, and fraud may be eminently conducive to national
prosperity.(88) It does not apply to imperfectly organised societies,
where the restraints of public opinion are unfelt and where force is the
one measure of right. It does not apply except in a very partial degree
even to the most civilised of mankind. It is, indeed, easy to show that in
a polished community a certain low standard of virtue is essential to
prosperity, to paint the evils of unrestrained passions, and to prove that
it is better to obey than to violate the laws of society. But if turning
from the criminal or the drunkard we were to compare the man who simply
falls in with or slightly surpasses the average morals of those about him,
and indulges in a little vice which is neither injurious to his own health
nor to his reputation, with the man who earnestly and painfully adopts a
much higher standard than that of his time or of his class, we should be
driven to another conclusion. Honesty it is said is the best policy—a
fact, however, which depends very much upon the condition of the police
force—but heroic virtue must rest upon a different basis. If happiness in
any of its forms be the supreme object of life, moderation is the most
emphatic counsel of our being, but moderation is as opposed to heroism as
to vice. There is no form of intellectual or moral excellence which has
not a general tendency to produce happiness if cultivated in moderation.
There are very few which if cultivated to great perfection have not a
tendency directly the reverse. Thus a mind that is sufficiently enlarged
to range abroad amid the pleasures of intellect has no doubt secured a
fund of inexhaustible enjoyment; but he who inferred from this that the
highest intellectual eminence was the condition most favourable to
happiness would be lamentably deceived. The diseased nervous sensibility
that accompanies intense mental exertion, the weary, wasting sense of
ignorance and vanity, the disenchantment and disintegration that commonly
follow a profound research, have filled literature with mournful echoes of
the words of the royal sage, “In much wisdom is much grief, and he that
increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” The lives of men of genius have
been for the most part a conscious and deliberate realisation of the
ancient myth—the tree of knowledge and the tree of life stood side by
side, and they chose the tree of knowledge rather than the tree of life.

Nor is it otherwise in the realm of morals.(89) The virtue which is most
conducive to happiness is plainly that which can be realised without much
suffering, and sustained without much effort. Legal and physical penalties
apply only to the grosser and more extreme forms of vice. Social penalties
may strike the very highest forms of virtue.(90) That very sentiment of
unity with mankind which utilitarians assure us is one day to become so
strong as to overpower all unsocial feelings, would make it more and more
impossible for men consistently with their happiness to adopt any course,
whether very virtuous or very vicious, that would place them out of
harmony with the general sentiment of society. It may be said that the
tranquillity of a perfectly virtuous mind is the highest form of
happiness, and may be reasonably preferred not only to material
advantages, but also to the approbation of society; but no man can fully
attain, and few can even approximate, to such a condition. When vicious
passions and impulses are very strong, it is idle to tell the sufferer
that he would be more happy if his nature were radically different from
what it is. If happiness be his object, he must regulate his course with a
view to the actual condition of his being, and there can be little doubt
that his peace would be most promoted by a compromise with vice. The
selfish theory of morals applies only to the virtues of temperament, and
not to that much higher form of virtue which is sustained in defiance of
temperament.(91) We have no doubt a certain pleasure in cultivating our
good tendencies, but we have by no means the same pleasure in repressing
our bad ones. There are men whose whole lives are spent in willing one
thing, and desiring the opposite. In such cases as these virtue clearly
involves a sacrifice of happiness; for the suffering caused by resisting
natural tendencies is much greater than would ensue from their moderate

The plain truth is that no proposition can be more palpably and
egregiously false than the assertion that as far as this world is
concerned, it is invariably conducive to the happiness of a man to pursue
the most virtuous career. Circumstances and disposition will make one man
find his highest happiness in the happiness, and another man in the
misery, of his kind; and if the second man acts according to his interest,
the utilitarian, however much he may deplore the result, has no right to
blame or condemn the agent. For that agent is following his greatest
happiness, and this, in the eyes of utilitarians, in one form or another,
is the highest, or to speak more accurately, the only motive by which
human nature can be actuated.

We may remark too that the disturbance or pain which does undoubtedly
usually accompany what is evil, bears no kind of proportion to the
enormity of the guilt. An irritability of temper, which is chiefly due to
a derangement of the nervous system, or a habit of procrastination or
indecision, will often cause more suffering than some of the worst vices
that can corrupt the heart.(92)

But it may be said this calculation of pains and pleasures is defective
through the omission of one element. Although a man who had a very strong
natural impulse towards some vice would appear more likely to promote the
tranquillity of his nature by a moderate and circumspect gratification of
that vice, than by endeavouring painfully to repress his natural
tendencies, yet he possesses a conscience which adjudicates upon his
conduct, and its sting or its approval constitutes a pain or pleasure so
intense, as more than to redress the balance. Now of course, no intuitive
moralist will deny, what for a long time his school may be almost said to
have been alone in asserting, the reality of conscience, or the pleasures
and pains it may afford. He simply denies, and he appeals to consciousness
in attestation of his position, that those pains and pleasures are so
powerful or so proportioned to our acts as to become an adequate basis for
virtue. Conscience, whether we regard it as an original faculty, or as a
product of the association of ideas, exercises two distinct functions. It
points out a difference between right and wrong, and when its commands are
violated, it inflicts a certain measure of suffering and disturbance. The
first function it exercises persistently through life. The second it only
exercises under certain special circumstances. It is scarcely conceivable
that a man in the possession of his faculties should pass a life of gross
depravity and crime without being conscious that he was doing wrong; but
it is extremely possible for him to do so without this consciousness
having any appreciable influence upon his tranquillity. The condition of
their consciences, as Mr. Carlyle observes, has less influence on the
happiness of men than the condition of their livers. Considered as a
source of pain, conscience bears a striking resemblance to the feeling of
disgust. Notwithstanding the assertion of Dr. Johnson, I venture to
maintain that there are multitudes to whom the necessity of discharging
the duties of a butcher would be so inexpressibly painful and revolting,
that if they could obtain flesh diet on no other condition, they would
relinquish it for ever. But to those who are inured to the trade, this
repugnance has simply ceased. It has no place in their emotions or
calculations. Nor can it be reasonably questioned that most men by an
assiduous attendance at the slaughter-house could acquire a similar
indifference. In like manner, the reproaches of conscience are doubtless a
very real and important form of suffering to a sensitive, scrupulous, and
virtuous girl who has committed some trivial act of levity or
disobedience; but to an old and hardened criminal they are a matter of the
most absolute indifference.

Now it is undoubtedly conceivable, that by an association of ideas men
might acquire a feeling that would cause that which would naturally be
painful to them to be pleasurable, and that which would naturally be
pleasurable to be painful.(93) But the question will immediately arise,
why should they respect this feeling? We have seen that, according to the
inductive theory, there is no such thing as natural duty. Men enter into
life solely desirous of seeking their own happiness. The whole edifice of
virtue arises from the observed fact, that owing to the constitution of
our nature, and the intimacy of our social relations, it is necessary for
our happiness to abstain from some courses that would be immediately
pleasurable and to pursue others that are immediately the reverse.
Self-interest is the one ultimate reason for virtue, however much the
moral chemistry of Hartley may disguise and transform it. Ought or ought
not, means nothing more than the prospect of acquiring or of losing
pleasure. The fact that one line of conduct promotes, and another impairs
the happiness of others is, according to these moralists, in the last
analysis, no reason whatever for pursuing the former or avoiding the
latter, unless such a course is that which brings us the greatest
happiness. The happiness may arise from the action of society upon
ourselves, or from our own naturally benevolent disposition, or, again,
from an association of ideas, which means the force of a habit we have
formed, but in any case our own happiness is the one possible or
conceivable motive of action. If this be a true picture of human nature,
the reasonable course for every man is to modify his disposition in such a
manner that he may attain the greatest possible amount of enjoyment. If he
has formed an association of ideas, or contracted a habit which inflicts
more pain than it prevents, or prevents more pleasure than it affords, his
reasonable course is to dissolve that association, to destroy that habit.
This is what he “ought” to do according to the only meaning that word can
possess in the utilitarian vocabulary. If he does not, he will justly
incur the charge of imprudence, which is the only charge utilitarianism
can consistently bring against vice.

That it would be for the happiness as it would certainly be in the power
of a man of a temperament such as I have lately described, to quench that
conscientious feeling, which by its painful reproaches prevents him from
pursuing the course that would be most conducive to his tranquillity, I
conceive to be self-evident. And, indeed, on the whole, it is more than
doubtful whether conscience, considered apart from the course of action it
prescribes, is not the cause of more pain than pleasure. Its reproaches
are more felt than its approval. The self-complacency of a virtuous man
reflecting with delight upon his own exceeding merit, is frequently spoken
of in the writings of moral philosophers,(94) but is rarely found in
actual life where the most tranquil is seldom the most perfect nature,
where the sensitiveness of conscience increases at least in proportion to
moral growth, and where in the best men a feeling of modesty and humility
is always present to check the exuberance of self-gratulation.

In every sound system of morals and religion the motives of virtue become
more powerful the more the mind is concentrated upon them. It is when they
are lost sight of, when they are obscured by passion, unrealised or
forgotten, that they cease to operate. But it is a peculiarity of the
utilitarian conception of virtue that it is wholly unable to resist the
solvent of analysis, and that the more the mind realises its origin and
its nature, the more its influence on character must decline. The
pleasures of the senses will always defy the force of analysis, for they
have a real foundation in our being. They have their basis in the eternal
nature of things. But the pleasure we derive from the practice of virtue
rests, according to this school, on a wholly different basis. It is the
result of casual and artificial association, of habit, of a confusion by
the imagination of means with ends, of a certain dignity with which
society invests qualities or actions that are useful to itself. Just in
proportion as this is felt, just in proportion as the mind separates the
idea of virtue from that of natural excellence and obligation, and
realises the purely artificial character of the connection, just in that
proportion will the coercive power of the moral motive be destroyed. The
utilitarian rule of judging actions and dispositions by their tendency to
promote or diminish happiness, or the maxim of Kant that man should always
act so that the rule of his conduct might be adopted as a law by all
rational beings, may be very useful as a guide in life; but in order that
they should acquire moral weight, it is necessary to presuppose the sense
of moral obligation, the consciousness that duty, when discovered, has a
legitimate claim to be the guiding principle of our lives. And it is this
element which, in the eye of reason, the mere artificial association of
ideas can never furnish.

If the patience of the reader has enabled him to accompany me through this
long train of tedious arguments, he will, I think, have concluded that the
utilitarian theory, though undoubtedly held by many men of the purest, and
by some men of almost heroic virtue, would if carried to its logical
conclusions prove subversive of morality, and especially, and in the very
highest degree, unfavourable to self-denial and to heroism. Even if it
explains these, it fails to justify them, and conscience being traced to a
mere confusion of the means of happiness with its end, would be wholly
unable to resist the solvent of criticism. That this theory of conscience
gives a true or adequate description of the phenomenon it seeks to
explain, no intuitive moralist will admit. It is a complete though common
mistake to suppose that the business of the moralist is merely to explain
the genesis of certain feelings we possess. At the root of all morals lies
an intellectual judgment which is clearly distinct from liking or
disliking, from pleasure or from pain. A man who has injured his position
by some foolish but perfectly innocent act, or who has inadvertently
violated some social rule, may experience an emotion of self-reproach or
of shame quite as acute as if he had committed a crime. But he is at the
same time clearly conscious that his conduct is not a fit subject for
moral reprobation, that the grounds on which it may be condemned are of a
different and of a lower kind. The sense of obligation and of legitimate
supremacy, which is the essential and characteristic feature of
conscience, and which distinguishes it from all the other parts of our
nature, is wholly unaccounted for by the association of ideas. To say that
a certain course of conduct is pleasing, and that a certain amount of pain
results from the weakening of feelings that impel men towards it, is
plainly different from what men mean when they say we ought to pursue it.
The virtue of Hartley is, in its last analysis, but a disease of the
imagination. It may be more advantageous to society than avarice; but it
is formed in the same manner, and has exactly the same degree of binding

These considerations will help to supply an answer to the common
utilitarian objection that to speak of duty as distinct from self-interest
is unmeaning, because it is absurd to say that we are under an obligation
to do any thing when no evil consequences would result to us from not
doing it. Rewards and punishments it may be answered are undoubtedly
necessary to enforce, but they are not necessary to constitute, duty. This
distinction, whether it be real or not, has at all events the advantage of
appearing self-evident to all who are not philosophers. Thus when a party
of colonists occupy a new territory they divide the unoccupied land among
themselves, and they murder, or employ for the gratification of their
lusts, the savage inhabitants. Both acts are done with perfect impunity,
but one is felt to be innocent and the other wrong. A lawful government
appropriates the land and protects the aboriginals, supporting its
enactments by penalties. In the one case the law both creates and enforces
a duty, in the other it only enforces it. The intuitive moralist simply
asserts that we have the power of perceiving that certain courses of
action are higher, nobler, and better than others, and that by the
constitution of our being, this fact, which is generically distinct from
the prospect of pleasure or the reverse, may and ought to be and
continually is a motive of action. It is no doubt possible for a man to
prefer the lower course, and in this case we say he is deserving of
punishment, and if he remains unpunished we say that it is unjust. But if
there were no power to reward or punish him, his acts would not be
indifferent. They would still be intelligibly described as essentially
base or noble, shameful though there were none to censure, admirable
though there were none to admire.

That men have the power of preferring other objects than happiness is a
proposition which must ultimately be left to the attestation of
consciousness. That the pursuit of virtue, however much happiness may
eventually follow in its train, is in the first instance an example of
this preference, must be established by that common voice of mankind which
has invariably regarded a virtuous motive as generically different from an
interested one. And indeed even when the conflict between strong passions
and a strong sense of duty does not exist it is impossible to measure the
degrees of virtue by the scale of enjoyment. The highest nature is rarely
the happiest. Petronius Arbiter was, very probably, a happier man than
Marcus Aurelius. For eighteen centuries the religious instinct of
Christendom has recognised its ideal in the form of a “Man of Sorrows.”

Considerations such as I have now urged lead the intuitive moralists to
reject the principles of the utilitarian. They acknowledge indeed that the
effect of actions upon the happiness of mankind forms a most important
element in determining their moral quality, but they maintain that without
natural moral perceptions we never should have known that it was our duty
to seek the happiness of mankind when it diverged from our own, and they
deny that virtue was either originally evolved from or is necessarily
proportioned to utility. They acknowledge that in the existing condition
of society there is at least a general coincidence between the paths of
virtue and of prosperity, but they contend that the obligation of virtue
is of such a nature that no conceivable convulsion of affairs could
destroy it, and that it would continue even if the government of the world
belonged to supreme malice instead of supreme benevolence. Virtue, they
believe, is something more than a calculation or a habit. It is impossible
to conceive its fundamental principles reversed. Notwithstanding the
strong tendency to confuse cognate feelings, the sense of duty and the
sense of utility remain perfectly distinct in the apprehension of mankind,
and we are quite capable of recognising each separate ingredient in the
same act. Our respect for a gallant but dangerous enemy, our contempt for
a useful traitor, our care in the last moments of life for the interests
of those who survive us, our clear distinction between intentional and
unintentional injuries, and between the consciousness of imprudence and
the consciousness of guilt, our conviction that the pursuit of interest
should always be checked by a sense of duty, and that selfish and moral
motives are so essentially opposed, that the presence of the former
necessarily weakens the latter, our indignation at those who when honour
or gratitude call them to sacrifice their interests pause to calculate
remote consequences, the feeling of remorse which differs from every other
emotion of our nature—in a word, the universal, unstudied sentiments of
mankind all concur in leading us to separate widely our virtuous
affections from our selfish ones. Just as pleasure and pain are ultimate
grounds of action, and no reason can be given why we should seek the
former and avoid the latter, except that it is the constitution of our
nature that we should do so, so we are conscious that the words right and
wrong express ultimate intelligible motives, that these motives are
generically different from the others, that they are of a higher order,
and that they carry with them a sense of obligation. Any scheme of morals
that omits these facts fails to give an accurate and adequate description
of the states of feeling which consciousness reveals. The consciences of
men in every age would have echoed the assertion of Cicero that to
sacrifice pleasure with a view of obtaining any form or modification of
pleasure in return, no more answers to our idea of virtue, than to lend
money at interest to our idea of charity. The conception of pure
disinterestedness is presupposed in our estimates of virtue. It is the
root of all the emotions with which we contemplate acts of heroism. We
feel that man is capable of pursuing what he believes to be right although
pain and disaster and mental suffering and an early death be the
consequence, and although no prospect of future reward lighten upon his
tomb. This is the highest prerogative of our being, the point of contact
between the human nature and the divine.

In addition to the direct arguments in its support, the utilitarian school
owes much of its influence to some very powerful moral and intellectual
predispositions in its favour—the first, which we shall hereafter examine,
consisting of the tendency manifested in certain conditions of society
towards the qualities it is most calculated to produce, and the second of
the almost irresistible attraction which unity and precision exercise on
many minds. It was this desire to simplify human nature, by reducing its
various faculties and complex operations to a single principle or process,
that gave its great popularity to the sensational school of the last
century. It led most metaphysicians of that school to deny the duality of
human nature. It led Bonnet and Condillac to propose an animated statue,
endowed with the five senses as channels of ideas, and with faculties
exclusively employed in transforming the products of sensation, as a
perfect representative of humanity. It led Helvétius to assert that the
original faculties of all men were precisely the same, all the difference
between what we call genius and what we call stupidity arising from
differences of circumstances, and all the difference between men and
animals arising mainly from the structure of the human hand. In morals,
theories of unification are peculiarly plausible, and I think peculiarly
dangerous, because, owing to the interaction of our moral sentiments, and
the many transformations that each can undergo, there are few affections
that might not under some conceivable circumstances become the parents of
every other. When Hobbes, in the name of the philosophy of self-interest,
contended that “Pity is but the imagination of future calamity to
ourselves, produced by the sense of another man’s calamity;”(96) when
Hutcheson, in the name of the philosophy of benevolence, argued that the
vice of intemperance is that it impels us to violence towards others, and
weakens our capacity for doing them good;(97) when other moralists
defending the excellence of our nature maintained that compassion is so
emphatically the highest of our pleasures that a desire of gratifying it
is the cause of our acts of barbarity;(98) each of these theories,
extravagant as it is, contains a germ of undoubted psychological truth. It
is true that a mind intensely apprehensive of future calamities would on
that account receive a shock at the sight of the calamities of others. It
is true that a very keen and absorbing sentiment of benevolence would be
in itself sufficient to divert men from any habit that impaired their
power of gratifying it. It is true that compassion involves a certain
amount of pleasure, and conceivable that that pleasure might be so
intensified that we might seek it by a crime. The error in these theories
is not that they exaggerate the possible efficacy of the motives, but that
they exaggerate their actual intensity in human nature and describe
falsely the process by which the results they seek to explain have been
arrived at. The function of observation in moral philosophy is not simply
to attest the moral sentiments we possess, leaving it to the reason to
determine deductively how they may have been formed; it is rather to
follow them through all the stages of their formation.

And here I may observe that the term inductive, like most others that are
employed in moral philosophy, may give rise to serious misconception. It
is properly applied to those moralists who, disbelieving the existence of
any moral sense or faculty revealing to us what is right and wrong,
maintain that the origin of those ideas is simply our experience of the
tendency of different lines of conduct to promote or impair true
happiness. It appears, however, to be sometimes imagined that inductive
moralists alone think that it is by induction or experience that we ought
to ascertain what is the origin of our moral ideas. But this I conceive to
be a complete mistake. The basis of morals is a distinct question from the
basis of theories of morals. Those who maintain the existence of a moral
faculty do not, as is sometimes said, assume this proposition as a first
principle of their arguments, but they arrive at it by a process of
induction quite as severe as any that can be employed by their
opponents.(99) They examine, analyse, and classify their existing moral
feelings, ascertain in what respects those feelings agree with or differ
from others, trace them through their various phases, and only assign them
to a special faculty when they think they have shown them to be incapable
of resolution, and generically different from all others.(100)

This separation is all that is meant by a moral faculty. We are apt to
regard the term as implying a distinct and well defined organ, bearing to
the mind the same kind of relation as a limb to the body. But of the
existence of such organs, and of the propriety of such material imagery,
we know nothing. Perceiving in ourselves a will, and a crowd of
intellectual and emotional phenomena that seem wholly different from the
properties of matter, we infer the existence of an immaterial substance
which wills, thinks, and feels, and can classify its own operations with
considerable precision. The term faculty is simply an expression of
classification. If we say that the moral faculty differs from the æsthetic
faculty, we can only mean that the mind forms certain judgments of moral
excellence, and also certain judgments of beauty, and that these two
mental processes are clearly distinct. To ask to what part of our nature
moral perceptions should be attributed, is only to ask to what train of
mental phenomena they bear the closest resemblance.

If this simple, but often neglected, consideration be borne in mind, the
apparent discordance of intuitive moralists will appear less profound than
might at first sight be supposed, for each section merely elucidates some
one characteristic of moral judgments. Thus Butler insists upon the sense
of obligation that is involved in them, contends that this separates them
from all other sentiments, and assigns them in consequence to a special
faculty of supreme authority called conscience. Adam Smith and many other
writers were especially struck by their sympathetic character. We are
naturally attracted by humanity, and repelled by cruelty, and this
instinctive, unreasoning sentiment constitutes, according to these
moralists, the difference between right and wrong. Cudworth, however, the
English precursor of Kant, had already anticipated, and later
metaphysicians have more fully exhibited, the inadequacy of such an
analysis. Justice, humanity, veracity, and kindred virtues not merely have
the power of attracting us, we have also an intellectual perception that
they are essentially and immutably good, that their nature does not depend
upon, and is not relative to, our constitutions; that it is impossible and
inconceivable they should ever be vices, and their opposites, virtues.
They are, therefore, it is said, intuitions of the reason. Clarke,
developing the same rational school, and following in the steps of those
moralists who regard our nature as a hierarchy of powers or faculties,
with different degrees of dignity, and an appropriate order of supremacy
and subordination, maintained that virtue consisted in harmony with the
nature of things. Wollaston endeavoured to reduce it to truth, and
Hutcheson to benevolence, which he maintained is recognised and approved
by what his respect for the philosophy of Locke induced him to call “a
moral sense,” but what Shaftesbury had regarded as a moral “taste.” The
pleasure attending the gratification of this taste, according to
Shaftesbury and Henry More, is the motive to virtue. The doctrine of a
moral sense or faculty was the basis of the ethics of Reid. Hume
maintained that the peculiar quality of virtue is its utility, but that
our affections are purely disinterested, and that we arrive at our
knowledge of what is virtuous by a moral sense implanted in our nature,
which leads us instinctively to approve of all acts that are beneficial to
others. Expanding a pregnant hint which had been thrown out by Butler, he
laid the foundation for a union of the schools of Clarke and Shaftesbury,
by urging that our moral decisions are not simple, but complex, containing
both a judgment of the reason, and an emotion of the heart. This fact has
been elucidated still further by later writers, who have observed that
these two elements apply in varying degrees to different kinds of virtue.
According to Lord Kames, our intellectual perception of right and wrong
applies most strictly to virtues like justice or veracity, which are of
what is called “perfect obligation,” or, in other words, are of such a
nature, that their violation is a distinct crime, while the emotion of
attraction or affection is shown most strongly towards virtues of
imperfect obligation, like benevolence or charity. Like Hutcheson and
Shaftesbury, Lord Kames notices the analogies between our moral and
æsthetical judgments.

These last analogies open out a region of thought widely different from
that we have been traversing. The close connection between the good and
the beautiful has been always felt, so much so, that both were in Greek
expressed by the same word, and in the philosophy of Plato, moral beauty
was regarded as the archetype of which all visible beauty is only the
shadow or the image. We all feel that there is a strict propriety in the
term moral beauty. We feel that there are different forms of beauty which
have a natural correspondence to different moral qualities, and much of
the charm of poetry and eloquence rests upon this harmony. We feel that we
have a direct, immediate, intuitive perception that some objects, such as
the sky above us, are beautiful, that this perception of beauty is totally
different, and could not possibly be derived, from a perception of their
utility, and that it bears a very striking resemblance to the
instantaneous and unreasoning admiration elicited by a generous or heroic
action. We perceive too, if we examine with care the operations of our own
mind, that an æsthetical judgment includes an intuition or intellectual
perception, and an emotion of attraction or admiration, very similar to
those which compose a moral judgment. The very idea of beauty again
implies that it should be admired, as the idea of happiness implies that
it should be desired, and the idea of duty that it should be performed.
There is also a striking correspondence between the degree and kind of
uniformity we can in each case discover. That there is a difference
between right and wrong, and between beauty and ugliness, are both
propositions which are universally felt. That right is better than wrong,
and beauty than ugliness, are equally unquestioned. When we go further,
and attempt to define the nature of these qualities, we are met indeed by
great diversities of detail, but by a far larger amount of substantial
unity. Poems like the Iliad or the Psalms, springing in the most
dissimilar quarters, have commanded the admiration of men, through all the
changes of some 3,000 years. The charm of music, the harmony of the female
countenance, the majesty of the starry sky, of the ocean or of the
mountain, the gentler beauties of the murmuring stream or of the twilight
shades, were felt, as they are felt now, when the imagination of the
infant world first embodied itself in written words. And in the same way
types of heroism, and of virtue, descending from the remotest ages,
command the admiration of mankind. We can sympathise with the emotions of
praise or blame revealed in the earliest historians, and the most ancient
moralists strike a responsive chord in every heart. The broad lines remain
unchanged. No one ever contended that justice was a vice or injustice a
virtue; or that a summer sunset was a repulsive object, or that the sores
upon a human body were beautiful. Always, too, the objects of æsthetical
admiration were divided into two great classes, the sublime and the
beautiful, which in ethics have their manifest counterparts in the heroic
and the amiable.

If, again, we examine the undoubted diversities that exist in judgments of
virtue and of beauty, we soon discover that in each case a large
proportion of them are to be ascribed to the different degrees of
civilisation. The moral standard changes within certain limits, and
according to a regular process with the evolutions of society. There are
virtues very highly estimated in a rude civilisation which sink into
comparative insignificance in an organised society, while conversely,
virtues that were deemed secondary in the first become primary in the
other. There are even virtues that it is impossible for any but highly
cultivated minds to recognise. Questions of virtue and vice, such as the
difference between humanity and barbarity, or between temperance and
intemperance, are sometimes merely questions of degree, and the standard
at one stage of civilisation may be much higher than at another. Just in
the same way a steady modification of tastes, while a recognition of the
broad features of beauty remains unchanged, accompanies advancing
civilisation. The preference of gaudy to subdued tints, of colour to form,
of a florid to a chaste style, of convulsive attitudes, gigantic figures,
and strong emotions, may be looked for with considerable confidence in an
uninstructed people. The refining influence of cultivation is in no sphere
more remarkable than in the canons of taste it produces, and there are few
better measures of the civilisation of a people than the conceptions of
beauty it forms, the type or ideal it endeavours to realise.

Many diversities, however, both of moral and æsthetical judgments, may be
traced to accidental causes. Some one who is greatly admired, or who
possesses great influence, is distinguished by some peculiarity of
appearance, or introduces some peculiarity of dress. He will soon find
countless imitators. Gradually the natural sense of beauty will become
vitiated; the eye and the taste will adjust themselves to a false and
artificial standard, and men will at last judge according to it with the
most absolute spontaneity. In the same way, if any accidental circumstance
has elevated an indifferent action to peculiar honour, if a religious
system enforces it as a virtue or brands it as a vice, the consciences of
men will after a time accommodate themselves to the sentence, and an
appeal to a wider than a local tribunal is necessary to correct the error.
Every nation, again, from its peculiar circumstances and position, tends
to some particular type, both of beauty and of virtue, and it naturally
extols its national type beyond all others. The virtues of a small poor
nation, living among barren mountains, surrounded by powerful enemies, and
maintaining its independence only by the most inflexible discipline,
watchfulness, and courage, will be in some degree different from those of
a rich people removed from all fear of invasion and placed in the centre
of commerce. The former will look with a very lenient eye on acts of
barbarity or treachery, which to the latter would appear unspeakably
horrible, and will value very highly certain virtues of discipline which
the other will comparatively neglect. So, too, the conceptions of beauty
formed by a nation of negroes will be different from those formed by a
nation of whites;(101) the splendour of a tropical sky or the savage
grandeur of a northern ocean, the aspect of great mountains or of wide
plains, will not only supply nations with present images of sublimity or
beauty, but will also contribute to form their standard and affect their
judgments. Local customs or observances become so interwoven with our
earliest recollections, that we at last regard them as essentially
venerable, and even in the most trivial matters it requires a certain
effort to dissolve the association. There was much wisdom as well as much
wit in the picture of the novelist who described the English footman’s
contempt for the uniforms of the French, “blue being altogether ridiculous
for regimentals, except in the blue guards and artillery;” and I suppose
there are few Englishmen into whose first confused impression of France
there does not enter a half-instinctive feeling of repugnance caused by
the ferocious appearance of a peasantry who are all dressed like

It has been said(103) that “the feelings of beauty, grandeur, and whatever
else is comprehended under the name of taste, do not lead to action, but
terminate in delightful contemplation, which constitutes the essential
distinction between them and the moral sentiments to which in some points
of view they may doubtless be likened.” This position I conceive to be
altogether untenable. Our æsthetical judgment is of the nature of a
preference. It leads us to prefer one class of objects to another, and
whenever other things are equal, becomes a ground for action. In choosing
the persons with whom we live, the neighbourhood we inhabit, the objects
that surround us, we prefer that which is beautiful to that which is the
reverse, and in every case in which a choice between beauty and deformity
is in question, and no counteracting motive intervenes, we choose the
former, and avoid the latter. There are no doubt innumerable events in
life in which this question does not arise, but there are also very many
in which we are not called upon to make a moral judgment. We say a man is
actuated by strong moral principle who chooses according to its dictates
in every case involving a moral judgment that comes naturally before him,
and who in obedience to its impulse pursues special courses of action.
Corresponding propositions may be maintained with perfect truth concerning
our sense of beauty. In proportion to its strength does it guide our
course in ordinary life, and determine our peculiar pursuits. We may
indeed sacrifice our sense of material beauty to considerations of utility
with much more alacrity than our sense of moral beauty; we may consent to
build a shapeless house sooner than to commit a dishonourable action, but
we cannot voluntarily choose that which is simply deformed, rather than
that which is beautiful, without a certain feeling of pain, and a pain of
this kind, according to the school of Hartley, is the precise definition
of conscience. Nor is it at all difficult to conceive men with a sense of
beauty so strong that they would die rather than outrage it.

Considering all these things, it is not surprising that many moralists
should have regarded moral excellence as simply the highest form of
beauty, and moral cultivation as the supreme refinement of taste. But
although this manner of regarding it is, as I think, far more plausible
than the theory which resolves virtue into utility, although the Greek
moralists and the school of Shaftesbury have abundantly proved that there
is an extremely close connection between these orders of ideas, there are
two considerations which appear to show the inadequacy of this theory. We
are clearly conscious of the propriety of applying the epithet “beautiful”
to virtues such as charity, reverence, or devotion, but we cannot apply it
with the same propriety to duties of perfect obligation, such as veracity
or integrity. The sense of beauty and the affection that follows it attach
themselves rather to modes of enthusiasm and feeling than to the course of
simple duty which constitutes a merely truthful and upright man.(104)
Besides this, as the Stoics and Butler have shown, the position of
conscience in our nature is wholly unique, and clearly separates morals
from a study of the beautiful. While each of our senses or appetites has a
restricted sphere of operation, it is the function of conscience to survey
the whole constitution of our being, and assign limits to the
gratification of all our various passions and desires. Differing not in
degree, but in kind from the other principles of our nature, we feel that
a course of conduct which is opposed to it may be intelligibly described
as unnatural, even when in accordance with our most natural appetites, for
to conscience is assigned the prerogative of both judging and restraining
them all. Its power may be insignificant, but its title is undisputed, and
“if it had might as it has right, it would govern the world.”(105) It is
this faculty, distinct from, and superior to, all appetites, passions, and
tastes, that makes virtue the supreme law of life, and adds an imperative
character to the feeling of attraction it inspires. It is this which was
described by Cicero as the God ruling within us; by the Stoics as the
sovereignty of reason; by St. Paul as the law of nature; by Butler as the
supremacy of conscience.

The distinction of different parts of our nature, as higher or lower,
which appears in the foregoing reasoning, and which occupies so important
a place in the intuitive system of morals, is one that can only be
defended by the way of illustrations. A writer can only select cases in
which such distinctions seem most apparent, and leave them to the feelings
of his reader. A few examples will, I hope, be sufficient to show that
even in our pleasures, we are not simply determined by the amount of
enjoyment, but that there is a difference of kind, which may be reasonably
described by the epithets, higher or lower.

If we suppose a being from another sphere, who derived his conceptions
from a purely rational process, without the intervention of the senses, to
descend to our world, and to enquire into the principles of human nature,
I imagine there are few points that would strike him as more anomalous, or
which he would be more absolutely unable to realise, than the different
estimates in which men hold the pleasures derived from the two senses of
tasting and hearing. Under the first is comprised the enjoyment resulting
from the action of certain kinds of food upon the palate. Under the second
the charm of music. Each of these forms of pleasure is natural, each can
be greatly heightened by cultivation, in each case the pleasure may be
vivid, but is very transient, and in neither case do evil consequences
necessarily ensue. Yet with so many undoubted points of resemblance, when
we turn to the actual world, we find the difference between these two
orders of pleasure of such a nature, that a comparison seems absolutely
ludicrous. In what then does this difference consist? Not, surely, in the
greater intensity of the enjoyment derived from music, for in many cases
this superiority does not exist.(106) We are all conscious that in our
comparison of these pleasures, there is an element distinct from any
consideration of their intensity, duration, or consequences. We naturally
attach a faint notion of shame to the one, while we as naturally glory in
the other. A very keen sense of the pleasures of the palate is looked upon
as in a certain degree discreditable. A man will hardly boast that he is
very fond of eating, but he has no hesitation in acknowledging that he is
very fond of music. The first taste lowers, and the second elevates him in
his own eyes, and in those of his neighbours.

Again, let a man of cheerful disposition, and of a cultivated but not very
fastidious taste, observe his own emotions and the countenances of those
around him during the representation of a clever tragedy and of a clever
farce, and it is probable that he will come to the conclusion that his
enjoyment in the latter case has been both more unmingled and more intense
than in the former. He has felt no lassitude, he has not endured the
amount of pain that necessarily accompanies the pleasure of pathos, he has
experienced a vivid, absorbing pleasure, and he has traced similar
emotions in the violent demonstrations of his neighbours. Yet he will
readily admit that the pleasure derived from the tragedy is of a higher
order than that derived from the farce. Sometimes he will find himself
hesitating which of the two he will choose. The love of mere enjoyment
leads him to the one. A sense of its _nobler_ character inclines him to
the other.

A similar distinction may be observed in other departments. Except in the
relation of the sexes, it is probable that a more intense pleasure is
usually obtained from the grotesque and the eccentric, than from the
perfections of beauty. The pleasure derived from beauty is not violent in
its nature, and it is in most cases peculiarly mixed with melancholy. The
feelings of a man who is deeply moved by a lovely landscape are rarely
those of extreme elation. A shade of melancholy steals over his mind. His
eyes fill with tears. A vague and unsatisfied longing fills his soul. Yet,
troubled and broken as is this form of enjoyment, few persons would
hesitate to pronounce it of a higher kind than any that can be derived
from the exhibitions of oddity.

If pleasures were the sole objects of our pursuit, and if their excellence
were measured only by the quantity of enjoyment they afford, nothing could
appear more obvious than that the man would be esteemed most wise who
attained his object at least cost. Yet the whole course of civilisation is
in a precisely opposite direction. A child derives the keenest and most
exquisite enjoyment from the simplest objects. A flower, a doll, a rude
game, the least artistic tale, is sufficient to enchant it. An uneducated
peasant is enraptured with the wildest story and the coarsest wit.
Increased cultivation almost always produces a fastidiousness which
renders necessary the increased elaboration of our pleasures. We attach a
certain discredit to a man who has retained those of childhood. The very
fact of our deriving pleasure from certain amusements creates a kind of
humiliation, for we feel that they are not in harmony with the nobility of
our nature.(107)

Our judgments of societies resemble in this respect our judgments of
individuals. Few persons, I think, who have compared the modes of popular
life in stagnant and undeveloped countries like Spain with those in the
great centres of industrial civilisation, will venture to pronounce with
any confidence that the quantum or average of actual realised enjoyment is
greater in the civilised than in the semi-civilised society. An
undeveloped nature is by no means necessarily an unhappy nature, and
although we possess no accurate gauge of happiness, we may, at least, be
certain that its degrees do not coincide with the degrees of prosperity.
The tastes and habits of men in a backward society accommodate themselves
to the narrow circle of a few pleasures, and probably find in these as
complete satisfaction as more civilised men in a wider range; and if there
is in the first condition somewhat more of the weariness of monotony,
there is in the second much more of the anxiety of discontent. The
superiority of a highly civilised man lies chiefly in the fact that he
belongs to a higher order of being, for he has approached more nearly to
the end of his existence, and has called into action a larger number of
his capacities. And this is in itself an end. Even if, as is not
improbable, the lower animals are happier than man,(108) and
semi-barbarians than civilised men, still it is better to be a man than a
brute, better to be born amid the fierce struggles of civilisation than in
some stranded nation apart from all the flow of enterprise and knowledge.
Even in that material civilisation which utilitarianism delights to
glorify, there is an element which the philosophy of mere enjoyment cannot

Again, if we ask the reason of the vast and indisputable superiority which
the general voice of mankind gives to mental pleasures, considered as
pleasures, over physical ones, we shall find, I think, no adequate or
satisfactory answer on the supposition that pleasures owe all their value
to the quantity of enjoyment they afford. The former, it is truly said,
are more varied and more prolonged than the latter but on the other hand,
they are attained with more effort, and they are diffused over a far
narrower circle. No one who compares the class of men who derive their
pleasure chiefly from field sports or other forms of physical enjoyment
with those who derive their pleasure from the highest intellectual
sources; no one who compares the period of boyhood when enjoyments are
chiefly animal with early manhood when they are chiefly intellectual, will
be able to discover in the different levels of happiness any justification
of the great interval the world places between these pleasures. No painter
or novelist, who wished to depict an ideal of perfect happiness, would
seek it in a profound student. Without entering into any doubtful
questions concerning the relations of the body to all mental states, it
may be maintained that bodily conditions have in general more influence
upon our enjoyment than mental ones. The happiness of the great majority
of men is far more affected by health and by temperament,(109) resulting
from physical conditions, which again physical enjoyments are often
calculated to produce, than by any mental or moral causes, and acute
physical sufferings paralyse all the energies of our nature to a greater
extent than any mental distress. It is probable that the American inventor
of the first anæsthetic has done more for the real happiness of mankind
than all the moral philosophers from Socrates to Mill. Moral causes may
teach men patience, and the endurance of felt suffering, or may even
alleviate its pangs, but there are temperaments due to physical causes
from which most sufferings glance almost unfelt. It is said that when an
ancient was asked “what use is philosophy?” he answered, “it teaches men
how to die,” and he verified his words by a noble death; but it has been
proved on a thousand battle-fields, it has been proved on a thousand
scaffolds, it is proved through all the wide regions of China and India,
that the dull and animal nature which feels little and realises faintly,
can meet death with a calm that philosophy can barely rival.(110) The
truth is, that the mental part of our nature is not regarded as superior
to the physical part, because it contributes most to our happiness. The
superiority is of a different kind, and may be intelligibly expressed by
the epithets higher and lower.

And, once more, there is a class of pleasures resulting from the
gratification of our moral feelings which we naturally place in the
foremost rank. To the great majority of mankind it will probably appear,
in spite of the doctrine of Paley, that no multiple of the pleasure of
eating pastry can be an equivalent to the pleasure derived from a generous
action. It is not that the latter is so inconceivably intense. It is that
it is of a higher order.

This distinction of kind has been neglected or denied by most utilitarian
writers;(111) and although an attempt has recently been made to introduce
it into the system, it appears manifestly incompatible with its principle.
If the reality of the distinction be admitted, it shows that our wills are
so far from tending necessarily to that which produces most enjoyment that
we have the power even in our pleasures of recognising a higher and a
wholly different quality, and of making that quality rather than enjoyment
the object of our choice. If it be possible for a man in choosing between
two pleasures deliberately to select as preferable, apart from all
consideration of consequences, that which he is conscious gives least
enjoyment because he recognises in it a greater worthiness, or elevation,
it is certain that his conduct is either wholly irrational, or that he is
acting on a principle of judgment for which ’the greatest happiness’
philosophy is unable to account. Consistently with that philosophy, the
terms higher and lower as applied to different parts of our nature, to
different regions of thought or feeling, can have no other meaning than
that of productive of more or less enjoyment. But if once we admit a
distinction of quality as well as a distinction of quantity in our
estimate of pleasure, all is changed. It then appears evident that the
different parts of our nature to which these pleasures refer, bear to each
other a relation of another kind, which may be clearly and justly
described by the terms higher and lower; and the assertion that our reason
reveals to us intuitively and directly this hierarchy of our being, is a
fundamental position of the greatest schools of intuitive moralists.
According to these writers, when we say that our moral and intellectual is
superior to our animal nature, that the benevolent affections are superior
to the selfish ones, that conscience has a legitimate supremacy over the
other parts of our being; this language is not arbitrary, or fantastic, or
capricious, because it is intelligible. When such a subordination is
announced, it corresponds with feelings we all possess, falls in with the
natural course of our judgments, with our habitual and unstudied language.

The arguments that have been directed against the theory of natural moral
perceptions are of two kinds, the first, which I have already noticed,
being designed to show that all our moral judgments may be resolved into
considerations of utility; the second resting upon the diversity of these
judgments in different nations and stages of civilisation, which, it is
said, is altogether inexplicable upon the supposition of a moral faculty.
As these variations form the great stumbling-block in the way of the
doctrine I am maintaining, and as they constitute a very important part of
the history of morals, I shall make no apology for noticing them in some

In the first place, there are many cases in which diversities of moral
judgment arise from causes that are not moral, but purely intellectual.
Thus, for example, when theologians pronounced loans at interest contrary
to the law of nature and plainly extortionate, this error obviously arose
from a false notion of the uses of money. They believed that it was a
sterile thing, and that he who has restored what he borrowed, has
cancelled all the benefit he received from the transaction. At the time
when the first Christian moralists treated the subject, special
circumstances had rendered the rate of interest extremely high, and
consequently extremely oppressive to the poor, and this fact, no doubt,
strengthened the prejudice; but the root of the condemnation of usury was
simply an error in political economy. When men came to understand that
money is a productive thing, and that the sum lent enables the borrower to
create sources of wealth that will continue when the loan has been
returned, they perceived that there was no natural injustice in exacting
payment for this advantage, and usury either ceased to be assailed, or was
assailed only upon the ground of positive commands.

Thus again the question of the criminality of abortion has been
considerably affected by physiological speculations as to the time when
the fœtus in the womb acquires the nature, and therefore the rights, of a
separate being. The general opinion among the ancients seems to have been
that it was but a part of the mother, and that she had the same right to
destroy it as to cauterise a tumour upon her body. Plato and Aristotle
both admitted the practice. The Roman law contained no enactment against
voluntary abortion till the time of Ulpian. The Stoics thought that the
infant received its soul when respiration began. The Justinian code fixed
its animation at forty days after conception. In modern legislations it is
treated as a distinct being from the moment of conception.(112) It is
obvious that the solution of such questions, though affecting our moral
judgments, must be sought entirely outside the range of moral feelings.

In the next place, there is a broad distinction to be drawn between duties
which rest immediately on the dictates of conscience, and those which are
based upon positive commands. The iniquity of theft, murder, falsehood, or
adultery rests upon grounds generically distinct from those on which men
pronounce it to be sinful to eat meat on Friday, or to work on Sunday, or
to abstain from religious assemblies. The reproaches conscience directs
against those who are guilty of these last acts are purely hypothetical,
conscience enjoining obedience to the Divine commands, but leaving it to
reason to determine what those commands may be. The distinction between
these two classes of duties becomes apparent on the slightest reflection,
and the variations in their relative prominence form one of the most
important branches of religious history.

Closely connected with the preceding are the diversities which result from
an ancient custom becoming at last, through its very antiquity, or through
the confusion of means with ends, an object of religious reverence. Among
the many safeguards of female purity in the Roman republic was an
enactment forbidding women even to taste wine, and this very intelligible
law being enforced with the earliest education, became at last, by habit
and traditionary reverence, so incorporated with the moral feelings of the
people, that its violation was spoken of as a monstrous crime. Aulus
Gellius has preserved a passage in which Cato observes, “that the husband
has an absolute authority over his wife; it is for him to condemn and
punish her, if she has been guilty of any shameful act, such as drinking
wine or committing adultery.”(113) As soon as the reverence for tradition
was diminished, and men ventured to judge old customs upon their own
merits, they were able, by steadily reflecting upon this belief, to reduce
it to its primitive elements, to separate the act from the ideas with
which it had been associated, and thus to perceive that it was not
necessarily opposed to any of those great moral laws or feelings which
their consciences revealed, and which were the basis of all their
reasonings on morals.

A confused association of ideas, which is easily exposed by a patient
analysis, lies at the root of more serious anomalies. Thus to those who
reflect deeply upon moral history, few things, I suppose, are more
humiliating than to contrast the admiration and profoundly reverential
attachment excited by a conqueror, who through the promptings of simple
vanity, through love of fame, or through greed of territory, has wantonly
caused the deaths, the sufferings, or the bereavements of thousands, with
the abhorrence produced by a single act of murder or robbery committed by
a poor and ignorant man, perhaps under the pressure of extreme want or
intolerable wrong. The attraction of genius and power, which the vulgar
usually measure by their material fruits, the advantages acquired by the
nation to which he belongs, the belief that battles are decided by
providential interference, and that military success is therefore a proof
of Divine favour, and the sanctity ascribed to the regal office, have all
no doubt conspired to veil the atrocity of the conqueror’s career; but
there is probably another and a deeper influence behind. That which
invests war, in spite of all the evils that attend it, with a certain
moral grandeur, is the heroic self-sacrifice it elicits. With perhaps the
single exception of the Church, it is the sphere in which mercenary
motives have least sway, in which performance is least weighed and
measured by strict obligation, in which a disinterested enthusiasm has
most scope. A battle-field is the scene of deeds of self-sacrifice so
transcendent, and at the same time so dramatic, that in spite of all its
horrors and crimes, it awakens the most passionate moral enthusiasm. But
this feeling produced by the thought of so many who have sacrificed their
life-blood for their flag or for their chief, needs some definite object
on which to rest. The multitude of nameless combatants do not strike the
imagination. They do not stand out, and are not realised, as distinct and
living figures conspicuous to the view. Hence it is that the chief, as the
most prominent, becomes the representative warrior; the martyr’s aureole
descends upon his brow, and thus by a confusion that seems the very irony
of fate, the enthusiasm evoked by the self-sacrifice of thousands sheds a
sacred glow around the very man whose prodigious egotism had rendered that
sacrifice necessary.

Another form of moral paradox is derived from the fact that positive
religions may override our moral perceptions in such a manner, that we may
consciously admit a moral contradiction. In this respect there is a strict
parallelism between our intellectual and our moral faculties. It is at
present the professed belief of at least three-fourths of the Christian
Church, and was for some centuries the firm belief of the entire Church,
that on a certain night the Founder of the Christian faith, being seated
at a supper table, held His own body in His own hand, broke that body,
distributed it to His disciples, who proceeded to eat it, the same body
remaining at the same moment seated intact at the table, and soon
afterwards proceeding to the garden of Gethsemane. The fact of such a
doctrine being believed, does not imply that the faculties of those who
hold it are of such a nature that they perceive no contradiction or
natural absurdity in these statements. The well-known argument derived
from the obscurity of the metaphysical notion of substance is intended
only in some slight degree to soften the difficulty. The contradiction is
clearly perceived, but it is accepted by faith as part of the teaching of
the Church.

What transubstantiation is in the order of reason the Augustinian doctrine
of the damnation of unbaptised infants, and the Calvinistic doctrine of
reprobation, are in the order of morals. Of these doctrines it is not too
much to say, that in the form in which they have often been stated, they
surpass in atrocity any tenets that have ever been admitted into any pagan
creed, and would, if they formed an essential part of Christianity, amply
justify the term “pernicious superstition,” which Tacitus applied to the
faith. That a little child who lives but a few moments after birth and
dies before it has been sprinkled with the sacred water is in such a sense
responsible for its ancestors having 6,000 years before eaten some
forbidden fruit that it may with perfect justice be resuscitated and cast
into an abyss of eternal fire in expiation of this ancestral crime, that
an all-righteous and all-merciful Creator in the full exercise of those
attributes deliberately calls into existence sentient beings whom He has
from eternity irrevocably destined to endless, unspeakable, unmitigated
torture, are propositions which are at once so extravagantly absurd and so
ineffably atrocious that their adoption might well lead men to doubt the
universality of moral perceptions. Such teaching is in fact simply
dæmonism, and dæmonism in its most extreme form. It attributes to the
Creator acts of injustice and of barbarity, which it would be absolutely
impossible for the imagination to surpass, acts before which the most
monstrous excesses of human cruelty dwindle into insignificance, acts
which are in fact considerably worse than any that theologians have
attributed to the devil. If there were men who while vividly realising the
nature of these acts naturally turned to them as the exhibitions of
perfect goodness, all systems of ethics founded upon innate moral
perceptions would be false. But happily this is not so. Those who embrace
these doctrines do so only because they believe that some inspired Church
or writer has taught them, and because they are still in that stage in
which men consider it more irreligious to question the infallibility of an
apostle than to disfigure by any conceivable imputation the character of
the Deity. They accordingly esteem it a matter of duty, and a commendable
exercise of humility, to stifle the moral feelings of their nature, and
they at last succeed in persuading themselves that their Divinity would be
extremely offended if they hesitated to ascribe to him the attributes of a
fiend. But their moral feelings, though not unimpaired by such
conceptions, are not on ordinary subjects generically different from those
of their neighbours. With an amiable inconsistency they can even find
something to revolt them in the lives of a Caligula or a Nero. Their
theological estimate of justice and mercy is isolated. Their doctrine is
accepted as a kind of moral miracle, and as is customary with a certain
school of theologians, when they enunciate a proposition which is palpably
self-contradictory they call it a mystery and an occasion for faith.

In this instance a distinct moral contradiction is consciously admitted.
In the case of persecution, a strictly moral and logical inference is
drawn from a very immoral proposition which is accepted as part of a
system of dogmatic theology. The two elements that should be considered in
punishing a criminal are the heinousness of his guilt and the injury he
inflicts. When the greatest guilt and the greatest injury are combined,
the greatest punishment naturally follows. No one would argue against the
existence of a moral faculty, on the ground that men put murderers to
death. When therefore theologians believed that a man was intensely guilty
who held certain opinions, and that he was causing the damnation of his
fellows if he propagated them, there was no moral difficulty in concluding
that the heretic should be put to death. Selfish considerations may have
directed persecution against heresy rather than against vice, but the
Catholic doctrines of the guilt of error, and of the infallibility of the
Church, were amply sufficient to justify it.

It appears then that a dogmatic system which is accepted on rational or
other grounds, and supported by prospects of rewards and punishments, may
teach a code of ethics differing from that of conscience; and that in this
case the voice of conscience may be either disregarded or stifled. It is
however also true, that it may be perverted. When, for example,
theologians during a long period have inculcated habits of credulity,
rather than habits of enquiry; when they have persuaded men that it is
better to cherish prejudice than to analyse it; better to stifle every
doubt of what they have been taught than honestly to investigate its
value, they will at last succeed in forming habits of mind that will
instinctively and habitually recoil from all impartiality and intellectual
honesty. If men continually violate a duty they may at last cease to feel
its obligation. But this, though it forms a great difficulty in ethical
enquiries, is no argument against the reality of moral perceptions, for it
is simply a law to which all our powers are subject. A bad intellectual
education will produce not only erroneous or imperfect information but
also a false ply or habit of judgment. A bad æsthetical education will
produce false canons of taste. Systematic abuse will pervert and vitiate
even some of our physical perceptions. In each case the experience of many
minds under many conditions must be appealed to, to determine the standard
of right and wrong, and long and difficult discipline is required to
restore the diseased organ to sanity. We may decide particular moral
questions by reasoning, but our reasoning is an appeal to certain moral
principles which are revealed to us by intuition.

The principal difficulty I imagine which most men have in admitting that
we possess certain natural moral perceptions arises from the supposition
that it implies the existence of some mysterious agent like the dæmon of
Socrates, which gives us specific and infallible information in particular
cases. But this I conceive to be a complete mistake. All that is
necessarily meant by the adherents of this school is comprised in two
propositions. The first is that our will is not governed exclusively by
the law of pleasure and pain, but also by the law of duty, which we feel
to be distinct from the former, and to carry with it the sense of
obligation. The second is that the basis of our conception of duty is an
intuitive perception that among the various feelings, tendencies, and
impulses that constitute our emotional being, there are some which are
essentially good, and ought to be encouraged, and some which are
essentially bad, and ought to be repressed. They contend that it is a
psychological fact that we are intuitively conscious that our benevolent
affections are superior to our malevolent ones, truth to falsehood,
justice to injustice, gratitude to ingratitude, chastity to sensuality,
and that in all ages and countries the path of virtue has been towards the
higher and not towards the lower feelings. It may be that the sense of
duty is so weak as to be scarcely perceptible, and then the lower part of
our nature will be supreme. It may happen that certain conditions of
society lead men to direct their anxiety for moral improvement altogether
in one or two channels, as was the case in ancient Greece, where civic and
intellectual virtues were very highly cultivated, and the virtue of
chastity was almost neglected. It may happen that different parts of our
higher nature in a measure conflict, as when a very strong sense of
justice checks our benevolent feelings. Dogmatic systems may enjoin men to
propitiate certain unseen beings by acts which are not in accordance with
the moral law. Special circumstances may influence, and the intermingling
of many different motives may obscure and complicate, the moral evolution;
but above all these one great truth appears. No one who desires to become
holier and better imagines that he does so by becoming more malevolent, or
more untruthful, or more unchaste. Every one who desires to attain
perfection in these departments of feeling is impelled towards
benevolence, towards veracity, towards chastity.(114)

Now it is manifest that according to this theory the moral unity to be
expected in different ages is not a unity of standard, or of acts, but a
unity of tendency. Men come into the world with their benevolent
affections very inferior in power to their selfish ones, and the function
of morals is to invert this order. The extinction of all selfish feeling
is impossible for an individual, and if it were general, it would result
in the dissolution of society. The question of morals must always be a
question of proportion or of degree. At one time the benevolent affections
embrace merely the family, soon the circle expanding includes first a
class, then a nation, then a coalition of nations, then all humanity, and
finally, its influence is felt in the dealings of man with the animal
world. In each of these stages a standard is formed, different from that
of the preceding stage, but in each case the same tendency is recognised
as virtue.

We have in this fact a simple, and as it appears to me a conclusive,
answer to the overwhelming majority of the objections that are continually
and confidently urged against the intuitive school. That some savages kill
their old parents, that infanticide has been practised without compunction
by even civilised nations, that the best Romans saw nothing wrong in the
gladiatorial shows, that political or revengeful assassinations have been
for centuries admitted, that slavery has been sometimes honoured and
sometimes condemned, are unquestionable proofs that the same act may be
regarded in one age as innocent, and in another as criminal. Now it is
undoubtedly true that in many cases an historical examination will reveal
special circumstances, explaining or palliating the apparent anomaly. It
has been often shown that the gladiatorial shows were originally a form of
human sacrifice adopted through religious motives; that the rude nomadic
life of savages rendering impossible the preservation of aged and helpless
members of the tribe, the murder of parents was regarded as an act of
mercy both by the murderer and the victim; that before an effective
administration of justice was organised, private vengeance was the sole
preservative against crime,(115) and political assassination against
usurpation; that the insensibility of some savages to the criminality of
theft arises from the fact that they were accustomed to have all things in
common; that the Spartan law, legalising theft, arose partly from a desire
to foster military dexterity among the people, but chiefly from a desire
to discourage wealth; that slavery was introduced through motives of
mercy, to prevent conquerors from killing their prisoners.(116) All this
is true, but there is another and a more general answer. It is not to be
expected, and it is not maintained, that men in all ages should have
agreed about the application of their moral principles. All that is
contended for is that these principles are themselves the same. Some of
what appear to us monstrous acts of cruelty, were dictated by that very
feeling of humanity, the universal perception of the merit of which they
are cited to disprove,(117) and even when this is not the case, all that
can be inferred is, that the standard of humanity was very low. But still
humanity was recognised as a virtue, and cruelty as a vice.

At this point, I may observe how completely fallacious is the assertion
that a progressive morality is impossible upon the supposition of an
original moral faculty.(118) To such statements there are two very simple
answers. In the first place, although the intuitive moralist asserts that
certain qualities are necessarily virtuous, he fully admits that the
degree in which they are acted upon, or in other words, the standard of
duty, may become progressively higher. In the next place, although he
refuses to resolve all virtue into utility, he admits as fully as his
opponents, that benevolence, or the promotion of the happiness of man, is
a virtue, and that therefore discoveries which exhibit more clearly the
true interests of our kind, may throw new light upon the nature of our

The considerations I have urged with reference to humanity, apply with
equal force to the various relations of the sexes. When the passions of
men are altogether unrestrained, community of wives and all eccentric
forms of sensuality will be admitted. When men seek to improve their
nature in this respect, their object will be to abridge and confine the
empire of sensuality. But to this process of improvement there are obvious
limits. In the first place the continuance of the species is only possible
by a sensual act. In the next place the strength of this passion and the
weakness of humanity are so great, that the moralist must take into
account the fact that in all societies, and especially in those in which
free scope had long been given to the passions, a large amount of
indulgence will arise which is not due to a simple desire of propagating
the species. If then incest is prohibited, and community of wives replaced
by ordinary polygamy, a moral improvement will have been effected, and a
standard of virtue formed. But this standard soon becomes the
starting-point of new progress. If we examine the Jewish law, we find the
legislator prohibiting adultery, regulating the degrees of marriage, but
at the same time authorising polygamy, though with a caution against the
excessive multiplication of wives. In Greece monogamy, though not without
exceptions, had been enforced, but a concurrence of unfavourable
influences prevented any high standard being attained among the men, and
in their case almost every form of indulgence beyond the limits of
marriage was permitted. In Rome the standard was far higher. Monogamy was
firmly established. The ideal of female morality was placed as high as
among Christian nations. Among men, however, while unnatural love and
adultery were regarded as wrong, simple unchastity before marriage was
scarcely considered a fault. In Catholicism marriage is regarded in a
twofold light, as a means for the propagation of the species, and as a
concession to the weakness of humanity, and all other sensual enjoyment is
stringently prohibited.

In these cases there is a great difference between the degrees of
earnestness with which men exert themselves in the repression of their
passions, and in the amount of indulgence which is conceded to their lower
nature;(119) but there is no difference in the direction of the virtuous
impulse. While, too, in the case of adultery, and in the production of
children, questions of interest and utility do undoubtedly intervene, we
are conscious that the general progress turns upon a totally different
order of ideas. The feeling of all men and the language of all nations,
the sentiment which though often weakened is never wholly effaced, that
this appetite, even in its most legitimate gratification, is a thing to be
veiled and withdrawn from sight, all that is known under the names of
decency and indecency, concur in proving that we have an innate,
intuitive, instinctive perception that there is something degrading in the
sensual part of our nature, something to which a feeling of shame is
naturally attached, something that jars with our conception of perfect
purity, something we could not with any propriety ascribe to an all-holy
being. It may be questioned whether anyone was ever altogether destitute
of this perception, and nothing but the most inveterate passion for system
could induce men to resolve it into a mere calculation of interests. It is
this feeling or instinct which lies at the root of the whole movement I
have described, and it is this too that produced that sense of the
sanctity of perfect continence which the Catholic church has so warmly
encouraged, but which may be traced through the most distant ages, and the
most various creeds. We find it among the Nazarenes and Essenes of Judæa,
among the priests of Egypt and India, in the monasteries of Tartary, in
the histories of miraculous virgins that are so numerous in the
mythologies of Asia. Such, for example, was the Chinese legend that tells
how when there was but one man with one woman upon earth, the woman
refused to sacrifice her virginity even in order to people the globe, and
the gods honouring her purity granted that she should conceive beneath the
gaze of her lover’s eyes, and a virgin-mother became the parent of
humanity.(120) In the midst of the sensuality of ancient Greece, chastity
was the pre-eminent attribute of sanctity ascribed to Athene and Artemis.
“Chaste daughter of Zeus,” prayed the suppliants in Æschylus, “thou whose
calm eye is never troubled, look down upon us! Virgin, defend the
virgins.” The Parthenon, or virgin’s temple, was the noblest religious
edifice of Athens. Celibacy was an essential condition in a few of the
orders of priests, and in several orders of priestesses. Plato based his
moral system upon the distinction between the bodily or sensual, and the
spiritual or rational part of our nature, the first being the sign of our
degradation, and the second of our dignity. The whole school of Pythagoras
made chastity one of its leading virtues, and even laboured for the
creation of a monastic system. The conception of the celestial Aphrodite,
the uniter of souls, unsullied by the taint of matter, lingered side by
side with that of the earthly Aphrodite or patroness of lust, and if there
was a time when the sculptors sought to pander to the excesses of passion
there was another in which all their art was displayed in refining and
idealising it. Strabo mentions the existence in Thrace of societies of men
aspiring to perfection by celibacy and austere lives. Plutarch applauds
certain philosophers who vowed to abstain for a year from wine and women
in order “to honour God by their continence.”(121) In Rome the religious
reverence was concentrated more especially upon married life. The great
prominence accorded to the Penates was the religious sanction of
domesticity. So too, at first, was the worship so popular among the Roman
women of the Bona Dea—the ideal wife who according to the legend had, when
on earth, never looked in the face or known the name of any man but her
husband.(122) “For altar and hearth” was the rallying cry of the Roman
soldier. But above all this we find the traces of a higher ideal. We find
it in the intense sanctity attributed to the vestal virgins whose
continence was guarded by such fearful penalties, and supposed to be so
closely linked with the prosperity of the state, whose prayer was believed
to possess a miraculous power, and who were permitted to drive through the
streets of Rome at a time when that privilege was refused even to the
Empress.(123) We find it in the legend of Claudia, who, when the ship
bearing the image of the mother of the gods had been stranded in the
Tiber, attached her girdle to its prow, and vindicated her challenged
chastity by drawing with her virgin hand, the ponderous mass which strong
men had sought in vain to move. We find it in the prophetic gift so often
attributed to virgins,(124) in the law which sheltered them from the
degradation of an execution,(125) in the language of Statius, who
described marriage itself as a fault.(126) In Christianity one great
source of the attraction of the faith has been the ascription of virginity
to its female ideal. The Catholic monastic system has been so constructed
as to draw many thousands from the sphere of active duty; its irrevocable
vows have doubtless led to much suffering and not a little crime; its
opposition to the normal development of our mingled nature has often
resulted in grave aberrations of the imagination, and it has placed its
ban upon domestic affections and sympathies which have a very high moral
value; but in its central conception that the purely animal side of our
being is a low and a degraded side, it reflects, I believe, with perfect
fidelity the feelings of our nature.(127)

To these considerations some others of a different nature may be added. It
is not true that some ancient nations regarded polygamy as good in the
same sense as others regarded chastity. There is a great difference
between deeming a state permissible and proposing it as a condition of
sanctity. If Mohammedans people paradise with images of sensuality, it is
not because these form their ideal of holiness. It is because they regard
earth as the sphere of virtue, heaven as that of simple enjoyment. If some
pagan nations deified sensuality, this was simply because the deification
of the forces of nature, of which the prolific energy is one of the most
conspicuous, is among the earliest forms of religion, and long precedes
the identification of the Deity with a moral ideal.(128) If there have
been nations who attached a certain stigma to virginity, this has not been
because they esteemed sensuality intrinsically holier than chastity; but
because a scanty, warlike people whose position in the world depends
chiefly on the number of its warriors, will naturally make it its main
object to encourage population. This was especially the case with the
ancient Jews, who always regarded extreme populousness as indissolubly
connected with national prosperity, whose religion was essentially
patriotic, and among whom the possibility of becoming an ancestor of the
Messiah had imparted a peculiar dignity to childbirth. Yet even among the
Jews the Essenes regarded virginity as the ideal of sanctity.

The reader will now be in a position to perceive the utter futility of the
objections which from the time of Locke have been continually brought
against the theory of natural moral perceptions, upon the ground that some
actions which were admitted as lawful in one age, have been regarded as
immoral in another. All these become absolutely worthless when it is
perceived that in every age virtue has consisted in the cultivation of the
same feelings, though the standards of excellence attained have been
different. The terms higher and lower, nobler or less noble, purer or less
pure, represent moral facts with much greater fidelity than the terms
right or wrong, or virtue or vice. There is a certain sense in which moral
distinctions are absolute and immutable. There is another sense in which
they are altogether relative and transient. There are some acts which are
so manifestly and grossly opposed to our moral feelings, that they are
regarded as wrong in the very earliest stages of the cultivation of these
feelings. There are distinctions, such as that between truth and
falsehood, which from their nature assume at once a sharpness of
definition that separates them from mere virtues of degree, though even in
these cases there are wide variations in the amount of scrupulosity that
is in different periods required. But apart from positive commands, the
sole external rule enabling men to designate acts, not simply as better or
worse, but as positively right or wrong, is, I conceive, the standard of
society; not an arbitrary standard like that which Mandeville imagined,
but the level which society has attained in the cultivation of what our
moral faculty tells us is the higher or virtuous part of our nature. He
who falls below this is obstructing the tendency which is the essence of
virtue. He who merely attains this, may not be justified in his own
conscience, or in other words, by the standard of his own moral
development, but as far as any external rule is concerned, he has done his
duty. He who rises above this has entered into the region of things which
it is virtuous to do, but not vicious to neglect—a region known among
Catholic theologians by the name of “counsels of perfection.” No
discussions, I conceive, can be more idle than whether slavery, or the
slaughter of prisoners in war, or gladiatorial shows, or polygamy, are
essentially wrong. They may be wrong now—they were not so once—and when an
ancient countenanced by his example one or other of these, he was not
committing a crime. The unchangeable proposition for which we contend is
this—that benevolence is always a virtuous disposition—that the sensual
part of our nature is always the lower part.

At this point, however, a very difficult problem naturally arises.
Admitting that our moral nature is superior to our intellectual or
physical nature, admitting, too, that by the constitution of our being we
perceive ourselves to be under an obligation to develope our nature to its
perfection, establishing the supreme ascendency of moral motives, the
question still remains whether the disparity between the different parts
of our being is such that no material or intellectual advantage, however
great, may be rightly purchased by any sacrifice of our moral nature,
however small. This is the great question of casuistry, the question which
divines express by asking whether the end ever justifies the means; and on
this subject there exists among theologians a doctrine which is absolutely
unrealised, which no one ever dreams of applying to actual life, but of
which it may be truly said that though propounded with the best
intentions, it would, if acted upon, be utterly incompatible with the very
rudiments of civilisation. It is said that an undoubted sin, even the most
trivial, is a thing in its essence and in its consequences so unspeakably
dreadful, that no conceivable material or intellectual advantage can
counterbalance it; that rather than it should be committed, it would be
better that any amount of calamity which did not bring with it sin should
be endured, even that the whole human race should perish in agonies.(129)
If this be the case, it is manifest that the supreme object of humanity
should be sinlessness, and it is equally manifest that the means to this
end is the absolute suppression of the desires. To expand the circle of
wants is necessarily to multiply temptations, and therefore to increase
the number of sins. It may indeed elevate the moral standard, for a torpid
sinlessness is not a high moral condition; but if every sin be what these
theologians assert, if it be a thing deserving eternal agony, and so
inconceivably frightful that the ruin of a world is a less evil than its
commission, even moral advantages are utterly incommensurate with it. No
heightening of the moral tone, no depth or ecstasy of devotion, can for a
moment be placed in the balance. The consequences of this doctrine, if
applied to actual life, would be so extravagant, that their simple
statement is a refutation. A sovereign, when calculating the consequences
of a war, should reflect that a single sin occasioned by that war, a
single blasphemy of a wounded soldier, the robbery of a single hencoop,
the violation of the purity of a single woman, is a greater calamity than
the ruin of the entire commerce of his nation, the loss of her most
precious provinces, the destruction of all her power. He must believe that
the evil of the increase of unchastity, which invariably results from the
formation of an army, is an immeasurably greater calamity than any
material or political disasters that army can possibly avert. He must
believe that the most fearful plague or famine that desolates his land
should be regarded as a matter of rejoicing, if it has but the feeblest
and most transient influence in repressing vice. He must believe that if
the agglomeration of his people in great cities adds but one to the number
of their sins, no possible intellectual or material advantages can prevent
the construction of cities being a fearful calamity. According to this
principle, every elaboration of life, every amusement that brings
multitudes together, almost every art, every accession of wealth that
awakens or stimulates desires, is an evil, for all these become the
sources of some sins, and their advantages are for the most part purely
terrestrial. The entire structure of civilisation is founded upon the
belief that it is a good thing to cultivate intellectual and material
capacities, even at the cost of certain moral evils which we are often
able accurately to foresee.(130) The time may come when the man who lays
the foundation-stone of a manufacture will be able to predict with
assurance in what proportion the drunkenness and the unchastity of his
city will be increased by his enterprise. Yet he will still pursue that
enterprise, and mankind will pronounce it to be good.

The theological doctrine on the subject, considered in its full
stringency, though professed by many, is, as I have said, realised and
consistently acted on by no one; but the practical judgments of mankind
concerning the extent of the superiority of moral over all other interests
vary greatly, and this variation supplies one of the most serious
objections to intuitive moralists. The nearest practical approach to the
theological estimate of a sin may be found in the ranks of the ascetics.
Their whole system rests upon the belief that it is a thing so
transcendently dreadful as to bear no proportion or appreciable relation
to any earthly interests. Starting from this belief, the ascetic makes it
the exclusive object of his life to avoid sinning. He accordingly abstains
from all the active business of society, relinquishes all worldly aims and
ambitions, dulls by continued discipline his natural desires, and
endeavours to pass a life of complete absorption in religious exercises.
And in all this his conduct is reasonable and consistent. The natural
course of every man who adopts this estimate of the enormity of sin is at
every cost to avoid all external influences that can prove temptations,
and to attenuate as far as possible his own appetites and emotions. It is
in this respect that the exaggerations of theologians paralyse our moral
being. For the diminution of sins, however important, is but one part of
moral progress. Whenever it is forced into a disproportionate prominence,
we find tame, languid, and mutilated natures, destitute of all fire and
energy, and this tendency has been still further aggravated by the extreme
prominence usually given to the virtue of gentleness, which may indeed be
attained by men of strong natures and vehement emotions, but is evidently
more congenial to a somewhat feeble and passionless character.

Ascetic practices are manifestly and rapidly disappearing, and their
decline is a striking proof of the evanescence of the moral notions of
which they were the expression, but in many existing questions relating to
the same matter, we find perplexing diversity of judgment. We find it in
the contrast between the system of education usually adopted by the
Catholic priesthood, which has for its pre-eminent object to prevent sins,
and for its means a constant and minute supervision, and the English
system of public schools, which is certainly not the most fitted to guard
against the possibility of sin, or to foster any very delicate
scrupulosity of feeling; but is intended, and popularly supposed, to
secure the healthy expansion of every variety of capacity. We find it in
the widely different attitudes which good men in different periods have
adopted towards religious opinions they believe to be false; some, like
the reformers, refusing to participate in any superstitious service, or to
withhold on any occasion, or at any cost, their protest against what they
regarded as a lie; others, like most ancient, and some modern philosophers
and politicians, combining the most absolute personal incredulity with an
assiduous observance of superstitious rites, and strongly censuring those
who disturbed delusions which are useful or consolatory to the people;
while a third class silently, but without protest, withdraw themselves
from the observances, and desire that their opinions should have a free
expression in literature, but at the same time discourage all
proselytising efforts to force them rudely on unprepared minds. We find it
in the frequent conflicts between the political economist and the Catholic
priest on the subject of early marriages, the former opposing them on the
ground that it is an essential condition of material well-being that the
standard of comfort should not be depressed, the latter advocating them on
the ground that the postponement of marriages, through prudential motives,
by any large body of men, is the fertile mother of sin. We find it most
conspicuously in the marked diversities of tolerance manifested in
different communities towards amusements which may in themselves be
perfectly innocent, but which prove the sources or the occasions of vice.
The Scotch Puritans probably represent one extreme, the Parisian society
of the empire the other, while the position of average Englishmen is
perhaps equidistant between them. Yet this difference, great as it is, is
a difference not of principle, but of degree. No Puritan seriously desires
to suppress every clan-gathering, every highland game which may have
occasioned an isolated fit of drunkenness, though he may be unable to show
that it has prevented any sin that would otherwise have been committed. No
Frenchman will question that there is a certain amount of demoralisation
which should not be tolerated, however great the enjoyment that
accompanies it. Yet the one dwells almost exclusively upon the moral, the
other upon the attractive, nature of a spectacle. Between these there are
numerous gradations, which are shown in frequent disputes about the merits
and demerits of the racecourse, the ball, the theatre, and the concert.
Where then, it may be asked, is the line to be drawn? By what rule can the
point be determined at which an amusement becomes vitiated by the evil of
its consequences?

To these questions the intuitive moralist is obliged to answer, that such
a line cannot be drawn, that such a rule does not exist. The colours of
our moral nature are rarely separated by the sharp lines of our
vocabulary. They fade and blend into one another so imperceptibly, that it
is impossible to mark a precise point of transition. The end of man is the
full development of his being in that symmetry and proportion which nature
has assigned it, and such a development implies that the supreme, the
predominant motive of his life, should be moral. If in any society or
individual this ascendency does not exist, that society or that individual
is in a diseased and abnormal condition. But the superiority of the moral
part of our nature, though unquestionable, is indefinite not infinite, and
the prevailing standard is not at all times the same. The moralist can
only lay down general principles. Individual feeling or the general
sentiment of society must draw the application.

The vagueness that on such questions confessedly hangs over the intuitive
theory, has always been insisted upon by members of the opposite school,
who ’in the greatest happiness principle’ claim to possess a definite
formulary, enabling them to draw boldly the frontier line between the
lawful and the illicit, and to remove moral disputes from the domain of
feeling to that of demonstration. But this claim, which forms the great
attraction of the utilitarian school, is, if I mistake not, one of the
grossest of impostures. We compare with accuracy and confidence the value
of the most various material commodities, for we mean by this term,
exchangeable value, and we have a common measure of exchange. But we seek
in vain for such a measure enabling us to compare different kinds of
utility or happiness. Thus, to take a very familiar example, the question
may be proposed, whether excursion trains from a country district to a
seaport town produce more good than evil, whether a man governed by moral
principles should encourage or oppose them. They give innocent and healthy
enjoyment to many thousands, they enlarge in some degree the range of
their ideas, they can hardly be said to prevent any sin that would
otherwise have been committed, they give rise to many cases of
drunkenness, each of which, according to the theological doctrine we have
reviewed, should be deemed a more dreadful calamity than the earthquake of
Lisbon, or a visitation of the cholera, but which have not usually any
lasting terrestrial effects; they also often produce a measure, and
sometimes no small measure, of more serious vice, and it is probable that
hundreds of women may trace their first fall to the excursion train. We
have here a number of advantages and disadvantages, the first being
intellectual and physical, and the second moral. Nearly all moralists
would acknowledge that a few instances of immorality would not prevent the
excursion train being, on the whole, a good thing. All would acknowledge
that very numerous instances would more than counterbalance its
advantages. The intuitive moralist confesses that he is unable to draw a
precise line, showing where the moral evils outweigh the physical
benefits. In what possible respect the introduction of Benthamite
formularies improves the matter, I am unable to understand. No utilitarian
would reduce the question to one of simple majority, or would have the
cynicism to balance the ruin of one woman by the day’s enjoyment of
another. The impossibility of drawing, in such cases, a distinct line of
division, is no argument against the intuitive moralist, for that
impossibility is shared to the full extent by his rival.

There are, as we have seen, two kinds of interest with which utilitarian
moralists are concerned—the private interest which they believe to be the
ultimate motive, and the public interest which they believe to be the end,
of all virtue. With reference to the first, the intuitive moralist denies
that a selfish act can be a virtuous or meritorious one. If a man when
about to commit a theft, became suddenly conscious of the presence of a
policeman, and through fear of arrest and punishment were to abstain from
the act he would otherwise have committed, this abstinence would not
appear in the eyes of mankind to possess any moral value; and if he were
determined partly by conscientious motives, and partly by fear, the
presence of the latter element would, in proportion to its strength,
detract from his merit. But although selfish considerations are distinctly
opposed to virtuous ones, it would be a mistake to imagine they can never
ultimately have a purely moral influence. In the first place, a
well-ordered system of threats and punishments marks out the path of
virtue with a distinctness of definition it could scarcely have otherwise
attained. In the next place, it often happens that when the mind is swayed
by a conflict of motives, the expectation of reward or punishment will so
reinforce or support the virtuous motives, as to secure their victory;
and, as every triumph of these motives increases their strength and
weakens the opposing principles, a step will thus have been made towards
moral perfection, which will render more probable the future triumph of
unassisted virtue.

With reference to the interests of society, there are two distinct
assertions to be made. The first is, that although the pursuit of the
welfare of others is undoubtedly one form of virtue, it does not include
all virtue, or, in other words, that there are forms of virtue which, even
if beneficial to mankind, do not become virtuous on that account, but have
an intrinsic excellence which is not proportioned to or dependent on their
utility. The second is, that there may occasionally arise considerations
of extreme and overwhelming utility that may justify a sacrifice of these
virtues. This sacrifice may be made in various ways—as, when a man
undertakes an enterprise which is in itself perfectly innocent, but which
in addition to its great material advantages will, as he well knows,
produce a certain measure of crime; or when, abstaining from a protest, he
tacitly countenances beliefs which he considers untrue, because he regards
them as transcendently useful; or again, when, for the benefit of others,
and under circumstances of great urgency, he utters a direct falsehood,
as, for example, when by such means alone he can save the life of an
innocent man.(131) But the fact, that in these cases considerations of
extreme utility are suffered to override considerations of morality, is in
no degree inconsistent with the facts, that the latter differ in kind from
the former, that they are of a higher nature, and that they may supply
adequate and legitimate motives of action not only distinct from, but even
in opposition to utility. Gold and silver are different metals. Gold is
more valuable than silver; yet a very small quantity of gold may be
advantageously exchanged for a very large quantity of silver.

The last class of objections to the theory of natural moral perceptions
which it is necessary for me to notice, arises from a very mischievous
equivocation in the word natural.(132) The term natural man is sometimes
regarded as synonymous with man in his primitive or barbarous condition,
and sometimes as expressing all in a civilised man that is due to nature
as distinguished from artificial habits or acquirements. This equivocation
is especially dangerous, because it implies one of the most extravagant
excesses to which the sensational philosophy could be pushed—the notion
that the difference between a savage and a civilised man is simply a
difference of acquisition, and not at all a difference of development. In
accordance with this notion, those who deny original moral distinctions
have ransacked the accounts of travellers for examples of savages who
appeared destitute of moral sentiments, and have adduced them as
conclusive evidence of their position. Now it is, I think, abundantly
evident that these narratives are usually exceedingly untrustworthy.(133)
They have been in most cases collected by uncritical and unphilosophical
travellers, who knew little of the language and still less of the inner
life of the people they described, whose means of information were
acquired in simply traversing the country, who were more struck by moral
paradox, than by unostentatious virtue, who were proverbially addicted to
embellishing and exaggerating the singularities they witnessed, and who
very rarely investigated their origin. It should not be forgotten that the
French moralists of the last century, who insisted most strongly on this
species of evidence, were also the dupes of one of the most curious
delusions in the whole compass of literary history. Those unflinching
sceptics who claimed to be the true disciples of the apostle who believed
nothing that he had not touched, and whose relentless criticism played
with withering effect on all the holiest feelings of our nature, and on
all the tenets of traditional creeds, had discovered one happy land where
the ideal had ceased to be a dream. They could point to one people whose
pure and rational morality, purged from all the clouds of bigotry and
enthusiasm, shone with an almost dazzling splendour above the ignorance
and superstition of Europe. Voltaire forgot to gibe, and Helvétius kindled
into enthusiasm, when China and the Chinese rose before their minds, and
to this semi-barbarous nation they habitually attributed maxims of conduct
that neither Roman nor Christian virtue had ever realised.

But putting aside these considerations, and assuming the fidelity of the
pictures of savage life upon which these writers rely, they fail to prove
the point for which they are adduced. The moralists I am defending, assert
that we possess a natural power of distinguishing between the higher and
lower parts of our nature. But the eye of the mind, like the eye of the
body, may be closed. Moral and rational facilities may be alike dormant,
and they will certainly be so if men are wholly immersed in the
gratification of their senses. Man is like a plant, which requires a
favourable soil for the full expansion of its natural or innate
powers.(134) Yet those powers both rational and moral are there, and when
quickened into action, each will discharge its appointed functions. If it
could be proved that there are savages who are absolutely destitute of the
progressive energy which distinguishes reason from instinct and of the
moral aspiration which constitutes virtue, this would not prove that
rational or moral faculties form no part of their nature. If it could be
shown that there is a stage of barbarism in which man knows, feels and
does nothing that might not be known, felt and done by an ape, this would
not be sufficient to reduce him to the level of the brute. There would
still be this broad distinction between them—the one possesses a capacity
for development which the other does not possess. Under favourable
circumstances the savage will become a reasoning, progressive, and moral
man: under no circumstances can a similar transformation be effected in
the ape. It may be as difficult to detect the oakleaf in the acorn as in
the stone; yet the acorn may be converted into an oak: the stone will
always continue to be a stone.(135)

The foregoing pages will, I trust, have exhibited with sufficient
clearness the nature of the two great divisions of moral philosophy—the
school which proceeds from the primitive truth that all men desire
happiness, and endeavours out of this fact to evolve all ethical
doctrines, and the school which traces our moral systems to an intuitive
perception that certain parts of our nature are higher or better than
others. It is obvious that this difference concerning the origin of our
moral conceptions forms part of the very much wider metaphysical question,
whether our ideas are derived exclusively from sensation or whether they
spring in part from the mind itself. The latter theory in antiquity was
chiefly represented by the Platonic doctrine of pre-existence, which
rested on the conviction that the mind has the power of drawing from its
own depths certain conceptions or ideas which cannot be explained by any
post-natal experience, and must therefore, it was said, have been acquired
in a previous existence. In the seventeenth century it took the form of a
doctrine of innate ideas. But though this theory in the form in which it
was professed by Lord Herbert of Cherbury and assailed by Locke has almost
disappeared, the doctrine that we possess certain faculties which by their
own expansion, and not by the reception of notions from without, are not
only capable of, but must necessarily attain, certain ideas, as the bud
must necessarily expand into its own specific flower, still occupies a
distinguished place in the world of speculation, and its probability has
been greatly strengthened by recent observations of the range and potency
of instinct in animals. From some passages in his Essay, it appears that
Locke himself had a confused perception of this distinction,(136) which
was by no means unknown to previous writers; and after the publication of
the philosophy of Locke it was clearly exhibited by Shaftesbury and
Leibnitz, and incidentally noticed by Berkeley long before Kant
established his distinction between the form and the matter of our
knowledge, between ideas which are received _a priori_ and ideas which are
received _a posteriori_. The existence or non-existence of this source of
ideas forms the basis of the opposition between the inductive philosophy
of England and the French philosophy of the eighteenth century on the one
hand, and the German and Scotch philosophies, as well as the French
eclecticism of the nineteenth century upon the other. The tendency of the
first school is to restrict as far as possible the active powers of the
human mind, and to aggrandise as far as possible the empire of external
circumstances. The other school dwells especially on the instinctive side
of our nature, and maintains the existence of certain intuitions of the
reason, certain categories or original conceptions, which are presupposed
in all our reasonings and cannot be resolved into sensations. The boast of
the first school is that its searching analysis leaves no mental
phenomenon unresolved, and its attraction is the extreme simplicity it can
attain. The second school multiplies faculties or original principles,
concentrates its attention mainly upon the nature of our understanding,
and asserts very strongly the initiative force both of our will and of our

We find this connection between a philosophy based upon the senses, and a
morality founded upon utility from the earliest times. Aristotle was
distinguished among the ancients for the emphasis with which he dwelt upon
the utility of virtue, and it was from the writings of Aristotle that the
schoolmen derived the famous formulary which has become the motto of the
school of Locke. Locke himself devoted especial research to the refutation
of the doctrine of a natural moral sense, which he endeavoured to
overthrow by a catalogue of immoral practices that exist among savages,
and the hesitation he occasionally exhibited in his moral doctrine
corresponds not unfaithfully to the obscurity thrown over his metaphysics
by the admission of reflection as a source of ideas. If his opponent
Leibnitz made pleasure the object of moral action, it was only that
refined pleasure which is produced by the contemplation of the happiness
of others. When, however, Condillac and his followers, removing reflection
from the position Locke had assigned it, reduced the philosophy of
sensation to its simplest expression, and when the Scotch and German
writers elaborated the principles of the opposite school, the moral
tendencies of both were indisputably manifested. Everywhere the philosophy
of sensation was accompanied by the morals of interest, and the ideal
philosophy, by an assertion of the existence of a moral faculty, and every
influence that has affected the prevailing theory concerning the origin of
our ideas, has exercised a corresponding influence upon the theories of

The great movement of modern thought, of which Bacon was at once the
highest representative and one of the chief agents, has been truly said to
exhibit a striking resemblance, and at the same time a striking contrast,
to the movement of ancient thought, which was effected chiefly by the
genius of Socrates. In the name of utility, Socrates diverted the
intellect of antiquity from the fantastic cosmogonies with which it had
long been occupied, to the study of the moral nature of man. In the name
of the same utility Bacon laboured to divert the modern intellect from the
idle metaphysical speculations of the schoolmen to natural science, to
which newly discovered instruments of research, his own sounder method,
and a cluster of splendid intellects, soon gave an unprecedented impulse.
To the indirect influence of this movement, perhaps, even more than to the
direct teaching of Gassendi and Locke, may be ascribed the great
ascendency of sensational philosophy among modern nations, and it is also
connected with some of the most important differences between ancient and
modern history. Among the ancients the human mind was chiefly directed to
philosophical speculations, in which the law seems to be perpetual
oscillation, while among the moderns it has rather tended towards physical
science, and towards inventions, in which the law is perpetual progress.
National power, and in most cases even national independence, implied
among the ancients the constant energy of high intellectual or moral
qualities. When the heroism or the genius of the people had relaxed, when
an enervating philosophy or the lassitude that often accompanies
civilisation arrived, the whole edifice speedily tottered, the sceptre was
transferred to another state, and the same history was elsewhere
reproduced. A great nation bequeathed indeed to its successors works of
transcendent beauty in art and literature, philosophies that could avail
only when the mind had risen to their level, examples that might stimulate
the heroism of an aspiring people, warnings that might sometimes arrest it
on the path to ruin. But all these acted only through the mind. In modern
times, on the other hand, if we put aside religious influences, the
principal causes of the superiority of civilised men are to be found in
inventions which when once discovered can never pass away, and the effects
of which are in consequence in a great measure removed from the
fluctuations of moral life. The causes which most disturbed or accelerated
the normal progress of society in antiquity were the appearance of great
men, in modern times they have been the appearance of great inventions.
Printing has secured the intellectual achievements of the past, and
furnished a sure guarantee of future progress. Gunpowder and military
machinery have rendered the triumph of barbarians impossible. Steam has
united nations in the closest bonds. Innumerable mechanical contrivances
have given a decisive preponderance to that industrial element which has
coloured all the developments of our civilisation. The leading
characteristics of modern societies are in consequence marked out much
more by the triumphs of inventive skill than by the sustained energy of
moral causes.

Now it will appear evident, I think, to those who reflect carefully upon
their own minds, and upon the course of history, that these three things,
the study of physical science, inventive skill, and industrial enterprise,
are connected in such a manner, that when in any nation there is a
long-sustained tendency towards one, the others will naturally follow.
This connection is partly that of cause and effect, for success in either
of these branches facilitates success in the others, a knowledge of
natural laws being the basis of many of the most important inventions, and
being itself acquired by the aid of instruments of research, while
industry is manifestly indebted to both. But besides this connection,
there is a connection of congruity. The same cast or habit of thought
developes itself in these three forms. They all represent the natural
tendencies of what is commonly called the practical as opposed to the
theoretical mind, of the inductive or experimental as opposed to the
deductive or ideal, of the cautious and the plodding as opposed to the
imaginative and the ambitious, of the mind that tends naturally to matter
as opposed to that which dwells naturally on ideas. Among the ancients,
the distaste for physical science, which the belief in the capricious
divine government of all natural phenomena, and the distaste for
industrial enterprise which slavery produced, conspired to favour the
philosophical tendency, while among the moderns physical science and the
habits of industrial life continually react upon one another.

There can be no question that the intellectual tendencies of modern times
are far superior to those of antiquity, both in respect to the material
prosperity they effect, and to the uninterrupted progress they secure.
Upon the other hand, it is, I think, equally unquestionable that this
superiority is purchased by the sacrifice of something of dignity and
elevation of character. It is when the cultivation of mental and moral
qualities is deemed the primary object, when the mind and its interests
are most removed from the things of sense, that great characters are most
frequent, and the standard of heroism is most high. In this, as in other
cases, the law of congruity is supreme. The mind that is concentrated most
on the properties of matter, is predisposed to derive all ideas from the
senses, while that which dwells naturally upon its own operations inclines
to an ideal philosophy, and the prevailing system of morals depends
largely upon the distinction.

In the next place, we may observe that the practical consequences, so far
as ethics are concerned,(137) of the opposition between the two great
schools of morals, are less than might be inferred from the intellectual
chasm that separates them. Moralists grow up in the atmosphere of society,
and experience all the common feelings of other men. Whatever theory of
the genesis of morals they may form, they commonly recognise as right the
broad moral principles of the world, and they endeavour—though I have
attempted to show not always successfully—to prove that these principles
may be accounted for and justified by their system. The great practical
difference between the schools lies, not in the difference of the virtues
they inculcate, but in the different degrees of prominence they assign to
each, in the different casts of mind they represent and promote. As Adam
Smith observed, a system like that of the Stoics, which makes self-control
the ideal of excellence, is especially favourable to the heroic qualities,
a system like that of Hutcheson, which resolves virtue into benevolence,
to the amiable qualities, and utilitarian systems to the industrial
virtues. A society in which any one of these three forms of moral
excellence is especially prominent, has a natural tendency towards the
corresponding theory of ethics; but, on the other hand, this theory, when
formed, reacts upon and strengthens the moral tendency that elicited it.
The Epicureans and the Stoics can each claim a great historical fact in
their favour. When every other Greek school modified or abandoned the
teaching of its founder, the disciples of Epicurus at Athens preserved
their hereditary faith unsullied and unchanged.(138) On the other hand, in
the Roman empire, almost every great character, almost every effort in the
cause of liberty, emanated from the ranks of Stoicism, while Epicureanism
was continually identified with corruption and with tyranny. The intuitive
school, not having a clear and simple external standard, has often proved
somewhat liable to assimilate with superstition and mysticism, to become
fantastic, unreasoning, and unpractical, while the prominence accorded to
interest, and the constant intervention of calculation in utilitarian
systems, have a tendency to depress the ideal, and give a sordid and
unheroic ply to the character. The first, dwelling on the moral
initiative, elevates the tone and standard of life. The second, revealing
the influence of surrounding circumstances upon character, leads to the
most important practical reforms.(139) Each school has thus proved in some
sense at once the corrective and the complement of the other. Each when
pushed to its extreme results, produces evils which lead to the
reappearance of its rival.

Having now considered at some length the nature and tendencies of the
theories according to which men test and classify their moral feelings, we
may pass to an examination of the process according to which these
feelings are developed, or, in other words, of the causes that lead
societies to elevate their moral standard and determine their preference
of some particular kinds of virtue. The observations I have to offer on
this subject will be of a somewhat miscellaneous character, but they will
all, I trust, tend to show the nature of the changes that constitute moral
history, and to furnish us with some general principles which may be
applied in detail in the succeeding chapters.

It is sufficiently evident, that, in proportion to the high organisation
of society, the amiable and the social virtues will be cultivated at the
expense of the heroic and the ascetic. A courageous endurance of suffering
is probably the first form of human virtue, the one conspicuous instance
in savage life of a course of conduct opposed to natural impulses, and
pursued through a belief that it is higher or nobler than the opposite. In
a disturbed, disorganised, and warlike society, acts of great courage and
great endurance are very frequent, and determine to a very large extent
the course of events; but in proportion to the organisation of communities
the occasions for their display, and their influence when displayed, are
alike restricted. Besides this the tastes and habits of civilisation, the
innumerable inventions designed to promote comfort and diminish pain, set
the current of society in a direction altogether different from heroism,
and somewhat emasculate, though they refine and soften, the character.
Asceticism again—including under this term, not merely the monastic
system, but also all efforts to withdraw from the world in order to
cultivate a high degree of sanctity—belongs naturally to a society which
is somewhat rude, and in which isolation is frequent and easy. When men
become united in very close bonds of co-operation, when industrial
enterprise becomes very ardent, and the prevailing impulse is strongly
towards material wealth and luxurious enjoyments, virtue is regarded
chiefly or solely in the light of the interests of society, and this
tendency is still further strengthened by the educational influence of
legislation, which imprints moral distinctions very deeply on the mind,
but at the same time accustoms men to measure them solely by an external
and utilitarian standard.(140) The first table of the law gives way to the
second. Good is not loved for itself, but as the means to an end. All that
virtue which is required to form upright and benevolent men is in the
highest degree useful to society, but the qualities which constitute a
saintly or spiritual character as distinguished from one that is simply
moral and amiable, have not the same direct, uniform and manifest tendency
to the promotion of happiness, and they are accordingly little
valued.(141) In savage life the animal nature being supreme, these higher
qualities are unknown. In a very elaborate material civilisation the
prevailing atmosphere is not favourable either to their production or
their appreciation. Their place has usually been in an intermediate stage.

On the other hand, there are certain virtues that are the natural product
of a cultivated society. Independently of all local and special
circumstances, the transition of men from a barbarous or semi-civilised to
a highly organised state necessarily brings with it the destruction or
abridgment of the legitimate sphere of revenge, by transferring the office
of punishment from the wronged person to a passionless tribunal appointed
by society;(142) a growing substitution of pacific for warlike
occupations, the introduction of refined and intellectual tastes which
gradually displace amusements that derive their zest from their barbarity,
the rapid multiplication of ties of connection between all classes and
nations, and also the strengthening of the imagination by intellectual
culture. This last faculty, considered as the power of realisation, forms
the chief tie between our moral and intellectual natures. In order to pity
suffering we must realise it, and the intensity of our compassion is
usually proportioned to the vividness of our realisation.(143) The most
frightful catastrophe in South America, an earthquake, a shipwreck, or a
battle, will elicit less compassion than the death of a single individual
who has been brought prominently before our eyes. To this cause must be
chiefly ascribed the extraordinary measure of compassion usually bestowed
upon a conspicuous condemned criminal, the affection and enthusiasm that
centre upon sovereigns, and many of the glaring inconsistencies of our
historical judgments. The recollection of some isolated act of magnanimity
displayed by Alexander or Cæsar moves us more than the thought of the
30,000 Thebans whom the Macedonian sold as slaves, of the 2,000 prisoners
he crucified at Tyre, of the 1,100,000 men on whose corpses the Roman rose
to fame. Wrapt in the pale winding-sheet of general terms the greatest
tragedies of history evoke no vivid images in our minds, and it is only by
a great effort of genius that an historian can galvanise them into life.
The irritation displayed by the captive of St. Helena in his bickerings
with his gaoler affects most men more than the thought of the nameless
thousands whom his insatiable egotism had hurried to the grave. Such is
the frailty of our nature that we are more moved by the tears of some
captive princess, by some trifling biographical incident that has floated
down the stream of history, than by the sorrows of all the countless
multitudes who perished beneath the sword of a Tamerlane, a Bajazet, or a
Zenghis Khan.

If our benevolent feelings are thus the slaves of our imaginations, if an
act of realisation is a necessary antecedent and condition of compassion,
it is obvious that any influence that augments the range and power of this
realising faculty is favourable to the amiable virtues, and it is equally
evident that education has in the highest degree this effect. To an
uneducated man all classes, nations, modes of thought and existence
foreign to his own are unrealised, while every increase of knowledge
brings with it an increase of insight, and therefore of sympathy. But the
addition to his knowledge is the smallest part of this change. The
realising faculty is itself intensified. Every book he reads, every
intellectual exercise in which he engages, accustoms him to rise above the
objects immediately present to his senses, to extend his realisations into
new spheres, and reproduce in his imagination the thoughts, feelings, and
characters of others, with a vividness inconceivable to the savage. Hence,
in a great degree, the tact with which a refined mind learns to
discriminate and adapt itself to the most delicate shades of feeling, and
hence too the sensitive humanity with which, in proportion to their
civilisation, men realise and recoil from cruelty.

We have here, however, an important distinction to draw. Under the name of
cruelty are comprised two kinds of vice, altogether different in their
causes and in most of their consequences. There is the cruelty which
springs from callousness and brutality, and there is the cruelty of
vindictiveness. The first belongs chiefly to hard, dull, and somewhat
lethargic characters, it appears most frequently in strong and conquering
nations and in temperate climates, and it is due in a very great degree to
defective realisation. The second is rather a feminine attribute, it is
usually displayed in oppressed and suffering communities, in passionate
natures, and in hot climates. Great vindictiveness is often united with
great tenderness, and great callousness with great magnanimity, but a
vindictive nature is rarely magnanimous, and a brutal nature is still more
rarely tender. The ancient Romans exhibited a remarkable combination of
great callousness and great magnanimity, while by a curious contrast the
modern Italian character verges manifestly towards the opposite
combination. Both forms of cruelty are, if I mistake not, diminished with
advancing civilisation, but by different causes and in different degrees.
Callous cruelty disappears before the sensitiveness of a cultivated
imagination. Vindictive cruelty is diminished by the substitution of a
penal system for private revenge.

The same intellectual culture that facilitates the realisation of
suffering, and therefore produces compassion, facilitates also the
realisation of character and opinions, and therefore produces charity. The
great majority of uncharitable judgments in the world may be traced to a
deficiency of imagination. The chief cause of sectarian animosity, is the
incapacity of most men to conceive hostile systems in the light in which
they appear to their adherents, and to enter into the enthusiasm they
inspire. The acquisition of this power of intellectual sympathy is a
common accompaniment of a large and cultivated mind, and wherever it
exists, it assuages the rancour of controversy. The severity of our
judgment of criminals is also often excessive, because the imagination
finds it more easy to realise an action than a state of mind. Any one can
conceive a fit of drunkenness or a deed of violence, but few persons who
are by nature very sober or very calm can conceive the natural disposition
that predisposes to it. A good man brought up among all the associations
of virtue reads of some horrible crime, his imagination exhausts itself in
depicting its circumstances, and he then estimates the guilt of the
criminal, by asking himself, “How guilty should _I_ be, were I to
perpetrate such an act?” To realise with any adequacy the force of a
passion we have never experienced, to conceive a type of character
radically different from our own, above all, to form any just appreciation
of the lawlessness and obtuseness of moral temperament, inevitably
generated by a vicious education, requires a power of imagination which is
among the rarest of human endowments. Even in judging our own conduct,
this feebleness of imagination is sometimes shown, and an old man
recalling the foolish actions, but having lost the power of realising the
feelings, of his youth, may be very unjust to his own past. That which
makes it so difficult for a man of strong vicious passions to unbosom
himself to a naturally virtuous man, is not so much the virtue as the
ignorance of the latter. It is the conviction that he cannot possibly
understand the force of a passion he has never felt. That which alone
renders tolerable to the mind the thought of judgment by an all-pure
Being, is the union of the attribute of omniscience with that of purity,
for perfect knowledge implies a perfect power of realisation. The further
our analysis extends, and the more our realising faculties are cultivated,
the more sensible we become of the influence of circumstances both upon
character and upon opinions, and of the exaggerations of our first
estimates of moral inequalities. Strong antipathies are thus gradually
softened down. Men gain much in charity, but they lose something in zeal.

We may push, I think, this vein of thought one step farther. Our
imagination, which governs our affections, has in its earlier and feebler
stages little power of grasping ideas, except in a personified and
concrete form, and the power of rising to abstractions is one of the best
measures of intellectual progress. The beginning of writing is the
hieroglyphic or symbolical picture; the beginning of worship is fetishism
or idolatry; the beginning of eloquence is pictorial, sensuous, and
metaphorical; the beginning of philosophy is the myth. The imagination in
its first stages concentrates itself on individuals; gradually by an
effort of abstraction it rises to an institution or well-defined
organisation; it is only at a very advanced stage that it can grasp a
moral and intellectual principle. Loyalty, patriotism, and attachment to a
cosmopolitan cause are therefore three forms of moral enthusiasm
respectively appropriate to three successive stages of mental progress,
and they have, I think, a certain analogy to idolatrous worship, church
feeling, and moral culture, which are the central ideas of three stages of
religious history.

The reader will readily understand that generalisations of this kind can
pretend to nothing more than an approximate truth. Our knowledge of the
laws of moral progress is like that of the laws of climate. We lay down
general rules about the temperature to be expected as we approach or
recede from the equator, and experience shows that they are substantially
correct; but yet an elevated plain, or a chain of mountains, or the
neighbourhood of the sea, will often in some degree derange our
calculations. So, too, in the history of moral changes, innumerable
special agencies, such as religious or political institutions,
geographical conditions, traditions, antipathies, and affinities, exercise
a certain retarding, accelerating, or deflecting influence, and somewhat
modify the normal progress. The proposition for which I am contending is
simply that there is such a thing as a natural history of morals, a
defined and regular order, in which our moral feelings are unfolded; or,
in other words, that there are certain groups of virtues which spring
spontaneously out of the circumstances and mental conditions of an
uncivilised people, and that there are others which are the normal and
appropriate products of civilisation. The virtues of uncivilised men are
recognised as virtues by civilised men, but they are neither exhibited in
the same perfection, nor given the same position in the scale of duties.
Of these moral changes none are more obvious than the gradual decadence of
heroism both active and passive, the increase of compassion and of
charity, and the transition from the enthusiasm of loyalty to those of
patriotism and liberty.

Another form of virtue which usually increases with civilisation is
veracity, a term which must be regarded as including something more than
the simple avoidance of direct falsehood. In the ordinary intercourse of
life it is readily understood that a man is offending against truth, not
only when he utters a deliberate falsehood, but also when in his statement
of a case he suppresses or endeavours to conceal essential facts, or makes
positive assertions without having conscientiously verified their grounds.
The earliest form in which the duty of veracity is enforced is probably
the observance of vows, which occupy a position of much prominence in
youthful religions. With the subsequent progress of civilisation, we find
the successive inculcation of three forms of veracity, which may be termed
respectively industrial, political, and philosophical. By the first I
understand that accuracy of statement or fidelity to engagements which is
commonly meant when we speak of a truthful man. Though in some cases
sustained by the strong sense of honour which accompanies a military
spirit, this form of veracity is usually the special virtue of an
industrial nation, for although industrial enterprise affords great
temptations to deception, mutual confidence, and therefore strict
truthfulness, are in these occupations so transcendently important that
they acquire in the minds of men a value they had never before possessed.
Veracity becomes the first virtue in the moral type, and no character is
regarded with any kind of approbation in which it is wanting. It is made
more than any other the test distinguishing a good from a bad man. We
accordingly find that even where the impositions of trade are very
numerous, the supreme excellence of veracity is cordially admitted in
theory, and it is one of the first virtues that every man aspiring to
moral excellence endeavours to cultivate. This constitutes probably the
chief moral superiority of nations pervaded by a strong industrial spirit
over nations like the Italians, the Spaniards, or the Irish, among whom
that spirit is wanting. The usual characteristic of the latter nations is
a certain laxity or instability of character, a proneness to exaggeration,
a want of truthfulness in little things, an infidelity to engagements from
which an Englishman, educated in the habits of industrial life, readily
infers a complete absence of moral principle. But a larger philosophy and
a deeper experience dispel his error. He finds that where the industrial
spirit has not penetrated, truthfulness rarely occupies in the popular
mind the same prominent position in the catalogue of virtues. It is not
reckoned among the fundamentals of morality, and it is possible and even
common to find in those nations—what would be scarcely possible in an
industrial society—men who are habitually dishonest and untruthful in
small things, and whose lives are nevertheless influenced by a deep
religious feeling, and adorned by the consistent practice of some of the
most difficult and most painful virtues. Trust in Providence, content and
resignation in extreme poverty and suffering, the most genuine amiability
and the most sincere readiness to assist their brethren, an adherence to
their religious opinions which no persecutions and no bribes can shake, a
capacity for heroic, transcendent, and prolonged self-sacrifice, may be
found in some nations in men who are habitual liars and habitual cheats.

The promotion of industrial veracity is probably the single form in which
the growth of manufactures exercises a favourable influence upon morals.
It is possible, however, for this virtue to exist in great perfection
without any corresponding growth of political veracity, or in other words,
of that spirit of impartiality which in matters of controversy desires
that all opinions, arguments, and facts should be fully and fairly stated.
This habit of what is commonly termed “fair play” is especially the
characteristic of free communities, and it is pre-eminently fostered by
political life. The practice of debate creates a sense of the injustice of
suppressing one side of a case, which gradually extends through all forms
of intellectual life, and becomes an essential element in the national
character. But beyond all this there is a still higher form of
intellectual virtue. By enlarged intellectual culture, especially by
philosophic studies, men come at last to pursue truth for its own sake, to
esteem it a duty to emancipate themselves from party spirit, prejudices,
and passion, and through love of truth to cultivate a judicial spirit in
controversy. They aspire to the intellect not of a sectarian but of a
philosopher, to the intellect not of a partisan but of a statesman.

Of these three forms of a truthful spirit the two last may be said to
belong exclusively to a highly civilised society. The last especially can
hardly be attained by any but a cultivated mind, and is one of the latest
flowers of virtue that bloom in the human heart. The growth, however, both
of political and philosophical veracity has been unnaturally retarded by
the opposition of theologians, who made it during many centuries a main
object of their policy to suppress all writings that were opposed to their
views, and who, when this power had escaped their grasp, proceeded to
discourage in every way impartiality of mind and judgment, and to
associate it with the notion of sin.

To the observations I have already made concerning the moral effects of
industrial life, I shall at present add but two. The first is that an
industrial spirit creates two wholly different types of character—a
thrifty character and a speculating character. Both types grow out of a
strong sense of the value and a strong desire for the attainment of
material comforts, but they are profoundly different both in their virtues
and their vices. The chief characteristic of the one type is caution, that
of the other enterprise. Thriftiness is one of the best regulators of
life. It produces order, sobriety, moderation, self-restraint, patient
industry, and all that cast of virtues which is designated by the term
respectability; but it has also a tendency to form contracted and
ungenerous natures, incapable of enthusiasm or lively sympathy. The
speculating character, on the other hand, is restless, fiery, and
uncertain, very liable to fall into great and conspicuous vices, impatient
of routine, but by no means unfavourable to strong feelings, to great
generosity or resolution. Which of these two forms the industrial spirit
assumes depends upon local circumstances. Thriftiness flourishes chiefly
among men placed outside the great stream of commerce, and in positions
where wealth is only to be acquired by slow and steady industry, while the
speculating character is most common in the great centres of enterprise
and of wealth.

In the next place, it may be remarked that industrial habits bring
forethought into a new position in the moral type. In early stages of
theological belief, men regarding every incident that happens to them as
the result of a special divine decree, sometimes esteem it a test of faith
and a form of duty to take no precautions for the future, but to leave
questions of food and clothing to Providential interposition. On the other
hand, in an industrial civilisation, prudent forethought is regarded not
simply as lawful, but as a duty, and a duty of the very highest order. A
good man of the industrial type deems it a duty not to marry till he has
ensured the maintenance of a possible family; if he possesses children, he
regulates his expenses not simply by the relation of his income to his
immediate wants, but with a constant view to the education of his sons, to
the portioning of his daughters, to the future necessities and careers of
each member of his family. Constant forethought is the guiding principle
of his whole life. No single circumstance is regarded as a better test of
the civilisation of a people than the extent to which it is diffused among
them. The old doctrine virtually disappears, and is interpreted to mean
nothing more than that we should accept with resignation what no efforts
and no forethought could avert.

This change is but one of several influences which, as civilisation
advances, diminish the spirit of reverence among mankind. Reverence is one
of those feelings which, in utilitarian systems, would occupy at best a
very ambiguous position; for it is extremely questionable whether the
great evils that have grown out of it in the form of religious
superstition and political servitude have not made it a source of more
unhappiness than happiness. Yet, however doubtful may be its position if
estimated by its bearing on happiness and on progress, there are few
persons who are not conscious that no character can attain a supreme
degree of excellence in which a reverential spirit is wanting. Of all the
forms of moral goodness it is that to which the epithet beautiful may be
most emphatically applied. Yet the habits of advancing civilisation are,
if I mistake not, on the whole inimical to its growth. For reverence grows
out of a sense of constant dependence. It is fostered by that condition of
religions thought in which men believe that each incident that befalls
them is directly and specially ordained, and when every event is therefore
fraught with a moral import. It is fostered by that condition of
scientific knowledge in which every portentous natural phenomenon is
supposed to be the result of a direct divine interposition, and awakens in
consequence emotions of humility and awe. It is fostered in that stage of
political life when loyalty or reverence for the sovereign is the
dominating passion, when an aristocracy, branching forth from the throne,
spreads habits of deference and subordination through every village, when
a revolutionary, a democratic, and a sceptical spirit are alike unknown.
Every great change, either of belief or of circumstances, brings with it a
change of emotions. The self-assertion of liberty, the levelling of
democracy, the dissecting-knife of criticism, the economical revolutions
that reduce the relations of classes to simple contracts, the
agglomeration of population, and the facilities of locomotion that sever
so many ancient ties, are all incompatible with the type of virtue which
existed before the power of tradition was broken, and when the chastity of
faith was yet unstained. Benevolence, uprightness, enterprise,
intellectual honesty, a love of freedom, and a hatred of superstition are
growing around us, but we look in vain for that most beautiful character
of the past, so distrustful of self, and so trustful of others, so simple,
so modest, and so devout, which even when, Ixion-like, it bestowed its
affections upon a cloud, made its very illusions the source of some of the
purest virtues of our nature. In a few minds, the contemplation of the
sublime order of nature produces a reverential feeling, but to the great
majority of mankind it is an incontestable though mournful fact, that the
discovery of controlling and unchanging law deprives phenomena of their
moral significance, and nearly all the social and political spheres in
which reverence was fostered have passed away. Its most beautiful displays
are not in nations like the Americans or the modern French, who have
thrown themselves most fully into the tendencies of the age, but rather in
secluded regions like Styria or the Tyrol. Its artistic expression is
found in no work of modern genius, but in the mediæval cathedral, which,
mellowed but not impaired by time, still gazes on us in its deathless
beauty through the centuries of the past. A superstitious age, like every
other phase of human history, has its distinctive virtues, which must
necessarily decline before a new stage of progress can be attained.

The virtues and vices growing out of the relation between the sexes are
difficult to treat in general terms, both on account of the obvious
delicacy of the subject, and also because their natural history is
extremely obscured by special causes. In the moral evolutions we have as
yet examined, the normal influences are most powerful, and the importance
of deranging and modifying circumstances is altogether subsidiary. The
expansion of the amiable virtues, the decline of heroism and loyalty, and
the growth of industrial habits spring out of changes which necessarily
take place under almost all forms of civilisation,(144) and the broad
features of the movement are therefore in almost all nations substantially
the same. But in the history of sensuality, special causes, such as
slavery, religious doctrines, or laws affecting marriage, have been the
most powerful agents. The immense changes effected in this field by the
Christian religion I shall hereafter examine. In the present chapter I
shall content myself with two or three very general remarks relating to
the nature of the vice, and to the effect of different stages of
civilisation upon its progress.

There are, I conceive, few greater fallacies than are involved in the
method so popular among modern writers of judging the immorality of a
nation by its statistics of illegitimate births. Independently of the
obvious defect of this method in excluding simple prostitution from our
comparison, it altogether neglects the fact that a large number of
illegitimate births arise from causes totally different from the great
violence of the passions. Such, for example, is the notion prevailing in
many country districts of England, that the marriage ceremony has a
retrospective virtue, cancelling previous immorality; and such too is the
custom so general among some classes on the Continent of forming permanent
connections without the sanction either of a legal or a religious
ceremony. However deeply such facts may be reprehended and deplored, it
would be obviously absurd to infer from them that the nations in which
they are most prominent are most conspicuous for the uncontrolled violence
of their sensual passions. In Sweden, which long ranked among the lowest
in the moral scale, if measured by the number of illegitimate births, the
chief cause appears to have been the difficulties with which legislators
surrounded marriage.(145) Even in displays of actual and violent passion,
there are distinctions to be drawn which statistics are wholly unable to
reach. The coarse, cynical, and ostentatious sensuality which forms the
most repulsive feature of the French character, the dreamy, languid, and
æsthetical sensuality of the Spaniard or the Italian, the furtive and
retiring sensuality of some northern nations, though all forms of the same
vice, are widely different feelings, and exercise widely different effects
upon the prevailing disposition.

In addition to the very important influence upon public morals which
climate, I think, undoubtedly exercises in stimulating or allaying the
passions, it has a powerful indirect action upon the position, character,
and tastes of women, by determining the prevalence of indoor or
out-of-door life, and also the classes among whom the gift of beauty is
diffused. In northern countries the prevailing cast of beauty depends
rather on colour than on form. It consists chiefly of a freshness and
delicacy of complexion which severe labour and constant exposure
necessarily destroy, and which is therefore rarely found in the highest
perfection among the very poor. But the southern type is essentially
democratic. The fierce rays of the sun only mellow and mature its charms.
Its most perfect examples may be found in the hovel as in the palace, and
the effects of this diffusion of beauty may be traced both in the manners
and the morals of the people.

It is probable that the observance of this form of virtue is naturally
most strict in a rude and semi-civilised but not barbarous people, and
that a very refined civilisation is not often favourable to its growth.
Sensuality is the vice of young men and of old nations. A languid
epicureanism is the normal condition of nations which have attained a high
intellectual or social civilisation, but which, through political causes,
have no adequate sphere for the exertion of their energies. The temptation
arising from the great wealth of some, and from the feverish longing for
luxury and exciting pleasures in others, which exists in all large towns,
has been peculiarly fatal to female virtue, and the whole tendency of the
public amusements of civilisation is in the same direction. The rude
combats which form the chief enjoyments of barbarians produce cruelty. The
dramatic and artistic tastes and the social habits of refined men produce
sensuality. Education raises many poor women to a stage of refinement that
makes them suitable companions for men of a higher rank, and not suitable
for those of their own. Industrial pursuits have, indeed, a favourable
influence in promoting habits of self-restraint, and especially in
checking the licence of military life; but on the other hand, they greatly
increase temptation by encouraging postponement of marriage, and in
communities, even more than in individuals, moral inequalities are much
more due to differences of temptation than to differences of
self-restraint. In large bodies of men a considerable increase of
temptation always brings with it an increase, though not necessarily a
proportionate increase, of vice. Among the checks on excessive
multiplication, the historical influence of voluntary continence has been,
it must be feared, very small. Physical and moral evils have alone been
decisive, and as these form the two opposite weights, we unhappily very
frequently find that the diminution of the one has been followed by the
increase of the other. The nearly universal custom of early marriages
among the Irish peasantry has alone rendered possible that high standard
of female chastity, that intense and jealous sensitiveness respecting
female honour, for which, among many failings and some vices, the Irish
poor have long been pre-eminent in Europe; but these very marriages are
the most conspicuous proofs of the national improvidence, and one of the
most fatal obstacles to industrial prosperity. Had the Irish peasants been
less chaste, they would have been more prosperous. Had that fearful
famine, which in the present century desolated the land, fallen upon a
people who thought more of accumulating subsistence than of avoiding sin,
multitudes might now be living who perished by literal starvation on the
dreary hills of Limerick or Skibbereen.

The example of Ireland furnishes us, however, with a remarkable instance
of the manner in which the influence of a moral feeling may act beyond the
circumstances that gave it birth. There is no fact in Irish history more
singular than the complete, and, I believe, unparalleled absence among the
Irish priesthood of those moral scandals which in every continental
country occasionally prove the danger of vows of celibacy. The unsuspected
purity of the Irish priests in this respect is the more remarkable,
because, the government of the country being Protestant, there is no
special inquisitorial legislation to ensure it, because of the almost
unbounded influence of the clergy over their parishioners, and also
because if any just cause of suspicion existed, in the fierce sectarianism
of Irish public opinion, it would assuredly be magnified. Considerations
of climate are quite inadequate to explain this fact; but the chief cause
is, I think, sufficiently obvious. The habit of marrying at the first
development of the passions has produced among the Irish peasantry, from
whom the priests for the most part spring, an extremely strong feeling of
the iniquity of irregular sexual indulgence, which retains its power even
over those who are bound to perpetual celibacy.

It will appear evident from the foregoing considerations that, while the
essential nature of virtue and vice is unaltered, there is a perpetual,
and in some branches an orderly and necessary change, as society advances,
both in the proportionate value attached to different virtues in theory,
and in the perfection in which they are realised in practice. It will
appear too that, while there may be in societies such a thing as moral
improvement, there is rarely or never, on a large scale, such a thing as
unmixed improvement. We may gain more than we lose, but we always lose
something. There are virtues which are continually dying away with
advancing civilisation, and even the lowest stage possesses its
distinctive excellence. There is no spectacle more piteous or more
horrible to a good man than that of an oppressed nationality writhing in
anguish beneath a tyrant’s yoke; but there is no condition in which
passionate, unquestioning self-sacrifice and heroic courage, and the true
sentiment of fraternity are more grandly elicited, and it is probable that
the triumph of liberty will in these forms not only lessen the moral
performances, but even weaken the moral capacities of mankind. War is, no
doubt, a fearful evil, but it is the seed-plot of magnanimous virtues,
which in a pacific age must wither and decay. Even the gambling-table
fosters among its more skilful votaries a kind of moral nerve, a capacity
for bearing losses with calmness, and controlling the force of the
desires, which is scarcely exhibited in equal perfection in any other

There is still so great a diversity of civilisation in existing nations
that traversing tracts of space is almost like traversing tracts of time,
for it brings us in contact with living representatives of nearly every
phase of past civilisation. But these differences are rapidly disappearing
before the unparalleled diffusion and simplification of knowledge, the
still more amazing progress in means of locomotion, and the political and
military causes that are manifestly converting Europe into a federation of
vast centralised and democratic States. Even to those who believe that the
leading changes are on the whole beneficial, there is much that is
melancholy in this revolution. Those small States which will soon have
disappeared from the map of Europe, besides their vast superiority to most
great empires in financial prosperity, in the material well-being of the
inhabitants, and in many cases in political liberty, pacific tastes, and
intellectual progress, form one of the chief refuges of that spirit of
content, repose, and retrospective reverence which is pre-eminently
wanting in modern civilisation, and their security is in every age one of
the least equivocal measures of international morality. The monastic
system, however pernicious when enlarged to excess, has undoubtedly
contributed to the happiness of the world, by supplying an asylum
especially suited to a certain type of character; and that vindictive and
short-sighted revolution which is extirpating it from Europe is destroying
one of the best correctives of the excessive industrialism of our age. It
is for the advantage of a nation that it should attain the most advanced
existing type of progress, but it is extremely questionable whether it is
for the advantage of the community at large that all nations should attain
the same type, even when it is the most advanced. The influence of very
various circumstances is absolutely necessary to perfect moral
development. Hence, one of the great political advantages of class
representation, which brings within the range of politics a far greater
variety both of capacities and moral qualities than can be exhibited when
one class has an exclusive or overwhelmingly preponderating influence, and
also of heterogeneous empires, in which different degrees of civilisation
produce different kinds of excellence which react upon and complete one
another. In the rude work of India and Australia a type of character is
formed which England could ill afford to lose.

The remarks I have now made will be sufficient, I hope, to throw some
light upon those great questions concerning the relations of intellectual
and moral progress which have of late years attracted so large an amount
of attention. It has been contended that the historian of human progress
should concentrate his attention exclusively on the intellectual elements;
for there is no such thing as moral history, morals being essentially
stationary, and the rudest barbarians being in this respect as far
advanced as ourselves. In opposition to this view, I have maintained that
while what may be termed the primal elements of morals are unaltered,
there is a perpetual change in the standard which is exacted, and also in
the relative value attached to particular virtues, and that these changes
constitute one of the most important branches of general history. It has
been contended by other writers that, although such changes do take place,
and although they play an extremely great part in the world, they must be
looked upon as the result of intellectual causes, changes in knowledge
producing changes in morals. In this view, as we have seen, there is some
truth, but it can only, I think, be accepted with great qualification. It
is one of the plainest of facts that neither the individuals nor the ages
most distinguished for intellectual achievements have been most
distinguished for moral excellence, and that a high intellectual and
material civilisation has often coexisted with much depravity. In some
respects the conditions of intellectual growth are not favourable to moral
growth. The agglomeration of men in great cities—which are always the
centres of progress and enlightenment—is one of the most important causes
of material and intellectual advance: but great towns are the peculiar
seed-plots of vice, and it is extremely questionable whether they produce
any special and equivalent efflorescence of virtue, for even the social
virtues are probably more cultivated in small populations, where men live
in more intimate relations. Many of the most splendid outbursts of moral
enthusiasm may be traced to an overwhelming force of conviction rarely
found in very cultivated minds, which are keenly sensible to possibilities
of error, conflicting arguments, and qualifying circumstances.
Civilisation has on the whole been more successful in repressing crime
than in repressing vice. It is very favourable to the gentler, charitable,
and social virtues, and, where slavery does not exist, to the industrial
virtues, and it is the especial nurse of the intellectual virtues; but it
is in general not equally favourable to the production of self-sacrifice,
enthusiasm, reverence, or chastity.

The moral changes, however, which are effected by civilisation may
ultimately be ascribed chiefly to intellectual causes, for these lie at
the root of the whole structure of civilised life. Sometimes, as we have
seen, intellectual causes act directly, but more frequently they have only
an indirect influence, producing habits of life which in their turn
produce new conceptions of duty. The morals of men are more governed by
their pursuits than by their opinions. A type of virtue is first formed by
circumstances, and men afterwards make it the model upon which their
theories are framed. Thus geographical or other circumstances, that make
one nation military and another industrial, will produce in each a
realised type of excellence, and corresponding conceptions about the
relative importance of different virtues widely different from those which
are produced in the other, and this may be the case although the amount of
knowledge in the two communities is substantially equal.

Having discussed these questions as fully as the nature of my subject
requires, I will conclude this chapter by noticing a few very prevalent
errors in the moral judgments of history, and will also endeavour to
elucidate some important consequences that may be deduced from the nature
of moral types.

It is probable that the moral standard of most men is much lower in
political judgments than in private matters in which their own interests
are concerned. There is nothing more common than for men who in private
life are models of the most scrupulous integrity to justify or excuse the
most flagrant acts of political dishonesty and violence; and we should be
altogether mistaken if we argued rigidly from such approvals to the
general moral sentiments of those who utter them. Not unfrequently too, by
a curious moral paradox, political crimes are closely connected with
national virtues. A people who are submissive, gentle, and loyal, fall by
reason of these very qualities under a despotic government; but this
uncontrolled power has never failed to exercise a most pernicious
influence on rulers, and their numerous acts of rapacity and aggression
being attributed in history to the nation they represent, the national
character is wholly misinterpreted.(146) There are also particular kinds
both of virtue and of vice which appear prominently before the world,
while others of at least equal influence almost escape the notice of
history. Thus, for example, the sectarian animosities, the horrible
persecutions, the blind hatred of progress, the ungenerous support of
every galling disqualification and restraint, the intense class
selfishness, the obstinately protracted defence of intellectual and
political superstition, the childish but whimsically ferocious quarrels
about minute dogmatic distinctions, or dresses, or candlesticks, which
constitute together the main features of ecclesiastical history, might
naturally, though very unjustly, lead men to place the ecclesiastical type
in almost the lowest rank, both intellectually and morally. These are, in
fact, the displays of ecclesiastical influence which stand in bold relief
in the pages of history. The civilising and moralising influence of the
clergyman in his parish, the simple, unostentatious, unselfish zeal with
which he educates the ignorant, guides the erring, comforts the sorrowing,
braves the horrors of pestilence, and sheds a hallowing influence over the
dying hour, the countless ways in which, in his little sphere, he allays
evil passions, and softens manners, and elevates and purifies those around
him—all these things, though very evident to the detailed observer, do not
stand out in the same vivid prominence in historical records, and are
continually forgotten by historians. It is always hazardous to argue from
the character of a corporation to the character of the members who compose
it, but in no other case is this method of judgment so fallacious as in
the history of ecclesiastics, for there is no other class whose
distinctive excellences are less apparent, and whose mental and moral
defects are more glaringly conspicuous in corporate action. In different
nations, again, the motives of virtue are widely different, and serious
misconceptions arise from the application to one nation of the measure of
another. Thus the chief national virtues of the French people result from
an intense power of sympathy, which is also the foundation of some of
their most beautiful intellectual qualities, of their social habits, and
of their unrivalled influence in Europe. No other nation has so habitual
and vivid a sympathy with great struggles for freedom beyond its border.
No other literature exhibits so expansive and œcumenical a genius, or
expounds so skilfully, or appreciates so generously, foreign ideas. In
hardly any other land would a disinterested war for the support of a
suffering nationality find so large an amount of support. The national
crimes of France are many and grievous, but much will be forgiven her
because she loved much. The Anglo-Saxon nations, on the other hand, though
sometimes roused to strong but transient enthusiasm, are habitually
singularly narrow, unappreciative, and unsympathetic. The great source of
their national virtue is the sense of duty, the power of pursuing a course
which they believe to be right, independently of all considerations of
sympathy or favour, of enthusiasm or success. Other nations have far
surpassed them in many qualities that are beautiful, and in some qualities
that are great. It is the merit of the Anglo-Saxon race that beyond all
others it has produced men of the stamp of a Washington or a Hampden; men
careless, indeed, for glory, but very careful of honour; who made the
supreme majesty of moral rectitude the guiding principle of their lives,
who proved in the most trying circumstances that no allurements of
ambition, and no storms of passion, could cause them to deviate one hair’s
breadth from the course they believed to be their duty. This was also a
Roman characteristic—especially that of Marcus Aurelius. The unweary,
unostentatious, and inglorious crusade of England against slavery may
probably be regarded as among the three or four perfectly virtuous pages
comprised in the history of nations.

Although it cannot be said that any virtue is the negation of another, it
is undoubtedly true that virtues are naturally grouped according to
principles of affinity or congruity, which are essential to the unity of
the type. The heroical, the amiable, the industrial, the intellectual
virtues form in this manner distinct groups; and in some cases the
development of one group is incompatible, not indeed with the existence,
but with the prominence of others. Content cannot be the leading virtue in
a society animated by an intense industrial spirit, nor submission nor
tolerance of injuries in a society formed upon a military type, nor
intellectual virtues in a society where a believing spirit is made the
essential of goodness, yet each of these conditions is the special sphere
of some particular class of virtues. The distinctive beauty of a moral
type depends not so much on the elements of which it is composed, as on
the proportions in which those elements are combined. The characters of
Socrates, of Cato, of Bayard, of Fénelon, and of St. Francis are all
beautiful, but they differ generically, and not simply in degrees of
excellence. To endeavour to impart to Cato the distinctive charm of St.
Francis, or to St. Francis that of Cato, would be as absurd as to
endeavour to unite in a single statue the beauties of the Apollo and the
Laocoon, or in a single landscape the beauties of the twilight and of the
meridian sun. Take away pride from the ancient Stoic or the modern
Englishman, and you would have destroyed the basis of many of his noblest
virtues, but humility was the very principle and root of the moral
qualities of the monk. There is no quality virtuous in a woman that is not
also virtuous in a man, yet that disposition or hierarchy of virtues which
constitutes a perfect woman would be wholly unsuited for a perfect man.
The moral is in this respect like the physical type. The beauty of man is
not the beauty of woman, nor the beauty of the child as the beauty of the
adult, nor the beauty of an Italian as the beauty of an Englishwoman. All
types of character are not good, as all types of countenance are not
beautiful; but there are many distinct casts of goodness, as there are
many distinct casts of beauty.

This most important truth may be stated in a somewhat different form.
Whenever a man is eminently deficient in any virtue, it, of course,
follows that his character is imperfect, but it does not necessarily
follow that he is not in other respects moral and virtuous. There is,
however, usually some one virtue, which I may term rudimentary, which is
brought forward so prominently before the world, as the first condition of
moral excellence, that it may be safely inferred that a man who has
absolutely neglected it is entirely indifferent to moral culture.
Rudimentary virtues vary in different ages, nations, and classes. Thus, in
the great republics of antiquity patriotism was rudimentary, for it was so
assiduously cultivated, that it appeared at once the most obvious and the
most essential of duties. Among ourselves much private virtue may co-exist
with complete indifference to national interests. In the monastic period,
and in a somewhat different form in the age of chivalry, a spirit of
reverential obedience was rudimentary, and the basis of all moral
progress; but we may now frequently find a good man without it, his moral
energies having been cultivated in other directions. Common truthfulness
and honesty, as I have already said, are rudimentary virtues in industrial
societies, but not in others. Chastity, in England at least, is a
rudimentary female virtue, but scarcely a rudimentary virtue among men,
and it has not been in all ages, and is not now in all countries,
rudimentary among women. There is no more important task devolving upon a
moral historian, than to discover in each period the rudimentary virtue,
for it regulates in a great degree the position assigned to all others.

From the considerations I have urged, it will appear that there is
considerable danger in proposing too absolutely a single character,
however admirable, as the model to which all men must necessarily conform.
A character may be perfect in its own kind, but no character can possibly
embrace all types of perfection; for, as we have seen, the perfection of a
type depends not only upon the virtues that constitute it, but also upon
the order and prominence assigned to them. All that can be expected in an
ideal is, that it should be perfect of its own kind, and should exhibit
the type most needed in its age, and most widely useful to mankind. The
Christian type is the glorification of the amiable, as the Stoic type was
that of the heroic qualities, and this is one of the reasons why
Christianity is so much more fitted than Stoicism to preside over
civilisation, for the more society is organised and civilised, the greater
is the scope for the amiable, and the less for the heroic qualities.

The history of that moral intolerance which endeavours to reduce all
characters to a single type has never, I think, been examined as it
deserves, and I shall frequently have occasion to advert to it in the
following pages. No one can have failed to observe how common it is for
men to make their own tastes or excellences the measure of all goodness,
pronouncing all that is broadly different from them to be imperfect or
low, or of a secondary value. And this, which is usually attributed to
vanity, is probably in most cases much more due to feebleness of
imagination, to the difficulty most men have in conceiving in their minds
an order of character fundamentally different from their own. A good man
can usually sympathise much more with a very imperfect character of his
own type than with a far more perfect one of a different type. To this
cause, quite as much as to historical causes or occasional divergences of
interest, may be traced the extreme difficulty of effecting cordial
international friendships, especially in those cases when a difference of
race coincides with the difference of nationality. Each nation has a
distinct type of excellence, each esteems the virtues in which it excels,
and in which its neighbours are often most deficient, incomparably the
greatest. Each regards with especial antipathy the vices from which it is
most free, and to which its neighbours maybe most addicted. Hence arises a
mingled feeling of contempt and dislike, from which the more enlightened
minds are, indeed, soon emancipated, but which constitutes the popular

The type of character of every individual depends partly upon innate
temperament and partly upon external circumstances. A warlike, a refined,
an industrial society each evokes and requires its specific qualities, and
produces its appropriate type. If a man of a different type arise—if, for
example, a man formed by nature to exhibit to the highest perfection the
virtues of gentleness or meekness, be born in the midst of a fierce
military society—he will find no suitable scope for action, he will jar
with his age, and his type will be regarded with disfavour. And the effect
of this opposition is not simply that he will not be appreciated as he
deserves, he will also never succeed in developing his own distinctive
virtues as they would have been developed under other circumstances.
Everything will be against him—the force of education, the habits of
society, the opinions of mankind, even his own sense of duty. All the
highest models of excellence about him being formed on a different type,
his very efforts to improve his being will dull the qualities in which
nature intended him to excel. If, on the other hand, a man with naturally
heroic qualities be born in a society which pre-eminently values heroism,
he will not only be more appreciated, he will also, under the concurrence
of favourable circumstances, carry his heroism to a far higher point than
would otherwise have been possible. Hence changing circumstances produce
changing types, and hence, too, the possibility of moral history and the
necessity of uniting it with general history. Religions, considered as
moral teachers, are realised and effective only when their moral teaching
is in conformity with the tendency of their age. If any part of it is not
so, that part will be either openly abandoned, or refined away, or tacitly
neglected. Among the ancients, the co-existence of the Epicurean and
Stoical schools, which offered to the world two entirely different
archetypes of virtue, secured in a very remarkable manner the recognition
of different kinds of excellence; for although each of these schools often
attained a pre-eminence, neither ever succeeded in wholly destroying or
discrediting the other.

Of the two elements that compose the moral condition of mankind, our
generalised knowledge is almost restricted to one. We know much of the
ways in which political, social, or intellectual causes act upon
character, but scarcely anything of the laws that govern innate
disposition, of the reasons and extent of the natural moral diversities of
individuals or races. I think, however, that most persons who reflect upon
the subject will conclude that the progress of medicine, revealing the
physical causes of different moral predispositions, is likely to place a
very large measure of knowledge on this point within our reach. Of all the
great branches of human knowledge, medicine is that in which the
accomplished results are most obviously imperfect and provisional, in
which the field of unrealised possibilities is most extensive, and from
which, if the human mind were directed to it, as it has been during the
past century to locomotive and other industrial inventions, the most
splendid results might be expected. Our almost absolute ignorance of the
causes of some of the most fatal diseases, and the empirical nature of
nearly all our best medical treatment, have been often recognised. The
medicine of inhalation is still in its infancy, and yet it is by
inhalation that Nature produces most of her diseases, and effects most of
her cures. The medical power of electricity, which of all known agencies
bears most resemblance to life, is almost unexplored. The discovery of
anæsthetics has in our own day opened out a field of inestimable
importance, and the proved possibility, under certain physical conditions,
of governing by external suggestions the whole current of the feelings and
emotions, may possibly contribute yet further to the alleviation of
suffering, and perhaps to that euthanasia which Bacon proposed to
physicians as an end of their art. But in the eyes both of the
philanthropist and of the philosopher, the greatest of all results to be
expected in this, or perhaps any other field, are, I conceive, to be
looked for in the study of the relations between our physical and our
moral natures. He who raises moral pathology to a science, expanding,
systematising, and applying many fragmentary observations that have been
already made, will probably take a place among the master intellects of
mankind. The fastings and bleedings of the mediæval monk, the medicines
for allaying or stimulating the sensual passions, the treatment of nervous
diseases, the moral influences of insanity and of castration, the
researches of phrenology, the moral changes that accompany the successive
stages of physical developments, the instances of diseases which have
altered, sometimes permanently, the whole complexion of the character, and
have acted through the character upon all the intellectual judgments,(147)
are examples of the kind of facts with which such a science would deal.
Mind and body are so closely connected that even those who most earnestly
protest against materialism readily admit that each acts continually upon
the other. The sudden emotion that quickens the pulse, and blanches or
flushes the cheek, and the effect of fear in predisposing to an epidemic,
are familiar instances of the action of the mind upon the body, and the
more powerful and permanent influence of the body upon the disposition is
attested by countless observations. It is probable that this action
extends to all parts of our moral constitution, that every passion or
characteristic tendency has a physical predisposing cause, and that if we
were acquainted with these, we might treat by medicine the many varieties
of moral disease as systematically as we now treat physical disease. In
addition to its incalculable practical importance, such knowledge would
have a great philosophical value, throwing a new light upon the filiation
of our moral qualities, enabling us to treat exhaustively the moral
influence of climate, and withdrawing the great question of the influence
of race from the impressions of isolated observers to place it on the firm
basis of experiment. It would thus form the complement to the labours of
the historian.

Such discoveries are, however, perhaps far from attainment, and their
discussion does not fall within the compass of this work. My present
object is simply to trace the action of external circumstances upon
morals, to examine what have been the moral types proposed as ideal in
different ages, in what degree they have been realised in practice, and by
what causes they have been modified, impaired, or destroyed.


One of the first facts that must strike a student who examines the ethical
teaching of the ancient civilisations is how imperfectly that teaching was
represented, and how feebly it was influenced by the popular creed. The
moral ideas had at no time been sought in the actions of the gods, and
long before the triumph of Christianity, polytheism had ceased to have any
great influence upon the more cultivated intellects of mankind.

In Greece we may trace from the earliest time the footsteps of a religion
of nature, wholly different from the legends of the mythology. The
language in which the first Greek dramatists asserted the supreme
authority and universal providence of Zeus was so emphatic, that the
Christian Fathers commonly attributed it either to direct inspiration or
to a knowledge of the Jewish writings, while later theologians of the
school of Cudworth have argued from it in favour of the original
monotheism of our race. The philosophers were always either contemptuous
or hostile to the prevailing legends. Pythagoras is said to have declared
that he had seen Hesiod tied to a brazen pillar in hell, and Homer hung
upon a tree surrounded by serpents, on account of the fables they had
invented about the gods.(148) Plato, for the same reason, banished the
poets from his republic. Stilpo turned to ridicule the whole system of
sacrifices,(149) and was exiled from Athens for denying that the Athene of
Phidias was a goddess.(150) Xenophanes remarked that each nation
attributed to the gods its distinctive national type, the gods of the
Æthiopians being black, the gods of the Thracians fair and blue-eyed.(151)
Diagoras and Theodorus are said to have denied, and Protagoras to have
questioned the existence of the gods,(152) while the Epicureans deemed
them wholly indifferent to human affairs, and the Pyrrhonists pronounced
our faculties absolutely incapable of attaining any sure knowledge, either
human or divine. The Cynic Antisthenes said that there were many popular
gods, but there was only one god of nature.(153) The Stoics, reproducing
an opinion which was supported by Aristotle and attributed to
Pythagoras,(154) believed in an all-pervading soul of nature, but unlike
some modern schools which have adopted this view, they asserted in
emphatic language the doctrine of Providence, and the self-consciousness
of the Deity.

In the Roman republic and empire, a general scepticism had likewise arisen
among the philosophers as the first fruit of intellectual development, and
the educated classes were speedily divided between avowed or virtual
atheists, like the Epicureans,(155) and pure theists, like the Stoics and
the Platonists. The first, represented by such writers as Lucretius and
Petronius, regarded the gods simply as the creations of fear, denied every
form of Providence, attributed the world to a concurrence of atoms, and
life to spontaneous generation, and regarded it as the chief end of
philosophy to banish as illusions of the imagination every form of
religious belief. The others formed a more or less pantheistic conception
of the Deity, asserted the existence of a Providence,(156) but treated
with great contempt the prevailing legends which they endeavoured in
various ways to explain. The first systematic theory of explanation
appears to have been that of the Sicilian Euhemerus, whose work was
translated by Ennius. He pretended that the gods were originally kings,
whose history and genealogies he professed to trace, and who after death
had been deified by mankind.(157) Another attempt, which in the first
period of Roman scepticism was more generally popular, was that of some of
the Stoics, who regarded the gods as personifications of the different
attributes of the Deity, or of different forces of nature. Thus Neptune
was the sea, Pluto was fire, Hercules represented the strength of God,
Minerva His wisdom, Ceres His fertilising energy.(158) More than a hundred
years before the Empire, Varro had declared that “the soul of the world is
God, and that its parts are true divinities.”(159) Virgil and Manilius
described, in lines of singular beauty, that universal spirit, the
principle of all life, the efficient cause of all motion, which permeates
and animates the globe. Pliny said that “the world and sky, in whose
embrace all things are enclosed, must be deemed a god, eternal, immense,
never begotten, and never to perish. To seek things beyond this is of no
profit to man, and they transcend the limits of his faculties.”(160)
Cicero had adopted the higher Platonic conception of the Deity as mind
freed from all taint of matter,(161) while Seneca celebrated in
magnificent language “Jupiter the guardian and ruler of the universe, the
soul and spirit, the lord and master of this mundane sphere, ... the cause
of causes, upon whom all things hang.... Whose wisdom oversees the world
that it may move uncontrolled in its course, ... from whom all things
proceed, by whose spirit we live, ... who comprises all we see.”(162)
Lucan, the great poet of stoicism, rose to a still higher strain, and to
one which still more accurately expressed the sentiments of his school,
when he described Jupiter as that majestic, all-pervasive spirit, whose
throne is virtue and the universe.(163) Quintilian defended the
subjugation of the world beneath the sceptre of a single man, on the
ground that it was an image of the government of God. Other philosophers
contented themselves with asserting the supreme authority of Jupiter
Maximus, and reducing the other divinities to mere administrative and
angelic functions, or, as the Platonists expressed it, to the position of
dæmons. According to some of the Stoics, a final catastrophe would consume
the universe, the resuscitated spirits of men and all these minor gods,
and the whole creation being absorbed into the great parent spirit, God
would be all in all. The very children and old women ridiculed Cerberus
and the Furies(164) or treated them as mere metaphors of conscience.(165)
In the deism of Cicero the popular divinities were discarded, the oracles
refuted and ridiculed, the whole system of divination pronounced a
political imposture, and the genesis of the miraculous traced to the
exuberance of the imagination, and to certain diseases of the
judgment.(166) Before the time of Constantine, numerous books had been
written against the oracles.(167) The greater number of these had actually
ceased, and the ablest writers justly saw in this cessation an evidence of
the declining credulity of the people, and a proof that the oracles had
been a fruit of that credulity.(168) The Stoics, holding, as was their
custom, aloof from direct religious discussion, dissuaded their disciples
from consulting them, on the ground that the gifts of fortune were of no
account, and that a good man should be content with his conscience, making
duty and not success the object of his life.(169) Cato wondered that two
augurs could meet with gravity.(170) The Roman general Sertorius made the
forgery of auspicious omens a continual resource in warfare.(171) The
Roman wits made divination the favourite subject of their ridicule.(172)
The denunciation which the early Greek moralists launched against the
popular ascription of immoral deeds to the gods was echoed by a long
series of later philosophers,(173) while Ovid made these fables the theme
of his mocking _Metamorphoses_, and in his most immoral poem proposed
Jupiter as a model of vice. With an irony not unlike that of Isaiah,
Horace described the carpenter deliberating whether he should convert a
shapeless log into a bench or into a god.(174) Cicero, Plutarch, Maximus
of Tyre, and Dion Chrysostom either denounced idolatry or defended the use
of images simply on the ground that they were signs and symbols of the
Deity,(175) well suited to aid the devotions of the ignorant. Seneca(176)
and the whole school of Pythagoras objected to the sacrifices.

These examples will be sufficient to show how widely the philosophic
classes in Rome were removed from the professed religion of the State, and
how necessary it is to seek elsewhere the sources of their moral life. But
the opinions of learned men never reflect faithfully those of the vulgar,
and the chasm between the two classes was even wider than at present
before the dawn of Christianity and the invention of printing. The
atheistic enthusiasm of Lucretius and the sceptical enthusiasm of some of
the disciples of Carneades were isolated phenomena, and the great majority
of the ancient philosophers, while speculating with the utmost freedom in
private, or in writings that were read by the few, countenanced,
practised, and even defended the religious rites that they despised. It
was believed that many different paths adapted to different nations and
grades of knowledge converge to the same Divinity, and that the most
erroneous religion is good if it forms good dispositions and inspires
virtuous actions. The oracle of Delphi had said that the best religion is
that of a man’s own city. Polybius and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who
regarded all religions simply as political agencies, dilated in rapturous
terms upon the devotion of the Romans and the comparative purity of their
creed.(177) Varro openly professed the belief that there are religious
truths which it is expedient that the people should not know, and
falsehoods which they should believe to be true.(178) The Academic Cicero
and the Epicurean Cæsar were both high officers of religion. The Stoics
taught that every man should duly perform the religious ceremonies of his

But the Roman religion, even in its best days, though an admirable system
of moral discipline, was never an independent source of moral enthusiasm.
It was the creature of the State, and derived its inspiration from
political feeling. The Roman gods were not, like those of the Greeks, the
creations of an unbridled and irreverent fancy, nor, like those of the
Egyptians, representations of the forces of nature; they were for the most
part simple allegories, frigid personifications of different virtues, or
presiding spirits imagined for the protection of different departments of
industry. The religion established the sanctity of an oath, it gave a kind
of official consecration to certain virtues, and commemorated special
instances in which they had been displayed; its local character
strengthened patriotic feeling, its worship of the dead fostered a vague
belief in the immortality of the soul,(180) it sustained the supremacy of
the father in the family, surrounded marriage with many imposing
solemnities, and created simple and reverent characters profoundly
submissive to an over-ruling Providence and scrupulously observant of
sacred rites. But with all this it was purely selfish. It was simply a
method of obtaining prosperity, averting calamity, and reading the future.
Ancient Rome produced many heroes, but no saint. Its self-sacrifice was
patriotic, not religious. Its religion was neither an independent teacher
nor a source of inspiration, although its rites mingled with and
strengthened some of the best habits of the people.

But these habits, and the religious reverence with which they were
connected, soon disappeared amid the immorality and decomposition that
marked the closing years of the Republic and the dawn of the Empire. The
stern simplicity of life, which the censors had so zealously and often so
tyrannically enforced,(181) was exchanged for a luxury which first
appeared after the return of the army of Manlius from Asia,(182) increased
to immense proportions after the almost simultaneous conquests of
Carthage, Corinth, and Macedonia,(183) received an additional stimulus
from the example of Antony,(184) and at last, under the Empire, rose to
excesses which the wildest Oriental orgies have never surpassed.(185) The
complete subversion of the social and political system of the Republic,
the anarchy of civil war, the ever-increasing concourse of strangers,
bringing with them new philosophies, customs, and gods, had dissolved or
effaced all the old bonds of virtue. The simple juxtaposition of many
forms of worship effected what could not have been effected by the most
sceptical literature or the most audacious philosophy. The moral influence
of religion was almost annihilated. The feeling of reverence was almost
extinct. Augustus solemnly degraded the statue of Neptune because his
fleet had been wrecked.(186) When Germanicus died, the populace stoned or
overthrew the altars of the gods.(187) The idea of sanctity was so far
removed from the popular divinities that it became a continual complaint
that prayers were offered which the most depraved would blush to pronounce
aloud.(188) Amid the corruption of the Empire, we meet with many noble
efforts of reform made by philosophers or by emperors, but we find
scarcely a trace of the moral influence of the old religion. The
apotheosis of the emperors consummated its degradation. The foreign gods
were identified with those of Rome, and all their immoral legends
associated with the national creed.(189) The theatre greatly extended the
area of scepticism. Cicero mentions the assenting plaudits with which the
people heard the lines of Ennius, declaring that the gods, though real
beings, take no care for the things of man.(190) Plutarch tells of a
spectator at a theatre rising up with indignation after a recital of the
crimes of Diana, and exclaiming to the actor, “May you have a daughter
like her whom you have described!”(191) St. Augustine and other of the
Fathers long after ridiculed the pagans who satirised in the theatres the
very gods they worshipped in the temples.(192) Men were still profoundly
superstitious, but they resorted to each new religion as to a charm or
talisman of especial power, or a system of magic revealing the future.
There existed, too, to a very large extent, a kind of superstitious
scepticism which occupies a very prominent place in religious history.
There were multitudes who, declaring that there were no gods, or that the
gods never interfered with human affairs, professed with the same breath
an absolute faith in all portents, auguries, dreams, and miracles.
Innumerable natural objects, such as comets, meteors, earthquakes, or
monstrous births, were supposed to possess a kind of occult or magical
virtue, by which they foreshadowed, and in some cases influenced, the
destinies of men. Astrology, which is the special representative of this
mode of thought, rose to great prominence. The elder Pliny notices that in
his time a belief was rapidly gaining ground, both among the learned and
among the vulgar, that the whole destiny of man is determined by the star
that presides over his nativity; that God, having ordained this, never
interferes with human affairs, and that the reality of the portents is due
to this pre-ordainment.(193) One of the later historians of the Empire
remarks that numbers who denied the existence of any divinity believed
nevertheless that they could not safely appear in public, or eat or bathe,
unless they had first carefully consulted the almanac to ascertain the
position of the planet Mercury, or how far the moon was from the
Crab.(194) Except, perhaps, among the peasants in the country districts,
the Roman religion, in the last years of the Republic, and in the first
century of the Empire, scarcely existed, except in the state of a
superstition, and he who would examine the true moral influence of the
time must turn to the great schools of philosophy which had been imported
from Greece.

The vast place which the rival systems of Zeno and Epicurus occupy in the
moral history of mankind, and especially in the closing years of the
empire of paganism, may easily lead us to exaggerate the creative genius
of their founders, who, in fact, did little more than give definitions or
intellectual expression to types of excellence that had at all times
existed in the world. There have ever been stern, upright,
self-controlled, and courageous men, actuated by a pure sense of duty,
capable of high efforts of self-sacrifice, somewhat intolerant of the
frailties of others, somewhat hard and unsympathising in the ordinary
intercourse of society, but rising to heroic grandeur as the storm lowered
upon their path, and more ready to relinquish life than the cause they
believed to be true. There have also always been men of easy tempers and
of amiable disposition, gentle, benevolent, and pliant, cordial friends
and forgiving enemies, selfish at heart, yet ever ready, when it is
possible, to unite their gratifications with those of others, averse to
all enthusiasm, mysticism, utopias, and superstition, with little depth of
character or capacity for self-sacrifice, but admirably fitted to impart
and to receive enjoyment, and to render the course of life easy and
harmonious. The first are by nature Stoics, and the second Epicureans, and
if they proceed to reason about the _summum bonum_ or the affections, it
is more than probable that in each case their characters will determine
their theories. The first will estimate self-control above all other
qualities, will disparage the affections, and will endeavour to separate
widely the ideas of duty and of interest, while the second will
systematically prefer the amiable to the heroic, and the utilitarian to
the mystical.

But while it is undoubtedly true that in these matters character usually
determines opinion, it is not less true that character is itself in a
great measure governed by national circumstances. The refined, artistic,
sensual civilisations of Greece and Asia Minor might easily produce fine
examples of the Epicurean type, but Rome was from the earliest times
pre-eminently the home of stoicism. Long before the Romans had begun to
reason about philosophy, they had exhibited it in action, and in their
speculative days it was to this doctrine that the noblest minds naturally
tended. A great nation engaged in perpetual wars in an age when success in
warfare depended neither upon wealth nor upon mechanical genius, but upon
the constant energy of patriotic enthusiasm, and upon the unflinching
maintenance of military discipline, the whole force of the national
character tended to the production of a single definite type. In the
absolute authority accorded to the father over the children, to the
husband over the wife, to the master over the slave, we may trace the same
habits of discipline that proved so formidable in the field. Patriotism
and military honour were indissolubly connected in the Roman mind. They
were the two sources of national enthusiasm, the chief ingredients of the
national conception of greatness. They determined irresistibly the moral
theory which was to prove supreme.

Now war, which brings with it so many demoralising influences, has, at
least, always been the great school of heroism. It teaches men how to die.
It familiarises the mind with the idea of noble actions performed under
the influence, not of personal interest, but of honour and of enthusiasm.
It elicits in the highest degree strength of character, accustoms men to
the abnegation needed for simultaneous action, compels them to repress
their fears, and establish a firm control over their affections.
Patriotism, too, leads them to subordinate their personal wishes to the
interests of the society in which they live. It extends the horizon of
life, teaching men to dwell among the great men of the past, to derive
their moral strength from the study of heroic lives, to look forward
continually, through the vistas of a distant future, to the welfare of an
organisation which will continue when they have passed away. All these
influences were developed in Roman life to a degree which can now never be
reproduced. War, for the reasons I have stated, was far more than at
present the school of heroic virtues. Patriotism, in the absence of any
strong theological passion, had assumed a transcendent power. The citizen,
passing continually from political to military life, exhibited to
perfection the moral effects of both. The habits of command formed by a
long period of almost universal empire, and by the aristocratic
organisation of the city, contributed to the elevation, and also to the
pride, of the national character.

It will appear, I think, sufficiently evident, from these considerations,
that the circumstances of the Roman people tended inevitably to the
production of a certain type of character, which, in its essential
characteristics, was the type of stoicism. In addition to the
predisposition which leads men in their estimate of the comparative
excellence of different qualities to select for the highest eulogy those
which are most congruous to their own characters, this fact derives a
great importance from the large place which the biographical element
occupied in ancient ethical teaching. Among Christians the ideals have
commonly been either supernatural beings or men who were in constant
connection with supernatural beings, and these men have usually been
either Jews or saints, whose lives were of such a nature as to isolate
them from most human sympathies, and to efface as far as possible the
national type. Among the Greeks and Romans the examples of virtue were
usually their own fellow-countrymen; men who had lived in the same moral
atmosphere, struggled for the same ends, acquired their reputation in the
same spheres, exhibited in all their intensity the same national
characteristics as their admirers. History had assumed a didactic
character it has now almost wholly lost. One of the first tasks of every
moralist was to collect traits of character illustrating the precepts he
enforced. Valerius Maximus represented faithfully the method of the
teachers of antiquity when he wrote his book giving a catalogue of
different moral qualities, and illustrating each by a profusion of
examples derived from the history of his own or of foreign nations.

“Whenever,” said Plutarch, “we begin an enterprise, or take possession of
a charge, or experience a calamity, we place before our eyes the example
of the greatest men of our own or of bygone ages, and we ask ourselves how
Plato or Epaminondas, Lycurgus or Agesilaus, would have acted. Looking
into these personages as into a faithful mirror, we can remedy our defects
in word or deed.... Whenever any perplexity arrives, or any passion
disturbs the mind, the student of philosophy pictures to himself some of
those who have been celebrated for their virtue, and the recollection
sustains his tottering steps and prevents his fall.”(195)

Passages of this kind continually occur in the ancient moralists,(196) and
they show how naturally the highest type of national excellence determined
the prevailing school of moral philosophy, and also how the influence of
the heroic period of national history would act upon the best minds in the
subsequent and wholly different phases of development. It was therefore
not surprising that during the Empire, though the conditions of national
life were profoundly altered, Stoicism should still be the philosophical
religion, the great source and regulator of moral enthusiasm. Epicureanism
had, indeed, spread widely in the Empire,(197) but it proved little more
than a principle of disintegration or an apology for vice, or at best the
religion of tranquil and indifferent natures animated by no strong moral
enthusiasm. It is indeed true that Epicurus had himself been a man of the
most blameless character, that his doctrines were at first carefully
distinguished from the coarse sensuality of the Cyrenaic school which had
preceded them, that they admitted in theory almost every form of virtue,
and that the school had produced many disciples who, if they had not
attained the highest grades of excellence, had at least been men of
harmless lives, intensely devoted to their master, and especially noted
for the warmth and constancy of their friendships.(198) But a school which
placed so high a value on ease and pleasure was eminently unfit to
struggle against the fearful difficulties that beset the teachers of
virtue amid the anarchy of a military despotism, and the virtues and the
vices of the Romans were alike fatal to its success. All the great ideals
of Roman excellence belonged to a different type. Such men as a Decius or
a Regulus would have been impossible in an Epicurean society, for even if
their actuating emotion were no nobler than a desire for posthumous fame,
such a desire could never grow powerful in a moral atmosphere charged with
the shrewd, placid, unsentimental utilitarianism of Epicurus. On the other
hand, the distinctions the Epicureans had drawn between more or less
refined pleasures and their elevated conceptions of what constitutes the
true happiness of men, were unintelligible to the Romans, who knew how to
sacrifice enjoyment, but who, when pursuing it, gravitated naturally to
the coarsest forms. The mission of Epicureanism was therefore chiefly
negative. The anti-patriotic tendency of its teaching contributed to that
destruction of national feeling which was necessary to the rise of
cosmopolitanism, while its strong opposition to theological beliefs,
supported by the genius and enthusiasm of Lucretius, told powerfully upon
the decaying faith.

Such being the functions of Epicureanism, the constructive or positive
side of ethical teaching devolved almost exclusively upon Stoicism; for
although there were a few philosophers who expressed themselves in strong
opposition to some portions of the Stoical system, their efforts usually
tended to no more than a modification of its extreme and harshest
features. The Stoics asserted two cardinal principles—that virtue was the
sole legitimate object to be aspired to, and that it involved so complete
an ascendancy of the reason as altogether to extinguish the affections.
The Peripatetics and many other philosophers, who derived their opinions
chiefly from Plato, endeavoured to soften down the exaggeration of these
principles. They admitted that virtue was an object wholly distinct from
interest, and that it should be the leading motive of life; but they
maintained that happiness was also a good, and a certain regard for it
legitimate. They admitted that virtue consisted in the supremacy of the
reason over the affections, but they allowed the exercise of the latter
within restricted limits. The main distinguishing features, however, of
Stoicism, the unselfish ideal and the controlling reason, were acquiesced
in, and each represents an important side of the ancient conception of
excellence which we must now proceed to examine.

In the first we may easily trace the intellectual expression of the high
spirit of self-sacrifice which the patriotic enthusiasm had elicited. The
spirit of patriotism has this peculiar characteristic, that, while it has
evoked acts of heroism which are both very numerous and very sublime, it
has done so without presenting any prospect of personal immortality as a
reward. Of all the forms of human heroism, it is probably the most
unselfish. The Spartan and the Roman died for his country because he loved
it. The martyr’s ecstasy of hope had no place in his dying hour. He gave
up all he had, he closed his eyes, as he believed, for ever, and he asked
for no reward in this world or in the next. Even the hope of posthumous
fame—the most refined and supersensual of all that can be called
reward—could exist only for the most conspicuous leaders. It was examples
of this nature that formed the culminations or ideals of ancient systems
of virtue, and they naturally led men to draw a very clear and deep
distinction between the notions of interest and of duty. It may, indeed,
be truly said, that while the conception of what constituted duty was
often very imperfect in antiquity, the conviction that duty, as
distinguished from every modification of selfishness, should be the
supreme motive of life was more clearly enforced among the Stoics than in
any later society.

The reader will probably have gathered from the last chapter that there
are four distinct motives which moral teachers may propose for the purpose
of leading men to virtue. They may argue that the disposition of events is
such that prosperity will attend a virtuous life, and adversity a vicious
one—a proposition they may prove by pointing to the normal course of
affairs, and by asserting the existence of a special Providence in behalf
of the good in the present world, and of rewards and punishments in the
future. As far as these latter arguments are concerned, the efficacy of
such teaching rests upon the firmness with which certain theological
tenets are held, while the force of the first considerations will depend
upon the degree and manner in which society is organised, for there are
undoubtedly some conditions of society in which a perfectly upright life
has not even a general tendency to prosperity. The peculiar circumstances
and dispositions of individuals will also influence largely the way in
which they receive such teaching, and, as Cicero observed, “what one
utility has created, another will often destroy.”

They may argue, again, that vice is to the mind what disease is to the
body, and that a state of virtue is in consequence a state of health. Just
as bodily health is desired for its own sake, as being the absence of a
painful, or at least displeasing state, so a well-ordered and virtuous
mind may be valued for its own sake, and independently of all the external
good to which it may lead, as being a condition of happiness; and a mind
distracted by passion and vice may be avoided, not so much because it is
an obstacle in the pursuit of prosperity, as because it is in itself
essentially painful and disturbing. This conception of virtue and vice as
states of health or sickness, the one being in itself a good and the other
in itself an evil, was a fundamental proposition in the ethics of
Plato.(199) It was admitted, but only to a subsidiary place, by the
Stoics,(200) and has passed more or less into all the succeeding systems.
It is especially favourable to large and elevating conceptions of
self-culture, for it leads men to dwell much less upon isolated acts of
virtue or vice than upon the habitual condition of mind from which they

It is possible, in the third place, to argue in favour of virtue by
offering as a motive that sense of pleasure which follows the deliberate
performance of a virtuous act. This emotion is a distinct and isolated
gratification following a distinct action, and may therefore be easily
separated from that habitual placidity of temper which results from the
extinction of vicious and perturbing impulses. It is this theory which is
implied in the common exhortations to enjoy ’the luxury of doing good,’
and though especially strong in acts of benevolence, in which case
sympathy with the happiness created intensifies the feeling, this pleasure
attends every kind of virtue.

These three motives of action have all this common characteristic, that
they point as their ultimate end to the happiness of the agent. The first
seeks that happiness in external circumstances; the second and third in
psychological conditions. There is, however, a fourth kind of motive which
may be urged, and which is the peculiar characteristic of the intuitive
school of moralists and the stumbling-block of its opponents. It is
asserted that we are so constituted that the notion of duty furnishes in
itself a natural motive of action of the highest order, wholly distinct
from all the refinements and modifications of self-interest. The coactive
force of this motive is altogether independent of surrounding
circumstances, and of all forms of belief. It is equally true for the man
who believes and for the man who rejects the Christian faith, for the
believer in a future world and for the believer in the mortality of the
soul. It is not a question of happiness or unhappiness, of reward or
punishment, but of a generically different nature. Men feel that a certain
course of life is the natural end of their being, and they feel bound,
even at the expense of happiness, to pursue it. They feel that certain
acts are essentially good and noble, and others essentially base and vile,
and this perception leads them to pursue the one and to avoid the other,
irrespective of all considerations of enjoyment.

I have recurred to these distinctions, which were more fully discussed in
the last chapter, because the school of philosophy we are reviewing
furnishes the most perfect of all historical examples of the power which
the higher of these motives can exercise over the mind. The coarser forms
of self-interest were in stoicism absolutely condemned. It was one of the
first principles of these philosophers that all things that are not in our
power should be esteemed indifferent; that the object of all mental
discipline should be to withdraw the mind from all the gifts of fortune,
and that prudence must in consequence be altogether excluded from the
motives of virtue. To enforce these principles they continually dilated
upon the vanity of human things, and upon the majesty of the independent
mind, and they indulged, though scarcely more than other sects, in many
exaggerations about the impassive tranquillity of the sage.(201) In the
Roman empire stoicism flourished at a period which, beyond almost any
other, seemed unfavourable to such teaching. There were reigns when, in
the emphatic words of Tacitus, “virtue was a sentence of death.” In no
period had brute force more completely triumphed, in none was the thirst
for material advantages more intense, in very few was vice more
ostentatiously glorified. Yet in the midst of all these circumstances the
Stoics taught a philosophy which was not a compromise, or an attempt to
moderate the popular excesses, but which was rather in its austere
sanctity the extreme antithesis of all that the prevailing examples and
their own interests could dictate. And these men were no impassioned
fanatics, fired with the prospect of coming glory. They were men from
whose motives of action the belief in the immortality of the soul was
resolutely excluded. In the scepticism that accompanied the first
introduction of philosophy into Rome, in the dissolution of the old fables
about Tartarus and the Styx, and the dissemination of Epicureanism among
the people, this doctrine had sunk very low, notwithstanding the beautiful
reasonings of Cicero and the religious faith of a few who clung like
Plutarch to the mysteries in which it was perpetuated. An interlocutor in
Cicero expressed what was probably a common feeling when he acknowledged
that, with the writings of Plato before him, he could believe and realise
it; but when he closed the book, the reasonings seemed to lose their
power, and the world of spirits grew pale and unreal.(202) If Ennius could
elicit the plaudits of a theatre when he proclaimed that the gods took no
part in human affairs, Cæsar could assert in the senate, without scandal
and almost without dissent, that death was the end of all things.(203)
Pliny, perhaps the greatest of Roman scholars, adopting the sentiment of
all the school of Epicurus, describes the belief in a future life as a
form of madness, a puerile and a pernicious illusion.(204) The opinions of
the Stoics were wavering and uncertain. Their first doctrine was that the
soul of man has a future and independent, but not an eternal existence,
that it survives until the last conflagration which was to destroy the
world, and absorb all finite things into the all-pervading soul of nature.
Chrysippus, however, restricted to the best and noblest souls this future
existence, which Cleanthes had awarded to all,(205) and among the Roman
Stoics even this was greatly doubted. The belief that the human soul is a
detached fragment of the Deity naturally led to the belief that after
death it would be reabsorbed into the parent Spirit. The doctrine that
there is no real good but virtue deprived the Stoics of the argument for a
future world derived from unrequited merit and unpunished crime, and the
earnestness with which they contended that a good man should act
irrespectively of reward inclined them, as it is said to have inclined
some Jewish thinkers,(206) to the denial of the existence of the
reward.(207) Panætius, the founder of Roman stoicism, maintained that the
soul perished with the body,(208) and his opinion was followed by
Epictetus,(209) and Cornutus.(210) Seneca contradicted himself on the
subject.(211) Marcus Aurelius never rose beyond a vague and mournful
aspiration. Those who believed in a future world believed in it faintly
and uncertainly, and even when they accepted it as a fact, they shrank
from proposing it as a motive. The whole system of Stoical ethics, which
carried self-sacrifice to a point that has scarcely been equalled, and
exercised an influence which has rarely been surpassed, was evolved
without any assistance from the doctrine of a future life.(212) Pagan
antiquity has bequeathed us few nobler treatises of morals than the “De
Officiis” of Cicero, which was avowedly an expansion of a work of
Panætius.(213) It has left us no grander example than that of Epictetus,
the sickly, deformed slave of a master who was notorious for his
barbarity, enfranchised late in life, but soon driven into exile by
Domitian; who, while sounding the very abyss of human misery, and looking
forward to death as to simple decomposition, was yet so filled with the
sense of the Divine presence that his life was one continued hymn to
Providence, and his writings and his example, which appeared to his
contemporaries almost the ideal of human goodness, have not lost their
consoling power through all the ages and the vicissitudes they have

There was, however, another form of immortality which exercised a much
greater influence among the Roman moralists. The desire for reputation,
and especially for posthumous reputation—that “last infirmity of noble
minds”(215)—assumed an extraordinary prominence among the springs of Roman
heroism, and was also the origin of that theatrical and overstrained
phraseology which the greatest of ancient moralists rarely escaped.(216)
But we should be altogether in error if we inferred, as some have done,
that paganism never rose to the conception of virtue concealing itself
from the world, and consenting voluntarily to degradation. No characters
were more highly appreciated in antiquity than those of men who, through a
sense of duty, opposed the strong current of popular favour; of men like
Fabius, who consented for the sake of their country to incur the
reputation that is most fatal to a soldier;(217) of men like Cato, who
remained unmoved among the scoffs, the insults, and the ridicule of an
angry crowd.(218) Cicero, expounding the principles of Stoicism, declared
that no one has attained to true philosophy who has not learnt that all
vice should be avoided, “though it were concealed from the eyes of gods
and men,”(219) and that no deeds are more laudable than those which are
done without ostentation, and far from the sight of men.(220) The writings
of the Stoics are crowded with sentences to the same effect. “Nothing for
opinion, all for conscience.”(221) “He who wishes his virtue to be blazed
abroad is not labouring for virtue but for fame.”(222) “No one is more
virtuous than the man who sacrifices the reputation of a good man rather
than sacrifice his conscience.”(223) “I do not shrink from praise, but I
refuse to make it the end and term of right.”(224) “If you do anything to
please men, you have fallen from your estate.”(225) “Even a bad reputation
nobly earned is pleasing.”(226) “A great man is not the less great when he
lies vanquished and prostrate in the dust.”(227) “Never forget that it is
possible to be at once a divine man, yet a man unknown to all the
world.”(228) “That which is beautiful is beautiful in itself; the praise
of man adds nothing to its quality.”(229) Marcus Aurelius, following an
example that is ascribed to Pythagoras, made it a special object of mental
discipline, by continually meditating on death, and evoking, by an effort
of the imagination, whole societies that had passed away, to acquire a
realised sense of the vanity of posthumous fame. The younger Pliny painted
faithfully the ideal of Stoicism when he described one of his friends as a
man “who did nothing for ostentation, but all for conscience; who sought
the reward of virtue in itself, and not in the praise of man.”(230) Nor
were the Stoics less emphatic in distinguishing the obligation from the
attraction of virtue. It was on this point that they separated from the
more refined Epicureans, who were often willing to sublimate to the
highest degree the kind of pleasure they proposed as an object, provided
only it were admitted that pleasure is necessarily the ultimate end of our
actions. But this the Stoics firmly denied. “Pleasure,” they argued, “is
the companion, not the guide, of our course.”(231) “We do not love virtue
because it gives us pleasure, but it gives us pleasure because we love
it.”(232) “The wise man will not sin, though both gods and men should
overlook the deed, for it is not through the fear of punishment or of
shame that he abstains from sin. It is from the desire and obligation of
what is just and good.”(233) “To ask to be paid for virtue is as if the
eye demanded a recompense for seeing, or the feet for walking.”(234) In
doing good, man “should be like the vine which has produced grapes, and
asks for nothing more after it has produced its proper fruit.”(235) His
end, according to these teachers, is not to find peace either in life or
in death. It is to do his duty, and to tell the truth.

The second distinguishing feature of Stoicism I have noticed was the
complete suppression of the affections to make way for the absolute
ascendancy of reason. There are two great divisions of character
corresponding very nearly to the Stoical and Epicurean temperaments I have
described—that in which the will predominates, and that in which the
desires are supreme. A good man of the first class is one whose will,
directed by a sense of duty, pursues the course he believes to be right,
in spite of strong temptations to pursue an opposite course, arising
either from his own passions and tendencies, or from the circumstances
that surround him. A good man of the second class is one who is so happily
constituted that his sympathies and desires instinctively tend to virtuous
ends. The first character is the only one to which we can, strictly
speaking, attach the idea of merit, and it is also the only one which is
capable of rising to high efforts of continuous and heroic self-sacrifice;
but on the other hand there is a charm in the spontaneous action of the
unforced desires which disciplined virtue can perhaps never attain. The
man who is consistently generous through a sense of duty, when his natural
temperament impels him to avarice and when every exercise of benevolence
causes him a pang, deserves in the very highest degree our admiration; but
he whose generosity costs him no effort, but is the natural gratification
of his affections, attracts a far larger measure of our love.
Corresponding to these two casts of character, we find two distinct
theories of education, the aim of the one being chiefly to strengthen the
will, and that of the other to guide the desires. The principal examples
of the first are the Spartan and Stoical systems of antiquity, and, with
some modifications, the asceticism of the Middle Ages. The object of these
systems was to enable men to endure pain, to repress manifest and
acknowledged desires, to relinquish enjoyments, to establish an absolute
empire over their emotions. On the other hand, there is a method of
education which was never more prevalent than in the present day, which
exhausts its efforts in making virtue attractive, in associating it with
all the charms of imagination and of prosperity, and in thus insensibly
drawing the desires in the wished-for direction. As the first system is
especially suited to a disturbed and military society, which requires and
elicits strong efforts of the will, and is therefore the special sphere of
heroic virtues, so the latter belongs naturally to a tranquil and highly
organised civilisation, which is therefore very favourable to the amiable
qualities, and it is probable that as civilisation advances, the heroic
type will, in consequence, become more and more rare, and a kind of
self-indulgent goodness more common. The circumstances of the ancient
societies led them to the former type, of which the Stoics furnished the
extreme expression in their doctrine that the affections are of the nature
of a disease(236)—a doctrine which they justified by the same kind of
arguments as those which are now often employed by metaphysicians to prove
that love, anger, and the like can only be ascribed by a figure of speech
to the Deity. Perturbation, they contended, is necessarily imperfection,
and none of its forms can in consequence be ascribed to a perfect being.
We have a clear intuitive perception that reason is the highest, and
should be the directing, power of an intelligent being; but every act
which is performed at the instigation of the emotions is withdrawn from
the empire of reason. Hence it was inferred that while the will should be
educated to act habitually in the direction of virtue, even the emotions
that seem most fitted to second it should be absolutely proscribed. Thus
Seneca has elaborated at length the distinction between clemency and pity,
the first being one of the highest virtues, and the latter a positive
vice. Clemency, he says, is an habitual disposition to gentleness in the
application of punishments. It is that moderation which remits something
of an incurred penalty, it is the opposite of cruelty, which is an
habitual disposition to rigour. Pity, on the other hand, bears to clemency
the same kind of relation as superstition to religion. It is the weakness
of a feeble mind that flinches at the sight of suffering. Clemency is an
act of judgment, but pity disturbs the judgment. Clemency adjudicates upon
the proportion between suffering and guilt. Pity contemplates only
suffering, and gives no thought to its cause. Clemency, in the midst of
its noblest efforts, is perfectly passionless; pity is unreasoning
emotion. Clemency is an essential characteristic of the sage; pity is only
suited for weak women and for diseased minds. “The sage will console those
who weep, but without weeping with them; he will succour the shipwrecked,
give hospitality to the proscribed, and alms to the poor, ... restore the
son to the mother’s tears, save the captive from the arena, and even bury
the criminal; but in all this his mind and his countenance will be alike
untroubled. He will feel no pity. He will succour, he will do good, for he
is born to assist his fellows, to labour for the welfare of mankind, and
to offer to each one his part.... His countenance and his soul will betray
no emotion as he looks upon the withered legs, the tattered rags, the bent
and emaciated frame of the beggar. But he will help those who are worthy,
and, like the gods, his leaning will be towards the wretched.... It is
only diseased eyes that grow moist in beholding tears in other eyes, as it
is no true sympathy, but only weakness of nerves, that leads some to laugh
always when others laugh, or to yawn when others yawn.”(237)

Cicero, in a sentence which might be adopted as the motto of Stoicism,
said that Homer “attributed human qualities to the gods; it would have
been better to have imparted divine qualities to men.” The remarkable
passage I have just cited serves to show the extremes to which the Stoics
pushed this imitation. And indeed, if we compare the different virtues
that have flourished among Pagans and Christians, we invariably find that
the prevailing type of excellence among the former is that in which the
will and judgment, and among the latter that in which the emotions, are
most prominent. Friendship rather than love, hospitality rather than
charity, magnanimity rather than tenderness, clemency rather than
sympathy, are the characteristics of ancient goodness. The Stoics, who
carried the suppression of the emotions farther than any other school,
laboured with great zeal to compensate the injury thus done to the
benevolent side of our nature, by greatly enlarging the sphere of reasoned
and passionless philanthropy. They taught, in the most emphatic language,
the fraternity of all men, and the consequent duty of each man
consecrating his life to the welfare of others. They developed this
general doctrine in a series of detailed precepts, which, for the range,
depth, and beauty of their charity, have never been surpassed. They even
extended their compassion to crime, and adopting the paradox of Plato,
that all guilt is ignorance,(238) treated it as an involuntary disease,
and declared that the only legitimate ground of punishment is
prevention.(239) But, however fully they might reconcile in theory their
principles with the widest and most active benevolence, they could not
wholly counteract the practical evil of a system which declared war
against the whole emotional side of our being, and reduced human virtue to
a kind of majestic egotism; proposing as examples Anaxagoras, who, when
told that his son had died, simply observed, “I never supposed that I had
begotten an immortal;”(240) or Stilpo, who, when his country had been
ruined, his native city captured, and his daughters carried away as slaves
or as concubines, boasted that he had lost nothing, for the sage is
independent of circumstances. The framework or theory of benevolence might
be there, but the animating spirit was absent. Men who taught that the
husband or the father should look with perfect indifference on the death
of his wife or his child, and that the philosopher, though he may shed
tears of pretended sympathy in order to console his suffering friend, must
suffer no real emotion to penetrate his breast,(241) could never found a
true or lasting religion of benevolence. Men who refused to recognise pain
and sickness as evils were scarcely likely to be very eager to relieve
them in others.

In truth, the Stoics, who taught that all virtue was conformity to nature,
were, in this respect, eminently false to their own principle. Human
nature, as revealed to us by reason, is a composite thing, a constitution
of many parts differing in kind and dignity, a hierarchy in which many
powers are intended to co-exist, but in different positions of ascendancy
or subordination. To make the higher part of our nature our whole nature,
is not to restore but to mutilate humanity, and this mutilation has never
been attempted without producing grave evils. As philanthropists, the
Stoics, through their passion for unity, were led to the extirpation of
those emotions which nature intended as the chief springs of benevolence.
As speculative philosophers, they were entangled by the same desire in a
long train of pitiable paradoxes. Their famous doctrines that all virtues
are equal, or, more correctly, are the same, that all vices are equal,
that nothing is an evil which does not affect our will, and that pain and
bereavement are, in consequence, no ills,(242) though partially explained
away and frequently disregarded by the Roman Stoics, were yet sufficiently
prominent to give their teaching something of an unnatural and affected
appearance. Prizing only a single object, and developing only a single
side of their nature, their minds became narrow and their views
contracted. Thus, while the Epicureans, urging men to study nature in
order to banish superstition, endeavoured to correct that ignorance of
physical science which was one of the chief impediments to the progress of
the ancient mind, the Stoics for the most part disdained a study which was
other than the pursuit of virtue.(243) While the Epicurean poet painted in
magnificent language the perpetual progress of mankind, the Stoic was
essentially retrospective, and exhausted his strength in vain efforts to
restore the simplicity of a by-gone age. While, too, the school of Zeno
produced many of the best and greatest men who have ever lived, it must be
acknowledged that its records exhibit a rather unusual number of examples
of high professions falsified in action, and of men who, displaying in
some forms the most undoubted and transcendent virtue, fell in others far
below the average of mankind. The elder Cato, who, though not a
philosopher, was a model of philosophers, was conspicuous for his
inhumanity to his slaves.(244) Brutus was one of the most extortionate
usurers of his time, and several citizens of Salamis died of starvation,
imprisoned because they could not pay the sum he demanded.(245) No one
eulogised more eloquently the austere simplicity of life which Stoicism
advocated than Sallust, who in a corrupt age was notorious for his
rapacity. Seneca himself was constitutionally a nervous and timid man,
endeavouring, not always with success, to support himself by a sublime
philosophy. He guided, under circumstances of extreme difficulty, the
cause of virtue, and his death is one of the noblest antiquity records;
but his life was deeply marked by the taint of flattery, and not free from
the taint of avarice, and it is unhappily certain that he lent his pen to
conceal or varnish one of the worst crimes of Nero. The courage of Lucan
failed signally under torture, and the flattery which he bestowed upon
Nero, in his “Pharsalia,” ranks with the Epigrams of Martial as probably
the extreme limit of sycophancy to which Roman literature descended.

While, too, the main object of the Stoics was to popularise philosophy,
the high standard of self-control they exacted rendered their system
exceedingly unfit for the great majority of mankind, and for the ordinary
condition of affairs. Life is history, not poetry. It consists mainly of
little things, rarely illumined by flashes of great heroism, rarely broken
by great dangers, or demanding great exertions. A moral system, to govern
society, must accommodate itself to common characters and mingled motives.
It must be capable of influencing natures that can never rise to an heroic
level. It must tincture, modify, and mitigate where it cannot eradicate or
transform. In Christianity there are always a few persons seeking by
continual and painful efforts to reverse or extinguish the ordinary
feelings of humanity, but in the great majority of cases the influence of
the religious principle upon the mind, though very real, is not of a
nature to cause any serious strain or struggle. It is displayed in a
certain acquired spontaneity of impulse. It softens the character,
purifies and directs the imagination, blends insensibly with the habitual
modes of thought, and, without revolutionising, gives a tone and bias to
all the forms of action. But Stoicism was simply a school of heroes. It
recognised no gradations of virtue or vice. It condemned all emotions, all
spontaneity, all mingled motives, all the principles, feelings, and
impulses upon which the virtue of common men mainly depends. It was
capable of acting only on moral natures that were strung to the highest
tension, and it was therefore naturally rejected by the multitude.

The central conception of this philosophy of self-control was the dignity
of man. Pride, which looks within, making man seek his own approbation, as
distinguished from vanity, which looks without, and shapes its conduct
according to the opinions of others, was not only permitted in Stoicism,
it was even its leading moral agent. The sense of virtue, as I have
elsewhere observed, occupies in this system much the same place as the
sense of sin in Christianity. Sin, in the conception of the ancients, was
simply disease, and they deemed it the part of a wise man to correct it,
but not to dwell upon its circumstances. In the many disquisitions which
Epictetus and others have left us concerning the proper frame of mind in
which man should approach death, repentance for past sin has absolutely no
place, nor do the ancients appear to have ever realised the purifying and
spiritualising influence it exercises upon character. And while the
reality of moral disease was fully recognised, while a lofty and indeed
unattainable ideal was continually proposed, no one doubted the essential
excellence of human nature, and very few doubted the possibility of man
acquiring by his own will a high degree of virtue. In this last respect
there was a wide difference between the teaching of the Roman moralists
and of the Greek poets.(246) Homer continually represents courage, anger,
and the like, as the direct inspiration of Heaven. Æschylus, the great
poet of fatalism, regards every human passion as but a single link in the
great chain of causes forged by the inexorable will of Zeus. There are,
indeed, few grander things in poetry than his picture of the many and
various motives that urged Clytemnestra to the slaughter of
Agamemnon—revenge for her murdered daughter, love for Ægisthus, resentment
at past breaches of conjugal duty, jealousy of Cassandra, all blending in
that fierce hatred that nerved her arm against her husband’s life; while
above all this tumult of passion the solemn song of Cassandra proclaimed
that the deed was but the decree of Heaven, the harvest of blood springing
from the seed of crime, the accomplishment of the ancient curse that was
destined to cling for ever to the hapless race of Atreus. Before the body
of the murdered king, and in presence of the wildest paroxysms of human
passion, the bystanders bowed their heads, exclaiming, “Zeus has willed
it—Zeus the supreme Ruler, the God who does all; for what can happen in
the world without the will of Zeus?”

But conceptions of this kind had little or no place in the philosophy of
Rome. The issue of human enterprises and the disposition of the gifts of
fortune were recognised as under the control of Providence; but man was
master of his own feelings, and was capable of attaining such excellence
that he might even challenge comparison with the gods. Audacious as such
sentiments may now appear, they were common to most schools of Roman
moralists. “We boast justly of our own virtue,” said the eclectic Cicero,
“which we could not do if we derived it from the Deity and not from

“All mortals judge that fortune is to be received from the gods and wisdom
from ourselves.”(247) The Epicurean Horace, in his noblest ode, described
the just man, confident in his virtue, undaunted amid the crash of worlds,
and he tells us to pray only for those things which Jupiter gives and
takes away. “He gives life, he gives wealth; an untroubled mind I secure
for myself.”(248) “The calm of a mind blest in the consciousness of its
virtue,” was the expression of supreme felicity the Epicureans had derived
from their master.(249) Lucretius, in a magnificent passage, designates
Epicurus as a god, and boasts that the popular divinities dwindle into
insignificance before him. Ceres, he says, gave men corn, and Bacchus
wine, but Epicurus the principles of virtue. Hercules conquered monsters,
Epicurus conquered vice.(250) “Pray,” said Juvenal, “for a healthy mind in
a healthy body. Ask for a brave soul unscared by death.... But there are
things you can give yourself.”(251) “Misfortune, and losses, and calumny,”
said Seneca, “disappear before virtue as the taper before the sun.”(252)
“In one point the sage is superior to God. God owes it to His nature not
to fear, but the sage owes it to himself. Sublime condition! he joins the
frailty of a man to the security of a god.”(253) “Except for immortality,”
he elsewhere writes, “the sage is like to God.”(254) “It is the
characteristic of a wise man,” added Epictetus, “that he looks for all his
good and evil from himself.”(255) “As far as his rational nature is
concerned, he is in no degree inferior to the gods.”(256)

There were, however, other veins of thought exhibited in stoicism which
greatly modified and sometimes positively contradicted this view of the
relations of man to the Deity. The theology of the Stoics was an
ill-defined, uncertain, and somewhat inconsistent Pantheism; the Divinity
was especially worshipped under the two aspects of Providence and moral
goodness, and the soul of man was regarded as “a detached fragment of the
Deity,”(257) or as at least pervaded and accompanied by a divine energy.
“There never,” said Cicero, “was a great man, without an inspiration from
on high.”(258) “Nothing,” said Seneca, “is closed to God. He is present in
our conscience. He intervenes in our thoughts.”(259) “I tell thee,
Lucilius,” he elsewhere writes, “a sacred spirit dwells within us, the
observer and the guardian of our good and evil deeds.... No man is good
without God. Who, save by His assistance, can rise above fortune? He gives
noble and lofty counsels. A God (what God I know not) dwells in every good
man.”(260) “Offer to the God that is in thee,” said Marcus Aurelius, “a
manly being, a citizen, a soldier at his post ready to depart from life as
soon as the trumpet sounds.”(261) “It is sufficient to believe in the
Genius who is within us, and to honour him by a pure worship.”(262)

Passages of this kind are not unfrequent in Stoical writings. More
commonly, however, virtue is represented as a human act imitating God.
This was the meaning of the Platonic maxim, “follow God,” which the Stoics
continually repeated, which they developed in many passages of the most
touching and beautiful piety, and to which they added the duty of the most
absolute and unquestioning submission to the decrees of Providence. Their
doctrine on this latter point harmonised well with their antipathy to the
emotional side of our being. “To weep, to complain, to groan, is to
rebel;”(263) “to fear, to grieve, to be angry, is to be a deserter.”(264)
“Remember that you are but an actor, acting whatever part the Master has
ordained. It may be short, or it may be long. If He wishes you to
represent a poor man, do so heartily; if a cripple, or a magistrate, or a
private man, in each case act your part with honour.”(265) “Never say of
anything that you have lost it, but that you have restored it; your wife
and child die—you have restored them; your farm is taken from you—that
also is restored. It is seized by an impious man. What is it to you by
whose instrumentality He who gave it reclaims it?”(266) “God does not keep
a good man in prosperity; He tries, He strengthens him, He prepares him
for Himself.”(267) “Those whom God approves, whom He loves, He hardens, He
proves, He exercises; but those whom He seems to indulge and spare, He
preserves for future ills.”(268) With a beautiful outburst of submissive
gratitude, Marcus Aurelius exclaims, “Some have said, Oh, dear city of
Cecrops!—but thou, canst thou say, Oh, dear city of Jupiter?... All that
is suitable to thee, oh world, is suitable to me.”(269)

These passages, which might be indefinitely multiplied, serve to show how
successfully the Stoics laboured, by dilating upon the conception of
Providence, to mitigate the arrogance which one aspect of their teaching
unquestionably displayed. But in this very attempt another danger was
incurred, upon which a very large proportion of the moral systems of all
ages have been wrecked. A doctrine which thus enjoins absolute submission
to the decrees of Providence,(270) which proscribes the affections, and
which represents its disciples as altogether independent of surrounding
circumstances, would in most conditions of society have led necessarily to
quietism, and proved absolutely incompatible with active virtue.
Fortunately, however, in the ancient civilisations the idea of virtue had
from the earliest times been so indissolubly connected with that of
political activity that the danger was for a long period altogether
avoided. The State occupied in antiquity a prominence in the thoughts of
men which it never has attained in modern times. The influence of
patriotism thrilled through every fibre of moral and intellectual life.
The most profound philosophers, the purest moralists, the most sublime
poets, had been soldiers or statesmen. Hence arose the excessive
predominance occasionally accorded to civic virtues in ancient systems of
ethics, and also not a few of their most revolting paradoxes. Plato
advocated community of wives mainly on the ground that the children
produced would be attached more exclusively to their country.(271)
Aristotle may be almost said to have made the difference between Greek and
barbarian the basis of his moral code. The Spartan legislation was
continually extolled as an ideal, as the Venetian constitution by the
writers of the seventeenth century. On the other hand, the contact of the
spheres of speculation and of political activity exercised in one respect
a very beneficial influence upon ancient philosophies. Patriotism almost
always occupied a prominence in the scale of duties, which forms a
striking contrast to the neglect or discredit into which it has fallen
among modern teachers. We do, indeed, read of an Anaxagoras pointing to
heaven as to his true country, and pronouncing exile to be no evil, as the
descent to the infernal regions is the same from every land;(272) but such
sentiments, though not unknown among the Epicureans and the Cynics, were
diametrically opposed to the prevailing tone. Patriotism was represented
as a moral duty, and a duty of the highest order. Cicero only echoed the
common opinion of antiquity in that noble passage, in which he asserts
that the love we owe our country is even holier and more profound than
that we owe our nearest kinsman, and that he can have no claim to the
title of a good man who even hesitates to die in its behalf.(273)

A necessary consequence of this prominence of patriotism was the practical
character of most ancient ethics. We find, indeed, moralists often
exhorting men to moderate their ambition, consoling them under political
adversity, and urging that there are some circumstances under which an
upright man should for a time withdraw from public affairs;(274) but the
general duty of taking part in political life was emphatically asserted,
and the vanity of the quietist theory of life not only maintained, but
even somewhat exaggerated. Thus Cicero declared that “all virtue is in
action.”(275) The younger Pliny mentions that he once lamented to the
Stoic Euphrates the small place which his official duties left for
philosophical pursuits; but Euphrates answered that the discharge of
public affairs and the administration of justice formed a part, and the
most important part, of philosophy, for he who is so engaged is but
practising the precepts of the schools.(276) It was a fundamental maxim of
the Stoics that humanity is a body in which each limb should act solely
and continually with a view to the interests of the whole. Marcus
Aurelius, the purest mind of the sect, was for nineteen years the active
ruler of the civilised globe. Thrasea, Helvidius, Cornutus, and a crowd of
others who had adopted Stoicism as a religion, lived, and in many cases
died, in obedience to its precepts, struggling for the liberties of their
country in the darkest hours of tyranny.

Men who had formed such high conceptions of duty, who had bridled so
completely the tumult of passion, and whose lives were spent in a calm
sense of virtue and of dignity, were little likely to be assailed by the
superstitious fears that are the nightmare of weaker men. The preparation
for death was deemed one of the chief ends of philosophy.(277) The thought
of a coming change assisted the mind in detaching itself from the gifts of
fortune, and the extinction of all superstitious terrors completed the
type of self-reliant majesty which Stoicism had chosen for its ideal. But
while it is certain that no philosophers expatiated upon death with a
grander eloquence, or met it with a more placid courage, it can hardly be
denied that their constant disquisitions forced it into an unhealthy
prominence, and somewhat discoloured their whole view of life. “The
Stoics,” as Bacon has said, “bestowed too much cost on death, and by their
preparations made it more fearful.”(278) There is a profound wisdom in the
maxims of Spinoza, that “the proper study of a wise man is not how to die,
but how to live,” and that “there is no subject on which the sage will
think less than death.”(279) A life of active duty is the best preparation
for the end, and so large a part of the evil of death lies in its
anticipation, that an attempt to deprive it of its terrors by constant
meditation almost necessarily defeats its object, while at the same time
it forms an unnaturally tense, feverish, and tragical character,
annihilates the ambition and enthusiasm that are essential to human
progress, and not unfrequently casts a chill and a deadness over the

Among the many half-pagan legends that were connected with Ireland during
the middle ages, one of the most beautiful is that of the islands of life
and of death. In a certain lake in Munster it is said there were two
islands; into the first death could never enter, but age and sickness, and
the weariness of life, and the paroxysms of fearful suffering were all
known there, and they did their work till the inhabitants, tired of their
immortality, learned to look upon the opposite island as upon a haven of
repose: they launched their barks upon the gloomy waters; they touched its
shore and they were at rest.(280)

This legend, which is far more akin to the spirit of paganism than to that
of Christianity, and is in fact only another form of the myth of Tithonus,
represents with great fidelity the aspect in which death was regarded by
the exponents of Stoicism. There was much difference of opinion and of
certitude in the judgments of the ancient philosophers concerning the
future destinies of the soul, but they were unanimous in regarding death
simply as a natural rest, and in attributing the terrors that were
connected with it to a diseased imagination. Death, they said, is the only
evil that does not afflict us when present. While we are, death is not,
when death has come we are not. It is a false belief that it only follows,
it also precedes, life. It is to be as we were before we were born. The
candle which has been extinguished is in the same condition as before it
was lit, and the dead man as the man unborn. Death is the end of all
sorrow. It either secures happiness or ends suffering. It frees the slave
from his cruel master, opens the prison door, calms the qualms of pain,
closes the struggles of poverty. It is the last and best boon of nature,
for it frees man from all his cares. It is at worst but the close of a
banquet we have enjoyed. Whether it be desired or whether it be shunned,
it is no curse and no evil, but simply the resolution of our being into
its primitive elements, the law of our nature to which it is our duty
cheerfully to conform.

Such were the leading topics that were employed in that beautiful
literature of “Consolations,” which the academic Crantor is said to have
originated, and which occupies so large a place in the writings of Cicero,
Plutarch, and the Stoics. Cicero, like all the school of Plato, added to
these motives a very firm and constant reference to the immortality of the
soul. Plutarch held the same doctrine with equal assurance, but he gave it
a much less conspicuous position in his “Consolations,” and he based it
not upon philosophical grounds, but upon the testimonies of the oracles,
and upon the mysteries of Bacchus.(281) Among the Stoics the doctrine
shone with a faint and uncertain light, and was seldom or never adopted as
a motive. But that which is most impressive to a student who turns from
the religious literature of Christianity to the pagan philosophies, is the
complete absence in the latter of all notion concerning the penal
character of death. Death, according to Socrates,(282) either extinguishes
life or emancipates it from the thraldom of the body. Even in the first
case it is a blessing, in the last it is the greatest of boons. “Accustom
yourself,” said Epicurus, “to the thought that death is indifferent; for
all good and all evil consist in feeling, and what is death but the
privation of feeling?”(283) “Souls either remain after death,” said
Cicero, “or they perish in death. If they remain they are happy; if they
perish they are not wretched.”(284) Seneca, consoling Polybius concerning
the death of his brother, exhorts his friend to think, “if the dead have
any sensations, then my brother, let loose as it were from a lifelong
prison, and at last enjoying his liberty, looks down from a loftier height
on the wonders of nature and on all the deeds of men, and sees more
clearly those divine things which he had so long sought in vain to
understand. But why should I be afflicted for one who is either happy or
is nothing? To lament the fate of one who is happy is envy; to lament the
fate of a nonentity is madness.”(285)

But while the Greek and Roman philosophers were on this point unanimous,
there was a strong opposing current in the popular mind. The Greek word
for superstition signifies literally, fear of gods or dæmons, and the
philosophers sometimes represent the vulgar as shuddering at the thought
of death, through dread of certain endless sufferings to which it would
lead them. The Greek mythology contains many fables on the subject. The
early Greek vases occasionally represent scenes of infernal torments, not
unlike those of the mediæval frescoes.(286) The rapture with which
Epicureanism was received, as liberating the human mind from the thraldom
of superstitious terrors, shows how galling must have been the yoke. In
the poem of Lucretius, in occasional passages of Cicero and other Latin
moralists, above all, in the treatise of Plutarch “On Superstition,” we
may trace the deep impression these terrors had made upon the populace,
even during the later period of the Republic, and during the Empire. To
destroy them was represented as the highest function of philosophy.
Plutarch denounced them as the worst calumny against the Deity, as more
pernicious than atheism, as the evil consequences of immoral fables, and
he gladly turned to other legends which taught a different lesson. Thus it
was related that when, during a certain festival at Argos, the horses that
were to draw the statue of Juno to the temple were detained, the sons of
the priestess yoked themselves to the car, and their mother, admiring
their piety, prayed the goddess to reward them with whatever boon was the
best for man. Her prayer was answered—they sank asleep and died.(287) In
like manner the architects of the great temple of Apollo at Delphi, prayed
the god to select that reward which was best. The oracle told them in
reply to spend seven days in rejoicing, and on the following night their
reward would come. They too died in sleep.(288) The swan was consecrated
to Apollo because its dying song was believed to spring from a prophetic
impulse.(289) The Spanish Celts raised temples, and sang hymns of praise
to death.(290) No philosopher of antiquity ever questioned that a good
man, reviewing his life, might look upon it without shame and even with
positive complacency, or that the reverence with which men regard heroic
deaths is a foretaste of the sentence of the Creator. To this confidence
may be traced the tranquil courage, the complete absence of all remorse,
so conspicuous in the closing hours of Socrates, and of many other of the
sages of antiquity. There is no fact in religious history more startling
than the radical change that has in this respect passed over the character
of devotion. It is said of Chilon, one of the seven sages of Greece, that
at the close of his career he gathered his disciples around him, and
congratulated himself that in a long life he could recall but a single act
that saddened his dying hour. It was that, in a perplexing dilemma, he had
allowed his love of a friend in some slight degree to obscure his sense of
justice.(291) The writings of Cicero in his old age are full of passionate
aspirations to a future world, unclouded by one regret or by one fear.
Seneca died tranquilly, bequeathing to his friends “the most precious of
his possessions, the image of his life.”(292) Titus on his deathbed
declared that he could remember only a single act with which to reproach
himself.(293) On the last night in which Antoninus Pius lived, the tribune
came to ask for the pass-word of the night. The dying emperor gave him
“æquanimitas.”(294) Julian, the last great representative of his expiring
creed, caught up the same majestic strain. Amid the curses of angry
priests, and the impending ruin of the cause he loved, he calmly died in
the consciousness of his virtue; and his death, which is among the most
fearless that antiquity records, was the last protest of philosophic
paganism against the new doctrine that had arisen.(295)

It is customary with some writers, when exhibiting the many points in
which the ancient philosophers anticipated Christian ethics, to represent
Christianity as if it were merely a development or authoritative
confirmation of the highest teaching of paganism, or as if the additions
were at least of such a nature that there is but little doubt that the
best and purest spirits of the pagan world, had they known them, would
have gladly welcomed them. But this conception, which contains a large
amount of truth if applied to the teaching of many Protestants, is either
grossly exaggerated or absolutely false if applied to that of the
patristic period or of mediæval Catholicism. On the very subject which the
philosophers deemed the most important their unanimous conclusion was the
extreme antithesis of the teaching of Catholicism. The philosophers taught
that death is “a law and not a punishment;”(296) the fathers taught that
it is a penal infliction introduced into the world on account of the sin
of Adam, which was also the cause of the appearance of all noxious plants,
of all convulsions in the material globe, and, as was sometimes asserted,
even of a diminution of the light of the sun. The first taught that death
was the end of suffering; they ridiculed as the extreme of folly the
notion that physical evils could await those whose bodies had been reduced
to ashes, and they dwelt with emphatic eloquence upon the approaching,
and, as they believed, final extinction of superstitious terrors. The
second taught that death to the vast majority of the human race is but the
beginning of endless and excruciating tortures—tortures before which the
most ghastly of terrestrial sufferings dwindle into
insignificance—tortures which no courage could defy—which none but an
immortal being could endure. The first represented man as pure and
innocent until his will had sinned; the second represented him as under a
sentence of condemnation at the very moment of his birth. “No funeral
sacrifices” said a great writer of the first school, “are offered for
children who die at an early age, and none of the ceremonies practised at
the funerals of adults are performed at their tombs, for it is believed
that infants have no hold upon earth or upon terrestrial affections....
The law forbids us to honour them because it is irreligious to lament for
those pure souls who have passed into a better life and a happier
dwelling-place.”(297) “Whosoever shall tell us,” said a distinguished
exponent of the patristic theology, “that infants shall be quickened in
Christ who die without partaking in His Sacrament, does both contradict
the Apostle’s teaching and condemn the whole Church.... And he that is not
quickened in Christ must remain in that condemnation of which the Apostle
speaks, ‘by one man’s offence condemnation came upon all men to
condemnation.’ To which condemnation infants are born liable as all the
Church believes.”(298) The one school endeavoured to plant its foundations
in the moral nature of mankind, by proclaiming that man can become
acceptable to the Deity by his own virtue, and by this alone, that all
sacrifices, rites, and forms are indifferent, and that the true worship of
God is the recognition and imitation of His goodness. According to the
other school, the most heroic efforts of human virtue are insufficient to
avert a sentence of eternal condemnation, unless united with an implicit
belief in the teachings of the Church, and a due observance of the rites
it enjoins. By the philosophers the ascription of anger and vengeance to
the Deity, and the apprehension of future torture at His hands, were
unanimously repudiated;(299) by the priests the opposite opinion was
deemed equally censurable.(300)

These are fundamental points of difference, for they relate to the
fundamental principles of the ancient philosophy. The main object of the
pagan philosophers was to dispel the terrors the imagination had cast
around death, and by destroying this last cause of fear to secure the
liberty of man. The main object of the Catholic priests has been to make
death in itself as revolting and appalling as possible, and by
representing escape from its terrors as hopeless, except by complete
subjection to their rule, to convert it into an instrument of government.
By multiplying the dancing or warning skeletons, and other sepulchral
images representing the loathsomeness of death without its repose; by
substituting inhumation for incremation, and concentrating the imagination
on the ghastliness of decay; above all, by peopling the unseen world with
demon phantoms and with excruciating tortures, the Catholic Church
succeeded in making death in itself unspeakably terrible, and in thus
preparing men for the consolations it could offer. Its legends, its
ceremonies, its art,(301) its dogmatic teaching, all conspired to this
end, and the history of its miracles is a striking evidence of its
success. The great majority of superstitions have ever clustered around
two centres—the fear of death and the belief that every phenomenon of life
is the result of a special spiritual interposition. Among the ancients
they were usually of the latter kind. Auguries, prophecies, interventions
in war, prodigies avenging the neglect of some rite or marking some epoch
in the fortunes of a nation or of a ruler, are the forms they usually
assumed. In the middle ages, although these were very common, the most
conspicuous superstitions took the form of visions of purgatory or hell,
conflicts with visible demons, or Satanic miracles. Like those mothers who
govern their children by persuading them that the dark is crowded with
spectres that will seize the disobedient, and who often succeed in
creating an association of ideas which the adult man is unable altogether
to dissolve, the Catholic priests resolved to base their power upon the
nerves; and as they long exercised an absolute control over education,
literature, and art, they succeeded in completely reversing the teaching
of ancient philosophy, and in making the terrors of death for centuries
the nightmare of the imagination.

There is, indeed, another side to the picture. The vague uncertainty with
which the best pagans regarded death passed away before the teaching of
the Church, and it was often replaced by a rapture of hope, which,
however, the doctrine of purgatory contributed at a later period largely
to quell. But, whatever may be thought of the justice of the Catholic
conception of death or of its influence upon human happiness, it is plain
that it is radically different from that of the pagan philosophers. That
man is not only an imperfect but a fallen being, and that death is the
penal consequence of his sin, was a doctrine profoundly new to mankind,
and it has exercised an influence of the most serious character upon the
moral history of the world.

The wide divergence of the classical from the Catholic conception of death
appears very plainly in the attitude which each system adopted towards
suicide. This is, perhaps, the most striking of all the points of contrast
between the teaching of antiquity, and especially of the Roman Stoics, on
the one hand, and that of almost all modern moralists on the other. It is
indeed true that the ancients were by no means unanimous in their approval
of the act. Pythagoras, to whom so many of the wisest sayings of antiquity
are ascribed, is said to have forbidden men “to depart from their guard or
station in life without the order of their commander, that is, of
God.”(302) Plato adopted similar language, though he permitted suicide
when the law required it, and also when men had been struck down by
intolerable calamity, or had sunk to the lowest depths of poverty.(303)
Aristotle condemned it on civic grounds, as being an injury to the
State.(304) The roll of Greek suicides is not long, though it contains
some illustrious names, among others those of Zeno and Cleanthes.(305) In
Rome, too, where suicide acquired a greater prominence, its lawfulness was
by no means accepted as an axiom, and the story of Regulus, whether it be
a history or a legend, shows that the patient endurance of suffering was
once the supreme ideal.(306) Virgil painted in gloomy colours the
condition of suicides in the future world.(307) Cicero strongly asserted
the doctrine of Pythagoras, though he praised the suicide of Cato.(308)
Apuleius, expounding the philosophy of Plato, taught that “the wise man
never throws off his body except by the will of God.”(309) Cæsar, Ovid,
and others urged that in extreme distress it is easy to despise life, and
that true courage is shown in enduring it.(310) Among the Stoics
themselves, the belief that no man may shrink from a duty co-existed with
the belief that every man has a right to dispose of his own life. Seneca,
who emphatically advocated suicide, admits that there were some who deemed
it wrong, and he himself attempted to moderate what he termed “the passion
for suicide”, that had arisen among his disciples.(311) Marcus Aurelius
wavers a little on the subject, sometimes asserting the right of every man
to leave life when he pleases, sometimes inclining to the Platonic
doctrine that man is a soldier of God, occupying a post which it is
criminal to abandon.(312) Plotinus and Porphyry argued strongly against
all suicide.(313)

But, notwithstanding these passages, there can be no question that the
ancient view of suicide was broadly and strongly opposed to our own. A
general approval of it floated down through most of the schools of
philosophy, and even to those who condemned it, it never seems to have
assumed its present aspect of extreme enormity. This was in the first
instance due to the ancient notion of death; and we have also to remember
that when a society once learns to tolerate suicide, the deed, in ceasing
to be disgraceful, loses much of its actual criminality, for those who are
most firmly convinced that the stigma and suffering it now brings upon the
family of the deceased do not constitute its entire guilt, will readily
acknowledge that they greatly aggravate it. In the conditions of ancient
thought, this aggravation did not exist. Epicurus exhorted men “to weigh
carefully, whether they would prefer death to come to them, or would
themselves go to death;”(314) and among his disciples, Lucretius, the
illustrious poet of the sect, died by his own hand,(315) as did also
Cassius the tyrannicide, Atticus the friend of Cicero,(316) the voluptuary
Petronius,(317) and the philosopher Diodorus.(318) Pliny described the lot
of man as in this respect at least superior to that of God, that man has
the power of flying to the tomb,(319) and he represented it as one of the
greatest proofs of the bounty of Providence, that it has filled the world
with herbs, by which the weary may find a rapid and a painless death.(320)
One of the most striking figures that a passing notice of Cicero brings
before us, is that of Hegesias, who was surnamed by the ancients “the
orator of death.” A conspicuous member of that Cyrenaic school which
esteemed the pursuit of pleasure the sole end of a rational being, he
taught that life was so full of cares, and its pleasure so fleeting and so
alloyed, that the happiest lot for man was death; and such was the power
of his eloquence, so intense was the fascination he cast around the tomb,
that his disciples embraced with rapture the consequence of his doctrine,
multitudes freed themselves by suicide from the troubles of the world, and
the contagion was so great, that Ptolemy, it is said, was compelled to
banish the philosopher from Alexandria.(321)

But it was in the Roman Empire and among the Roman Stoics that suicide
assumed its greatest prominence, and its philosophy was most fully
elaborated. From an early period self-immolation, like that of Curtius or
Decius, had been esteemed in some circumstances a religious rite, being,
as has been well suggested, probably a lingering remnant of the custom of
human sacrifices,(322) and towards the closing days of paganism many
influences conspired in the same direction. The example of Cato, who had
become the ideal of the Stoics, and whose dramatic suicide was the
favourite subject of their eloquence,(323) the indifference to death
produced by the great multiplication of gladiatorial shows, the many
instances of barbarian captives, who, sooner than slay their
fellow-countrymen, or minister to the pleasures of their conquerors,
plunged their lances into their own necks, or found other and still more
horrible roads to freedom,(324) the custom of compelling political
prisoners to execute their own sentence, and, more than all, the
capricious and atrocious tyranny of the Cæsars,(325) had raised suicide
into an extraordinary prominence. Few things are more touching than the
passionate joy with which, in the reign of Nero, Seneca clung to it as the
one refuge for the oppressed, the last bulwark of the tottering mind. “To
death alone it is due that life is not a punishment, that, erect beneath
the frowns of fortune, I can preserve my mind unshaken and master of
itself. I have one to whom I can appeal. I see before me the crosses of
many forms.... I see the rack and the scourge, and the instruments of
torture adapted to every limb and to every nerve; but I also see Death.
She stands beyond my savage enemies, beyond my haughty fellow-countrymen.
Slavery loses its bitterness when by a step I can pass to liberty. Against
all the injuries of life, I have the refuge of death.”(326) “Wherever you
look, there is the end of evils. You see that yawning precipice—there you
may descend to liberty. You see that sea, that river, that well—liberty
sits at the bottom.... Do you seek the way to freedom?—you may find it in
every vein of your body.”(327) “If I can choose between a death of torture
and one that is simple and easy, why should I not select the latter? As I
choose the ship in which I will sail, and the house I will inhabit, so I
will choose the death by which I will leave life.... In no matter more
than in death should we act according to our desire. Depart from life as
your impulse leads you, whether it be by the sword, or the rope, or the
poison creeping through the veins; go your way, and break the chains of
slavery. Man should seek the approbation of others in his life; his death
concerns himself alone. That is the best which pleases him most.... The
eternal law has decreed nothing better than this, that life should have
but one entrance and many exits. Why should I endure the agonies of
disease, and the cruelties of human tyranny, when I can emancipate myself
from all my torments, and shake off every bond? For this reason, but for
this alone, life is not an evil—that no one is obliged to live. The lot of
man is happy, because no one continues wretched but by his fault. If life
pleases you, live. If not, you have a right to return whence you

These passages, which are but a few selected out of very many, will
sufficiently show the passion with which the most influential teacher of
Roman Stoicism advocated suicide. As a general proposition, the law
recognised it as a right, but two slight restrictions were after a time
imposed.(329) It had become customary with many men who were accused of
political offences to commit suicide before trial, in order to prevent the
ignominious exposure of their bodies and the confiscation of their goods;
but Domitian closed this resource by ordaining that the suicide of an
accused person should entail the same consequences as his condemnation.
Hadrian afterwards assimilated the suicide of a Roman soldier to
desertion.(330) With these exceptions, the liberty appears to have been
absolute, and the act was committed under the most various motives. The
suicide of Otho, who is said to have killed himself to avoid being a
second time a cause of civil war, was extolled as equal in grandeur to
that of Cato.(331) In the Dacian war, the enemy, having captured a
distinguished Roman general named Longinus, endeavoured to extort terms
from Trajan as a condition of his surrender, but Longinus, by taking
poison, freed the emperor from his embarrassment.(332) On the death of
Otho, some of his soldiers, filled with grief and admiration, killed
themselves before his corpse,(333) as did also a freedman of Agrippina, at
the funeral of the empress.(334) Before the close of the Republic, an
enthusiastic partisan of one of the factions in the chariot races flung
himself upon the pile on which the body of a favourite coachman was
consumed, and perished in the flames.(335) A Roman, unmenaced in his
fortune, and standing high in the favour of his sovereign, killed himself
under Tiberius, because he could not endure to witness the crimes of the
empire.(336) Another, being afflicted by an incurable malady, postponed
his suicide till the death of Domitian, that at least he might die free,
and on the assassination of the tyrant, hastened cheerfully to the
tomb.(337) The Cynic Peregrinus announced that, being weary of life, he
would on a certain day depart, and, in presence of a large concourse, he
mounted the funeral pile.(338) Most frequently, however, death was
regarded as “the last physician of disease,”(339) and suicide as the
legitimate relief from intolerable suffering. “Above all things,” said
Epictetus, “remember that the door is open. Be not more timid than boys at
play. As they, when they cease to take pleasure in their games, declare
they will no longer play, so do you, when, all things begin to pall upon
you, retire; but if you stay, do not complain.”(340) Seneca declared that
he who waits the extremity of old age is not “far removed from a coward,”
“as he is justly regarded as too much addicted to wine who drains the
flask to the very dregs.” “I will not relinquish old age,” he added, “if
it leaves my better part intact. But if it begins to shake my mind, if it
destroys its faculties one by one, if it leaves me not life but breath, I
will depart from the putrid or tottering edifice. I will not escape by
death from disease so long as it may be healed, and leaves my mind
unimpaired. I will not raise my hand against myself on account of pain,
for so to die is to be conquered. But if I know that I must suffer without
hope of relief, I will depart, not through fear of the pain itself, but
because it prevents all for which I would live.”(341) “Just as a
landlord,” said Musonius, “who has not received his rent, pulls down the
doors, removes the rafters, and fills up the well, so I seem to be driven
out of this little body, when nature, which has let it to me, takes away,
one by one, eyes and ears, hands and feet. I will not, therefore, delay
longer, but will cheerfully depart as from a banquet.”(342)

This conception of suicide as an euthanasia, an abridgment of the pangs of
disease, and a guarantee against the dotage of age, was not confined to
philosophical treatises. We have considerable evidence of its being
frequently put in practice. Among those who thus abridged their lives was
Silius Italicus, one of the last of the Latin poets.(343) The younger
Pliny describes in terms of the most glowing admiration the conduct of one
of his friends, who, struck down by disease, resolved calmly and
deliberately upon the path he should pursue. He determined, if the disease
was only dangerous and long, to yield to the wishes of his friends and
await the struggle; but if the issue was hopeless, to die by his own hand.
Having reasoned on the propriety of this course with all the tranquil
courage of a Roman, he summoned a council of physicians, and, with a mind
indifferent to either fate, he calmly awaited their sentence.(344) The
same writer mentions the case of a man who was afflicted with a horrible
disease, which reduced his body to a mass of sores. His wife, being
convinced that it was incurable, exhorted her husband to shorten his
sufferings; she nerved and encouraged him to the effort, and she claimed
it as her privilege to accompany him to the grave. Husband and wife, bound
together, plunged into a lake.(345) Seneca, in one of his letters, has
left us a detailed description of the death-bed of one of the Roman
suicides. Tullius Marcellinus, a young man of remarkable abilities and
very earnest character, who had long ridiculed the teachings of
philosophy, but had ended by embracing it with all the passion of a
convert, being afflicted with a grave and lingering though not incurable
disease, resolved at length upon suicide. He gathered his friends around
him, and many of them entreated him to continue in life. Among them,
however, was one Stoical philosopher, who addressed him in what Seneca
terms the very noblest of discourses. He exhorted him not to lay too much
stress upon the question he was deciding, as if existence was a matter of
great importance. He urged that life is a thing we possess in common with
slaves and animals, but that a noble death should indeed be prized, and he
concluded by recommending suicide. Marcellinus gladly embraced the counsel
which his own wishes had anticipated. According to the advice of his
friend, he distributed gifts among his faithful slaves, consoled them on
their approaching bereavement, abstained dining three days from all food,
and at last, when his strength had been wholly exhausted, passed into a
warm bath and calmly died, describing with his last breath the pleasing
sensations that accompanied receding life.(346)

The doctrine of suicide was indeed the culminating point of Roman
Stoicism. The proud, self-reliant, unbending character of the philosopher
could only be sustained when he felt that he had a sure refuge against the
extreme forms of suffering or of despair. Although virtue is not a mere
creature of interest, no great system has ever yet flourished which did
not present an ideal of happiness as well as an ideal of duty. Stoicism
taught men to hope little, but to fear nothing. It did not array death in
brilliant colours, as the path to positive felicity, but it endeavoured to
divest it, as the end of suffering, of every terror. Life lost much of its
bitterness when men had found a refuge from the storms of fate, a speedy
deliverance from dotage and pain. Death ceased to be terrible when it was
regarded rather as a remedy than as a sentence. Life and death in the
Stoical system were attuned to the same key. The deification of human
virtue, the total absence of all sense of sin, the proud stubborn will
that deemed humiliation the worst of stains, appeared alike in each. The
type of its own kind was perfect. All the virtues and all the majesty that
accompany human pride, when developed to the highest point, and directed
to the noblest ends, were here displayed. All those which accompany
humility and self-abasement were absent.

I desire at this stage of our enquiry to pause for a moment, in order to
retrace briefly the leading steps of the foregoing argument, and thus to
bring into the clearest light the connection which many details and
quotations may have occasionally obscured. Such a review will show at a
single glance in what respects Stoicism was a result of the pre-existent
state of society, and in what respects it was an active agent, how far its
influence was preparing the way for Christian ethics, and how far it was
opposed to them.

We have seen, then, that among the Romans, as among other people, a very
clear and definite type of moral excellence was created before men had
formed any clear intellectual notions of the nature and sanctions of
virtue. The characters of men are chiefly governed by their occupations,
and the republic being organised altogether with a view to military
success, it had attained all the virtues and vices of a military society.
We have seen, too, that at all times, but most especially under the
conditions of ancient warfare, military life is very unfavourable to the
amiable, and very favourable to the heroic virtues. The Roman had learnt
to value force very highly. Being continually engaged in inflicting pain,
his natural or instinctive humanity was very low. His moral feelings were
almost bounded by political limits, acting only, and with different
degrees of intensity, towards his class, his country, and its allies.
Indomitable pride was the most prominent element of his character. A
victorious army which is humble or diffident, or tolerant of insult, or
anxious to take the second place, is, indeed, almost a contradiction of
terms. The spirit of patriotism, in its relation to foreigners, like that
of political liberty in its relation to governors, is a spirit of constant
and jealous self-assertion; and although both are very consonant with high
morality and great self-devotion, we rarely find that the grace of genuine
humility can flourish in a society that is intensely pervaded by their
influence. The kind of excellence that found most favour in Roman eyes was
simple, forcible, massive, but coarse-grained. Subtilty of motives,
refinements of feelings, delicacies of susceptibility, were rarely

This was the darker side of the picture. On the other hand, the national
character, being formed by a profession in which mercenary considerations
are less powerful, and splendid examples of self-devotion more frequent,
than in any other, had early risen to a heroic level. Death being
continually confronted, to meet it with courage was the chief test of
virtue. The habits of men were unaffected, frugal, honourable, and
laborious. A stern discipline pervading all ages and classes of society,
the will was trained, to an almost unexampled degree, to repress the
passions, to endure suffering and opposition, to tend steadily and
fearlessly towards an unpopular end. A sense of duty was very widely
diffused, and a deep attachment to the interests of the city became the
parent of many virtues.

Such was the type of excellence the Roman people had attained at a time
when its intellectual cultivation produced philosophical discussions, and
when numerous Greek professors, attracted partly by political events, and
partly by the patronage of Scipio Æmilianus, arrived at Rome, bringing
with them the tenets of the great schools of Zeno and Epicurus, and of the
many minor sects that clustered around them. Epicureanism being
essentially opposed to the pre-existing type of virtue, though it spread
greatly, never attained the position of a school of virtue. Stoicism,
taught by Panætius of Rhodes, and soon after by the Syrian Posidonius,
became the true religion of the educated classes. It furnished the
principles of virtue, coloured the noblest literature of the time, and
guided all the developments of moral enthusiasm.

The Stoical system of ethics was in the highest sense a system of
independent morals. It taught that our reason reveals to us a certain law
of nature, and that a desire to conform to this law, irrespectively of all
considerations of reward or punishment, of happiness or the reverse, is a
possible and a sufficient motive of virtue. It was also in the highest
sense a system of discipline. It taught that the will, acting under the
complete control of the reason, is the sole principle of virtue, and that
all the emotional part of our being is of the nature of a disease. Its
whole tendency was therefore to dignify and strengthen the will, and to
degrade and suppress the desires. It taught, moreover, that man is capable
of attaining an extremely high degree of moral excellence, that he has
nothing to fear beyond the present life, that it is essential to the
dignity and consistence of his character that he should regard death
without dismay, and that he has a right to hasten it if he desires.

It is easy to see that this system of ethics was strictly consonant with
the type of character the circumstances of the Roman people had formed. It
is also manifest that while the force of circumstances had in the first
instance secured its ascendancy, the energy of will which it produced
would enable it to offer a powerful resistance to the tendencies of an
altered condition of society. This was pre-eminently shown in the history
of Roman Stoicism. The austere purity of the writings of Seneca and his
school is a fact probably unique in history, when we consider, on the one
hand, the intense and undisguised depravity of the Empire, and on the
other, the prominent position of most of the leading Stoics in the very
centre of the stream. More than once in later periods did great
intellectual brilliancy coincide with general depravity, but on none of
these occasions was this moral phenomenon reproduced. In the age of Leo
X., in the age of the French Regency, or of Lewis XV., we look in vain for
high moral teaching in the centre of Italian or of Parisian civilisation.
The true teachers of those ages were the reformers, who arose in obscure
towns of Germany or Switzerland, or that diseased recluse who, from his
solitude near Geneva, fascinated Europe by the gleams of a dazzling and
almost peerless eloquence, and by a moral teaching which, though often
feverish, paradoxical, and unpractical, abounded in passages of
transcendent majesty and of the most entrancing purity and beauty. But
even the best moral teachers who rose in the centres of the depraved
society felt the contagion of the surrounding vice. Their ideal was
depressed, their austerity was relaxed, they appealed to sordid and
worldly motives, their judgments of character were wavering and uncertain,
their whole teaching was of the nature of a compromise. But in ancient
Rome, if the teachers of virtue acted but feebly upon the surrounding
corruption, their own tenets were at least unstained. The splendour of the
genius of Cæsar never eclipsed the moral grandeur of the vanquished Cato,
and amid all the dramatic vicissitudes of civil war and of political
convulsion, the supreme authority of moral distinctions was never
forgotten. The eloquence of Livy was chiefly employed in painting virtue,
the eloquence of Tacitus in branding vice. The Stoics never lowered their
standard because of the depravity around them, and if we trace in their
teaching any reflection of the prevailing worship of enjoyment, it is only
in the passionate intensity with which they dwelt upon the tranquillity of
the tomb.

But it is not sufficient for a moral system to form a bulwark against
vice, it must also be capable of admitting those extensions and
refinements of moral sympathies which advancing civilisation produces, and
the inflexibility of its antagonism to evil by no means implies its
capacity of enlarging its conceptions of good. During the period which
elapsed between the importation of Stoical tenets into Rome and the
ascendancy of Christianity, an extremely important transformation of moral
ideas had been effected by political changes, and it became a question how
far the new elements could coalesce with the Stoical ideal, and how far
they tended to replace it by an essentially different type. These changes
were twofold, but were very closely connected. They consisted of the
increasing prominence of the benevolent or amiable, as distinguished from
the heroic qualities, and of the enlargement of moral sympathies, which
having at first comprised only a class or a nation, came at last, by the
destruction of many artificial barriers, to include all classes and all
nations. The causes of these changes—which were the most important
antecedents of the triumph of Christianity—are very complicated and
numerous, but it will, I think, be possible to give in a few pages a
sufficiently clear outline of the movement.

It originated in the Roman Empire at the time when the union of the Greek
and Latin civilisations was effected by the conquest of Greece. The
general humanity of the Greeks had always been incomparably greater than
that of the Romans. The refining influence of their art and literature,
their ignorance of gladiatorial games, and their comparative freedom from
the spirit of conquest, had separated them widely from their
semi-barbarous conquerors, and had given a peculiar softness and
tenderness to their ideal characters. Pericles, who, when the friends who
had gathered round his death-bed, imagining him to be insensible, were
recounting his splendid deeds, told them that they had forgotten his best
title to fame—that “no Athenian had ever worn mourning on his account;”
Aristides, praying the gods that those who had banished him might never be
compelled by danger or suffering to recall him; Phocion, when unjustly
condemned, exhorting his son never to avenge his death, all represent a
type of character of a milder kind than that which Roman influences
produced. The plays of Euripides had been to the ancient world the first
great revelation of the supreme beauty of the gentler virtues. Among the
many forms of worship that flourished at Athens, there was an altar which
stood alone, conspicuous and honoured beyond all others. The suppliants
thronged around it, but no image of a god, no symbol of dogma was there.
It was dedicated to Pity, and was venerated through all the ancient world
as the first great assertion among mankind of the supremo sanctity of

But while the Greek spirit was from a very early period distinguished for
its humanity, it was at first as far removed from cosmopolitanism as that
of Rome. It is well known that Phrynichus was fined because in his
“Conquest of Miletus” he had represented the triumph of barbarians over
Greeks.(348) His successor, Æschylus, deemed it necessary to violate all
dramatic probabilities by making the Persian king and courtiers
continually speak of themselves as barbarians. Socrates, indeed, had
proclaimed himself a citizen of the world,(349) but Aristotle taught that
Greeks had no more duties to barbarians than to wild beasts, and another
philosopher was believed to have evinced an almost excessive range of
sympathy when he declared that his affections extended beyond his own
State, and included the whole people of Greece. But the dissolving and
disintegrating philosophical discussions that soon followed the death of
Socrates, strengthened by political events, tended powerfully to destroy
this feeling. The traditions that attached Greek philosophy to Egypt, the
subsequent admiration for the schools of India to which Pyrrho and
Anaxarchus are said to have resorted,(350) the prevalence of Cynicism and
Epicureanism, which agreed in inculcating indifference to political life,
the complete decomposition of the popular national religions, and the
incompatibility of a narrow local feeling with great knowledge and matured
civilisation, were the intellectual causes of the change, and the movement
of expansion received a great political stimulus when Alexander eclipsed
the glories of Spartan and Athenian history by the vision of universal
empire, accorded to the conquered nations the privileges of the
conquerors, and created in Alexandria a great centre both of commercial
intercourse and of philosophical eclecticism.(351)

It is evident, therefore, that the prevalence of Greek ideas in Rome would
be in a two-fold way destructive of narrow national feelings. It was the
ascendancy of a people who were not Romans, and of a people who had
already become in a great degree emancipated from local sentiments. It is
also evident that the Greeks having had for several centuries a splendid
literature, at a time when the Romans had none, and when the Latin
language was still too rude for literary purposes, the period in which the
Romans first emerged from a purely military condition into an intelligent
civilisation would bring with it an ascendancy of Greek ideas. Fabius
Pictor and Cincius Alimentus, the earliest native Roman historians, both
wrote in Greek,(352) and although the poems of Ennius, and the “Origines”
of Marcus Cato, contributed largely to improve and fix the Latin language,
the precedent was not at once discontinued.(353) After the conquest of
Greece, the political ascendancy of the Romans and the intellectual
ascendancy of Greece were alike universal.(354) The conquered people,
whose patriotic feelings had been greatly enfeebled by the influences I
have noticed, acquiesced readily in their new condition, and
notwithstanding the vehement exertions of the conservative party, Greek
manners, sentiments, and ideas soon penetrated into all classes, and
moulded all the forms of Roman life. The elder Cato, as an acute observer
has noticed, desired all Greek philosophers to be expelled from Rome. The
younger Cato made Greek philosophers his most intimate friends.(355) Roman
virtue found its highest expression in Stoicism. Roman vice sheltered
itself under the name of Epicurus. Diodorus of Sicily and Polybius first
sketched in Greek the outlines of universal history. Dionysius of
Halicarnassus explored Roman antiquities. Greek artists and Greek
architects thronged the city; but the first, under Roman influence,
abandoned the ideal for the portrait, and the second degraded the noble
Corinthian pillar into the bastard composite.(356) The theatre, which now
started into sudden life, was borrowed altogether from the Greeks. Ennius
and Pacuvius imitated Euripides; Cæcilius, Plautus, Terence, and Nævius
devoted themselves chiefly to Menander. Even the lover in the days of
Lucretius painted his lady’s charms in Greek.(357) Immense sums were given
for Greek literary slaves, and the attractions of the capital drew to Rome
nearly all that was brilliant in Athenian society.

While the complete ascendancy of the intellect and manners of Greece was
destroying the simplicity of the old Roman type, and at the same time
enlarging the range of Roman sympathies, an equally powerful influence was
breaking down the aristocratic and class feeling which had so long raised
an insurmountable barrier between the nobles and the plebeians. Their long
contentions had issued in the civil wars, the dictatorship of Julius
Cæsar, and the Empire, and these changes in a great measure obliterated
the old lines of demarcation. Foreign wars, which develop with great
intensity distinctive national types, and divert the public mind from
internal changes, are usually favourable to the conservative spirit; but
civil wars are essentially revolutionary, for they overwhelm all class
barriers and throw open the highest prizes to energy and genius. Two very
remarkable and altogether unprecedented illustrations of this truth
occurred at Rome. Ventidius Bassus, by his military skill, and by the
friendship of Julius Cæsar, and afterwards of Antony, rose from the
position of mule-driver to the command of a Roman army, and at last to the
consulate,(358) which was also attained, about 40 B.C., by the Spaniard
Cornelius Balbus.(359) Augustus, though the most aristocratic of emperors,
in order to discourage celibacy, permitted all citizens who were not
senators to intermarry with freedwomen. The empire was in several distinct
ways unfavourable to class distinctions. It was for the most part
essentially democratic, winning its popularity from the masses of the
people, and crushing the senate, which had been the common centre of
aristocracy and of freedom. A new despotic power, bearing alike on all
classes, reduced them to an equality of servitude. The emperors were
themselves in many cases the mere creatures of revolt, and their policy
was governed by their origin. Their jealousy struck down many of the
nobles, while others were ruined by the public games, which it became
customary to give, or by the luxury to which, in the absence of political
occupations, they were impelled, and the relative importance of all was
diminished by the new creations. The ascendancy of wealth began to pass
into new quarters. Delators, or political informers, encouraged by the
emperors, and enriched by the confiscated properties of those whose
condemnation they had procured, rose to great influence. From the time of
Caligula, for several reigns, the most influential citizens were freedmen,
who occupied the principal offices in the palace, and usually obtained
complete ascendancy over the emperors. Through them alone petitions were
presented. By their instrumentality the Imperial favours were distributed.
They sometimes dethroned the emperors. They retained their power unshaken
through a succession of revolutions. In wealth, in power, in the crowd of
their courtiers, in the splendour of their palaces in life, and of their
tombs in death, they eclipsed all others, and men whom the early Roman
patricians would have almost disdained to notice, saw the proudest
struggling for their favour.(360)

Together with these influences many others of a kindred nature may be
detected. The colonial policy which the Gracchi had advocated was carried
out at Narbonne, and during the latter days of Julius Cæsar, to the
amazement and scandal of the Romans, Gauls of this province obtained seats
in the senate.(361) The immense extent of the empire made it necessary for
numerous troops to remain during long periods of time in distant
provinces, and the foreign habits that were thus acquired began the
destruction of the exclusive feelings of the Roman army, which the
subsequent enrolment of barbarians completed. The public games, the
immense luxury, the concentration of power, wealth, and genius, made Rome
the centre of a vast and ceaseless concourse of strangers, the focus of
all the various philosophies and religions of the empire, and its
population soon became an amorphous, heterogeneous mass, in which all
nations, customs, languages, and creeds, all degrees of virtue and vice,
of refinement and barbarism, of scepticism and credulity, intermingled and
interacted. Travelling had become more easy and perhaps more frequent than
it has been at any other period before the nineteenth century. The
subjection of the whole civilised world to a single rule removed the chief
obstacles to locomotion. Magnificent roads, which modern nations have
rarely rivalled and never surpassed, intersected the entire empire, and
relays of post-horses enabled the voyager to proceed with an astonishing
rapidity. The sea, which, after the destruction of the fleets of Carthage,
had fallen almost completely under the dominion of pirates, had been
cleared by Pompey. The European shores of the Mediterranean and the port
of Alexandria were thronged with vessels. Romans traversed the whole
extent of the empire on political, military, or commercial errands, or in
search of health, or knowledge, or pleasure.(362) The entrancing beauties
of Como and of Tempe, the luxurious manners of Baiæ and Corinth, the
schools, commerce, climate, and temples of Alexandria, the soft winters of
Sicily, the artistic wonders and historic recollections of Athens and the
Nile, the great colonial interests of Gaul, attracted their thousands,
while Roman luxury needed the products of the remotest lands, and the
demand for animals for the amphitheatre spread Roman enterprise into the
wildest deserts. In the capital, the toleration accorded to different
creeds was such that the city soon became a miniature of the world. Almost
every variety of charlatanism and of belief displayed itself unchecked,
and boasted its train of proselytes. Foreign ideas were in every form in
the ascendant. Greece, which had presided over the intellectual
development of Rome, acquired a new influence under the favouring policy
of Hadrian, and Greek became the language of some of the later as it had
been of the earliest writers. Egyptian religions and philosophies excited
the wildest enthusiasm. As early as the reign of Augustus there were many
thousands of Jewish residents at Rome,(363) and their manners and creed
spread widely among the people.(364) The Carthaginian Apuleius,(365) the
Gauls Floras and Favorinus, the Spaniards Lucan, Columella, Martial,
Seneca, and Quintilian, had all in their different departments a high
place in Roman literature or philosophy.

In the slave world a corresponding revolution was taking place. The large
proportion of physicians and sculptors who were slaves, the appearance of
three or four distinguished authors in the slave class, the numerous
literary slaves imported from Greece, and the splendid examples of
courage, endurance, and devotion to their masters furnished by slaves
during the civil wars, and during some of the worst periods of the Empire,
were bridging the chasm between the servile and the free classes, and the
same tendency was more powerfully stimulated by the vast numbers and
overwhelming influence of the freedmen. The enormous scale and frequent
fluctuations of the great Roman establishments, and the innumerable
captives reduced to slavery after every war, rendered manumission both
frequent and easy, and it was soon regarded as a normal result of faithful
service. Many slaves bought their freedom out of the savings which their
masters always permitted them to make. Others paid for it by their labour
after their emancipation. Some masters emancipated their slaves in order
to obtain their part in the distribution of corn, others to prevent the
discovery of their own crimes by the torture of their slaves, others
through vanity, being desirous of having their funerals attended by a long
train of freedmen, very many simply as a reward for long service.(366) The
freedman was still under what was termed the patronage of his former
master; he was bound to him by what in a later age would have been called
a feudal tie, and the political and social importance of a noble depended
in a very great degree upon the multitude of his clients. The children of
the emancipated slave were in the same relation to the patron, and it was
only in the third generation that all disqualifications and restraints
were abrogated. In consequence of this system, manumission was often the
interest of the master. In the course of his life he enfranchised
individual slaves. On his death-bed or by his will he constantly
emancipated multitudes. Emancipation by testament acquired such
dimensions, that Augustus found it necessary to restrict the power; and he
made several limitations, of which the most important was that no one
should emancipate by his will more than one hundred of his slaves.(367) It
was once proposed that the slaves should be distinguished by a special
dress, but the proposition was abandoned because their number was so great
that to reveal to them their strength would be to place the city at their
mercy.(368) Even among those who were not slaves, the element that was
derived from slavery soon preponderated. The majority of the free
population had probably either themselves been slaves, or were descended
from slaves, and men with this tainted lineage penetrated to all the
offices of the State.(369) “There was,” as has been well said, “a
circulation of men from all the universe. Rome received them slaves, and
sent them back Romans.”(370)

It is manifest how profound a change had taken place since the Republican
days, when the highest dignities were long monopolised by a single class,
when the censors repressed with a stringent severity every form or
exhibition of luxury, when the rhetoricians were banished from the city,
lest the faintest tinge of foreign manners should impair the stern
simplicity of the people, and when the proposal to transfer the capital to
Veii, after a great disaster, was rejected on the ground that it would be
impious to worship the Roman deities anywhere but on the Capitol, or for
the Flamens and the Vestals to emigrate beyond the walls.(371)

The greater number of these tendencies to universal fusion or equality
were blind forces resulting from the stress of circumstances, and not from
any human forethought, or were agencies that were put in motion for a
different object. It must, however, be acknowledged that a definite theory
of policy had a considerable part in accelerating the movement. The policy
of the Republic may be broadly described as a policy of conquest, and that
of the Empire as a policy of preservation. The Romans having acquired a
vast dominion, were met by the great problem which every first-class power
is called upon to solve—by what means many communities, with different
languages, customs, characters, and traditions, can be retained peaceably
under a single ruler. In modern times, this difficulty has been most
successfully met by local legislatures, which, if they supply a “line of
cleavage,” a nucleus around which the spirit of opposition may form, have
on the other hand the priceless advantage of giving the annexed people a
large measure of self-government, a centre and safety-valve of local
public opinion, a sphere for local ambitions, and a hierarchy of
institutions adapted to the distinctive national type. Under no other
conditions can a complex empire be carried on with so little strain, or
effort, or humiliation, or its inevitable final dissolution be effected
with so little danger or convulsion. But local legislatures, which are the
especial glory of English statesmanship, belong exclusively to modern
civilisation. The Roman method of conciliation was, first of all, the most
ample toleration of the customs, religion, and municipal freedom of the
conquered, and then their gradual admission to the privileges of the
conqueror. By confiding to them in a great measure the defence of the
empire, by throwing open to them the offices of State, and especially by
according to them the right of Roman citizenship, which had been for
centuries jealously restricted to the inhabitants of Rome, and was
afterwards only conceded to Italy and Cisalpine Gaul, the emperors sought
to attach them to their throne. The process was very gradual, but the
whole movement of political emancipation attained its completion when the
Imperial throne was occupied by the Spaniard Trajan, and by Pertinax, the
son of a freedman, and when an edict of Caracalla extended the rights of
Roman citizenship to all the provinces of the empire.

It will appear evident, from the foregoing sketch, that the period which
elapsed between Panætius and Constantine exhibited an irresistible
tendency to cosmopolitanism. The convergence, when we consider the number,
force, and harmony of the influences that composed it, is indeed
unexampled in history. The movement extended through all the fields of
religious, philosophical, political, industrial, military, and domestic
life. The character of the people was completely transformed, the
landmarks of all its institutions were removed, the whole principle of its
organisation was reversed. It would be impossible to find a more striking
example of the manner in which events govern character, destroying old
habits and associations, and thus altering that national type of
excellence which is, for the most part, the expression or net moral result
of the national institutions and circumstances. The effect of the movement
was, no doubt, in many respects evil, and some of the best men, such as
the elder Cato and Tacitus, opposed it, as leading to the demoralisation
of the empire; but if it increased vice, it also gave a peculiar character
to virtue. It was impossible that the conception of excellence, formed in
a society where everything conspired to deepen class divisions and
national jealousies and antipathies, should be retained unaltered in a
period of universal intercourse and amalgamation. The moral expression of
the first period is obviously to be found in the narrower military and
patriotic virtues; that of the second period in enlarged philanthropy and

The Stoical philosophy was admirably fitted to preside over this extension
of sympathies. Although it proved itself in every age the chief school of
patriots, it recognised also, from the very first, and in the most
unequivocal manner, the fraternity of mankind. The Stoic taught that
virtue alone is a good, and that all other things are indifferent; and
from this position he inferred that birth, rank, country, or wealth are
the mere accidents of life, and that virtue alone makes one man superior
to another. He taught also that the Deity is an all-pervading Spirit,
animating the universe, and revealed with especial clearness in the soul
of man; and he concluded that all men are fellow-members of a single body,
united by participation in the same Divine Spirit. These two doctrines
formed part of the very first teaching of the Stoics, but it was the
special glory of the Roman teachers, and an obvious result of the
condition of affairs I have described, to have brought them into full
relief. One of the most emphatic as well as one of the earliest extant
assertions of the duty of “charity to the human race,”(372) occurs in the
treatise of Cicero upon duties, which was avowedly based upon Stoicism.
Writing at a period when the movement of amalgamation had for a generation
been rapidly proceeding,(373) and adopting almost without restriction the
ethics of the Stoics, Cicero maintained the doctrine of universal
brotherhood as distinctly as it was afterwards maintained by the Christian
Church. “This whole world,” he tells us, “is to be regarded as the common
city of gods and men.”(374) “Men were born for the sake of men, that each
should assist the others.”(375) “Nature ordains that a man should wish the
good of every man, whoever he may be, for this very reason, that he is a
man.”(376) “To reduce man to the duties of his own city and to disengage
him from duties to the members of other cities, is to break the universal
society of the human race.”(377) “Nature has inclined us to love men, and
this is the foundation of the law.”(378) The same principles were
reiterated with increasing emphasis by the later Stoics. Adopting the
well-known line which Terence had translated from Menander, they
maintained that man should deem nothing human foreign to his interest.
Lucan expatiated with all the fervour of a Christian poet upon the time
when “the human race will cast aside its weapons, and when all nations
will learn to love.”(379) “The whole universe,” said Seneca, “which you
see around you, comprising all things, both divine and human, is one. We
are members of one great body. Nature has made us relatives when it begat
us from the same materials and for the same destinies. She planted in us a
mutual love, and fitted us for a social life.”(380) “What is a Roman
knight, or freedman, or slave? These are but names springing from ambition
or from injury.”(381) “I know that my country is the world, and my
guardians are the gods.”(382) “You are a citizen,” said Epictetus, “and a
part of the world.... The duty of a citizen is in nothing to consider his
own interest distinct from that of others, as the hand or foot, if they
possessed reason and understood the law of nature, would do and wish
nothing that had not some relation to the rest of the body.”(383) “An
Antonine,” said Marcus Aurelius, “my country is Rome; as a man, it is the

So far Stoicism appears fully equal to the moral requirements of the age.
It would be impossible to recognise more cordially or to enforce more
beautifully that doctrine of universal brotherhood for which the
circumstances of the Roman Empire had made men ripe. Plato had said that
no one is born for himself alone, but that he owes himself in part to his
country, in part to his parents, and in part to his friends. The Roman
Stoics, taking a wider survey, declared that man is born not for himself
but for the whole world.(385) And their doctrine was perfectly consistent
with the original principles of their school.

But while Stoicism was quite capable of representing the widening
movement, it was not equally capable of representing the softening
movement of civilisation. Its condemnation of the affections, and its
stern, tense ideal, admirably fitted for the struggles of a simple
military age, were unsuited for the mild manners and luxurious tastes of
the age of the Antonines. A class of writers began to arise who, like the
Stoics, believed virtue, rather than enjoyment, to be the supreme good,
and who acknowledged that virtue consisted solely of the control which the
enlightened will exercises over the desires, but who at the same time gave
free scope to the benevolent affections and a more religious and mystical
tone to the whole scheme of morals. Professing various speculative
doctrines, and calling themselves by many names—eclectics, peripatetics,
or Platonists—they agreed in forming or representing a moral character,
less strong, less sublime, less capable of endurance and heroism, less
conspicuous for energy of will, than that of the Stoics, but far more
tender and attractive. The virtues of force began to recede, and the
gentler virtues to advance, in the moral type. Insensibility to suffering
was no longer professed; indomitable strength was no longer idolised, and
it was felt that weakness and sorrow have their own appropriate
virtues.(386) The works of these writers are full of delicate touches
which nothing but strong and lively feelings could have suggested. We find
this in the well-known letter of Pliny on the death of his slaves,(387) in
the frequent protests against the ostentation of indifference with which
the Stoics regarded the loss of their friends, in many instances of
simple, artless pathos, which strike the finest chords of our nature. When
Plutarch, after the death of his daughter, was writing a letter of
consolation to his wife, we find him turning away from all the
commonplaces of the Stoics as the recollection of one simple trait of his
little child rushed upon his mind:—“She desired her nurse to press even
her dolls to the breast. She was so loving that she wished everything that
gave her pleasure to share in the best of what she had.”

Plutarch, whose fame as a biographer has, I think, unduly eclipsed his
reputation as a moralist, may be justly regarded as the leader of this
movement, and his moral writings may be profitably compared with those of
Seneca, the most ample exponent of the sterner school. Seneca is not
unfrequently self-conscious, theatrical, and overstrained. His precepts
have something of the affected ring of a popular preacher. The imperfect
fusion of his short sentences gives his style a disjointed and, so to
speak, granulated character, which the Emperor Caligula happily expressed
when he compared it to sand without cement; yet he often rises to a
majesty of eloquence, a grandeur both of thought and of expression, that
few moralists have ever rivalled. Plutarch, though far less sublime, is
more sustained, equable, and uniformly pleasing. The Montaigne of
antiquity, his genius coruscates playfully and gracefully around his
subject; he delights in illustrations which are often singularly vivid and
original, but which, by their excessive multiplication, appear sometimes
rather the texture than the ornament of his discourse. A gentle, tender
spirit, and a judgment equally free from paradox, exaggeration, and
excessive subtilty, are the characteristics of all he wrote. Plutarch
excels most in collecting motives of consolation; Seneca in forming
characters that need no consolation. There is something of the woman in
Plutarch; Seneca is all a man. The writings of the first resemble the
strains of the flute, to which the ancients attributed the power of
calming the passions and charming away the clouds of sorrow, and drawing
men by a gentle suasion into the paths of virtue; the writings of the
other are like the trumpet-blast, which kindles the soul with an heroic
courage. The first is most fitted to console a mother sorrowing over her
dead child, the second to nerve a brave man, without flinching and without
illusion, to grapple with an inevitable fate.

The elaborate letters which Seneca has left us on distinctive tenets of
the Stoical school, such as the equality of vices or the evil of the
affections, have now little more than an historic interest; but the
general tone of his writings gives them a permanent importance, for they
reflect and foster a certain type of excellence which, since the
extinction of Stoicism, has had no adequate expression in literature. The
prevailing moral tone of Plutarch, on the other hand, being formed mainly
on the prominence of the amiable virtues, has been eclipsed or transcended
by the Christian writers, but his definite contributions to philosophy and
morals are more important than those of Seneca. He has left us one of the
best works on superstition, and one of the most ingenious works on
Providence, we possess. He was probably the first writer who advocated
very strongly humanity to animals on the broad ground of universal
benevolence, as distinguished from the Pythagorean doctrine of
transmigration, and he was also remarkable, beyond all his contemporaries,
for his high sense of female excellence and of the sanctity of female

The Romans had at all times cared more for the practical tendency of a
system of philosophy than for its logical or speculative consistency. One
of the chief attractions of Stoicism, in their eyes, had been that its
main object was not to build a system of opinion, but to propose a pattern
of life,(388) and Stoicism itself was only adapted to the Roman character
after it had been simplified by Panætius.(389) Although the system could
never free itself altogether from that hardness which rendered it so
unsuited for an advanced civilisation, it was profoundly modified by the
later Stoics, who rarely scrupled to temper it by the admixture of new
doctrines. Seneca himself was by no means an unmixed Stoic. If Epictetus
was more nearly so, this was probably because the extreme hardship he
underwent made him dwell more than his contemporaries upon the importance
of fortitude and endurance. Marcus Aurelius was surrounded by the
disciples of the most various schools, and his Stoicism was much tinctured
by the milder and more religious spirit of Platonism. The Stoics, like all
other men, felt the moral current of the time, though they yielded to it
less readily than some others. In Thrasea, who occupied in his age a
position analogous to that of Cato in an earlier period, we find little or
nothing of the asperity and hardness of his great prototype. In the
writings of the later Stoics, if we find the same elements as in those of
their predecessors, these elements are at least combined in different

In the first place, Stoicism became more essentially religious. The
Stoical character, like all others of a high order, had always been
reverential; but its reverence differed widely from that of Christians. It
was concentrated much less upon the Deity than upon virtue, and especially
upon virtue as exhibited in great men. When Lucan, extolling his hero,
boasted that “the gods favoured the conquering cause, but Cato the
conquered,” or when Seneca described “the fortune of Sulla” as “the crime
of the gods,” these sentences, which sound to modern ears grossly
blasphemous, appear to have excited no murmur. We have already seen the
audacious language with which the sage claimed an equality with the
Divinity. On the other hand, the reverence for virtue apart from all
conditions of success, and especially for men of the stamp of Cato, who
through a strong moral conviction struggled bravely, though
unsuccessfully, against force, genius, or circumstances, was perhaps more
steady and more passionate than in any later age. The duty of absolute
submission to Providence, as I have already shown, was continually
inculcated, and the pantheistic notion of all virtue being a part or
emanation of the Deity was often asserted, but man was still the centre of
the Stoic’s scheme, the ideal to which his reverence and devotion aspired.
In later Stoicism this point of view was gradually changed. Without any
formal abandonment of their pantheistic conceptions, the language of
philosophers recognised with much greater clearness a distinct and
personal Divinity. Every page of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius is
impregnated with the deepest religious feeling. “The first thing to
learn,” said the former, “is that there is a God, that His knowledge
pervades the whole universe, and that it extends not only to our acts but
to our thoughts and feelings.... He who seeks to please the gods must
labour as far as lies in him to resemble them. He must be faithful as God
is faithful, free as He is free, beneficent as He is beneficent,
magnanimous as He is magnanimous.”(390) “To have God for our maker and
father and guardian, should not that emancipate us from all sadness and
from all fear?”(391) “When you have shut your door and darkened your room,
say not to yourself you are alone. God is in your room, and your attendant
genius likewise. Think not that they need the light to see what you
do.(392) What can I, an old man and a cripple, do but praise God? If I
were a nightingale, I would discharge the office of a nightingale; if a
swan, that of a swan. But I am a reasonable being; my mission is to praise
God, and I fulfil it; nor shall I ever, as far as lies in me, shrink from
my task, and I exhort you to join in the same song of praise.”(393)

The same religious character is exhibited, if possible, in a still greater
degree in the “Meditations” of Marcus Aurelius; but in one respect the
ethics of the emperor differ widely from those of the slave. In Epictetus
we invariably find the strongest sense of the majesty of man. As the child
of the Deity, as a being capable of attaining the most exalted virtue, he
magnified him to the highest point, and never more so than in the very
passage in which he exhorted his disciples to beware of haughtiness. The
Jupiter Olympus of Phidias, he reminds them, exhibits no arrogance, but
the unclouded serenity of perfect confidence and strength.(394) Marcus
Aurelius, on the other hand, dwelt rather on the weakness than on the
force of man, and his meditations breathe a spirit, if not of Christian
humility, at least of the gentlest and most touching modesty. He was not,
it is true, like some later saints, who habitually apply to themselves
language of reprobation which would be exaggerated if applied to the
murderer or the adulterer. He did not shrink from recognising human virtue
as a reality, and thanking Providence for the degree in which he had
attained it, but he continually reviewed with an unsparing severity the
weaknesses of his character, he accepted and even solicited reproofs from
every teacher of virtue, he made it his aim, in a position of supreme
power, to check every emotion of arrogance and pride, and he set before
him an ideal of excellence which awed and subdued his mind.

Another very remarkable feature of later Stoicism was its increasingly
introspective character. In the philosophy of Cato and Cicero, virtue was
displayed almost exclusively in action. In the later Stoics,
self-examination and purity of thought were continually inculcated. There
are some writers who, with an obstinacy which it is more easy to explain
than to excuse, persist, in defiance of the very clearest evidence to the
contrary, in representing these virtues as exclusively Christian, and in
maintaining, without a shadow of proof, that the place they undeniably
occupy in the later Roman moralists was due to the direct or indirect
influence of the new faith. The plain fact is that they were fully known
to the Greeks, and both Plato and Zeno even exhorted men to study their
dreams, on the ground that these often reveal the latent tendencies of the
disposition.(395) Pythagoras urged his disciples daily to examine
themselves when they retired to rest,(396) and this practice soon became a
recognised part of the Pythagorean discipline.(397) It was introduced into
Rome with the school before the close of the Republic. It was known in the
time of Cicero(398) and Horace.(399) Sextius, one of the masters of
Seneca, a philosopher of the school of Pythagoras, who flourished chiefly
before the Christian era, was accustomed daily to devote a portion of time
to self-examination; and Seneca, who at first inclined much to the tenets
of Pythagoras,(400) expressly tells us that it was from Sextius he learnt
the practice.(401) The increasing prominence of the Pythagorean philosophy
which accompanied the invasion of Oriental creeds, the natural tendency of
the empire, by closing the avenues of political life, to divert the
attention from action to emotion, and also the increased latitude allowed
to the play of the sympathies or affections by the later Stoics, brought
this emotional part of virtue into great prominence. The letters of Seneca
are a kind of moral medicine applied for the most part to the cure of
different infirmities of character. Plutarch, in a beautiful treatise on
“The Signs of Moral Progress,” treated the culture of the feelings with
delicate skill. The duty of serving the Divinity with a pure mind rather
than by formal rites became a commonplace of literature, and
self-examination one of the most recognised of duties. Epictetus urged men
so to purify their imaginations, that at the sight of a beautiful woman
they should not even mentally exclaim, “Happy her husband!”(402) The
meditations of Marcus Aurelius, above all, are throughout an exercise of
self-examination, and the duty of watching over the thoughts is
continually inculcated.

It was a saying of Plutarch that Stoicism, which sometimes exercised a
prejudicial and hardening influence upon characters that were by nature
stern and unbending, proved peculiarly useful as a cordial to those which
were naturally gentle and yielding. Of this truth we can have no better
illustration than is furnished by the life and writings of Marcus
Aurelius, the last and most perfect representative of Roman Stoicism. A
simple, childlike, and eminently affectionate disposition, with little
strength of intellect or perhaps originally of will, much more inclined to
meditation, speculation, solitude, or friendship, than to active and
public life, with a profound aversion to the pomp of royalty and with a
rather strong natural leaning to pedantry, he had embraced the fortifying
philosophy of Zeno in its best form, and that philosophy made him perhaps
as nearly a perfectly virtuous man as has ever appeared upon our world.
Tried by the chequered events of a reign of nineteen years, presiding over
a society that was profoundly corrupt, and over a city that was notorious
for its license, the perfection of his character awed even calumny to
silence, and the spontaneous sentiment of his people proclaimed him rather
a god than a man.(403) Very few men have ever lived concerning whose inner
life we can speak so confidently. His “Meditations,” which form one of the
most impressive, form also one of the truest books in the whole range of
religious literature. They consist of rude fragmentary notes without
literary skill or arrangement, written for the most part in hasty, broken,
and sometimes almost unintelligible sentences amid the turmoil of a
camp,(404) and recording, in accents of the most penetrating sincerity,
the struggles, doubts, and aims of a soul of which, to employ one of his
own images, it may be truly said that it possessed the purity of a star,
which needs no veil to hide its nakedness. The undisputed master of the
whole civilised world, he set before him as models such men as Thrasea and
Helvidius, as Cato and Brutus, and he made it his aim to realise the
conception of a free State in which all citizens are equal, and of a
royalty which makes it its first duty to respect the liberty of the
citizens.(405) His life was passed in unremitting activity. For nearly
twelve years he was absent with armies in the distant provinces of the
empire; and although his political capacity has been much and perhaps
justly questioned, it is impossible to deny the unwearied zeal with which
he discharged the duties of his great position. Yet few men have ever
carried farther the virtue of little things, the delicate moral tact and
the minute scruples which, though often exhibited by women and by secluded
religionists, very rarely survive much contact with active life. The
solicitude with which he endeavoured to persuade two jealous rhetoricians
to abstain during their debates from retorts that might destroy their
friendship,(406) the careful gratitude with which, in a camp in Hungary,
he recalled every moral obligation he could trace, even to the most
obscure of his tutors,(407) his anxiety to avoid all pedantry and
mannerism in his conduct,(408) and to repel every voluptuous imagination
from his mind,(409) his deep sense of the obligation of purity,(410) his
laborious efforts to correct a habit of drowsiness into which he had
fallen, and his self-reproval when he had yielded to it,(411) become all,
I think, inexpressibly touching when we remember that they were exhibited
by one who was the supreme ruler of the civilised globe, and who was
continually engaged in the direction of the most gigantic interests. But
that which is especially remarkable in Marcus Aurelius is the complete
absence of fanaticism in his philanthropy. Despotic monarchs sincerely
anxious to improve mankind are naturally led to endeavour, by acts of
legislation, to force society into the paths which they believe to be
good, and such men, acting under such motives, have sometimes been the
scourges of mankind. Philip II. and Isabella the Catholic inflicted more
suffering in obedience to their consciences than Nero and Domitian in
obedience to their lusts. But Marcus Aurelius steadily resisted the
temptation. “Never hope,” he once wrote, “to realise Plato’s Republic. Let
it be sufficient that you have in some slight degree ameliorated mankind,
and do not think that amelioration a matter of small importance. Who can
change the opinions of men? and without a change of sentiments what can
you make but reluctant slaves and hypocrites?”(412) He promulgated many
laws inspired by a spirit of the purest benevolence. He mitigated the
gladiatorial shows. He treated with invariable deference the senate, which
was the last bulwark of political freedom. He endowed many chairs of
philosophy which were intended to diffuse knowledge and moral teaching
through the people. He endeavoured by the example of his Court to correct
the extravagances of luxury that were prevalent, and he exhibited in his
own career a perfect model of an active and conscientious administrator;
but he made no rash efforts to force the people by stringent laws out of
the natural channel of their lives. Of the corruption of his subjects he
was keenly sensible, and he bore it with a mournful but gentle patience.
We may trace in this respect the milder spirit of those Greek teachers who
had diverged from Stoicism, but it was especially from the Stoical
doctrine that all vice springs from ignorance that he derived his rule of
life, and this doctrine, to which he repeatedly recurred, imparted to all
his judgments a sad but tender charity. “Men were made for men; correct
them, then, or support them.”(413) “If they do ill, it is evidently in
spite of themselves and through ignorance.”(414) “Correct them if you can;
if not, remember that patience was given you to exercise it in their
behalf.”(415) “It would be shameful for a physician to deem it strange
that a man was suffering from fever.”(416) “The immortal gods consent for
countless ages to endure without anger, and even to surround with
blessings, so many and such wicked men; but thou who hast so short a time
to live, art thou already weary, and that when thou art thyself
wicked?”(417) “It is involuntarily that the soul is deprived of justice,
and temperance, and goodness, and all other virtues. Continually remember
this; the thought will make you more gentle to all mankind.”(418) “It is
right that man should love those who have offended him. He will do so when
he remembers that all men are his relations, and that it is through
ignorance and involuntarily that they sin—and then we all die so

The character of the virtue of Marcus Aurelius, though exhibiting the
softening influence of the Greek spirit which in his time pervaded the
empire, was in its essentials strictly Roman.(420) Though full of
reverential gratitude to Providence, we do not find in him that intense
humility and that deep and subtle religious feeling which were the
principles of Hebrew virtue, and which have given the Jewish writers so
great an ascendancy over the hearts of men. Though borne naturally and
instinctively to goodness, his “Meditations” do not display the keen
æsthetical sense of the beauty of virtue which was the leading motive of
Greek morals, and which the writing of Plotinus afterwards made very
familiar to the Roman world. Like most of the best Romans, the principle
of his virtue was the sense of duty, the conviction of the existence of a
law of nature to which it is the aim and purpose of our being to conform.
Of secondary motives he appears to have been little sensible. The belief
in a superintending Providence was the strongest of his religious
convictions, but even that was occasionally overcast. On the subject of a
future world his mind floated in a desponding doubt. The desire for
posthumous fame he deemed it his duty systematically to mortify. While
most writers of his school regarded death chiefly as the end of sorrows,
and dwelt upon it in order to dispel its terrors, in Marcus Aurelius it is
chiefly represented as the last great demonstration of the vanity of
earthly things. Seldom, indeed, has such active and unrelaxing virtue been
united with so little enthusiasm, and been cheered by so little illusion
of success. “There is but one thing,” he wrote, “of real value—to
cultivate truth and justice, and to live without anger in the midst of
lying and unjust men.”(421)

The command he had acquired over his feelings was so great that it was
said of him that his countenance was never known to betray either elation
or despondency.(422) We, however, who have before us the records of his
inner life, can have no difficulty in detecting the deep melancholy that
overshadowed his mind, and his closing years were darkened by many and
various sorrows. His wife, whom he dearly loved and deeply honoured, and
who, if we may believe the Court scandals that are reported by historians,
was not worthy of his affection,(423) had preceded him to the tomb. His
only surviving son had already displayed the vicious tendencies that
afterwards made him one of the worst of rulers. The philosophers, who had
instructed him in his youth, and to whom he had clung with an affectionate
friendship, had one by one disappeared, and no new race had arisen to
supply their place. After a long reign of self-denying virtue, he saw the
decadence of the empire continually more apparent. The Stoical school was
rapidly fading before the passion for Oriental superstitions. The
barbarians, repelled for a time, were again menacing the frontiers, and it
was not difficult to foresee their future triumph. The mass of the people
had become too inert and too corrupt for any efforts to regenerate them. A
fearful pestilence, followed by many minor calamities, had fallen upon the
land and spread misery and panic through many provinces. In the midst of
these calamities, the emperor was struck down with a mortal illness, which
he bore with the placid courage he had always displayed, exhibiting in
almost the last words he uttered his forgetfulness of self and his
constant anxiety for the condition of his people.(424) Shortly before his
death he dismissed his attendants, and, after one last interview, his son,
and he died as he long had lived, alone.(425)

Thus sank to rest in clouds and darkness the purest and gentlest spirit of
all the pagan world, the most perfect model of the later Stoics. In him
the hardness, asperity, and arrogance of the sect had altogether
disappeared, while the affectation its paradoxes tended to produce was
greatly mitigated. Without fanaticism, superstition, or illusion, his
whole life was regulated by a simple and unwavering sense of duty. The
contemplative and emotional virtues which Stoicism had long depressed, had
regained their place, but the active virtues had not yet declined. The
virtues of the hero were still deeply honoured, but gentleness and
tenderness had acquired a new prominence in the ideal type.

But while the force of circumstances was thus developing the ethical
conceptions of antiquity in new directions, the mass of the Roman people
were plunged in a condition of depravity which no mere ethical teaching
could adequately correct. The moral condition of the empire is, indeed, in
some respects one of the most appalling pictures on record, and writers
have much more frequently undertaken to paint or even to exaggerate its
enormity than to investigate the circumstances by which it may be
explained. Such circumstances, however, must unquestionably exist. There
is no reason to believe that the innate propensities of the people were
worse during the Empire than during the best days of the Republic. The
depravity of a nation is a phenomenon which, like all others, may be
traced to definite causes, and in the instance before us they are not
difficult to discover.

I have already said that the virtue of the Romans was a military and
patriotic virtue, formed by the national institutions, and to which
religious teaching was merely accessory. The domestic, military, and
censorial discipline, concurring with the general poverty and also with
the agricultural pursuits of the people, had created the simplest and most
austere habits, while the institutions of civic liberty provided ample
spheres for honourable ambition. The nobles, being the highest body in a
free State, and being at the same time continually confronted by a
formidable opposition under the guidance of the tribunes, were ardently
devoted to public life. The dangerous rivalry of the surrounding Italian
States, and afterwards of Carthage, demanded and secured a constant
vigilance. Roman education was skilfully designed to elicit heroic
patriotism, and the great men of the past became the ideal figures of the
imagination. Religion hallowed the local feeling by rites and legends,
instituted many useful and domestic habits, taught men the sanctity of
oaths, and, by fostering a continual sense of a superintending Providence,
gave a depth and solemnity to the whole character.

Such were the chief influences by which the national type of virtue had
been formed, but nearly all of these were corroded or perverted by
advancing civilisation. The domestic and local religion lost its
ascendancy amid the increase of scepticism and the invasion of a crowd of
foreign superstitions. The simplicity of manners, which sumptuary laws and
the institution of the censorship had long maintained, was replaced by the
extravagances of a Babylonian luxury. The aristocratic dignity perished
with the privileges on which it reposed. The patriotic energy and
enthusiasm died away in a universal empire which embraced all varieties of
language, custom, and nationality.

But although the virtues of a poor and struggling community necessarily
disappear before increasing luxury, they are in a normal condition of
society replaced by virtues of a different stamp. Gentler manners and
enlarged benevolence follow in the train of civilisation, greater
intellectual activity and more extended industrial enterprise give a new
importance to the moral qualities which each of these require, the circle
of political interests expands, and if the virtues that spring from
privilege diminish, the virtues that spring from equality increase.

In Rome, however, there were three great causes which impeded the normal
development—the Imperial system, the institution of slavery, and the
gladiatorial shows. Each of these exercised an influence of the widest and
most pernicious character on the morals of the people. To trace those
influences in all their ramifications would lead me far beyond the limits
I have assigned to the present work, but I shall endeavour to give a
concise view of their nature and general character.

The theory of the Roman Empire was that of a representative despotism. The
various offices of the Republic were not annihilated, but they were
gradually concentrated in a single man. The senate was still ostensibly
the depository of supreme power, but it was made in fact the mere creature
of the Emperor, whose power was virtually uncontrolled. Political spies
and private accusers, who in the latter days of the Republic had been
encouraged to denounce plots against the State, began under Augustus to
denounce plots against the Emperor; and the class being enormously
increased under Tiberius, and stimulated by the promise of part of the
confiscated property, they menaced every leading politician and even every
wealthy man. The nobles were gradually depressed, ruined, or driven by the
dangers of public life into orgies of private luxury. The poor were
conciliated, not by any increase of liberty or even of permanent
prosperity, but by gratuitous distributions of corn and by public games,
while, in order to invest themselves with a sacred character, the emperors
adopted the religious device of an apotheosis.

This last superstition, of which some traces may still be found in the
titles appropriated to royalty, was not wholly a suggestion of
politicians. Deified men had long occupied a prominent place in ancient
belief, and the founders of cities had been very frequently worshipped by
the inhabitants.(426) Although to more educated minds the ascription of
divinity to a sovereign was simply an unmeaning flattery, although it in
no degree prevented either innumerable plots against his life, or an
unsparing criticism of his memory, yet the popular reverence not
unfrequently anticipated politicians in representing the emperor as in
some special way under the protection of Providence. Around Augustus a
whole constellation of miraculous stories soon clustered. An oracle, it
was said, had declared his native city destined to produce a ruler of the
world. When a child, he had been borne by invisible hands from his cradle,
and placed on a lofty tower, where he was found with his face turned to
the rising sun. He rebuked the frogs that croaked around his grandfather’s
home, and they became silent for ever. An eagle snatched a piece of bread
from his hand, soared into the air, and then, descending, presented it to
him again. Another eagle dropped at his feet a chicken, bearing a
laurel-branch in its beak. When his body was burnt, his image was seen
rising to heaven above the flames. When another man tried to sleep in the
bed in which the Emperor had been born, the profane intruder was dragged
forth by an unseen hand. A patrician named Lætorius, having been condemned
for adultery, pleaded in mitigation of the sentence that he was the happy
possessor of the spot of ground on which Augustus was born.(427) An
Asiatic town, named Cyzicus, was deprived of its freedom by Tiberius,
chiefly because it had neglected the worship of Augustus.(428) Partly, no
doubt, by policy, but partly also by that spontaneous process by which in
a superstitious age conspicuous characters so often become the nuclei of
legends,(429) each emperor was surrounded by a supernatural aureole. Every
usurpation, every break in the ordinary line of succession, was adumbrated
by a series of miracles; and signs, both in heaven and earth, were
manifested whenever an emperor was about to die.

Of the emperors themselves, a great majority, no doubt, accepted their
divine honours as an empty pageant, and more than one exhibited beneath
the purple a simplicity of tastes and character which the boasted heroes
of the Republic had never surpassed. It is related of Vespasian that, when
dying, he jested mournfully on his approaching dignity, observing, as he
felt his strength ebbing away, “I think I am becoming a god.”(430)
Alexander Severus and Julian refused to accept the ordinary language of
adulation, and of those who did not reject it we know that many looked
upon it as a modern sovereign looks upon the phraseology of petitions or
the ceremonies of the Court. Even Nero was so far from being intoxicated
with his Imperial dignity that he continually sought triumphs as a singer
or an actor, and it was his artistic skill, not his divine prerogatives,
that excited his vanity.(431) Caligula, however, who appears to have been
literally deranged,(432) is said to have accepted his divinity as a
serious fact, to have substituted his own head for that of Jupiter on many
of the statues,(433) and to have once started furiously from his seat
during a thunderstorm that had interrupted a gladiatorial show, shouting
with frantic gestures his imprecations against Heaven, and declaring that
the divided empire was indeed intolerable, that either Jupiter or himself
must speedily succumb.(434) Heliogabalus, if we may give any credence to
his biographer, confounded all things, human and divine, in hideous and
blasphemous orgies, and designed to unite all forms of religion in the
worship of himself.(435)

A curious consequence of this apotheosis was that the images of the
emperors were invested with a sacred character like those of the gods.
They were the recognised refuge of the slave or the oppressed,(436) and
the smallest disrespect to them was resented as a heinous crime. Under
Tiberius, slaves and criminals were accustomed to hold in their hands an
image of the emperor, and, being thus protected, to pour with impunity a
torrent of defiant insolence upon their masters or judges.(437) Under the
same emperor, a man having, when drunk, accidentally touched a nameless
domestic utensil with a ring on which the head of the emperor was carved,
he was immediately denounced by a spy.(438) A man in this reign was
accused of high treason for having sold an image of the emperor with a
garden.(439) It was made a capital offence to beat a slave, or to undress,
near a statue of Augustus, or to enter a brothel with a piece of money on
which his head was engraved,(440) and at a later period a woman, it is
said, was actually executed for undressing before the statue of

It may easily be conceived that men who had been raised to this pinnacle
of arrogance and power, men who exercised uncontrolled authority in the
midst of a society in a state of profound corruption, were often guilty of
the most atrocious extravagances. In the first period of the Empire more
especially, when traditions were not yet formed, and when experience had
not yet shown the dangers of the throne, the brains of some of its
occupants reeled at their elevation, and a kind of moral insanity ensued.
The pages of Suetonius remain as an eternal witness of the abysses of
depravity, the hideous, intolerable cruelty, the hitherto unimagined
extravagances of nameless lust that were then manifested on the Palatine,
and while they cast a fearful light upon the moral chaos into which pagan
society had sunk, they furnish ample evidence of the demoralising
influences of the empire. The throne was, it is true, occupied by some of
the best as well as by some of the worst men who have ever lived; but the
evil, though checked and mitigated, was never abolished. The corruption of
a Court, the formation of a profession of spies, the encouragement given
to luxury, the distributions of corn, and the multiplication of games,
were evils which varied greatly in their degrees of intensity, but the
very existence of the empire prevented the creation of those habits of
political life which formed the moral type of the great republics of
antiquity. Liberty, which is often very unfavourable to theological
systems, is almost always in the end favourable to morals; for the most
effectual method that has been devised for diverting men from vice is to
give free scope to a higher ambition. This scope was absolutely wanting in
the Roman Empire, and the moral condition, in the absence of lasting
political habits, fluctuated greatly with the character of the Emperors.

The results of the institution of slavery were probably even more serious.
In addition to its manifest effect in encouraging a tyrannical and
ferocious spirit in the masters, it cast a stigma upon all labour, and at
once degraded and impoverished the free poor. In modern societies the
formation of an influential and numerous middle class, trained in the
sober and regular habits of industrial life, is the chief guarantee of
national morality, and where such a class exists, the disorders of the
upper ranks, though undoubtedly injurious, are never fatal to society. The
influence of great outbursts of fashionable depravity, such as that which
followed the Restoration in England, is rarely more than superficial. The
aristocracy may revel in every excess of ostentatious vice, but the great
mass of the people, at the loom, the counter, or the plough, continue
unaffected by their example, and the habits of life into which they are
forced by the condition of their trades preserve them from gross
depravity. It was the most frightful feature of the corruption of ancient
Rome that it extended through every class of the community. In the absence
of all but the simplest machinery, manufactures, with the vast industrial
life they beget, were unknown. The poor citizen found almost all the
spheres in which an honourable livelihood might be obtained wholly or at
least in a very great degree preoccupied by slaves, while he had learnt to
regard trade with an invincible repugnance. Hence followed the immense
increase of corrupt and corrupting professions, as actors, pantomimes,
hired gladiators, political spies, ministers to passion, astrologers,
religious charlatans, pseudo-philosophers, which gave the free classes a
precarious and occasional subsistence, and hence, too, the gigantic
dimensions of the system of clientage. Every rich man was surrounded by a
train of dependants, who lived in a great measure at his expense, and
spent their lives in ministering to his passions and flattering his
vanity. And, above all, the public distribution of corn, and occasionally
of money, was carried on to such an extent, that, so far as the first
necessaries of life were concerned, the whole poor free population of Rome
was supported gratuitously by the Government. To effect this distribution
promptly and lavishly was the main object of the Imperial policy, and its
consequences were worse than could have resulted from the most extravagant
poor-laws or the most excessive charity. The mass of the people were
supported in absolute idleness by corn, which was given without any
reference to desert, and was received, not as a favour, but as a right,
while gratuitous public amusements still further diverted them from

Under these influences the population rapidly dwindled away. Productive
enterprise was almost extinct in Italy, and an unexampled concurrence of
causes made a vicious celibacy the habitual condition. Already in the days
of Augustus the evil was apparent, and the dangers which in later reigns
drove the patricians still more generally from public life, drove them
more and more into every extravagance of sensuality. Greece, since the
destruction of her liberty, and also the leading cities of Asia Minor and
of Egypt, had become centres of the wildest corruption, and Greek and
Oriental captives were innumerable in Rome. Ionian slaves of a surpassing
beauty, Alexandrian slaves, famous for their subtle skill in stimulating
the jaded senses of the confirmed and sated libertine, became the
ornaments of every patrician house, the companions and the instructors of
the young. The disinclination to marriage was so general, that men who
spent their lives in endeavouring by flatteries to secure the inheritance
of wealthy bachelors became a numerous and a notorious class. The slave
population was itself a hotbed of vice, and it contaminated all with which
it came in contact; while the attractions of the games, and especially of
the public baths, which became the habitual resort of the idle, combined
with the charms of the Italian climate, and with the miserable domestic
architecture that was general, to draw the poor citizens from indoor life.
Idleness, amusements, and a bare subsistence were alone desired, and the
general practice of abortion among the rich, and of infanticide and
exposition in all classes, still further checked the population.

The destruction of all public spirit in a population so situated was
complete and inevitable. In the days of the Republic a consul had once
advocated the admission of a brave Italian people to the right of Roman
citizenship, on the ground that “those who thought only of liberty
deserved to be Romans.”(442) In the Empire all liberty was cheerfully
bartered for games and corn, and the worst tyrant could by these means be
secure of popularity. In the Republic, when Marius threw open the houses
of those he had proscribed, to be plundered, the people, by a noble
abstinence, rebuked the act, for no Roman could be found to avail himself
of the permission.(443) In the Empire, when the armies of Vitellius and
Vespasian were disputing the possession of the city, the degenerate Romans
gathered with delight to the spectacle as to a gladiatorial show,
plundered the deserted houses, encouraged either army by their reckless
plaudits, dragged out the fugitives to be slain, and converted into a
festival the calamity of their country.(444) The degradation of the
national character was permanent. Neither the teaching of the Stoics, nor
the government of the Antonines, nor the triumph of Christianity could
restore it. Indifferent to liberty, the Roman now, as then, asks only for
an idle subsistence and for public spectacles, and countless monasteries
and ecclesiastical pageants occupy in modern Rome the same place as did
the distributions of corn and the games of the amphitheatre in the Rome of
the Cæsars.

It must be remembered, too, that while public spirit had thus decayed in
the capital of the empire, there existed no independent or rival power to
reanimate by its example the smouldering flame. The existence in modern
Europe of many distinct nations on the same level of civilisation, but
with different forms of government and conditions of national life,
secures the permanence of some measure of patriotism and liberty. If these
perish in one nation, they survive in another, and each people affects
those about it by its rivalry or example. But an empire which comprised
all the civilised globe could know nothing of this political interaction.
In religious, social, intellectual, and moral life, foreign ideas were
very discernible, but the enslaved provinces could have no influence in
rekindling political life in the centre, and those which rivalled Italy in
their civilisation, even surpassed it in their corruption and their

In reviewing, however, the conditions upon which the moral state of the
empire depended, there are still two very important centres or seed-plots
of virtue to which it is necessary to advert. I mean the pursuit of
agriculture and the discipline of the army. A very early tradition, which
was attributed to Romulus, had declared that warfare and agriculture were
the only honourable occupations for a citizen,(445) and it would be
difficult to overrate the influence of the last in forming temperate and
virtuous habits among the people. It is the subject of the only extant
work of the elder Cato. Virgil had adorned it with the lustre of his
poetry. A very large part of the Roman religion was intended to symbolise
its stages or consecrate its operations. Varro expressed an eminently
Roman sentiment in that beautiful sentence which Cowper has introduced
into English poetry, “Divine Providence made the country, but human art
the town.”(446) The reforms of Vespasian consisted chiefly of the
elevation to high positions of the agriculturists of the provinces.
Antoninus, who was probably the most perfect of all the Roman emperors,
was through his whole reign a zealous farmer.

As far as the distant provinces were concerned, it is probable that the
Imperial system was on the whole a good. The scandalous rapacity of the
provincial governors, which disgraced the closing years of the Republic,
and which is immortalised by the indignant eloquence of Cicero, appears to
have ceased, or at least greatly diminished, under the supervision of the
emperors. Ample municipal freedom, good roads, and for the most part wise
and temperate rulers, secured for the distant sections of the empire a
large measure of prosperity. But in Italy itself, agriculture, with the
habits of life that attended it, speedily and fatally decayed. The peasant
proprietor soon glided hopelessly into debt. The immense advantages which
slavery gave the rich gradually threw nearly all the Italian soil into
their hands. The peasant who ceased to be proprietor found himself
excluded by slave labour from the position of a hired cultivator, while
the gratuitous distributions of corn drew him readily to the metropolis.
The gigantic scale of these distributions induced the rulers to obtain
their corn in the form of a tribute from distant countries, chiefly from
Africa and Sicily, and it almost ceased to be cultivated in Italy. The
land fell to waste, or was cultivated by slaves or converted into pasture,
and over vast tracts the race of free peasants entirely disappeared.

This great revolution, which profoundly affected the moral condition of
Italy, had long been impending. The debts of the poor peasants, and the
tendency of the patricians to monopolise the conquered territory, had
occasioned some of the fiercest contests of the Republic, and in the
earliest days of the Empire the blight that seemed to have fallen on the
Italian soil was continually and pathetically lamented. Livy, Varro,
Columella, and Pliny have noticed it in the most emphatic terms,(447) and
Tacitus observed that as early as the reign of Claudius, Italy, which had
once supplied the distant provinces with corn, had become dependent for
the very necessaries of life upon the winds and the waves.(448) The evil
was indeed of an almost hopeless kind. Adverse winds, or any other
accidental interruption of the convoys of corn, occasioned severe distress
in the capital; but the prospect of the calamities that would ensue if any
misfortune detached the great corn-growing countries from the empire,
might well have appalled the politician. Yet the combined influence of
slavery, and of the gratuitous distributions of corn, acting in the manner
I have described, rendered every effort to revive Italian agriculture
abortive, and slavery had taken such deep root that it would have been
impossible to abolish it, while no emperor dared to encounter the
calamities and rebellion that would follow a suspension or even a
restriction of the distributions.(449) Many serious efforts were made to
remedy the evil.(450) Alexander Severus advanced money to the poor to buy
portions of land, and accepted a gradual payment without interest from the
produce of the soil. Pertinax settled poor men as proprietors on deserted
land, on the sole condition that they should cultivate it. Marcus Aurelius
began, and Aurelian and Valentinian continued, the system of settling
great numbers of barbarian captives upon the Italian soil, and compelling
them as slaves to till it. The introduction of this large foreign element
into the heart of Italy was eventually one of the causes of the downfall
of the empire, and it is also about this time that we first dimly trace
the condition of serfdom or servitude to the soil into which slavery
afterwards faded, and which was for some centuries the general condition
of the European poor. But the economical and moral causes that were
destroying agriculture in Italy were too strong to be resisted, and the
simple habits of life which agricultural pursuits promote had little or no
place in the later empire.

A somewhat less rapid but in the end not less complete decadence had taken
place in military life. The Roman army was at first recruited exclusively
from the upper classes, and the service, which lasted only during actual
warfare, was gratuitous. Before the close of the Republic, however, these
conditions had disappeared. Military pay is said to have been instituted
at the time of the siege of Veii.(451) Some Spaniards who were enrolled
during the rivalry of Rome and Carthage were the first example of the
employment of foreign mercenaries by the former.(452) Marius abolished the
property qualification of the recruits.(453) In long residences in Spain
and in the Asiatic provinces discipline gradually relaxed, and the
historian who traced the progress of Oriental luxury in Rome dwelt with a
just emphasis upon the ominous fact that it had first been introduced into
the city by soldiers.(454) The civil wars contributed to the destruction
of the old military traditions, but being conducted by able generals it is
probable that they had more effect upon the patriotism than upon the
discipline of the army. Augustus reorganised the whole military system,
establishing a body of soldiers known as the Prætorian guard, and
dignified with some special privileges, permanently in Rome, while the
other legions were chiefly mustered upon the frontiers. During his long
reign, and during that of Tiberius, both sections were quiescent, but the
murder of Caligula by his soldiers opened a considerable period of
insubordination. Claudius, it was observed, first set the fatal example of
purchasing his safety from his soldiers by bribes.(455) The armies of the
provinces soon discovered that it was possible to elect an emperor outside
Rome, and Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian were all the creatures of
revolt. The evil was, however, not yet past recovery. Vespasian and Trajan
enforced discipline with great stringency and success. The emperors began
more frequently to visit the camps. The number of the soldiers was small,
and for some time the turbulence subsided. The history of the worst period
of the Empire, it has been truly observed, is full of instances of brave
soldiers trying, under circumstances of extreme difficulty, simply to do
their duty. But the historian had soon occasion to notice again the
profound influence of the voluptuous Asiatic cities upon the legions.(456)
Removed for many years from Italy, they lost all national pride, their
allegiance was transferred from the sovereign to the general, and when the
Imperial sceptre fell into the hands of a succession of incompetent
rulers, they habitually urged their commanders to revolt, and at last
reduced the empire to a condition of military anarchy. A remedy was found
for this evil, though not for the luxurious habits that had been acquired,
in the division of the empire, which placed each army under the direct
supervision of an emperor, and it is probable that at a later period
Christianity diminished the insubordination, though it may have also
diminished the military fire, of the soldiers.(457) But other and still
more powerful causes were in operation preparing the military downfall of
Rome. The habits of inactivity which the Imperial policy had produced, and
which, through a desire for popularity, most emperors laboured to
encourage, led to a profound disinclination for the hardships of military
life. Even the Prætorian guard, which was long exclusively Italian, was
selected after Septimus Severus from the legions on the frontiers,(458)
while, Italy being relieved from the regular conscription, these were
recruited solely in the provinces, and innumerable barbarians were
subsidised. The political and military consequences of this change are
sufficiently obvious. In an age when, artillery being unknown, the
military superiority of civilised nations over barbarians was far less
than at present, the Italians had become absolutely unaccustomed to real
war, and had acquired habits that were beyond all others incompatible with
military discipline, while many of the barbarians who menaced and at last
subverted the empire had been actually trained by Roman generals. The
moral consequence is equally plain—military discipline, like agricultural
labour, ceased to have any part among the moral influences of Italy.

To those who have duly estimated the considerations I have enumerated, the
downfall and moral debasement of the empire can cause no surprise, though
they may justly wonder that its agony should have been so protracted, that
it should have produced a multitude of good and great men, both pagan and
Christian, and that these should have exercised so wide an influence as
they unquestionably did. Almost every institution or pursuit by which
virtuous habits would naturally have been formed had been tainted or
destroyed, while agencies of terrific power were impelling the people to
vice. The rich, excluded from most honourable paths of ambition, and
surrounded by countless parasites who inflamed their every passion, found
themselves absolute masters of innumerable slaves who were their willing
ministers, and often their teachers, in vice. The poor, hating industry
and destitute of all intellectual resources, lived in habitual idleness,
and looked upon abject servility as the normal road to fortune. But the
picture becomes truly appalling when we remember that the main amusement
of both classes was the spectacle of bloodshed, of the death, and
sometimes of the torture, of men.

The gladiatorial games form, indeed, the one feature of Roman society
which to a modern mind is almost inconceivable in its atrocity. That not
only men, but women, in an advanced period of civilisation—men and women
who not only professed but very frequently acted upon a high code of
morals—should have made the carnage of men their habitual amusement, that
all this should have continued for centuries, with scarcely a protest, is
one of the most startling facts in moral history. It is, however,
perfectly normal, and in no degree inconsistent with the doctrine of
natural moral perceptions, while it opens out fields of ethical enquiry of
a very deep though painful interest.

These games, which long eclipsed, both in interest and in influence, every
other form of public amusement at Rome,(459) were originally religious
ceremonies celebrated at the tombs of the great, and intended as human
sacrifices to appease the Manes of the dead.(460) They were afterwards
defended as a means of sustaining the military spirit by the constant
spectacle of courageous death,(461) and with this object it was customary
to give a gladiatorial show to soldiers before their departure to a
war.(462) In addition to these functions they had a considerable political
importance, for at a time when all the regular organs of liberty were
paralysed or abolished, the ruler was accustomed in the arena to meet tens
of thousands of his subjects, who availed themselves of the opportunity to
present their petitions, to declare their grievances, and to censure
freely the sovereign or his ministers.(463) The games are said to have
been of Etruscan origin; they were first introduced into Rome, B.C. 264,
when the two sons of a man named Brutus compelled three pair of gladiators
to fight at the funeral of their father,(464) and before the close of the
Republic they were common on great public occasions, and, what appears
even more horrible, at the banquets of the nobles.(465) The rivalry of
Cæsar and Pompey greatly multiplied them, for each sought by this means to
ingratiate himself with the people. Pompey introduced a new form of combat
between men and animals.(466) Cæsar abolished the old custom of
restricting the mortuary games to the funerals of men, and his daughter
was the first Roman lady whose tomb was desecrated by human blood.(467)
Besides this innovation, Cæsar replaced the temporary edifices in which
the games had hitherto been held by a permanent wooden amphitheatre,
shaded the spectators by an awning of precious silk, compelled the
condemned persons on one occasion to fight with silver lances,(468) and
drew so many gladiators into the city that the Senate was obliged to issue
an enactment restricting their number.(469) In the earliest years of the
Empire, Statilius Taurus erected the first amphitheatre of stone.(470)
Augustus ordered that not more than 120 men should fight on a single
occasion, and that no prætor should give more than two spectacles in a
single year,(471) and Tiberius again fixed the maximum of combatants,(472)
but notwithstanding these attempts to limit them the games soon acquired
the most gigantic proportions. They were celebrated habitually by great
men in honour of their dead relatives, by officials on coming into office,
by conquerors to secure popularity, and on every occasion of public
rejoicing, and by rich tradesmen who were desirous of acquiring a social
position.(473) They were also among the attractions of the public baths.
Schools of gladiators—often the private property of rich citizens—existed
in every leading city of Italy, and, besides slaves and criminals, they
were thronged with freemen, who voluntarily hired themselves for a term of
years. In the eyes of multitudes, the large sums that were paid to the
victor, the patronage of nobles and often of emperors, and still more the
delirium of popular enthusiasm that centred upon the successful gladiator,
outweighed all the dangers of the profession. A complete recklessness of
life was soon engendered both in the spectators and the combatants. The
“lanistæ,” or purveyors of gladiators, became an important profession.
Wandering bands of gladiators traversed Italy, hiring themselves for the
provincial amphitheatres. The influence of the games gradually pervaded
the whole texture of Roman life. They became the common-place of
conversation.(474) The children imitated them in their play.(475) The
philosophers drew from them their metaphors and illustrations. The artists
pourtrayed them in every variety of ornament.(476) The vestal virgins had
a seat of honour in the arena.(477) The Colosseum, which is said to have
been capable of containing more than 80,000 spectators, eclipsed every
other monument of Imperial splendour, and is even now at once the most
imposing and the most characteristic relic of pagan Rome.

In the provinces the same passion was displayed. From Gaul to Syria,
wherever the Roman influence extended, the spectacles of blood were
introduced, and the gigantic remains of amphitheatres in many lands still
attest by their ruined grandeur the scale on which they were pursued. In
the reign of Tiberius, more than 20,000 persons are said to have perished
by the fall of the amphitheatre at the suburban town of Fidenæ.(478) Under
Nero, the Syracusans obtained, as a special favour, an exemption from the
law which limited the number of gladiators.(479) Of the vast train of
prisoners brought by Titus from Judea, a large proportion were destined by
the conqueror for the provincial games.(480) In Syria, where they were
introduced by Antiochus Epiphanes, they at first produced rather terror
than pleasure; but the effeminate Syrians soon learned to contemplate them
with a passionate enjoyment,(481) and on a single occasion Agrippa caused
1,400 men to fight in the amphitheatre at Berytus.(482) Greece alone was
in some degree an exception. When an attempt was made to introduce the
spectacle into Athens, the cynic philosopher Demonax appealed successfully
to the better feelings of the people by exclaiming, “You must first
overthrow the altar of Pity.”(483) The games are said to have afterwards
penetrated to Athens, and to have been suppressed by Apollonius of
Tyana;(484) but with the exception of Corinth, where a very large foreign
population existed, Greece never appears to have shared the general

One of the first consequences of this taste was to render the people
absolutely unfit for those tranquil and refined amusements which usually
accompany civilisation. To men who were accustomed to witness the fierce
vicissitudes of deadly combat, any spectacle that did not elicit the
strongest excitement was insipid. The only amusements that at all rivalled
the spectacles of the amphitheatre and the circus were those which
appealed strongly to the sensual passions, such as the games of Flora, the
postures of the pantomimes, and the ballet.(486) Roman comedy, indeed,
flourished for a short period, but only by throwing itself into the same
career. The pander and the courtesan are the leading characters of
Plautus, and the more modest Terence never attained an equal popularity.
The different forms of vice have a continual tendency to act and react
upon one another, and the intense craving after excitement which the
amphitheatre must necessarily have produced, had probably no small
influence in stimulating the orgies of sensuality which Tacitus and
Suetonius describe.

But if comedy could to a certain extent flourish with the gladiatorial
games, it was not so with tragedy. It is, indeed, true that the tragic
actor can exhibit displays of more intense agony and of a grander heroism
than were ever witnessed in the arena. His mission is not to paint nature
as it exists in the light of day, but nature as it exists in the heart of
man. His gestures, his tones, his looks, are such as would never have been
exhibited by the person he represents, but they display to the audience
the full intensity of the emotions which that person would have felt, but
which he would have been unable adequately to reveal. But to those who
were habituated to the intense realism of the amphitheatre, the idealised
suffering of the stage was unimpressive. All the genius of a Siddons or a
Ristori would fail to move an audience who had continually seen living men
fall bleeding and mangled at their feet. One of the first functions of the
stage is to raise to the highest point the susceptibility to disgust. When
Horace said that Medea should not kill her children upon the stage, he
enunciated not a mere arbitrary rule, but one which grows necessarily out
of the development of the drama. It is an essential characteristic of a
refined and cultivated taste to be shocked and offended at the spectacle
of bloodshed; and the theatre, which somewhat dangerously dissociates
sentiment from action, and causes men to waste their compassion on ideal
sufferings, is at least a barrier against the extreme forms of cruelty by
developing this susceptibility to the highest degree. The gladiatorial
games, on the other hand, destroyed all sense of disgust, and therefore
all refinement of taste, and they rendered the permanent triumph of the
drama impossible.(487)

It is abundantly evident, both from history and from present experience,
that the instinctive shock, or natural feeling of disgust, caused by the
sight of the sufferings of men is not generically different from that
which is caused by the sight of the sufferings of animals. The latter, to
those who are not accustomed to it, is intensely painful. The former
continually becomes by use a matter of absolute indifference. If the
repugnance which is felt in the one case appears greater than in the
other, it is not on account of any innate sentiment which commands us to
reverence our species, but simply because our imagination finds less
difficulty in realising human than animal suffering, and also because
education has strengthened our feelings in the one case much more than in
the other. There is, however, no fact more clearly established than that
when men have regarded it as not a crime to kill some class of their
fellow-men, they have soon learnt to do so with no more natural
compunction or hesitation than they would exhibit in killing a wild
animal. This is the normal condition of savage men. Colonists and Red
Indians even now often shoot each other with precisely the same
indifference as they shoot beasts of prey, and the whole history of
warfare—especially when warfare was conducted on more savage principles
than at present—is an illustration of the fact. Startling, therefore, as
it may now appear, it is in no degree unnatural that Roman spectators
should have contemplated with perfect equanimity the slaughter of men. The
Spaniard, who is brought in infancy to the bull-ring, soon learns to gaze
with indifference or with pleasure upon sights before which the
unpractised eye of the stranger quails with horror, and the same process
would be equally efficacious had the spectacle been the sufferings of men.

We now look back with indignation upon this indifference; but yet,
although it may be hard to realise, it is probably true that there is
scarcely a human being who might not by custom be so indurated as to share
it. Had the most benevolent person lived in a country in which the
innocence of these games was deemed axiomatic, had he been taken to them
in his very childhood, and accustomed to associate them with his earliest
dreams of romance, and had he then been left simply to the play of the
emotions, the first paroxysm of horror would have soon subsided, the
shrinking repugnance that followed would have grown weaker and weaker, the
feeling of interest would have been aroused, and the time would probably
come in which it would reign alone. But even this absolute indifference to
the sight of human suffering does not represent the full evil resulting
from the gladiatorial games. That some men are so constituted as to be
capable of taking a real and lively pleasure in the simple contemplation
of suffering as suffering, and without any reference to their own
interests, is a proposition which has been strenuously denied by those in
whose eyes vice is nothing more than a displacement, or exaggeration, of
lawful self-regarding feelings, and others, who have admitted the reality
of the phenomenon, have treated it as a very rare and exceptional
disease.(488) That it is so—at least in its extreme forms—in the present
condition of society, may reasonably be hoped, though I imagine that few
persons who have watched the habits of boys would question that to take
pleasure in giving at least some degree of pain is sufficiently common,
and though it is not quite certain that all the sports of adult men would
be entered into with exactly the same zest if their victims were not
sentient beings. But in every society in which atrocious punishments have
been common, this side of human nature has acquired an undoubted
prominence. It is related of Claudius that his special delight at the
gladiatorial shows was in watching the countenances of the dying, for he
had learnt to take an artistic pleasure in observing the variations of
their agony.(489) When the gladiator lay prostrate it was customary for
the spectators to give the sign with their thumbs, indicating whether they
desired him to be spared or slain, and the giver of the show reaped most
popularity when, in the latter case, he permitted no consideration of
economy to make him hesitate to sanction the popular award.(490)

Besides this, the mere desire for novelty impelled the people to every
excess or refinement of barbarity.(491) The simple combat became at last
insipid, and every variety of atrocity was devised to stimulate the
flagging interest. At one time a bear and a bull, chained together, rolled
in fierce contest along the sand; at another, criminals dressed in the
skins of wild beasts were thrown to bulls, which were maddened by red-hot
irons, or by darts tipped with burning pitch. Four hundred bears were
killed on a single day under Caligula; three hundred on another day under
Claudius. Under Nero, four hundred tigers fought with bulls and elephants;
four hundred bears and three hundred lions were slaughtered by his
soldiers. In a single day, at the dedication of the Colosseum by Titus,
five thousand animals perished. Under Trajan, the games continued for one
hundred and twenty-three successive days.(492) Lions, tigers, elephants,
rhinoceroses, hippopotami, giraffes, bulls, stags, even crocodiles and
serpents, were employed to give novelty to the spectacle. Nor was any form
of human suffering wanting. The first Gordian, when edile, gave twelve
spectacles, in each of which from one hundred and fifty to five hundred
pair of gladiators appeared.(493) Eight hundred pair fought at the triumph
of Aurelian.(494) Ten thousand men fought during the games of Trajan.(495)
Nero illumined his gardens during the night by Christians burning in their
pitchy shirts.(496) Under Domitian, an army of feeble dwarfs was compelled
to fight,(497) and, more than once, female gladiators descended to perish
in the arena.(498) A criminal personating a fictitious character was
nailed to a cross, and there torn by a bear.(499) Another, representing
Scævola, was compelled to hold his hand in a real flame.(500) A third, as
Hercules, was burnt alive upon the pile.(501) So intense was the craving
for blood, that a prince was less unpopular if he neglected the
distribution of corn than if he neglected the games; and Nero himself, on
account of his munificence in this respect, was probably the sovereign who
was most beloved by the Roman multitude. Heliogabalus and Galerius are
reported, when dining, to have regaled themselves with the sight of
criminals torn by wild beasts. It was said of the latter that “he never
supped without human blood.”(502)

It is well for us to look steadily on such facts as these. They display
more vividly than any mere philosophical disquisition the abyss of
depravity into which it is possible for human nature to sink. They furnish
us with striking proofs of the reality of the moral progress we have
attained, and they enable us in some degree to estimate the regenerating
influence that Christianity has exercised in the world. For the
destruction of the gladiatorial games is all its work. Philosophers,
indeed, might deplore them, gentle natures might shrink from their
contagion, but to the multitude they possessed a fascination which nothing
but the new religion could overcome.

Nor was this fascination surprising, for no pageant has ever combined more
powerful elements of attraction. The magnificent circus, the gorgeous
dresses of the assembled Court, the contagion of a passionate enthusiasm
thrilling almost visibly through the mighty throng, the breathless silence
of expectation, the wild cheers bursting simultaneously from eighty
thousand tongues, and echoing to the farthest outskirts of the city, the
rapid alternations of the fray, the deeds of splendid courage that were
manifested, were all well fitted to entrance the imagination. The crimes
and servitude of the gladiator were for a time forgotten in the blaze of
glory that surrounded him. Representing to the highest degree that courage
which the Romans deemed the first of virtues, the cynosure of countless
eyes, the chief object of conversation in the metropolis of the universe,
destined, if victorious, to be immortalised in the mosaic and the
sculpture,(503) he not unfrequently rose to heroic grandeur. The gladiator
Spartacus for three years defied the bravest armies of Rome. The greatest
of Roman generals had chosen gladiators for his body-guard.(504) A band of
gladiators, faithful even to death, followed the fortunes of the fallen
Antony, when all besides had deserted him.(505) Beautiful eyes, trembling
with passion, looked down upon the fight, and the noblest ladies in Rome,
even the empress herself, had been known to crave the victor’s love.(506)
We read of gladiators lamenting that the games occurred so seldom,(507)
complaining bitterly if they were not permitted to descend into the
arena,(508) scorning to fight except with the most powerful
antagonists,(509) laughing aloud as their wounds were dressed,(510) and at
last, when prostrate in the dust, calmly turning their throats to the
sword of the conqueror.(511) The enthusiasm that gathered round them was
so intense that special laws were found necessary, and were sometimes
insufficient to prevent patricians from enlisting in their ranks,(512)
while the tranquil courage with which they never failed to die supplied
the philosopher with his most striking examples.(513) The severe
continence that was required before the combat, contrasting vividly with
the licentiousness of Roman life, had even invested them with something of
a moral dignity; and it is a singularly suggestive fact that of all pagan
characters the gladiator was selected by the Fathers as the closest
approximation to a Christian model.(514) St. Augustine tells us how one of
his friends, being drawn to the spectacle, endeavoured by closing his eyes
to guard against a fascination he knew to be sinful. A sudden cry caused
him to break his resolution, and he never could withdraw his gaze

And while the influences of the amphitheatre gained a complete ascendancy
over the populace, the Roman was not without excuses that could lull his
moral feelings to repose. The games, as I have said, were originally human
sacrifices—religious rites sacred to the dead—and it was argued that the
death of the gladiator was both more honourable and more merciful than
that of the passive victim, who, in the Homeric age, was sacrificed at the
tomb. The combatants were either professional gladiators, slaves,
criminals, or military captives. The lot of the first was voluntary. The
second had for a long time been regarded as almost beneath or beyond a
freeman’s care; but when the enlarging circle of sympathy had made the
Romans regard their slaves as “a kind of second human nature,”(516) they
perceived the atrocity of exposing them in the games, and an edict of the
emperor forbade it.(517) The third had been condemned to death, and as the
victorious gladiator was at least sometimes pardoned,(518) a permission to
fight was regarded as an act of mercy. The fate of the fourth could not
strike the early Roman with the horror it would now inspire, for the right
of the conquerors to massacre their prisoners was almost universally
admitted.(519) But, beyond the point of desiring the games to be in some
degree restricted, extremely few of the moralists of the Roman Empire ever
advanced. That it was a horrible and demoralising thing to make the
spectacle of the deaths, even of guilty men, a form of popular amusement,
was a position which no Roman school had attained, and which was only
reached by a very few individuals. Cicero observes, “that the gladiatorial
spectacles appear to some cruel and inhuman,” and, he adds, “I know not
whether as they are now conducted it is not so, but when guilty men are
compelled to fight, no better discipline against suffering and death can
be presented to the eye.”(520) Seneca, it is true, adopts a far nobler
language. He denounced the games with a passionate eloquence. He refuted
indignantly the argument derived from the guilt of the combatants, and
declared that under every form and modification these amusements were
brutalising, savage, and detestable.(521) Plutarch went even farther, and
condemned the combats of wild beasts on the ground that we should have a
bond of sympathy with all sentient beings, and that the sight of blood and
of suffering is necessarily and essentially depraving.(522) To these
instances we may add Petronius, who condemned the shows in his poem on the
civil war; Junius Mauricus, who refused to permit the inhabitants of
Vienne to celebrate them, and replied to the remonstrances of the emperor,
“Would to Heaven it were possible to abolish such spectacles, even at
Rome!”(523) and, above all, Marcus Aurelius, who, by compelling the
gladiators to fight with blunted swords, rendered them for a time
comparatively harmless.(524) But these, with the Athenian remonstrances I
have already noticed, are almost the only instances now remaining of pagan
protests against the most conspicuous as well as the most atrocious
feature of the age. Juvenal, whose unsparing satire has traversed the
whole field of Roman manners, and who denounces fiercely all cruelty to
slaves, has repeatedly noticed the gladiatorial shows, but on no single
occasion does he intimate that they were inconsistent with humanity. Of
all the great historians who recorded them, not one seems to have been
conscious that he was recording a barbarity, not one appears to have seen
in them any greater evils than an increasing tendency to pleasure and the
excessive multiplication of a dangerous class. The Roman sought to make
men brave and fearless, rather than gentle and humane, and in his eyes
that spectacle was to be applauded which steeled the heart against the
fear of death, even at the sacrifice of the affections. Titus and Trajan,
in whose reigns, probably, the greatest number of shows were compressed
into a short time, were both men of conspicuous clemency, and no Roman
seems to have imagined that the fact of 3,000 men having been compelled to
fight under the one, and 10,000 under the other, cast the faintest shadow
upon their characters. Suetonius mentions, as an instance of the
amiability of Titus, that he was accustomed to jest with the people during
the combats of the gladiators,(525) and Pliny especially eulogised Trajan
because he did not patronise spectacles that enervate the character, but
rather those which impel men “to noble wounds and to the contempt of
death.”(526) The same writer, who was himself in many ways conspicuous for
his gentleness and charity, having warmly commended a friend for acceding
to a petition of the people of Verona, who desired a spectacle, adds this
startling sentence: “After so general a request, to have refused would not
have been firmness—it would have been cruelty.”(527) Even in the closing
years of the fourth century, the præfect Symmachus, who was regarded as
one of the most estimable pagans of his age, collected some Saxon
prisoners to fight in honour of his son. They strangled themselves in
prison, and Symmachus lamented the misfortune that had befallen him from
their “impious hands,” but endeavoured to calm his feelings by recalling
the patience of Socrates and the precepts of philosophy.(528)

While, however, I have no desire to disguise or palliate the extreme
atrocity of this aspect of Roman life, there are certain very natural
exaggerations, against which it is necessary for us to guard. There are in
human nature, and more especially in the exercise of the benevolent
affections, inequalities, inconsistencies, and anomalies, of which
theorists do not always take account. We should be altogether in error if
we supposed that a man who took pleasure in a gladiatorial combat in
ancient Rome was necessarily as inhuman as a modern would be who took
pleasure in a similar spectacle. A man who falls but a little below the
standard of his own merciful age is often in reality far worse than a man
who had conformed to the standard of a much more barbarous age, even
though the latter will do some things with perfect equanimity from which
the other would recoil with horror. We have a much greater power than is
sometimes supposed of localising both our benevolent and malevolent
feelings. If a man is very kind, or very harsh to some particular class,
this is usually, and on the whole justly, regarded as an index of his
general disposition, but the inference is not infallible, and it may
easily be pushed too far. There are some who appear to expend all their
kindly feelings on a single class, and to treat with perfect indifference
all outside it. There are others who regard a certain class as quite
outside the pale of their sympathies, while in other spheres their
affections prove lively and constant. There are many who would accede
without the faintest reluctance to a barbarous custom, but would be quite
incapable of an equally barbarous act which custom had not consecrated.
Our affections are so capricious in their nature that it is continually
necessary to correct by detailed experience the most plausible deductions.
Thus, for example, it is a very unquestionable and a very important truth
that cruelty to animals naturally indicates and promotes a habit of mind
which leads to cruelty to men; and that, on the other hand, an
affectionate and merciful disposition to animals commonly implies a gentle
and amiable nature. But, if we adopted this principle as an infallible
criterion of humanity, we should soon find ourselves at fault. To the
somewhat too hackneyed anecdote of Domitian gratifying his savage
propensities by killing flies,(529) we might oppose Spinoza, one of the
purest, most gentle, most benevolent of mankind, of whom it is related
that almost the only amusement of his life was putting flies into spiders’
webs, and watching their struggles and their deaths.(530) It has been
observed that a very large proportion of the men who during the French
Revolution proved themselves most absolutely indifferent to human
suffering were deeply attached to animals. Fournier was devoted to a
squirrel, Couthon to a spaniel, Panis to two gold pheasants, Chaumette to
an aviary, Marat kept doves.(531) Bacon has noticed that the Turks, who
are a cruel people, are nevertheless conspicuous for their kindness to
animals, and he mentions the instance of a Christian boy who was nearly
stoned to death for gagging a long-billed fowl.(532) In Egypt there are
hospitals for superannuated cats, and the most loathsome insects are
regarded with tenderness; but human life is treated as if it were of no
account, and human suffering scarcely elicits a care.(533) The same
contrast appears more or less in all Eastern nations. On the other hand,
travellers are unanimous in declaring that in Spain an intense passion for
the bull-fight is quite compatible with the most active benevolence and
the most amiable disposition. Again, to pass to another sphere, it is not
uncommon to find conquerors, who will sacrifice with perfect callousness
great masses of men to their ambition, but who, in their dealings with
isolated individuals, are distinguished by an invariable clemency.
Anomalies of this kind continually appear in the Roman population. The
very men who looked down with delight when the sand of the arena was
reddened with human blood, made the theatre ring with applause when
Terence, in his famous line, proclaimed the universal brotherhood of man.
When the senate, being unable to discover the murderer of a patrician,
resolved to put his four hundred slaves to death, the people rose in open
rebellion against the sentence.(534) A knight named Erixo, who in the days
of Augustus had so scourged his son that he died of the effects, was
nearly torn to pieces by the indignant population.(535) The elder Cato
deprived a senator of his rank, because he had fixed an execution at such
an hour that his mistress could enjoy the spectacle.(536) Even in the
amphitheatre there were certain traces of a milder spirit. Drusus, the
people complained, took too visible a pleasure at the sight of blood;(537)
Caligula was too curious in watching death;(538) Caracalla, when a boy,
won enthusiastic plaudits by shedding tears at the execution of
criminals.(539) Among the most popular spectacles at Rome was
rope-dancing, and then, as now, the cord being stretched at a great height
above the ground, the apparent, and indeed real, danger added an evil zest
to the performances. In the reign of Marcus Aurelius an accident had
occurred, and the emperor, with his usual sensitive humanity, ordered that
no rope-dancer should perform without a net or a mattress being spread out
below. It is a singularly curious fact that this precaution, which no
Christian nation has adopted, continued in force during more than a
century of the worst period of the Roman Empire, when the blood of
captives was poured out like water in the Colosseum.(540) The standard of
humanity was very low, but the sentiment was still manifest, though its
displays were capricious and inconsistent.

The sketch I have now drawn will, I think, be sufficient to display the
broad chasm that existed between the Roman moralists and the Roman people.
On the one hand we find a system of ethics, of which when we consider the
range and beauty of its precepts, the sublimity of the motives to which it
appealed, and its perfect freedom from superstitious elements, it is not
too much to say that though it may have been equalled, it has never been
surpassed. On the other hand, we find a society almost absolutely
destitute of moralising institutions, occupations, or beliefs, existing
under an economical and political system which inevitably led to general
depravity, and passionately addicted to the most brutalising amusements.
The moral code, while it expanded in theoretical catholicity, had
contracted in practical application. The early Romans had a very narrow
and imperfect standard of duty, but their patriotism, their military
system, and their enforced simplicity of life had made that standard
essentially popular. The later Romans had attained a very high and
spiritual conception of duty, but the philosopher with his group of
disciples, or the writer with his few readers, had scarcely any point of
contact with the people. The great practical problem of the ancient
philosophers was how they could act upon the masses. Simply to tell men
what is virtue, and to extol its beauty, is insufficient. Something more
must be done if the characters of nations are to be moulded and inveterate
vices eradicated.

This problem the Roman Stoics were incapable of meeting, but they did what
lay in their power, and their efforts, though altogether inadequate to the
disease, were by no means contemptible. In the first place they raised up
many great and good rulers who exerted all the influence of their position
in the cause of virtue. In most cases these reforms were abolished on the
accession of the first bad emperor, but there were at least some that
remained. It has been observed that the luxury of the table, which had
acquired the most extravagant proportions during the period that elapsed
between the battle of Actium and the reign of Galba, began from this
period to decline, and the change is chiefly attributed to Vespasian, who
had in a measure reformed the Roman aristocracy by the introduction of
many provincials, and who made his court an example of the strictest
frugality.(541) The period from the accession of Nerva to the death of
Marcus Aurelius, comprising no less than eighty-four years, exhibits a
uniformity of good government which no other despotic monarchy has
equalled. Each of the five emperors who then reigned deserves to be placed
among the best rulers who have ever lived. Trajan and Hadrian, whose
personal characters were most defective, were men of great and conspicuous
genius. Antoninus and Marcus Aurelius, though less distinguished as
politicians, were among the most perfectly virtuous men who have ever sat
on a throne. During forty years of this period, perfect, unbroken peace
reigned over the entire civilised globe. The barbarian encroachments had
not yet begun. The distinct nationalities that composed the Empire,
gratified by perfect municipal and by perfect intellectual freedom, had
lost all care for political liberty, and little more than three hundred
thousand soldiers guarded a territory which is now protected by much more
than three millions.(542)

In creating this condition of affairs, Stoicism, as the chief moral agent
of the Empire, had a considerable though not a preponderating influence.
In other ways its influence was more evident and exclusive. It was a
fundamental maxim of the sect, “that the sage should take part in public
life,”(543) and it was therefore impossible that Stoicism should flourish
without producing a resuscitation of patriotism. The same moral impulse
which transformed the Neoplatonist into a dreaming mystic and the Catholic
into a useless hermit, impelled the Stoic to the foremost post of danger
in the service of his country. While landmark after landmark of Roman
virtue was submerged, while luxury and scepticism and foreign habits and
foreign creeds were corroding the whole framework of the national life,
amid the last paroxysms of expiring liberty, amid the hideous carnival of
vice that soon followed upon its fall, the Stoic remained unchanged, the
representative and the sustainer of the past. A party which had acquired
the noble title of the Party of Virtue, guided by such men as Cato or
Thrasea or Helvidius or Burrhus, upheld the banner of Roman virtue and
Roman liberty in the darkest hours of despotism and of apostasy. Like all
men who carry an intense religious fervour into politics, they were often
narrow-minded and intolerant, blind to the inevitable changes of society,
incapable of compromise, turbulent and inopportune in their demands,(544)
but they more than redeemed their errors by their noble constancy and
courage. The austere purity of their lives, and the heroic grandeur of
their deaths, kept alive the tradition of Roman liberty even under a Nero
or a Domitian. While such men existed it was felt that all was not lost.
There was still a rallying point of freedom, a seed of virtue that might
germinate anew, a living protest against the despotism and the corruption
of the Empire.

A third and still more important service which Stoicism rendered to
popular morals was in the formation of Roman jurisprudence.(545) Of all
the many forms of intellectual exertion in which Greece and Rome struggled
for the mastery this is perhaps the only one in which the superiority of
the latter is indisputable. “To rule the nations” was justly pronounced by
the Roman poet the supreme glory of his countrymen, and their
administrative genius is even now unrivalled in history. A deep reverence
for law was long one of their chief moral characteristics, and in order
that it might be inculcated from the earliest years it was a part of the
Roman system of education to oblige the children to repeat by rote the
code of the decemvirs.(546) The laws of the Republic, however, being an
expression of the contracted, local, military, and sacerdotal spirit that
dominated among the people, were necessarily unfit for the political and
intellectual expansion of the Empire, and the process of renovation which
was begun under Augustus by the Stoic Labeo,(547) was continued with great
zeal under Hadrian and Alexander Severus, and issued in the famous
compilations of Theodosius and Justinian. In this movement we have to
observe two parts. There were certain general rules of guidance laid down
by the great Roman lawyers which constituted what may be called the ideal
of the jurisconsults—the ends to which their special enactments tended—the
principles of equity to guide the judge when the law was silent or
ambiguous. There were also definite enactments to meet specific cases. The
first part was simply borrowed from the Stoics, whose doctrines and method
thus passed from the narrow circle of a philosophical academy and became
the avowed moral beacons of the civilised globe. The fundamental
difference between Stoicism and early Roman thought was that the former
maintained the existence of a bond of unity among mankind which
transcended or annihilated all class or national limitations. The
essential characteristic of the Stoical method was the assertion of the
existence of a certain law of nature to which it was the end of philosophy
to conform. These tenets were laid down in the most unqualified language
by the Roman lawyers. “As far as natural law is concerned,” said Ulpian,
“all men are equal.”(548) “Nature,” said Paul, “has established among us a
certain relationship.”(549) “By natural law,” Ulpian declared, “all men
are born free.”(550) “Slavery” was defined by Florentinus as “a custom of
the law of nations, by which one man, contrary to the law of nature, is
subjected to the dominion of another.”(551) In accordance with these
principles it became a maxim among the Roman lawyers that in every
doubtful case where the alternative of slavery or freedom was at issue,
the decision of the judge should be towards the latter.(552)

The Roman legislation was in a twofold manner the child of philosophy. It
was in the first place itself formed upon the philosophical model, for,
instead of being a mere empirical system adjusted to the existing
requirements of society, it laid down abstract principles of right to
which it endeavoured to conform;(553) and, in the next place, these
principles were borrowed directly from Stoicism. The prominence the sect
had acquired among Roman moralists, its active intervention in public
affairs, and also the precision and brevity of its phraseology, had
recommended it to the lawyers,(554) and the union then effected between
the legal and philosophical spirit is felt to the present day. To the
Stoics and the Roman lawyers is mainly due the clear recognition of the
existence of a law of nature above and beyond all human enactments which
has been the basis of the best moral and of the most influential though
most chimerical political speculation of later ages, and the renewed study
of Roman law was an important element in the revival that preceded the

It is not necessary for my present purpose to follow into very minute
detail the application of these principles to practical legislation. It is
sufficient to say, that there were few departments into which the catholic
and humane principles of Stoicism were not in some degree carried. In the
political world, as we have already seen, the right of Roman citizenship,
with the protection and the legal privileges attached to it, from being
the monopoly of a small class, was gradually but very widely diffused. In
the domestic sphere, the power which the old laws had given to the father
of the family, though not destroyed, was greatly abridged, and an
important innovation, which is well worthy of a brief notice, was thus
introduced into the social system of the Empire.

It is probable that in the chronology of morals, domestic virtue takes the
precedence of all others; but in its earliest phase it consists of a
single article—the duty of absolute submission to the head of the
household. It is only at a later period, and when the affections have been
in some degree evoked, that the reciprocity of duty is felt, and the whole
tendency of civilisation is to diminish the disparity between the
different members of the family. The process by which the wife from a
simple slave becomes the companion and equal of her husband, I shall
endeavour to trace in a future chapter. The relations of the father to his
children are profoundly modified by the new position the affections assume
in education, which in a rude nation rests chiefly upon authority, but in
a civilised community upon sympathy. In Rome the absolute authority of the
head of the family was the centre and archetype of that whole system of
discipline and subordination which it was the object of the legislator to
sustain. Filial reverence was enforced as the first of duties. It is the
one virtue which Virgil attributed in any remarkable degree to the founder
of the race. The marks of external respect paid to old men were scarcely
less than in Sparta.(555) It was the boast of the lawyers that in no other
nation had the parent so great an authority over his children.(556) The
child was indeed the absolute slave of his father, who had a right at any
time to take away his life and dispose of his entire property. He could
look to no time during the life of his father in which he would be freed
from the thraldom. The man of fifty, the consul, the general, or the
tribune, was in this respect in the same position as the infant, and might
at any moment be deprived of all the earnings of his labour, driven to the
most menial employments, or even put to death, by the paternal

There can, I think, be little question that this law, at least in the
latter period of its existence, defeated its own object. There are few
errors of education to which more unhappy homes may be traced than
this—that parents have sought to command the obedience, before they have
sought to win the confidence, of their children. This was the path which
the Roman legislator indicated to the parent, and its natural consequence
was to chill the sympathies and arouse the resentment of the young. Of all
the forms of virtue filial affection is perhaps that which appears most
rarely in Roman history. In the plays of Plautus it is treated much as
conjugal fidelity was treated in England by the playwriters of the
Restoration. An historian of the reign of Tiberius has remarked that the
civil wars were equally remarkable for the many examples they supplied of
the devotion of wives to their husbands, of the devotion of slaves to
their masters, and of the treachery or indifference of sons to their

The reforms that were effected during the pagan empire did not reconstruct
the family, but they at least greatly mitigated its despotism. The
profound change of feeling that had taken place on the subject is shown by
the contrast between the respectful, though somewhat shrinking,
acquiescence, with which the ancient Romans regarded parents who had put
their children to death,(559) and the indignation excited under Augustus
by the act of Erixo. Hadrian, apparently by a stretch of despotic power,
banished a man who had assassinated his son.(560) Infanticide was
forbidden, though not seriously repressed, but the right of putting to
death an adult child had long been obsolete, when Alexander Severus
formally withdrew it from the father. The property of children was also in
some slight degree protected. A few instances are recorded of wills that
were annulled because they had disinherited legitimate sons,(561) and
Hadrian, following a policy that had been feebly initiated by his two
predecessors, gave the son an absolute possession of whatever he might
gain in the military service. Diocletian rendered the sale of children by
the fathers, in all cases, illegal.(562)

In the field of slavery the legislative reforms were more important. This
institution, indeed, is one that meets us at every turn of the moral
history of Rome, and on two separate occasions in the present chapter I
have already had occasion to notice it. I have shown that the great
prominence of the slave element in Roman life was one of the causes of the
enlargement of sympathies that characterises the philosophy of the Empire,
and also that slavery was in a very high degree, and in several distinct
ways, a cause of the corruption of the free classes. In considering the
condition of the slaves themselves, we may distinguish, I think, three
periods. In the earlier and simpler days of the Republic, the head of the
family was absolute master of his slaves, but circumstances in a great
measure mitigated the evil of the despotism. The slaves were very few in
number. Each Roman proprietor had commonly one or two who assisted him in
cultivating the soil, and superintended his property when he was absent in
the army. In the frugal habits of the time, the master was brought into
the most intimate connection with his slaves. He shared their labours and
their food, and the control he exercised over them, in most cases probably
differed little from that which he exercised over his sons. Under such
circumstances, great barbarity to slaves, though always possible, was not
likely to be common, and the protection of religion was added to the force
of habit. Hercules, the god of labour, was the special patron of slaves.
There was a legend that Sparta had once been nearly destroyed by an
earthquake sent by Neptune to avenge the treacherous murder of some
Helots.(563) In Rome, it was said, Jupiter had once in a dream
commissioned a man to express to the senate the divine anger at the cruel
treatment of a slave during the public games.(564) By the pontifical law,
slaves were exempted from field labours on the religious festivals.(565)
The Saturnalia and Matronalia, which were especially intended for their
benefit, were the most popular holidays in Rome, and on these occasions
the slaves were accustomed to sit at the same table with their

Even at this time, however, it is probable that great atrocities were
occasionally committed. Everything was permitted by law, although it is
probable that the censor in cases of extreme abuse might interfere, and
the aristocratic feelings of the early Roman, though corrected in a
measure by the associations of daily labour, sometimes broke out in a
fierce scorn for all classes but his own. The elder Cato, who may be
regarded as a type of the Romans of the earlier period, speaks of slaves
simply as instruments for obtaining wealth, and he encouraged masters,
both by his precept and his example, to sell them as useless when aged and

In the second period, the condition of slaves had greatly deteriorated.
The victories of Rome, especially in the East, had introduced into the
city innumerable slaves(568) and the wildest luxury, and the despotism of
the master remained unqualified by law, while the habits of life that had
originally mitigated it had disappeared. The religious sentiments of the
people were at the same time fatally impaired, and many new causes
conspired to aggravate the evil. The passion for gladiatorial shows had
begun, and it continually produced a savage indifference to the infliction
of pain. The servile wars of Sicily, and the still more formidable revolt
of Spartacus, had shaken Italy to the centre, and the shock was felt in
every household. “As many enemies as slaves,” had become a Roman proverb.
The fierce struggles of barbarian captives were repaid by fearful
punishments, and many thousands of revolted slaves perished on the cross.
An atrocious law, intended to secure the safety of the citizens, provided
that if a master were murdered, all the slaves in his house, who were not
in chains or absolutely helpless through illness, should be put to

Numerous acts of the most odious barbarity were committed. The well-known
anecdotes of Flaminius ordering a slave to be killed to gratify, by the
spectacle, the curiosity of a guest; of Vedius Pollio feeding his fish on
the flesh of slaves; and of Augustus sentencing a slave, who had killed
and eaten a favourite quail, to crucifixion, are the extreme examples that
are recorded; for we need not regard as an historical fact the famous
picture in Juvenal of a Roman lady, in a moment of caprice, ordering her
unoffending servant to be crucified. We have, however, many other very
horrible glimpses of slave life at the close of the Republic and in the
early days of the Empire. The marriage of slaves was entirely unrecognised
by law, and in their case the words adultery, incest, or polygamy had no
legal meaning. Their testimony was in general only received in the
law-courts when they were under torture. When executed for a crime, their
deaths were of a most hideous kind. The ergastula, or private prisons, of
the masters were frequently their only sleeping-places. Old and infirm
slaves were constantly exposed to perish on an island of the Tiber. We
read of slaves chained as porters to the doors, and cultivating the fields
in chains. Ovid and Juvenal describe the fierce Roman ladies tearing their
servants’ faces, and thrusting the long pins of their brooches into their
flesh. The master, at the close of the Republic, had full power to sell
his slave as a gladiator, or as a combatant with wild beasts.(570)

All this is very horrible, but it must not be forgotten that there was
another side to the picture. It is the custom of many ecclesiastical
writers to paint the pagan society of the Empire as a kind of pandemonium,
and with this object they collect the facts I have cited, which are for
the most part narrated by Roman satirists or historians, as examples of
the most extreme and revolting cruelty; they represent them as fair
specimens of the ordinary treatment of the servile class, and they simply
exclude from their consideration the many qualifying facts that might be
alleged. Although the marriage of a slave was not legally recognised, it
was sanctioned by custom, and it does not appear to have been common to
separate his family.(571) Two customs to which I have already referred
distinguish ancient slavery broadly from that of modern times. The
peculium, or private property of slaves, was freely recognised by masters,
to whom, however, after the death of the slave, part or all of it usually
reverted,(572) though some masters permitted their slaves to dispose of it
by will.(573) The enfranchisement of slaves was also carried on to such an
extent as seriously to affect the population of the city. It appears from
a passage in Cicero that an industrious and well-conducted captive might
commonly look forward to his freedom in six years.(574) Isolated acts of
great cruelty undoubtedly occurred; but public opinion strongly
reprehended them, and Seneca assures us that masters who ill-treated their
slaves were pointed at and insulted in the streets.(575) The slave was not
necessarily the degraded being he has since appeared. The physician who
tended the Roman in his sickness, the tutor to whom he confided the
education of his son, the artists whose works commanded the admiration of
the city, were usually slaves. Slaves sometimes mixed with their masters
in the family, ate habitually with them at the same table,(576) and were
regarded by them with the warmest affection. Tiro, the slave and
afterwards the freedman of Cicero, compiled his master’s letters, and has
preserved some in which Cicero addressed him in terms of the most sincere
and delicate friendship. I have already referred to the letter in which
the younger Pliny poured out his deep sorrow for the death of some of his
slaves, and endeavoured to console himself with the thought that as he had
emancipated them before their death, at least they had died free.(577)
Epictetus passed at once from slavery to the friendship of an
emperor.(578) The great multiplication of slaves, though it removed them
from the sympathy of their masters, must at least have in most cases
alleviated their burdens. The application of torture to slave witnesses,
horrible as it was, was a matter of rare occurrence, and was carefully
restricted by law.(579) Much vice was undoubtedly fostered, but yet the
annals of the civil wars and of the Empire are crowded with the most
splendid instances of the fidelity of slaves. In many cases they refused
the boon of liberty and defied the most horrible tortures rather than
betray their masters, accompanied them in their flight when all others had
abandoned them, displayed undaunted courage and untiring ingenuity in
rescuing them from danger, and in some cases saved the lives of their
owners by the deliberate sacrifice of their own.(580) This was, indeed,
for some time the pre-eminent virtue of Rome, and it proves conclusively
that the masters were not so tyrannical, and that the slaves were not so
degraded, as is sometimes alleged.

The duty of humanity to slaves had been at all times one of those which
the philosophers had most ardently inculcated. Plato and Aristotle, Zeno
and Epicurus, were, on this point, substantially agreed.(581) The Roman
Stoics gave the duty a similar prominence in their teaching, and Seneca
especially has filled pages with exhortations to masters to remember that
the accident of position in no degree affects the real dignity of men,
that the slave may be free by virtue while the master may be a slave by
vice, and that it is the duty of a good man to abstain not only from all
cruelty, but even from all feeling of contempt towards his slaves.(582)
But these exhortations, in which some have imagined that they have
discovered the influence of Christianity, were, in fact, simply an echo of
the teaching of ancient Greece, and especially of Zeno, the founder of
Stoicism, who had laid down, long before the dawn of Christianity, the
broad principles that ’all men are by nature equal, and that virtue alone
establishes a difference between them.’(583) The softening influence of
the peace of the Antonines assisted this movement of humanity, and the
slaves derived a certain incidental benefit from one of the worst features
of the despotism of the Cæsars. The emperors, who continually apprehended
plots against their lives or power, encouraged numerous spies around the
more important of their subjects, and the facility with which slaves could
discover the proceedings of their masters inclined the Government in their

Under all these influences many laws were promulgated which profoundly
altered the legal position of the slaves, and opened what may be termed
the third period of Roman slavery. The Petronian law, which was issued by
Augustus, or, more probably, by Nero, forbade the master to condemn his
slave to combat with wild beasts without a sentence from a judge.(584)
Under Claudius, some citizens exposed their sick slaves on the island of
Æsculapius in the Tiber, to avoid the trouble of tending them, and the
emperor decreed that if the slave so exposed recovered from his sickness
he should become free, and also, that masters who killed their slaves
instead of exposing them should be punished as murderers.(585) It is
possible that succour was afforded to the abandoned slave in the temple of
Æsculapius,(586) and it would appear from these laws that the wanton
slaughter of a slave was already illegal. About this time the statue of
the emperor had become an asylum for slaves.(587) Under Nero, a judge was
appointed to hear their complaints, and was instructed to punish masters
who treated them with barbarity, made them the instruments of lust, or
withheld from them a sufficient quantity of the necessaries of life.(588)
A considerable pause appears to have ensued; but Domitian made a law,
which was afterwards reiterated, forbidding the Oriental custom of
mutilating slaves for sensual purposes, and the reforms were renewed with
great energy in the period of the Antonines. Hadrian and his two
successors formally deprived masters of the right of killing their slaves;
forbade them to sell slaves to the lanistæ, or speculators in gladiators;
destroyed the ergastula, or private prisons; ordered that, when a master
was murdered, those slaves only should be tortured who were within
hearing;(589) appointed officers through all the provinces to hear the
complaints of slaves; enjoined that no master should treat his slaves with
excessive severity; and commanded that, when such severity was proved, the
master should be compelled to sell the slave he had ill-treated.(590) When
we add to these laws the broad maxims of equity asserting the essential
equality of the human race, which the jurists had borrowed from the
Stoics, and which supplied the principles to guide the judges in their
decisions, it must be admitted that the slave code of Imperial Rome
compares not unfavourably with those of some Christian nations.

While a considerable portion of the principles, and even much of the
phraseology, of Stoicism passed into the system of public law, the Roman
philosophers had other more direct means of acting on the people. On
occasions of family bereavement, when the mind is most susceptible of
impressions, they were habitually called in to console the survivors.
Dying men asked their comfort and support in the last hours of their life.
They became the directors of conscience to numbers who resorted to them
for a solution of perplexing cases of practical morals, or under the
influence of despondency or remorse.(591) They had their special
exhortations for every vice, and their remedies adapted to every variety
of character. Many cases were cited of the conversion of the vicious or
the careless, who had been sought out and fascinated by the
philosopher,(592) and who, under his guidance, had passed through a long
course of moral discipline, and had at last attained a high degree of
virtue. Education fell in a great degree into their hands. Many great
families kept a philosopher among them in what in modern language might be
termed the capacity of a domestic chaplain,(593) while a system of popular
preaching was created and widely diffused.

Of these preachers there were two classes who differed greatly in their
characters and their methods. The first, who have been very happily termed
the “monks of Stoicism,”(594) were the Cynics, who appear to have assumed
among the later moralists of the Pagan empire a position somewhat
resembling that of the mendicant orders in Catholicism. In a singularly
curious dissertation of Epictetus,(595) we have a picture of the ideal at
which a Cynic should aim, and it is impossible in reading it not to be
struck by the resemblance it bears to the missionary friar. The Cynic
should be a man devoting his entire life to the instruction of mankind. He
must be unmarried, for he must have no family affections to divert or to
dilute his energies. He must wear the meanest dress, sleep upon the bare
ground, feed upon the simplest food, abstain from all earthly pleasures,
and yet exhibit to the world the example of uniform cheerfulness and
content. No one, under pain of provoking the Divine anger, should embrace
such a career, unless he believes himself to be called and assisted by
Jupiter. It is his mission to go among men as the ambassador of God,
rebuking, in season and out of season, their frivolity, their cowardice,
and their vice. He must stop the rich man in the market-place. He must
preach to the populace in the highway. He must know no respect and no
fear. He must look upon all men as his sons, and upon all women as his
daughters. In the midst of a jeering crowd, he must exhibit such a placid
calm that men may imagine him to be of stone. Ill-treatment, and exile,
and death must have no terror in his eyes, for the discipline of his life
should emancipate him from every earthly tie; and, when he is beaten, “he
should love those who beat him, for he is at once the father and the
brother of all men.”

A curious contrast to the Cynic was the philosophic rhetorician, who
gathered around his chair all that was most brilliant in Roman or Athenian
society. The passion for oratory which the free institutions of Greece had
formed, had survived the causes that produced it, and given rise to a very
singular but a very influential profession; which, though excluded from
the Roman Republic, acquired a great development after the destruction of
political liberty. The rhetoricians were a kind of itinerant lecturers,
who went about from city to city, delivering harangues that were often
received with the keenest interest. For the most part, neither their
characters nor their talents appear to have deserved much respect.
Numerous anecdotes are recorded of their vanity and rapacity, and their
success was a striking proof of the decadence of public taste.(596) They
had cultivated the histrionic part of oratory with the most minute
attention. The arrangement of their hair, the folds of their dresses, all
their postures and gestures were studied with artistic care. They had
determined the different kinds of action that are appropriate for each
branch of a discourse and for each form of eloquence. Sometimes they
personated characters in Homer or in ancient Greek history, and delivered
speeches which those characters might have delivered in certain
conjunctures of their lives. Sometimes they awakened the admiration of
their audience by making a fly, a cockroach, dust, smoke, a mouse, or a
parrot the subject of their eloquent eulogy.(597) Others, again, exercised
their ingenuity in defending some glaring paradox or sophism, or in
debating some intricate case of law or morals, or they delivered literary
lectures remarkable for a minute but captious and fastidious criticism.
Some of the rhetoricians recited only harangues prepared with the most
elaborate care, others were ready debaters, and they travelled from city
to city, challenging opponents to discuss some subtle and usually
frivolous question. The poet Juvenal and the satirist Lucian had both for
a time followed this profession. Many of the most eminent acquired immense
wealth, travelled with a splendid retinue, and excited transports of
enthusiasm in the cities they visited. They were often charged by cities
to appear before the emperor to plead for a remission of taxes, or of the
punishment due for some offence. They became in a great measure the
educators of the people, and contributed very largely to form and direct
their taste.

It had been from the first the custom of some philosophers to adopt this
profession, and to expound in the form of rhetorical lectures the
principles of their school. In the Flavian period and in the age of the
Antonines, this alliance of philosophy, and especially of Stoical
philosophy, with rhetoric became more marked, and the foundation of
liberally endowed chairs of rhetoric and philosophy by Vespasian, Hadrian,
and Marcus Aurelius contributed to sustain it. Discourses of the Platonist
Maximus of Tyre, and of the Stoic Dion Chrysostom, have come down to us,
and they are both of a high order of intrinsic merit. The first turn
chiefly on such subjects as the comparative excellence of active and
contemplative life, the pure and noble conceptions of the Divine nature
which underlie the fables or allegories of Homer, the dæmon of Socrates,
the Platonic notions of the Divinity, the duty of prayer, the end of
philosophy, and the ethics of love.(598) Dion Chrysostom, in his orations,
expounded the noblest and purest theism, examined the place which images
should occupy in worship, advocated humanity to slaves, and was, perhaps,
the earliest writer in the Roman Empire who denounced hereditary slavery
as illegitimate.(599) His life was very eventful and very noble. He had
become famous as a sophist and rhetorician, skilled in the laborious
frivolities of the profession. Calamity, however, and the writings of
Plato induced him to abandon them and devote himself exclusively to the
improvement of mankind. Having defended with a generous rashness a man who
had been proscribed by the tyranny of Domitian, he was compelled to fly
from Rome in the garb of a beggar; and, carrying with him only a work of
Plato and a speech of Demosthenes, he travelled to the most distant
frontiers of the empire. He gained his livelihood by the work of his
hands, for he refused to receive money for his discourses; but he taught
and captivated the Greek colonists who were scattered among the
barbarians, and even the barbarians themselves. Upon the assassination of
Domitian, when the legions hesitated to give their allegiance to Nerva,
the eloquence of Dion Chrysostom overcame their irresolution. By the same
eloquence he more than once appeased seditions in Alexandria and the Greek
cities of Asia Minor. He preached before Trajan on the duties of royalty,
taking a line of Homer for his text. He electrified the vast and polished
audience assembled at Athens for the Olympic games as he had before done
the rude barbarians of Scythia. Though his taste was by no means untainted
by the frivolities of the rhetorician, he was skilled in all the arts that
awaken curiosity and attention, and his eloquence commanded the most
various audiences in the most distant lands. His special mission, however,
was to popularise Stoicism by diffusing its principles through the masses
of mankind.(600)

The names, and in some cases a few fragments, of the writings of many
other rhetorical philosophers, such as Herod Atticus, Favorinus, Fronto,
Taurus, Fabianus, and Julianus, have come down to us, and each was the
centre of a group of passionate admirers, and contributed to form a
literary society in the great cities of the empire. We have a vivid
picture of this movement in the “Attic Nights” of Aulus Gellius—a work
which is, I think, one of the most curious and instructive in Latin
literature, and which bears to the literary society of the period of the
Antonines much the same relation as the writings of Helvétius bear to the
Parisian society on the eve of the Revolution. Helvétius, it is said,
collected the materials for his great work on “Mind” chiefly from the
conversation of the drawing-rooms of Paris at a time when that
conversation had attained a degree of perfection which even Frenchmen had
never before equalled. He wrote in the age of the “Encyclopædia,” when the
social and political convulsions of the Revolution were as yet unfelt;
when the first dazzling gleams of intellectual freedom had flashed upon a
society long clouded by superstition and aristocratic pride; when the
genius of Voltaire and the peerless conversational powers of Diderot,
irradiating the bold philosophies of Bacon and Locke, had kindled an
intellectual enthusiasm through all the ranks of fashion;(601) and when
the contempt for the wisdom and the methods of the past was only equalled
by the prevailing confidence in the future. Brilliant, graceful,
versatile, and superficial, with easy eloquence and lax morals, with a
profound disbelief in moral excellence, and an intense appreciation of
intellectual beauty, disdaining all pedantry, superstition, and mystery,
and with an almost fanatical persuasion of the omnipotence of analysis, he
embodied the principles of his contemporaries in a philosophy which
represents all virtue and heroism as but disguised self-interest; he
illustrated every argument, not by the pedantic learning of the schools,
but by the sparkling anecdotes and acute literary criticisms of the
drawing-room, and he thus produced a work which, besides its intrinsic
merits, was the most perfect mirror of the society from which it
sprang.(602) Very different, both in form, subject, and tendency, but no
less truly representative, was the work of Aulus Gellius. It is the
journal, or common-place book, or miscellany of a scholar moving in the
centre of the literary society of both Rome and Athens during the latter
period of the Antonines, profoundly imbued with its spirit, and devoting
his leisure to painting its leading figures, and compiling the substance
of their teaching. Few books exhibit a more curious picture of the
combination of intense child-like literary and moral enthusiasm with the
most hopeless intellectual degeneracy. Each prominent philosopher was
surrounded by a train of enthusiastic disciples, who made the lecture-room
resound with their applause,(603) and accepted him as their monitor in all
the affairs of life. He rebuked publicly every instance of vice or of
affectation he had observed in their conduct, received them at his own
table, became their friend and confidant in their troubles, and sometimes
assisted them by his advice in their professional duties.(604) Taurus,
Favorinus, Fronto, and Atticus were the most prominent figures, and each
seems to have formed, in the centre of a corrupt society, a little company
of young men devoted with the simplest and most ardent earnestness to the
cultivation of intellectual and moral excellence. Yet this society was
singularly puerile. The age of genius had closed, and the age of pedantry
had succeeded it. Minute, curious, and fastidious verbal criticism of the
great writers of the past was the chief occupation of the scholar, and the
whole tone of his mind had become retrospective and even archaic. Ennius
was esteemed a greater poet than Virgil, and Cato a greater prose writer
than Cicero. It was the affectation of some to tesselate their
conversation with antiquated and obsolete words.(605) The study of
etymologies had risen into great favour, and curious questions of grammar
and pronunciation were ardently debated. Logic, as in most ages of
intellectual poverty, was greatly studied and prized. Bold speculations
and original thought had almost ceased, but it was the delight of the
philosophers to throw the arguments of great writers into the form of
syllogisms, and to debate them according to the rules of the schools. The
very amusements of the scholars took the form of a whimsical and puerile
pedantry. Gellius recalls, with a thrill of emotion, those enchanting
evenings when, their more serious studies being terminated, the disciples
of Taurus assembled at the table of their master to pass the happy hours
in discussing such questions as when a man can be said to die, whether in
the last moment of life or in the first moment of death; or when he can be
said to get up, whether when he is still on his bed or when he has just
left it.(606) Sometimes they proposed to one another literary questions,
as what old writer had employed some common word in a sense that had since
become obsolete; or they discussed such syllogisms as these:—“You have
what you have not lost; you have not lost horns, therefore you have
horns.” “You are not what I am. I am a man; therefore you are not a
man.”(607) As moralists, they exhibited a very genuine love of moral
excellence, but the same pedantic and retrospective character. They were
continually dilating on the regulations of the censors and the customs of
the earliest period of the Republic. They acquired the habit of never
enforcing the simplest lesson without illustrating it by a profusion of
ancient examples and by detached sentences from some philosopher, which
they employed much as texts of Scripture are often employed in the
writings of the Puritans.(608) Above all, they delighted in cases of
conscience, which they discussed with the subtilty of the schoolmen.

Lactantius has remarked that the Stoics were especially noted for the
popular or democratic character of their teaching.(609) To their success
in this respect their alliance with the rhetoricians probably largely
contributed; but in other ways it hastened the downfall of the school. The
useless speculations, refinements, and paradoxes which the subtle genius
of Chrysippus had connected with the simple morals of Stoicism, had been
for the most part thrown into the background by the early Roman Stoics;
but in the teaching of the rhetoricians they became supreme. The
endowments given by the Antonines to philosophers attracted a multitude of
impostors, who wore long beards and the dress of the philosopher, but
whose lives were notoriously immoral. The Cynics especially, professing to
reject the ordinary conventionalities of society, and being under none of
that discipline or superintendence which in the worst period has secured
at least external morality among the mendicant monks, continually threw
off every vestige of virtue and of decency. Instead of moulding great
characters and inspiring heroic actions, Stoicism became a school of the
idlest casuistry, or the cloak for manifest imposture.(610) The very
generation which saw Marcus Aurelius on the throne, saw also the
extinction of the influence of his sect.

The internal causes of the decadence of Stoicism, though very powerful,
are insufficient to explain this complete eclipse. The chief cause must be
found in the fact that the minds of men had taken a new turn, and their
enthusiasm was flowing rapidly in the direction of Oriental religions,
and, under the guidance of Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus, and Proclus, of
a mythical philosophy which was partly Egyptian and partly Platonic. It
remains for me, in concluding this review of the Pagan empire, to indicate
and explain this last transformation of Pagan morals.

It was in the first place a very natural reaction against the extreme
aridity of the Stoical casuistry, and also against the scepticism which
Sextus Empiricus had revived, and in this respect it represents a law of
the human mind which has been more than once illustrated in later times.
Thus, the captious, unsatisfying, intellectual subtleties of the schoolmen
were met by the purely emotional and mystical school of St. Bonaventura,
and afterwards of Tauler, and thus the adoration of the human intellect,
that was general in the philosophy of the last century, prepared the way
for the complete denial of its competency by De Maistre and by Lamennais.

In the next place, mysticism was a normal continuation of the
spiritualising movement which had long been advancing. We have already
seen that the strong tendency of ethics, from Cato to Marcus Aurelius, was
to enlarge the prominence of the emotions in the type of virtue. The
formation of a gentle, a spiritual, and, in a word, a religious character
had become a prominent part of moral culture, and it was regarded not
simply as a means, but as an end. Still, both Marcus Aurelius and Cato
were Stoics. They both represented the same general cast or conception of
virtue, although in Marcus Aurelius the type had been profoundly modified.
But the time was soon to come when the balance between the practical and
the emotional parts of virtue, which had been steadily changing, should be
decisively turned in favour of the latter, and the type of Stoicism was
then necessarily discarded.

A concurrence of political and commercial causes had arisen, very
favourable to the propagation of Oriental beliefs. Commerce had produced a
constant intercourse between Egypt and Italy. Great numbers of Oriental
slaves, passionately devoted to their national religions, existed in Rome;
and Alexandria, which combined a great intellectual development with a
geographical and commercial position exceedingly favourable to a fusion of
many doctrines, soon created a school of thought which acted powerfully
upon the world. Four great systems of eclecticism arose; Aristobulus and
Philo tinctured Judaism with Greek and Egyptian philosophy. The Gnostics
and the Alexandrian fathers united, though in very different proportions,
Christian doctrines with the same elements; while Neoplatonism, at least
in its later forms, represented a fusion of the Greek and Egyptian mind. A
great analogy was discovered between the ideal philosophy of Plato and the
mystical philosophy that was indigenous to the East, and the two systems
readily blended.(611)

But the most powerful cause of the movement was the intense desire for
positive religious belief, which had long been growing in the Empire. The
period when Roman incredulity reached its extreme point had been the
century that preceded and the half century that followed the birth of
Christ. The sudden dissolution of the old habits of the Republic effected
through political causes, the first comparison of the multitudinous
religions of the Empire and also the writings of Euhemerus had produced an
absolute religious disbelief which Epicureanism represented and
encouraged. This belief, however, as I have already noticed, co-existed
with numerous magical and astrological superstitions, and the ignorance of
physical science was so great, and the conception of general laws so
faint, that the materials for a great revival of superstition still
remained. From the middle of the first century, a more believing and
reverent spirit began to arise. The worship of Isis and Serapis forced its
way into Rome in spite of the opposition of the rulers. Apollonius of
Tyana, at the close of the Flavian period, had endeavoured to unite moral
teaching with religious practices; the oracles, which had long ceased,
were partially restored under the Antonines; the calamities and visible
decline of the Empire withdrew the minds of men from that proud patriotic
worship of Roman greatness, which was long a substitute for religious
feeling; and the frightful pestilence that swept over the land in the
reigns of Marcus Aurelius and his successor was followed by a blind,
feverish, and spasmodic superstition. Besides this, men have never
acquiesced for any considerable time in a neglect of the great problems of
the origin, nature, and destinies of the soul, or dispensed with some form
of religious worship and aspiration. That religious instincts are as truly
a part of our nature as are our appetites and our nerves, is a fact which
all history establishes, and which forms one of the strongest proofs of
the reality of that unseen world to which the soul of man continually
tends. Early Roman Stoicism, which in this respect somewhat resembled the
modern positive school, diverted for the most part its votaries from the
great problems of religion, and attempted to evolve its entire system of
ethics out of existing human nature, without appealing to any external
supernatural sanction. But the Platonic school, and the Egyptian school
which connected itself with the name of Pythagoras, were both essentially
religious. The first aspired to the Deity as the source and model of
virtue, admitted dæmons or subordinate spiritual agents acting upon
mankind, and explained and purified, in no hostile spirit, the popular
religions. The latter made the state of ecstasy or quietism its ideal
condition, and sought to purify the mind by theurgy or special religious
rites. Both philosophies conspired to effect a great religious
reformation, in which the Greek spirit usually represented the rational,
and the Egyptian the mystical, element.

Of the first, Plutarch was the head. He taught the supreme authority of
reason. He argued elaborately that superstition is worse than atheism, for
it calumniates the character of the Deity, and its evils are not negative,
but positive. At the same time, he is far from regarding the Mythology as
a tissue of fables. Some things he denies. Others he explains away. Others
he frankly accepts. He teaches for the most part a pure monotheism, which
he reconciles with the common belief, partly by describing the different
divinities as simply popular personifications of Divine attributes, and
partly by the usual explanation of dæmons. He discarded most of the fables
of the poets, applying to them with fearless severity the tests of human
morality, and rejecting indignantly those which attribute to the Deity
cruel or immoral actions. He denounces all religious terrorism, and draws
a broad line of distinction between both the superstitious and idolatrous
conception of the Deity on the one hand, and the philosophical conception
on the other. “The superstitious man believes in the gods, but he has a
false idea of their nature. Those good beings whose providence watches
over us with so much care, those beings so ready to forget our faults, he
represents as ferocious and cruel tyrants, taking pleasure in tormenting
us. He believes the founders of brass, the sculptors of stone, the
moulders of wax; he attributes to the gods a human form; he adorns and
worships the image he has made, and he listens not to the philosophers,
and men of knowledge who associate the Divine image, not with bodily
beauty, but with grandeur and majesty, with gentleness and goodness.”(612)
On the other hand, Plutarch believed that there was undoubtedly a certain
supernatural basis in the Pagan creed; he believed in oracles; he
defended, in a very ingenious essay, hereditary punishment, and the
doctrine of a special Providence; he admitted a future retribution, though
he repudiated the notion of physical torment; and he brought into clear
relief the moral teaching conveyed in some of the fables of the poets.

The position which Plutarch occupied under Trajan, Maximus of Tyre
occupied in the next generation. Like Plutarch, but with a greater
consistency, he maintained a pure monotheistic doctrine, declaring that
“Zeus is that most ancient and guiding mind that begot all things—Athene
is prudence—Apollo is the sun.”(613) Like Plutarch, he developed the
Platonic doctrine of dæmons as an explanation of much of the mythology,
and he applied an allegorical interpretation with great freedom to the
fables of Homer, which formed the text-book or the Bible of Paganism. By
these means he endeavoured to clarify the popular creed from all elements
inconsistent with a pure monotheism, and from all legends of doubtful
morality, while he sublimated the popular worship into a harmless
symbolism. “The gods,” he assures us, “themselves need no images,” but the
infirmity of human nature requires visible signs “on which to rest.”
“Those who possess such faculties, that with a steady mind they can rise
to heaven, and to God, are in no need of statues. But such men are very
rare.” He then proceeds to recount the different ways by which men have
endeavoured to represent or symbolise the Divine nature, as the statues of
Greece, the animals of Egypt, or the sacred flame of Persia. “The God,” he
continues, “the Father and the Founder of all that exists, older than the
sun, older than the sky, greater than all time, than every age, and than
all the works of nature, whom no words can express, whom no eye can
see.... What can we say concerning his images? Only let men understand
that there is but one Divine nature; but whether the art of Phidias
chiefly preserves his memory among the Greeks, or the worship of animals
among the Egyptians, a river among these, or a flame among those, I do not
blame the variety of the representations—only let men understand that
there is but one; only let them love one, let them preserve one in their

A third writer who, nearly at the same time as Maximus of Tyre, made some
efforts in the same direction, was Apuleius, who, however, both as a moral
teacher, and in his freedom from superstition, was far inferior to the
preceding. The religion he most admired was the Egyptian; but in his
philosophy he was a Platonist, and in that capacity, besides an exposition
of the Platonic code of morals, he has left us a singularly clear and
striking disquisition on the doctrine of dæmons. “These dæmons,” he says,
“are the bearers of blessings and prayers between the inhabitants of earth
and heaven, carrying prayers from the one and assistance from the
other.... By them also, as Plato maintained in his ‘Banquet,’ all
revelations, all the various miracles of magicians, all kinds of omens,
are ruled. They have their several tasks to perform, their different
departments to govern; some directing dreams, others the disposition of
the entrails, others the flight of birds.... The supreme deities do not
descend to these things—they leave them to the intermediate
divinities.”(615) But these intermediate spirits are not simply the agents
of supernatural phenomena—they are also the guardians of our virtue and
the recorders of our actions. “Each man has in life witnesses and guards
of his deeds, visible to no one, but always present, witnessing not only
every act but every thought. When life has ended and we must return whence
we came, the same genius who had charge over us, takes us away and hurries
us in his custody to judgment, and then assists us in pleading our cause.
If any thing is falsely asserted he corrects it—if true, he substantiates
it, and according to his witness our sentence is determined.”(616)

There are many aspects in which these attempts at religious reform are
both interesting and important. They are interesting, because the doctrine
of dæmons, mingled, it is true, with the theory of Euhemerus about the
origin of the deities, was universally accepted by the Fathers as the true
explanation of the Pagan theology, because the notion and, after the third
century, even the artistic type of the guardian genius reappeared in that
of the guardian angel, and because the transition from polytheism to the
conception of a single deity acting by the delegation or ministration of
an army of subsidiary spirits, was manifestly fitted to prepare the way
for the reception of Christianity. They are interesting, too, as showing
the anxiety of the human mind to sublimate its religious creed to the
level of the moral and intellectual standard it had attained, and to make
religious ordinances in some degree the instruments of moral improvement.
But they are interesting above all, because the Greek and Egyptian methods
of reform represent with typical distinctness the two great tendencies of
religious thought in all succeeding periods. The Greek spirit was
essentially rationalistic and eclectic; the Egyptian spirit was
essentially mystical and devotional. The Greek sat in judgment upon his
religion. He modified, curtailed, refined, allegorised, or selected. He
treated its inconsistencies or absurdities, or immoralities, with
precisely the same freedom of criticism as those he encountered in
ordinary life. The Egyptian, on the other hand, bowed low before the
Divine presence. He veiled his eyes, he humbled his reason, he represented
the introduction of a new element into the moral life of Europe, the
spirit of religious reverence and awe.

“The Egyptian deities,” it was observed by Apuleius, “were chiefly
honoured by lamentations, and the Greek divinities by dances.”(617) The
truth of the last part of this very significant remark appears in every
page of Greek history. No nation had a richer collection of games and
festivals growing out of its religious system; in none did a light,
sportive, and often licentious fancy play more fearlessly around the
popular creed, in none was religious terrorism more rare. The Divinity was
seldom looked upon as holier than man, and a due observance of certain
rites and ceremonies was deemed an ample tribute to pay to him. In the
Egyptian system the religious ceremonies were veiled in mystery and
allegory. Chastity, abstinence from animal food, ablutions, long and
mysterious ceremonies of preparation or initiation, were the most
prominent features of worship. The deities representing the great forces
of nature, and shrouded by mysterious symbols, excited a degree of awe
which no other ancient religion approached.

The speculative philosophy, and the conceptions of morals, that
accompanied the inroad of Oriental religions, were of a kindred nature.
The most prominent characteristic of the first was its tendency to
supersede the deductions of the reason by the intuitions of ecstasy.
Neoplatonism, and the philosophies that were allied to it, were
fundamentally pantheistic,(618) but they differed widely from the
pantheism of the Stoics. The Stoics identified man with God, for the
purpose of glorifying man—the Neoplatonists for the purpose of
aggrandising God. In the conception of the first, man, independent,
self-controlled, and participating in the highest nature of the universe,
has no superior in creation. According to the latter, man is almost a
passive being, swayed and permeated by a divine impulse. Yet he is not
altogether divine. The divinity is latent in his soul, but dulled, dimmed,
and crushed by the tyranny of the body. “To bring the God that is in us
into conformity with the God that is in the universe,” to elicit the ideas
that are graven in the mind, but obscured and hidden by the passions of
the flesh—above all, to subdue the body, which is the sole obstacle to our
complete fruition of the Deity—was the main object of life. Porphyry
described all philosophy as an anticipation of death—not in the Stoical
sense of teaching us to look calmly on our end, but because death realises
the ideal of philosophy, the complete separation of soul and body. Hence
followed an ascetic morality, and a supersensual philosophy. “The greatest
of all evils,” we are told, “is pleasure; because by it the soul is nailed
or riveted to the body, and thinks that true which the body persuades it,
and is thus deprived of the sense of divine things.”(619) “Justice,
beauty, and goodness, and all things that are formed by them, no eye has
ever seen, no bodily sense can apprehend. Philosophy must be pursued by
pure and unmingled reason and with deadened senses; for the body disturbs
the mind, so that it cannot follow after wisdom. As long as it is lost and
mingled in the clay, we shall never sufficiently possess the truth we

But the reason which is thus extolled as the revealer of truth must not be
confounded with the process of reasoning. It is something quite different
from criticism, analysis, comparison, or deduction. It is essentially
intuitive, but it only acquires its power of transcendental intuition
after a long process of discipline. When a man passes from the daylight
into a room which is almost dark, he is at first absolutely unable to see
the objects around him; but gradually his eye grows accustomed to the
feeble light, the outline of the room becomes dimly visible, object after
object emerges into sight, until at last, by intently gazing, he acquires
the power of seeing around him with tolerable distinctness. In this fact
we have a partial image of the Neoplatonic doctrine of the knowledge of
divine things. Our soul is a dark chamber, darkened by contact with the
flesh, but in it there are graven divine ideas, there exists a living
divine element. The eye of reason, by long and steady introspection, can
learn to decipher these characters; the will, aided by an appointed course
of discipline, can evoke this divine element, and cause it to blend with
the universal spirit from which it sprang. The powers of mental
concentration, and of metaphysical abstraction, are therefore the highest
intellectual gifts; and quietism, or the absorption of our nature in God,
is the last stage of virtue. “The end of man,” said Pythagoras, “is God.”
The mysterious ’One,’ the metaphysical abstraction without attributes and
without form which constitutes the First Person of the Alexandrian
Trinity, is the acme of human thought, and the condition of ecstasy is the
acme of moral perfection. Plotinus, it was said, had several times
attained it. Porphyry, after years of discipline, once, and but once.(621)
The process of reasoning is here not only useless, but pernicious. “An
innate knowledge of the gods is implanted in our minds prior to all
reasoning.”(622) In divine things the task of man is not to create or to
acquire, but to educe. His means of perfection are not dialectics or
research, but long and patient meditation, silence, abstinence from the
distractions and occupations of life, the subjugation of the flesh, a life
of continual discipline, a constant attendance on those mysterious rites
which detach him from material objects, overawe and elevate his mind, and
quicken his realisation of the Divine presence.(623)

The system of Neoplatonism represents a mode of thought which in many
forms, and under many names, may be traced through the most various ages
and creeds. Mysticism, transcendentalism, inspiration, and grace, are all
words expressing the deep-seated belief that we possess fountains of
knowledge apart from all the acquisitions of the senses; that there are
certain states of mind, certain flashes of moral and intellectual
illumination, which cannot be accounted for by any play or combination of
our ordinary faculties. For the sobriety, the timidity, the fluctuations
of the reasoning spirit, Neoplatonism substituted the transports of the
imagination; and, though it cultivated the power of abstraction, every
other intellectual gift was sacrificed to the discipline of asceticism. It
made men credulous, because it suppressed that critical spirit which is
the sole barrier to the ever-encroaching imagination; because it
represented superstitious rites as especially conducive to that state of
ecstasy which was the condition of revelation; because it formed a
nervous, diseased, expectant temperament, ever prone to hallucinations,
ever agitated by vague and uncertain feelings that were readily attributed
to inspiration. As a moral system it carried, indeed, the purification of
the feelings and imagination to a higher perfection than any preceding
school, but it had the deadly fault of separating sentiment from action.
In this respect it was well fitted to be the close, the final suicide, of
Roman philosophy. Cicero assigned a place of happiness in the future world
to all who faithfully served the State.(624) The Stoics had taught that
all virtue was vain that did not issue in action. Even Epictetus, in his
portrait of the ascetic cynic—even Marcus Aurelius, in his minute
self-examination—had never forgotten the outer world. The early
Platonists, though they dwelt very strongly on mental discipline, were
equally practical. Plutarch reminds us that the same word is used for
light, and for man,(625) for the duty of man is to be the light of the
world; and he shrewdly remarked that Hesiod exhorted the husbandman to
pray for the harvest, but to do so with his hand upon the plough.
Apuleius, expounding Plato, taught “that he who is inspired by nature to
seek after good must not deem himself born for himself alone, but for all
mankind, though with diverse kinds and degrees of obligation, for he is
formed first of all for his country, then for his relations, then for
those with whom he is joined by occupation or knowledge.” Maximus of Tyre
devoted two noble essays to showing the vanity of all virtue which
exhausts itself in mental transports without radiating in action among
mankind. “What use,” he asked, “is there in knowledge unless we do those
things for which knowledge is profitable? What use is there in the skill
of the physician unless by that skill he heals the sick, or in the art of
Phidias unless he chisels the ivory or the gold.... Hercules was a wise
man, but not for himself, but that by his wisdom he might diffuse benefits
over every land and sea.... Had he preferred to lead a life apart from
men, and to follow an idle wisdom, Hercules would indeed have been a
Sophist, and no one would call him the son of Zeus. For God himself is
never idle; were He to rest, the sky would cease to move, and the earth to
produce, and the rivers to flow into the ocean, and the seasons to pursue
their appointed course.”(626) But the Neoplatonists, though they sometimes
spoke of civic virtues, regarded the condition of ecstasy as not only
transcending, but including all, and that condition could only be arrived
at by a passive life. The saying of Anaxagoras, that his mission was “to
contemplate the sun, the stars, and the course of nature, and that this
contemplation was wisdom,” was accepted as an epitome of their
philosophy.(627) A senator named Rogantianus, who had followed the
teaching of Plotinus, acquired so intense a disgust for the things of
life, that he left all his property, refused to fulfil the duties of a
prætor, abandoned his senatorial functions, and withdrew himself from
every form of business and pleasure. Plotinus, instead of reproaching him,
overwhelmed him with eulogy, selected him as his favourite disciple, and
continually represented him as the model of a philosopher.(628)

The two characteristics I have noticed—the abandonment of civic duties,
and the discouragement of the critical spirit—had from a very early period
been manifest in the Pythagorean school.(629) In the blending philosophies
of the third and fourth centuries, they became continually more apparent.
Plotinus was still an independent philosopher, inheriting the traditions
of Greek thought, though not the traditions of Greek life, building his
system avowedly by a rational method, and altogether rejecting theurgy or
religious magic. His disciple, Porphyry, first made Neoplatonism
anti-Christian, and, in his violent antipathy to the new faith, began to
convert it into a religious system. Iamblichus, who was himself an
Egyptian priest, completed the transformation,(630) resolved all moral
discipline into theurgy, and sacrificed all reasoning to faith.(631)
Julian attempted to realise the conception of a revived Paganism, blending
with and purified by philosophy. In every form the appetite for miracles
and for belief was displayed. The theory of dæmons completely superseded
the old Stoical naturalism, which regarded the different Pagan divinities
as allegories or personifications of the Divine attributes. The Platonic
ethics were again, for the most part, in the ascendant, but they were
deeply tinctured by a foreign element. Thus, suicide was condemned by the
Neoplatonists, not merely on the principle of Plato, that it is an
abandonment of the post of duty to which the Deity has called us, but also
on the quietist ground, that perturbation is necessarily a pollution of
the soul, and that, as mental perturbation accompanies the act, the soul
of the suicide departs polluted from the body.(632) The belief in a future
world, which was the common glory of the schools of Pythagoras and of
Plato, had become universal. As Roman greatness, in which men had long
seen the reward of virtue, faded rapidly away, the conception of “a city
of God” began to grow more clearly in the minds of men, and the countless
slaves who were among the chief propagators of Oriental faiths, and who
had begun to exercise an unprecedented influence in Roman life, turned
with a natural and a touching eagerness towards a happier and a freer
world.(633) The incredulity of Lucretius, Cæsar, and Pliny had
disappeared. Above all, a fusion had been effected between moral
discipline and religion, and the moralist sought his chief means of
purification in the ceremonies of the temple.

I have now completed the long and complicated task to which the present
chapter has been devoted. I have endeavoured to exhibit, so far as can be
done, by a description of general tendencies, and by a selection of
quotations, the spirit of the long series of Pagan moralists who taught at
Rome during the period that elapsed between the rise of Roman philosophy
and the triumph of Christianity. My object has not been to classify these
writers with minute accuracy, according to their speculative tenets, but
rather, as I had proposed, to exhibit the origin, the nature, and the
fortunes of the general notion or type of virtue which each moralist had
regarded as supremely good. History is not a mere succession of events
connected only by chronology. It is a chain of causes and effects. There
is a great natural difference of degree and direction in both the moral
and intellectual capacities of individuals, but it is not probable that
the general average of natural morals in great bodies of men materially
varies. When we find a society very virtuous or very vicious—when some
particular virtue or vice occupies a peculiar prominence, or when
important changes pass over the moral conceptions or standard of the
people—we have to trace in these things simply the action of the
circumstances that were dominant. The history of Roman ethics represents a
steady and uniform current, guided by the general conditions of society,
and its progress may be marked by the successive ascendancy of the Roman,
the Greek, and the Egyptian spirit.

In the age of Cato and Cicero the character of the ideal was wholly Roman,
although the philosophical expression of that character was derived from
the Greek Stoics. It exhibited all the force, the grandeur, the hardness,
the practical tendency which Roman circumstances had early created,
combined with that catholicity of spirit which resulted from very recent
political and intellectual changes. In the course of time, the Greek
element, which represented the gentler and more humane spirit of
antiquity, gained an ascendancy. It did so by simple propagandism, aided
by the long peace of the Antonines, by the effeminate habits produced by
the increasing luxury, by the attractions of the metropolis, which had
drawn multitudes of Greeks to Rome, by the patronage of the Emperors, and
also by the increasing realisation of the doctrine of universal
brotherhood, which Panætius and Cicero had asserted, but of which the full
consequences were only perceived by their successors. The change in the
type of virtue was shown in the influence of eclectic, and for the most
part Platonic, moralists, whose special assaults were directed against the
Stoical condemnation of the emotions, and in the gradual softening of the
Stoical type. In Seneca the hardness of the sect, though very apparent, is
broken by precepts of a real and extensive benevolence, though that
benevolence springs rather from a sense of duty than from tenderness of
feeling. In Dion Chrysostom the practical benevolence is not less
prominent, but there is less both of pride and of callousness. Epictetus
embodied the sternest Stoicism in his Manual, but his dissertations
exhibit a deep religious feeling and a wide range of sympathies. In Marcus
Aurelius the emotional elements had greatly increased, and the amiable
qualities began to predominate over the heroic ones. We find at the same
time a new stress laid upon purity of thought and imagination, a growing
feeling of reverence, and an earnest desire to reform the popular

This second stage exhibits a happy combination of the Roman and Greek
spirits. Disinterested, strictly practical, averse to the speculative
subtilties of the Greek intellect, Stoicism was still the religion of a
people who were the rulers and the organisers of the world, whose
enthusiasm was essentially patriotic, and who had learnt to sacrifice
everything but pride to the sense of duty. It had, however, become
amiable, gentle, and spiritual. It had gained much in beauty, while it had
lost something in force. In the world of morals, as in the world of
physics, strength is nearly allied to hardness. He who feels keenly is
easily moved, and a sensitive sympathy which lies at the root of an
amiable character is in consequence a principle of weakness. The race of
great Roman Stoics, which had never ceased during the tyranny of Nero or
Domitian, began to fail. In the very moment when the ideal of the sect had
attained its supreme perfection, a new movement appeared, the philosophy
sank into disrepute, and the last act of the drama began.

In this, as in the preceding ones, all was normal and regular. The long
continuance of despotic government had gradually destroyed the active
public spirit of which Stoicism was the expression. The predominance of
the subtle intellect of Greece, and the multiplication of rhetoricians,
had converted the philosophy into a school of disputation and of
casuistry. The increasing cultivation of the emotions continued, till what
may be termed the moral centre was changed, and the development of feeling
was deemed more important than the regulation of actions. This cultivation
of the emotions predisposed men to religion. A reaction, intensified by
many minor causes, set in against the scepticism of the preceding
generation, and Alexandria gradually became the moral capital of the
empire. The Roman type speedily disappeared. A union was effected between
superstitious rites and philosophy, and the worship of Egyptian deities
prepared the way for the teaching of the Neoplatonists, who combined the
most visionary part of the speculations of Plato with the ancient
philosophies of the East. In Plotinus we find most of the first; in
Iamblichus most of the second. The minds of men, under their influence,
grew introspective, credulous, and superstitious, and found their ideal
states in the hallucinations of ecstasy and the calm of an unpractical

Such were the influences which acted in turn upon a society which, by
despotism, by slavery, and by atrocious amusements, had been debased and
corrupted to the very core. Each sect which successively arose contributed
something to remedy the evil. Stoicism placed beyond cavil the great
distinctions between right and wrong. It inculcated the doctrine of
universal brotherhood, it created a noble literature and a noble
legislation, and it associated its moral system with the patriotic spirit
which was then the animating spirit of Roman life. The early Platonists of
the Empire corrected the exaggerations of Stoicism, gave free scope to the
amiable qualities, and supplied a theory of right and wrong, suited not
merely for heroic characters and for extreme emergencies, but also for the
characters and the circumstances of common life. The Pythagorean and
Neoplatonic schools revived the feeling of religious reverence, inculcated
humility, prayerfulness, and purity of thought, and accustomed men to
associate their moral ideals with the Deity, rather than with themselves.

The moral improvement of society was now to pass into other hands. A
religion which had long been increasing in obscurity began to emerge into
the light. By the beauty of its moral precepts, by the systematic skill
with which it governed the imagination and habits of its worshippers, by
the strong religious motives to which it could appeal, by its admirable
ecclesiastical organisation, and, it must be added, by its unsparing use
of the arm of power, Christianity soon eclipsed or destroyed all other
sects, and became for many centuries the supreme ruler of the moral world.
Combining the Stoical doctrine of universal brotherhood, the Greek
predilection for the amiable qualities, and the Egyptian spirit of
reverence and religious awe, it acquired from the first an intensity and
universality of influence which none of the philosophies it had superseded
had approached. I have now to examine the moral causes that governed the
rise of this religion in Rome, the ideal of virtue it presented, the
degree and manner in which it stamped its image upon the character of
nations, and the perversions and distortions it underwent.


There is no fact in the history of the human mind more remarkable than the
complete unconsciousness of the importance and the destinies of
Christianity, manifested by the Pagan writers before the accession of
Constantine. So large an amount of attention has been bestowed on the ten
or twelve allusions to it they furnish, that we are sometimes apt to
forget how few and meagre those allusions are, and how utterly impossible
it is to construct from them, with any degree of certainty, a history of
the early Church. Plutarch and the elder Pliny, who probably surpass all
other writers of their time in the range of their illustrations, and
Seneca, who was certainly the most illustrious moralist of his age, never
even mention it. Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius have each adverted to it
with a passing and contemptuous censure. Tacitus describes in detail the
persecution by Nero, but treats the suffering religion merely as “an
execrable superstition;” while Suetonius, employing the same expression,
reckons the persecution among the acts of the tyrant that were either
laudable or indifferent. Our most important document is the famous letter
of the younger Pliny. Lucian throws some light both on the extent of
Christian charity, and on the aspect in which Christians were regarded by
the religious jugglers of their age, and the long series of Pagans who
wrote the lives of the Emperors in that most critical period from the
accession of Hadrian, almost to the eve of the triumph of the Church,
among a crowd of details concerning the dresses, games, vices, and follies
of the Court, supply us with six or seven short notices of the religion
that was transforming the world.

The general silence of the Pagan writers on this subject did not arise
from any restrictions imposed upon them by authority, for in this field
the widest latitude was conceded, nor yet from the notions of the dignity
of history, or the importance of individual exertions, which have induced
some historians to resolve their task into a catalogue of the achievements
of kings, statesmen, and generals. The conception of history, as the
record and explanation of moral revolutions, though of course not
developed to the same prominence as among some modern writers, was by no
means unknown in antiquity,(634) and in many branches our knowledge of the
social changes of the Roman Empire is extremely copious. The dissolution
of old beliefs, the decomposition of the entire social and moral system
that had arisen under the Republic, engaged in the very highest degree the
attention of the literary classes, and they displayed the most commendable
diligence in tracing its stages. It is very curious and instructive to
contrast the ample information they have furnished us concerning the
growth of Roman luxury, with their almost absolute silence concerning the
growth of Christianity. The moral importance of the former movement they
clearly recognised, and they have accordingly preserved so full a record
of all the changes in dress, banquets, buildings, and spectacles, that it
would be possible to write with the most minute detail the whole history
of Roman luxury, from the day when a censor deprived an elector of his
vote because his garden was negligently cultivated, to the orgies of Nero
or Heliogabalus. The moral importance of the other movement they
altogether overlooked, and their oversight leaves a chasm in history which
can never be supplied.

That the greatest religious change in the history of mankind should have
taken place under the eyes of a brilliant galaxy of philosophers and
historians, who were profoundly conscious of the decomposition around
them, that all of these writers should have utterly failed to predict the
issue of the movement they were observing, and that, during the space of
three centuries, they should have treated as simply contemptible an agency
which all men must now admit to have been, for good or for evil, the most
powerful moral lever that has ever been applied to the affairs of man, are
facts well worthy of meditation in every period of religious transition.
The explanation is to be found in that broad separation between the
spheres of morals and of positive religion we have considered in the last
chapter. In modern times, men who were examining the probable moral future
of the world, would naturally, and in the first place, direct their
attention to the relative positions and the probable destinies of
religious institutions. In the Stoical period of the Roman Empire,
positive religion had come to be regarded as merely an art for obtaining
preternatural assistance in the affairs of life, and the moral
amelioration of mankind was deemed altogether external to its sphere.
Philosophy had become to the educated most literally a religion. It was
the rule of life, the exposition of the Divine nature, the source of
devotional feeling. The numerous Oriental superstitions that had deluged
the city were regarded as peculiarly pernicious and contemptible, and of
these none was less likely to attract the favour of the philosophers than
that of the Jews,(635) who were notorious as the most sordid, the most
turbulent,(636) and the most unsocial(637) of the Oriental colonists. Of
the ignorance of their tenets, displayed even by the most eminent Romans,
we have a striking illustration in the long series of grotesque fables
concerning their belief, probably derived from some satirical pamphlet,
which Tacitus has gravely inserted in his history.(638) Christianity, in
the eyes of the philosopher, was simply a sect of Judaism.

Although I am anxious in the present work to avoid, as far as possible,
all questions that are purely theological, and to consider Christianity
merely in its aspect as a moral agent, it will be necessary to bestow a
few preliminary pages upon its triumph in the Roman Empire, in order to
ascertain how far that triumph was due to moral causes, and what were its
relations to the prevailing philosophy. There are some writers who have
been so struck with the conformity between some of the doctrines of the
later Stoics and those of Christianity that they have imagined that
Christianity had early obtained a decisive influence over philosophy, and
that the leading teachers of Rome had been in some measure its disciples.
There are others who reduce the conversion of the Roman Empire to a mere
question of evidences, to the overwhelming proofs the Christian teachers
produced of the authenticity of the Gospel narratives. There are others,
again, who deem the triumph of Christianity simply miraculous. Everything,
they tell us, was against it. The course of the Church was like that of a
ship sailing rapidly and steadily to the goal, in direct defiance of both
wind and tide, and the conversion of the Empire was as literally
supernatural as the raising of the dead, or the sudden quelling of the

On the first of these theories it will not, I think, be necessary, after
the last chapter, to expatiate at length. It is admitted that the greatest
moralists of the Roman Empire either never mentioned Christianity, or
mentioned it with contempt; that they habitually disregarded the many
religions which had arisen among the ignorant; and that we have no direct
evidence of the slightest value of their ever having come in contact with
or favoured the Christians. The supposition that they were influenced by
Christianity rests mainly upon their enforcement of the Christian duty of
self-examination, upon their strong assertion of the universal brotherhood
of mankind, and upon the delicate and expansive humanity they at last
evinced. But although on all these points the later Stoics approximated
much to Christianity, we have already seen that it is easy to discover in
each case the cause of the tendency. The duty of self-examination was
simply a Pythagorean precept, enforced in that school long before the rise
of Christianity, introduced into Stoicism when Pythagoreanism became
popular in Rome, and confessedly borrowed from this source. The doctrine
of the universal brotherhood of mankind was the manifest expression of
those political and social changes which reduced the whole civilised globe
to one great empire, threw open to the most distant tribes the right of
Roman citizenship, and subverted all those class divisions around which
moral theories had been formed. Cicero asserted it as emphatically as
Seneca. The theory of pantheism, representing the entire creation as one
great body, pervaded by one Divine soul, harmonised with it; and it is a
curious fact that the very phraseology concerning the fellow-membership of
all things in God, which has been most confidently adduced by some modern
writers as proving the connection between Seneca and Christianity, was
selected by Lactantius as the clearest illustration of the pantheism of
Stoicism.(639) The humane character of the later Stoical teaching was
obviously due to the infusion of the Greek element into Roman life, which
began before the foundation of the Empire, and received a new impulse in
the reign of Hadrian, and also to the softening influence of a luxurious
civilisation, and of the long peace of the Antonines. While far inferior
to the Greeks in practical and realised humanity, the Romans never
surpassed their masters in theoretical humanity except in one respect. The
humanity of the Greeks, though very earnest, was confined within a narrow
circle. The social and political circumstances of the Roman Empire
destroyed the barrier.

The only case in which any plausible arguments have been urged in favour
of the notion that the writings of the Stoics were influenced by the New
Testament is that of Seneca. This philosopher was regarded by all the
mediæval writers as a Christian, on the ground of a correspondence with
St. Paul, which formed part of a forged account of the martyrdom of St.
Peter and St. Paul, attributed to St. Linus. These letters, which were
absolutely unnoticed during the first three centuries, and are first
mentioned by St. Jerome, are now almost universally abandoned as
forgeries;(640) but many curious coincidences of phraseology have been
pointed out between the writings of Seneca and the epistles of St. Paul;
and the presumption derived from them has been strengthened by the facts
that the brother of Seneca was that Gallio who refused to hear the
disputes between St. Paul and the Jews, and that Burrhus, who was the
friend and colleague of Seneca, was the officer to whose custody St. Paul
had been entrusted at Rome. Into the minute verbal criticism to which this
question had given rise,(641) it is not necessary for me to enter. It has
been shown that much of what was deemed Christian phraseology grew out of
the pantheistic notion of one great body including, and one Divine mind
animating and guiding, all existing things; and many other of the
pretended coincidences are so slight as to be altogether worthless as an
argument. Still I think most persons who review what has been written on
the subject will conclude that it is probable some fragments at least of
Christian language had come to the ears of Seneca. But to suppose that his
system of morals is in any degree formed after the model or under the
influence of Christianity, is to be blind to the most obvious
characteristics of both Christianity and Stoicism; for no other moralist
could be so aptly selected as representing their extreme divergence.
Reverence and humility, a constant sense of the supreme majesty of God and
of the weakness and sinfulness of man, and a perpetual reference to
another world, were the essential characteristics of Christianity, the
source of all its power, the basis of its distinctive type. Of all these,
the teaching of Seneca is the direct antithesis. Careless of the future
world, and profoundly convinced of the supreme majesty of man, he laboured
to emancipate his disciples “from every fear of God and man;” and the
proud language in which he claimed for the sage an equality with the gods
represents, perhaps, the highest point to which philosophic arrogance has
been carried. The Jews, with whom the Christians were then universally
identified, he emphatically describes as “an accursed race.”(642) One man,
indeed, there was among the later Stoics who had almost realised the
Christian type, and in whose pure and gentle nature the arrogance of his
school can be scarcely traced; but Marcus Aurelius, who of all the Pagan
world, if we argued by internal evidence alone, would have been most
readily identified with Christianity, was a persecutor of the faith, and
he has left on record in his “Meditations” his contempt for the Christian

The relation between the Pagan philosophers and the Christian religion was
a subject of much discussion and of profound difference of opinion in the
early Church.(644) While the writers of one school apologised for the
murder of Socrates, described the martyred Greek as the ’buffoon of
Athens,’(645) and attributed his inspiration to diabolical influence;(646)
while they designated the writings of the philosophers as “the schools of
heretics,” and collected with a malicious assiduity all the calumnies that
had been heaped upon their memory—there were others who made it a leading
object to establish a close affinity between Pagan philosophy and the
Christian revelation. Imbued in many instances, almost from childhood,
with the noble teaching of Plato, and keenly alive to the analogies
between his philosophy and their new faith, these writers found the
exhibition of this resemblance at once deeply grateful to themselves and
the most successful way of dispelling the prejudices of their Pagan
neighbours. The success that had attended the Christian prophecies
attributed to the Sibyls and the oracles, the passion for eclecticism,
which the social and commercial position of Alexandria had generated, and
also the example of the Jew Aristobulus, who had some time before
contended that the Jewish writings had been translated into Greek, and had
been the source of much of the Pagan wisdom, encouraged them in their
course. The most conciliatory, and at the same time the most philosophical
school, was the earliest in the Church. Justin Martyr—the first of the
Fathers whose writings possess any general philosophical
interest—cordially recognises the excellence of many parts of the Pagan
philosophy, and even attributes it to a Divine inspiration, to the action
of the generative or “seminal Logos,” which from the earliest times had
existed in the world, had inspired teachers like Socrates and Musonius,
who had been persecuted by the dæmons, and had received in Christianity
its final and perfect manifestation.(647) The same generous and expansive
appreciation may be traced in the writings of several later Fathers,
although the school was speedily disfigured by some grotesque
extravagances. Clement of Alexandria—a writer of wide sympathies,
considerable originality, very extensive learning, but of a feeble and
fantastic judgment—who immediately succeeded Justin Martyr, attributed all
the wisdom of antiquity to two sources. The first source was tradition;
for the angels, who had been fascinated by the antediluvian ladies, had
endeavoured to ingratiate themselves with their fair companions by giving
them an abstract of the metaphysical and other learning which was then
current in heaven, and the substance of these conversations, being
transmitted by tradition, supplied the Pagan philosophers with their
leading notions. The angels did not know everything, and therefore the
Greek philosophy was imperfect; but this event formed the first great
epoch in literary history. The second and most important source of Pagan
wisdom was the Old Testament,(648) the influence of which many of the
early Christians traced in every department of ancient wisdom. Plato had
borrowed from it all his philosophy, Homer the noblest conceptions of his
poetry, Demosthenes the finest touches of his eloquence. Even Miltiades
owed his military skill to an assiduous study of the Pentateuch, and the
ambuscade by which he won the battle of Marathon was imitated from the
strategy of Moses.(649) Pythagoras, moreover, had been himself a
circumcised Jew.(650) Plato had been instructed in Egypt by the prophet
Jeremiah. The god Serapis was no other than the patriarch Joseph, his
Egyptian name being manifestly derived from his great-grandmother

Absurdities of this kind, of which I have given extreme but by no means
the only examples, were usually primarily intended to repel arguments
against Christianity, and they are illustrations of the tendency which has
always existed in an uncritical age to invent, without a shadow of
foundation, the most elaborate theories of explanation rather than
recognise the smallest force in an objection. Thus, when the Pagans
attempted to reduce Christianity to a normal product of the human mind, by
pointing to the very numerous Pagan legends which were precisely parallel
to the Jewish histories, it was answered that the dæmons were careful
students of prophecy, that they foresaw with terror the advent of their
Divine Conqueror, and that, in order to prevent men believing in him, they
had invented, by anticipation, a series of legends resembling the events
which were foretold.(652) More frequently, however, the early Christians
retorted the accusations of plagiarism, and by forged writings attributed
to Pagan authors, or, by pointing out alleged traces of Jewish influence
in genuine Pagan writings, they endeavoured to trace through the past the
footsteps of their faith. But this method of assimilation, which
culminated in the Gnostics, the Neoplatonists, and especially in Origen,
was directed not to the later Stoics of the Empire, but to the great
philosophers who had preceded Christianity. It was in the writings of
Plato, not in those of Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius, that the Fathers of
the first three centuries found the influence of the Jewish Scriptures,
and at the time when the passion for discovering these connections was
most extravagant, the notion of Seneca and his followers being inspired by
the Christians was unknown.

Dismissing then, as altogether groundless, the notion that Christianity
had obtained a complete or even a partial influence over the philosophic
classes during the period of Stoical ascendancy, we come to the opinion of
those who suppose that the Roman Empire was converted by a system of
evidences—by the miraculous proofs of the divinity of Christianity,
submitted to the adjudication of the people. To estimate this view aright,
we have to consider both the capacity of the men of that age for judging
miracles, and also—which is a different question—the extent to which such
evidence would weigh upon their minds. To treat this subject
satisfactorily, it may be advisable to enter at some little length into
the broad question of the evidence of the miraculous.

With the exception of a small minority of the priests of the Catholic
Church, a general incredulity on the subject of miracles now underlies the
opinions of almost all educated men. Nearly every one, however cordially
he may admit some one particular class of miracles, as a general rule
regards the accounts of such events, which are so frequent in all old
historians, as false and incredible, even when he fully believes the
natural events that are authenticated by the same testimony. The reason of
this incredulity is not altogether the impossibility or even extreme
natural improbability of miracles; for, whatever may be the case with
some, there is at least one class or conception of them which is perfectly
free from logical difficulty. There is no contradiction involved in the
belief that spiritual beings, of power and wisdom immeasurably
transcending our own, exist, or that, existing, they might, by the normal
exercise of their powers, perform feats as far surpassing the
understanding of the most gifted of mankind, as the electric telegraph and
the prediction of an eclipse surpass the faculties of a savage. Nor does
the incredulity arise, I think, as is commonly asserted, from the want of
that amount and kind of evidence which in other departments is deemed
sufficient. Very few of the minor facts of history are authenticated by as
much evidence as the Stigmata of St. Francis, or the miracle of the holy
thorn, or those which were said to have been wrought at the tomb of the
Abbé Paris. We believe, with tolerable assurance, a crowd of historical
events on the testimony of one or two Roman historians; but when Tacitus
and Suetonius describe how Vespasian restored a blind man to sight, and a
cripple to strength,(653) their deliberate assertions do not even beget in
our minds a suspicion that the narrative may possibly be true. We are
quite certain that miracles were not ordinary occurrences in classical or
mediæval times, but nearly all the contemporary writers from whom we
derive our knowledge of those periods were convinced that they were.

If, then, I have correctly interpreted the opinions of ordinary educated
people on this subject, it appears that the common attitude towards
miracles is not that of doubt, of hesitation, of discontent with the
existing evidence, but rather of absolute, derisive, and even unexamining
incredulity. Such a fact, when we consider that the antecedent possibility
of at least some miracles is usually admitted, and in the face of the vast
mass of tradition that may be adduced in their favour, appears at first
sight a striking anomaly, and the more so because it can be shown that the
belief in miracles had in most cases not been reasoned down, but had
simply faded away.

In order to ascertain the process by which this state of mind has been
attained, we may take an example in a sphere which is happily removed from
controversy. There are very few persons with whom the fictitious character
of fairy tales has not ceased to be a question, or who would hesitate to
disbelieve or even to ridicule any anecdote of this nature which was told
them, without the very smallest examination of its evidence. Yet, if we
ask in what respect the existence of fairies is naturally contradictory or
absurd, it would be difficult to answer the question. A fairy is simply a
being possessing a moderate share of human intelligence, with little or no
moral faculty, with a body pellucid, winged, and volatile, like that of an
insect, with a passion for dancing, and, perhaps, with an extraordinary
knowledge of the properties of different plants. That such beings should
exist, or that, existing, they should be able to do many things beyond
human power, are propositions which do not present the smallest
difficulty. For many centuries their existence was almost universally
believed. There is not a country, not a province, scarcely a parish, in
which traditions of their appearance were not long preserved. So great a
weight of tradition, so many independent trains of evidence attesting
statements perfectly free from intrinsic absurdity, or even improbability,
might appear sufficient, if not to establish conviction, at least to
supply a very strong _primâ facie_ case, and ensure a patient and
respectful investigation of the subject.

It has not done so, and the reason is sufficiently plain. The question of
the credibility of fairy tales has not been resolved by an examination of
evidence, but by an observation of the laws of historic development.
Wherever we find an ignorant and rustic population, the belief in fairies
is found to exist, and circumstantial accounts of their apparitions are
circulated. But invariably with increased education this belief passes
away. It is not that the fairy tales are refuted or explained away, or
even narrowly scrutinised. It is that the fairies cease to appear. From
the uniformity of this decline, we infer that fairy tales are the normal
product of a certain condition of the imagination; and this position is
raised to a moral certainty when we find that the decadence of fairy tales
is but one of a long series of similar transformations.

When the savage looks around upon the world and begins to form his
theories of existence, he falls at once into three great errors, which
become the first principles of his subsequent opinions. He believes that
this earth is the centre of the universe, and that all the bodies
encircling it are intended for its use; that the disturbances and
dislocations it presents, and especially the master curse of death, are
connected with some event in his history, and also that the numerous
phenomena and natural vicissitudes he sees around him are due to direct
and isolated volitions, either of spirits presiding over, or of
intelligences inherent in, matter. Around these leading conceptions a
crowd of particular legends speedily cluster. If a stone falls beside him,
he naturally infers that some one has thrown it. If it be an aërolite, it
is attributed to some celestial being. Believing that each comet, tempest,
or pestilence results from a direct and isolated act, he proceeds to make
theories regarding the motives that have induced his spiritual persecutors
to assail him, and the methods by which he may assuage their anger.
Finding numerous distinct trains or series of phenomena, he invents for
each appropriate presiding spirits. Miracles are to him neither strange
events nor violations of natural law, but simply the unveiling or
manifestation of the ordinary government of the world.

With these broad intellectual conceptions several minor influences concur.
A latent fetichism, which is betrayed in that love of direct
personification, or of applying epithets derived from sentient beings to
inanimate nature, which appears so largely in all poetry and eloquence,
and especially in those of an early period of society, is the root of a
great part of our opinions. If—to employ a very familiar illustration—the
most civilised and rational of mankind will observe his own emotions, when
by some accident he has struck his head violently against a door-post, he
will probably find that his first exclamation was not merely of pain but
of anger, and of anger directed against the wood. In a moment reason
checks the emotion; but if he observes carefully his own feelings, he may
easily convince himself of the unconscious fetichism which, is latent in
his mind, and which, in the case of a child or a savage, displays itself
without reserve. Man instinctively ascribes volition to whatever
powerfully affects him. The feebleness of his imagination conspires with
other causes to prevent an uncivilised man from rising above the
conception of an anthropomorphic Deity, and the capricious or isolated
acts of such a being form his exact notion of miracles. The same
feebleness of imagination makes him clothe all intellectual tendencies,
all conflicting emotions, all forces, passions, or fancies, in material
forms. His mind naturally translates the conflict between opposing
feelings into a history of the combat between rival spirits. A vast
accumulation of myths is spontaneously formed—each legend being merely the
material expression of a moral fact. The simple love of the wonderful, and
the complete absence of all critical spirit, aid the formation.

In this manner we find that in certain stages of society, and under the
action of the influences I have stated, an accretion of miraculous legends
is naturally formed around prominent personages or institutions. We look
for them as we look for showers in April, or for harvest in autumn. We can
very rarely show with any confidence the precise manner in which a
particular legend is created or the nucleus of truth it contains, but we
can analyse the general causes that have impelled men towards the
miraculous; we can show that these causes have never failed to produce the
effect, and we can trace the gradual alteration of mental conditions
invariably accompanying the decline of the belief. When men are destitute
of critical spirit, when the notion of uniform law is yet unborn, and when
their imaginations are still incapable of rising to abstract ideas,
histories of miracles are always formed and always believed, and they
continue to flourish and to multiply until these conditions have altered.
Miracles cease when men cease to believe and to expect them. In periods
that are equally credulous, they multiply or diminish in proportion to the
intensity with which the imagination is directed to theological topics. A
comparison of the histories of the most different nations shows the
mythical period to have been common to all; and we may trace in many
quarters substantially the same miracles, though varied by national
characteristics, and with a certain local cast and colouring. As among the
Alps the same shower falls as rain in the sunny valleys, and as snow among
the lofty peaks, so the same intellectual conceptions which in one moral
latitude take the form of nymphs, or fairies, or sportive legends, appear
in another as dæmons or appalling apparitions. Sometimes we can discover
the precise natural fact which the superstition had misread. Thus,
epilepsy, the phenomenon of nightmare, and that form of madness which
leads men to imagine themselves transformed into some animal, are,
doubtless, the explanation of many tales of demoniacal possession, of
incubi, and of lycanthropy. In other cases we may detect a single error,
such as the notion that the sky is close to the earth, or that the sun
revolves around the globe, which had suggested the legend. But more
frequently we can give only a general explanation, enabling us to assign
these legends to their place, as the normal expression of a certain stage
of knowledge or intellectual power; and this explanation is their
refutation. We do not say that they are impossible, or even that they are
not authenticated by as much evidence as many facts we believe. We only
say that, in certain conditions of society, illusions of the kind
inevitably appear. No one can prove that there are no such things as
ghosts; but if a man whose brain is reeling with fever declares that he
has seen one, we have no great difficulty in forming an opinion about his

The gradual decadence of miraculous narratives which accompanies advancing
civilisation may be chiefly traced to three causes. The first is that
general accuracy of observation and of statement which all education tends
more or less to produce, which checks the amplifications of the
undisciplined imagination, and is speedily followed by a much stronger
moral feeling on the subject of truth than ever exists in a rude
civilisation. The second is an increased power of abstraction, which is
likewise a result of general education, and which, by correcting the early
habit of personifying all phenomena, destroys one of the most prolific
sources of legends, and closes the mythical period of history. The third
is the progress of physical science, which gradually dispels that
conception of a universe governed by perpetual and arbitrary interference,
from which, for the most part, these legends originally sprang. The whole
history of physical science is one continued revelation of the reign of
law. The same law that governs the motions of a grain of dust, or the
light of the glowworm’s lamp, is shown to preside over the march of the
most majestic planet or the fire of the most distant sun. Countless
phenomena, which were for centuries universally believed to be the results
of spiritual agency, portents of calamity, or acts of Divine vengeance,
have been one by one explained, have been shown to rise from blind
physical causes, to be capable of prediction, or amenable to human
remedies. Forms of madness which were for ages supposed to result from
possession, are treated successfully in our hospitals. The advent of the
comet is predicted. The wire invented by the sceptic Franklin defends the
crosses on our churches from the lightning stroke of heaven. Whether we
examine the course of the planets or the world of the animalculæ; to
whatever field of physical nature our research is turned, the uniform,
invariable result of scientific enquiry is to show that even the most
apparently irregular and surprising phenomena are governed by natural
antecedents, and are parts of one great connected system. From this vast
concurrence of evidence, from this uniformity of experience in so many
spheres, there arises in the minds of scientific men a conviction,
amounting to absolute moral certainty, that the whole course of physical
nature is governed by law, that the notion of the perpetual interference
of the Deity with some particular classes of its phenomena is false and
unscientific, and that the theological habit of interpreting the
catastrophes of nature as Divine warnings or punishments, or disciplines,
is a baseless and a pernicious superstition.

The effects of these discoveries upon miraculous legends are of various
kinds. In the first place, a vast number which have clustered around the
notion of the irregularity of some phenomenon which is proved to be
regular—such as the innumerable accounts collected by the ancients to
corroborate their opinion of the portentous nature of comets—are directly
overthrown. In the next place, the revelation of the interdependence of
phenomena greatly increases the improbability of some legends which it
does not actually disprove. Thus, when men believed the sun to be simply a
lamp revolving around and lighting our world, they had no great difficulty
in believing that it was one day literally arrested in its course, to
illuminate an army which was engaged in massacring its enemies; but the
case became different when it was perceived that the sun was the centre of
a vast system of worlds, which a suspension of the earth’s motion must
have reduced to chaos, without a miracle extending through it all. Thus,
again, the old belief that some animals became for the first time
carnivorous in consequence of the sin of Adam, appeared tolerably simple
so long as this revolution was supposed to be only a change of habits or
of tastes; but it became more difficult of belief when it was shown to
involve a change of teeth; and the difficulty was, I suppose, still
further aggravated when it was proved that, every animal having digestive
organs specially adapted to its food, these also must have been changed.

In the last place, physical science exercises a still wider influence by
destroying what I have called the centre ideas out of which countless
particular theories were evolved, of which they were the natural
expression, and upon which their permanence depends. Proving that our
world is not the centre of the universe, but is a simple planet, revolving
with many others around a common sun; proving that the disturbances and
sufferings of the world do not result from an event which occurred but
6,000 years ago; that long before that period the earth was dislocated by
the most fearful convulsions; that countless generations of sentient
animals, and also, as recent discoveries appear conclusively to show, of
men, not only lived but died; proving, by an immense accumulation of
evidence, that the notion of a universe governed by isolated acts of
special intervention is untrue—physical science had given new directions
to the currents of the imagination, supplied the judgment with new
measures of probability, and thus affected the whole circle of our

With most men, however, the transition is as yet but imperfectly
accomplished, and that part of physical nature which science has hitherto
failed to explain is regarded as a sphere of special interposition. Thus,
multitudes who recognise the fact that the celestial phenomena are subject
to inflexible law, imagine that the dispensation of rain is in some sense
the result of arbitrary interpositions, determined by the conduct of
mankind. Near the equator, it is true, it is tolerably constant and
capable of prediction; but in proportion as we recede from the equator,
the rainfall becomes more variable, and consequently, in the eyes of some,
supernatural, and although no scientific man has the faintest doubt that
it is governed by laws as inflexible as those which determine the motions
of the planets, yet because, owing to the great complexity of the
determining causes, we are unable fully to explain them, it is still
customary to speak of “plagues of rain and water” sent on account of our
sins, and of “scarcity and dearth, which we most justly suffer for our
iniquity.” Corresponding language is employed about the forms of disease
and death which science has but imperfectly explained. If men are employed
in some profession which compels them to inhale steel filings or noxious
vapours, or if they live in a pestilential marsh, the diseases that result
from these conditions are not regarded as a judgment or a discipline, for
the natural cause is obvious and decisive. But if the conditions that
produced the disease are very subtle and very complicated; if physicians
are incapable of tracing with certainty its nature or its effects; if,
above all, it assumes the character of an epidemic, it is continually
treated as a Divine judgment. The presumption against this view arises not
only from the fact that, in exact proportion as medical science advances,
diseases are proved to be the necessary consequence of physical
conditions, but also from many characteristics of unexplained disease
which unequivocally prove it to be natural. Thus, cholera, which is
frequently treated according to the theological method, varies with the
conditions of temperature, is engendered by particular forms of diet,
follows the course of rivers, yields in some measure to medical treatment,
can be aggravated or mitigated by courses of conduct that have no relation
to vice or virtue, takes its victims indiscriminately from all grades of
morals or opinion. Usually, when definite causes are assigned for a
supposed judgment, they lead to consequences of the most grotesque
absurdity. Thus, when a deadly and mysterious disease fell upon the cattle
of England, some divines, not content with treating it as a judgment,
proceeded to trace it to certain popular writings containing what were
deemed heterodox opinions about the Pentateuch, or about the eternity of
punishment. It may be true that the disease was imported from a country
where such speculations are unknown; that the authors objected to had no
cattle; that the farmers, who chiefly suffered by the disease, were for
the most part absolutely unconscious of the existence of these books, and
if they knew them would have indignantly repudiated them; that the town
populations, who chiefly read them, were only affected indirectly by a
rise in the price of food, which falls with perfect impartiality upon the
orthodox and upon the heterodox; that particular counties were peculiarly
sufferers, without being at all conspicuous for their scepticism; that
similar writings appeared in former periods, without cattle being in any
respect the worse; and that, at the very period at which the plague was
raging, other countries, in which far more audacious speculations were
rife, enjoyed an absolute immunity. In the face of all these consequences,
the theory has been confidently urged and warmly applauded.

It is not, I think, sufficiently observed how large a proportion of such
questions are capable of a strictly inductive method of discussion. If it
is said that plagues or pestilences are sent as a punishment of error or
of vice, the assertion must be tested by a comprehensive examination of
the history of plagues on the one hand, and of periods of great vice and
heterodoxy on the other. If it be said that an influence more powerful
than any military agency directs the course of battles, the action of this
force must be detected as we would detect electricity, or any other force,
by experiment. If the attribute of infallibility be ascribed to a
particular Church, an inductive reasoner will not be content with
enquiring how far an infallible Church would be a desirable thing, or how
far certain ancient words may be construed as a prediction of its
appearance; he will examine, by a wide and careful survey of
ecclesiastical history, whether this Church has actually been immutable
and consistent in its teaching; whether it has never been affected by the
ignorance or the passion of the age; whether its influence has uniformly
been exerted on the side which proved to be true; whether it has never
supported by its authority scientific views which were afterwards
demonstrated to be false, or countenanced and consolidated popular errors,
or thrown obstacles in the path of those who were afterwards recognised as
the enlighteners of mankind. If ecclesiastical deliberations are said to
be specially inspired or directed by an illuminating and supernatural
power, we should examine whether the councils and convocations of
clergymen exhibit a degree and harmony of wisdom that cannot reasonably be
accounted for by the play of our unassisted faculties. If institutions are
said to owe their growth to special supernatural agencies, distinct from
the ordinary system of natural laws, we must examine whether their courses
are so striking and so peculiar that natural laws fail to explain them.
Whenever, as in the case of a battle, very many influences concur to the
result, it will frequently happen that that result will baffle our
predictions. It will also happen that strange coincidences, such as the
frequent recurrence of the same number in a game of chance, will occur.
But there are limits to these variations from what we regard as probable.
If, in throwing the dice, we uniformly attained the same number, or if in
war the army which was most destitute of all military advantages was
uniformly victorious, we should readily infer that some special cause was
operating to produce the result. We must remember, too, that in every
great historical crisis the prevalence of either side will bring with it a
long train of consequences, and that we only see one side of the picture.
If Hannibal, after his victory at Cannæ, had captured and burnt Rome, the
vast series of results that have followed from the ascendancy of the Roman
Empire would never have taken place, but the supremacy of a maritime,
commercial, and comparatively pacific power would have produced an
entirely different series, which would have formed the basis and been the
essential condition of all the subsequent progress; a civilisation, the
type and character of which it is now impossible to conjecture, would have
arisen, and its theologians would probably have regarded the career of
Hannibal as one of the most manifest instances of special interposition on

If we would form sound opinions on these matters, we must take a very wide
and impartial survey of the phenomena of history. We must examine whether
events have tended in a given direction with a uniformity or a persistence
that is not naturally explicable. We must examine not only the facts that
corroborate our theory, but also those which oppose it.

That such a method is not ordinarily adopted must be manifest to all. As
Bacon said, men “mark the hits, but not the misses;” they collect
industriously the examples in which many, and sometimes improbable,
circumstances have converged to a result which they consider good, and
they simply leave out of their consideration the circumstances that tend
in the opposite direction. They expatiate with triumph upon the careers of
emperors who have been the unconscious pioneers or agents in some great
movement of human progress, but they do not dwell upon those whose genius
was expended in a hopeless resistance, or upon those who, like Bajazet or
Tamerlane, having inflicted incalculable evils upon mankind, passed away,
leaving no enduring fruit behind them. A hundred missionaries start upon
an enterprise, the success of which appears exceedingly improbable.
Ninety-nine perish and are forgotten. One missionary succeeds, and his
success is attributed to supernatural interference, because the
probabilities were so greatly against him. It is observed that a long
train of political or military events ensured the triumph of Protestantism
in certain nations and periods. It is forgotten that another train of
events destroyed the same faith in other lands, and paralysed the efforts
of its noblest martyrs. We are told of showers of rain that followed
public prayer; but we are not told how often prayers for rain proved
abortive, or how much longer than usual the dry weather had already
continued when they were offered.(654) As the old philosopher observed,
the votive tablets of those who escaped are suspended in the temple, while
those who were shipwrecked are forgotten.

Unfortunately, these inconsistencies do not arise simply from intellectual
causes. A feeling which was intended to be religious, but which was in
truth deeply the reverse, once led men to shrink from examining the causes
of some of the more terrible of physical phenomena, because it was thought
that these should be deemed special instances of Divine interference, and
should, therefore, be regarded as too sacred for investigation.(655) In
the world of physical science this mode of thought has almost vanished,
but a corresponding sentiment may be often detected in the common
judgments of history. Very many well-meaning men—censuring the pursuit of
truth in the name of the God of Truth—while they regard it as commendable
and religious to collect facts illustrating or corroborating the
theological theory of life, consider it irreverent and wrong to apply to
those facts, and to that theory, the ordinary severity of inductive

What I have written is not in any degree inconsistent with the belief
that, by the dispensation of Providence, moral causes have a natural and
often overwhelming influence upon happiness and upon success, nor yet with
the belief that our moral nature enters into a very real, constant, and
immediate contact with a higher power. Nor does it at all disprove the
possibility of Divine interference with the order even of physical nature.
A world governed by special acts of intervention, such as that which
mediæval theologians imagined, is perfectly conceivable, though it is
probable that most impartial enquirers will convince themselves that this
is not the system of the planet we inhabit; and if any instance of such
interference be sufficiently attested, it should not be rejected as
intrinsically impossible. It is, however, the fundamental error of most
writers on miracles, that they confine their attention to two points—the
possibility of the fact, and the nature of the evidence. There is a third
element, which in these questions is of capital importance: the
predisposition of men in certain stages of society towards the miraculous,
which is so strong that miraculous stories are then invariably circulated
and credited, and which makes an amount of evidence that would be quite
sufficient to establish a natural fact, altogether inadequate to establish
a supernatural one. The positions for which I have been contending are
that a perpetual interference of the Deity with the natural course of
events is the earliest and simplest notion of miracles, and that this
notion, which is implied in so many systems of belief, arose in part from
an ignorance of the laws of nature, and in part also from an incapacity
for inductive reasoning, which led men merely to collect facts coinciding
with their preconceived opinions, without attending to those that were
inconsistent with them. By this method there is no superstition that could
not be defended. Volumes have been written giving perfectly authentic
histories of wars, famines, and pestilences that followed the appearance
of comets. There is not an omen, not a prognostic, however childish, that
has not, in the infinite variety of events, been occasionally verified,
and to minds that are under the influence of a superstitious imagination
these occasional verifications more than outweigh all the instances of
error. Simple knowledge is wholly insufficient to correct the disease. No
one is so firmly convinced of the reality of lucky and unlucky days, and
of supernatural portents, as the sailor, who has spent his life in
watching the deep, and has learnt to read with almost unerring skill the
promise of the clouds. No one is more persuaded of the superstitions about
fortune than the habitual gambler. Sooner than abandon his theory, there
is no extravagance of hypothesis to which the superstitious man will not
resort. The ancients were convinced that dreams were usually supernatural.
If the dream was verified, this was plainly a prophecy. If the event was
the exact opposite of what the dream foreshadowed, the latter was still
supernatural, for it was a recognised principle that dreams should
sometimes be interpreted by contraries. If the dream bore no relation to
subsequent events, unless it were transformed into a fantastic allegory,
it was still supernatural, for allegory was one of the most ordinary forms
of revelation. If no ingenuity of interpretation could find a prophetic
meaning in a dream, its supernatural character was even then not
necessarily destroyed; for Homer said there was a special portal through
which deceptive visions passed into the mind, and the Fathers declared
that it was one of the occupations of the dæmons to perplex and bewilder
us with unmeaning dreams.

To estimate aright the force of the predisposition to the miraculous
should be one of the first tasks of the enquirer into its reality; and no
one, I think, can examine the subject with impartiality without arriving
at the conclusion that in many periods of history it has been so strong as
to accumulate around pure delusions an amount of evidence far greater than
would be sufficient to establish even improbable natural facts. Through
the entire duration of Pagan Rome, it was regarded as an unquestionable
truth, established by the most ample experience, that prodigies of various
kinds announced every memorable event, and that sacrifices had the power
of mitigating or arresting calamity. In the Republic, the Senate itself
officially verified and explained the prodigies.(656) In the Empire there
is not an historian, from Tacitus down to the meanest writer in the
Augustan history, who was not convinced that numerous prodigies
foreshadowed the accession and death of every sovereign, and every great
catastrophe that fell upon the people. Cicero could say with truth that
there was not a single nation of antiquity, from the polished Greek to the
rudest savage, which did not admit the existence of a real art enabling
men to foretell the future, and that the splendid temples of the oracles,
which for so many centuries commanded the reverence of mankind,
sufficiently attested the intensity of the belief.(657) The reality of the
witch miracles was established by a critical tribunal, which, however
imperfect, was at least the most searching then existing in the world, by
the judicial decisions of the law courts of every European country,
supported by the unanimous voice of public opinion, and corroborated by
the investigation of some of the ablest men during several centuries. The
belief that the king’s touch can cure scrofula flourished in the most
brilliant periods of English history.(658) It was unshaken by the most
numerous and public experiments. It was asserted by the privy council, by
the bishops of two religions, by the general voice of the clergy in the
palmiest days of the English Church, by the University of Oxford, and by
the enthusiastic assent of the people. It survived the ages of the
Reformation, of Bacon, of Milton, and of Hobbes. It was by no means
extinct in the age of Locke, and would probably have lasted still longer,
had not the change of dynasty at the Revolution assisted the tardy
scepticism.(659) Yet there is now scarcely an educated man who will defend
these miracles. Considered abstractedly, indeed, it is perfectly
conceivable that Providence might have announced coming events by
prodigies, or imparted to some one a miraculous power, or permitted evil
spirits to exist among mankind and assist them in their enterprises. The
evidence establishing these miracles is cumulative, and it is immeasurably
greater than the evidence of many natural facts, such as the earthquakes
at Antioch, which no one would dream of questioning. We disbelieve the
miracles, because an overwhelming experience proves that in certain
intellectual conditions, and under the influence of certain errors which
we are enabled to trace, superstitions of this order invariably appear and
flourish, and that, when these intellectual conditions have passed, the
prodigies as invariably cease, and the whole fabric of superstition melts
silently away.

It is extremely difficult for an ordinary man, who is little conversant
with the writings of the past, and who unconsciously transfers to other
ages the critical spirit of his own, to realise the fact that histories of
the most grotesquely extravagant nature could, during the space of many
centuries, be continually propounded without either provoking the smallest
question or possessing the smallest truth. We may, however, understand
something of this credulity when we remember the diversion of the ancient
mind from physical science to speculative philosophy; the want of the many
checks upon error which printing affords; the complete absence of that
habit of cautious, experimental research which Bacon and his
contemporaries infused into modern philosophy; and, in Christian times,
the theological notion that the spirit of belief is a virtue, and the
spirit of scepticism a sin. We must remember, too, that before men had
found the key to the motions of the heavenly bodies—before the false
theory of the vortices and the true theory of gravitation—when the
multitude of apparently capricious phenomena was very great, the notion
that the world was governed by distinct and isolated influences was that
which appeared most probable even to the most rational intellect. In such
a condition of knowledge—which was that of the most enlightened days of
the Roman Empire—the hypothesis of universal law was justly regarded as a
rash and premature generalisation. Every enquirer was confronted with
innumerable phenomena that were deemed plainly miraculous. When Lucretius
sought to banish the supernatural from the universe, he was compelled to
employ much ingenuity in endeavouring to explain, by a natural law, why a
miraculous fountain near the temple of Jupiter Ammon was hot by night and
cold by day, and why the temperature of wells was higher in winter than in
summer.(660) Eclipses were supposed by the populace to foreshadow
calamity; but the Roman soldiers believed that by beating drums and
cymbals they could cause the moon’s disc to regain its brightness.(661) In
obedience to dreams, the great Emperor Augustus went begging money through
the streets of Rome,(662) and the historian who records the act himself
wrote to Pliny, entreating the postponement of a trial.(663) The stroke of
the lightning was an augury,(664) and its menace was directed especially
against the great, who cowered in abject terror during a thunder-storm.
Augustus used to guard himself against thunder by wearing the skin of a
sea-calf.(665) Tiberius, who professed to be a complete freethinker, had
greater faith in laurel leaves.(666) Caligula was accustomed during a
thunderstorm to creep beneath his bed.(667) During the games in honour of
Julius Cæsar, a comet appearing for seven days in the sky, the people
believed it to be the soul of the dead,(668) and a temple was erected in
its honour.(669) Sometimes we find this credulity broken by curious
inconsistencies of belief, or semi-rationalistic explanations. Livy, who
relates with perfect faith innumerable prodigies, has observed,
nevertheless, that the more prodigies are believed, the more they are
announced.(670) Those who admitted most fully the reality of the oracles
occasionally represented them as natural contending that a prophetic
faculty was innate in all men, though dormant in most; that it might be
quickened into action by sleep, by a pure and ascetic life, or in the
prostration that precedes death, or in the delirium produced by certain
vapours; and that the gradual enfeebling of the last was the cause of the
cessation of the oracles.(671) Earthquakes were believed to result from
supernatural interpositions, and to call for expiatory sacrifices, but at
the same time they had direct natural antecedents. The Greeks believed
that they were caused by subterranean waters, and they accordingly
sacrificed to Poseidon. The Romans were uncertain as to their physical
antecedents, and therefore inscribed no name on the altar of
expiation.(672) Pythagoras is said to have attributed them to the
strugglings of the dead.(673) Pliny, after a long discussion, decided that
they were produced by air forcing itself through fissures of the earth,
but he immediately proceeds to assert that they are invariably the
precursors of calamity.(674) The same writer, having recounted the triumph
of astronomers in predicting and explaining eclipses, bursts into an
eloquent apostrophe to those great men who had thus reclaimed man from the
dominion of superstition, and in high and enthusiastic terms urges them to
pursue still further their labour in breaking the thraldom of
ignorance.(675) A few chapters later he professes his unhesitating belief
in the ominous character of comets.(676) The notions, too, of magic and
astrology, were detached from all theological belief, and might be found
among many who were absolute atheists.(677)

These few examples will be sufficient to show how fully the Roman soil was
prepared for the reception of miraculous histories, even after the
writings of Cicero and Seneca, in the brilliant days of Augustus and the
Antonines. The feebleness of the uncultivated mind, which cannot rise
above material conceptions, had indeed passed away, the legends of the
popular theology had lost all power over the educated, but at the same
time an absolute ignorance of physical science and of inductive reasoning
remained. The facility of belief that was manifested by some of the most
eminent men, even on matters that were not deemed supernatural, can only
be realised by those who have an intimate acquaintance with their works.
Thus, to give but a few examples, that great naturalist whom I have so
often cited tells us with the utmost gravity how the fiercest lion
trembles at the crowing of a cock;(678) how elephants celebrate their
religious ceremonies;(679) how the stag draws serpents by its breath from
their holes, and then tramples them to death;(680) how the salamander is
so deadly that the food cooked in water, or the fruit grown on trees it
has touched, are fatal to man;(681) how, when a ship is flying before so
fierce a tempest that no anchors or chains can hold it, if only the remora
or echinus fastens on its keel, it is arrested in its course, and remains
motionless and rooted among the waves.(682) On matters that would appear
the most easily verified, he is equally confident. Thus, the human saliva,
he assures us, has many mysterious properties. If a man, especially when
fasting, spits into the throat of a serpent, it is said that the animal
speedily dies.(683) It is certain that to anoint the eyes with spittle is
a sovereign remedy against ophthalmia.(684) If a pugilist, having struck
his adversary, spits into his own hand, the pain he caused instantly
ceases. If he spits into his hand before striking, the blow is the more
severe.(685) Aristotle, the greatest naturalist of Greece, had observed
that it was a curious fact that on the sea-shore no animal ever dies
except during the ebbing of the tide. Several centuries later, Pliny, the
greatest naturalist of an empire that was washed by many tidal seas,
directed his attention to this statement. He declared that, after careful
observations which had been made in Gaul, it had been found to be
inaccurate, for what Aristotle stated of all animals was in fact only true
of man.(686) It was in 1727 and the two following years, that scientific
observations made at Rochefort and at Brest finally dissipated the

Volumes might be filled with illustrations of how readily, in the most
enlightened days of the Roman Empire, strange, and especially miraculous,
tales were believed, even under circumstances that would appear to give
every facility for the detection of the imposture. In the field of the
supernatural, however, it should be remembered that a movement, which I
have traced in the last chapter, had produced a very exceptional amount of
credulity during the century and a half that preceded the conversion of
Constantine. Neither the writings of Cicero and Seneca, nor even those of
Pliny and Plutarch, can be regarded as fair samples of the belief of the
educated. The Epicurean philosophy which rejected, the Academic philosophy
which doubted, and the Stoic philosophy which simplified and sublimated
superstition, had alike disappeared. The “Meditations” of Marcus Aurelius
closed the period of Stoical influence, and the “Dialogues” of Lucian were
the last solitary protest of expiring scepticism.(688) The aim of the
philosophy of Cicero had been to ascertain truth by the free exercise of
the critical powers. The aim of the Pythagorean philosophy was to attain
the state of ecstasy, and to purify the mind by religious rites. Every
philosopher soon plunged into magical practices, and was encircled, in the
eyes of his disciples, with a halo of legend. Apollonius of Tyana, whom
the Pagans opposed to Christ, had raised the dead, healed the sick, cast
out devils, freed a young man from a lamia or vampire with whom he was
enamoured, prophesied, seen in one country events that were occurring in
another, and filled the world with the fame of his miracles and of his
sanctity.(689) A similar power, notwithstanding his own disclaimer, was
popularly attributed to the Platonist Apuleius.(690) Lucian has left us a
detailed account of the impostures by which the philosopher Alexander
endeavoured to acquire the fame of a miracle-worker.(691) When a magician
plotted against Plotinus, his spells recoiled miraculously against
himself; and when an Egyptian priest endeavoured by incantations to evoke
the guardian dæmon of the philosopher, instead of a dæmon the temple of
Isis was irradiated by the presence of a god.(692) Porphyry was said to
have expelled an evil dæmon from a bath.(693) It was reported among his
disciples that when Iamblichus prayed he was raised (like the saints of
another creed) ten cubits from the ground, and that his body and his dress
assumed a golden hue.(694) It was well known that he had at Gadara drawn
forth from the waters of two fountains their guardian spirits, and
exhibited them in bodily form to his disciples.(695) A woman named
Sospitra had been visited by two spirits under the form of aged Chaldeans,
and had been endowed with a transcendent beauty and with a superhuman
knowledge. Raised above all human frailties, save only love and death, she
was able to see at once the deeds which were done in every land, and the
people, dazzled by her beauty and her wisdom, ascribed to her a share of
the omnipresence of the Deity.(696)

Christianity floated into the Roman Empire on the wave of credulity that
brought with it this long train of Oriental superstitions and legends. In
its moral aspect it was broadly distinguished from the systems around it,
but its miracles were accepted by both friend and foe as the ordinary
accompaniments of religious teaching. The Jews, in the eyes of the Pagans,
had long been proverbial for their credulity,(697) and the Christians
inherited a double measure of their reputation. Nor is it possible to deny
that in the matter of the miraculous the reputation was deserved. Among
the Pagans the theory of Euhemerus, who believed the gods to be but
deified men, had been the stronghold of the Sceptics, while the Platonic
notion of dæmons was adopted by the more believing philosophers. The
Christian teachers combined both theories, maintaining that deceased kings
had originally supplied the names of the deities, but that malevolent
dæmons had taken their places; and without a single exception the Fathers
maintained the reality of the Pagan miracles as fully as their own.(698)
The oracles, as we have seen, had been ridiculed and rejected by numbers
of the philosophers, but the Christians unanimously admitted their
reality. They appealed to a long series of oracles as predictions of their
faith; and there is, I believe, no example of the denial of their
supernatural character in the Christian Church till 1696, when a Dutch
Anabaptist minister named Van Dale, in a remarkable book,(699) which was
abridged and translated by Fontenelle, asserted, in opposition to the
unanimous voice of ecclesiastical authority, that they were simple
impostures—a theory which is now almost universally accepted. To suppose
that men who held these opinions were capable, in the second or third
centuries, of ascertaining with any degree of just confidence whether
miracles had taken place in Judæa in the first century, is grossly absurd;
nor would the conviction of their reality have made any great impression
on their minds at a time when miracles were supposed to be so abundantly

In truth, the question of the reality of the Jewish miracles must be
carefully distinguished from that of the conversion of the Roman Empire.
With the light that is furnished to us by modern investigations and habits
of thought, we weigh the testimony of the Jewish writers; but most of the
more judicious of modern apologists, considering the extreme credulity of
the Jewish people, decline to make the question simply one of evidence,
and occupy themselves chiefly in endeavouring to show that miracles are
possible, that those recorded in the Biblical narratives are related in
such a manner, and are so interwoven with the texture of a simple and
artless narrative, as to carry with them an internal proof of their
reality; that they differ in kind from later miracles, and especially that
the character and destinies of Christianity are such as to render its
miraculous origin antecedently probable. But in the ages when the Roman
Empire was chiefly converted, all sound and discriminating historical
investigation of the evidence of the early miracles was impossible, nor
was any large use made of those miracles as proofs of the religion. The
rhetorician Arnobius is probably the only one of the early apologists who
gives, among the evidences of the faith, any prominent place to the
miracles of Christ.(700) When evidential reasoning was employed, it was
usually an appeal not to miracles, but to prophecy. But here again the
opinions of the patristic age must be pronounced absolutely worthless. To
prove that events had taken place in Judæa, accurately corresponding with
the prophecies, or that the prophecies were themselves genuine, were both
tasks far transcending the critical powers of the Roman converts. The wild
extravagance of fantastic allegory, commonly connected with Origen, but
which appears at a much earlier date in the writings of Justin Martyr and
Irenæus, had thrown the interpretation of prophecy into hopeless
confusion, while the deliberate and apparently perfectly unscrupulous
forgery of a whole literature, destined to further the propagation either
of Christianity as a whole, or of some particular class of tenets that had
arisen within its border,(701) made criticism at once pre-eminently
difficult and necessary. A long series of oracles were cited, predicting
in detail the sufferings of Christ. The prophecies forged by the
Christians, and attributed by them to the heathen Sibyls, were accepted as
genuine by the entire Church, and were continually appealed to as among
the most powerful evidences of the faith. Justin Martyr declared that it
was by the instigation of dæmons that it had been made a capital offence
to read them.(702) Clement of Alexandria preserved the tradition that St.
Paul had urged the brethren to study them.(703) Celsus designated the
Christians Sibyllists, on account of the pertinacity with which they
insisted upon them.(704) Constantine the Great adduced them in a solemn
speech before the Council of Nice.(705) St. Augustine notices that the
Greek word for a fish, which, containing the initial letters of the name
and titles of Christ, had been adopted by the Early Church as its sacred
symbol, contains also the initial letters of some prophetic lines ascribed
to the Sibyl of Erythra.(706) The Pagans, it is true, accused their
opponents of having forged or interpolated these prophecies;(707) but
there was not a single Christian writer of the patristic period who
disputed their authority, and there were very few even of the most
illustrious who did not appeal to them. Unanimously admitted by the Church
of the Fathers, they were unanimously admitted during the middle ages, and
an allusion to them passed into the most beautiful lyric of the Missal. It
was only at the period of the Reformation that the great but unhappy
Castellio pointed out many passages in them which could not possibly be
genuine. He was followed, in the first years of the seventeenth century,
by a Jesuit named Possevin, who observed that the Sibyls were known to
have lived at a later period than Moses, and that many passages in the
Sibylline books purported to have been written before Moses. Those
passages, therefore, he said, were interpolated; and he added, with a
characteristic sagacity, that they had doubtless been inserted by Satan,
for the purpose of throwing suspicion upon the books.(708) It was in 1649
that a French Protestant minister, named Blondel, ventured for the first
time in the Christian Church to denounce these writings as deliberate and
clumsy forgeries, and after much angry controversy his sentiment has
acquired an almost undisputed ascendancy in criticism.

But although the opinion of the Roman converts was extremely worthless,
when dealing with past history or with literary criticism, there was one
branch of miracles concerning which their position was somewhat different.
Contemporary miracles, often of the most extraordinary character, but
usually of the nature of visions, exorcisms, or healing the sick, were
from the time of Justin Martyr uniformly represented by the Fathers as
existing among them,(709) and they continue steadily along the path of
history, till in the pages of Evagrius and Theodoret, in the Lives of
Hilarion and Paul, by St. Jerome, of Antony, by St. Athanasius, and of
Gregory Thaumaturgus, by his namesake of Nyssa, and in the Dialogues of
St. Gregory the Great, they attain as grotesque an extravagance as the
wildest mediæval legends. Few things are more striking than the assertions
hazarded on this matter by some of the ablest of the Fathers. Thus, St.
Irenæus assures us that all Christians possessed the power of working
miracles; that they prophesied, cast out devils, healed the sick, and
sometimes even raised the dead; that some who had been thus resuscitated
lived for many years among them, and that it would be impossible to reckon
the wonderful acts that were daily performed.(710) St. Epiphanius tells us
that some rivers and fountains were annually transformed into wine, in
attestation of the miracle of Cana; and he adds that he had himself drunk
of one of these fountains, and his brethren of another.(711) St. Augustine
notices that miracles were less frequent and less widely known than
formerly, but that many still occurred, and some of them he had himself
witnessed. Whenever a miracle was reported, he ordered that a special
examination into its circumstances should be made, and that the
depositions of the witnesses should be read publicly to the people. He
tells us, besides many other miracles, that Gamaliel in a dream revealed
to a priest named Lucianus the place where the bones of St. Stephen were
buried; that those bones, being thus discovered, were brought to Hippo,
the diocese of which St. Augustine was bishop; that they raised five dead
persons to life; and that, although only a portion of the miraculous cures
they effected had been registered, the certificates drawn up in two years
in the diocese, and by the orders of the saint, were nearly seventy. In
the adjoining diocese of Calama they were incomparably more numerous.(712)
In the height of the great conflict between St. Ambrose and the Arian
Empress Justina, the saint declared that it had been revealed to him by an
irresistible presentiment—or, as St. Augustine, who was present on the
occasion, says, in a dream—that relics were buried in a spot which he
indicated. The earth being removed, a tomb was found filled with blood,
and containing two gigantic skeletons, with their heads severed from their
bodies, which were pronounced to be those of St. Gervasius and St.
Protasius, two martyrs of remarkable physical dimensions, who were said to
have suffered about 300 years before. To prove that they were genuine
relics, the bones were brought in contact with a blind man, who was
restored to sight, and with demoniacs, who were cured; the dæmons,
however, in the first place, acknowledging that the relics were genuine;
that St. Ambrose was the deadly enemy of the powers of hell; that the
Trinitarian doctrine was true; and that those who rejected it would
infallibly be damned. The next day St. Ambrose delivered an invective
against all who questioned the miracle. St. Augustine recorded it in his
works, and spread the worship of the saints through Africa. The transport
of enthusiasm with which the miracles were greeted at Milan enabled St.
Ambrose to overcome every obstacle; but the Arians treated them with a
derisive incredulity, and declared that the pretended demoniacs had been
bribed by the saint.(713)

Statements of this kind, which are selected from very many that are
equally positive, though not equally precise, suggest veins of thought of
obvious interest and importance. We are now, however, only concerned with
the fact, that, with the exception of one or two isolated miracles, such
as the last I have noticed, and of one class of miracles which I shall
proceed to describe, these prodigies, whether true or false, were wrought
for the exclusive edification of confirmed believers. The exceptional
miracles were those of exorcism, which occupied a very singular position
in the early Church. The belief that certain diseases were inflicted by
Divine agency was familiar to the ancients, but among the early Greeks the
notion of diabolical possession appears to have been unknown. A dæmon, in
the philosophy of Plato, though inferior to a deity, was not an evil
spirit, and it is extremely doubtful whether the existence of evil dæmons
was known either to the Greeks or Romans till about the time of the advent
of Christ.(714) The belief was introduced with the Oriental superstitions
which then poured into Rome, and it brought in its train the notions of
possession and exorcism. The Jews, who in their own country appear to have
regarded it as a most ordinary occurrence to meet men walking about
visibly possessed by devils, and who professed to have learnt from Solomon
the means of expelling them, soon became the principal exorcists,
accomplishing their feats partly by adjuration, and partly by means of a
certain miraculous root named Baaras. Josephus assures us that he had
himself, in the reign of Vespasian, seen a Jew named Eleazar drawing by
these means a dæmon through the nostrils of a possessed person, who fell
to the ground on the accomplishment of the miracle; while, upon the
command of the magician, the devil, to prove that it had really left his
victim, threw down a cup of water which had been placed at a
distance.(715) The growth of Neoplatonism and kindred philosophies greatly
strengthened the belief, and some of the later philosophers, as well as
many religious charlatans, practised exorcism. But, of all classes, the
Christians became in this respect the most famous. From the time of Justin
Martyr, for about two centuries, there is, I believe, not a single
Christian writer who does not solemnly and explicitly assert the reality
and frequent employment of this power;(716) and although, after the
Council of Laodicea, the instances became less numerous, they by no means
ceased. The Christians fully recognised the supernatural power possessed
by the Jewish and Gentile exorcists, but they claimed to be in many
respects their superiors. By the simple sign of the cross, or by repeating
the name of their Master, they professed to be able to cast out devils
which had resisted all the enchantments of Pagan exorcists, to silence the
oracles, to compel the dæmons to confess the truth of the Christian faith.
Sometimes their power extended still further. Dæmons, we are told, were
accustomed to enter into animals, and these also were expelled by the
Christian adjuration. St. Jerome, in his “Life of St. Hilarion,” has given
us a graphic account of the courage with which that saint confronted, and
the success with which he relieved, a possessed camel.(717) In the reign
of Julian, the very bones of the martyr Babylas were sufficient to silence
the oracle of Daphne; and when, amid the triumphant chants of the
Christians, the relics, by the command of Julian, were removed, the
lightning descended from heaven and consumed the temple.(718) St. Gregory
Thaumaturgus having expelled the dæmons from an idol temple, the priest,
finding his means of subsistence destroyed, came to the saint, imploring
him to permit the oracles to be renewed. St. Gregory, who was then on his
journey, wrote a note containing the words “Satan, return,” which was
immediately obeyed, and the priest, awe-struck by the miracle, was
converted to Christianity.(719) Tertullian, writing to the Pagans in a
time of persecution, in language of the most deliberate earnestness,
challenges his opponents to bring forth any person who is possessed by a
dæmon or any of those virgins or prophets who are supposed to be inspired
by a divinity. He asserts that, in reply to the interrogation of any
Christian, the dæmons will be compelled to confess their diabolical
character; he invites the Pagans, if it be otherwise, to put the Christian
immediately to death; and he proposes this as at once the simplest and
most decisive demonstration of the faith.(720) Justin Martyr,(721)
Origen,(722) Lactantius,(723) Athanasius,(724) and Minucius Felix,(725)
all in language equally solemn and explicit, call upon the Pagans to form
their opinions from the confessions wrung from their own gods. We hear
from them, that when a Christian began to pray, to make the sign of the
cross, or to utter the name of his Master in the presence of a possessed
or inspired person, the latter, by screams and frightful contortions,
exhibited the torture that was inflicted, and by this torture the evil
spirit was compelled to avow its nature. Several of the Christian writers
declare that this was generally known to the Pagans. In one respect, it
was observed, the miracle of exorcism was especially available for
evidential purposes; for, as dæmons would not expel dæmons, it was the
only miracle which was necessarily divine.

It would be curious to examine the manner in which the challenge was
received by the Pagan writers; but unhappily, the writings which were
directed against the faith having been destroyed by the Christian
emperors, our means of information on this point are very scanty. Some
information, however, we possess, and it would appear to show that, among
the educated classes at least, these phenomena did not extort any great
admiration. The eloquent silence about diabolical possession observed by
the early philosophers, when discussing such questions as the nature of
the soul and of the spiritual world, decisively show that in their time
possession had not assumed any great prominence or acquired any general
credence. Plutarch, who admitted the reality of evil dæmons, and who was
the most strenuous defender of the oracles, treats the whole class of
superstitions to which exorcism belongs with much contempt.(726) Marcus
Aurelius, in recounting the benefits he had received from different
persons with whom he had been connected, acknowledges his debt of
gratitude to the philosopher Diognetus for having taught him to give no
credence to magicians, jugglers, and expellers of dæmons.(727) Lucian
declares that every cunning juggler could make his fortune by going over
to the Christians and preying upon their simplicity.(728) Celsus described
the Christians as jugglers performing their tricks among the young and the
credulous.(729) The most decisive evidence, however, we possess, is a law
of Ulpian, directed, it is thought, against the Christians, which condemns
those “who use incantations or imprecations, or (to employ the common word
of impostors) exorcisms.”(730) Modern criticism has noted a few facts
which may throw some light upon this obscure subject. It has been observed
that the symptoms of possession were for the most part identical with
those of lunacy or epilepsy; that it is quite possible that the excitement
of an imposing religious ceremony might produce or suspend the disorder;
that leading questions might in these cases be followed by the desired
answers; and that some passages from the Fathers show that the exorcisms
were not always successful, or the cures always permanent. It has been
observed, too, that at first the power of exorcism was open to all
Christians without restraint; that this licence, in an age when religious
jugglers were very common, and in a Church whose members were very
credulous, gave great facilities to impostors; that when the Laodicean
Council, in the fourth century, forbade any one to exorcise, except those
who were duly authorised by the bishop, these miracles speedily declined;
and that, in the very beginning of the fifth century, a physician named
Posidonius denied the existence of possession.(731)

To sum up this whole subject, we may conclude that what is called the
evidential system had no prominent place in effecting the conversion of
the Roman Empire. Historical criticisms were far too imperfect to make
appeals to the miracles of former days of any value, and the notion of the
wide diffusion of miraculous or magical powers, as well as the generally
private character of the alleged miracles of the Patristic age, made
contemporary wonders very unimpressive. The prophecies attributed to the
Sibyls, and the practice of exorcism, had, however, a certain weight; for
the first were connected with a religious authority, long and deeply
revered at Rome, and the second had been forced by several circumstances
into great prominence. But the effect even of these may be safely regarded
as altogether subsidiary, and the main causes of the conversion must be
looked for in another and a wider sphere.

These causes were the general tendencies of the age. They are to be found
in that vast movement of mingled scepticism and credulity, in that
amalgamation or dissolution of many creeds, in that profound
transformation of habits, of feelings, and of ideals, which I have
attempted to paint in the last chapter. Under circumstances more
favourable to religious proselytism than the world had ever before known,
with the path cleared by a long course of destructive criticism, the
religions and philosophies of mankind were struggling for the mastery in
that great metropolis where all were amply represented, and in which alone
the destinies of the world could be decided. Among the educated a frigid
Stoicism, teaching a majestic but unattainable grandeur, and scorning the
support of the affections, the hope of another world, and the consolations
of worship, had for a time been in the ascendant, and it only terminated
its noble and most fruitful career when it had become manifestly
inadequate to the religious wants of the age. Among other classes,
religion after religion ran its conquering course. The Jews, although a
number of causes had made them the most hated of all the Roman subjects,
and although their religion, from its intensely national character, seemed
peculiarly unsuited for proselytism, had yet, by the force of their
monotheism, their charity, and their exorcisms, spread the creed of Moses
far and wide. The Empress Poppæa is said to have been a proselyte. The
passion of Roman women for Jewish rites was one of the complaints of
Juvenal. The Sabbath and the Jewish fasts became familiar facts in all the
great cities, and the antiquity of the Jewish law the subject of eager
discussion. Other Oriental religions were even more successful. The
worship of Mithra, and, above all, of the Egyptian divinities, attracted
their thousands, and during more than three centuries the Roman writings
are crowded with allusions to their progress. The mysteries of the Bona
Dea,(732) the solemn worship of Isis, the expiatory rites that cleansed
the guilty soul, excited a very delirium of enthusiasm. Juvenal describes
the Roman women, at the dawn of the winter day, breaking the ice of the
Tiber to plunge three times into its sacred stream, dragging themselves on
bleeding knees in penance around the field of Tarquin, offering to
undertake pilgrimages to Egypt to seek the holy water for the shrine of
Isis, fondly dreaming that they had heard the voice of the goddess.(733)
Apuleius has drawn a graphic picture of the solemn majesty of her
processions, and the spell they cast upon the most licentious and the most
sceptical.(734) Commodus, Caracalla, and Heliogabalus were passionately
devoted to them.(735) The temples of Isis and Serapis, and the statues of
Mithra, are among the last prominent works of Roman art. In all other
forms the same credulity was manifested. The oracles that had been silent
were heard again; the astrologers swarmed in every city; the philosophers
were surrounded with an atmosphere of legend; the Pythagorean school had
raised credulity into a system. On all sides, and to a degree unparalleled
in history, we find men who were no longer satisfied with their old local
religion, thirsting for belief, passionately and restlessly seeking for a
new faith.

In the midst of this movement, Christianity gained its ascendancy, and we
can be at no loss to discover the cause of its triumph. No other religion,
under such circumstances, had ever combined so many distinct elements of
power and attraction. Unlike the Jewish religion, it was bound by no local
ties, and was equally adapted for every nation and for every class. Unlike
Stoicism, it appealed in the strongest manner to the affections, and
offered all the charm of a sympathetic worship. Unlike the Egyptian
religions, it united with its distinctive teaching a pure and noble system
of ethics, and proved itself capable of realising it in action. It
proclaimed, amid a vast movement of social and national amalgamation, the
universal brotherhood of mankind. Amid the softening influence of
philosophy and civilisation, it taught the supreme sanctity of love. To
the slave, who had never before exercised so large an influence over Roman
religious life, it was the religion of the suffering and the oppressed. To
the philosopher it was at once the echo of the highest ethics of the later
Stoics, and the expansion of the best teaching of the school of Plato. To
a world thirsting for prodigy, it offered a history replete with wonders
more strange that those of Apollonius; while the Jew and the Chaldean
could scarcely rival its exorcists, and the legends of continual miracles
circulated among its followers. To a world deeply conscious of political
dissolution, and prying eagerly and anxiously into the future, it
proclaimed with a thrilling power the immediate destruction of the
globe—the glory of all its friends, and the damnation of all its foes. To
a world that had grown very weary gazing on the cold and passionless
grandeur which Cato realised, and which Lucan sung, it presented an ideal
of compassion and of love—a Teacher who could weep by the sepulchre of His
friend, who was touched with the feeling of our infirmities. To a world,
in fine, distracted by hostile creeds and colliding philosophies, it
taught its doctrines, not as a human speculation, but as a Divine
revelation, authenticated much less by reason than by faith. “With the
heart man believeth unto righteousness;” “He that doeth the will of my
Father will know the doctrine, whether it be of God;” “Unless you believe
you cannot understand;” “A heart naturally Christian;” “The heart makes
the theologian,” are the phrases which best express the first action of
Christianity upon the world. Like all great religions, it was more
concerned with modes of feeling than with modes of thought. The chief
cause of its success was the congruity of its teaching with the spiritual
nature of mankind. It was because it was true to the moral sentiments of
the age, because it represented faithfully the supreme type of excellence
to which men were then tending, because it corresponded with their
religious wants, aims, and emotions, because the whole spiritual being
could then expand and expatiate under its influence, that it planted its
roots so deeply in the hearts of men.

To all these elements of attraction, others of a different order must be
added. Christianity was not merely a moral influence, or a system of
opinions, or an historical record, or a collection of wonder-working men;
it was also an institution definitely, elaborately, and skilfully
organised, possessing a weight and a stability which isolated or
undisciplined teachers could never rival, and evoking, to a degree before
unexampled in the world, an enthusiastic devotion to its corporate
welfare, analogous to that of the patriot to his country. The many forms
of Pagan worship were pliant in their nature. Each offered certain
advantages or spiritual gratifications; but there was no reason why all
should not exist together, and participation in one by no means implied
disrespect to the others. But Christianity was emphatically exclusive; its
adherent was bound to detest and abjure the faiths around him as the
workmanship of dæmons, and to consider himself placed in the world to
destroy them. Hence there sprang a stern, aggressive, and at the same time
disciplined enthusiasm, wholly unlike any other that had been witnessed
upon earth. The duties of public worship; the sacraments, which were
represented as the oaths of the Christian warrior; the fasts and penances
and commemorative days, which strengthened the Church feeling; the
intervention of religion in the most solemn epochs of life, conspired to
sustain it. Above all, the doctrine of salvation by belief, which then for
the first time flashed upon the world; the persuasion, realised with all
the vividness of novelty, that Christianity opened out to its votaries
eternal happiness, while all beyond its pale were doomed to an eternity of
torture, supplied a motive of action as powerful as it is perhaps possible
to conceive. It struck alike the coarsest chords of hope and fear, and the
finest chords of compassion and love. The polytheist, admitting that
Christianity might possibly be true, was led by a mere calculation of
prudence to embrace it, and the fervent Christian would shrink from no
suffering to draw those whom he loved within its pale. Nor were other
inducements wanting. To the confessor was granted in the Church a great
and venerable authority, such as the bishop could scarcely claim.(736) To
the martyr, besides the fruition of heaven, belonged the highest glory on
earth. By winning that bloodstained crown, the meanest Christian slave
might gain a reputation as glorious as that of a Decius or a Regulus. His
body was laid to rest with a sumptuous splendour;(737) his relics,
embalmed or shrined, were venerated with an almost idolatrous homage. The
anniversary of his birth into another life was commemorated in the Church,
and before the great assembly of the saints his heroic sufferings were
recounted.(738) How, indeed, should he not be envied? He had passed away
into eternal bliss. He had left upon earth an abiding name. By the
“baptism of blood” the sins of a life had been in a moment effaced.

Those who are accustomed to recognise heroic enthusiasm as a normal
product of certain natural conditions, will have no difficulty in
understanding that, under such circumstances as I have described, a
transcendent courage should have been evoked. Men seemed indeed to be in
love with death. Believing, with St. Ignatius, that they were “the wheat
of God,” they panted for the day when they should be “ground by the teeth
of wild beasts into the pure bread of Christ!” Beneath this one burning
enthusiasm all the ties of earthly love were snapt in twain. Origen, when
a boy, being restrained by force from going forth to deliver himself up to
the persecutors, wrote to his imprisoned father, imploring him not to let
any thought of his family intervene to quench his resolution or to deter
him from sealing his faith with his blood. St. Perpetua, an only daughter,
a young mother of twenty-two, had embraced the Christian creed, confessed
it before her judges, and declared herself ready to endure for it the
martyr’s death. Again and again her father came to her in a paroxysm of
agony, entreating her not to deprive him of the joy and the consolation of
his closing years. He appealed to her by the memory of all the tenderness
he had lavished upon her—by her infant child—by his own gray hairs, that
were soon to be brought down in sorrow to the grave. Forgetting in his
deep anguish all the dignity of a parent, he fell upon his knees before
his child, covered her hands with kisses, and, with tears streaming from
his eyes, implored her to have mercy upon him. But she was unshaken though
not untouched; she saw her father, frenzied with grief, dragged from
before the tribunal; she saw him tearing his white beard, and lying
prostrate and broken-hearted on the prison floor; she went forth to die
for a faith she loved more dearly—for a faith that told her that her
father would be lost for ever.(739) The desire for martyrdom became at
times a form of absolute madness, a kind of epidemic of suicide, and the
leading minds of the Church found it necessary to exert all their
authority to prevent their followers from thrusting themselves into the
hands of the persecutors.(740) Tertullian mentions how, in a little
Asiatic town, the entire population once flocked to the proconsul,
declaring themselves to be Christians, and imploring him to execute the
decree of the emperor and grant them the privilege of martyrdom. The
bewildered functionary asked them whether, if they were so weary of life,
there were no precipices or ropes by which they could end their days; and
he put to death a small number of the suppliants, and dismissed the
others.(741) Two illustrious Pagan moralists and one profane Pagan
satirist have noticed this passion with a most unpleasing scorn. “There
are some,” said Epictetus, “whom madness, there are others, like the
Galilæans, whom custom, makes indifferent to death.”(742) “What mind,”
said Marcus Aurelius, “is prepared, if need be, to go forth from the body,
whether it be to be extinguished, or to be dispersed, or to
endure?—prepared by deliberate reflection, and not by pure obstinacy, as
is the custom of the Christians.”(743) “These wretches,” said Lucian,
speaking of the Christians, “persuade themselves that they are going to be
altogether immortal, and to live for ever; wherefore they despise death,
and many of their own accord give themselves up to be slain.”(744)

“I send against you men who are as greedy of death as you are of
pleasures,” were the words which, in after days, the Mohammedan chief
addressed to the degenerate Christians of Syria, and which were at once
the presage and the explanation of his triumph. Such words might with
equal propriety have been employed by the early Christian leaders to their
Pagan adversaries. The zeal of the Christians and of the Pagans differed
alike in degree and in kind. When Constantine made Christianity the
religion of the State, it is probable that its adherents were but a
minority in Rome. Even in the days of Theodosius the senate was still
wedded to Paganism;(745) yet the measures of Constantine were both natural
and necessary. The majority were without inflexible belief, without moral
enthusiasm, without definite organisation, without any of those principles
that inspire the heroism either of resistance or aggression. The minority
formed a serried phalanx, animated by every motive that could purify,
discipline, and sustain their zeal. When once the Christians had acquired
a considerable position, the question of their destiny was a simple one.
They must either be crushed or they must reign. The failure of the
persecution of Diocletian conducted them inevitably to the throne.

It may indeed be confidently asserted that the conversion of the Roman
Empire is so far from being of the nature of a miracle or suspension of
the ordinary principles of human nature, that there is scarcely any other
great movement on record in which the causes and effects so manifestly
correspond. The apparent anomalies of history are not inconsiderable, but
they must be sought for in other quarters. That within the narrow limits
and scanty population of the Greek States should have arisen men who, in
almost every conceivable form of genius, in philosophy, in epic, dramatic
and lyric poetry, in written and spoken eloquence, in statesmanship, in
sculpture, in painting, and probably also in music, should have attained
almost or altogether the highest limits of human perfection—that the creed
of Mohammed should have preserved its pure monotheism and its freedom from
all idolatrous tendencies, when adopted by vast populations in that
intellectual condition in which, under all other creeds, a gross and
material worship has proved inevitable, both these are facts which we can
only very imperfectly explain. Considerations of climate, and still more
of political, social, and intellectual customs and institutions, may
palliate the first difficulty, and the attitude Mohammed assumed to art
may supply us with a partial explanation of the second; but I suppose
that, after all has been said, most persons will feel that they are in
presence of phenomena very exceptional and astonishing. The first rise of
Christianity in Judæa is a subject wholly apart from this book. We are
examining only the subsequent movement in the Roman Empire. Of this
movement it may be boldly asserted that the assumption of a moral or
intellectual miracle is utterly gratuitous. Never before was a religious
transformation so manifestly inevitable. No other religion ever combined
so many forms of attraction as Christianity, both from its intrinsic
excellence, and from its manifest adaptation to the special wants of the
time. One great cause of its success was that it produced more heroic
actions and formed more upright men than any other creed; but that it
should do so was precisely what might have been expected.

To these reasonings, however, those who maintain that the triumph of
Christianity in Rome is naturally inexplicable, reply by pointing to the
persecutions which Christianity had to encounter. As this subject is one
on which many misconceptions exist, and as it is of extreme importance on
account of its connection with later persecutions, it will be necessary
briefly to discuss it.

It is manifest that the reasons that may induce a ruler to suppress by
force some forms of religious worship or opinion, are very various. He may
do so on moral grounds, because they directly or indirectly produce
immorality; or on religious grounds, because he believes them to be
offensive to the Deity; or on political grounds, because they are
injurious either to the State or to the Government; or on corrupt grounds,
because he desires to gratify some vindictive or avaricious passion. From
the simple fact, therefore, of a religious persecution we cannot at once
infer the principles of the persecutor, but must examine in detail by
which of the above motives, or by what combination of them, he has been

Now, the persecution which has taken place at the instigation of the
Christian priests differs in some respects broadly from all others. It has
been far more sustained, systematic, and unflinching. It has been directed
not merely against acts of worship, but also against speculative opinions.
It has been supported not merely as a right, but also as a duty. It has
been advocated in a whole literature of theology, by the classes that are
especially devout, and by the most opposing sects, and it has invariably
declined in conjunction with a large portion of theological dogmas.

I have elsewhere examined in great detail the history of persecutions by
Christians, and have endeavoured to show that, while exceptional causes
have undoubtedly occasionally occurred, they were, in the overwhelming
majority of cases, simply the natural, legitimate, and inevitable
consequence of a certain portion of the received theology. That portion is
the doctrine that correct theological opinions are essential to salvation,
and that theological error necessarily involves guilt. To these two
opinions may be distinctly traced almost all the sufferings that Christian
persecutors have caused, almost all the obstructions they have thrown in
the path of human progress; and those sufferings have been so grievous
that it may be reasonably questioned whether superstition has not often
proved a greater curse than vice, and that obstruction was so
pertinacious, that the contraction of theological influence has been at
once the best measure, and the essential condition of intellectual
advance. The notion that he might himself be possibly mistaken in his
opinions, which alone could cause a man who was thoroughly imbued with
these principles to shrink from persecuting, was excluded by the
theological virtue of faith, which, whatever else it might involve,
implied at least an absolute unbroken certainty, and led the devotee to
regard all doubt, and therefore all action based upon doubt, as sin.

To this general cause of Christian persecution I have shown that two
subsidiary influences may be joined. A large portion of theological ethics
was derived from writings in which religious massacres, on the whole the
most ruthless and sanguinary upon record, were said to have been directly
enjoined by the Deity, in which the duty of suppressing idolatry by force
was given a greater prominence than any article of the moral code, and in
which the spirit of intolerance has found its most eloquent and most
passionate expressions.(746) Besides this, the destiny theologians
represented as awaiting the misbeliever was so ghastly and so appalling as
to render it almost childish to lay any stress upon the earthly suffering
that might be inflicted in the extirpation of error.

That these are the true causes of the great bulk of Christian persecution,
I believe to be one of the most certain as well as one of the most
important facts in history. For the detailed proof I can only refer to
what I have elsewhere written; but I may here notice that that proof
combines every conceivable kind of evidence that in such a question can be
demanded. It can be shown that these principles would naturally lead men
to persecute. It can be shown that from the time of Constantine to the
time when the rationalistic spirit wrested the bloodstained sword from the
priestly hand, persecution was uniformly defended upon them—defended in
long, learned, and elaborate treatises, by the best and greatest men the
Church had produced, by sects that differed on almost all other points, by
multitudes who proved in every conceivable manner the purity of their
zeal. It can be shown, too, that toleration began with the distinction
between fundamental and non-fundamental doctrines, expanded in exact
proportion to the growing latitudinarianism, and triumphed only when
indifference to dogma had become a prevailing sentiment among legislators.
It was only when the battle had been won—when the anti-dogmatic party,
acting in opposition to the Church, had rendered persecution
impossible—that the great body of theologians revised their arguments, and
discovered that to punish men for their opinions was wholly at variance
with their faith. With the merits of this pleasing though somewhat tardy
conversion I am not now concerned; but few persons, I think, can follow
the history of Christian persecution without a feeling of extreme
astonishment that some modern writers, not content with maintaining that
the doctrine of exclusive salvation _ought_ not to have produced
persecution, have ventured, in defiance of the unanimous testimony of the
theologians of so many centuries, to dispute the plain historical fact
that it _did_ produce it. They argue that the Pagans, who did not believe
in exclusive salvation, persecuted, and that therefore that doctrine
cannot be the cause of persecution. The answer is that no sane man ever
maintained that all the persecutions on record were from the same source.
We can prove by the clearest evidence that Christian persecutions sprang
chiefly from the causes I have alleged. The causes of Pagan persecutions,
though different, are equally manifest, and I shall proceed shortly to
indicate them.

They were partly political and partly religious. The Governments in most
of the ancient States, in the earlier stages of their existence, undertook
the complete education of the people; professed to control and regulate
all the details of their social life, even to the dresses they wore, or
the dishes that were served upon their tables; and, in a word, to mould
their whole lives and characters into a uniform type. Hence, all
organisations and corporations not connected with the State, and
especially all that emanated from foreign countries, were looked upon with
distrust or antipathy. But this antipathy was greatly strengthened by a
religious consideration. No belief was more deeply rooted in the ancient
mind than that good or bad fortune sprang from the intervention of
spiritual beings, and that to neglect the sacred rites was to bring down
calamity upon the city. In the diminutive Greek States, where the function
of the Government was immensely enlarged, a strong intolerance existed,
which extended for some time not merely to practices, but to writings and
discourses. The well-known persecutions of Anaxagoras, Theodorus,
Diagoras, Stilpo, and Socrates; the laws of Plato, which were as opposed
to religious as to domestic freedom; and the existence in Athens of an
inquisitorial tribunal,(747) sufficiently attested it. But long before the
final ruin of Greece, speculative liberty had been fully attained. The
Epicurean and the Sceptical schools developed unmolested, and even in the
days of Socrates, Aristophanes was able to ridicule the gods upon the

In the earlier days of Rome religion was looked upon as a function of the
State; its chief object was to make the gods auspicious to the national
policy,(748) and its principal ceremonies were performed at the direct
command of the Senate. The national theory on religious matters was that
the best religion is always that of a man’s own country. At the same time,
the widest tolerance was granted to the religions of conquered nations.
The temples of every god were respected by the Roman army. Before
besieging a city, the Romans were accustomed to supplicate the presiding
deities of that city. With the single exception of the Druids, whose human
sacrifices it was thought a matter of humanity to suppress,(749) and whose
fierce rebellions it was thought necessary to crush, the teachers of all
national religions continued unmolested by the conqueror.

This policy, however, applied specially to religious rites practised in
the countries in which they were indigenous. The liberty to be granted to
the vast confluence of strangers attracted to Italy during the Empire was
another question. In the old Republican days, when the censors regulated
with the most despotic authority the minutest affairs of life, and when
the national religion was interwoven with every detail of political and
even domestic transactions, but little liberty could be expected. When
Carneades endeavoured to inculcate his universal scepticism upon the
Romans, by arguing alternately for and against the same proposition, Cato
immediately urged the Senate to expel him from the city, lest the people
should be corrupted by his teaching.(750) For a similar reason all
rhetoricians had been banished from the Republic.(751) The most
remarkable, however, and at the same time the extreme expression of Roman
intolerance that has descended to us, is the advice which Mæcenas is
represented as having given to Octavius Cæsar, before his accession to the
throne. “Always,” he said, “and everywhere, worship the gods according to
the rites of your country, and compel others to the same worship. Pursue
with your hatred and with punishments those who introduce foreign
religions, not only for the sake of the gods—the despisers of whom can
assuredly never do anything great—but also because they who introduce new
divinities entice many to use foreign laws. Hence arise conspiracies,
societies, and assemblies, things very unsuited to an homogeneous empire.
Tolerate no despiser of the gods, and no religious juggler. Divination is
necessary, and therefore let the aruspices and augurs by all means be
sustained, and let those who will, consult them; but the magicians must be
utterly prohibited, who, though they sometimes tell the truth, more
frequently, by false promises, urge men on to conspiracies.”(752)

This striking passage exhibits very clearly the extent to which in some
minds the intolerant spirit was carried in antiquity, and also the
blending motives that produced it. We should be, however, widely mistaken
if we regarded it as a picture of the actual religious policy of the
Empire. In order to realise this, it will be necessary to notice
separately liberty of speculation and liberty of worship.

When Asinius Pollio founded the first public library in Rome, he placed it
in the Temple of Liberty. The lesson which was thus taught to the literary
classes was never forgotten. It is probable that in no other period of the
history of the world was speculative freedom so perfect as in the Roman
Empire. The fearless scrutiny of all notions of popular belief, displayed
in the writings of Cicero, Seneca, Lucretius, or Lucian, did not excite an
effort of repression. Philosophers were, indeed, persecuted by Domitian
and Vespasian for their ardent opposition to the despotism of the
throne,(753) but on their own subjects they were wholly untrammelled. The
Greek writers consoled themselves for the extinction of the independence
of their country by the reflection that in the sphere of intellect the
meddling policy of the Greek States was replaced by an absolute and a
majestic freedom.(754) The fierceness of the opposition of sects faded
beneath its influence. Of all the speculative conflicts of antiquity, that
which most nearly approached the virulence of later theological
controversies was probably that between the Stoics and the Epicureans; but
it is well worthy of notice that some of the most emphatic testimonies to
the moral goodness of Epicurus have come from the writings of his

But the policy of the Roman rulers towards religious rites was very
different from, and would at first sight appear to be in direct opposition
to, their policy towards opinions. An old law, which Cicero mentions,
expressly forbade the introduction of new religions,(755) and in the
Republican days and the earliest days of the Empire there are many
instances of its being enforced. Thus, in A.U.C. 326, a severe drought
having led men to seek help from new gods, the Senate charged the ædiles
to allow none but Roman deities to be worshipped.(756) Lutatius, soon
after the first Punic war, was forbidden by the Senate to consult foreign
gods, “because,” said the historian, “it was deemed right the Republic
should be administered according to the national auspices, and not
according to those of other lands.”(757) During the second Punic war, a
severe edict of the Senate enjoined the suppression of certain recent
innovations.(758) About A.U.C. 615 the prætor Hispalus exiled those who
had introduced the worship of the Sabasian Jupiter.(759) The rites of
Bacchus, being accompanied by gross and scandalous obscenity, were
suppressed, the consul, in a remarkable speech, calling upon the people to
revive the religious policy of their ancestors.(760) The worship of Isis
and Serapis only gained its footing after a long struggle, and no small
amount of persecution. The gross immorality it sometimes favoured, its
wild and abject superstition, so thoroughly alien to the whole character
of Roman life and tradition, and also the organisation of its priesthood,
rendered it peculiarly obnoxious to the Government. When the first edict
of suppression was issued, the people hesitated to destroy a temple which
seemed so venerable in their eyes, and the consul Æmilius Paulus dispelled
their fears by seizing an axe and striking the first blow himself.(761)
During the latter days of the Republic, edicts had commanded the
destruction of the Egyptian temples. Octavius, however, in his younger
days, favoured the new worship, but, soon after, it was again
suppressed.(762) Under Tiberius it had once more crept in; but the priests
of Isis having enabled a patrician named Mundus to disguise himself as the
god Anubis, and win the favours of a devout worshipper, the temple, by
order of the emperor, was destroyed, the images were thrown into the
Tiber, the priests were crucified, and the seducer was banished.(763)
Under the same emperor four thousand persons were exiled to Sardinia, as
affected with Jewish and Egyptian superstitions. They were commissioned to
repress robbers; but it was at the same time added, with a characteristic
scorn, that if they died through the unhealthiness of the climate, it
would be but a “small loss.”(764)

These measures represent together a considerable amount of religious
repression, but they were produced exclusively by notions of policy or
discipline. They grew out of that intense national spirit which sacrificed
every other interest to the State, and resisted every form of innovation,
whether secular or religious, that could impair the unity of the national
type, and dissolve the discipline which the predominance of the military
spirit and the stern government of the Republic had formed. They were
also, in some cases, the result of moral scandals. When, however, it
became evident that the internal condition of the Republic was unsuited
for the Empire, the rulers frankly acquiesced in the change, and from the
time of Tiberius, with the single exception of the Christians, perfect
liberty of worship seems to have been granted to the professors of all
religions in Rome.(765) The old law upon the subject was not revoked, but
it was not generally enforced. Sometimes the new creeds were expressly
authorised. Sometimes they were tacitly permitted. With a single
exception, all the religions of the world raised their heads unmolested in
the “Holy City.”(766)

The liberty, however, of professing and practising a foreign worship did
not dispense the Roman from the obligation of performing also the
sacrifices or other religious rites of his own land. It was here that
whatever religious fanaticism mingled with Pagan persecutions was
displayed. Eusebius tells us that religion was divided by the Romans into
three parts—the mythology, or legends that had descended from the poets;
the interpretations or theories by which the philosophers endeavoured to
rationalise, filter, or explain away these legends; and the ritual or
official religious observances. In the first two spheres perfect liberty
was accorded, but the ritual was placed under the control of the
Government, and was made a matter of compulsion.(767) In order to realise
the strength of the feeling that supported it, we must remember that the
multitude firmly believed that the prosperity and adversity of the Empire
depended chiefly upon the zeal or indifference that was shown in
conciliating the national divinities, and also that the philosophers, as I
have noticed in the last chapter, for the most part not only practised,
but warmly defended, the official observances. The love of truth in many
forms was exhibited among the Pagan philosophers to a degree which has
never been surpassed; but there was one form in which it was absolutely
unknown. The belief that it is wrong for a man in religious matters to act
a lie, to sanction by his presence and by his example what he regards as
baseless superstitions, had no place in the ethics of antiquity. The
religious flexibility which polytheism had originally generated, the
strong political feeling that pervaded all classes, and also the manifest
impossibility of making philosophy the creed of the ignorant, had rendered
nearly universal among philosophers a state of feeling which is often
exhibited, but rarely openly professed, among ourselves.(768) The
religious opinions of men had but little influence on their religious
practices, and the sceptic considered it not merely lawful, but a duty, to
attend the observances of his country. No one did more to scatter the
ancient superstitions than Cicero, who was himself an augur, and who
strongly asserted the duty of complying with the national rites.(769)
Seneca, having recounted in the most derisive terms the absurdities of the
popular worship, concludes his enumeration by declaring that “the sage
will observe all these things, not as pleasing to the Divinities, but as
commanded by the law,” and that he should remember “that his worship is
due to custom, not to belief.”(770) Epictetus, whose austere creed rises
to the purest monotheism, teaches as a fundamental religious maxim that
every man in his devotions should “conform to the customs of his
country.”(771) The Jews and Christians, who alone refused to do so, were
the representatives of a moral principle that was unknown to the Pagan

It should be remembered, too, that the Oriental custom of deifying
emperors having been introduced into Rome, to burn incense before their
statues had become a kind of test of loyalty. This adoration does not, it
is true, appear to have implied any particular article of belief, and it
was probably regarded by most men as we regard the application of the term
“Sacred Majesty” to a sovereign, and the custom of kneeling in his
presence; but it was esteemed inconsistent with Christianity, and the
conscientious refusal of the Christians to comply with it aroused a
feeling resembling that which was long produced in Christendom by the
refusal of Quakers to comply with the usages of courts.

The obligation to perform the sacred rites of an idolatrous worship, if
rigidly enforced, would have amounted, in the case of the Jews and the
Christians, to a complete proscription. It does not, however, appear that
the Jews were ever persecuted on this ground. They formed a large and
influential colony in Rome. They retained undiminished, in the midst of
the Pagan population, their exclusive habits, refusing not merely all
religious communion, but most social intercourse with the idolaters,
occupying a separate quarter of the city, and sedulously practising their
distinctive rites. Tiberius, as we have seen, appears to have involved
them in his proscription of Egyptian superstitions; but they were usually
perfectly unmolested, or were molested only when their riotous conduct had
attracted the attention of the rulers. The Government was so far from
compelling them to perform acts contrary to their religion, that Augustus
expressly changed the day of the distribution of corn, in order that they
might not be reduced to the alternative of forfeiting their share, or of
breaking the Sabbath.(772)

It appears, then, that the old Republican intolerance had in the Empire
been so modified as almost to have disappeared. The liberty of speculation
and discussion was entirely unchecked. The liberty of practising foreign
religious rites, though ostensibly limited by the law against unauthorised
religions, was after Tiberius equally secure. The liberty of abstaining
from the official national rites, though more precarious, was fully
conceded to the Jews, whose jealousy of idolatry was in no degree inferior
to that of the Christians. It remains, then, to examine what were the
causes of the very exceptional fanaticism and animosity that were directed
against the latter.

The first cause of the persecution of the Christians was the religious
notion to which I have already referred. The belief that our world is
governed by isolated acts of Divine intervention, and that, in
consequence, every great calamity, whether physical, or military, or
political, may be regarded as a punishment or a warning, was the basis of
the whole religious system of antiquity.(773) In the days of the Republic
every famine, pestilence, or drought was followed by a searching
investigation of the sacred rites, to ascertain what irregularity or
neglect had caused the Divine anger, and two instances are recorded in
which vestal virgins were put to death because their unchastity was
believed to have provoked a national calamity.(774) It might appear at
first sight that the fanaticism which this belief would naturally produce
would have been directed against the Jews as strongly as against the
Christians; but a moment’s reflection is sufficient to explain the
difference. The Jewish religion was essentially conservative and
unexpansive. Although, in the passion for Oriental religions, many of the
Romans had begun to practise its ceremonies, there was no spirit of
proselytism in the sect; and it is probable that almost all who followed
this religion, to the exclusion of others, were of Hebrew nationality. The
Christians, on the other hand, were ardent missionaries; they were, for
the most part, Romans who had thrown off the allegiance of their old gods,
and their activity was so great that from a very early period the temples
were in some districts almost deserted.(775) Besides this, the Jews simply
abstained from and despised the religions around them. The Christians
denounced them as the worship of dæmons, and lost no opportunity of
insulting them. It is not, therefore, surprising that the populace should
have been firmly convinced that every great catastrophe that occurred was
due to the presence of the enemies of the gods. “If the Tiber ascends to
the walls,” says Tertullian, “or if the Nile does not overflow the fields,
if the heaven refuses its rain, if the earth quakes, if famine and
pestilence desolate the land, immediately the cry is raised, ‘The
Christians to the lions!’ ”(776) “There is no rain—the Christians are the
cause,” had become a popular proverb in Rome.(777) Earthquakes, which, on
account of their peculiarly appalling, and, to ignorant men, mysterious
nature, have played a very large part in the history of superstition, were
frequent and terrible in the Asiatic provinces, and in three or four
instances the persecution of the Christians may be distinctly traced to
the fanaticism they produced.

There is no part of ecclesiastical history more curious than the effects
of this belief in alternately assisting or impeding the progress of
different Churches. In the first three centuries of Christian history, it
was the cause of fearful sufferings to the faith; but even then the
Christians usually accepted the theory of their adversaries, though they
differed concerning its application. Tertullian and Cyprian strongly
maintained, sometimes that the calamities were due to the anger of the
Almighty against idolatry, sometimes that they were intended to avenge the
persecution of the truth. A collection was early made of men who, having
been hostile to the Christian faith, had died by some horrible death, and
their deaths were pronounced to be Divine punishments.(778) The victory
which established the power of the first Christian emperor, and the sudden
death of Arius, were afterwards accepted as decisive proofs of the truth
of Christianity, and of the falsehood of Arianism.(779) But soon the
manifest signs of the dissolution of the Empire revived the zeal of the
Pagans, who began to reproach themselves for their ingratitude to their
old gods, and who recognised in the calamities of their country the
vengeance of an insulted Heaven. When the altar of Victory was removed
contemptuously from the Senate, when the sacred college of the vestals was
suppressed, when, above all, the armies of Alaric encircled the Imperial
city, angry murmurs arose which disturbed the Christians in their triumph.
The standing-point of the theologians was then somewhat altered. St.
Ambrose dissected with the most unsparing rationalism the theory that
ascribed the national decline to the suppression of the vestals, traced it
to all its consequences, and exposed all its absurdities. Orosius wrote
his history to prove that great misfortunes had befallen the Empire before
its conversion. Salvian wrote his treatise on Providence to prove that the
barbarian invasions were a Divine judgment on the immorality of the
Christians. St. Augustine concentrated all his genius on a great work,
written under the impression of the invasion of Alaric, and intended to
prove that “the city of God” was not on earth, and that the downfall of
the Empire need therefore cause no disquietude to the Christians. St.
Gregory the Great continually represented the calamities of Italy as
warnings foreboding the destruction of the world. When Rome sank finally
before the barbarian hosts, it would seem as though the doctrine that
temporal success was the proof of Divine favour must be finally abandoned.
But the Christian clergy disengaged their cause from that of the ruined
Empire, proclaimed its downfall to be a fulfilment of prophecy and a
Divine judgment, confronted the barbarian conquerors in all the majesty of
their sacred office, and overawed them in the very moment of their
victory. In the conversion of the uncivilised tribes, the doctrine of
special intervention occupied a commanding place. The Burgundians, when
defeated by the Huns, resolved, as a last resource, to place themselves
under the protection of the Roman God whom they vaguely believed to be the
most powerful, and the whole nation in consequence embraced
Christianity.(780) In a critical moment of a great battle, Clovis invoked
the assistance of the God of his wife. The battle was won, and he, with
many thousands of Franks, was converted to the faith.(781) In England, the
conversion of Northumbria was partly, and the conversion of Mercia was
mainly, due to the belief that the Divine interposition had secured the
victory of a Christian king.(782) A Bulgarian prince was driven into the
Church by the terror of a pestilence, and he speedily effected the
conversion of his subjects.(783) The destruction of so many shrines, and
the defeat of so many Christian armies, by the followers of Mohammed; the
disastrous and ignominious overthrow of the Crusaders, who went forth
protected by all the blessings of the Church, were unable to impair the
belief. All through the middle ages, and for some centuries after the
middle ages had passed, every startling catastrophe was regarded as a
punishment, or a warning, or a sign of the approaching termination of the
world. Churches and monasteries were built. Religious societies were
founded. Penances were performed. Jews were massacred, and a long
catalogue might be given of the theories by which men attempted to connect
every vicissitude of fortune, and every convulsion of nature, with the
wranglings of theologians. Thus, to give but a few examples: St. Ambrose
confidently asserted that the death of Maximus was a consequence of the
crime he had committed in compelling the Christians to rebuild a Jewish
synagogue they had destroyed.(784) One of the laws in the Justinian code,
directed against the Jews, Samaritans, and Pagans, expressly attributes to
them the sterility of the soil, which in an earlier age the Pagans had so
often attributed to the Christians.(785) A volcanic eruption that broke
out at the commencement of the iconoclastic persecution was adduced as a
clear proof that the Divine anger was aroused, according to one party, by
the hostility of the emperor to the sacred images; according to the other
party, by his sinful hesitation in extirpating idolatry.(786) Bodin, in a
later age, considered that the early death of the sovereign who commanded
the massacre of St. Bartholomew was due to what he deemed the master crime
of that sovereign’s reign. He had spared the life of a famous
sorcerer.(787) In the struggles that followed the Reformation, physical
calamities were continually ascribed in one age to the toleration, in
another to the endowment, of either heresy or Popery.(788) Sometimes,
however, they were traced to the theatre, and sometimes to the writings of
freethinkers. But gradually, and almost insensibly, these notions faded
away. The old language is often heard, but it is no longer realised and
operative, and the doctrine which played so large a part in the history of
the world has ceased to exercise any appreciable influence upon the
actions of mankind.

In addition to this religious motive, which acted chiefly upon the vulgar,
there was a political motive which rendered Christianity obnoxious to the
educated. The Church constituted a vast, highly organised, and in many
respects secret society, and as such was not only distinctly illegal, but
was also in the very highest degree calculated to excite the apprehensions
of the Government. There was no principle in the Imperial policy more
stubbornly upheld than the suppression of all corporations that might be
made the nuclei of revolt. The extent to which this policy was carried is
strikingly evinced by a letter from Trajan to Pliny, in which the emperor
forbade the formation even of a guild of firemen, on the ground that they
would constitute an association and hold meetings.(789) In such a state of
feeling, the existence of a vast association, governed by countless
functionaries, shrouding its meetings and some of its doctrines in
impenetrable obscurity, evoking a degree of attachment and devotion
greater than could be elicited by the State, ramifying through the whole
extent of the empire, and restlessly extending its influence, would
naturally arouse the strongest apprehension. That it did so is clearly
recognised by the Christian apologists, who, however, justly retorted upon
the objectors the impossibility of showing a single instance in which, in
an age of continual conspiracies, the numerous and persecuted Christians
had proved disloyal. Whatever we may think of their doctrine of passive
obedience, it is impossible not to admire the constancy with which they
clung to it, when all their interests were the other way. But yet the
Pagans were not altogether wrong in regarding the new association as fatal
to the greatness of the Empire. It consisted of men who regarded the Roman
Empire as a manifestation of Antichrist, and who looked forward with
passionate longing to its destruction. It substituted a new enthusiasm for
that patriotism which was the very life-blood of the national existence.
Many of the Christians deemed it wrong to fight for their country. All of
them aspired to a type of character, and were actuated by hopes and
motives, wholly inconsistent with that proud martial ardour by which the
triumphs of Rome had been won, and by which alone her impending ruin could
be averted.

The aims and principles of this association were very imperfectly
understood. The greatest and best of the Pagans spoke of it as a hateful
superstition, and the phrase they most frequently reiterated, when
speaking of its members, was “enemies” or “haters of the human race.” Such
a charge, directed persistently against men whose main principle was the
supreme excellence of love, and whose charity unquestionably rose far
above that of any other class, was probably due in the first place to the
unsocial habits of the converts, who deemed it necessary to abstain from
all the forms of public amusement, to refuse to illuminate their houses,
or hang garlands from their portals in honour of the national triumphs,
and who somewhat ostentatiously exhibited themselves as separate and alien
from their countrymen. It may also have arisen from a knowledge of the
popular Christian doctrine about the future destiny of Pagans. When the
Roman learnt what fate the Christian assigned to the heroes and sages of
his nation, and to the immense mass of his living fellow-countrymen, when
he was told that the destruction of the once glorious Empire to which he
belonged was one of the most fervent aspirations of the Church, his
feelings were very likely to clothe themselves in such language as I have

But, in addition to the general charges, specific accusations(790) of the
grossest kind were directed against Christian morals. At a time when the
moral standard was very low, they were charged with deeds so atrocious as
to scandalise the most corrupt. They were represented as habitually, in
their secret assemblies, celebrating the most licentious orgies, feeding
on human flesh, and then, the lights having been extinguished, indulging
in promiscuous, and especially in incestuous, intercourse. The persistence
with which these accusations were made is shown by the great prominence
they occupy, both in the writings of the apologists and in the narrations
of the persecutions. That these charges were absolutely false will now be
questioned by no one. The Fathers were long able to challenge their
adversaries to produce a single instance in which any other crime than his
faith was proved against a martyr, and they urged with a just and noble
pride that whatever doubt there might be of the truth of the Christian
doctrines, or of the Divine origin of the Christian miracles, there was at
least no doubt that Christianity had transformed the characters of
multitudes, vivified the cold heart by a new enthusiasm, redeemed,
regenerated, and emancipated the most depraved of mankind. Noble lives,
crowned by heroic deaths, were the best arguments of the infant
Church.(791) Their enemies themselves not unfrequently acknowledged it.
The love shown by the early Christians to their suffering brethren has
never been more emphatically attested than by Lucian,(792) or the
beautiful simplicity of their worship than by Pliny,(793) or their ardent
charity than by Julian.(794) There was, it is true, another side to the
picture; but even when the moral standard of Christians was greatly
lowered, it was lowered only to that of the community about them.

These calumnies were greatly encouraged by the ecclesiastical rule, which
withheld from the unbaptised all knowledge of some of the more mysterious
doctrines of the Church, and veiled, at least, one of its ceremonies in
great obscurity. Vague rumours about the nature of that sacramental feast,
to which none but the baptised Christian was suffered to penetrate, and
which no ecclesiastic was permitted to explain either to the catechumens
or to the world, were probably the origin of the charge of cannibalism;
while the Agapæ or love feasts, the ceremony of the kiss of love, and the
peculiar and, to the Pagans, perhaps unintelligible, language in which the
Christians proclaimed themselves one body and fellow-members in Christ,
may have suggested the other charges. The eager credulity with which
equally baseless accusations against the Jews were for centuries believed,
illustrates the readiness with which they were accepted, and the extremely
imperfect system of police which rendered the verification of secret
crimes very difficult, had no doubt greatly enlarged the sphere of
calumny. But, in addition to these considerations, the orthodox were in
some respects exceedingly unfortunate. In the eyes of the Pagans they were
regarded as a sect of Jews; and the Jews, on account of their continual
riots, their inextinguishable hatred of the Gentile world,(795) and the
atrocities that frequently accompanied their rebellions, had early excited
the anger and the contempt of the Pagans. On the other hand, the Jew, who
deemed the abandonment of the law the most heinous of crimes, and whose
patriotism only shone with a fiercer flame amid the calamities of his
nation, regarded the Christian with an implacable hostility. Scorned or
hated by those around him, his temple levelled with the dust, and the last
vestige of his independence destroyed, he clung with a desperate tenacity
to the hopes and privileges of his ancient creed. In his eyes the
Christians were at once apostates and traitors. He could not forget that
in the last dark hour of his country’s agony, when the armies of the
Gentile encompassed Jerusalem, and when the hosts of the faithful flocked
to its defence, the Christian Jews had abandoned the fortunes of their
race, and refused to bear any part in the heroism and the sufferings of
the closing scene. They had proclaimed that the promised Messiah, who was
to restore the faded glories of Israel, had already come; that the
privileges which were so long the monopoly of a single people had passed
to the Gentile world; that the race which was once supremely blest was for
all future time to be accursed among mankind. It is not, therefore,
surprising that there should have arisen between the two creeds an
animosity which Paganism could never rival. While the Christians viewed
with too much exultation the calamities that fell upon the prostrate
people,(796) whose cup of bitterness they were destined through long
centuries to fill to the brim, the Jews laboured with unwearied hatred to
foment by calumnies the passions of the Pagan multitude.(797) On the other
hand, the Catholic Christians showed themselves extremely willing to draw
down the sword of the persecutor upon the heretical sects. When the Pagans
accused the Christians of indulging in orgies of gross licentiousness, the
first apologist, while repudiating the charge, was careful to add, of the
heretics, “Whether or not these people commit those shameful and fabulous
acts, the putting out the lights, indulging in promiscuous intercourse,
and eating human flesh, I know not.”(798) In a few years the language of
doubt and insinuation was exchanged for that of direct assertion; and, if
we may believe St. Irenæus and St. Clement of Alexandria, the followers of
Carpocrates, the Marcionites, and some other Gnostic sects, habitually
indulged, in their secret meetings, in acts of impurity and licentiousness
as hideous and as monstrous as can be conceived, and their conduct was one
of the causes of the persecution of the orthodox.(799) Even the most
extravagant charges of the Pagan populace were reiterated by the Fathers
in their accusations of the Gnostics. St. Epiphanius, in the fourth
century, assures us that some of their sects were accustomed to kill, to
dress with spices, and to eat the children born of their promiscuous
intercourse.(800) The heretics, in their turn, gladly accused the
Catholics;(801) while the Roman judge, in whose eyes Judaism, orthodox
Christianity, and heresy were but slightly differing modifications of one
despicable superstition, doubtless found in this interchange of
accusations a corroboration of his prejudices.

Another cause of the peculiar animosity felt against the Christians was
the constant interference with domestic life, arising from the great
number of female conversions. The Christian teacher was early noted for
his unrivalled skill in playing on the chords of a woman’s heart.(802) The
graphic title of “Earpicker of ladies,”(803) which was given to a
seductive pontiff of a somewhat later period, might have been applied to
many in the days of the persecution; and to the Roman, who regarded the
supreme authority of the head of the family, in all religious matters, as
the very foundation of domestic morality, no character could appear more
infamous or more revolting. “A wife,” said Plutarch, expressing the
deepest conviction of the Pagan world, “should have no friends but those
of her husband; and, as the gods are the first of friends, she should know
no gods but those whom her husband adores. Let her shut the door, then,
against idle religions and foreign superstitions. No god can take pleasure
in sacrifices offered by a wife without the knowledge of her
husband.”(804) But these principles, upon which the whole social system of
Paganism had rested, were now disregarded. Wives in multitudes deserted
their homes to frequent the nocturnal meetings(805) of a sect which was
looked upon with the deepest suspicion, and was placed under the ban of
the law. Again and again, the husband, as he laid his head on the pillow
by his wife, had the bitterness of thinking that all her sympathies were
withdrawn from him; that her affections belonged to an alien priesthood
and to a foreign creed; that, though she might discharge her duties with a
gentle and uncomplaining fidelity, he had for ever lost the power of
touching her heart—he was to her only as an outcast, as a brand prepared
for the burning. Even to a Christian mind there is a deep pathos in the
picture which St. Augustine has drawn of the broken-hearted husband
imploring the assistance of the gods, and receiving from the oracle the
bitter answer: “You may more easily write in enduring characters on the
wave, or fly with feathers through the air, than purge the mind of a woman
when once tainted by the superstition.”(806)

I have already noticed the prominence which the practice of exorcism had
acquired in the early Church, the contempt with which it was regarded by
the more philosophic Pagans, and the law which had been directed against
its professors. It is not, however, probable that this practice, though it
lowered the Christians in the eyes of the educated as much as it elevated
them in the eyes of the populace, had any appreciable influence in
provoking persecution. In the crowd of superstitions that were invading
the Roman Empire, exorcism had a prominent place; all such practices were
popular with the masses; the only form of magic which under the Empire was
seriously persecuted was political astrology or divination with a view to
discovering the successors to the throne, and of this the Christians were
never accused.(807) There was, however, another form of what was deemed
superstition connected with the Church, which was regarded by Pagan
philosophers with a much deeper feeling of aversion. To agitate the minds
of men with religious terrorism, to fill the unknown world with hideous
images of suffering, to govern the reason by alarming the imagination, was
in the eyes of the Pagan world one of the most heinous of crimes.(808)
These fears were to the ancients the very definition of superstition, and
their destruction was a main object both of the Epicurean and of the
Stoic. To men holding such sentiments, it is easy to perceive how
obnoxious must have appeared religious teachers who maintained that an
eternity of torture was reserved for the entire human race then existing
in the world, beyond the range of their own community, and who made the
assertion of this doctrine one of their main instruments of success.(809)
Enquiry, among the early theologians, was much less valued than
belief,(810) and reason was less appealed to than fear. In philosophy the
most comprehensive, but in theology the most intolerant, system is
naturally the strongest. To weak women, to the young, the ignorant, and
the timid, to all, in a word, who were doubtful of their own judgment, the
doctrine of exclusive salvation must have come with an appalling power;
and, as no other religion professed it, it supplied the Church with an
invaluable vantage-ground, and doubtless drove multitudes into its pale.
To this doctrine we may also, in a great degree, ascribe the agony of
terror that was so often displayed by the apostate, whose flesh shrank
from the present torture, but who was convinced that the weakness he could
not overcome would be expiated by an eternity of torment.(811) To the
indignation excited by such teaching was probably due a law of Marcus
Aurelius, which decreed that “if any one shall do anything whereby the
weak minds of any may be terrified by superstitious fear, the offender
shall be exiled into an island.”(812)

There can, indeed, be little doubt that a chief cause of the hostility
felt against the Christian Church was the intolerant aspect it at that
time displayed. The Romans were prepared to tolerate almost any form of
religion that would tolerate others. The Jews, though quite as obstinate
as the Christians in refusing to sacrifice to the emperor, were rarely
molested, except in the periods immediately following their insurrections,
because Judaism, however exclusive and unsocial, was still an unaggressive
national faith. But the Christian teachers taught that all religions,
except their own and that of the Jews, were constructed by devils, and
that all who dissented from their Church must be lost. It was impossible
that men strung to the very highest pitch of religious excitement, and
imagining they saw in every ceremony and oracle the direct working of a
present dæmon, could restrain their zeal, or respect in any degree the
feelings of others. Proselytising with an untiring energy, pouring a
fierce stream of invective and ridicule upon the gods on whose favour the
multitude believed all national prosperity to depend, not unfrequently
insulting the worshippers, and defacing the idols,(813) they soon stung
the Pagan devotees to madness, and convinced them that every calamity that
fell upon the empire was the righteous vengeance of the gods. Nor was the
sceptical politician more likely to regard with favour a religion whose
development was plainly incompatible with the whole religious policy of
the Empire. The new Church, as it was then organised, must have appeared
to him essentially, fundamentally, necessarily intolerant. To permit it to
triumph was to permit the extinction of religious liberty in an empire
which comprised all the leading nations of the world, and tolerated all
their creeds. It was indeed true that in the days of their distress the
apologists proclaimed, in high and eloquent language, the iniquity of
persecution, and the priceless value of a free worship; but it needed no
great sagacity to perceive that the language of the dominant Church would
be very different. The Pagan philosopher could not foresee the ghastly
histories of the Inquisition, of the Albigenses, or of St. Bartholomew;
but he could scarcely doubt that the Christians, when in the ascendant,
would never tolerate rites which they believed to be consecrated to
devils, or restrain, in the season of their power, a religious animosity
which they scarcely bridled when they were weak. It needed no prophetic
inspiration to anticipate the time, that so speedily arrived, when, amid
the wailings of the worshippers, the idols and the temples were shattered,
and when all who practised the religious ceremonies of their forefathers
were subject to the penalty of death.

There has probably never existed upon earth a community whose members were
bound to one another by a deeper or a purer affection than the Christians,
in the days of the persecution. There has probably never existed a
community which exhibited in its dealings with crime a gentler or more
judicious kindness, which combined more happily an unflinching opposition
to sin with a boundless charity to the sinner, and which was in
consequence more successful in reclaiming and transforming the most
vicious of mankind. There has, however, also never existed a community
which displayed more clearly the intolerance that would necessarily follow
its triumph. Very early tradition has related three anecdotes of the
apostle John which illustrate faithfully this triple aspect of the Church.
It is said that when the assemblies of the Christians thronged around him
to hear some exhortation from his lips, the only words he would utter
were, “My little children, love one another;” for in this, he said, is
comprised the entire law. It is said that a young man he had once confided
to the charge of a bishop, having fallen into the ways of vice, and become
the captain of a band of robbers, the apostle, on hearing of it, bitterly
reproached the negligence of the pastor, and, though in extreme old age,
betook himself to the mountains till he had been captured by the robbers,
when, falling with tears on the neck of the chief, he restored him to the
path of virtue. It is said that the same apostle, once seeing the heretic
Cerinthus in an establishment of baths into which he had entered,
immediately rushed forth, fearing lest the roof should fall because a
heretic was beneath it.(814) All that fierce hatred which during the Arian
and Donatist controversies convulsed the Empire, and which in later times
has deluged the world with blood, may be traced in the Church long before
the conversion of Constantine. Already, in the second century, it was the
rule that the orthodox Christian should hold no conversation, should
interchange none of the most ordinary courtesies of life, with the
excommunicated or the heretic.(815) Common sufferings were impotent to
assuage the animosity, and the purest and fondest relations of life were
polluted by the new intolerance. The Decian persecution had scarcely
closed, when St. Cyprian wrote his treatise to maintain that it is no more
possible to be saved beyond the limits of the Church, than it was during
the deluge beyond the limits of the ark; that martyrdom itself has no
power to efface the guilt of schism; and that the heretic, who for his
master’s cause expired in tortures upon the earth, passed at once, by that
master’s decree, into an eternity of torment in hell!(816) Even in the
arena the Catholic martyrs withdrew from the Montanists, lest they should
be mingled with the heretics in death.(817) At a later period St.
Augustine relates that, when he was a Manichean, his mother for a time
refused even to eat at the same table with her erring child.(818) When St.
Ambrose not only defended the act of a Christian bishop, who had burnt
down a synagogue of the Jews, but denounced as a deadly crime the decree
of the Government which ordered it to be rebuilt;(819) when the same
saint, in advocating the plunder of the vestal virgins, maintained the
doctrine that it is criminal for a Christian State to grant any endowment
to the ministers of any religion but his own,(820) which it has needed all
the efforts of modern liberalism to efface from legislation, he was but
following in the traces of those earlier Christians, who would not even
wear a laurel crown,(821) or join in the most innocent civic festival,
lest they should appear in some indirect way to be acquiescing in the
Pagan worship. While the apologists were maintaining against the Pagan
persecutors the duty of tolerance, the Sibylline books, which were the
popular literature of the Christians, were filled with passionate
anticipations of the violent destruction of the Pagan temples.(822) And no
sooner had Christianity mounted the throne than the policy they
foreshadowed became ascendant. The indifference or worldly sagacity of
some of the rulers, and the imposing number of the Pagans, delayed, no
doubt, the final consummation; but, from the time of Constantine,
restrictive laws were put in force, the influence of the ecclesiastics was
ceaselessly exerted in their favour, and no sagacious man could fail to
anticipate the speedy and absolute proscription of the Pagan worship. It
is related of the philosopher Antoninus, the son of the Pagan prophetess
Sospitra, that, standing one day with his disciples before that noble
temple of Serapis, at Alexandria, which was one of the wonders of ancient
art, and which was destined soon after to perish by the rude hands of the
Christian monks, the prophetic spirit of his mother fell upon him. Like
another prophet before another shrine, he appalled his hearers by the
prediction of the approaching ruin. The time would come, he said, when the
glorious edifice before them would be overthrown, the carved images would
be defaced, the temples of the gods would be turned into the sepulchres of
the dead, and a great darkness would fall upon mankind!(823)

And, besides the liberty of worship, the liberty of thought and of
expression, which was the supreme attainment of Roman civilisation, was in
peril. The new religion, unlike that which was disappearing, claimed to
dictate the opinions as well as the actions of men, and its teachers
stigmatised as an atrocious crime the free expression of every opinion on
religious matters diverging from their own. Of all the forms of liberty,
it was this which lasted the longest, and was the most dearly prized. Even
after Constantine, the Pagans Libanius, Themistius, Symmachus, and Sallust
enforced their views with a freedom that contrasts remarkably with the
restraints imposed upon their worship, and the beautiful friendships of
St. Basil and Libanius, of Synesius and Hypatia, are among the most
touching episodes of their time. But though the traditions of Pagan
freedom, and the true catholicism of Justin Martyr and Origen, lingered
long, it was inevitable that error, being deemed criminal, should be made
penal. The dogmatism of Athanasius and Augustine, the increasing power of
the clergy, and the fanaticism of the monks, hastened the end. The
suppression of all religions but one by Theodosius, the murder of Hypatia
at Alexandria by the monks of Cyril, and the closing by Justinian of the
schools of Athens, are the three events which mark the decisive overthrow
of intellectual freedom. A thousand years had rolled away before that
freedom was in part restored.

The considerations I have briefly enumerated should not in the smallest
degree detract from the admiration due to the surpassing courage, to the
pure, touching, and sacred virtues of the Christian martyrs; but they in
some degree palliate the conduct of the persecutors, among whom must be
included one emperor, who was probably, on the whole, the best and most
humane sovereign who has ever sat upon a throne, and at least two others,
who were considerably above the average of virtue. When, combined with the
indifference to human suffering, the thirst for blood, which the
spectacles of the amphitheatre had engendered, they assuredly make the
persecutions abundantly explicable. They show that if it can be proved
that Christian persecutions sprang from the doctrine of exclusive
salvation, the fact that the Roman Pagans, who did not hold that doctrine,
also persecuted, need not cause the slightest perplexity. That the
persecutions of Christianity by the Roman emperors, severe as they
undoubtedly were, were not of such a continuous nature as wholly to
counteract the vast moral, social, and intellectual agencies that were
favourable to its spread, a few dates will show.

We have seen that when the Egyptian rites were introduced into Rome, they
were met by prompt and energetic measures of repression; that these
measures were again and again repeated, but that at last, when they proved
ineffectual, the governors desisted from their opposition, and the new
worship assumed a recognised place. The history of Christianity, in its
relation to the Government, is the reverse of this. Its first introduction
into Rome appears to have been altogether unopposed. Tertullian asserts
that Tiberius, on the ground of a report from Pontius Pilate, desired to
enrol Christ among the Roman gods, but that the Senate rejected the
proposal; but this assertion, which is altogether unsupported by
trustworthy evidence, and is, intrinsically, extremely improbable, is now
generally recognised as false.(824) An isolated passage of Suetonius
states that in the time of Claudius “the Jews, being continually rioting,
at the instigation of a certain Chrestus,”(825) were expelled from the
city; but no Christian writer speaks of his co-religionists being
disturbed in this reign, while all, with a perfect unanimity, and with
great emphasis, describe Nero as the first persecutor. His persecution
began at the close of A.D. 64.(826) It was directed against Christians,
not ostensibly on the ground of their religion, but because they were
falsely accused of having set fire to Rome, and it is very doubtful
whether it extended beyond the city.(827) It had also this peculiarity,
that, being directed against the Christians not as Christians, but as
incendiaries, it was impossible to escape from it by apostasy. Within the
walls of Rome it raged with great fury. The Christians, who had been for
many years(828) proselytising without restraint in the great confluence of
nations, and amid the disintegration of old beliefs, had become a
formidable body. They were, we learn from Tacitus, profoundly unpopular;
but the hideous tortures to which Nero subjected them, and the conviction
that, whatever other crimes they might have committed, they were not
guilty of setting fire to the city, awoke general pity. Some of them, clad
in skins of wild beasts, were torn by dogs. Others, arrayed in shirts of
pitch, were burnt alive in Nero’s garden.(829) Others were affixed to
crosses. Great multitudes perished. The deep impression the persecution
made on the Christian mind is shown in the whole literature of the Sibyls,
which arose soon after, in which Nero is usually the central figure, and
by the belief, that lingered for centuries, that the tyrant was yet alive,
and would return once more as the immediate precursor of Antichrist, to
inflict the last great persecution upon the Church.(830)

Nero died A.D. 68. From that time, for at least twenty-seven years, the
Church enjoyed absolute repose. There is no credible evidence whatever of
the smallest interference with its freedom till the last year of the reign
of Domitian; and a striking illustration of the fearlessness with which it
exhibited itself to the world has been lately furnished in the discovery,
near Rome, of a large and handsome porch leading to a Christian catacomb,
built above ground between the reigns of Nero and Domitian, in the
immediate neighbourhood of one of the principal highways.(831) The long
reign of Domitian, though it may have been surpassed in ferocity, was
never surpassed in the Roman annals in the skilfulness and the persistence
of its tyranny. The Stoics and literary classes, who upheld the traditions
of political freedom, and who had already suffered much at the hands of
Vespasian, were persecuted with relentless animosity. Metius Modestus,
Arulenus Rusticus, Senecio, Helvidius, Dion Chrysostom, the younger
Priscus, Junius Mauricus, Artemidorus, Euphrates, Epictetus, Arria,
Fannia, and Gratilla were either killed or banished.(832) No measures,
however, appear to have been taken against the Christians till A.D. 95,
when a short and apparently not very severe persecution, concerning which
our information is both scanty and conflicting, was directed against them.
Of the special cause that produced it we are left in much doubt. Eusebius
mentions, on the not very trustworthy authority of Hegesippus, that the
emperor, having heard of the existence of the grandchildren of Judas, the
brother of Christ, ordered them to be brought before him, as being of the
family of David, and therefore possible pretenders to the throne; but on
finding that they were simple peasants, and that the promised kingdom of
which they spoke was a spiritual one, he dismissed them in peace, and
arrested the persecution he had begun.(833) A Pagan historian states that,
the finances of the Empire being exhausted by lavish expenditure in public
games, Domitian, in order to replenish his exchequer, resorted to a severe
and special taxation of the Jews; that some of these, in order to evade
the impost, concealed their worship, while others, who are supposed to
have been Christians, are described as following the Jewish rites without
being professed Jews.(834) Perhaps, however, the simplest explanation is
the truest, and the persecution may be ascribed to the antipathy which a
despot like Domitian must necessarily have felt to an institution which,
though it did not, like Stoicism, resist his policy, at least exercised a
vast influence altogether removed from his control. St. John, who was then
a very old man, is said to have been at this time exiled to Patmos.
Flavius Clemens, a consul, and a relative of the emperor, was put to
death. His wife, or, according to another account, his niece Domitilla,
was banished, according to one account, to the island of Pontia, according
to another, to the island of Pandataria, and many others were compelled to
accompany her into exile.(835) Numbers, we are told, “accused of
conversion to impiety or Jewish rites,” were condemned. Some were killed,
and others deprived of their offices.(836) Of the cessation of the
persecution there are two different versions. Tertullian(837) and
Eusebius(838) say that the tyrant speedily revoked his edict, and restored
those who had been banished; but according to Lactantius these measures
were not taken till after the death of Domitian,(839) and this latter
statement is corroborated by the assertion of Dion Cassius, that Nerva,
upon his accession, “absolved those who were accused of impiety, and
recalled the exiles.”(840)

When we consider the very short time during which this persecution lasted,
and the very slight notice that was taken of it, we may fairly, I think,
conclude that it was not of a nature to check in any appreciable degree a
strong religious movement like that of Christianity. The assassination of
Domitian introduces us to the golden age of the Roman Empire. In the eyes
of the Pagan historian, the period from the accession of Nerva, in A.D.
96, to the death of Marcus Aurelius, in A.D. 180, is memorable as a period
of uniform good government, of rapidly advancing humanity, of great
legislative reforms, and of a peace which was very rarely seriously
broken. To the Christian historian it is still more remarkable, as one of
the most critical periods in the history of his faith. The Church entered
into it considerable indeed, as a sect, but not large enough to be
reckoned an important power in the Empire. It emerged from it so increased
in its numbers, and so extended in its ramifications, that it might fairly
defy the most formidable assaults. It remains, therefore, to be seen
whether the opposition against which, during these eighty-four years, it
had so successfully struggled was of such a kind and intensity that the
triumph must be regarded as a miracle.

Nearly at the close of this period, during the persecution of Marcus
Aurelius, St. Melito, Bishop of Sardis, wrote a letter of expostulation to
the emperor, in which he explicitly asserts that in Asia the persecution
of the pious was an event which “had never before occurred,” and was the
result of “new and strange decrees;” that the ancestors of the emperor
were accustomed to honour the Christian faith “like other religions;” and
that “Nero and Domitian alone” had been hostile to it.(841) Rather more
than twenty years later, Tertullian asserted, in language equally distinct
and emphatic, that the two persecutors of the Christians were Nero and
Domitian, and that it would be impossible to name a single good sovereign
who had molested them. Marcus Aurelius himself, Tertullian refuses to
number among the persecutors, and, even relying upon a letter which was
falsely imputed to him, enrols him among the protectors of the
Church.(842) About a century later, Lactantius, reviewing the history of
the persecutions, declared that the good sovereigns who followed Domitian
abstained from persecuting, and passes at once from the persecution of
Domitian to that of Decius. Having noticed the measures of the former
emperor, he proceeds: “The acts of the tyrant being revoked, the Church
was not only restored to its former state, but shone forth with a greater
splendour and luxuriance; and a period following in which many good
sovereigns wielded the Imperial sceptre, it suffered no assaults from its
enemies, but stretched out its hands to the east and to the west; ... but
at last the long peace was broken. After many years, that hateful monster
Decius arose, who troubled the Church.”(843)

We have here three separate passages, from which we may conclusively infer
that the normal and habitual condition of the Christians during the
eighty-four years we are considering, and, if we accept the last two
passages, during a much longer period, was a condition of peace, but that
peace was not absolutely unbroken. The Christian Church, which was at
first regarded simply as a branch of Judaism, had begun to be recognised
as a separate body, and the Roman law professedly tolerated only those
religions which were expressly authorised. It is indeed true that with the
extension of the Empire, and especially of the city, the theory, or at
least the practice, of religious legislation had been profoundly modified.
First of all, certain religions, of which the Jewish was one, were
officially recognised, and then many others, without being expressly
authorised, were tolerated. In this manner, all attempts to resist the
torrent of Oriental superstitions proving vain, the legislator had
desisted from his efforts, and every form of wild superstition was
practised with publicity and impunity. Still the laws forbidding them were
unrevoked, although they were suffered to remain for the most part
obsolete, or were at least only put in action on the occasion of some
special scandal, or of some real or apprehended political danger. The
municipal and provincial independence under the Empire was, however, so
large, that very much depended on the character of the local governor; and
it continually happened that in one province the Christians were
unmolested or favoured, while in the adjoining province they were severely

As we have already seen, the Christians had for many reasons become
profoundly obnoxious to the people. They shared the unpopularity of the
Jews, with whom they were confounded, while the general credence given to
the calumnies about the crimes said to have been perpetrated at their
secret meetings, their abstinence from public amusements, and the belief
that their hostility to the gods was the cause of every physical calamity,
were special causes of antipathy. The history of the period of the
Antonines continually manifests the desire of the populace to persecute,
restrained by the humanity of the rulers. In the short reign of Nerva
there appears to have been no persecution, and our knowledge of the
official proceedings with reference to the religion is comprised in two
sentences of a Pagan historian, who tells us that the emperor “absolved
those who had been convicted of impiety,” and “permitted no one to be
convicted of impiety or Jewish rites.” Under Trajan, however, some serious
though purely local disturbances took place. The emperor himself, though
one of the most sagacious, and in most respects humane of Roman
sovereigns, was nervously jealous of any societies or associations among
his subjects, and had propounded a special edict against them; but the
persecution of the Christians appears to have been not so much political
as popular. If we may believe Eusebius, local persecutions, apparently of
the nature of riots, but sometimes countenanced by provincial governors,
broke out in several quarters of the Empire. In Bithynia, Pliny the
Younger was the governor, and he wrote a very famous letter to Trajan, in
which he professed himself absolutely ignorant of the proceedings to be
taken against the Christians, who had already so multiplied that the
temples were deserted, and who were arraigned in great numbers before his
tribunal. He had, he says, released those who consented to burn incense
before the image of the emperor, and to curse Christ, but had caused those
to be executed who persisted in their refusal, and who were not Roman
citizens, “not doubting that a pertinacious obstinacy deserved
punishment.” He had questioned the prisoners as to the nature of their
faith, and had not hesitated to seek revelations by torturing two
maid-servants, but had “discovered nothing but a base and immoderate
superstition.” He had asked the nature of their secret services, and had
been told that they assembled on a certain day before dawn to sing a hymn
to Christ as to a god; that they made a vow to abstain from every crime,
and that they then, before parting, partook together of a harmless feast,
which, however, they had given up since the decree against associations.
To this letter Trajan answered that Christians, if brought before the
tribunals and convicted, should be punished, but that they should not be
sought for; that, if they consented to sacrifice, no inquisition should be
made into their past lives, and that no anonymous accusations should be
received against them.(844) In this reign there are two authentic
instances of martyrdom.(845) Simeon, Bishop of Jerusalem, a man, it is
said, one hundred and twenty years old, having been accused by the
heretics, was tortured during several days, and at last crucified.
Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch, was arrested, brought to Rome, and, by
the order of Trajan himself, thrown to wild beasts. Of the cause of this
last act of severity we are left in ignorance, but it has been noticed
that about this time Antioch had been the scene of one of those violent
earthquakes which so frequently produced an outburst of religious
excitement,(846) and the character of Ignatius, who was passionately
desirous of martyrdom, may have very probably led him to some act of
exceptional zeal. The letters of the martyr prove that at Rome the faith
was openly and fearlessly professed; the Government during the nineteen
years of this reign never appears to have taken any initiative against the
Christians, and, in spite of occasional local tumults, there was nothing
resembling a general persecution.

During the two following reigns, the Government was more decidedly
favourable to the Christians. Hadrian, having heard that the populace at
the public games frequently called for their execution, issued an edict in
which he commanded that none should be punished simply in obedience to the
outcries against them, or without a formal trial and a conviction of some
offence against the law, and he ordered that all false accusers should be
punished.(847) His disposition towards the Christians was so pacific as to
give rise to a legend that he intended to enrol Christ among the
gods;(848) but it is probable that, although curious on religious matters,
he regarded Christianity with the indifference of a Roman freethinker; and
a letter is ascribed to him in which he confounded it with the worship of
Serapis.(849) As far as the Government were concerned, the Christians
appear to have been entirely unmolested; but many of them suffered
dreadful tortures at the hands of the Jewish insurgents, who in this
reign, with a desperate but ill-fated heroism, made one last effort to
regain their freedom.(850) The mutual hostility exhibited at this time by
the Jews and Christians contributed to separate them in the eyes of the
Pagans, and it is said that when Hadrian forbade the Jews ever again to
enter Jerusalem, he recognised the distinction by granting a full
permission to the Christians.(851)

Antoninus, who succeeded Hadrian, made new efforts to restrain the
passions of the people against the Christians. He issued an edict
commanding that they should not be molested, and when, as a consequence of
some earthquakes in Asia Minor, the popular anger was fiercely roused, he
commanded that their accusers should be punished.(852) If we except these
riots, the twenty-three years of his reign appear to have been years of
absolute peace, which seems also to have continued during several years of
the reign of Marcus Aurelius; but at last persecuting edicts, of the exact
nature of which we have no knowledge, were issued. Of the reasons which
induced one of the best men who have ever reigned to persecute the
Christians, we know little or nothing. That it was not any ferocity of
disposition or any impatience of resistance may be confidently asserted of
one whose only fault was a somewhat excessive gentleness—who, on the death
of his wife, asked the Senate, as a single favour, to console him by
sparing the lives of those who had rebelled against him. That it was not,
as has been strangely urged, a religious fanaticism resembling that which
led St. Lewis to persecute, is equally plain. St. Lewis persecuted because
he believed that to reject his religious opinions was a heinous crime, and
that heresy was the path to hell. Marcus Aurelius had no such belief, and
he, the first Roman emperor who made the Stoical philosophy his religion
and his comfort, was also the first emperor who endowed the professors of
the philosophies that were most hostile to his own. The fact that the
Christian Church, existing as a State within a State, with government,
ideals, enthusiasms, and hopes wholly different from those of the nation,
was incompatible with the existing system of the Empire, had become more
evident as the Church increased. The accusations of cannibalism and
incestuous impurity had acquired a greater consistency, and the latter are
said to have been justly applicable to the Carpocratian heretics, who had
recently arisen. The Stoicism of Marcus Aurelius may have revolted from
the practices of exorcism or the appeals to the terrors of another world,
and the philosophers who surrounded him probably stimulated his hostility,
for his master and friend Fronto had written a book against
Christianity,(853) while Justin Martyr is said to have perished by the
machinations of the Cynic Crescens.(854) It must be added, too, that,
while it is impossible to acquit the emperor of having issued severe
edicts against the Christians,(855) the atrocious details of the
persecutions in his reign were due to the ferocity of the populace and the
weakness of the governors in distant provinces; and it is inconceivable
that, if he had been a very bitter enemy of the Christians, Tertullian,
writing little more than twenty years later, should have been so ignorant
of the fact as to represent him as one of the most conspicuous of their

But, whatever may be thought on these points, there can, unhappily, be no
question that in this reign Rome was stained by the blood of Justin
Martyr, the first philosopher, and one of the purest and gentlest natures
in the Church, and that persecution was widely extended. In two far
distant quarters, at Smyrna and at Lyons, it far exceeded in atrocity any
that Christianity had endured since Nero, and in each case a heroism of
the most transcendent order was displayed by the martyrs. The persecution
at Smyrna, in which St. Polycarp and many others most nobly died, took
place on the occasion of the public games, and we may trace the influence
of the Jews in stimulating it.(856) The persecution at Lyons, which was
one of the most atrocious in the whole compass of ecclesiastical history,
and which has supplied the martyrology with some of its grandest and most
pathetic figures, derived its worst features from a combination of the
fury of the populace and of the subserviency of the governor.(857) Certain
servants of the Christians, terrified by the prospect of torture, accused
their masters of all the crimes which popular report attributed to them,
of incest, of infanticide, of cannibalism, of hideous impurity. A fearful
outburst of ferocity ensued. Tortures almost too horrible to recount were
for hours and even days applied to the bodies of old men and of weak
women, who displayed amid their agonies a nobler courage than has ever
shone upon a battle-field, and whose memories are immortal among mankind.
Blandina and Pothinus wrote in blood the first page of the glorious
history of the Church of France.(858) But although, during the closing
years of Marcus Aurelius, severe persecutions took place in three or four
provinces, there was no general and organised effort to suppress
Christianity throughout the Empire.(859)

We may next consider, as a single period, the space of time that elapsed
from the death of Marcus Aurelius, in A.D. 180, to the accession of
Decius, A.D. 249. During all this time Christianity was a great and
powerful body, exercising an important influence, and during a great part
of it Christians filled high civil and military positions. The hostility
manifested towards them began now to assume a more political complexion
than it had previously done, except perhaps in the later years of Marcus
Aurelius. The existence of a vast and rapidly increasing corporation, very
alien to the system of the Empire, confronted every ruler. Emperors like
Commodus or Heliogabalus were usually too immersed in selfish pleasures to
have any distinct policy; but sagacious sovereigns, sincerely desiring the
well-being of the Empire, either, like Marcus Aurelius and Diocletian,
endeavoured to repress the rising creed, or, like Alexander Severus, and
at last Constantine, actively encouraged it. The measures Marcus Aurelius
had taken against Christianity were arrested under Commodus, whose
favourite mistress, Marcia, supplies one of the very few recorded
instances of female influence, which has been the cause of so much
persecution, being exerted in behalf of toleration;(860) yet a Christian
philosopher named Apollonius, and at the same time, by a curious
retribution, his accuser, were in this reign executed at Rome.(861) During
the sixty-nine years we are considering, the general peace of the Church
was only twice broken. The first occasion was in the reign of Septimus
Severus, who was for some time very favourable to the Christians, but who,
in A.D. 202 or 203, issued an edict, forbidding any Pagan to join the
Christian or Jewish faith;(862) and this edict was followed by a
sanguinary persecution in Africa and Syria, in which the father of Origen,
and also St. Felicitas and St. Perpetua, perished. This persecution does
not appear to have extended to the West, and was apparently rather the
work of provincial governors, who interpreted the Imperial edict as a sign
of hostility to the Christians, than the direct act of the emperor,(863)
whose decree applied only to Christians actively proselytising. It is
worthy of notice that Origen observed that previous to this time the
number of Christian martyrs had been very small.(864) The second
persecution was occasioned by the murder of Alexander Severus by
Maximinus. The usurper pursued with great bitterness the leading courtiers
of the deceased emperor, among whom were some Christian bishops,(865) and
about the same time severe earthquakes in Pontus and Cappadocia produced
the customary popular ebullitions. But with these exceptions the
Christians were undisturbed. Caracalla, Macrinus, and Heliogabalus took no
measures against them, while Alexander Severus, who reigned for thirteen
years, warmly and steadily supported them. A Pagan historian assures us
that this emperor intended to build temples in honour of Christ, but was
dissuaded by the priests, who urged that all the other temples would be
deserted. He venerated in his private oratory the statues of Apollonius of
Tyana, Abraham, Orpheus, and Christ. He decreed that the provincial
governors should not be appointed till the people had the opportunity of
declaring any crime they had committed, borrowing this rule avowedly from
the procedure of the Jews and Christians in electing their clergy; he
ordered the precept “Do not unto others what you would not that they
should do unto you” to be engraven on the palace and other public
buildings, and he decided a dispute concerning a piece of ground which the
Christians had occupied, and which the owners of certain eating-houses
claimed, in favour of the former, on the ground that the worship of a god
should be most considered.(866) Philip the Arab, who reigned during the
last five years of the period we are considering, was so favourable to the
Christians that he was believed, though on no trustworthy evidence, to
have been baptised.

We have now reviewed the history of the persecutions to the year A.D. 249,
or about two hundred years after the planting of Christianity in Rome. We
have seen that, although during that period much suffering was
occasionally endured, and much heroism displayed, by the Christians, there
was, with the very doubtful exception of the Neronian persecution, no
single attempt made to suppress Christianity throughout the Empire. Local
persecutions of great severity had taken place at Smyrna and Lyons, under
Marcus Aurelius; in Africa and some Asiatic provinces, under Severus;
popular tumults, arising in the excitement of the public games, or
produced by some earthquake or inundation, or by some calumnious
accusation, were not unfrequent; but there was at no time that continuous,
organised, and universal persecution by which, in later periods,
ecclesiastical tribunals have again and again suppressed opinions
repugnant to their own; and there was no part of the Empire in which whole
generations did not pass away absolutely undisturbed. No martyr had fallen
in Gaul or in great part of Asia Minor till Marcus Aurelius. In Italy,
after the death of Nero, with the exception of some slight troubles under
Domitian and Maximinus, probably due to causes altogether distinct from
religion, there were, during the whole period we are considering, only a
few isolated instances of martyrdom. The bishops, as the leaders of the
Church, were the special objects of hostility, and several in different
parts of the world had fallen; but it is extremely questionable whether
any Roman bishop perished after the apostolic age, till Fabianus was
martyred under Decius.(867) If Christianity was not formally authorised,
it was, like many other religions in a similar position, generally
acquiesced in, and, during a great part of the time we have reviewed, its
professors appear to have found no obstacles to their preferment in the
Court or in the army. The emperors were for the most part indifferent or
favourable to them. The priests in the Pagan society had but little
influence, and do not appear to have taken any prominent part in the
persecution till near the time of Diocletian. With the single exception of
the Jews, no class held that doctrine of the criminality of error which
has been the parent of most modern persecutions; and although the belief
that great calamities were the result of neglecting or insulting the gods
furnished the Pagans with a religious motive for persecution, this motive
only acted on the occasion of some rare and exceptional catastrophe.(868)
In Christian times, the first objects of the persecutor are to control
education, to prevent the publication of any heterodox works, to institute
such a minute police inspection as to render impossible the celebration of
the worship he desires to suppress. But nothing of this kind was
attempted, or indeed was possible, in the period we are considering. With
the exception of the body-guard of the emperor, almost the whole army,
which was of extremely moderate dimensions, was massed along the vast
frontier of the Empire. The police force was of the scantiest kind,
sufficient only to keep common order in the streets. The Government had
done something to encourage, but absolutely nothing to control, education,
and parents or societies were at perfect liberty to educate the young as
they pleased. The expansion of literature, by reason of the facilities
which slavery gave to transcription, was very great, and it was for the
most part entirely uncontrolled.(869) Augustus, it is true, had caused
some volumes of forged prophecies to be burnt,(870) and, under the tyranny
of Tiberius and Domitian, political writers and historians who eulogised
tyrannicide, or vehemently opposed the Empire, were persecuted; but the
extreme indignation these acts elicited attests their rarity, and, on
matters unconnected with politics, the liberty of literature was
absolute.(871) In a word, the Church proselytised in a society in which
toleration was the rule, and at a time when municipal, provincial, and
personal independence had reached the highest point, when the ruling
classes were for the most part absolutely indifferent to religious
opinions, and when an unprecedented concourse of influences facilitated
its progress.

When we reflect that these were the circumstances of the Church till the
middle of the third century, we may readily perceive the absurdity of
maintaining that Christianity was propagated in the face of such a fierce
and continuous persecution that no opinions could have survived it without
a miracle, or of arguing from the history of the early Church that
persecution never has any real efficacy in suppressing truth. When, in
addition to the circumstances under which it operated, we consider the
unexampled means both of attraction and of intimidation that were
possessed by the Church, we can have no difficulty in understanding that
it should have acquired a magnitude that would enable it to defy the far
more serious assaults it was still destined to endure. That it had
acquired this extension we have abundant evidence. The language I have
quoted from Lactantius is but a feeble echo of the emphatic statements of
writers before the Decian persecution.(872) “There is no race of men,
whether Greek or barbarian,” said Justin Martyr, “among whom prayers and
thanks are not offered up in the name of the crucified.”(873) “We are but
of yesterday,” cried Tertullian, “and we fill all your cities, islands,
forts, councils, even the camps themselves, the tribes, the decuries, the
palaces, the senate, and the forum.”(874) Eusebius has preserved a letter
of Cornelius, Bishop of Rome, containing a catalogue of the officers of
his Church at the time of the Decian persecution. It consisted of one
bishop, forty-six presbyters, seven deacons, seven subdeacons, forty-two
acolytes, fifty-two exorcists, readers, and janitors. The Church also
supported more than fifteen hundred widows, and poor or suffering

The Decian persecution, which broke out in A.D. 249, and was probably
begun in hopes of restoring the Empire to its ancient discipline, and
eliminating from it all extraneous and unpatriotic influences,(876) is the
first example of a deliberate attempt, supported by the whole machinery of
provincial government, and extending over the entire surface of the
Empire, to extirpate Christianity from the world. It would be difficult to
find language too strong to paint its horrors. The ferocious instincts of
the populace, that were long repressed, burst out anew, and they were not
only permitted, but encouraged by the rulers. Far worse than the deaths
which menaced those who shrank from the idolatrous sacrifices, were the
hideous and prolonged tortures by which the magistrates often sought to
subdue the constancy of the martyr, the nameless outrages that were
sometimes inflicted on the Christian virgin.(877) The Church, enervated by
a long peace, and deeply infected with the vices of the age, tottered
beneath the blow. It had long since arrived at the period when men were
Christians not by conviction, but through family relationship; when the
more opulent Christians vied in luxury with the Pagans among whom they
mixed, and when even the bishops were, in many instances, worldly
aspirants after civil offices. It is not, therefore, surprising that the
defection was very large. The Pagans marked with triumphant ridicule, and
the Fathers with a burning indignation, the thousands who thronged to the
altars at the very commencement of persecution, the sudden collapse of the
most illustrious churches, the eagerness with which the offer of
provincial governors to furnish certificates of apostasy, without exacting
a compliance with the conditions which those certificates attested, was
accepted by multitudes.(878) The question whether those who abandoned the
faith should afterwards be readmitted to communion, became the chief
question that divided the Novatians, and one of the questions that divided
the Montanists from the Catholics, while the pretensions of the confessors
to furnish indulgences, remitting the penances imposed by the bishops, led
to a conflict which contributed very largely to establish the undisputed
ascendancy of the episcopacy. But the Decian persecution, though it
exhibits the Church in a somewhat less noble attitude than the
persecutions which preceded and which followed it, was adorned by many
examples of extreme courage and devotion, displayed in not a few cases by
those who were physically among the frailest of mankind. It was of a kind
eminently fitted to crush the Church. Had it taken place at an earlier
period, had it been continued for a long succession of years,
Christianity, without a miracle, must have perished. But the Decian
persecution fell upon a Church which had existed for two centuries, and it
lasted less than two years.(879) Its intensity varied much in different
provinces. In Alexandria and the neighbouring towns, where a popular
tumult had anticipated the menaces of the Government, it was extremely
horrible.(880) In Carthage, at first, the proconsul being absent, no
capital sentence was passed, but on the arrival of that functionary the
penalty of death, accompanied by dreadful tortures, was substituted for
that of exile or imprisonment.(881) The rage of the people was especially
directed against the bishop St. Cyprian, who prudently retired till the
storm had passed.(882) In general, it was observed that the object of the
rulers was much less to slay than to vanquish the Christians. Horrible
tortures were continually employed to extort an apostasy, and, when those
tortures proved vain, great numbers were ultimately released.

The Decian persecution is remarkable in Christian archæology as being, it
is believed, the first occasion in which the Christian catacombs were
violated. Those vast subterranean corridors, lined with tombs and
expanding very frequently into small chapels adorned with paintings, often
of no mean beauty, had for a long period been an inviolable asylum in
seasons of persecution. The extreme sanctity which the Romans were
accustomed to attach to the place of burial repelled the profane, and as
early, it is said, as the very beginning of the third century, the
catacombs were recognised as legal possessions of the Church.(883) The
Roman legislators, however unfavourable to the formation of guilds or
associations, made an exception in favour of burial societies, or
associations of men subscribing a certain sum to ensure to each member a
decent burial in ground which belonged to the corporation. The Church is
believed to have availed itself of this privilege, and to have attained,
in this capacity, a legal existence. The tombs, which were originally the
properties of distinct families, became in this manner an ecclesiastical
domain, and the catacombs were, from perhaps the first, made something
more than places of burial.(884) The chapels with which they abound, and
which are of the smallest dimensions and utterly unfit for general
worship, were probably mortuary chapels, and may have also been employed
in the services commemorating the martyrs, while the ordinary worship was
probably at first conducted in the private houses of the Christians. The
decision of Alexander Severus, which I have already noticed, is the
earliest notice we possess of the existence of buildings specially devoted
to the Christian services; but we cannot tell how long before this time
they may have existed in Rome.(885) In serious persecution, however, they
would doubtless have to be abandoned; and, as a last resort, the catacombs
proved a refuge from the persecutors.

The reign of Decius only lasted about two years, and before its close the
persecution had almost ceased.(886) On the accession of his son Gallus, in
the last month of A.D. 251, there was for a short time perfect peace; but
Gallus resumed the persecution in the spring of the following year, and
although apparently not very severe, or very general, it seems to have
continued to his death, which took place a year after.(887) Two Roman
bishops, Cornelius, who had succeeded the martyred Fabianus, and his
successor Lucius, were at this time put to death.(888) Valerian, who
ascended the throne A.D. 254, at first not only tolerated, but warmly
patronised the Christians, and attracted so many to his Court that his
house, in the language of a contemporary, appeared “the Church of the
Lord.”(889) But after rather more than four years his disposition changed.
At the persuasion, it is said, of an Egyptian magician, named Macrianus,
he signed in A.D. 258 an edict of persecution condemning Christian
ecclesiastics and senators to death, and other Christians to exile, or to
the forfeiture of their property, and prohibiting them from entering the
catacombs.(890) A sanguinary and general persecution ensued. Among the
victims were Sixtus, the Bishop of Rome, who perished in the
catacombs,(891) and Cyprian, who was exiled, and afterwards beheaded, and
was the first Bishop of Carthage who suffered martyrdom.(892) At last,
Valerian, having been captured by the Persians, Gallienus, in A.D. 260,
ascended the throne, and immediately proclaimed a perfect toleration of
the Christians.(893)

The period from the accession of Decius, in A.D. 249, to the accession of
Gallienus, in A.D. 260, which I have now very briefly noticed, was by far
the most disastrous the Church had yet endured. With the exception of
about five years in the reigns of Gallus and Valerian, the persecution was
continuous, though it varied much in its intensity and its range. During
the first portion, if measured, not by the number of deaths, but by the
atrocity of the tortures inflicted, it was probably as severe as any upon
record. It was subsequently directed chiefly against the leading clergy,
and, as we have seen, four Roman bishops perished. In addition to the
political reasons that inspired it, the popular fanaticism caused by great
calamities, which were ascribed to anger of the gods at the neglect of
their worship, had in this as in former periods a great influence.
Political disasters, which foreshadowed clearly the approaching downfall
of the Empire, were followed by fearful and general famines and plagues.
St. Cyprian, in a treatise addressed to one of the persecutors who was
most confident in ascribing these things to the Christians, presents us
with an extremely curious picture both of the general despondency that had
fallen upon the Empire, and of the manner in which these calamities were
regarded by the Christians. Like most of his co-religionists, the saint
was convinced that the closing scene of the earth was at hand. The
decrepitude of the world, he said, had arrived, the forces of nature were
almost exhausted, the sun had no longer its old lustre, or the soil its
old fertility, the spring time had grown less lovely, and the autumn less
bounteous, the energy of man had decayed, and all things were moving
rapidly to the end. Famines and plagues were the precursors of the day of
judgment. They were sent to warn and punish a rebellious world, which,
still bowing down before idols, persecuted the believers in the truth. “So
true is this, that the Christians are never persecuted without the sky
manifesting at once the Divine displeasure.” The conception of a converted
Empire never appears to have flashed across the mind of the saint;(894)
the only triumph he predicted for the Church was that of another world;
and to the threats of the persecutors he rejoined by fearful menaces. “A
burning, scorching fire will for ever torment those who are condemned;
there will be no respite or end to their torments. We shall through
eternity contemplate in their agonies those who for a short time
contemplated us in tortures, and for the brief pleasure which the
barbarity of our persecutors took in feasting their eyes upon an inhuman
spectacle, they will be themselves exposed as an eternal spectacle of
agony.” As a last warning, calamity after calamity broke upon the world,
and, with the solemnity of one on whom the shadow of death had already
fallen, St. Cyprian adjured the persecutors to repent and to be

The accession of Gallienus introduced the Church to a new period of
perfect peace, which, with a single inconsiderable exception, continued
for no less than forty years. The exception was furnished by Aurelian, who
during nearly the whole of his reign had been exceedingly favourable to
the Christians, and had even been appealed to by the orthodox bishops, who
desired him to expel from Antioch a prelate they had excommunicated for
heresy,(896) but who, at the close of his reign, intended to persecute. He
was assassinated, however, according to one account, when he was just
about to sign the decrees; according to another, before they had been sent
through the provinces; and if any persecution actually took place, it was
altogether inconsiderable.(897) Christianity, during all this time, was
not only perfectly free, it was greatly honoured. Christians were
appointed governors of the provinces, and were expressly exonerated from
the duty of sacrificing. The bishops were treated by the civil authorities
with profound respect. The palaces of the emperor were filled with
Christian servants, who were authorised freely to profess their religion,
and were greatly valued for their fidelity. The popular prejudice seems to
have been lulled to rest; and it has been noticed that the rapid progress
of the faith excited no tumult or hostility. Spacious churches were
erected in every quarter, and they could scarcely contain the multitude of
worshippers.(898) In Rome itself, before the outburst of the Diocletian
persecution, there were no less than forty churches.(899) The Christians
may still have been outnumbered by the Pagans; but when we consider their
organisation, their zeal, and their rapid progress, a speedy triumph
appeared inevitable.

But before that triumph was achieved a last and a terrific ordeal was to
be undergone. Diocletian, whose name has been somewhat unjustly associated
with a persecution, the responsibility of which belongs far more to his
colleague Galerius, having left the Christians in perfect peace for nearly
eighteen years, suffered himself to be persuaded to make one more effort
to eradicate the foreign creed. This emperor, who had risen by his merits
from the humblest position, exhibited in all the other actions of his
reign a moderate, placable, and conspicuously humane nature, and, although
he greatly magnified the Imperial authority, the simplicity of his private
life, his voluntary abdication, and, above all, his singularly noble
conduct during many years of retirement, displayed a rare magnanimity of
character. As a politician, he deserves, I think, to rank very high.
Antoninus and Marcus Aurelius had been too fascinated by the traditions of
the Republic, and by the austere teaching and retrospective spirit of the
Stoics, to realise the necessity of adapting institutions to the wants of
a luxurious and highly civilised people, and they therefore had little
permanent influence upon the destinies of the Empire. But Diocletian
invariably exhibited in his legislation a far-seeing and comprehensive
mind, well aware of the condition of the society he ruled, and provident
of distant events. Perceiving that Roman corruption was incurable, he
attempted to regenerate the Empire by creating new centres of political
life in the great and comparatively unperverted capitals of the provinces;
and Nicomedia, which was his habitual residence, Carthage, Milan, and
Ravenna, all received abundant tokens of his favour. He swept away or
disregarded the obsolete and inefficient institutions of Republican
liberty that still remained, and indeed gave his government a somewhat
Oriental character; but, at the same time, by the bold, and, it must be
admitted, very perilous measure of dividing the Empire into four sections,
he abridged the power of each ruler, ensured the better supervision and
increased authority of the provinces, and devised the first effectual
check to those military revolts which had for some time been threatening
the Empire with anarchy. With the same energetic statesmanship, we find
him reorganising the whole system of taxation, and attempting, less
wisely, to regulate commercial transactions. To such an emperor, the
problem presented by the rapid progress and the profoundly anti-national
character of Christianity must have been a matter of serious
consideration, and the weaknesses of his character were most unfavourable
to the Church; for Diocletian, with many noble qualities of heart and
head, was yet superstitious, tortuous, nervous, and vacillating, and was
too readily swayed by the rude and ferocious soldier, who was impetuously
inciting him against the Christians.

The extreme passion which Galerius displayed on this subject is ascribed,
in the first instance, to the influence of his mother, who was ardently
devoted to the Pagan worship. He is himself painted in dark colours by the
Christian writers as a man of boundless and unbridled sensuality, of an
imperiousness that rose to fury at opposition, and of a cruelty which had
long passed the stage of callousness, and become a fiendish delight, in
the infliction and contemplation of suffering.(900) His strong attachment
to Paganism made him at length the avowed representative of his party,
which several causes had contributed to strengthen. The philosophy of the
Empire had by this time fully passed into its Neoplatonic and Pythagorean
phases, and was closely connected with religious observances. Hierocles
and Porphyry, who were among its most eminent exponents, had both written
books against Christianity, and the Oriental religions fostered much
fanaticism among the people. Political interests united with superstition,
for the Christians were now a very formidable body in the State. Their
interests were supposed to be represented by the Cæsar Constantius
Chlorus, and the religion was either adopted, or at least warmly favoured,
by the wife and daughter of Diocletian (the latter of whom was married to
Galerius(901)), and openly professed by some of the leading officials at
the Court. A magnificent church crowned the hill facing the palace of the
emperor at Nicomedia. The bishops were, in most cities, among the most
active and influential citizens, and their influence was not always
exercised for good. A few cases, in which an ill-considered zeal led
Christians to insult the Pagan worship, one or two instances of Christians
refusing to serve in the army, because they believed military life
repugnant to their creed, a scandalous relaxation of morals, that had
arisen during the long peace, and the fierce and notorious discord
displayed by the leaders of the Church, contributed in different ways to
accelerate the persecution.(902)

For a considerable time Diocletian resisted all the urgency of Galerius
against the Christians, and the only measure taken was the dismissal by
the latter sovereign of a number of Christian officers from the army. In
A.D. 303, however, Diocletian yielded to the entreaties of his colleague,
and a fearful persecution, which many circumstances conspired to
stimulate, began. The priests, in one of the public ceremonies, had
declared that the presence of Christians prevented the entrails from
showing the accustomed signs. The oracle of Apollo, at Miletus, being
consulted by Diocletian, exhorted him to persecute the Christians. A
fanatical Christian, who avowed his deed, and expiated it by a fearful
death, tore down the first edict of persecution, and replaced it by a
bitter taunt against the emperor. Twice, after the outburst of the
persecution, the palace at Nicomedia, where Diocletian and Galerius were
residing, was set on fire, and the act was ascribed, not without
probability, to a Christian hand, as were also some slight disturbances
that afterwards arose in Syria.(903) Edict after edict followed in rapid
succession. The first ordered the destruction of all Christian churches
and of all Bibles, menaced with death the Christians if they assembled in
secret for Divine worship, and deprived them of all civil rights. A second
edict ordered all ecclesiastics to be thrown into prison, while a third
edict ordered that these prisoners, and a fourth edict that all
Christians, should be compelled by torture to sacrifice. At first
Diocletian refused to permit their lives to be taken, but after the fire
at Nicomedia this restriction was removed. Many were burnt alive, and the
tortures by which the persecutors sought to shake their resolution were so
dreadful that even such a death seemed an act of mercy. The only province
of the Empire where the Christians were at peace was Gaul, which had
received its baptism of blood under Marcus Aurelius, but was now governed
by Constantius Chlorus, who protected them from personal molestation,
though he was compelled, in obedience to the emperor, to destroy their
churches. In Spain, which was also under the government, but not under the
direct inspection, of Constantius, the persecution was moderate, but in
all other parts of the Empire it raged with fierceness till the abdication
of Diocletian in 305. This event almost immediately restored peace to the
Western provinces,(904) but greatly aggravated the misfortunes of the
Eastern Christians, who passed under the absolute rule of Galerius.
Horrible, varied, and prolonged tortures were employed to quell their
fortitude, and their final resistance was crowned by the most dreadful of
all deaths, roasting over a slow fire. It was not till A.D. 311, eight
years after the commencement of the general persecution, ten years after
the first measure against the Christians, that the Eastern persecution
ceased. Galerius, the arch-enemy of the Christians, was struck down by a
fearful disease. His body, it is said, became a mass of loathsome and
fœtid sores—a living corpse, devoured by countless worms, and exhaling the
odour of the charnel-house. He who had shed so much innocent blood, shrank
himself from a Roman death. In his extreme anguish he appealed in turn to
physician after physician, and to temple after temple. At last he relented
towards the Christians. He issued a proclamation restoring them to
liberty, permitting them to rebuild their churches, and asking their
prayers for his recovery.(905) The era of persecution now closed. One
brief spasm, indeed, due to the Cæsar Maximian, shot through the long
afflicted Church of Asia Minor;(906) but it was rapidly allayed. The
accession of Constantine, the proclamation of Milan, A.D. 313, the defeat
of Licinius, and the conversion of the conqueror, speedily followed, and
Christianity became the religion of the Empire.

Such, so far as we can trace it, is the outline of the last and most
terrible persecution inflicted on the early Church. Unfortunately we can
place little reliance on any information we possess about the number of
its victims, the provocations that produced it, or the objects of its
authors. The ecclesiastical account of these matters is absolutely
unchecked by any Pagan statement, and it is derived almost exclusively
from the history of Eusebius, and from the treatise “On the Deaths of the
Persecutors,” which is ascribed to Lactantius. Eusebius was a writer of
great learning, and of critical abilities not below the very low level of
his time, and he had personal knowledge of some of the events in Palestine
which he has recorded; but he had no pretensions whatever to impartiality.
He has frankly told us that his principle in writing history was to
conceal the facts that were injurious to the reputation of the
Church;(907) and although his practice was sometimes better than his
principle, the portrait he has drawn of the saintly virtues of his patron
Constantine, which we are able to correct from other sources, abundantly
proves with how little scruple the courtly bishop could stray into the
paths of fiction. The treatise of Lactantius, which has been well termed
“a party pamphlet,” is much more untrustworthy. It is a hymn of exultation
over the disastrous ends of the persecutors, and especially of Galerius,
written in a strain of the fiercest and most passionate invective, and
bearing on every page unequivocal signs of inaccuracy and exaggeration.
The whole history of the early persecution was soon enveloped in a thick
cloud of falsehood. A notion, derived from prophecy, that ten great
persecutions must precede the day of judgment, at an early period
stimulated the imagination of the Christians, who believed that day to be
imminent; and it was natural that as time rolled on men should magnify the
sufferings that had been endured, and that in credulous and uncritical
ages a single real incident should be often multiplied, diversified, and
exaggerated in many distinct narratives. Monstrous fictions, such as the
crucifixion of ten thousand Christians upon Mount Ararat under Trajan, the
letter of Tiberianus to Trajan, complaining that he was weary of
ceaselessly killing Christians in Palestine, and the Theban legion of six
thousand men, said to have been massacred by Maximilian, were boldly
propagated and readily believed.(908) The virtue supposed to attach to the
bones of martyrs, and the custom, and, after a decree of the second
Council of Nice, in the eighth century, the obligation, of placing saintly
remains under every altar, led to an immense multiplication of spurious
relics, and a corresponding demand for legends. Almost every hamlet soon
required a patron martyr and a local legend, which the nearest monastery
was usually ready to supply. The monks occupied their time in composing
and disseminating innumerable acts of martyrs, which purported to be
strictly historical, but which were, in fact, deliberate, though it was
thought edifying, forgeries; and pictures of hideous tortures, enlivened
by fantastic miracles, soon became the favourite popular literature. To
discriminate accurately the genuine acts of martyrs from the immense mass
that were fabricated by the monks, has been attempted by Ruinart, but is
perhaps impossible. Modern criticism has, however, done much to reduce the
ancient persecutions to their true dimensions. The famous essay of
Dodwell, which appeared towards the close of the seventeenth century,
though written, I think, a little in the spirit of a special pleader, and
not free from its own exaggerations, has had a great and abiding influence
upon ecclesiastical history, and the still more famous chapter which
Gibbon devoted to the subject rendered the conclusions of Dodwell familiar
to the world.

Notwithstanding the great knowledge and critical acumen displayed in this
chapter, few persons, I imagine, can rise from its perusal without a
feeling both of repulsion and dissatisfaction. The complete absence of all
sympathy with the heroic courage manifested by the martyrs, and the frigid
and, in truth, most unphilosophical severity with which the historian has
weighed the words and actions of men engaged in the agonies of a deadly
struggle, must repel every generous nature, while the persistence with
which he estimates persecutions by the number of deaths rather than by the
amount of suffering, diverts the mind from the really distinctive
atrocities of the Pagan persecutions. He has observed, that while the
anger of the persecutors was at all times especially directed against the
bishops, we know from Eusebius that only nine bishops were put to death in
the entire Diocletian persecution, and that the particular enumeration,
which the historian made on the spot, of all the martyrs who perished
during this persecution in Palestine, which was under the government of
Galerius, and was therefore exposed to the full fury of the storm, shows
the entire number to have been ninety-two. Starting from this fact,
Gibbon, by a well-known process of calculation, has estimated the probable
number of martyrs in the whole Empire, during the Diocletian persecution,
at about two thousand, which happens to be the number of persons burnt by
the Spanish Inquisition during the presidency of Torquemada alone,(909)
and about one twenty-fifth of the number who are said to have suffered for
their religion in the Netherlands in the reign of Charles V.(910) But
although, if measured by the number of martyrs, the persecutions inflicted
by Pagans were less terrible than those inflicted by Christians, there is
one aspect in which the former appear by far the more atrocious, and a
truthful historian should suffer no false delicacy to prevent him from
unflinchingly stating it. The conduct of the provincial governors, even
when they were compelled by the Imperial edicts to persecute, was often
conspicuously merciful. The Christian records contain several examples of
rulers who refused to search out the Christians, who discountenanced or
even punished their accusers, who suggested ingenious evasions of the law,
who tried by earnest and patient kindness to overcome what they regarded
as insane obstinacy, and who, when their efforts had proved vain,
mitigated by their own authority the sentence they were compelled to
pronounce. It was only on very rare occasions that any, except conspicuous
leaders of the Church, and sometimes persons of a servile condition, were
in danger; the time that was conceded them before their trials gave them
great facilities for escaping, and, even when condemned, Christian women
had usually full permission to visit them in their prisons, and to console
them by their charity. But, on the other hand, Christian writings, which
it is impossible to dispute, continually record barbarities inflicted upon
converts, so ghastly and so hideous that the worst horrors of the
Inquisition pale before them. It is, indeed, true that burning heretics by
a slow fire was one of the accomplishments of the Inquisitors, and that
they were among the most consummate masters of torture of their age. It is
true that in one Catholic country they introduced the atrocious custom of
making the spectacle of men burnt alive for their religious opinions an
element in the public festivities.(911) It is true, too, that the immense
majority of the acts of the martyrs are the transparent forgeries of lying
monks; but it is also true that among the authentic records of Pagan
persecutions there are histories which display, perhaps more vividly than
any other, both the depth of cruelty to which human nature may sink, and
the heroism of resistance it may attain. There was a time when it was the
just boast of the Romans, that no refinements of cruelty, no prolongations
of torture, were admitted in their stern but simple penal code. But all
this was changed. Those hateful games, which made the spectacle of human
suffering and death the delight of all classes, had spread their
brutalising influence wherever the Roman name was known, had rendered
millions absolutely indifferent to the sight of human suffering, had
produced in many, in the very centre of an advanced civilisation, a relish
and a passion for torture, a rapture and an exultation in watching the
spasms of extreme agony, such as an African or an American savage alone
can equal. The most horrible recorded instances of torture were usually
inflicted, either by the populace, or in their presence, in the
arena.(912) We read of Christians bound in chairs of red-hot iron, while
the stench of their half-consumed flesh rose in a suffocating cloud to
heaven; of others who were torn to the very bone by shells, or hooks of
iron; of holy virgins given over to the lust of the gladiator, or to the
mercies of the pander; of two hundred and twenty-seven converts sent on
one occasion to the mines, each with the sinews of one leg severed by a
red-hot iron, and with an eye scooped from its socket; of fires so slow
that the victims writhed for hours in their agonies; of bodies torn limb
from limb, or sprinkled with burning lead; of mingled salt and vinegar
poured over the flesh that was bleeding from the rack; of tortures
prolonged and varied through entire days. For the love of their Divine
Master, for the cause they believed to be true, men, and even weak girls,
endured these things without flinching, when one word would have freed
them from their sufferings. No opinion we may form of the proceedings of
priests in a later age should impair the reverence with which we bend
before the martyr’s tomb.


    1 The opinions of Hume on moral questions are grossly misrepresented
      by many writers, who persist in describing them as substantially
      identical with those of Bentham. How far Hume was from denying the
      existence of a moral sense, the following passages will show:—“The
      final sentence, it is probable, which pronounces characters and
      actions amiable or odious, praiseworthy or blameable ... depends on
      some internal sense or feeling which nature has made universal in
      the whole species.”—_Enquiry Concerning Morals_, § 1. “The
      hypothesis we embrace ... defines virtue to be whatever mental
      action or quality gives to the spectator the pleasing sentiment of
      approbation.”—Ibid. Append. I. “The crime or immorality is no
      particular fact or relation which can be the object of the
      understanding, but arises entirely from the sentiment of
      disapprobation, which, by the structure of human nature, we
      unavoidably feel on the apprehension of barbarity or
      treachery.”—Ibid. “Reason instructs us in the several tendencies of
      actions, and humanity makes a distinction in favour of those which
      are useful and beneficial.”—Ibid. “As virtue is an end, and is
      desirable on its own account without fee or reward, merely for the
      immediate satisfaction it conveys, it is requisite that there should
      be some sentiment which it touches, some internal taste or feeling,
      or whatever you please to call it, which distinguishes moral good
      and evil, and which embraces the one and rejects the other.”—Ibid.
      The two writers to whom Hume was most indebted were Hutcheson and
      Butler. In some interesting letters to the former (Burton’s _Life of
      Hume_, vol. i.), he discusses the points on which he differed from

    2 “The chief thing therefore which lawgivers and other wise men that
      have laboured for the establishment of society have endeavoured, has
      been to make the people they were to govern believe that it was more
      beneficial for everybody to conquer than to indulge his appetites,
      and much better to mind the public than what seemed his private
      interest ... observing that none were either so savage as not to be
      charmed with praise, or so despicable as patiently to bear contempt,
      they justly concluded that flattery must be the most powerful
      argument that could be used to human creatures. Making use of this
      bewitching engine, they extolled the excellency of our nature above
      other animals ... by the help of which we were capable of performing
      the most noble achievements. Having, by this artful flattery,
      insinuated themselves into the hearts of men, they began to instruct
      them in the notions of honour and shame, &c.”—_Enquiry into the
      Origin of Moral Virtue._

    3 “I conceive that when a man deliberates whether he shall do a thing
      or not do it, he does nothing else but consider whether it be better
      for himself to do it or not to do it.”—Hobbes _On Liberty and
      Necessity._ “Good and evil are names that signify our appetites and
      aversions.”—Ibid. _Leviathan_, part i. ch. xvi. “Obligation is the
      necessity of doing or omitting any action in order to be
      happy.”—Gay’s dissertation prefixed to King’s _Origin of Evil_, p.
      36. “The only reason or motive by which individuals can possibly be
      induced to the practice of virtue, must be the feeling immediate or
      the prospect of future private happiness.”—Brown _On the
      Characteristics_, p. 159. “En tout temps, en tout lieu, tant en
      matière de morale qu’en matière d’esprit, c’est l’intérêt personnel
      qui dicte le jugement des particuliers, et l’intérêt général qui
      dicte celui des nations.... Tout homme ne prend dans ses jugements
      conseil que de son intérêt.”—Helvétius _De l’Esprit_, discours ii.
      “Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign
      masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what
      we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do.... The
      principle of utility recognises this subjection, and assumes it for
      the foundation of that system, the object of which is to rear the
      fabric of felicity by the hands of reason and of law. Systems which
      attempt to question it, deal in sounds instead of sense, in caprice
      instead of reason, in darkness instead of light.”—Bentham’s
      _Principles of Morals and Legislation_, ch. i. “By the principle of
      utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of
      every action whatsoever, according to the tendency which it appears
      to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose
      interest is in question.”—Ibid. “Je regarde l’amour éclairé de
      nous-mêmes comme le principe de tout sacrifice moral.”—D’Alembert
      quoted by D. Stewart, _Active and Moral Powers_, vol. i. p. 220.

    4 “Pleasure is in itself a good; nay, even setting aside immunity from
      pain, the only good; pain is in itself an evil, and, indeed, without
      exception, the only evil, or else the words good and evil have no
      meaning.”—Bentham’s _Principles of Morals and Legislation_, ch. x.

    5 “Good and evil are nothing but pleasure and pain, or that which
      occasions or procures pleasure or pain to us. Moral good and evil
      then is only the conformity or disagreement of our voluntary actions
      to some law whereby good or evil is drawn on us by the will and
      power of the law maker, which good and evil, pleasure or pain,
      attending our observance or breach of the law by the decree of the
      law maker, is that we call reward or punishment.”—Locke’s _Essay_,
      book ii. ch. xxviii. “Take away pleasures and pains, not only
      happiness, but justice, and duty, and obligation, and virtue, all of
      which have been so elaborately held up to view as independent of
      them, are so many empty sounds.”—Bentham’s _Springs of Action_, ch.
      i. § 15.

    6 “Il lui est aussi impossible d’aimer le bien pour le bien, que
      d’aimer le mal pour le mal.”—Helvétius _De l’Esprit_, disc. ii. ch.

    7 “Even the goodness which we apprehend in God Almighty, is his
      goodness to us.”—Hobbes _On Human Nature_, ch. vii. § 3. So
      Waterland, “To love God is in effect the same thing as to love
      happiness, eternal happiness; and the love of happiness is still the
      love of ourselves.”—_Third Sermon on Self-love._

    8 “Reverence is the conception we have concerning another, that he
      hath the power to do unto us both good and hurt, but not the will to
      do us hurt.”—Hobbes _On Human Nature_, ch. viii. § 7.

    9 “The pleasures of piety are the pleasures that accompany the belief
      of a man’s being in the acquisition, or in possession of the
      goodwill or favour of the Supreme Being; and as a fruit of it, of
      his being in the way of enjoying pleasures to be received by God’s
      special appointment either in this life or in a life to
      come.”—Bentham’s _Principles of Morals and Legislation_, ch. v. “The
      pains of piety are the pains that accompany the belief of a man’s
      being obnoxious to the displeasure of the Supreme Being, and in
      consequence to certain pains to be inflicted by His especial
      appointment, either in this life or in a life to come. These may be
      also called the pains of religion.”—Ibid.

   10 “There can be no greater argument to a man of his own power, than to
      find himself able not only to accomplish his own desires, but also
      to assist other men in theirs; and this is that conception wherein
      consisteth charity.”—Hobbes _On Hum. Nat._ ch. ix. § 17. “No man
      giveth but with intention of good to himself, because gift is
      voluntary; and of all voluntary acts, the object to every man is his
      own good.”—Hobbes’ _Leviathan_, part i. ch. xv. “Dream not that men
      will move their little finger to serve you, unless their advantage
      in so doing be obvious to them. Men never did so, and never will
      while human nature is made of its present materials.”—Bentham’s
      _Deontology_, vol. ii. p. 133.

   11 “Pity is imagination or fiction of future calamity to ourselves,
      proceeding from the sense of another man’s calamity. But when it
      lighteth on such as we think have not deserved the same, the
      compassion is greater, because there then appeareth more probability
      that the same may happen to us; for the evil that happeneth to an
      innocent man may happen to every man.”—Hobbes _On Hum. Nat._ ch. ix.
      § 10. “La pitié est souvent un sentiment de nos propres maux dans
      les maux d’autrui. C’est une habile prévoyance des malheurs où nous
      pouvons tomber. Nous donnons des secours aux autres pour les engager
      à nous en donner en de semblables occasions, et ces services que
      nous leur rendons sont, à proprement parler, des biens que nous nous
      faisons à nous-mêmes par avance.”—La Rochefoucauld, _Maximes_, 264.
      Butler has remarked that if Hobbes’ account were true, the most
      fearful would be the most compassionate nature; but this is perhaps
      not quite just, for Hobbes’ notion of pity implies the union of two
      not absolutely identical, though nearly allied, influences, timidity
      and imagination. The theory of Adam Smith, though closely connected
      with, differs totally in consequences from that of Hobbes on this
      point. He says, “When I condole with you for the loss of your son,
      in order to enter into your grief, I do not consider what I, a
      person of such a character and profession, should suffer if I had a
      son, and if that son should die—I consider what I should suffer if I
      was really you. I not only change circumstances with you, but I
      change persons and characters. My grief, therefore, is entirely upon
      your account.... A man may sympathise with a woman in child-bed,
      though it is impossible he should conceive himself suffering her
      pains in his own proper person and character.”—_Moral Sentiments_,
      part vii. ch. i. §3.

   12 “Ce que les hommes ont nommé amitié n’est qu’une société, qu’un
      ménagement réciproque d’intérêts et qu’un échange de bons offices.
      Ce n’est enfin qu’un commerce où l’amour-propre se propose toujours
      quelque chose à gagner.”—La Rochefoucauld, _Max._ 83. See this idea
      developed at large in Helvétius.

   13 “La science de la morale n’est autre chose que la science même de la
      législation.”—Helvétius _De l’Esprit_, ii. 17.

   14 This doctrine is expounded at length in all the moral works of
      Hobbes and his school. The following passage is a fair specimen of
      their meaning:—“Moral philosophy is nothing else but the science of
      what is good and evil in the conversation and society of mankind.
      Good and evil are names that signify our appetites and aversions,
      which in different tempers, customs, and doctrines of men are
      different ... from whence arise disputes, controversies, and at last
      war. And therefore, so long as man is in this condition of mere
      nature (which is a condition of war), his private appetite is the
      measure of good and evil. And consequently all men agree in this,
      that peace is good, and therefore also that the ways or means of
      peace, (which, as I have showed before) are justice, gratitude,
      modesty, equity, mercy, and the rest of the laws of nature are good
      ... and their contrary vices evil.”—Hobbes’ _Leviathan_, part i. ch.
      xvi. See, too, a striking passage in Bentham’s _Deontology_, vol.
      ii. p. 132.

   15 As an ingenious writer in the _Saturday Review_ (Aug. 10, 1867)
      expresses it: “Chastity is merely a social law created to encourage
      the alliances that most promote the permanent welfare of the race,
      and to maintain woman in a social position which it is thought
      advisable she should hold.” See, too, on this view, Hume’s _Inquiry
      concerning Morals_, § 4, and also _note_ x.: “To what other purpose
      do all the ideas of chastity and modesty serve? Nisi utile est quod
      facimus, frustra est gloria.”

   16 “All pleasure is necessarily self-regarding, for it is impossible to
      have any feelings out of our own mind. But there are modes of
      delight that bring also satisfaction to others, from the round that
      they take in their course. Such are the pleasures of benevolence.
      Others imply no participation by any second party, as, for example,
      eating, drinking, bodily warmth, property, and power; while a third
      class are fed by the pains and privations of fellow-beings, as the
      delights of sport and tyranny. The condemnatory phrase, selfishness,
      applies with especial emphasis to the last-mentioned class, and, in
      a qualified degree, to the second group; while such terms as
      unselfishness, disinterestedness, self-devotion, are applied to the
      vicarious position wherein we seek our own satisfaction in that of
      others.”—Bain _On the Emotions and Will_, p. 113.

   17 “Vice may be defined to be a miscalculation of chances, a mistake in
      estimating the value of pleasures and pains. It is false moral
      arithmetic.”—Bentham’s _Deontology_, vol. i. p. 131.

   18 “La récompense, la punition, la gloire et l’infamie soumises à ses
      volontés sont quatre espèces de divinités avec lesquelles le
      législateur peut toujours opérer le bien public et créer des hommes
      illustres en tous les genres. Toute l’étude des moralistes consiste
      à déterminer l’usage qu’on doit faire de ces récompenses et de ces
      punitions et les secours qu’on peut tirer pour lier l’intérêt
      personnel à l’intérêt général.”—Helvétius _De l’Esprit_, ii. 22. “La
      justice de nos jugements et de nos actions n’est jamais que la
      rencontre heureuse de notre intérêt avec l’intérêt public.”—Ibid.
      ii. 7. “To prove that the immoral action is a miscalculation of
      self-interest, to show how erroneous an estimate the vicious man
      makes of pains and pleasures, is the purpose of the intelligent
      moralist. Unless he can do this he does nothing; for, as has been
      stated above, for a man not to pursue what he deems likely to
      produce to him the greatest sum of enjoyment, is, in the very nature
      of things, impossible.”—Bentham’s _Deontology_.

   19 “If the effect of virtue were to prevent or destroy more pleasure
      than it produced, or to produce more pain than it prevented, its
      more appropriate name would be wickedness and folly; wickedness as
      it affected others, folly as respected him who practised
      it.”—Bentham’s _Deontology_, vol. i. p. 142. “Weigh pains, weigh
      pleasures, and as the balance stands will stand the question of
      right and wrong.”—Ibid. vol. i. p. 137. “Moralis philosophiæ caput
      est, Faustine fili, ut scias quibus ad beatam vitam perveniri
      rationibus possit.”—Apuleius, _Ad Doct. Platonis_, ii. “Atque ipsa
      utilitas, justi prope mater et æqui.”—Horace, _Sat._ I. iii. 98.

   20 “We can be obliged to nothing but what we ourselves are to gain or
      lose something by; for nothing else can be ‘violent motive’ to us.
      As we should not be obliged to obey the laws or the magistrate
      unless rewards or punishments, pleasure or pain, somehow or other,
      depended upon our obedience; so neither should we, without the same
      reason, be obliged to do what is right, to practise virtue, or to
      obey the commands of God.”—Paley’s _Moral Philosophy_, book ii. ch.

   21 See Gassendi _Philosophiæ Epicuri Syntagma_. These four canons are a
      skilful condensation of the argument of Torquatus in Cicero, _De
      Fin._ i. 2. See, too, a very striking letter by Epicurus himself,
      given in his life by Diogenes Laërtius.

   22 “Sanus igitur non est, qui nulla spe majore proposita, iis bonis
      quibus cæteri utuntur in vita, labores et cruciatus et miserias
      anteponat.... Non aliter his bonis præsentibus abstinendum est quam
      si sint aliqua majora, propter quæ tanti sit et voluptates omittere
      et mala omnia sustinere.”—Lactantius, _Div. Inst._ vi. 9. Macaulay,
      in some youthful essays against the Utilitarian theory (which he
      characteristically described as “Not much more laughable than
      phrenology, and immeasurably more humane than cock-fighting”),
      maintains the theological form of selfishness in very strong terms.
      “What proposition is there respecting human nature which is
      absolutely and universally true? We know of only one, and that is
      not only true but identical, that men always act from
      self-interest.”—Review of Mill’s _Essay on Government_. “Of this we
      may be sure, that the words ‘greatest happiness’ will never in any
      man’s mouth mean more than the greatest happiness of others, which
      is consistent with what he thinks his own.... This direction (Do as
      you would be done by) would be utterly unmeaning, as it actually is
      in Mr. Bentham’s philosophy, unless it were accompanied by a
      sanction. In the Christian scheme accordingly it is accompanied by a
      sanction of immense force. To a man whose greatest happiness in this
      world is inconsistent with the greatest happiness of the greatest
      number, is held out the prospect of an infinite happiness hereafter,
      from which he excludes himself by wronging his fellow-creatures
      here.”—_Answer to the Westminster Review’s Defence of Mill._

   23 “All virtue and piety are thus resolvable into a principle of
      self-love. It is what Scripture itself resolves them into by
      founding them upon faith in God’s promises, and hope in things
      unseen. In this way it may be rightly said that there is no such
      thing as disinterested virtue. It is with reference to ourselves and
      for our own sakes that we love even God Himself.”—Waterland, _Third
      Sermon on Self-love_. “To risk the happiness of the whole duration
      of our being in any case whatever, were it possible, would be
      foolish.”—Robert Hall’s _Sermon on Modern Infidelity_. “In the moral
      system the means are virtuous practice; the end, happiness.”—
      Warburton’s _Divine Legation_, book ii. Appendix.

   24 “There is always understood to be a difference between an act of
      prudence and an act of duty. Thus, if I distrusted a man who owed me
      a sum of money, I should reckon it an act of prudence to get another
      person bound with him; but I should hardly call it an act of
      duty.... Now in what, you will ask, does the difference consist,
      inasmuch as, according to our account of the matter, both in the one
      case and the other, in acts of duty as well as acts of prudence, we
      consider solely what we ourselves shall gain or lose by the act? The
      difference, and the only difference, is this: that in the one case
      we consider what we shall gain or lose in the present world; in the
      other case, we consider also what we shall gain or lose in the world
      to come.”—Paley’s _Moral Philosophy_, ii. 3.

   25 “Hence we may see the weakness and mistake of those falsely
      religious ... who are scandalised at our being determined to the
      pursuit of virtue through any degree of regard to its happy
      consequences in this life.... For it is evident that the religious
      motive is precisely of the same kind, only stronger, as the
      happiness expected is greater and more lasting.”—Brown’s _Essays on
      the Characteristics_, p. 220.

   26 “If a Christian, who has the view of happiness and misery in another
      life, be asked why a man must keep his word, he will give this as a
      reason, because God, who has the power of eternal life and death,
      requires it of us. But if an Hobbist be asked why, he will answer,
      because the public requires it, and the Leviathan will punish you if
      you do not. And if one of the old heathen philosophers had been
      asked, he would have answered, because it was dishonest, below the
      dignity of man, and opposite to virtue, the highest perfection of
      human nature, to do otherwise.”—Locke’s _Essay_, i. 3.

   27 Thus Paley remarks that—“The Christian religion hath not ascertained
      the precise quantity of virtue necessary to salvation,” and he then
      proceeds to urge the probability of graduated scales of rewards and
      punishments. (_Moral Philosophy_, book i. ch. vii.)

   28 This view was developed by Locke (_Essay on the Human
      Understanding_, book ii. ch. xxi.) Pascal, in a well-known passage,
      applied the same argument to Christianity, urging that the rewards
      and punishments it promises are so great, that it is the part of a
      wise man to embrace the creed, even though he believes it
      improbable, if there be but a possibility in its favour.

   29 Cudworth, in his _Immutable Morals_, has collected the names of a
      number of the schoolmen who held this view. See, too, an interesting
      note in Miss Cobbe’s very learned _Essay on Intuitive Morals_, pp.
      18, 19.

   30 E.g. Soame Jenyns, Dr. Johnson, Crusius, Pascal, Paley, and Austin.
      Warburton is generally quoted in the list, but not I think quite
      fairly. See his theory, which is rather complicated (_Divine
      Legation_, i. 4). Waterland appears to have held this view, and also
      Condillac. See a very remarkable chapter on morals, in his _Traité
      des Animaux_, part ii. ch. vii. Closely connected with this doctrine
      is the notion that the morality of God is generically different from
      the morality of men, which having been held with more or less
      distinctness by many theologians (Archbishop King being perhaps the
      most prominent), has found in our own day an able defender in Dr.
      Mansel. Much information on the history of this doctrine will be
      found in Dr. Mansel’s _Second Letter_ to Professor Goldwin Smith
      (Oxford, 1862).

   31 Leibnitz noticed the frequency with which Supralapsarian Calvinists
      adopt this doctrine. (_Théodicée_, part ii. § 176.) Archbishop
      Whately, who from his connection with the Irish Clergy had admirable
      opportunities of studying the tendencies of Calvinism, makes a
      similar remark as the result of his own experience. (_Whately’s
      Life_, vol. ii. p. 339.)

   32 “God designs the happiness of all His sentient creatures.... Knowing
      the tendencies of our actions, and knowing His benevolent purpose,
      we know His tacit commands.”—Austin’s _Lectures on Jurisprudence_,
      vol. i. p. 31. “The commands which He has revealed we must gather
      from the terms wherein they are promulgated. The commands which He
      has not revealed we must construe by the principle of
      utility.”—Ibid. p. 96. So Paley’s _Moral Philosophy_, book ii. ch.
      iv. v.

   33 Paley’s _Moral Philosophy_, book i. ch. vii. The question of the
      disinterestedness of the love we should bear to God was agitated in
      the Catholic Church, Bossuet taking the selfish, and Fénelon the
      unselfish side. The opinions of Fénelon and Molinos on the subject
      were authoritatively condemned. In England, the less dogmatic
      character of the national faith, and also the fact that the great
      anti-Christian writer, Hobbes, was the advocate of extreme
      selfishness in morals, had, I think, a favourable influence upon the
      ethics of the church. Hobbes gave the first great impulse to moral
      philosophy in England, and his opponents were naturally impelled to
      an unselfish theory. Bishop Cumberland led the way, resolving virtue
      (like Hutcheson) into benevolence. The majority of divines, however,
      till the present century, have, I think, been on the selfish side.

_   34 Moral Philosophy_, ii. 3.

_   35 Essay on the Human Understanding_, ii. 28.

_   36 Principles of Morals and Legislation_, ch. iii. Mr. Mill observes
      that, “Bentham’s idea of the world is that of a collection of
      persons pursuing each his separate interest or pleasure, and the
      prevention of whom from jostling one another more than is
      unavoidable, may be attempted by hopes and fears derived from three
      sources—the law, religion, and public opinion. To these three
      powers, considered as binding human conduct, he gave the name of
      sanctions; the political sanction operating by the rewards and
      penalties of the law; the religious sanction by those expected from
      the ruler of the universe; and the popular, which he
      characteristically calls also the moral sanction, operating through
      the pains and pleasures arising from the favour or disfavour of our
      fellow-creatures.”—_Dissertations_, vol. i. pp. 362-363.

   37 Hume on this, as on most other points, was emphatically opposed to
      the school of Hobbes, and even declared that no one could honestly
      and in good faith deny the reality of an unselfish element in man.
      Following in the steps of Butler, he explained it in the following
      passage:—“Hunger and thirst have eating and drinking for their end,
      and from the gratification of these primary appetites arises a
      pleasure which may become the object of another species of desire or
      inclination that is secondary and interested. In the same manner
      there are mental passions by which we are impelled immediately to
      seek particular objects, such as fame or power or vengeance, without
      any regard to interest, and when these objects are attained a
      pleasing enjoyment ensues.... Now where is the difficulty of
      conceiving that this may likewise be the case with benevolence and
      friendship, and that from the original frame of our temper we may
      feel a desire of another’s happiness or good, which by means of that
      affection becomes our own good, and is afterwards pursued, from the
      combined motives of benevolence and self-enjoyment?”—Hume’s _Enquiry
      concerning Morals_, Appendix II. Compare Butler, “If there be any
      appetite or any inward principle besides self-love, why may there
      not be an affection towards the good of our fellow-creatures, and
      delight from that affection’s being gratified and uneasiness from
      things going contrary to it?”—_Sermon on Compassion._

   38 “By sympathetic sensibility is to be understood the propensity that
      a man has to derive pleasure from the happiness, and pain from the
      unhappiness, of other sensitive beings.”—Bentham’s _Principles of
      Morals and Legislation_, ch. vi. “The sense of sympathy is
      universal. Perhaps there never existed a human being who had reached
      full age without the experience of pleasure at another’s pleasure,
      of uneasiness at another’s pain.... Community of interests,
      similarity of opinion, are sources from whence it
      springs.”—_Deontology_, vol. i. pp. 169-170.

   39 “The idea of the pain of another is naturally painful. The idea of
      the pleasure of another is naturally pleasurable.... In this, the
      unselfish part of our nature, lies a foundation, even independently
      of inculcation from without, for the generation of moral
      feelings”—Mill’s _Dissertations_, vol. i. p. 137. See, too, Bain’s
      _Emotions and the Will_, pp. 289, 313; and especially Austin’s
      _Lectures on Jurisprudence_. The first volume of this brilliant work
      contains, I think without exception, the best modern statement of
      the utilitarian theory in its most plausible form—a statement
      equally remarkable for its ability, its candour, and its uniform
      courtesy to opponents.

   40 See a collection of passages from Aristotle, bearing on the subject,
      in Mackintosh’s _Dissertation_.

   41 Cic. _De Finibus_, i. 5. This view is adopted in Tucker’s _Light of
      Nature_ (ed. 1842), vol. i. p. 167. See, too, Mill’s _Analysis of
      the Human Mind_, vol. ii. p. 174.

_   42 Essay_, book ii. ch. xxxiii.

   43 Hutcheson _On the Passions_, § 1. The “secondary desires” of
      Hutcheson are closely related to the “reflex affections” of
      Shaftesbury. “Not only the outward beings which offer themselves to
      the sense are the objects of the affection; but the very actions
      themselves, and the affections of pity, kindness, gratitude, and
      their contraries, being brought into the mind by reflection, become
      objects. So that by means of this reflected sense, there arises
      another kind of affection towards those very affections
      themselves.”—Shaftesbury’s _Enquiry concerning Virtue_, book i. part
      ii. § 3.

   44 See the preface to Hartley _On Man_. Gay’s essay is prefixed to
      Law’s translation of Archbishop King _On the Origin of Evil_.

   45 “The case is this. We first perceive or imagine some real good; i.e.
      fitness to promote our happiness in those things which we love or
      approve of.... Hence those things and pleasures are so tied together
      and associated in our minds, that one cannot present itself, but the
      other will also occur. And the association remains even after that
      which at first gave them the connection is quite forgotten, or
      perhaps does not exist, but the contrary.”—Gay’s _Essay_, p. lii.
      “All affections whatsoever are finally resolvable into reason,
      pointing out private happiness, and are conversant only about things
      apprehended to be means tending to this end; and whenever this end
      is not perceived, they are to be accounted for from the association
      of ideas, and may properly enough be called habits.”—Ibid. p. xxxi.

   46 Principally by Mr. James Mill, whose chapter on association, in his
      _Analysis of the Human Mind_, may probably rank with Paley’s
      beautiful chapter on happiness, at the head of all modern writings
      on the utilitarian side,—either of them, I think, being far more
      valuable than anything Bentham ever wrote on morals. This last
      writer—whose contempt for his predecessors was only equalled by his
      ignorance of their works, and who has added surprisingly little to
      moral science (considering the reputation he attained), except a
      barbarous nomenclature and an interminable series of classifications
      evincing no real subtlety of thought—makes, as far as I am aware, no
      use of the doctrine of association. Paley states it with his usual
      admirable clearness. “Having experienced in some instances a
      particular conduct to be beneficial to ourselves, or observed that
      it would be so, a sentiment of approbation rises up in our minds,
      which sentiment afterwards accompanies the idea or mention of the
      same conduct, although the private advantage which first existed no
      longer exist.”—Paley, _Moral Philos_. i. 5. Paley, however, made
      less use of this doctrine than might have been expected from so
      enthusiastic an admirer of Tucker. In our own day it has been much
      used by Mr. J. S. Mill.

   47 This illustration, which was first employed by Hutcheson, is very
      happily developed by Gay (p. lii.). It was then used by Hartley, and
      finally Tucker reproduced the whole theory with the usual
      illustration without any acknowledgment of the works of his
      predecessors, employing however, the term “translation” instead of
      “association” of ideas. See his curious chapter on the subject,
      _Light of Nature_, book i. ch. xviii.

   48 “It is the nature of translation to throw desire from the end upon
      the means, which thenceforward become an end capable of exciting an
      appetite without prospect of the consequences whereto they lead. Our
      habits and most of the desires that occupy human life are of this
      translated kind.”—Tucker’s _Light of Nature_, vol. ii. (ed. 1842),
      p. 281.

   49 Mill’s _Analysis of the Human Mind_. The desire for posthumous fame
      is usually cited by intuitive moralists as a proof of a naturally
      disinterested element in man.

   50 Mill’s _Analysis_.

   51 Hartley _On Man_, vol. i. pp. 474-475.

   52 “Benevolence ... has also a high degree of honour and esteem annexed
      to it, procures us many advantages and returns of kindness, both
      from the person obliged and others, and is most closely connected
      with the hopes of reward in a future state, and of self-approbation
      or the moral sense; and the same things hold with respect to
      generosity in a much higher degree. It is easy therefore to see how
      such associations may be formed as to engage us to forego great
      pleasure, or endure great pain for the sake of others, how these
      associations may be attended with so great a degree of pleasure as
      to overrule the positive pain endured or the negative one from the
      foregoing of a pleasure, and yet how there may be no direct explicit
      expectation of reward either from God or man, by natural consequence
      or express appointment, not even of the concomitant pleasure that
      engages the agent to undertake the benevolent and generous action;
      and this I take to be a proof from the doctrine of association that
      there is and must be such a thing as pure disinterested benevolence;
      also a just account of the origin and nature of it.”—Hartley _On
      Man_, vol. i. pp. 473-474. See too Mill’s _Analysis_, vol. ii. p.

   53 Mill’s _Analysis_, vol. ii. pp. 244-247.

   54 “With self-interest,” said Hartley, “man must begin; he may end in
      self-annihilation;” or as Coleridge happily puts it, “Legality
      precedes morality in every individual, even as the Jewish
      dispensation preceded the Christian in the world at large.”—_Notes
      Theological and Political_, p. 340. It might be retorted with much
      truth, that we begin by practising morality as a duty—we end by
      practising it as a pleasure, without any reference to duty.
      Coleridge, who expressed for the Benthamite theories a very cordial
      detestation, sometimes glided into them himself. “The happiness of
      man,” he says, “is the end of virtue, and truth is the knowledge of
      the means.” (_The Friend_, ed. 1850, vol. ii. p. 192.) “What can be
      the object of human virtue but the happiness of sentient, still more
      of moral beings?” (_Notes Theol. and Polit._ p. 351.) Leibnitz says,
      “Quand on aura appris à faire des actions louables par ambition, on
      les fera après par inclination.” (_Sur l’ Art de connaître les

   55 E.g. Mackintosh and James Mill. Coleridge in his younger days was an
      enthusiastic admirer of Hartley; but chiefly, I believe, on account
      of his theory of vibrations. He named his son after him, and
      described him in one of his poems as:—

      “He of mortal kind
      Wisest, the first who marked the ideal tribes
      Up the fine fibres through the sentient brain.”

      _Religious Musings._

   56 This position is elaborated in a passage too long for quotation by
      Mr. Austin. (_Lectures on Jurisprudence_, vol. i. p. 44.)

   57 Hobbes defines conscience as “the opinion of evidence” (_On Human
      Nature_, ch. vi. §8). Locke as “our own opinion or judgment of the
      moral rectitude or pravity of our own actions” (_Essay_, book i. ch.
      iii. § 8). In Bentham there is very little on the subject; but in
      one place he informs us that “conscience is a thing of fictitious
      existence, supposed to occupy a seat in the mind” (_Deontology_,
      vol. i. p. 137); and in another he ranks “love of duty” (which he
      describes as an “impossible motive, in so far as duty is synonymous
      to obligation”) as a variety of the “love of power” (_Springs of
      Action_, ii.) Mr. Bain says, “conscience is an imitation within
      ourselves of the government without us.” (_Emotions and Will_, p.

   58 “However much they [utilitarians] may believe (as they do) that
      actions and dispositions are only virtuous because they promote
      another end than virtue, yet this being granted ... they not only
      place virtue at the very head of the things which are good as means
      to the ultimate end, but they also recognise as a psychological fact
      the possibility of its being to the individual a good in itself....
      Virtue, according to the utilitarian doctrine, is not naturally and
      originally part of the end, but it is capable of becoming so....
      What was once desired as an instrument for the attainment of
      happiness has come to be desired ... as part of happiness.... Human
      nature is so constituted as to desire nothing which is not either a
      part of happiness or a means of happiness.”—J. S. Mill’s
      _Utilitarianism_, pp. 54, 55, 56, 58.

   59 “A man is tempted to commit adultery with the wife of his friend.
      The composition of the motive is obvious. He does not obey the
      motive. Why? He obeys other motives which are stronger. Though
      pleasures are associated with the immoral act, pains are associated
      with it also—the pains of the injured husband, the pains of the
      wife, the moral indignation of mankind, the future reproaches of his
      own mind. Some men obey the first rather than the second motive. The
      reason is obvious. In these the association of the act with the
      pleasure is from habit unduly strong, the association of the act
      with pains is from want of habit unduly weak. This is the case of a
      bad education.... Among the different classes of motives, there are
      men who are more easily and strongly operated on by some, others by
      others. We have also seen that this is entirely owing to habits of
      association. This facility of being acted upon by motives of a
      particular description, is that which we call disposition.”—Mill’s
      _Analysis_, vol. ii. pp. 212, 213, &c. Adam Smith says, I think with
      much wisdom, that “the great secret of education is to direct vanity
      to proper objects.”—_Moral Sentiments_, part vi. § 3.

   60 “Goodness in ourselves is the prospect of satisfaction annexed to
      the welfare of others, so that we please them for the pleasure we
      receive ourselves in so doing, or to avoid the uneasiness we should
      feel in omitting it. But God is completely happy in Himself, nor can
      His happiness receive increase or diminution from anything befalling
      His creatures; wherefore His goodness is pure, disinterested bounty,
      without any return of joy or satisfaction to Himself. Therefore it
      is no wonder we have imperfect notions of a quality whereof we have
      no experience in our own nature.”—Tucker’s _Light of Nature_, vol.
      i. p. 355. “It is the privilege of God alone to act upon pure,
      disinterested bounty, without the least addition thereby to His own
      enjoyment.”—Ibid. vol. ii. p. 279. On the other hand, Hutcheson
      asks, “If there be such disposition in the Deity, where is the
      impossibility of some small degree of this public love in His
      creatures, and why must they be supposed incapable of acting but
      from self-love?”—_Enquiry concerning Moral Good_, § 2.

   61 “We gradually, through the influence of association, come to desire
      the means without thinking of the end; the action itself becomes an
      object of desire, and is performed without reference to any motive
      beyond itself. Thus far, it may still be objected that the action
      having, through association, become pleasurable, we are as much as
      before moved to act by the anticipation of pleasure, namely, the
      pleasure of the action itself. But granting this, the matter does
      not end here. As we proceed in the formation of habits, and become
      accustomed to will a particular act ... because it is pleasurable,
      we at last continue to will it without any reference to its being
      pleasurable.... In this manner it is that habits of hurtful excess
      continue to be practised, although they have ceased to be
      pleasurable, and in this manner also it is that the habit of willing
      to persevere in the course which he has chosen, does not desert the
      moral hero, even when the reward ... is anything but an equivalent
      for the suffering he undergoes, or the wishes he may have to
      renounce.”—Mill’s _Logic_ (4th edition), vol. ii. pp. 416, 417.

   62 “In regard to interest in the most extended, which is the original
      and only strictly proper sense of the word disinterested, no human
      act has ever been or ever can be disinterested.... In the only sense
      in which disinterestedness can with truth be predicated of human
      actions, it is employed ... to denote, not the absence of all
      interest ... but only the absence of all interest of the
      self-regarding class. Not but that it is very frequently predicated
      of human action in cases in which divers interests, to no one of
      which the appellation of self-regarding can with propriety be
      denied, have been exercising their influence, and in particular fear
      of God, or hope from God, and fear of ill-repute, or hope of good
      repute. If what is above be correct, the most disinterested of men
      is not less under the dominion of interest than the most interested.
      The only cause of his being styled disinterested, is its not having
      been observed that the sort of motive (suppose it sympathy for an
      individual or class) has as truly a corresponding interest belonging
      to it as any other species of motive has. Of this contradiction
      between the truth of the case and the language employed in speaking
      of it, the cause is that in the one case men have not been in the
      habit of making—as in point of consistency they ought to have
      made—of the word interest that use which in the other case they have
      been in the habit of making of it.”—Bentham’s _Springs of Action_,
      ii. § 2.

   63 Among others Bishop Butler, who draws some very subtle distinctions
      on the subject in his first sermon “on the love of our neighbour.”
      Dugald Stewart remarks that “although we apply the epithet selfish
      to avarice and to low and private sensuality, we never apply it to
      the desire of knowledge or to the pursuits of virtue, which are
      certainly sources of more exquisite pleasure than riches or
      sensuality can bestow.”—_Active and Moral Powers_, vol. i. p. 19.

   64 Sir W. Hamilton.

   65 Cic. _De Fin._ lib. ii.

   66 “As there is not any sort of pleasure that is not itself a good, nor
      any sort of pain the exemption from which is not a good, and as
      nothing but the expectation of the eventual enjoyment of pleasure in
      some shape, or of exemption from pain in some shape, can operate in
      the character of a motive, a necessary consequence is that if by
      motive be meant _sort_ of motive, there is not any such thing as a
      bad motive.”—Bentham’s _Springs of Action_, ii. § 4. The first
      clauses of the following passage I have already quoted: “Pleasure is
      itself a good, nay, setting aside immunity from pain, the only good.
      Pain is in itself an evil, and indeed, without exception, the only
      evil, or else the words good and evil have no meaning. And this is
      alike true of every sort of pain, and of every sort of pleasure. It
      follows therefore immediately and incontestably that there is no
      such thing as any sort of motive that is in itself a bad
      one.”—_Principles of Morals and Legislation_, ch. ix. “The search
      after motive is one of the prominent causes of men’s bewilderment in
      the investigation of questions of morals.... But this is a pursuit
      in which every moment employed is a moment wasted. All motives are
      abstractedly good. No man has ever had, can, or could have a motive
      different from the pursuit of pleasure or of shunning
      pain.”—_Deontology_, vol. i. p. 126. Mr. Mill’s doctrine appears
      somewhat different from this, but the difference is I think only
      apparent. He says: “The motive has nothing to do with the morality
      of the action, though much with the worth of the agent,” and he
      afterwards explains this last statement by saying that the “motive
      makes a great difference in our moral estimation of the agent,
      especially if it indicates a good or a bad habitual disposition, a
      bent of character from which useful or from which hurtful actions
      are likely to arise.”—_Utilitarianism_, 2nd ed. pp. 26-27.

   67 This truth has been admirably illustrated by Mr. Herbert Spencer
      (_Social Statics_, pp. 1-8).

   68 “On évalue la grandeur de la vertu en comparant les biens obtenus
      aux maux au prix desquels on les achète: l’excédant en bien mesure
      la valeur de la vertu, comme l’excédant en mal mesure le degré de
      haine que doit inspirer le vice.”—Ch. Comte, _Traité de
      Législation_, liv. ii. ch. xii.

   69 M. Dumont, the translator of Bentham, has elaborated in a rather
      famous passage the utilitarian notions about vengeance. “Toute
      espèce de satisfaction entraînant une peine pour le délinquant
      produit naturellement un plaisir de vengeance pour la partie lésée.
      Ce plaisir est un gain. Il rappelle la parabole de Samson. C’est le
      doux qui sort du terrible. C’est le miel recueilli dans la gueule du
      lion. Produit sans frais, résultat net d’une opération nécessaire à
      d’autres titres, c’est une jouissance à cultiver comme toute autre;
      car le plaisir de la vengeance considérée abstraitement n’est comme
      tout autre plaisir qu’un bien en lui-même.”—_Principes du Code
      pénal_, 2me partie, ch. xvi. According to a very acute living writer
      of this school, “The criminal law stands to the passion of revenge
      in much the same relation as marriage to the sexual appetite” (J. F.
      Stephen, _On the Criminal Law of England_, p. 99). Mr. Mill observes
      that, “In the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth, we read the complete
      spirit of the ethics of utility” (_Utilitarianism_, p. 24). It is
      but fair to give a specimen of the opposite order of extravagance.
      “So well convinced was Father Claver of the eternal happiness of
      almost all whom he assisted,” says this saintly missionary’s
      biographer, “that speaking once of some persons who had delivered a
      criminal into the hands of justice, he said, God _forgive_ them; but
      they have secured the salvation of this man at _the probable risk of
      their own_.”—Newman’s _Anglican Difficulties_, p. 205.

_   70 De Ordine_, ii. 4. The experiment has more than once been tried at
      Venice, Pisa, &c., and always with the results St. Augustine

   71 The reader will here observe the very transparent sophistry of an
      assertion which is repeated ad nauseam by utilitarians. They tell us
      that a regard to the remote consequences of our actions would lead
      us to the conclusion that we should never perform an act which would
      not be conducive to human happiness if it were universally
      performed, or, as Mr. Austin expresses it, that “the question is if
      acts of this class were generally done or generally forborne or
      omitted, what would be the probable effect on the general happiness
      or good?” (_Lectures on Jurisprudence_, vol. i. p. 32.) The question
      is nothing of the kind. If I am convinced that utility alone
      constitutes virtue, and if I am meditating any particular act, the
      sole question of morality must be whether that act is on the whole
      useful, produces a net result of happiness. To determine this
      question I must consider both the immediate and the remote
      consequences of the act; but the latter are not ascertained by
      asking what would be the result if every one did as I do, but by
      asking how far, as a matter of fact, my act is likely to produce
      imitators, or affect the conduct and future acts of others. It may
      no doubt be convenient and useful to form classifications based on
      the general tendency of different courses to promote or diminish
      happiness, but such classifications cannot alter the morality of
      particular acts. It is quite clear that no act which produces on the
      whole more pleasure than pain can on utilitarian principles be
      vicious. It is, I think, equally clear that no one could act
      consistently on such a principle without being led to consequences
      which in the common judgment of mankind are grossly and scandalously

   72 There are some very good remarks on the possibility of living a life
      of imagination wholly distinct from the life of action in Mr. Bain’s
      _Emotions and Will_, p. 246.

   73 Bentham especially recurs to this subject frequently. See Sir J.
      Bowring’s edition of his works (Edinburgh, 1843), vol. i. pp. 142,
      143, 562; vol. x. pp. 549-550.

   74 “Granted that any practice causes more pain to animals than it gives
      pleasure to man; is that practice moral or immoral? And if exactly
      in proportion as human beings raise their heads out of the slough of
      selfishness they do not with one voice answer ‘immoral,’ let the
      morality of the principle of utility be for ever condemned.”—Mill’s
      _Dissert_. vol. ii. p. 485. “We deprive them [animals] of life, and
      this is justifiable—their pains do not equal our enjoyments. There
      is a balance of good.”—Bentham’s _Deontology_, vol. i. p. 14. Mr.
      Mill accordingly defines the principle of utility, without any
      special reference to man. “The creed which accepts as the foundation
      of morals, utility or the great happiness principle, holds that
      actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness,
      wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of
      happiness.”—_Utilitarianism_, pp. 9-10.

   75 The exception of course being domestic animals, which may be injured
      by ill treatment, but even this exception is a very partial one. No
      selfish reason could prevent any amount of cruelty to animals that
      were about to be killed, and even in the case of previous ill-usage
      the calculations of selfishness will depend greatly upon the price
      of the animal. I have been told that on some parts of the continent
      diligence horses are systematically under-fed, and worked to a
      speedy death, their cheapness rendering such a course the most

   76 Bentham, as we have seen, is of opinion that the gastronomic
      pleasure would produce the requisite excess of enjoyment. Hartley,
      who has some amiable and beautiful remarks on the duty of kindness
      to animals, without absolutely condemning, speaks with much aversion
      of the custom of eating “our brothers and sisters,” the animals.
      (_On Man_, vol. ii. pp. 222-223.) Paley, observing that it is quite
      possible for men to live without flesh-diet, concludes that the only
      sufficient justification for eating meat is an express divine
      revelation in the Book of Genesis. (_Moral Philos._ book ii. ch.
      11.) Some reasoners evade the main issue by contending that they
      kill animals because they would otherwise overrun the earth; but
      this, as Windham said, “is an indifferent reason for killing fish.”

   77 In commenting upon the French licentiousness of the eighteenth
      century, Hume says, in a passage which has excited a great deal of
      animadversion:—“Our neighbours, it seems, have resolved to sacrifice
      some of the domestic to the social pleasures; and to prefer ease,
      freedom, and an open commerce, to strict fidelity and constancy.
      These ends are both good, and are somewhat difficult to reconcile;
      nor must we be surprised if the customs of nations incline too much
      sometimes to the one side, and sometimes to the other.”—_Dialogue._

   78 There are few things more pitiable than the blunders into which
      writers have fallen when trying to base the plain virtue of chastity
      on utilitarian calculations. Thus since the writings of Malthus it
      has been generally recognised that one of the very first conditions
      of all material prosperity is to check early marriages, to restrain
      the tendency of population to multiply more rapidly than the means
      of subsistence. Knowing this, what can be more deplorable than to
      find moralists making such arguments as these the very foundation of
      morals?—“The first and great mischief, and by consequence the guilt,
      of promiscuous concubinage consists in its tendency to diminish
      marriages.” (Paley’s _Moral Philosophy_, book iii. part iii. ch.
      ii.) “That is always the most happy condition of a nation, and that
      nation is most accurately obeying the laws of our constitution, in
      which the number of the human race is most rapidly increasing. Now
      it is certain that under the law of chastity, that is, when
      individuals are exclusively united to each other, the increase of
      population will be more rapid than under any other circumstances.”
      (Wayland’s _Elements of Moral Science_, p. 298, 11th ed., Boston,
      1839.) I am sorry to bring such subjects before the reader, but it
      is impossible to write a history of morals without doing so.

   79 See Luther’s _Table Talk_.

   80 Tillemont, _Mém. pour servir à l’Hist. ecclésiastique_, tome x. p.

   81 Τό τε ἀληθεύειν καὶ τὸ εὐεργετεῖν. (Ælian, _Var. Hist._ xii. 59.)
      Longinus in like manner divides virtue into εὐεργεσία καὶ ἀλήθεια.
      (_De Sublim._ § 1.) The opposite view in England is continually
      expressed in the saying, “You should never pull down an opinion
      until you have something to put in its place,” which can only mean,
      if you are convinced that some religious or other hypothesis is
      false, you are morally bound to repress or conceal your conviction
      until you have discovered positive affirmations or explanations as
      unqualified and consolatory as those you have destroyed.

   82 See this powerfully stated by Shaftesbury. (_Inquiry concerning
      Virtue_, book i. part iii.) The same objection applies to Dr.
      Mansel’s modification of the theological doctrine—viz. that the
      origin of morals is not the will but the nature of God.

   83 “The one great and binding ground of the belief of God and a
      hereafter is the law of conscience.”—Coleridge, _Notes Theological
      and Political_, p. 367. That our moral faculty is our one reason for
      maintaining the supreme benevolence of the Deity was a favourite
      position of Kant.

   84 “Nescio quomodo inhæret in mentibus quasi sæculorum quoddam augurium
      futurorum; idque in maximis ingeniis altissimisque animis et
      exsistit maxime et apparet facillime.”—Cic. _Tusc. Disp._ i. 14.

   85 “It is a calumny to say that men are roused to heroic actions by
      ease, hope of pleasure, recompense—sugar-plums of any kind in this
      world or the next. In the meanest mortal there lies something
      nobler. The poor swearing soldier hired to be shot has his ‘honour
      of a soldier,’ different from drill, regulations, and the shilling a
      day. It is not to taste sweet things, but to do noble and true
      things, and vindicate himself under God’s heaven as a God-made man,
      that the poorest son of Adam dimly longs. Show him the way of doing
      that, the dullest day-drudge kindles into a hero. They wrong man
      greatly who say he is to be seduced by ease. Difficulty, abnegation,
      martyrdom, death, are the allurements that act on the heart of man.
      Kindle the inner genial life of him, you have a flame that burns up
      all lower considerations.”—Carlyle’s _Hero-worship_, p. 237 (ed.

   86 “Clamat Epicurus, is quem vos nimis voluptatibus esse deditum
      dicitis, non posse jucunde vivi nisi sapienter, honeste, justeque
      vivatur, nec sapienter, honeste, juste nisi jucunde.”—Cicero, _De
      Fin._ i. 18.

   87 “The virtues to be complete must have fixed their residence in the
      heart and become appetites impelling to actions without further
      thought than the gratification of them; so that after their
      expedience ceases they still continue to operate by the desire they
      raise.... I knew a mercer who having gotten a competency of fortune,
      thought to retire and enjoy himself in quiet; but finding he could
      not be easy without business was forced to return to the shop and
      assist his former partners gratis, in the nature of a journeyman.
      Why then should it be thought strange that a man long inured to the
      practice of moral duties should persevere in them out of liking,
      when they can yield him no further advantage?”—Tucker’s _Light of
      Nature_, vol. i. p. 269. Mr. J. S. Mill in his _Utilitarianism_
      dwells much on the heroism which he thinks this view of morals may

   88 See Lactantius, _Inst. Div._ vi. 9. Montesquieu, in his _Décadence
      de l’Empire romain_, has shown in detail the manner in which the
      crimes of Roman politicians contributed to the greatness of their
      nation. Modern history furnishes only too many illustrations of the
      same truth.

   89 “That quick sensibility which is the groundwork of all advances
      towards perfection increases the pungency of pains and
      vexations.”—Tucker’s _Light of Nature_, ii. 16, § 4.

   90 This position is forcibly illustrated by Mr. Maurice in his fourth
      lecture _On Conscience_ (1868). It is manifest that a tradesman
      resisting a dishonest or illegal trade custom, an Irish peasant in a
      disturbed district revolting against the agrarian conspiracy of his
      class, or a soldier in many countries conscientiously refusing in
      obedience to the law to fight a duel, would incur the full force of
      social penalties, because he failed to do that which was illegal or

   91 See Brown _On the Characteristics_, pp. 206-209.

   92 “A toothache produces more violent convulsions of pain than a
      phthisis or a dropsy. A gloomy disposition ... may be found in very
      worthy characters, though it is sufficient alone to embitter
      life.... A selfish villain may possess a spring and alacrity of
      temper, which is indeed a good quality, but which is rewarded much
      beyond its merit, and when attended with good fortune will
      compensate for the uneasiness and remorse arising from all the other
      vices.”—Hume’s Essays: _The Sceptic_.

   93 At the same time, the following passage contains, I think, a great
      deal of wisdom and of a kind peculiarly needed in England at the
      present day:—“The nature of the subject furnishes the strongest
      presumption that no better system will ever, for the future, be
      invented, in order to account for the origin of the benevolent from
      the selfish affections, and reduce all the various emotions of the
      human mind to a perfect simplicity. The case is not the same in this
      species of philosophy as in physics. Many an hypothesis in nature,
      contrary to first appearances, has been found, on more accurate
      scrutiny, solid and satisfactory.... But the presumption always lies
      on the other side in all enquiries concerning the origin of our
      passions, and of the internal operations of the human mind. The
      simplest and most obvious cause which can there be assigned for any
      phenomenon, is probably the true one.... The affections are not
      susceptible of any impression from the refinements of reason or
      imagination; and it is always found that a vigorous exertion of the
      latter faculties, necessarily, from the narrow capacity of the human
      mind, destroys all activity in the former.”—Hume’s _Enquiry
      Concerning Morals_, Append. II.

   94 “The pleasing consciousness and self-approbation that rise up in the
      mind of a virtuous man, exclusively of any direct, explicit,
      consideration of advantage likely to accrue to himself from his
      possession of those good qualities” (Hartley _On Man_, vol. i. p.
      493), form a theme upon which moralists of both schools are fond of
      dilating, in a strain that reminds one irresistibly of the
      self-complacency of a famous nursery hero, while reflecting upon his
      own merits over a Christmas-pie. Thus Adam Smith says, “The man who,
      not from frivolous fancy, but from proper motives, has performed a
      generous action, when he looks forward to those whom he has served,
      feels himself to be the natural object of their love and gratitude,
      and by sympathy with them, of the esteem and approbation of all
      mankind. And when he looks backward to the motive from which he
      acted, and surveys it in the light in which the indifferent
      spectator will survey it, he still continues to enter into it, and
      applauds himself by sympathy with the approbation of this supposed
      impartial judge. In both these points of view, his conduct appears
      to him every way agreeable.... Misery and wretchedness can never
      enter the breast in which dwells complete
      self-satisfaction.”—_Theory of Moral Sentiments_, part ii. ch. ii. §
      2; part iii. ch. iii. I suspect that many moralists confuse the
      self-gratulation which they suppose a virtuous man to feel, with the
      delight a religious man experiences from the sense of the protection
      and favour of the Deity. But these two feelings are clearly
      distinct, and it will, I believe, be found that the latter is most
      strongly experienced by the very men who most sincerely disclaim all
      sense of merit. “Were the perfect man to exist,” said that good and
      great writer, Archer Butler, “he himself would be the last to know
      it; for the highest stage of advancement is the lowest descent in
      humility.” At all events, the reader will observe, that on
      utilitarian principles nothing could be more pernicious or criminal
      than that modest, humble, and diffident spirit, which diminishes the
      pleasure of self-gratulation, one of the highest utilitarian motives
      to virtue.

   95 Hartley has tried in one place to evade this conclusion by an appeal
      to the doctrine of final causes. He says that the fact that
      conscience is not an original principle of our nature, but is formed
      mechanically in the manner I have described, does not invalidate the
      fact that it is intended for our guide, “for all the things which
      have evident final causes, are plainly brought about by mechanical
      means;” and he appeals to the milk in the breast, which is intended
      for the sustenance of the young, but which is nevertheless
      mechanically produced. (_On Man_, vol. ii. pp. 338-339.) But it is
      plain that this mode of reasoning would justify us in attributing an
      authoritative character to any habit—e.g. to that of avarice—which
      these writers assure us is in the manner of its formation an exact
      parallel to conscience. The later followers of Hartley certainly
      cannot be accused of any excessive predilection for the doctrine of
      final causes, yet we sometimes find them asking what great
      difference it can make whether (when conscience is admitted by both
      parties to be real) it is regarded as an original principle of our
      nature, or as a product of association? Simply this. If by the
      constitution of our nature we are subject to a law of duty which is
      different from and higher than our interest, a man who violates this
      law through interested motives, is deserving of reprobation. If on
      the other hand there is no natural law of duty, and if the pursuit
      of our interest is the one original principle of our being, no one
      can be censured who pursues it, and the first criterion of a wise
      man will be his determination to eradicate every habit
      (conscientious or otherwise) which impedes him in doing so.

_   96 On Human Nature_, chap. ix. § 10.

_   97 Enquiry concerning Good and Evil._

   98 This theory is noticed by Hutcheson, and a writer in the _Spectator_
      (No. 436) suggests that it may explain the attraction of
      prize-fights. The case of the pleasure derived from fictitious
      sorrow is a distinct question, and has been admirably treated in
      Lord Kames’ _Essays on Morality_. Bishop Butler notices (_Second
      Sermon on Compassion_), that it is possible for the very intensity
      of a feeling of compassion to divert men from charity by making them
      “industriously turn away from the miserable;” and it is well known
      that Goethe, on account of this very susceptibility, made it one of
      the rules of his life to avoid everything that could suggest painful
      ideas. Hobbes makes the following very characteristic comments on
      some famous lines of Lucretius: “From what passion proceedeth it
      that men take pleasure to behold from the shore the danger of those
      that are at sea in a tempest or in fight, or from a safe castle to
      behold two armies charge one another in the field? It is certainly
      in the whole sum joy, else men would never flock to such a
      spectacle. Nevertheless, there is both joy and grief, for as there
      is novelty and remembrance of our own security present, which is
      delight, so there is also pity, which is grief. But the delight is
      so far predominant that men usually are content in such a case to be
      spectators of the misery of their friends.” (_On Human Nature_, ch.
      ix. § 19.) Good Christians, according to some theologians, are
      expected to enjoy this pleasure in great perfection in heaven. “We
      may believe in the next world also the goodness as well as the
      happiness of the blest will be confirmed and advanced by reflections
      naturally arising from the view of the misery which some shall
      undergo, which seems to be a good reason for the creation of those
      beings who shall be finally miserable, and for the continuation of
      them in their miserable existence ... though in one respect the view
      of the misery which the damned undergo might seem to detract from
      the happiness of the blessed through pity and commiseration, yet
      under another, a nearer and much more affecting consideration, viz.
      that all this is the misery they themselves were often exposed to
      and in danger of incurring, why may not the sense of their own
      escape so far overcome the sense of another’s ruin as quite to
      extinguish the pain that usually attends the idea of it, and even
      render it productive of some real happiness? To this purpose,
      Lucretius’ _Suave mari_,” etc. (_Law’s notes to his Translation of
      King’s Origin of Evil_, pp. 477, 479.)

   99 See e.g. _Reid’s Essays on the Active Powers_, essay iii. ch. v.

  100 The error I have traced in this paragraph will be found running
      through a great part of what Mr. Buckle has written upon morals—I
      think the weakest portion of his great work. See, for example, an
      elaborate confusion on the subject, _History of Civilisation_, vol.
      ii. p. 429. Mr. Buckle maintains that all the philosophers of what
      is commonly called “the Scotch school” (a school founded by the
      Irishman Hutcheson, and to which Hume does not belong), were
      incapable of inductive reasoning, because they maintained the
      existence of a moral sense or faculty, or of first principles,
      incapable of resolution; and he enters into a learned enquiry into
      the causes which made it impossible for Scotch writers to pursue or
      appreciate the inductive method. It is curious to contrast this view
      with the language of one, who, whatever may be the value of his
      original speculations, is, I conceive, among the very ablest
      philosophical critics of the present century. “Les philosophes
      écossais adoptèrent les procédés que Bacon avait recommandé
      d’appliquer à l’étude du monde physique, et les transportèrent dans
      l’étude du monde moral. Ils firent voir que l’induction baconienne,
      c’est-à-dire, l’induction précédée d’une observation scrupuleuse des
      phénomènes, est en philosophie comme en physique la seule méthode
      légitime. C’est un de leurs titres les plus honorables d’avoir
      insisté sur cette démonstration, et d’avoir en même temps joint
      l’exemple au précepte.... Il est vrai que le zèle des philosophes
      écossais en faveur de la méthode d’observation leur a presque fait
      dépasser le but. Ils ont incliné à renfermer la psychologie dans la
      description minutieuse et continuelle de phénomènes de l’âme sans
      réfléchir assez que cette description doit faire place à l’induction
      et au raisonnement déductif, et qu’une philosophie qui se bornerait
      à l’observation serait aussi stérile que celle qui s’amuserait à
      construire des hypothèses sans avoir préalablement observé.”—Cousin,
      Hist. de la Philos. Morale au xviiime Siècle, Tome 4, p. 14-16.
      Dugald Stewart had said much the same thing, but he was a Scotchman,
      and therefore, according to Mr. Buckle (_Hist. of Civ._ ii. pp.
      485-86), incapable of understanding what induction was. I may add
      that one of the principal objections M. Cousin makes against Locke
      is, that he investigated the origin of our ideas before analysing
      minutely their nature, and the propriety of this method is one of
      the points on which Mr. Mill (_Examination of Sir W. Hamilton_) is
      at issue with M. Cousin.

  101 M. Ch. Comte, in his very learned _Traité de Législation_, liv. iii.
      ch. iv., has made an extremely curious collection of instances in
      which different nations have made their own distinctive
      peculiarities of colour and form the ideal of beauty.

  102 “How particularly fine the hard theta is in our English
      terminations, as in that grand word death, for which the Germans
      gutturise a sound that _puts you in mind of nothing but a loathsome
      toad_.”—Coleridge’s _Table Talk_, p. 181.

  103 Mackintosh, _Dissert._ p. 238.

  104 Lord Kames’ _Essays on Morality_ (1st edition), pp. 55-56.

  105 See Butler’s _Three Sermons on Human Nature_, and the preface.

  106 Speaking of the animated statue which he regarded as a
      representative of man, Condillac says, “Le goût peut ordinairement
      contribuer plus que l’odorat à son bonheur et à son malheur.... Il y
      contribue même encore plus que les sons harmonieux, parce que le
      besoin de nourriture lui rend les saveurs plus nécessaires, et par
      conséquent les lui fait goûter avec plus de vivacité. La faim pourra
      la rendre malheureuse, mais dès qu’elle aura remarqué les sensations
      propres à l’apaiser, elle y déterminera davantage son attention, les
      désirera avec plus de violence et en jouira avec plus de
      délire.”—_Traité des Sensations_, 1re partie ch. x.

  107 This is one of the favourite thoughts of Pascal, who, however, in
      his usual fashion dwells upon it in a somewhat morbid and
      exaggerated strain. “C’est une bien grande misère que de pouvoir
      prendre plaisir à des choses si basses et si méprisables ... l’homme
      est encore plus à plaindre de ce qu’il peut se divertir à ces choses
      si frivoles et si basses, que de ce qu’il s’afflige de ses misères
      effectives.... D’ou vient que cet homme, qui a perdu depuis peu son
      fils unique, et qui, accablé de procès et de querelles, était ce
      matin si troublé, n’y pense plus maintenant? Ne vous en étonnez pas;
      il est tout occupé à voir par où passera un cerf que ses chiens
      poursuivent.... C’est une joie de malade et de
      frénétique.”—_Pensées_ (Misère de l’homme).

  108 “Quæ singula improvidam mortalitatem involvunt, solum ut inter ista
      certum sit, nihil esse certi, nec miserius quidquam homine, aut
      superbius. Cæteris quippe animantium sola victus cura est, in quo
      sponte naturæ benignitas sufficit: uno quidem vel præferenda cunctis
      bonis, quod de gloria, de pecunia, ambitione, superque de morte, non
      cogitant.”—Plin. _Hist. Nat._ ii. 5.

  109 Paley, in his very ingenious, and in some respects admirable,
      chapter on happiness tries to prove the inferiority of animal
      pleasures, by showing the short time their enjoyment actually lasts,
      the extent to which they are dulled by repetition, and the cases in
      which they incapacitate men for other pleasures. But this
      calculation omits the influence of some animal enjoyments upon
      health and temperament. The fact, however, that health, which is a
      condition of body, is the chief source of happiness, Paley fully
      admits. “Health,” he says, “is the one thing needful ... when we are
      in perfect health and spirits, we feel in ourselves a happiness
      independent of any particular outward gratification.... This is an
      enjoyment which the Deity has annexed to life, and probably
      constitutes in a great measure the happiness of infants and brutes
      ... of oysters, periwinkles, and the like; for which I have
      sometimes been at a loss to find out amusement.” On the test of
      happiness he very fairly says, “All that can be said is that there
      remains a presumption in favour of those conditions of life in which
      men generally appear most cheerful and contented; for though the
      apparent happiness of mankind be not always a true measure of their
      real happiness, it is the best measure we have.”—_Moral Philosophy_,
      i. 6.

  110 A writer who devoted a great part of his life to studying the deaths
      of men in different countries, classes, and churches, and to
      collecting from other physicians information on the subject, says:
      “À mesure qu’on s’éloigne des grands foyers de civilisation, qu’on
      se rapproche des plaines et des montagnes, le caractère de la mort
      prend de plus en plus l’aspect calme du ciel par un beau crépuscule
      du soir.... En général la mort s’accomplit d’une manière d’autant
      plus simple et naturelle qu’on est plus libre des innombrables liens
      de la civilisation.”—Lauvergne, _De l’agonie de la Mort_, tome i.
      pp. 131-132.

  111 “I will omit much usual declamation upon the dignity and capacity of
      our nature, the superiority of the soul to the body, of the rational
      to the animal part of our constitution, upon the worthiness,
      refinement, and delicacy of some satisfactions, or the meanness,
      grossness, and sensuality of others; because I hold that pleasures
      differ in nothing but in continuance and intensity.”—Paley’s _Moral
      Philosophy_, book i. ch. vi. Bentham in like manner said, “Quantity
      of pleasure being equal, pushpin is as good as poetry,” and he
      maintained that the value of a pleasure depends on—its (1)
      intensity, (2) duration, (3) certainty, (4) propinquity, (5) purity,
      (6) fecundity, (7) extent (_Springs of Action_). The recognition of
      the “purity” of a pleasure might seem to imply the distinction for
      which I have contended in the text, but this is not so. The purity
      of a pleasure or pain, according to Bentham, is “the chance it has
      of not being followed by sensations of the opposite kind: that is
      pain if it be a pleasure, pleasure if it be a pain.”—_Morals and
      Legislation_, i. § 8. Mr. Buckle (_Hist. of Civilisation_, vol. ii.
      pp. 399-400) writes in a somewhat similar strain, but less
      unequivocally, for he admits that mental pleasures are “more
      ennobling” than physical ones. The older utilitarians, as far as I
      have observed, did not even advert to the question. This being the
      case, it must have been a matter of surprise as well as of
      gratification to most intuitive moralists to find Mr. Mill fully
      recognising the existence of different kinds of pleasure, and
      admitting that the superiority of the higher kinds does not spring
      from their being greater in amount.—_Utilitarianism_, pp. 11-12. If
      it be meant by this that we have the power of recognising some
      pleasures as superior to others in kind, irrespective of all
      consideration of their intensity, their cost, and their
      consequences, I submit that the admission is completely incompatible
      with the utilitarian theory, and that Mr. Mill has only succeeded in
      introducing Stoical elements into his system by loosening its very
      foundation. The impossibility of establishing an aristocracy of
      enjoyments in which, apart from all considerations of consequences,
      some which give less pleasure and are less widely diffused are
      regarded as intrinsically superior to others which give more
      pleasure and are more general, without admitting into our estimate a
      moral element, which on utilitarian principles is wholly
      illegitimate, has been powerfully shown since the first edition of
      this book by Professor Grote, in his _Examination of the Utilitarian
      Philosophy_, chap. iii.

  112 Büchner, _Force et Matière_, pp. 163-164. There is a very curious
      collection of the speculations of the ancient philosophers on this
      subject in Plutarch’s treatise, _De Placitis Philos._

  113 Aulus Gellius, _Noctes_, x. 23. The law is given by Dion. Halicarn.
      Valerius Maximus says, “Vini usus olim Romanis feminis ignotus fuit,
      ne scilicet in aliquod dedecus prolaberentur: quia proximus a Libero
      patre intemperantiæ gradus ad inconcessam Venerem esse consuevit”
      (Val. Max. ii. 1, § 5). This is also noticed by Pliny (_Hist. Nat._
      xiv. 14), who ascribes the law to Romulus, and who mentions two
      cases in which women were said to have been put to death for this
      offence, and a third in which the offender was deprived of her
      dowry. Cato said that the ancient Romans were accustomed to kiss
      their wives for the purpose of discovering whether they had been
      drinking wine. The Bona Dea, it is said, was originally a woman
      named Fatua, who was famous for her modesty and fidelity to her
      husband, but who, unfortunately, having once found a cask of wine in
      the house, got drunk, and was in consequence scourged to death by
      her husband. He afterwards repented of his act, and paid divine
      honours to her memory, and as a memorial of her death, a cask of
      wine was always placed upon the altar during the rites. (Lactantius,
      _Div. Inst._ i. 22.) The Milesians, also, and the inhabitants of
      Marseilles are said to have had laws forbidding women to drink wine
      (Ælian, _Hist. Var._ ii. 38). Tertullian describes the prohibition
      of wine among the Roman women as in his time obsolete, and a taste
      for it was one of the great trials of St. Monica (_Aug. Conf._ x.

  114 “La loi fondamentale de la morale agit sur toutes les nations bien
      connues. Il y a mille différences dans les interprétations de cette
      loi en mille circonstances; mais le fond subsiste toujours le même,
      et ce fond est l’idée du juste et de l’injuste.”—Voltaire, _Le
      Philosophe ignorant_.

  115 The feeling in its favour being often intensified by filial
      affection. “What is the most beautiful thing on the earth?” said
      Osiris to Horus. “To avenge a parent’s wrongs,” was the
      reply.—Plutarch _De Iside et Osiride_.

  116 Hence the Justinian code and also St. Augustine (_De Civ. Dei_, xix.
      15) derived servus from “servare,” to preserve, because the victor
      preserved his prisoners alive.

  117 “Les habitants du Congo tuent les malades qu’ils imaginent ne
      pouvoir en revenir; _c’est, disentils, pour leur épargner les
      douleurs de l’agonie_. Dans l’île Formose, lorsqu’un homme est
      dangereusement malade, on lui passe un nœud coulant au col et on
      l’étrangle, _pour l’arracher à la douleur_.”—Helvétius, _De
      l’Esprit_, ii. 13. A similar explanation may be often found for
      customs which are quoted to prove that the nations where they
      existed had no sense of chastity. “C’est pareillement sous la
      sauvegarde des lois que les Siamoises, la gorge et les cuisses à
      moitié découvertes, portées dans les rues sur les palanquins, s’y
      présentent dans des attitudes très-lascives. Cette loi fut établie
      par une de leurs reines nommée Tirada, qui, _pour dégoûter les
      hommes d’un amour plus déshonnête_, crut devoir employer toute la
      puissance de la beauté.”—_De l’Esprit_, ii. 14.

  118 “The contest between the morality which appeals to an external
      standard, and that which grounds itself on internal conviction, is
      the contest of progressive morality against stationary, of reason
      and argument against the deification of mere opinion and habit.”
      (Mill’s _Dissertations_, vol. ii. p. 472); a passage with a true
      Bentham ring. See, too, vol. i. p. 158. There is, however, a schism
      on this point in the utilitarian camp. The views which Mr. Buckle
      has expressed in his most eloquent chapter on the comparative
      influence of intellectual and moral agencies in civilisation diverge
      widely from those of Mr. Mill.

  119 “Est enim sensualitas quædam vis animæ inferior.... Ratio vero vis
      animæ est superior.”—Peter Lombard, _Sent._ ii. 24.

  120 Helvétius, _De l’Esprit_, discours iv. See too, Dr. Draper’s
      extremely remarkable _History of Intellectual Development in Europe_
      (New York, 1864), pp. 48, 53.

  121 Plutarch, _De Cohibenda Ira._

  122 Lactantius, _Div. Inst._ i. 22. The mysteries of the Bona Dea
      became, however, after a time, the occasion of great disorders. See
      Juvenal, Sat. vi. M. Magnin has examined the nature of these rites
      (_Origines du Théâtre_, pp. 257-259).

  123 The history of the vestals, which forms one of the most curious
      pages in the moral history of Rome, has been fully treated by the
      Abbé Nadal, in an extremely interesting and well-written memoir,
      read before the Académie des Belles-lettres, and republished in
      1725. It was believed that the prayer of a vestal could arrest a
      fugitive slave in his flight, provided he had not got past the city
      walls. Pliny mentions this belief as general in his time. The
      records of the order contained many miracles wrought at different
      times to save the vestals or to vindicate their questioned purity,
      and also one miracle which is very remarkable as furnishing a
      precise parallel to that of the Jew who was struck dead for touching
      the ark to prevent its falling.

  124 As for example the Sibyls and Cassandra. The same prophetic power
      was attributed in India to virgins.—Clem. Alexandrin. _Strom._ iii.

  125 This custom continued to the worst period of the empire, though it
      was shamefully and characteristically evaded. After the fall of
      Sejanus the senate had no compunction in putting his innocent
      daughter to death, but their religious feelings were shocked at the
      idea of a virgin falling beneath the axe. So by way of improving
      matters “filia constuprata est prius a carnifice, quasi impium esset
      virginem in carcere perire.”—Dion Cassius, lviii. 11. See too,
      Tacitus, _Annal._ v. 9. If a vestal met a prisoner going to
      execution the prisoner was spared, provided the vestal declared that
      the encounter was accidental. On the reverence the ancients paid to
      virgins, see Justus Lipsius, _De Vesta et Vestalibus_.

  126 See his picture of the first night of marriage:—

      “Tacitè subit ille supremus
      Virginitatis amor, primæque modestia culpæ
      Confundit vultus. Tunc ora rigantur honestis

      _Thebaidos_, lib. ii. 232-34.

  127 Bees (which Virgil said had in them something of the divine nature)
      were supposed by the ancients to be the special emblems or models of
      chastity. It was a common belief that the bee mother begot her young
      without losing her virginity. Thus in a fragment ascribed to
      Petronius we read,

      “Sic sine concubitu textis apis excita ceris
      Fervet, et audaci milite castra replet.”

      Petron. _De Varia Animalium Generatione._

      So too Virgil:—

      “Quod neque concubitu indulgent nec corpora segnes
      In Venerem solvunt aut fœtus nixibus edunt.”—_Georg._ iv. 198-99.

      Plutarch says that an unchaste person cannot approach bees, for they
      immediately attack him and cover him with stings. Fire was also
      regarded as a type of virginity. Thus Ovid, speaking of the vestals,

      “Nataque de fiamma corpora nulla vides:
      Jure igitur virgo est, quæ semina nulla remittit
      Nec capit, et comites virginitatis amat.”

      “The Egyptians believed that there are no males among vultures, and
      they accordingly made that bird an emblem of nature.”—Ammianus
      Marcellinus, xvii. 4.

  128 “La divinité étant considérée comme renfermant en elle toutes les
      qualités, toutes les forces intellectuelles et morales de l’homme,
      chacune de ces forces ou de ces qualités, conçue séparément,
      s’offrait comme un Être divin.... De-là aussi les contradictions les
      plus choquantes dans les notions que les anciens avaient des
      attributs divins.”—Maury, _Hist. des Religions de la Grèce antique_,
      tome i. pp. 578-579.

  129 “The Church holds that it were better for sun and moon to drop from
      heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions who are
      upon it to die of starvation in extremest agony, so far as temporal
      affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say should be lost,
      but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful
      untruth, though it harmed no one, or steal one poor farthing without
      excuse.”—Newman’s _Anglican Difficulties_, p. 190.

  130 There is a remarkable dissertation on this subject, called “The
      Limitations of Morality,” in a very ingenious and suggestive little
      work of the Benthamite school, called _Essays by a Barrister_
      (reprinted from the _Saturday Review_).

  131 The following passage, though rather vague and rhetorical, is not
      unimpressive: “Oui, dit Jacobi, je mentirais comme Desdemona
      mourante, je tromperais comme Oreste quand il veut mourir à la place
      de Pylade, j’assassinerais comme Timoléon, je serais parjure comme
      Épaminondas et Jean de Witt, je me déterminerais au suicide comme
      Caton, je serais sacrilége comme David; car j’ai la certitude en
      moi-même qu’en pardonnant à ces fautes suivant la lettre l’homme
      exerce le droit souverain que la majesté de son être lui confère; il
      appose le sceau de sa divine nature sur la grâce qu’il
      accorde.”—Barchou de Penhoen, _Hist. de la Philos. allemande_, tome
      i. p. 295.

  132 This equivocation seems to me to lie at the root of the famous
      dispute whether man is by nature a social being, or whether, as
      Hobbes averred, the state of nature is a state of war. Few persons
      who have observed the recent light thrown on the subject will
      question that the primitive condition of man was that of savage
      life, and fewer still will question that savage life is a state of
      war. On the other hand, it is, I think, equally certain that man
      necessarily becomes a social being in exact proportion to the
      development of the capacities of his nature.

  133 One of the best living authorities on this question writes: “The
      asserted existence of savages so low as to have no moral standard is
      too groundless to be discussed. Every human tribe has its general
      views as to what conduct is right and what wrong, and each
      generation hands the standard on to the next. Even in the details of
      their moral standards, wide as their differences are, there is yet
      wider agreement throughout the human race.”—Tylor on Primitive
      Society, _Contemporary Review_, April 1873, p. 702.

  134 The distinction between innate faculties evolved by experience and
      innate ideas independent of experience, and the analogy between the
      expansion of the former and that of the bud into the flower has been
      very happily treated by Reid. (_On the Active Powers_, essay iii.
      chap. viii. p. 4.) Professor Sedgwick, criticising Locke’s notion of
      the soul being originally like a sheet of white paper, beautifully
      says: “Naked man comes from his mother’s womb, endowed with limbs
      and senses indeed well fitted to the material world, yet powerless
      from want of use; and as for knowledge, his soul is one unvaried
      blank; yet has this blank been already touched by a celestial hand,
      and when plunged in the colours which surround it, it takes not its
      tinge from accident but design, and comes forth covered with a
      glorious pattern.” (_On the Studies of the University_, p. 54.)
      Leibnitz says: “L’esprit n’est point une table rase. Il est tout
      plein de caractères que la sensation ne peut que découvrir et mettre
      en lumière au lieu de les y imprimer. Je me suis servi de la
      comparaison d’une pierre de marbre qui a des veines plutôt que d’une
      pierre de marbre tout unie.... S’il y avait dans la pierre des
      veines qui marquassent la figure d’Hercule préférablement à d’autres
      figures, ... Hercule y serait comme inné en quelque façon, quoiqu’il
      fallût du travail pour découvrir ces veines.”—_Critique de l’Essai
      sur l’Entendement._

  135 The argument against the intuitive moralists derived from savage
      life was employed at some length by Locke. Paley then adopted it,
      taking a history of base ingratitude related by Valerius Maximus,
      and asking whether a savage would view it with disapprobation.
      (_Moral Phil._ book i. ch. 5.) Dugald Stewart (_Active and Moral
      Powers_, vol. i. pp. 230-231) and other writers have very fully
      answered this, but the same objection has been revived in another
      form by Mr. Austin, who supposes (_Lectures on Jurisprudence_, vol.
      i. pp. 82-83) a savage who first meets a hunter carrying a dead
      deer, kills the hunter and steals the deer, and is afterwards
      himself assailed by another hunter whom he kills. Mr. Austin asks
      whether the savage would perceive a moral difference between these
      two acts of homicide? Certainly not. In this early stage of
      development, the savage recognises a duty of justice and humanity to
      the members of his tribe, but to no one beyond this circle. He is in
      a “state of war” with the foreign hunter. He has a right to kill the
      hunter and the hunter an equal right to kill him.

  136 Everyone who is acquainted with metaphysics knows that there has
      been an almost endless controversy about Locke’s meaning on this
      point. The fact seems to be that Locke, like most great originators
      of thought, and indeed more than most, often failed to perceive the
      ultimate consequences of his principles, and partly through some
      confusion of thought, and partly through unhappiness of expression,
      has left passages involving the conclusions of both schools. As a
      matter of history the sensual school of Condillac grew professedly
      out of his philosophy. In defence of the legitimacy of the process
      by which these writers evolved their conclusions from the premisses
      of Locke, the reader may consult the very able lectures of M. Cousin
      on Locke. The other side has been treated, among others, by Dugald
      Stewart in his _Dissertation_, by Professor Webb in his
      _Intellectualism of Locke_, and by Mr. Rogers in an essay reprinted
      from the _Edinburgh Review_.

  137 I make this qualification, because I believe that the denial of a
      moral nature in man capable of perceiving the distinction between
      duty and interest and the rightful supremacy of the former, is both
      philosophically and actually subversive of natural theology.

  138 See the forcible passage in the life of Epicurus by Diogenes
      Laërtius. So Mackintosh: “It is remarkable that, while, of the three
      professors who sat in the Porch from Zeno to Posidonius, every one
      either softened or exaggerated the doctrines of his predecessor, and
      while the beautiful and reverend philosophy of Plato had in his own
      Academy degenerated into a scepticism which did not spare morality
      itself, the system of Epicurus remained without change; his
      disciples continued for ages to show personal honour to his memory
      in a manner which may seem unaccountable among those who were taught
      to measure propriety by a calculation of palpable and outward
      usefulness.”—_Dissertation on Ethical Philosophy_, p. 85, ed. 1836.
      See, too, Tennemann (_Manuel de la Philosophie_, ed. Cousin, tome i.
      p. 211).

  139 Thus e.g. the magnificent chapters of Helvétius on the moral effects
      of despotism, form one of the best modern contributions to political
      ethics. We have a curious illustration of the emphasis with which
      this school dwells on the moral importance of institutions in a
      memoir of M. De Tracy, _On the best Plan of National Education_,
      which appeared first towards the close of the French Revolution, and
      was reprinted during the Restoration. The author, who was one of the
      most distinguished of the disciples of Condillac, argued that the
      most efficient of all ways of educating a people is, the
      establishment of a good system of police, for the constant
      association of the ideas of crime and punishment in the minds of the
      masses is the one effectual method of creating moral habits, which
      will continue to act when the fear of punishment is removed.

  140 An important intellectual revolution is at present taking place in
      England. The ascendency in literary and philosophical questions
      which belonged to the writers of books is manifestly passing in a
      very great degree to weekly and even daily papers, which have long
      been supreme in politics, and have begun within the last ten years
      systematically to treat ethical and philosophical questions. From
      their immense circulation, their incontestable ability and the power
      they possess of continually reiterating their distinctive doctrines,
      from the impatience, too, of long and elaborate writings, which
      newspapers generate in the public, it has come to pass that these
      periodicals exercise probably a greater influence than any other
      productions of the day, in forming the ways of thinking of ordinary
      educated Englishmen. The many consequences, good and evil, of this
      change it will be the duty of future literary historians to trace,
      but there is one which is, I think, much felt in the sphere of
      ethics. An important effect of these journals has been to evoke a
      large amount of literary talent in the lawyer class. Men whose
      professional duties would render it impossible for them to write
      long books, are quite capable of treating philosophical subjects in
      the form of short essays, and have in fact become conspicuous in
      these periodicals. There has seldom, I think, before, been a time
      when lawyers occupied such an important literary position as at
      present, or when legal ways of thinking had so great an influence
      over English philosophy; and this fact has been eminently favourable
      to the progress of utilitarianism.

  141 There are some good remarks on this point in the very striking
      chapter on the present condition of Christianity in Wilberforce’s
      _Practical View_.

  142 See Reid’s _Essays on the Active Powers_, iii. i.

  143 I say usually proportioned, because it is, I believe, possible for
      men to realise intensely suffering, and to derive pleasure from that
      very fact. This is especially the case with vindictive cruelty, but
      it is not, I think, altogether confined to that sphere. This
      question we shall have occasion to examine when discussing the
      gladiatorial shows. Most cruelty, however, springs from callousness,
      which is simply dulness of imagination.

  144 The principal exception being where slavery, coexisting with
      advanced civilisation, retards or prevents the growth of industrial

  145 See Mr. Laing’s _Travels in Sweden_. A similar cause is said to have
      had a similar effect in Bavaria.

  146 This has been, I think, especially the case with the Austrians.

  147 See some remarkable instances of this in Cabanis, _Rapports du
      Physique et du Moral de l’Homme_.

  148 Diog. Laërt. _Pythag._

  149 Plutarch, _De Profectibus in Virt._

  150 Diog. Laërt. _Stilpo._

  151 Clem. Alexand. _Strom._ vii.

  152 Cicero, _De Nat. Deorum_, i. 1.

  153 Lactant. _Inst. Div._ i. 5.

  154 “Pythagoras ita definivit quid esset Deus: Animus qui per universas
      mundi partes, omnemque naturam commeans atque diffusus, ex quo omnia
      quæ nascuntur animalia vitam capiunt.”—Ibid. Lactantius in this
      chapter has collected several other philosophic definitions of the
      Divinity. See too Plutarch, _De Placit. Philos._ Tertullian explains
      the stoical theory by an ingenious illustration: “Stoici enim volunt
      Deum sic per materiem decucurrisse quomodo mel per favos.”—Tert. _De

  155 As Cicero says: “Epicurus re tollit, oratione relinquit, deos.”—_De
      Nat. Deor._ i. 44.

  156 Sometimes, however, they restricted its operation to the great
      events of life. As an interlocutor in Cicero says: “Magna dii
      curant, parva negligunt.”—Cic. _De Natur. Deor._ ii. 66. Justin
      Martyr notices (_Trypho_, i.) that some philosophers maintained that
      God cared for the universal or species, but not for the individual.
      Seneca maintains that the Divinity has determined all things by an
      inexorable law of destiny, which He has decreed, but which He
      Himself obeys. (_De Provident._ v.)

  157 See on this theory Cicero, _De Natur. Deor._ i. 42; Lactantius,
      _Inst. Div._ i. 11.

  158 Diog. Laërt. _Vit. Zeno._ St. Aug. _De Civ. Dei_, iv. 11. Maximus of
      Tyre, _Dissert._ x. (in some editions xxix.) § 8. Seneca, _De
      Beneficiis_, iv. 7-8. Cic. _De Natur. Deor._ i. 15. Cicero has
      devoted the first two books of this work to the stoical theology. A
      full review of the allegorical and mythical interpretations of
      paganism is given by Eusebius, _Evang. Præpar._ lib. iii.

  159 St. Aug. _De Civ._ vii. 5.

  160 Plin. _Hist. Nat_. ii. 1.

  161 “Nec vero Deus ipse qui intelligitur a nobis, alio modo intelligi
      potest nisi mens soluta quædam et libera, segregata ab omni
      concretione mortali, omnia sentiens et movens, ipsaque prædita motu
      sempiterno.”—_Tusc. Quæst_. i. 27.

  162 Senec. _Quæst. Nat._ ii. 45.

  163 “Estne Dei sedes, nisi terra et pontus et aër.
      Et cœlum et virtus? Superos quid quærimus ultra?
      Jupiter est quodcumque vides, quodcumque moveris.”

      _Pharsal._ ix. 578-80.

  164 “Quæve anus tam excors inveniri potest, quæ illa, quæ quondam
      credebantur apud inferos portenta, extimescat?”—Cic. _De Nat. Deor._
      ii. 2.

      “Esse aliques Manes et subterranea regna ...
      Nec pueri credunt nisi qui nondum ære lavantur.”

      Juv. _Sat._ ii. 149, 152.

      See on this subject a good review by the Abbé Freppel, _Les Pères
      Apostoliques_, leçon viii.

  165 Cicero, _De Leg._ i. 14; Macrobius, _In. Som. Scip._ i. 10.

  166 See his works _De Divinatione_ and _De Nat. Deorum_, which form a
      curious contrast to the religious conservatism of the _De Legibus_,
      which was written chiefly from a political point of view.

  167 Eusebius, _Præp. Evang._ lib. iv.

  168 The oracles first gave their answers in verse, but their bad poetry
      was ridiculed, and they gradually sank to prose, and at last ceased.
      Plutarch defended the inspiration of the bad poetry on the ground
      that the inspiring spirit availed itself of the natural faculties of
      the priestess for the expression of its infallible truths—a theory
      which is still much in vogue among Biblical critics, and is, I
      believe, called dynamical inspiration. See Fontenelle, _Hist. des
      Oracles_ (1st ed.), pp. 292-293.

  169 See the famous description of Cato refusing to consult the oracle of
      Jupiter Ammon in Lucan, _Phars._ ix.; and also Arrian, ii. 7. Seneca
      beautifully says, “Vis deos propitiare? bonus esto. Satis illos
      coluit quisquis imitatus est.”—_Ep._ xcv.

  170 Cicero, _De Divin_. ii. 24.

  171 Aulus Gellius, _Noct. Att._ xv. 22.

  172 See a long string of witticisms collected by Legendre, _Traité de
      l’Opinion, ou Mémoires pour servir à l’Histoire de l’Esprit humain_
      (Venise, 1735), tome i. pp. 386-387.

  173 See Cicero, _De Natura Deorum_; Seneca, _De Brev. Vit._ c. xvi.;
      Plin. _Hist. Nat._ ii. 5; Plutarch, _De Superstitione_.

  174 “Olim truncus eram ficulnus, inutile lignum,
      Cum faber, incertus scamnum faceretne Priapum,
      Maluit esse Deum.”

      _Sat._ I. viii. 1-3.

  175 There is a very curious discussion on this subject, reported to have
      taken place between Apollonius of Tyana and an Egyptian priest. The
      former defended the Greek fashion of worshipping the Divinity under
      the form of the human image, sculptured by Phidias and Praxiteles,
      this being the noblest form we can conceive, and therefore the least
      inadequate to the Divine perfections. The latter defended the
      Egyptian custom of worshipping animals, because, as he said, it is
      blasphemous to attempt to conceive an image of the Deity, and the
      Egyptians therefore concentrate the imagination of the worshipper on
      objects that are plainly merely allegorical or symbolical, and do
      not pretend to offer any such image (_Philos. Apoll. of Tyana_, vi.
      19). Pliny shortly says, “Effigiem Dei formamque quærere
      imbecillitatis humanæ reor” (_Hist. Nat._ ii. 5). See too Max.
      Tyrius, Diss. xxxviii. There was a legend that Numa forbade all
      idols, and that for 200 years they were unknown in Rome (Plutarch,
      _Life of Numa_). Dion Chrysostom said that the Gods need no statues
      or sacrifices, but that by these means we attest our devotion to
      them (_Orat._ xxxi.). On the vanity of rich idols, see Plutarch, _De
      Superstitione_; Seneca, _Ep._ xxxi.

  176 1 Lact. _Inst. Div._ vi. 25.

  177 Dion. Halic. ii.; Polyb. vi. 56.

  178 St. Aug. _De Civ. Dei_, iv. 31.

  179 Epictetus, _Enchir._ xxxix.

  180 Cicero, speaking of the worship of deified men, says, “indicat
      omnium quidem animos immortales esse, sed fortium bonorumque
      divinos.”—_De Leg._ ii. 11. The Roman worship of the dead, which was
      the centre of the domestic religion, has been recently investigated
      with much ability by M. Coulanges (_La Cité antique_).

  181 On the minute supervision exercised by the censors on all the
      details of domestic life, see Aul. Gell. _Noct._ ii. 24; iv. 12, 20.

  182 Livy, xxxix. 6.

  183 Vell. Paterculus, i. 11-13; Eutropius, iv. 6. Sallust ascribed the
      decadence of Rome to the destruction of its rival, Carthage.

  184 Plutarch, _De Adulatore et Amico_.

  185 There is much curious information about the growth of Roman luxury
      in Pliny (_Hist. Nat._ lib. xxxiv.). The movement of decomposition
      has been lately fully traced by Mommsen (_Hist. of Rome_); Döllinger
      (_Jew and Gentile_); Denis (_ Hist. des Idées morales dans
      l’Antiquité_); Pressensé (_Hist. des trois premiers Siècles_); in
      the histories of Champagny, and in the beautiful closing chapters of
      the _Apôtres_ of Renan.

  186 Sueton. _Aug._ xvi.

  187 Ibid. _Calig._ v.

  188 Persius, _Sat._ ii.; Horace, _Ep._ i. 16, vv. 57-60.

  189 See, on the identification of the Greek and Egyptian myths,
      Plutarch’s _De Iside et Osiride_. The Greek and Roman gods were
      habitually regarded as identical, and Cæsar and Tacitus, in like
      manner, identified the deities of Gaul and Germany with those of
      their own country. See Döllinger, _Jew and Gentile_, vol. ii. pp.

  190 “Ego deûm genus esse semper dixi et dicam cœlitum; Sed eos non
      curare opinor quid agat hominum genus.”

      Cicero adds: “magno plausu loquitur assentiente populo.”—_De Divin._
      ii. 50.

  191 Plutarch, _De Superstitione_.

  192 St. Aug. _De Civ. Dei_, vi. 6; Tertul. _Apol._ 15; Arnobius, _Adv.
      Gentes_, iv.

  193 “Pars alia et hanc pellit, astroque suo eventus assignat, nascendi
      legibus; semelque in omnes futuros unquam Deo decretum; in reliquum
      vero otium datum. Sedere cœpit sententia hæc pariterque et eruditum
      vulgus et rude in eam cursu vadit. Ecce fulgurum monitus, oraculorum
      præscita, aruspicum prædicta, atque etiam parva dictu, in auguriis
      sternumenta et offensiones pedum.”—_Hist. Nat._ ii. 5. Pliny himself
      expresses great doubt about astrology giving many examples of men
      with different destinies, who had been born at the same time, and
      therefore under the same stars (vii. 50). Tacitus expresses complete
      doubt about the existence of Providence. (_Ann._ vi. 22.) Tiberius
      is said to have been very indifferent to the gods and to the worship
      of the temples, being wholly addicted to astrology and convinced
      that all things were pre-ordained. (_Suet. Tib._ lxix.)

  194 Ammianus Marcellinus, xxviii.

_  195 De Profectibus in Virt._ It was originally the custom at Roman
      feasts to sing to a pipe the actions and the virtues of the greatest
      men. (Cic. _Tusc. Quæst._ iv.)

  196 E.g. Epictetus, _Ench._ lii. Seneca is full of similar exhortations.

  197 According to Cicero, the first Latin work on philosophy was by the
      Epicurean Amafanius. (_Tusc. Quæst._ iv.)

  198 See on the great perfection of the character of Epicurus his life by
      Diogenes Laërtius, and on the purity of the philosophy he taught and
      the degree in which it was distorted and misrepresented by his Roman
      followers. Seneca _De Vita Beata_, c. xii. xiii. and _Ep._ xxi.
      Gassendi, in a very interesting little work entitled _Philosophiæ
      Epicuri Syntagma_, has abundantly proved the possibility of uniting
      Epicurean principles with a high code of morals. But probably the
      most beautiful picture of the Epicurean system is the first book of
      the _De Finibus_, in which Cicero endeavours to paint it as it would
      have been painted by its adherents. When we remember that the writer
      of this book was one of the most formidable and unflinching
      opponents of Epicureanism in all the ancient world, it must be owned
      that it would be impossible to find a grander example of that noble
      love of truth, that sublime and scrupulous justice to opponents,
      which was the pre-eminent glory of ancient philosophers, and which,
      after the destruction of philosophy, was for many centuries almost
      unknown in the world. It is impossible to doubt that Epicureanism
      was logically compatible with a very high degree of virtue. It is, I
      think, equally impossible to doubt that its practical tendency was
      towards vice.

  199 Mr. Grote gives the following very clear summary of Plato’s ethical
      theory, which he believes to be original:—“Justice is in the mind a
      condition analogous to good health and strength in the body.
      Injustice is a condition analogous to sickness, corruption,
      impotence in the body.... To possess a healthy body is desirable for
      its consequences as a means towards other constituents of happiness,
      but it is still more desirable in itself as an essential element of
      happiness _per se_, i.e., the negation of sickness, which would of
      itself make us miserable.... In like manner, the just mind blesses
      the possessor twice: first and chiefly by bringing to him happiness
      in itself; next, also, as it leads to ulterior happy results. The
      unjust mind is a curse to its possessor in itself and apart from
      results, though it also leads to ulterior results which render it
      still more a curse to him.”—Grote’s _Plato_, vol. iii. p. 131.
      According to Plutarch, Aristo of Chio defined virtue as “the health
      of the soul.” (_De Virtute Morali._)

  200 “Beata est ergo vita conveniens naturæ suæ; quæ non aliter
      contingere potest quam si primum sana mens est et in perpetuâ
      possessione sanitatis suæ.”—Seneca, _De Vita Beata_, c. iii.

  201 The famous paradox that “the sage could be happy even in the bull of
      Phalaris,” comes from the writings not of Zeno but of
      Epicurus—though the Stoics adopted and greatly admired it. (Cic.
      _Tusc._ ii. See Gassendi, _Philos. Epicuri Syntagma_, pars iii. c.

  202 “Sed nescio quomodo dum lego assentior; cum posui librum et mecum
      ipse de immortalitate animorum cœpi cogitare, assensio omnis illa
      elabitur.”—Cic. _Tusc._ i.

  203 Sallust, _Catilina_, cap. li.

  204 See that most impressive passage (_Hist. Nat._ vii. 56). That the
      sleep of annihilation is the happiest end of man is a favourite
      thought of Lucretius. Thus:

      “Nil igitur mors est, ad nos neque pertinet hilum,
      Quandoquidem natura animi mortalis habetur.”—iii. 842.

      This mode of thought has been recently expressed in Mr. Swinburne’s
      very beautiful poem on _The Garden of Proserpine_.

  205 Diog. Laërtius. The opinion of Chrysippus seems to have prevailed,
      and Plutarch (_De Placit. Philos._) speaks of it as that of the
      school. Cicero sarcastically says, “Stoici autem usuram nobis
      largiuntur, tanquam cornicibus: diu mansuros aiunt animos; semper,
      negant.”—_Tusc. Disp._ i. 31.

  206 It has been very frequently asserted that Antigonus of Socho having
      taught that virtue should be practised for its own sake, his
      disciple, Zadok, the founder of the Sadducees, inferred the
      non-existence of a future world; but the evidence for this whole
      story is exceedingly unsatisfactory. The reader may find its history
      in a very remarkable article by Mr. Twisleton on _Sadducees_, in
      Smith’s _Biblical Dictionary_.

  207 On the Stoical opinions about a future life see Martin, _La Vie
      future_ (Paris, 1858); Courdaveaux _De l’immortalité de l’âme dans
      le Stoïcisme_ (Paris, 1857); and Alger’s _Critical Hist. of the
      Doctrine of a Future Life_ (New York, 1866).

  208 His arguments are met by Cicero in the _Tusculans_.

  209 See a collection of passages from his discourses collected by M.
      Courdaveaux, in the introduction to his French translation of that

  210 Stobæus, _Eclog. Physic._ lib. i. cap. 52.

  211 In his consolations to Marcia, he seems to incline to a belief in
      the immortality, or at least the future existence, of the soul. In
      many other passages, however, he speaks of it as annihilated at

  212 “Les Stoïciens ne faisaient aucunement dépendre la morale de la
      perspective des peines ou de la rémunération dans une vie future....
      La croyance à l’immortalité de l’âme n’appartenait donc, selon leur
      manière de voir, qu’à la physique, c’est-à-dire à la
      psychologie.”—Degerando, _Hist. de la Philos._ tome iii. p. 56.

  213 “Panætius igitur, qui sine controversia de officiis accuratissime
      disputavit, quemque nos, correctione quadam adhibita, potissimum
      secuti sumus.”—_De Offic._ iii. 2.

  214 Marcus Aurelius thanks Providence, as for one of the great blessings
      of his life, that he had been made acquainted with the writings of
      Epictetus. The story is well known how the old philosopher warned
      his master, who was beating him, that he would soon break his leg,
      and when the leg was broken, calmly remarked, “I told you you would
      do so.” Celsus quoted this in opposition to the Christians, asking,
      “Did your leader under suffering ever say anything so noble?” Origen
      finely replied, “He did what was still nobler—He kept silence.” A
      Christian anchorite (some say St. Nilus, who lived in the beginning
      of the fifth century) was so struck with the _Enchiridion_ of
      Epictetus, that he adapted it to Christian use. The conversations of
      Epictetus, as reported by Arrian, are said to have been the
      favourite reading of Toussaint l’Ouverture.

  215 Tacitus had used this expression before Milton: “Quando etiam
      sapientibus cupido gloriæ novissima exuitur.”—_Hist._ iv. 6.

  216 Two remarkable instances have come down to us of eminent writers
      begging historians to adorn and even exaggerate their acts. See the
      very curious letters of Cicero to the historian Lucceius (_Ep. ad
      Divers._ v. 12); and of the younger Pliny to Tacitus (_Ep._ vii.
      33). Cicero has himself confessed that he was too fond of glory.

  217 “Unus homo nobis cunctando restituit rem;
      Non ponebat enim rumores ante salutem.”—Ennius.

  218 See the beautiful description of Cato’s tranquillity under insults.
      Seneca, _De Ira_, ii. 33; _De Const. Sap._ 1, 2.

_  219 De Officiis_, iii. 9.

_  220 Tusc._ ii. 26.

  221 Seneca, _De Vit. Beat._ c. xx.

  222 Seneca, _Ep._ cxiii.

  223 Seneca, _Ep._ lxxxi.

  224 Persius, _Sat._ i. 45-47.

  225 Epictetus, _Ench._ xxiii.

  226 Seneca, _De Ira_, iii. 41.

  227 Seneca, _Cons. ad Helv._ xiii.

  228 Marc. Aur. vii. 67.

  229 Marc. Aur. iv. 20.

  230 Pliny, _Ep._ i. 22.

  231 “Non dux, sed comes voluptas.”—_De Vit. Beat._ c. viii.

  232 “Voluptas non est merces nec causa virtutis sed accessio; nec quia
      delectat placet sed quia placet delectat.”—Ibid., c. ix.

  233 Peregrinus apud Aul. Gellius, xii. 11. Peregrinus was a Cynic, but
      his doctrine on this point was identical with that of the Stoics.

  234 Marc. Aurel. ix. 42.

  235 Marc. Aurel. v. 6.

  236 Seneca, however, in one of his letters (_Ep._ lxxv.), subtilises a
      good deal on this point. He draws a distinction between affections
      and maladies. The first, he says, are irrational, and therefore
      reprehensible movements of the soul, which, if repeated and
      unrepressed, tend to form an irrational and evil habit, and to the
      last he in this letter restricts the term disease. He illustrates
      this distinction by observing that colds and any other slight
      ailments, if unchecked and neglected, may produce an organic
      disease. The wise man, he says, is wholly free from moral disease,
      but no man can completely emancipate himself from affections, though
      he should make this his constant object.

_  237 De Clem._ ii. 6, 7.

  238 “Peccantes vero quid habet cur oderit, cum error illos in hujusmodi
      delicta compellat?”—Sen. _De Ira_, i. 14. This is a favourite
      thought of Marcus Aurelius, to which he reverts again and again.
      See, too, Arrian, i. 18.

  239 “Ergo ne homini quidem nocebimus quia peccavit sed ne peccet, nec
      unquam ad præteritum sed ad futurum pœna referetur.”—Ibid. ii. 31.
      In the philosophy of Plato, on the other hand, punishment was
      chiefly expiatory and purificatory. (Lerminier, _Introd. à
      l’Histoire du Droit_, p. 123.)

  240 Seneca, _De Constant. Sap._ v. Compare and contrast this famous
      sentence of Anaxagoras with that of one of the early Christian
      hermits. Someone told the hermit that his father was dead. “Cease
      your blasphemy,” he answered, “my father is immortal.”—Socrates,
      _Eccl. Hist._ iv 23.

  241 Epictetus, _Ench._ 16, 18.

  242 The dispute about whether anything but virtue is a good, was, in
      reality, a somewhat childish quarrel about words; for the Stoics,
      who indignantly denounced the Peripatetics for maintaining the
      affirmative, admitted that health, friends, &c., should be sought
      not as “goods” but as “preferables.” See a long discussion on this
      matter in Cicero (_De Finib._ lib. iii. iv.). The Stoical doctrine
      of the equality of all vices was formally repudiated by Marcus
      Aurelius, who maintained (ii. 10), with Theophrastus, that faults of
      desire were worse than faults of anger. The other Stoics, while
      dogmatically asserting the equality of all virtues as well as the
      equality of all vices, in their particular judgments graduated their
      praise or blame much in the same way as the rest of the world.

  243 See Seneca (_Ep._ lxxxix.). Seneca himself, however, has devoted a
      work to natural history, but the general tendency of the school was
      certainly to concentrate all attention upon morals, and all, or
      nearly all the great naturalists were Epicureans. Cicero puts into
      the mouth of the Epicurean the sentence, “Omnium autem rerum natura
      cognita levamur superstitione, liberamur mortis metu, non
      conturbamur ignoratione rerum” (_De Fin._ i.); and Virgil expressed
      an eminently Epicurean sentiment in his famous lines:—

      “Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas,
      Quique metus omnes et inexorabile fatum
      Subjecit pedibus, strepitumque
      Acherontis avari.”

      _Georg._ 490-492.

  244 Plutarch, _Cato Major_.

  245 Cicero, _Ad Attic._ vi. 2.

  246 This contrast is noticed and largely illustrated by M. Montée in his
      interesting little work _Le Stoïcisme à Rome_, and also by Legendre
      in his _Traité de l’Opinion, ou Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire de
      l’esprit humain_ (Venise, 1735).

  247 “Atque hoc quidem omnes mortales sic habent ... commoditatem
      prosperitatemque vitæ a diis se habere, virtutem autem nemo unquam
      acceptam deo retulit. Nimirum recte. Propter virtutem enim jure
      laudamur et in virtute recte gloriamur. Quod non contingeret si id
      donum a deo, non a nobis haberemus.”—Cicero, _De Nat. Deor._ iii.

_  248 Ep._ i. 18.

  249 Seneca _Ep._ lxvi.

  250 Lucretius, v. It was a Greek proverb, that Apollo begat Æsculapius
      to heal the body, and Plato to heal the soul. (Legendre, _Traité de
      l’Opinion_, tome i. p. 197.)

  251 “Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano:
      Fortem posce animum, mortis terrore carentem....
      Monstro, quod ipse tibi possis dare.”

      Juvenal, _Sat._ x. 356.

      Marcus Aurelius recommends prayer, but only that we may be freed
      from evil desires. (ix. 11.)

  252 Seneca, _Ep._ lxvi.

  253 Ibid. _Ep._ liii.

_  254 De Const. Sap._ viii.

_  255 Ench._ xlviii.

  256 Arrian, i. 12.

  257 Arrian, ii. 8. The same doctrine is strongly stated in Seneca, _Ep._

  258 Cicero, _De Nat. Deor._ ii. 66.

_  259 Ep._ lxxxiii. Somewhat similar sentiments are attributed to Thales
      and Bion (Diog. Laërt.).

_  260 Ep._ xli. There are some beautiful sentiments of this kind in
      Plutarch’s treatise, _De Sera Numinis Vindicta_. It was a saying of
      Pythagoras, that “we become better as we approach the gods.”

  261 Marc. Aur. iii. 5.

  262 Marcus Aurelius.

  263 Seneca, _Præf. Nat. Quæst._ iii.

  264 Marc. Aur. x. 25.

  265 Epict. _Ench._ xvii.

  266 Epict. _Ench._ xi.

  267 Seneca, _De Prov._ i.

  268 Ibid. iv.

  269 Marc. Aurel. ii. 2, 3.

  270 The language in which the Stoics sometimes spoke of the inexorable
      determination of all things by Providence would appear logically
      inconsistent with free will. In fact, however, the Stoics asserted
      the latter doctrine in unequivocal language, and in their practical
      ethics even exaggerated its power. Aulus Gellius (_Noct. Att._ vi.
      2) has preserved a passage in which Chrysippus exerted his subtlety
      in reconciling the two things. See, too, Arrian, i. 17.

  271 We have an extremely curious illustration of this mode of thought in
      a speech of Archytas of Tarentum on the evils of sensuality, which
      Cicero has preserved. He considers the greatest of these evils to be
      that the vice predisposes men to unpatriotic acts. “Nullam
      capitaliorem pestem quam corporis voluptatem, hominibus a natura
      datam.... Hinc patriæ proditiones, hinc rerumpublicarum eversiones,
      hinc cum hostibus clandestina colloquia nasci,” etc.—Cicero, _De
      Senect._ xii.

  272 Diog. Laërt. _Anax._

  273 “Cari sunt parentes, cari liberi, propinqui, familiares; sed omnes
      omnium caritates patria una complexa est; pro qua quis bonus dubitet
      mortem oppetere si ei sit profuturus?”—_De Offic._ i. 17.

  274 See Seneca, _Consol. ad Helviam_ and _De Otio Sapien._; and
      Plutarch, _De Exilio_. The first of these works is the basis of one
      of the most beautiful compositions in the English language,
      Bolingbroke’s _Reflections on Exile_.

_  275 De Officiis_.

_  276 Epist._ i. 10.

  277 “Tota enim philosophorum vita, ut ait idem, commentatio mortis
      est.”—Cicero, _Tusc._ i. 30, _ad fin_.

_  278 Essay on Death._

  279 Spinoza, _Ethics_, iv. 67.

  280 Camden. Montalembert notices a similar legend as existing in
      Brittany (_Les Moines d’Occident_, tome ii. p. 287). Procopius (_De
      Bello Goth._ iv. 20) says that it is impossible for men to live in
      the west of Britain, and that the district is believed to be
      inhabited by the souls of the dead.

  281 In his _De Sera Numinis Vindicta_ and his _Consolatio ad Uxorem_.

  282 In the _Phædo_, _passim_. See, too, Marc. Aurelius, ii. 12.

  283 See a very striking letter of Epicurus quoted by Diogenes Laërt. in
      his life of that philosopher. Except a few sentences, quoted by
      other writers, these letters were all that remained of the works of
      Epicurus, till the recent discovery of one of his treatises at

_  284 Tusc. Quæst._ i.

_  285 Consol. ad Polyb._ xxvii.

  286 Maury, _Hist. des Religions de la Grèce antique_, tom. i. pp.
      582-588. M. Ravaisson, in his Memoir on Stoicism (_Acad. des
      Inscriptions et Belles-lettres_, tom. xxi.) has enlarged on the
      terrorism of paganism, but has, I think, exaggerated it. Religions
      which selected games as the natural form of devotion can never have
      had any very alarming character.

  287 Plutarch, _Ad Apollonium_.

  288 Ibid.

  289 Cic. _Tusc. Quæst._ i.

  290 Philost. Apoll. of Tyan. v. 4. Hence their passion for suicide,
      which Silius Italicus commemorates in lines which I think very

      “Prodiga gens animæ et properare facillima mortem;
      Namque ubi transcendit florentes viribus annos
      Impatiens ævi, spernit novisse senectam
      Et fati modus in dextra est.”—i. 225-228.

      Valerius Maximus (ii. vi. § 12) speaks of Celts who celebrated the
      birth of men with lamentation, and their deaths with joy.

  291 Aulus Gellius, _Noctes_, i. 3.

  292 Tacitus, _Annales_, xv. 62.

  293 Sueton. _Titus_, 10.

  294 Capitolinus, _Antoninus_.

  295 See the beautiful account of his last hours given by Ammianus
      Marcellinus and reproduced by Gibbon. There are some remarks well
      worth reading about the death of Julian, and the state of thought
      that rendered such a death possible, in Dr. Newman’s _Discourses on
      University Education_, lect. ix.

  296 “Lex non pœna mors” was a favourite saying among the ancients. On
      the other hand, Tertullian very distinctly enunciated the patristic
      view, “Qui autem primordia hominis novimus, audenter determinamus
      mortem non ex natura secutam hominem sed ex culpa.”—_De Anima_, 52.

  297 Plutarch, _Ad Uxorem_.

  298 St. Augustine, _Epist._ 166.

  299 “At hoc quidem commune est omnium philosophorum, non eorum modo qui
      deum nihil habere ipsum negotii dicunt, et nihil exhibere alteri;
      sed eorum etiam, qui deum semper agere aliquid et moliri volunt,
      numquam nec irasci deum nec nocere.”—Cic. _De Offic._ iii. 28.

  300 See the refutation of the philosophic notion in Lactantius, _De Ira

  301 “Revelation,” as Lessing observes in his essay on this subject, “has
      made Death the ‘king of terrors,’ the awful offspring of sin and the
      dread way to its punishment; though to the imagination of the
      ancient heathen world, Greek or Etrurian, he was a youthful
      genius—the twin brother of Sleep, or a lusty boy with a torch held
      downwards.”—Coleridge’s _Biographia Litteraria_, cap. xxii., note by
      Sara Coleridge.

  302 “Vetat Pythagoras injussu imperatoris, id est Dei, de præsidio et
      statione vitæ decedere.”—Cic. _De Senec._ xx. If we believe the very
      untrustworthy evidence of Diog. Laërtius (_Pythagoras_) the
      philosopher himself committed suicide by starvation.

  303 See his _Laws_, lib. ix. In his _Phædon_, however, Plato went
      further, and condemned all suicide. Libanius says (_De Vita Sua_)
      that the arguments of the _Phædon_ prevented him from committing
      suicide after the death of Julian. On the other hand, Cicero
      mentions a certain Cleombrotus, who was so fascinated by the proof
      of the immortality of the soul in the _Phædon_ that he forthwith
      cast himself into the sea. Cato, as is well known, chose this work
      to study, the night he committed suicide.

  304 Arist. _Ethic._ v.

  305 See a list of these in Lactantius’ _Inst. Div._ iii. 18. Many of
      these instances rest on very doubtful evidence.

  306 Adam Smith’s _Moral Sentiments_, part vii. § 2.

  307 “Proxima deinde tenent mœsti loca qui sibi lethum
      Insontes peperere manu, lucemque perosi
      Projecere animas. Quam vellent æthere in alto
      Nunc et pauperiem et duros perferre labores.”
      —_Æneid_, vi. 434-437.

  308 Cicero has censured suicide in his _De Senectute_, in the _Somn.
      Scipionis_, and in the _Tusculans_. Concerning the death of Cato, he
      says, that the occasion was such as to constitute a divine call to
      leave life.—_Tusc._ i.

  309 Apuleius, _De Philos. Plat._ lib. i.

  310 Thus Ovid:—

      “Rebus in adversis facile est contemnere vitam,
      Fortiter ille facit qui miser esse potest.”

      See, too, Martial, xi. 56.

  311 Especially _Ep._ xxiv. Seneca desires that men should not commit
      suicide with panic or trepidation. He says that those condemned to
      death should await their execution, for “it is a folly to die
      through fear of death;” and he recommends men to support old age as
      long as their faculties remain unimpaired. On this last point,
      however, his language is somewhat contradictory. There is a good
      review of the opinions of the ancients in general, and of Seneca in
      particular, on this subject in Justus Lipsius’ _Manuductio ad
      Stoicam Philosophiam_, lib. iii. dissert. 22, 23, from which I have
      borrowed much.

  312 In his _Meditations_, ix. 3, he speaks of the duty of patiently
      awaiting death. But in iii. 1, x. 8, 22-32, he clearly recognises
      the right of suicide in some cases, especially to prevent moral
      degeneracy. It must be remembered that the _Meditations_ of Marcus
      Aurelius were private notes for his personal guidance, that all the
      Stoics admitted it to be wrong to commit suicide in cases where the
      act would be an injury to society, and that this consideration in
      itself would be sufficient to divert an emperor from the deed.
      Antoninus, the uncle, predecessor, and model of M. Aurelius, had
      considered it his duty several times to prevent Hadrian from
      committing suicide (Spartianus, _Hadrianus_). According to
      Capitolinus, Marcus Aurelius in his last illness purposely
      accelerated his death by abstinence. The duty of not hastily, or
      through cowardice, abandoning a path of duty, and the right of man
      to quit life when it appears intolerable, are combined very clearly
      by Epictetus, _Arrian_, i. 9; and the latter is asserted in the
      strongest manner, i. 24-25.

  313 Porphyry, _De Abst. Carnis_, ii. 47; Plotinus, 1st Enn. ix. Porphyry
      says (_Life of Plotinus_) that Plotinus dissuaded him from suicide.
      There is a good epitome of the arguments of this school against
      suicide in Macrobius, _In Som. Scip._ 1.

  314 Quoted by Seneca, _Ep._ xxvi. Cicero states the Epicurean doctrine
      to be, “Ut si tolerabiles sint dolores, feramus, sin minus æquo
      animo e vita, cum ea non placet, tanquam e theatro, exeamus” (_De
      Finib._ i. 15); and again, “De Diis immortalibus sine ullo metu vera
      sentit. Non dubitat, si ita melius sit, de vita migrare.”—Id. i. 19.

  315 This is noticed by St. Jerome.

  316 Corn. Nepos, _Atticus_. He killed himself when an old man, to
      shorten a hopeless disease.

  317 Petronius, who was called the arbitrator of tastes (“elegantiæ
      arbiter”), was one of the most famous voluptuaries of the reign of
      Nero. Unlike most of his contemporaries, however, he was endowed
      with the most exquisite and refined taste; his graceful manners
      fascinated all about him, and made him in matters of pleasure the
      ruler of the Court. Appointed Proconsul of Bithynia, and afterwards
      Consul, he displayed the energies and the abilities of a statesman.
      A Court intrigue threw him out of favour; and believing that his
      death was resolved on, he determined to anticipate it by suicide.
      Calling his friends about him, he opened his veins, shut them, and
      opened them again; prolonged his lingering death till he had
      arranged his affairs; discoursed in his last moments, not about the
      immortality of the soul or the dogmas of philosophers, but about the
      gay songs and epigrams of the hour; and partaking of a cheerful
      banquet, died as recklessly as he had lived. (Tacit. _Annal._ xvi.
      18-19.) It has been a matter of much dispute whether or not this
      Petronius was the author of the _Satyricon_, one of the most
      licentious and repulsive works in Latin literature.

  318 Seneca, _De Vita Beata_, xix.

  319 “Imperfectæ vero in homine naturæ præcipua solatia, ne Deum quidem
      posse omnia; namque nec sibi potest mortem consciscere si velit,
      quod homini dedit optimum in tantis vitæ pœnis.”—_Hist. Nat._ ii. 5.

_  320 Hist. Nat._ ii. 63. We need not be surprised at this writer thus
      speaking of sudden death, “Mortes repentinæ (hoc est summa vitæ
      felicitas),” vii. 54.

_  321 Tusc. Quæst._ lib. 1. Another remarkable example of an epidemic of
      suicide occurred among the young girls of Miletus. (_Aul. Gell._ xv.

  322 Sir Cornewall Lewis, _On the Credibility of Early Roman History_,
      vol. ii. p. 430. See, too, on this class of suicides, Cromaziano,
      _Istorica Critica del Suicidio_ (Venezia, 1788), pp. 81-82. The real
      name of the author of this book (which is, I think, the best history
      of suicide) was Buonafede. He was a Celestine monk. The book was
      first published at Lucca in 1761. It was translated into French in

  323 Senec. _De Provid._ ii.; _Ep._ xxiv.

  324 See some examples of this in Seneca, _Ep._ lxx.

  325 See a long catalogue of suicides arising from this cause, in
      Cromaziano, _Ist. del Suicidio_, pp. 112-114.

_  326 Consol. ad Marc._ c. xx.

_  327 De Ira_, iii. 15.

_  328 Ep._ lxx.

  329 See Donne’s _Biathanatos_ (London, 1700), pp. 56-57. Gibbon’s
      _Decline and Fall_, ch. xliv. Blackstone, in his chapter on suicide,
      quotes the sentence of the Roman lawyers on the subject: “Si quis
      impatientia doloris aut tædio vitæ aut morbo aut furore aut pudore
      mori maluit non animadvertatur in eum.” Ulpian expressly asserts
      that the wills of suicides were recognised by law, and numerous
      examples of the act, notoriously prepared and publicly and gradually
      accomplished, prove its legality in Rome. Suetonius, it is true,
      speaks of Claudius accusing a man for having tried to kill himself
      (Claud, xvi.), and Xiphilin says (lxix. 8) that Hadrian gave special
      permission to the philosopher Euphrates to commit suicide, “on
      account of old age and disease;” but in the first case it appears
      from the context that a reproach and not a legal action was meant,
      while Euphrates, I suppose, asked permission to show his loyalty to
      the emperor, and not as a matter of strict necessity. There were,
      however, some Greek laws condemning suicide, probably on civic
      grounds. Josephus mentions (_De Bell. Jud._ iii. 8) that in some
      nations “the right hand of the suicide was amputated, and that in
      Judea the suicide was only buried after sunset.” A very strange law,
      said to have been derived from Greece, is reported to have existed
      at Marseilles. Poison was kept by the senate of the city, and given
      to those who could prove that they had sufficient reason to justify
      their desire for death, and all other suicide was forbidden. The law
      was intended, it was said, to prevent hasty suicide, and to make
      deliberate suicide as rapid and painless as possible. (Valer.
      Maximus, ii. 6, § 7.) In the Reign of Terror in France, a law was
      made similar to that of Domitian. (Carlyle’s _Hist. of the French
      Revolution_, book v. c. ii.)

  330 Compare with this a curious “order of the day,” issued by Napoleon
      in 1802, with the view of checking the prevalence of suicide among
      his soldiers. (Lisle, _Du Suicide_, pp. 462-463.)

  331 See Suetonius, _Otho._ c. x.-xi., and the very fine description in
      Tacitus, _Hist._ lib. ii. c. 47-49. Martial compares the death of
      Otho to that of Cato:

      “Sit Cato, dum vivit, sane vel Cæsare major;
      Dum moritur, numquid major Othone fuit?”
      —_Ep._ vi. 32.

  332 Xiphilin, lxviii. 12.

  333 Tacit. _Hist._ ii. 49. Suet. _Otho_, 12. Suetonius says that, in
      addition to these, many soldiers who were not present killed
      themselves on hearing the news.

  334 Ibid. _Annal._ xiv. 9.

  335 Plin. _Hist. Nat._ vii. 54. The opposite faction attributed this
      suicide to the maddening effects of the perfumes burnt on the pile.

  336 Tacit. _Annal._ vi. 26.

  337 Plin. _Ep._ i. 12.

  338 This history is satirically and unfeelingly told by Lucian. See,
      too, Ammianus Marcellinus, xxix. 1.

  339 Sophocles.

  340 Arrian, i. 24.

  341 Seneca, _Ep._ lviii.

  342 Stobæus. One of the most deliberate suicides recorded was that of a
      Greek woman of ninety years old.—Val. Maxim. ii. 6, § 8.

  343 Plin. _Ep._ iii. 7. He starved himself to death.

_  344 Ep._ i. 22. Some of Pliny’s expressions are remarkable:—“Id ego
      arduum in primis et præcipua laude dignum puto. Nam impetu quodam et
      instinctu procurrere ad mortem, commune cum multis: deliberare vero
      et causas ejus expendere, utque suaserit ratio, vitæ mortisque
      consilium suscipere vel ponere, ingentis est animi.” In this case
      the doctors pronounced that recovery was possible, and the suicide
      was in consequence averted.

  345 Lib. vi. _Ep._ xxiv.

_  346 Ep._ lxxvii. On the former career of Marcellinus, see _Ep._ xxix.

  347 See the very beautiful lines of Statius:—

      “Urbe fuit media nulli concessa potentum
      Ara Deum, mitis posuit Clementia sedem:
      Et miseri fecere sacram, sine supplice numquam
      Illa novo; nulla damnavit vota repulsa.
      Auditi quicunque rogant, noctesque diesque
      Ire datum, et solis numen placare querelis.
      Parca superstitio; non thurea flamma, nec altus
      Accipitur sanguis, lachrymis altaria sudant ...
      Nulla autem effigies, nulli commissa metallo
      Forma Deæ, mentes habitare et pectora gaudet.
      Semper habet trepidos, semper locus horret egenis
      Cœtibus, ignotæ tantum felicibus aræ.”—_Thebaid_, xii. 481-496.

      This altar was very old, and was said to have been founded by the
      descendants of Hercules. Diodorus of Sicily, however, makes a
      Syracusan say that it was brought from Syracuse (lib. xiii. 22).
      Marcus Aurelius erected a temple to “Beneficentia” on the Capitol.
      (Xiphilin, lib. lxxi. 34.)

  348 Herodotus, vi. 21.

  349 See Arrian’s _Epictetus_, i. 9. The very existence of the word
      φιλανθρωπία shows that the idea was not altogether unknown.

  350 Diog. Laërt. _Pyrrho_. There was a tradition that Pythagoras had
      himself penetrated to India, and learnt philosophy from the
      gymnosophists. (Apuleius, _Florid._ lib. ii. c. 15.)

  351 This aspect of the career of Alexander was noticed in a remarkable
      passage of a treatise ascribed to Plutarch (_De Fort. Alex._).
      “Conceiving he was sent by God to be an umpire between all, and to
      unite all together, he reduced by arms those whom he could not
      conquer by persuasion, and formed of a hundred diverse nations one
      single universal body, mingling, as it were, in one cup of
      friendship the customs, marriages, and laws of all. He desired that
      all should regard the whole world as their common country, ... that
      every good man should be esteemed a Hellene, every evil man a
      barbarian.” See on this subject the third lecture of Mr. Merivale
      (whose translation of Plutarch I have borrowed) _On the Conversion
      of the Roman Empire_.

  352 They were both born about B.C. 250. See Sir C. Lewis, _Credibility
      of Early Roman History_, vol. i. p. 82.

  353 Aulus Gellius mentions the indignation of Marcus Cato against a
      consul named Albinus, who had written in Greek a Roman history, and
      prefaced it by an apology for his faults of style, on the ground
      that he was writing in a foreign language. (_Noct. Att._ xi. 8.)

  354 See a vivid picture of the Greek influence upon Rome, in Mommsen’s
      _Hist. of Rome_ (Eng. trans.), vol. iii. pp. 423-426.

  355 Plin. _Hist. Nat._ vii. 31.

  356 See Friedlænder, _Mœurs romaines du règne d’Auguste à la fin des
      Antonins_ (French trans., 1865), tome i. pp. 6-7.

  357 See the curious catalogue of Greek love terms in vogue (Lucretius,
      lib. iv. line 1160, &c.). Juvenal, more than a hundred years later,
      was extremely angry with the Roman ladies for making love in Greek
      (_Sat._ vi. lines 190-195). Friedlænder remarks that there is no
      special term in Latin for to ask in marriage (tome i. p. 354).

  358 Aul. Gell. _Noct._ xv. 4; Vell. Paterculus, ii. 65. The people were
      much scandalised at this elevation, and made epigrams about it.
      There is a curious catalogue of men who at different times rose in
      Rome from low positions to power and dignity, in Legendre, _Traité
      de l’Opinion_, tome ii. pp. 254-255.

  359 Dion Cassius, xlviii. 32. Plin. _Hist. Nat._ v. 5; vii. 44.

  360 The history of the influence of freedmen is minutely traced by
      Friedlænder, _Mœurs romaines du règne d’Auguste à la fin des
      Antonins_, tome i. pp. 58-93. Statius and Martial sang their

  361 See Tacit. _Ann._ vi. 23-25.

  362 On the Roman journeys, see the almost exhaustive dissertation of
      Friedlænder, tome ii.

  363 Joseph. (_Antiq._ xvii. 11, § 1) says above 8,000 Jews resident in
      Rome took part in a petition to Cæsar. If these were all adult
      males, the total number of Jewish residents must have been extremely

  364 See the famous fragment of Seneca cited by St. Augustin (_De Civ.
      Dei_, vi. 11): “Usque eo sceleratissimæ gentis consuetudo convaluit,
      ut per omnes jam terras recepta sit: victi victoribus leges
      dederunt.” There are numerous scattered allusions to the Jews in
      Horace, Juvenal, and Martial.

  365 The Carthaginian influence was specially conspicuous in early
      Christian history. Tertullian and Cyprian (both Africans) are justly
      regarded as the founders of Latin theology. (See Milman’s _Latin
      Christianity_ (ed. 1867), vol. i. pp. 35-36.)

  366 Milo had emancipated some slaves to prevent them from being tortured
      as witnesses. (_Cic. Pro Milo._) This was made illegal. The other
      reasons for enfranchisement are given by Dion. Halicarn. _Antiq._
      lib. iv.

  367 This subject is fully treated by Wallon, _Hist. de l’Esclavage dans

  368 Senec. _De Clemen._ i. 24.

  369 See, on the prominence and the insolence of the freedmen, Tacit.
      _Annal._ iii. 26-27.

  370 Montesquieu, _Décadence des Romains_, ch. xiii.

  371 See the very curious speech attributed to Camillus (Livy, v. 52).

  372 “Caritas generis humani.”—_De Finib._ So, too, he speaks (_De Leg._
      i. 23) of every good man as “civis totius mundi.”

  373 He speaks of Rome as “civitas ex nationum conventu constituta.”

_  374 De Legib._ i. 7.

_  375 De Offic._

  376 Ibid. iii. 6.

_  377 De Offic._ iii. 6.

_  378 De Legib._ i. 15.

  379 “Tunc genus humanum positis sibi consulat armis,
      Inque vicem gens omnis amet.”
      —_Pharsalia_, vi.

_  380 Ep._ xcv.

_  381 Ep._ xxxi.

_  382 De Vita Beata_, xx.

  383 Arrian, ii. 10.

  384 vi. 44.

  385 “Hæc duri immota Catonis
      Secta fuit, servare modum, finemque tenere,
      Naturamque sequi, patriæque impendere vitam,
      Nec sibi sed toti genitum se credere mundo.”

      Lucan, _Phars._ ii. 380-383.

  386 There is a passage on this subject in one of the letters of Pliny,
      which I think extremely remarkable, and to which I can recall no
      pagan parallel:—“Nuper me cujusdam amici languor admonuit, optimos
      esse nos dum infirmi sumus. Quem enim infirmum aut avaritia aut
      libido solicitat? Non amoribus servit, non appetit honores ... tunc
      deos, tunc hominem esse se meminit.”—Plin. _Ep._ vii. 26.

_  387 Ep._ viii. 16. He says: “Hominis est enim affici dolore, sentire,
      resistere tamen, et solatia admittere, non solatiis non egere.”

  388 This characteristic of Stoicism is well noticed in Grant’s
      _Aristotle_, vol. i. p. 254. The first volume of this work contains
      an extremely good review of the principles of the Stoics.

  389 Cie. _De Finib._ lib. iv.

  390 Arrian, _Epict._ ii. 14.

  391 Ibid. i. 9.

  392 Ibid. i. 14.

  393 Ibid. i. 16.

  394 Arrian, ii. 8.

  395 Plutarch, _De Profect. in Virt._ This precept was enforced by Bishop
      Sanderson in one of his sermons. (Southey’s _Commonplace Book_, vol.
      i. p. 92.)

  396 Diog. Laërt. _Pythagoras_.

  397 Thus Cicero makes Cato say: “Pythagoreorumque more, exercendæ
      memoriæ gratia, quid quoque die dixerim, audiverim, egerim,
      commemoro vesperi.”—_De Senect._ xi.

  398 Ibid.

_  399 Sermon_, i. 4.

  400 He even gave up, for a time, eating meat, in obedience to the
      Pythagorean principles. (_Ep._ cviii.) Seneca had two masters of
      this school, Sextius and Sotion. He was at this time not more than
      seventeen years old. (See Aubertin, _Étude critique sur les Rapports
      supposés entre Sénèque et St. Paul_, p. 156.)

  401 See his very beautiful description of the self-examination of
      Sextius and of himself. (_De Ira_, iii. 36.)

  402 Arrian, ii. 18. Compare the _Manual_ of Epictetus, xxxiv.

  403 “Quod de Romulo ægre creditum est, omnes pari consensu præsumserunt,
      Marcum cœlo receptum esse.”—Aur. Vict. _Epit._ xvi. “Deusque etiam
      nunc habetur.”—Capitolinus.

  404 The first book of his _Meditations_ was written on the borders of
      the Granua, in Hungary.

  405 i. 14.

  406 See his touching letter to Fronto, who was about to engage in a
      debate with Herod Atticus.

  407 i. 6-15. The eulogy he passed on his Stoic master Apollonius is
      worthy of notice. Apollonius furnished him with an example of the
      combination of extreme firmness and gentleness.

  408 E.g. “Beware of Cæsarising.” (vi. 30.) “Be neither a tragedian nor a
      courtesan.” (v. 28.) “Be just and temperate and a follower of the
      gods; but be so with simplicity, for the pride of modesty is the
      worst of all.” (xii. 27.)

  409 iii. 4.

  410 i. 17.

  411 v. 1.

  412 ix. 29.

  413 viii. 59.

  414 xi. 18.

  415 ix. 11.

  416 viii. 15.

  417 vii. 70.

  418 vii. 63.

  419 vii. 22.

  420 Mr. Maurice, in this respect, compares and contrasts him very
      happily with Plutarch. “Like Plutarch, the Greek and Roman
      characters were in Marcus Aurelius remarkably blended; but, unlike
      Plutarch, the foundation of his mind was Roman. He was a student
      that he might more effectually carry on the business of an
      emperor.”—_Philosophy of the First Six Centuries_, p. 32.

  421 vi. 47.

  422 Capitolinus, Aurelius Victor.

  423 M. Suckau, in his admirable _Étude sur Marc-Aurèle_, and M. Renan,
      in a very acute and learned _Examen de quelques faits relatifs à
      l’impératrice Faustine_ (read before the Institut, August 14, 1867),
      have shown the extreme uncertainty of the stories about the
      debaucheries of Faustina, which the biographers of Marcus Aurelius
      have collected. It will be observed that the emperor himself has
      left an emphatic testimony to her virtue, and to the happiness he
      derived from her (i. 17); that the earliest extant biographer of
      Marcus Aurelius was a generation later; and that the infamous
      character of Commodus naturally predisposed men to imagine that he
      was not the son of so perfect an emperor.

  424 “Quid me fletis, et non magis de pestilentia et communi morte
      cogitatis?” Capitolinus, _M. Aurelius_.

  425 Ibid.

  426 Many examples of this are given by Coulanges, _La Cité antique_, pp.

  427 All this is related by Suetonius, _August_.

  428 Tacit. _Annal._ iv. 36.

  429 See, e.g., the sentiments of the people about Julius Cæsar, Sueton.
      _J. C._ lxxxviii.

  430 Sueton. _Vesp._ xxiii.

  431 “Qualis artifex pereo” were his dying words.

  432 See Sueton. _Calig._ 1.

  433 Sueton. _Calig._ xxii. A statue of Jupiter is said to have burst out
      laughing just before the death of this emperor.

  434 Seneca, _De Ira_, i. 46; Sueton. _Calig._ xxii.

  435 Lampridius, _Heliogab._

  436 Senec. _De Clemen._ i. 18.

  437 Tacit. _Annal._ iii. 36.

  438 Senec. _De Benefic._ iii. 26.

  439 Tacit. _Annal._ i. 73. Tiberius refused to allow this case to be
      proceeded with. See, too, Philost. _Apollonius of Tyana_, i. 15.

  440 Suet. _Tiber._ lviii.

  441 “Mulier quædam, quod semel exuerat ante statuam Domitiani, damnata
      et interfecta est.”—Xiphilin, lxvii. 12.

  442 “Eos demum, qui nihil præterquam de libertate cogitent, dignos esse,
      qui Romani fiant.”—Livy, viii. 21.

  443 Valerius Maximus, iv. 3, § 14.

  444 See the picture of this scene in Tacitus, _Hist._ iii. 83.

  445 Dion. Halicarnass.

  446 “Divina Natura dedit agros; ars humana ædificavit urbes.”

  447 See a collection of passages from these writers in Wallon, _Hist. de
      l’Esclavage_, tome ii. pp. 378-379. Pliny, in the first century,
      noticed (_Hist. Nat._ xviii. 7) that the _latifundia_, or system of
      large properties, was ruining both Italy and the provinces, and that
      six landlords whom Nero killed were the possessors of half Roman

  448 Tacit. _Annal._ xii. 43. The same complaint had been made still
      earlier by Tiberius, in a letter to the Senate. (_Annal._ iii. 54.)

  449 Augustus, for a time, contemplated abolishing the distributions, but
      soon gave up the idea. (Suet. _Aug._ xlii.) He noticed that it had
      the effect of causing the fields to be neglected.

  450 M. Wallon has carefully traced this history. (_Hist. de l’Esclav._
      tome iii. pp. 294-297.)

  451 Livy, iv. 59-60. Florus, i. 12.

  452 Livy, xxiv. 49.

  453 Sallust, _Bell. Jugurth._ 84-86.

  454 Livy, xxxix. 6.

  455 “Primus Cæsarum fidem militis etiam præmio pigneratus.”—Suet.
      _Claud._ x.

  456 See Tacitus, _Annal._ xiii. 35; _Hist._ ii. 69.

  457 M. Sismondi thinks that the influence of Christianity in subduing
      the spirit of revolt, if not in the army, at least in the people,
      was very great. He says: “Il est remarquable qu’en cinq ans, sept
      prétendans au trône, tous bien supérieurs à Honorius en courage, en
      talens et en vertus, furent successivement envoyés captifs à Ravenne
      ou punis de mort, que le peuple applaudit toujours à ces jugemens et
      ne se sépara point de l’autorité légitime, tant la doctrine du droit
      divin des rois que les évêques avoient commencé à prêcher sous
      Théodose avoit fait de progrès, et tant le monde romain sembloit
      determiné à périr avec un monarque imbécile plutôt que tenté de se
      donner un sauveur.”—_Hist. de la Chute de l’Empire romain_, tome i.
      p. 221.

  458 See Gibbon, ch. v.; Merivale’s _Hist. of Rome_, ch. lxvii. It was
      thought that troops thus selected would be less likely to revolt.
      Constantine abolished the Prætorians.

  459 The gladiatorial shows are treated incidentally by most Roman
      historians, but the three works from which I have derived most
      assistance in this part of my subject are the _Saturnalia_ of Justus
      Lipsius, Magnin, _Origines du Théâtre_ (an extremely learned and
      interesting book, which was unhappily never completed), and
      Friedlænder’s _Roman Manners from Augustus to the Antonines_ (the
      second volume of the French translation). M. Wallon has also
      compressed into a few pages (_Hist. de l’Esclavage_, tome ii. pp.
      129-139) much information on the subject.

  460 Hence the old name of _bustuarii_ (from _bustum_, a funeral pile)
      given to gladiators (Nieupoort, _De Ritibus Romanorum_, p. 514).
      According to Pliny (_Hist. Nat._ xxx. 3), “regular human sacrifices
      were only abolished in Rome by a decree of the senate, B.C. 97,” and
      there are some instances of them at a still later period. Much
      information about them is collected by Sir C. Lewis, _Credibility of
      Roman History_, vol. ii. p. 430; Merivale, _Conversion of the Roman
      Empire_, pp. 230-233; Legendre, _Traité de l’Opinion_, vol. i. pp.
      229-231. Porphyry, in his _De Abstinentia Carnis_, devoted
      considerable research to this matter. Games were habitually
      celebrated by wealthy private individuals, during the early part of
      the empire, at the funerals of their relatives, but their mortuary
      character gradually ceased, and after Marcus Aurelius they had
      become mere public spectacles, and were rarely celebrated at Rome by
      private men. (See Wallon, _Hist. de l’Esclav._ tome ii. pp.
      135-136.) The games had then really passed into their purely secular
      stage, though they were still nominally dedicated to Mars and Diana,
      and though an altar of Jupiter Latiaris stood in the centre of the
      arena. (Nieupoort, p. 365.)

  461 Cicero, _Tusc._ lib. ii.

  462 Capitolinus, _Maximus et Balbinus_. Capitolinus says this is the
      most probable origin of the custom, though others regarded it as a
      sacrifice to appease Nemesis by an offering of blood.

  463 Much curious information on this subject may be found in
      Friedlænder, _Mœurs romaines_, liv. vi. ch. i. Very few Roman
      emperors ventured to disregard or to repress these outcries, and
      they led to the fall of several of the most powerful ministers of
      the empire. On the whole these games represent the strangest and
      most ghastly form political liberty has ever assumed. On the other
      hand, the people readily bartered all genuine freedom for abundant

  464 Valer. Maximus, ii. 4, § 7.

  465 On the gladiators at banquets, see J. Lipsius, _Saturnalia_, lib. i.
      c. vi., Magnin; _Origines du Théâtre_, pp. 380-385. This was
      originally an Etruscan custom, and it was also very common at Capua.
      As Silius Italicus says:—

      “Exhilarare viris convivia cæde Mos olim, et miscere epulis
      spectacula dira.”

      Verus, the colleague of Marcus Aurelius, was especially addicted to
      this kind of entertainment. (Capitolinus, _Verus_.) See, too,
      Athenæus iv. 40, 41.

  466 Senec. _De Brevit. Vit._ c. xiii.

  467 Sueton. _J. Cæsar_, xxvi. Pliny (_Ep._ vi. 34) commends a friend for
      having given a show in memory of his departed wife.

  468 Pliny, _Hist. Nat._ xxxiii. 16.

  469 Sueton. _Cæsar_, x.; Dion Cassius, xliii. 24.

  470 Sueton. _Aug._ xxix. The history of the amphitheatres is given very
      minutely by Friedlænder, who, like nearly all other antiquaries,
      believes this to have been the first of stone. Pliny mentions the
      existence, at an earlier period, of two connected wooden theatres,
      which swung round on hinges and formed an amphitheatre. (_Hist.
      Nat._ xxxvi. 24.)

  471 Dion Cassius, liv. 2. It appears, however, from an inscription, that
      10,000 gladiators fought in the reign and by the command of
      Augustus. Wallon_, Hist. de l’Esclavage_, tome ii. p. 133.

  472 Sueton. _Tiber._ xxxiv. Nero made another slight restriction (Tacit.
      _Annal._ xiii. 31), which appears to have been little observed.

  473 Martial notices (_Ep._ iii. 59) and ridicules a spectacle given by a
      shoemaker at Bologna, and by a fuller at Modena.

  474 Epictetus, _Enchir._ xxxiii. § 2.

  475 Arrian, iii. 15.

  476 See these points minutely proved in Friedlænder.

  477 Suet. _Aug._ xliv. This was noticed before by Cicero. The Christian
      poet Prudentius dwelt on this aspect of the games in some forcible

      “Virgo modesta jubet converso pollice rumpi
      Ne lateat pars ulla animæ vitalibus imis
      Altius impresso dum palpitat ense secutor.”

  478 Sueton. _Tiberius_, xl. Tacitus, who gives a graphic description of
      the disaster (_Annal._ iv. 62-63), says 50,000 persons were killed
      or wounded.

  479 Tacit. _Annal._ xiii. 49.

  480 Joseph. _Bell. Jud._ vi. 9.

  481 See the very curious picture which Livy has given (xli. 20) of the
      growth of the fascination.

  482 Joseph. _Antiq. Jud._ xix. 7.

  483 Lucian, _Demonax_.

  484 Philost. _Apoll._ iv. 22.

  485 Friedlænder, tome ii. pp. 95-96. There are, however, several extant
      Greek inscriptions relating to gladiators, and proving the existence
      of the shows in Greece. Pompeii, which was a Greek colony, had a
      vast amphitheatre, which we may still admire; and, under Nero, games
      were prohibited at Pompeii for ten years, in consequence of a riot
      that broke out during a gladiatorial show. (Tacit. _Annal._ xiv.
      17.) After the defeat of Perseus, Paulus Emilius celebrated a show
      in Macedonia. (Livy, xli. 20.)

  486 These are fully discussed by Magnin and Friedlænder. There is a very
      beautiful description of a ballet, representing the “Judgment of
      Paris,” in Apuleius, _Metamorph._ x.

  487 Pacuvius and Accius were the founders of Roman tragedy. The
      abridger, Velleius Paterculus, who is the only Roman historian who
      pays any attention to literary history, boasts that the latter might
      rank honourably with the best Greek tragedians. He adds, “ut in
      illis [the Greeks] limæ, in hoc pœne plus videatur fuisse
      sanguinis.”—_Hist. Rom._ ii. 9.

  488 Thus, e.g., Hobbes: “Alienæ calamitatis contemptus nominatur
      crudelitas, proceditque a propriæ securitatis opinione. Nam ut
      aliquis sibi placeat in malis alienis sine alio fine, videtur mihi
      impossibile.”—_Leviathan_, pars i. c. vi.

  489 Sueton. _Claudius_, xxxiv.

  490 “Et verso pollice vulgi
      Quemlibet occidunt populariter.”—Juvenal, _Sat._ iii. 36-37.

  491 Besides the many incidental notices scattered through the Roman
      historians, and through the writings of Seneca, Plutarch, Juvenal,
      and Pliny, we have a curious little book, _De Spectaculis_, by
      Martial—a book which is not more horrible from the atrocities it
      recounts than from the perfect absence of all feeling of repulsion
      or compassion it everywhere displays.

  492 These are but a few of the many examples given by Magnin, who has
      collected a vast array of authorities on the subject. (_Origines du
      Théâtre_, pp. 445-453.) M. Mongez has devoted an interesting memoir
      to “Les animaux promenés ou tués dans le cirque.” (_Mém. de l’Acad.
      des Inscrip. et Belles-lettres_, tome x.) See, too, Friedlænder.
      Pliny rarely gives an account of any wild animal without
      accompanying it by statistics about its appearances in the arena.
      The first instance of a wild beast hunt in the amphitheatre is said
      to be that recorded by Livy (xxxix. 22), which took place about 80

  493 Capitolinus, _Gordiani_.

  494 Vopiscus, _Aurelian_.

  495 Xiphilin, lxviii. 15.

  496 Tacit. _Annal._ xv. 44.

  497 Xiphilin, lxvii. 8; Statius, _Sylv._ i. 6.

  498 During the Republic, a rich man ordered in his will that some women
      he had purchased for the purpose should fight in the funeral games
      to his memory, but the people annulled the clause. (Athenæeus, iv.
      39.) Under Nero and Domitian, female gladiators seem to have been
      not uncommon. See Statius, _Sylv._ i. 6; Sueton. _Domitian_, iv.;
      Xiphilin, lxvii. 8. Juvenal describes the enthusiasm with which
      Roman ladies practised with the gladiatorial weapons (_Sat._ vi.
      248, &c.), and Martial (_De Spectac._ vi.) mentions the combats of
      women with wild beasts. One, he says, killed a lion. A combat of
      female gladiators, under Severus, created some tumult, and it was
      decreed that they should no longer be permitted. (Xiphilin, lxxv.
      16.) See Magnin, pp. 434-435.

  499 Martial, _De Spectac._ vii.

  500 Ibid. _Ep._ viii. 30.

  501 Tertullian, _Ad Nation._ i. 10. One of the most ghastly features of
      the games was the comic aspect they sometimes assumed. This was the
      case in the combats of dwarfs. There were also combats by
      blind-folded men. Petronius (_Satyricon_, c. xlv.) has given us a
      horrible description of the maimed and feeble men who were sometimes
      compelled to fight. People afflicted with epilepsy were accustomed
      to drink the blood of the wounded gladiators, which they believed to
      be a sovereign remedy. (Pliny, _Hist. Nat._ xxviii. 2; Tertul.
      _Apol._ ix.)

  502 “Nec unquam sine humano cruore cœnabat”—Lactan. _De Mort. Persec._
      Much the same thing is told of the Christian emperor Justinian II.,
      who lived at the end of the seventh century. (Sismondi, _Hist. de la
      Chute de l’Empire Romain_, tome ii. p. 85.)

  503 Winckelmann says the statue called “The Dying Gladiator” does not
      represent a gladiator. At a later period, however, statues of
      gladiators were not uncommon, and Pliny notices (_Hist. Nat._ xxxv.
      33) paintings of them. A fine specimen of mosaic portraits of
      gladiators is now in the Lateran Museum.

  504 Plutarch’s _Life of Cæsar_.

  505 Dion Cassius, li. 7.

  506 Faustina, the wife of Marcus Aurelius, was especially accused of
      this weakness. (Capitolinus, _Marcus Aurelius_.)

  507 Seneca, _De Provident._ iv.

  508 Arrian’s _Epictetus_, i. 29.

  509 Seneca, _De Provident._ iii.

  510 Aulus Gellius, xii. 5.

  511 Cicero, _Tusc._ lib. ii.

  512 Some Equites fought under Julius Cæsar, and a senator named Fulvius
      Setinus wished to fight, but Cæsar prevented him. (Suet. _Cæsar_,
      xxxix.; Dion Cassius, xliii. 23.) Nero, according to Suetonius,
      compelled men of the highest rank to fight. Laws prohibiting
      patricians from fighting were several times made and violated.
      (Friedlænder, pp. 39-41.) Commodus is said to have been himself
      passionately fond of fighting as a gladiator. Much, however, of what
      Lampridius relates on this point is perfectly incredible. On the
      other hand, the profession of the gladiator was constantly spoken of
      as infamous; but this oscillation between extreme admiration and
      contempt will surprise no one who has noticed the tone continually
      adopted about prize-fighters in England, and about the members of
      some other professions on the Continent. Juvenal dwells (_Sat._
      viii. 197-210) with great indignation on an instance of a patrician

  513 “Quis mediocris gladiator ingemuit, quis vultum mutavit
      unquam?”—Cic. _Tusc. Quæst._ lib. ii.

  514 E.g. Clem. Alex. _Strom._ iii. There is a well-known passage of this
      kind in Horace, _Ars Poet._ 412-415. The comparison of the good man
      to an athlete or gladiator, which St. Paul employed, occurs also in
      Seneca and Epictetus, from which some have inferred that they must
      have known the writings of the Apostle. M. Denis, however, has shown
      (_Idées morales dans l’Antiquité_, tome ii. p. 240) that the same
      comparison had been used, before the rise of Christianity, by Plato,
      Æschines, and Cicero.

_  515 Confess._ vi. 8.

  516 “[Servi] etsi per fortunam in omnia obnoxii, tamen quasi secundum
      hominum genus sunt.”—Florus, _Hist._ iii. 20.

  517 Macrinus, however, punished fugitive slaves by compelling them to
      fight as gladiators. (Capitolinus, _Macrinus_.)

  518 Tacit. _Annal._ xii. 56. According to Friedlænder, however, there
      were two classes of criminals. One class were condemned only to
      fight, and pardoned if they conquered; the others were condemned to
      fight till death, and this was considered an aggravation of capital

  519 “Ad conciliandum plebis favorem effusa largitio, quum spectaculis
      indulget, supplicia quondam hostium artem facit.”—Florus, iii. 12.

_  520 Tusc. Quæst._ ii. 17.

  521 See his magnificent letter on the subject. (_Ep._ vii.)

  522 In his two treatises _De Esu Carnium_.

  523 Pliny. _Ep._ iv. 22.

  524 Xiphilin, lxxi. 29. Capitolinus, _M. Aurelius_. The emperor also
      once carried off the gladiators to a war with his army, much to the
      indignation of the people. (Capit.) He has himself noticed the
      extreme weariness he felt at the public amusements he was obliged to
      attend. (vii. 3.)

  525 Sueton. _Titus_, viii.

  526 “Visum est spectaculum inde non enerve nec fluxum, nec quod animos
      virorum molliret et frangeret, sed quod ad pulchra vulnera
      contemptumque mortis accenderet.”—Pliny, _Paneg._ xxxiii.

  527 “Præterea tanto consensu rogabaris, ut negare non constans sed durum
      videretur.”—Plin. _Epist._ vi. 34.

  528 Symmach. _Epist._ ii. 46.

  529 Sueton. _Domitian_, iii. It is very curious that the same emperor,
      about the same time (the beginning of his reign), had such a horror
      of bloodshed that he resolved to prohibit the sacrifice of oxen.
      (Suet. _Dom._ ix.)

  530 “Pendant qu’il restait au logis, il n’était incommode à personne; il
      y passait la meilleure partie de son temps tranquillement dans sa
      chambre.... Il se divertissait aussi quelquefois à fumer une pipe de
      tabac; ou bien lorsqu’il voulait se relâcher l’esprit un peu plus
      longtemps, il cherchait des araignées qu’il faisait battre ensemble,
      ou des mouches qu’il jetait dans la toile d’araignée, et regardait
      ensuite cette bataille avec tant de plaisir qu’il éclatait
      quelquefois de rire.”—Colerus, _Vie de Spinoza_.

  531 This is noticed by George Duval in a curious passage of his
      _Souvenirs de la Terreur_, quoted by Lord Lytton in a note to his

_  532 Essay on Goodness._

  533 This contrast has been noticed by Archbishop Whately in a lecture on
      Egypt. See, too, Legendre, _Traité de l’Opinion_, tome ii. p. 374.

  534 Tacit. _Annal._ xiv. 45.

  535 Senec. _De Clemen._ i. 14.

  536 Val. Max. ii. 9. This writer speaks of “the eyes of a mistress
      delighting in human blood” with as much horror as if the
      gladiatorial games were unknown. Livy gives a rather different
      version of this story.

  537 Tacit. _Annal._ i. 76.

  538 Sueton. _Calig._ xi.

  539 Spartian. _Caracalla._ Tertullian mentions that his nurse was a

  540 Capitolinus, _Marcus Aurelius_. Capitolinus, who wrote under
      Diocletian, says that in his time the custom of spreading a net
      under the rope-dancer still continued. I do not know when it ceased
      at Rome, but St. Chrysostom mentions that in his time it had been
      abolished in the East.—Jortin’s _Remarks on Ecclesiastical History_,
      ii. 71 (ed. 1846).

  541 Tacit. _Ann._ iii. 55.

  542 Champagny, _Les Antonins_, tome ii. pp. 179-200.

  543 πολιτεύεσθαι.—Diog. Laërt. _Zeno_.

  544 Thus Tigellinus spoke of “Stoicorum arrogantia sectaque quæ turbidos
      et negotiorum appetentes faciat.”—Tacit. _Ann._ xiv. 57. The
      accusation does not appear to have been quite untrue, for Vespasian,
      who was a very moderate emperor, thought it necessary to banish
      nearly all the philosophers from Rome on account of their
      factiousness. Sometimes the Stoics showed their independence by a
      rather gratuitous insolence. Dion Cassius relates that, when Nero
      was thinking of writing a poem in 400 books, he asked the advice of
      the Stoic Cornutus, who said, that no one would read so long a work.
      “But,” answered Nero, “your favourite Chrysippus wrote still more
      numerous books.” “True,” rejoined Cornutus, “but then they were of
      use to humanity.” On the other hand, Seneca is justly accused of
      condescending too much to the vices of Nero in his efforts to
      mitigate their effects.

  545 The influence of Stoicism on Roman law has been often examined. See,
      especially, Degerando, _Hist. de la Philosophie_ (2nd ed.), tome
      iii. pp. 202-204; Laferrière, _De l’Influence du Stoïcisme sur les
      Jurisconsultes romains_; Denis, _Théories et Idées morales dans
      l’Antiquité_, tome ii. pp. 187-217; Troplong, _Influence du
      Christianisme sur le Droit civil des Romains_; Merivale, _Conversion
      of the Roman Empire_, lec. iv.; and the great work of Gravina, _De
      Ortu et Progressu Juris civilis_.

  546 Cic. _De Legib._ ii. 4, 23.

  547 There were two rival schools, that of Labeo and that of Capito. The
      first was remarkable for its strict adherence to the letter of the
      law—the second for the latitude of interpretation it admitted.

_  548 Dig._ lib. i. tit. 17-32.

  549 Ibid. i. tit. 1-3.

  550 Ibid. i. tit. 1-4.

_  551 Dig._ lib. i. tit. 4-5.

  552 Laferrière, p. 32. Wallon, _Hist. de l’Esclavage dans l’Antiquité_,
      tome iii. pp. 71-80. M. Wallon gives many curious instances of legal
      decisions on this point.

  553 To prove that this is the correct conception of law was the main
      object of Cicero’s treatise _De Legibus_. Ulpian defined
      jurisprudence as “divinarum atque humanarum rerum notitia, justi
      atque injusti scientia.”—_Dig._ lib. i. tit. 1-10. So Paul “Id quod
      semper æquum ad bonum est jus dicitur ut est jus naturale.”—_Dig._
      lib. i. tit. 1-11. And Gaius, “Quod vero naturalis ratio inter omnes
      homines constituit ... vocatur jus gentium.”—_Dig._ lib. i. tit.
      1-9. The Stoics had defined true wisdom as “rerum divinarum atque
      humanarum scientia.”—Cic. _De Offic._ i. 43.

  554 Cicero compares the phraseology of the Stoics with that of the
      Peripatetics, maintaining that the precision of the former is well
      adapted to legal discussions, and the redundancy of the latter to
      oratory. “Omnes fere Stoici prudentissimi in disserendo sint et id
      arte faciant, sintque architecti pene verborum; iidem traducti a
      disputando ad dicendum, inopes reperiantur: unum excipio Catonem....
      Peripateticorum institutis commodius fingeretur oratio ... nam ut
      Stoicorum astrictior est oratio, aliquantoque contractior quam aures
      populi requirunt: sic illorum liberior et latior quam patitur
      consuetudo judiciorum et fori.”—_De Claris Oratoribus._ A very
      judicious historian of philosophy observes: “En général à Rome le
      petit nombre d’hommes livrés à la méditation et à l’enthousiasme
      préférèrent Pythagore et Platon; les hommes du monde et ceux qui
      cultivaient les sciences naturelles s’attachèrent à Épicure; les
      orateurs et les hommes d’État à la nouvelle Académie; les
      juris-consultes au Portique.”—Degerando, _Hist. de la Philos._ tome
      iii. p. 196.

  555 See a very remarkable passage in Aulus Gellius, _Noct._ ii. 15.

  556 “Fere enim nulli alii sunt homines qui talem in filios suos habeant
      potestatem qualem nos habemus.”—Gaius.

  557 A full statement of these laws is given by Dion. Halicarn. ii. 4. It
      was provided that if a father sold his son and if the son was
      afterwards enfranchised by the purchaser, he became again the slave
      of his father, who might sell him a second, and, if manumission
      again ensued, a third time. It was only on the third sale that he
      passed for ever out of the parental control. A more merciful law,
      attributed to Numa, provided that when the son married (if that
      marriage was with the consent of the father), the father lost the
      power of selling him. In no other way, however, was his authority
      even then abridged.

  558 Velleius Paterculus, ii. 67. A great increase of parricide was
      noticed during the Empire (Senec. _De Clem._ i. 23). At first, it is
      said, there was no law against parricide, for the crime was believed
      to be too atrocious to be possible.

  559 Numerous instances of these executions are collected by Livy, Val.
      Maximus, &c.; their history is fully given by Cornelius van
      Bynkershoek, “De Jure occidendi, vendendi, et exponendi liberos apud
      veteres Romanos,” in his works (Cologne, 1761).

  560 This proceeding of Hadrian, which is related by the lawyer Marcian,
      is doubly remarkable, because the father had surprised his son in
      adultery with his stepmother. Now a Roman had originally not only
      absolute authority over the life of his son, but also the right of
      killing any one whom he found committing adultery with his wife. Yet
      Marcian praises the severity of Hadrian, “Nam patria potestas in
      pietate debet, non atrocitate, consistere.”—_Digest._ lib. xlviii.
      tit. 9, § 5.

  561 Valer. Max. vii. 7.

  562 See, on all this subject, Gibbon, _Decline and Fall_, ch. xliv.;
      Troplong, _Influence du Christianisme sur le Droit_, ch. ix.; Denis,
      _Hist. des Idées morales_, tome ii. pp. 107-120; Laferrière,
      _Influence du Stoïcisme sur les Jurisconsultes_, pp. 37-44.

  563 Ælian, _Hist. Var._ vi. 7.

  564 Livy, ii. 36; Cicero, _De Divin._ ii. 26.

  565 Cicero, _De Legibus_, ii. 8-12. Cato, however, maintained that
      slaves might on those days be employed on work which did not require
      oxen.—Wallon, _Hist. de l’Esclavage_, tome ii. p. 215.

  566 See the _Saturnalia_ of Macrobius.

  567 See his _Life_ by Plutarch, and his book on agriculture.

  568 The number of the Roman slaves has been a matter of much
      controversy. M. Dureau de la Malle (_Econ. politique des Romains_)
      has restricted it more than any other writer. Gibbon (_Decline and
      Fall_, chap. ii.) has collected many statistics on the subject, but
      the fullest examination is in M. Wallon’s admirable _Hist. de
      l’Esclavage_. On the contrast between the character of the slaves of
      the Republic and those of the Empire, see _Tac. Ann._ xiv. 44.

  569 Tacit. _Annal._ xiii. 32; xiv. 42-45. Wallon, _Hist. de l’Esclav._
      ii. 293. I have already noticed the indignant rising of the people
      caused by the proposal to execute the 400 slaves of the murdered
      Pedanius. Their interposition was, however (as Tacitus informs us),
      unavailing, and the slaves, guarded against rescue by a strong band
      of soldiers, were executed. It was proposed to banish the freedmen
      who were in the house, but Nero interposed and prevented it. Pliny
      notices (_Ep._ viii. 14) the banishment of the freedmen of a
      murdered man.

  570 See all this fully illustrated in Wallon. The plays of Plautus and
      the Roman writers on agriculture contain numerous allusions to the
      condition of slaves.

  571 Wallon, tome ii. pp. 209-210, 357. There were no laws till the time
      of the Christian emperors against separating the families of slaves,
      but it was a maxim of the jurisconsults that in forced sales they
      should not be separated. (Wallon, tome iii. pp. 55-56.)

  572 Ibid. tome ii. pp. 211-213.

  573 Plin. _Epist._ viii. 16. It was customary to allow the public or
      State slaves to dispose of half their goods by will. (Wallon, tome
      iii. p. 59.)

  574 Wallon, tome ii. p. 419. This appears from an allusion of Cicero,
      _Philip._ viii. 11.

  575 Senec. _De Clem._ i. 18.

  576 Ibid. _Ep._ xlvii.

  577 Pliny, _Ep._ viii. 16.

  578 Spartianus, _Hadrianus_.

  579 Compare Wallon, tome ii. p. 186; tome iii. pp. 65-66. Slaves were
      only to be called as witnesses in cases of incest, adultery, murder,
      and high treason, and where it was impossible to establish the crime
      without their evidence. Hadrian considered that the reality of the
      crime must have already acquired a strong probability, and the
      jurisconsult Paul laid down that at least two free witnesses should
      be heard before slaves were submitted to torture, and that the offer
      of an accused person to have his slaves tortured that they might
      attest his innocence should not be accepted.

  580 Numerous and very noble instances of slave fidelity are given by
      Seneca, _De Benefic._ iii. 19-27; Val. Max. vi. 8; and in Appian’s
      _History of the Civil Wars_. See, too, Tacit. _Hist._ i. 3.

  581 Aristotle had, it is true, declared slavery to be part of the law of
      nature—an opinion which, he said, was rejected by some of his
      contemporaries; but he advocated humanity to slaves quite as
      emphatically as the other philosophers (_Economics_, i. 5). Epicurus
      was conspicuous even among Greek philosophers for his kindness to
      slaves, and he associated some of his own with his philosophical
      labours. (Diog. Laërt. _Epicurus_.)

_  582 De Benef._ iii. 18-28; _De Vita Beata_, xxiv.; _De Clem._ i. 18,
      and especially _Ep._ xlvii. Epictetus, as might be expected from his
      history, frequently recurs to the duty. Plutarch writes very
      beautifully upon it in his treatise _De Cohibenda Ira_.

  583 Diog. Laërt. _Zeno_.

  584 Bodin thinks it was promulgated by Nero, and he has been followed by
      Troplong and Mr. Merivale. Champagny (_Les Antonins_, tome ii. p.
      115) thinks that no law after Tiberius was called _lex_.

  585 Sueton. _Claud._ xxv.; Dion Cass. lx. 29.

  586 See Dumas, _Secours publics chez les Anciens_ (Paris, 1813), pp.

  587 Senec. _De Clem._ i. 18.

  588 Senec. _De Benef._ iii. 22.

  589 Spartian. _Hadrianus._ Hadrian exiled a Roman lady for five years
      for treating her slaves with atrocious cruelty. (_Digest._ lib. i.
      tit. 6, § 2.)

  590 See these laws fully examined by Wallon, tome iii. pp. 51-92, and
      also Laferrière, _Sur l’Influence du Stoïcisme sur le Droit_. The
      jurisconsults gave a very wide scope to their definitions of
      cruelty. A master who degraded a literary slave, or a slave
      musician, to some coarse manual employment, such as a porter, was
      decided to have ill-treated him. (Wallon, tome iii. p. 62.)

  591 Thus, e.g., Livia called in the Stoic Areus to console her after the
      death of Drusus (Senec. _Ad Marc._). Many of the letters of Seneca
      and Plutarch are written to console the suffering. Cato, Thrasea,
      and many others appear to have fortified their last hours by
      conversation with philosophers. The whole of this aspect of Stoicism
      has been admirably treated by M. Martha (_Les Moralistes de l’Empire

  592 We have a pleasing picture of the affection philosophers and their
      disciples sometimes bore to one another in the lines of Persius
      (_Sat._ v.) to his master Cornutus.

  593 Grant’s _Aristotle_, vol. i. pp. 277-278.

  594 Champagny, _Les Antonins_, tome i. p. 405.

  595 Arrian, iii. 22. Julian has also painted the character of the true
      Cynic, and contrasted it with that of the impostors who assumed the
      garb. See Neander’s _Life of Julian_ (London, 1850), p. 94.

  596 Seneca the rhetorician (father of the philosopher) collected many of
      the sayings of the rhetoricians of his time. At a later period,
      Philostratus wrote the lives of eminent rhetoricians, Quintilian
      discussed their rules of oratory, and Aulus Gellius painted the
      whole society in which they moved. On their injurious influence upon
      eloquence, see Petronius, _Satyricon_, i. 2. Much curious
      information about the rhetoricians is collected in Martha,
      _Moralistes de l’Empire Romain_, and in Nisard, _Etudes sur les
      Poëtes Latins de la Dècadence_, art. Juvenal.

  597 “Cependant ces orateurs n’étaient jamais plus admirés que lorsqu’ils
      avaient le bonheur de trouver un sujet où la louange fut un tour de
      force.... Lucien a fait l’éloge de la mouche; Fronton de la
      poussière, de la fumée, de la négligence; Dion Chrysostome de la
      chevelure, du perroquet, etc. Au cinquième siècle, Synésius, qui fut
      un grand évêque, fera le panégyrique de la calvitie, long ouvrage où
      toutes les sciences sont mises à contribution pour apprendre aux
      hommes ce qu’il y a non-seulement de bonheur mais aussi de mérite à
      être chauve.”—Martha, _Moralistes de l’Empire Romain_ (ed. 1865), p.

  598 There is a good review of the teaching of Maximus in Champagny, _Les
      Antonins_, tome ii. pp. 207-215.

_  599 Orat._ xv.; _De Servitute_.

  600 See the singularly charming essay on Dion Chrysostom, in M. Martha’s

  601 Mr. Buckle, in his admirable chapter on the “Proximate Causes of the
      French Revolution” (_Hist. of Civilisation_, vol. i.), has painted
      this fashionable enthusiasm for knowledge with great power, and
      illustrated it with ample learning.

  602 The saying of Mme. Dudeffand about Helvétius is well known: “C’est
      un homme qui a dit le secret de tout le monde.” How truly Helvétius
      represented this fashionable society appears very plainly from the
      vivid portrait of it in the _Nouvelle Hèloïse_, part ii. letter
      xvii., a masterpiece of its kind.

  603 Musonius tried to stop this custom of applauding the lecturer. (Aul.
      Gell. _Noct._ v. i.) The habits that were formed in the schools of
      the rhetoricians were sometimes carried into the churches, and we
      have notices of preachers (especially St. Chrysostom) being
      vociferously applauded.

  604 Thus Gellius himself consulted Favorinus about a perplexing case
      which he had, in his capacity of magistrate, to determine, and
      received from his master a long dissertation on the duties of a
      judge (xiv. 2).

  605 i. 10.

_  606 Noct. Att._ vi. 13. They called these questions _symposiacæ_, as
      being well fitted to stimulate minds already mellowed by wine.

  607 xviii. 2.

  608 We have a curious example of this in a letter of Marcus Aurelius
      preserved by Gallicanus in his _Life of Avidius Cassius_.

  609 “Senserunt hoc Stoici qui servis et mulieribus philosophandum esse
      dixerunt.”—Lact. _Nat. Div._ iii. 25. Zeno was often reproached for
      gathering the poorest and most sordid around him when he lectured.
      (Diog. Laërt. _Zeno_.)

  610 This decadence was noticed and rebuked by some of the leading
      philosophers. See the language of Epictetus in Arrian, ii. 19, iv.
      8, and of Herod Atticus in Aul. Gell. i. 2, ix. 2. St. Augustine
      speaks of the Cynics as having in his time sunk into universal
      contempt. See much evidence on this subject in Friedlænder, _Hist.
      des Mœurs Romaines_, tome iv. 378-385.

  611 This movement is well treated by Vacherot, _Hist. de l’École

_  612 De Superstitione._

_  613 Dissertations_, x. § 8 (ed. Davis, London, 1740). In some editions
      this is _Diss._ xxix.

_  614 Dissert._ xxxviii.

_  615 De Dæmone Socratis._

_  616 De Dæmone Socratis._ See, on the office of dæmons or genii, Arrian
      i. 14, and a curious chapter in Ammianus Marcell. xxi. 14. See, too,
      Plotinus, 3rd _Enn._ lib. iv.

_  617 De Dæmone Socratis._

  618 I should except Plotinus, however, who was faithful in this point to
      Plato, and was in consequence much praised by the Christian Fathers.

  619 “Omnium malorum maximum voluptas, qua tanquam clavo et fibula anima
      corpori nectitur; putatque vera quæ et corpus suadet, et ita
      spoliatur rerum divinarum aspectu.”—Iamblichus, _De Secta Pythagor._
      (Romæ, 1556), p. 38. Plotinus, 1st _Enn._ vi. 6.

_  620 De Sect. Pyth._ pp. 36, 37.

  621 Porphyry, _Life of Plotinus_.

  622 Iamblichus, _De Mysteriis._ 1.

  623 See, on this doctrine of ecstasy, Vacherot, _Hist. de l’École
      d’Alexandrie_, tome i. p. 576, &c.

  624 “Sic habeto, omnibus qui patriam conservaverint, adjuverint,
      auxerint, certum esse in cœlo ac definitum locum ubi beati ævo
      sempiterno fruantur.”—Cic. _Somn. Scip._

  625 Φῶς, which, according to Plutarch (who here confuses two distinct
      words), is poetically used for man (_De Latenter Vivendo_). A
      similar thought occurs in M. Aurelius, who speaks of the good man as
      light which only ceases to shine when it ceases to be.

_  626 Diss._ xxi. § 6.

  627 Iamblichus, _De Sect. Pythagoræ_, p. 35.

  628 Porphyry, _Life of Plotinus_, cap. vii.; Plotinus, 1st _Enn._ iv. 7.
      See on this subject Degerando, _Hist. de la Philos._ iii. p. 383.

  629 Thus it was said of Apollonius that in his teaching at Ephesus he
      did not speak after the manner of the followers of Socrates, but
      endeavoured to detach his disciples from all occupation other than
      philosophy.—_Philostr. Apoll. of Tyana_, iv. 2. Cicero notices the
      aversion the Pythagoreans of his time displayed to argument: “Quum
      ex iis quæreretur quare ita esset, respondere solitos, Ipse dixit;
      ipse autem erat Pythagoras.”—_De Nat. Deor._ i. 5.

  630 See Vacherot, tome ii. p. 66.

  631 See Degerando, _Hist. de la Philosophie_, tome iii. pp. 400, 401.

  632 Plotinus, 1st _Enn._ ix.

  633 See a strong passage, on the universality of this belief, in
      Plotinus, 1st _Enn._ i. 12, and Origen, _Cont. Cels._ vii. A very
      old tradition represented the Egyptians as the first people who held
      the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Cicero (_Tusc. Quæst._)
      says that the Syrian Pherecydes, master of Pythagoras, first taught
      it. Maximus of Tyre attributes its origin to Pythagoras, and his
      slave Zamolxis was said to have introduced it into Greece. Others
      say that Thales first taught it. None of these assertions have any
      real historical value.

  634 We have a remarkable instance of the clearness with which some even
      of the most insignificant historians recognised the folly of
      confining history to the biographies of the Emperors, in the opening
      chapter of Capitolinus, _Life of Macrinus_.—Tacitus is full of
      beautiful episodes, describing the manners and religion of the

  635 The passages relating to the Jews in Roman literature are collected
      in Aubertin’s _Rapports supposés entre Sénèque et St. Paul_.
      Champagny, _Rome et Judée_, tome i. pp. 134-137.

  636 Cicero, _pro Flacco_, 28; Sueton. _Claudius_, 25.

  637 Juvenal, _Sat._ xiv.

_  638 Hist._ v.

  639 Lact. _Inst. Div._ vii. 3.

  640 See their history fully investigated in Aubertin. Augustine followed
      Jerome in mentioning the letters, but neither of these writers
      asserted their genuineness. Lactantius, nearly at the same time
      (_Inst. Div._ vi. 24), distinctly spoke of Seneca as a Pagan, as
      Tertullian (_Apol._ 50) had done before. The immense number of
      forged documents is one of the most disgraceful features of the
      Church history of the first few centuries.

  641 Fleury has written an elaborate work maintaining the connection
      between the apostle and the philosopher. Troplong (_Influence du
      Christianisme sur le Droit_) has adopted the same view. Aubertin, in
      the work I have already cited, has maintained the opposite view
      (which is that of all or nearly all English critics) with masterly
      skill and learning. The Abbé Dourif (_Rapports du Stoïcisme et du
      Christianisme_) has placed side by side the passages from each
      writer which are most alike.

  642 Quoted by St. Augustine.—_De Civ. Dei_, vi. 11.

  643 xi. 3.

  644 The history of the two schools has been elaborately traced by
      Ritter, Pressensé, and many other writers. I would especially refer
      to the fourth volume of Degerando’s most fascinating _Histoire de la

  645 “Scurra Atticus,” Min. Felix, _Octav._ This term is said by Cicero
      to have been given to Socrates by Zeno. (Cic. _De Nat. Deor._ i.

  646 Tertull. _De Anima_, 39.

  647 See especially his _Apol._ ii. 8, 12, 13. He speaks of the
      σπερματικὸς λόγος.

  648 See, on all this, Clem. Alex. _Strom._ v., and also i. 22.

  649 St. Clement repeats this twice (_Strom._ i. 24, v. 14). The writings
      of this Father are full of curious, and sometimes ingenious,
      attempts to trace different phrases of the great philosophers,
      orators, and poets to Moses. A vast amount of learning and ingenuity
      has been expended in the same cause by Eusebius. (_Præp. Evan._ xii.
      xiii.) The tradition of the derivation of Pagan philosophy from the
      Old Testament found in general little favour among the Latin
      writers. There is some curious information on this subject in
      Waterland’s “Charge to the Clergy of Middlesex, to prove that the
      wisdom of the ancients was borrowed from revelation; delivered in
      1731.” It is in the 8th volume of Waterland’s works (ed. 1731).

  650 St. Clement (_Strom._ i.) mentions that some think him to have been
      Ezekiel, an opinion which St. Clement himself does not hold. See, on
      the patristic notions about Pythagoras, Legendre, _Traité de
      l’Opinion_, tome i. p. 164.

  651 This was the opinion of Julius Firmicus Maternus, a Latin writer of
      the age of Constantine, “Nam quia Saræ pronepos fuerat ... Serapis
      dictus est Græco sermone, hoc est Σαρᾶς ἄπο.”—Julius Firmicus
      Maternus, _De Errore Profanarum Religionum_, cap. xiv.

  652 Justin Martyr, _Apol._ i. 54; Trypho, 69-70. There is a very curious
      collection of Pagan legends that were parallel to Jewish incidents,
      in La Mothe le Vayer, let. xciii.

  653 Suet. _Vesp._ 7; Tacit. _Hist._ iv. 81. There is a slight difference
      between the two historians about the second miracle. Suetonius says
      it was the leg, Tacitus that it was the hand, that was diseased. The
      god Serapis was said to have revealed to the patients that they
      would be cured by the emperor. Tacitus says that Vespasian did not
      believe in his own power; that it was only after much persuasion he
      was induced to try the experiment; that the blind man was well known
      in Alexandria, where the event occurred, and that eyewitnesses who
      had no motive to lie still attested the miracle.

  654 The following is a good specimen of the language which may still be
      uttered, apparently without exciting any protest, from the pulpit in
      one of the great centres of English learning: “But we have prayed,
      and not been heard, at least in this present visitation. Have we
      deserved to be heard? In former visitations it was observed commonly
      how the cholera lessened from the day of the public humiliation.
      When we dreaded famine from long-continued drought, on the morning
      of our prayers the heaven over our head was of brass; the clear
      burning sky showed no token of change. Men looked with awe at its
      unmitigated clearness. In the evening was the cloud like a man’s
      hand; the relief was come.” (And then the author adds, in a note):
      “This describes what I myself saw on the Sunday morning in Oxford,
      on returning from the early communion at St. Mary’s at eight. There
      was no visible change till the evening.”—Pusey’s _Miracles of
      Prayer_, preached at Oxford, 1866.

  655 E.g.: “A master of philosophy, travelling with others on the way,
      when a fearful thunderstorm arose, checked the fear of his fellows,
      and discoursed to them of the natural reasons of that uproar in the
      clouds, and those sudden flashes wherewith they seemed (out of the
      ignorance of causes) to be too much affrighted: in the midst of his
      philosophical discourse he was struck dead with the dreadful
      eruption which he slighted. What could this be but the finger of
      that God who will have his works rather entertained with wonder and
      trembling than with curious scanning?”—Bishop Hall, _The Invisible
      World_, § vi.

  656 Sir C. Lewis _On the Credibility of Roman Hist._ vol. i. p. 50.

  657 Cic. _De Divin._ lib. i. c. 1.

  658 “The days on which the miracle [of the king’s touch] was to be
      wrought were fixed at sittings of the Privy Council, and were
      solemnly notified by the clergy to all the parish churches of the
      realm. When the appointed time came, several divines in full
      canonicals stood round the canopy of state. The surgeon of the royal
      household introduced the sick. A passage of Mark xvi. was read. When
      the words ‘They shall lay their hands on the sick and they shall
      recover,’ had been pronounced, there was a pause and one of the sick
      was brought to the king. His Majesty stroked the ulcers.... Then
      came the Epistle, &c. The Service may still be found in the Prayer
      Books of the reign of Anne. Indeed, it was not until some time after
      the accession of George I. that the University of Oxford ceased to
      reprint the office of healing, together with the Liturgy.
      Theologians of eminent learning, ability, and virtue gave the
      sanction of their authority to this mummery, and, what is stranger
      still, medical men of high note believed, or affected to believe,
      it.... Charles II., in the course of his reign, touched near 100,000
      persons.... In 1682 he performed the rite 8,500 times. In 1684 the
      throng was such that six or seven of the sick were trampled to
      death. James, in one of his progresses, touched 800 persons in the
      choir of the cathedral of Chester.”—Macaulay’s _History of England_,
      c. xiv.

  659 One of the surgeons of Charles II. named John Brown, whose official
      duty it was to superintend the ceremony, and who assures us that he
      has witnessed many thousands touched, has written an extremely
      curious account of it, called _Charisma Basilicon_ (London, 1684).
      This miraculous power existed exclusively in the English and French
      royal families, being derived, in the first, from Edward the
      Confessor, in the second, from St. Lewis. A surgeon attested the
      reality of the disease before the miracle was performed. The king
      hung a riband with a gold coin round the neck of the person touched;
      but Brown thinks the gold, though possessing great virtue, was not
      essential to the cure. He had known cases where the cured person had
      sold, or ceased to wear, the medal, and his disease returned. The
      gift was unimpaired by the Reformation, and an obdurate Catholic was
      converted on finding that Elizabeth, after the Pope’s
      excommunication, could cure his scrofula. Francis I. cured many
      persons when prisoner in Spain. Charles I., when a prisoner, cured a
      man by his simple benediction, the Puritans not permitting him to
      touch him. His blood had the same efficacy; and Charles II., when an
      exile in the Netherlands, still retained it. There were, however,
      some “Atheists, Sadducees, and ill-conditioned Pharisees” who even
      then disbelieved it; and Brown gives the letter of one who went, a
      complete sceptic, to satisfy his friends, and came away cured and
      converted. It was popularly, but Brown says erroneously, believed
      that the touch was peculiarly efficacious on Good Friday. An
      official register was kept, for every month in the reign of Charles
      II., of the persons touched, but two years and a half appear to be
      wanting. The smallest number touched in one year was 2,983 (in
      1669); the total, in the whole reign, 92,107. Brown gives numbers of
      specific cases with great detail. Shakspeare has noticed the power
      (_Macbeth_, Act iv. Scene 3). Dr. Johnson, when a boy, was touched
      by Queen Anne; but at that time few persons, except Jacobites,
      believed the miracle.

  660 Lucretius, lib. vi. The poet says there are certain seeds of fire in
      the earth, around the water, which the sun attracts to itself, but
      which the cold of the night represses, and forces back upon the

      The fountain of Jupiter Ammon, and many others that were deemed
      miraculous, are noticed by Pliny, _Hist. Nat._ ii. 106.

      “Fly not yet; the fount that played
      In times of old through Ammon’s shade,
      Though icy cold by day it ran,
      Yet still, like souls of mirth, began
      To burn when night was near.”—Moore’s _Melodies_.

  661 Tacit. _Annal._ i. 28. Long afterwards, the people of Turin were
      accustomed to greet every eclipse with loud cries, and St. Maximus
      of Turin energetically combated their superstition. (Ceillier,
      _Hist. des Auteurs sacrés_, tome xiv. p. 607.)

  662 Suet. _Aug._ xci.

  663 See the answer of the younger Pliny (_Ep._ i. 18), suggesting that
      dreams should often be interpreted by contraries. A great many
      instances of dreams that were believed to have been verified are
      given in Cic. (_De Divinatione_, lib. i.) and Valerius Maximus (lib.
      i. c. vii.). Marcus Aurelius (Capitolinus) was said to have appeared
      to many persons after his death in dreams, and predicted the future.

  664 The augurs had noted eleven kinds of lightning with different
      significations. (Pliny, _Hist. Nat._ ii. 53.) Pliny says all nations
      agree in clapping their hands when it lightens (xxviii. 5). Cicero
      very shrewdly remarked that the Roman considered lightning a good
      omen when it shone upon his left, while the Greeks and barbarians
      believed it to be auspicious when it was upon the right. (Cic. _De
      Divinat._ ii. 39.) When Constantine prohibited all other forms of
      magic, he especially authorised that which was intended to avert
      hail and lightning. (_Cod. Theod._ lib. ix. tit. xvi. 1. 3.)

  665 Suet. _Aug._ xc.

  666 Ibid. _Tiber._ lxix. The virtue of laurel leaves, and of the skin of
      a sea-calf, as preservatives against lightning, are noticed by Pliny
      (_Hist. Nat._ ii. 56), who also says (xv. 40) that the laurel leaf
      is believed to have a natural antipathy to fire, which it shows by
      its angry crackling when in contact with that element.

  667 Suet. _Calig._ ii.

  668 Suet. _Jul. Cæs._ lxxxviii.

  669 Plin. _Hist. Nat._ ii. 23.

  670 “Prodigia eo anno multa nuntiata sunt, quæ quo magis credebant
      simplices ac religiosi homines eo plura nuntiabantur” (xxiv. 10).
      Compare with this the remark of Cicero on the oracles: “Quando autem
      illa vis evanuit? An postquam homines minus creduli esse cœperunt?”
      (_De Div._ ii. 57.)

  671 This theory, which is developed at length by the Stoic, in the first
      book of the _De Divinatione_ of Cicero, grew out of the pantheistic
      notion that the human soul is a part of the Deity, and therefore by
      nature a participator in the Divine attribute of prescience. The
      soul, however, was crushed by the weight of the body; and there were
      two ways of evoking its prescience—the ascetic way, which attenuates
      the body, and the magical way, which stimulates the soul. Apollonius
      declared that his power of prophecy was not due to magic, but solely
      to his abstinence from animal food. (Philost. _Ap. of Tyana_, viii.
      5.) Among those who believed the oracles, there were two theories.
      The first was that they were inspired by dæmons or spirits of a
      degree lower than the gods. The second was, that they were due to
      the action of certain vapours which emanated from the caverns
      beneath the temples, and which, by throwing the priestess into a
      state of delirium, evoked her prophetic powers. The first theory was
      that of the Platonists, and it was adopted by the Christians, who,
      however, changed the signification of the word dæmon. The second
      theory, which appears to be due to Aristotle (Baltus, _Réponse à
      l’Histoire des Oracles_, p. 132), is noticed by Cic. _De Div._ i.
      19; Plin. _H. N._ ii. 95; and others. It is closely allied to the
      modern belief in clairvoyance. Plutarch, in his treatise on the
      decline of the oracles, attributes that decline sometimes to the
      death of the dæmons (who were believed to be mortal), and sometimes
      to the exhaustion of the vapours. The oracles themselves, according
      to Porphyry (Fontenelle, _Hist. des Oracles_, pp. 220-222, first
      ed.), attributed it to the second cause. Iamblichus (_De Myst._ §
      iii. c. xi.) combines both theories, and both are very clearly
      stated in the following curious passage: “Quamquam Platoni credam
      inter deos atque homines, natura et loco medias quasdam divorum
      potestates intersitas, easque divinationes cunctas et magorum
      miracula gubernare. Quin et illud mecum reputo, posse animum
      humanum, præsertim, puerilem et simplicem, seu carminum avocamento,
      sive odorum delenimento, soporari, et ad oblivionem præsentium
      externari: et paulis per remota corporis memoria, redigi ac redire
      ad naturam suam, quæ est immortalis scilicet et divina; atque ita
      veluti quodam sopore, futura rerum præsagire.”—Apuleius, _Apolog._

  672 Aul. Gell. _Noct._ ii. 28. Florus, however (_Hist._ i. 19), mentions
      a Roman general appeasing the goddess Earth on the occasion of an
      earthquake that occurred during a battle.

  673 Ælian, _Hist. Var._ iv. 17.

_  674 Hist. Nat._ ii. 81-86.

  675 Ibid. ii. 9.

  676 Ibid. ii. 23.

  677 I have referred in the last chapter to a striking passage of Am.
      Marcellinus on this combination. The reader may find some curious
      instances of the superstitions of Roman sceptics in Champagny, _Les
      Antonins_, tome iii. p. 46.

  678 viii. 19. This is also mentioned by Lucretius.

  679 viii. 1.

  680 viii. 50. This was one of the reasons why the early Christians
      sometimes adopted the stag as a symbol of Christ.

  681 xxix. 23.

  682 xxxii. 1.

  683 vii. 2.

  684 xxviii. 7. The blind man restored to sight by Vespasian was cured by
      anointing his eyes with spittle. (Suet. _Vesp._ 7; Tacit. _Hist._
      iv. 81.)

  685 Ibid. The custom of spitting in the hand before striking still
      exists among pugilists.

  686 ii. 101.

  687 Legendre, _Traité de l’Opinion_, tome ii. p. 17. The superstition
      is, however, said still to linger in many sea-coast towns.

  688 Lucian is believed to have died about two years before Marcus

  689 See his very curious Life by Philostratus. This Life was written at
      the request of Julia Domna, the wife of Septimus Severus, whether or
      not with the intention of opposing the Gospel narrative is a
      question still fiercely discussed. Among the most recent Church
      historians, Pressensé maintains the affirmative, and Neander the
      negative. Apollonius was born at nearly the same time as Christ, but
      outlived Domitian. The traces of his influence are widely spread
      through the literature of the empire. Eunapius calls him “Ἀπολλώνιος
      ὁ ἐκ Τυάνων, οὐκέτι φιλόσοφος ἀλλ᾽ ἦν τι θεῶν τε καὶ ἀνθρώπου
      μέσον.”—_Lives of the Sophists._ Xiphilin relates (lxvii. 18) the
      story, told also by Philostratus, how Apollonius, being at Ephesus,
      saw the assassination of Domitian at Rome. Alexander Severus placed
      (_Lampridius Severus_) the statue of Apollonius with those of
      Orpheus, Abraham, and Christ, for worship in his oratory. Aurelian
      was reported to have been diverted from his intention of destroying
      Tyana by the ghost of the philosopher, who appeared in his tent,
      rebuked him, and saved the city (Vopiscus, _Aurelian_); and, lastly,
      the Pagan philosopher Hierocles wrote a book opposing Apollonius to
      Christ, which was answered by Eusebius. The Fathers of the fourth
      century always spoke of him as a great magician. Some curious
      passages on the subject are collected by M. Chassang, in the
      introduction to his French translation of the work of Philostratus.

  690 See his defence against the charge of magic. Apuleius, who was at
      once a brilliant rhetorician, the writer of an extremely curious
      novel (_The Metamorphoses, or Golden Ass_), and of many other works,
      and an indefatigable student of the religious mysteries of his time,
      lived through the reigns of Hadrian and his two successors. After
      his death his fame was for about a century apparently eclipsed; and
      it has been noticed as very remarkable that Tertullian, who lived a
      generation after Apuleius, and who, like him, was a Carthaginian,
      has never even mentioned him. During the fourth century his
      reputation revived, and Lactantius, St. Jerome, and St. Augustine
      relate that many miracles were attributed to him, and that he was
      placed by the Pagans on a level with Christ, and regarded by some as
      even a greater magician. See the sketch of his life by M. Bétolaud
      prefixed to the Panckoucke edition of his works.

_  691 Life of Alexander._ There is an extremely curious picture of the
      religious jugglers, who were wandering about the Empire, in the
      eighth and ninth books of the _Metamorphoses_ of Apuleius. See, too,
      Juvenal, _Sat._ vi. 510-585.

  692 Porphyry’s _Life of Plotinus_.

  693 Eunapius, _Porph._

  694 Ibid. _Iamb._ Iamblichus himself only laughed at the report.

  695 Eunapius, _Iamb._

  696 See her life in Eunapius, _Œdescus_. Ælian and the rhetorician
      Aristides are also full of the wildest prodigies. There is an
      interesting dissertation on this subject in Friedlænder (_Trad.
      Franc._ tome iv. p. 177-186).

  697 “Credat Judæus Apella.”—Hor. _Sat._ v. 100.

  698 This appears from all the writings of the Fathers. There were,
      however, two forms of Pagan miracles about which there was some
      hesitation in the early Church—the beneficent miracle of healing and
      the miracle of prophecy. Concerning the first, the common opinion
      was that the dæmons only cured diseases they had themselves caused,
      or that, at least, if they ever (in order to enthral men more
      effectually) cured purely natural diseases, they did it by natural
      means, which their superior knowledge and power placed at their
      disposal. Concerning prophecy, it was the opinion of some of the
      Fathers that intuitive prescience was a Divine prerogative, and that
      the prescience of the dæmons was only acquired by observation. Their
      immense knowledge enabled them to forecast events to a degree far
      transcending human faculties, and they employed this power in the

_  699 De Origine ac Progressu Idolatriæ_ (Amsterdam).

  700 This characteristic of early Christian apology is forcibly exhibited
      by Pressensé, _Hist. des trois premiers Siècles_, 2me série, tome

  701 The immense number of these forged writings is noticed by all candid
      historians, and there is, I believe, only one instance of any
      attempt being made to prevent this pious fraud. A priest was
      degraded for having forged some voyages of St. Paul and St. Thecla.
      (Tert. _De Baptismo_, 17.)

_  702 Apol._ i.

_  703 Strom._ vi. c. 5.

  704 Origen, _Cont. Cols._ v.

_  705 Oratio_ (apud Euseb.) xviii.

_  706 De Civ. Dei_, xviii. 23.

  707 Constantine, _Oratio_ xix. “His testimoniis quidam revicti solent eo
      confugere ut aiant non esse illa carmina Sibyllina, sed a nostris
      conficta atque composita.”—Lactant. _Div. Inst._ iv. 15.

  708 Antonius Possevinus, _Apparatus Sacer_ (1606), verb. “Sibylla.”

  709 This subject is fully treated by Middleton in his _Free Enquiry_,
      whom I have closely followed.

  710 Irenæus, _Contr. Hæres._ ii. 32.

  711 Epiphan. _Adv. Hæres._ ii. 30.

  712 St. Aug. _De Civ. Dei_, xxii. 8.

  713 This history is related by St. Ambrose in a letter to his sister
      Marcellina; by St. Paulinus of Nola, in his _Life of Ambrose_; and
      by St. Augustine, _De Civ. Dei_, xxii. 8; _Confess._ ix. 7.

  714 Plutarch thought they were known by Plato, but this opinion has been
      much questioned. See a very learned discussion on the subject in
      Farmer’s _Dissertation on Miracles_, pp. 129-140; and Fontenelle,
      _Hist. des Oracles_, pp. 26, 27. Porphyry speaks much of evil

  715 Josephus, _Antiq._ viii. 2, § 5.

  716 This very curious subject is fully treated by Baltus (_Réponse à
      l’Histoire des Oracles_, Strasburg, 1707, published anonymously in
      reply to Van Dale and Fontenelle), who believed in the reality of
      the Pagan as well as the patristic miracles; by Bingham
      (_Antiquities of the Christian Church_, vol. i. pp. 316-324), who
      thinks the Pagan and Jewish exorcists were impostors, but not the
      Christians; and by Middleton (_Free Enquiry_, pp. 80-93), who
      disbelieves in all the exorcists after the apostolic times. It has
      also been the subject of a special controversy in England, carried
      on by Dodwell, Church, Farmer, and others. Archdeacon Church says:
      “If we cannot vindicate them [the Fathers of the first three
      centuries] on this article, their credit must be lost for ever; and
      we must be obliged to decline all further defence of them. It is
      impossible for any words more strongly to express a claim to this
      miracle than those used by all the best writers of the second and
      third centuries.”—_Vindication of the Miracles of the First Three
      Centuries_, p. 199. So, also, Baltus: “De tous les anciens auteurs
      ecclésiastiques, n’y en ayant pas un qui n’ait parlé de ce pouvoir
      admirable que les Chrétiens avoient de chasser les démons” (p. 296).
      Gregory of Tours describes exorcism as sufficiently common in his
      time, and mentions having himself seen a monk named Julian cure by
      his words a possessed person. (_Hist._ iv. 32.)

_  717 Vit. Hilar._ Origen notices that cattle were sometimes possessed by
      devils. See Middleton’s _Free Enquiry_, pp. 88, 89.

  718 The miracle of St. Babylas is the subject of a homily by St.
      Chrysostom, and is related at length by Theodoret, Sozomen, and
      Socrates. Libanius mentions that, by command of Julian, the bones of
      St. Babylas were removed from the temple. The Christians said the
      temple was destroyed by lightning; the Pagans declared it was burnt
      by the Christians, and Julian ordered measures of reprisal to be
      taken. Amm. Marcellinus, however, mentions a report that the fire
      was caused accidentally by one of the numerous candles employed in
      the ceremony. The people of Antioch defied the emperor by chanting,
      as they removed the relics, “Confounded be all they that trust in
      graven images.”

  719 See the _Life of Gregory Thaumaturgus_, by Gregory of Nyssa. St.
      Gregory the Great assures us (_Dial._ iii. 10) that Sabinus, Bishop
      of Placentia, wrote a letter to the river Po, which had overflowed
      its banks and flooded some church lands. When the letter was thrown
      into the stream the waters at once subsided.

  720 “Edatur hic aliquis sub tribunalibus vestris, quem dæmone agi
      constet. Jussus a quolibet Christiano loqui spiritus ille, tam se
      dæmonem confitebitur de vero, quam alibi deum de falso. Æque
      producatur aliquis ex iis qui de deo pati existimantur, qui aris
      inhalantes numen de nidore concipiunt ... nisi se dæmones confessi
      fuerint, Christiano mentiri non audentes, ibidem illius Christiani
      procacissimi sanguinem fundite. Quid isto opere manifestius? quid
      hæc probatione fidelius?”—Tert. _Apol._ xxiii.

_  721 Apol._ i.; _Trypho_.

_  722 Cont. Cels._ vii.

_  723 Inst. Div._ iv. 27.

_  724 Life of Antony._

_  725 Octavius._

_  726 De Superstitione._

  727 i. 6.

_  728 De Mort. Peregrin._

  729 Origen, _Adv. Cels._ vi. Compare the curious letter which Vopiscus
      (Saturninus) attributes to Hadrian, “Nemo illic [i.e. in Egypt]
      archisynagogus Judæorum, nemo Samarites, nemo Christianorum
      presbyter, non mathematicus, non aruspex, non aliptes.”

  730 “Si incantavit, si imprecatus est, si (ut vulgari verbo impostorum
      utor) exorcizavit.”—Bingham, _Antiquities of the Christian Church_
      (Oxf., 1855), vol. i. p. 318. This law is believed to have been
      directed specially against the Christians, because these were very
      prominent as exorcists, and because Lactantius (_Inst. Div._ v. 11)
      says that Ulpian had collected the laws against them.

  731 Philostorgius, _Hist. Eccl._ viii. 10.

  732 See Juvenal, _Sat._ vi. 314-335.

  733 See Juvenal, _Sat._ vi. 520-530.

_  734 Metamorphoses_, book x.

  735 See their _Lives_, by Lampridius and Spartianus.

  736 The conflict between St. Cyprian and the confessors, concerning the
      power of remitting penances claimed by the latter, though it ended
      in the defeat of the confessors, shows clearly the influence they
      had obtained.

  737 “Thura plane non emimus; si Arabiæ queruntur scient Sabæi pluris et
      carioris suas merces Christianis sepeliendis profligari quam diis
      fumigandis.”—_Apol._ 42. Sometimes the Pagans burnt the bodies of
      the martyrs, in order to prevent the Christians venerating their

  738 Many interesting particulars about these commemrative festivals are
      collected in Cave’s _Primitive Christianity_, part i. c. vii. The
      anniversaries were called “Natalia,” or birth-days.

  739 See her acts in Ruinart.

  740 St. Clem. Alex. _Strom._ iv. 10. There are other passages of the
      same kind in other Fathers.

_  741 Ad Scapul._ v. Eusebius (_Martyrs of Palestine_, ch. iii.) has
      given a detailed account of six young men, who in the very height of
      the Galerian persecution, at a time when the most hideous tortures
      were applied to the Christians, voluntarily gave themselves up as
      believers. Sulp. Severus (_Hist._ ii. 32), speaking of the voluntary
      martyrs under Diocletian, says that Christians then “longed for
      death as they now long for bishoprics.” “Cogi qui potest, nescit
      mori,” was the noble maxim of the Christians.

  742 Arrian, iv. 7. It is not certain, however, that this passage alludes
      to the Christians. The followers of Judas of Galilee were called
      Galilæans, and they were famous for their indifference to death. See
      Joseph. _Antiq._ xviii. 1.

  743 xi. 3.

  744 Peregrinus.

  745 Zosimus.

  746 “Do I not hate them, O Lord, that hate thee?—yea, I hate them with a
      perfect hatred.”

  747 See Renan’s _Apôtres_, p. 314.

  748 M. Pressensé very truly says of the Romans, “Leur religion était
      essentiellement un art—l’art de découvrir les desseins des dieux et
      d’agir sur eux par des rites variés.”—_Hist. des Trois premiers
      Siècles_, tome i. p. 192. Montesquieu has written an interesting
      essay on the political nature of the Roman religion.

  749 Sueton. _Claud._ xxv.

  750 Plin. _Hist. Nat._ vii. 31.

  751 Tacit. _De Orat._ xxxv.; Aul. Gell. _Noct._ xv. 11. It would appear,
      from this last authority, that the rhetoricians were twice expelled.

  752 Dion Cassius, lii. 36. Most historians believe that this speech
      represents the opinions, not of the Augustan age, but of the age of
      the writer who relates it.

  753 On the hostility of Vespasian to philosophers, see Xiphilin, lxvi.
      13; on that of Domitian, the _Letters_ of Pliny and the _Agricola_
      of Tacitus.

  754 See a remarkable passage in Dion Chrysostom, _Or._ lxxx. _De

  755 Cic. _De Legib._ ii. 11; Tertull. _Apol._ v.

  756 Livy, iv. 30

  757 Val. Maximus, i. 3, § 1.

  758 Livy, xxv. 1.

  759 Val. Max. i. 3, § 2.

  760 See the account of these proceedings, and of the very remarkable
      speech of Postumius, in Livy, xxxix. 8-19. Postumius notices the old
      prohibition of foreign rites, and thus explains it:—“Judicabant enim
      prudentissimi viri omnis divini humanique juris, nihil æque
      dissolvendæ religionis esse, quam ubi non patrio sed externo ritu
      sacrificaretur.” The Senate, though suppressing these rites on
      account of the outrageous immoralities connected with them, decreed,
      that if any one thought it a matter of religious duty to perform
      religious ceremonies to Bacchus, he should be allowed to do so on
      applying for permission to the Senate, provided there were not more
      than five assistants, no common purse, and no presiding priest.

  761 Val. Max. i. 3.

  762 See Dion Cassius, xl. 47; xlii. 26; xlvii. 15; liv. 6.

  763 Joseph. _Antiq._ xviii. 3.

  764 Tacit. _Annal._ ii. 85.

  765 Tacitus relates (_Ann._ xi. 15) that under Claudius a senatus
      consultus ordered the pontiffs to take care that the old Roman (or,
      more properly, Etruscan) system of divination was observed, since
      the influx of foreign superstitions had led to its disuse; but it
      does not appear that this measure was intended to interfere with any
      other form of worship.

  766 “Sacrosanctam istam civitatem accedo.”—Apuleius, _Metam._ lib. x. It
      is said that there were at one time no less than 420 ædes sacræ in
      Rome. Nieupoort, _De Ritibus Romanorum_ (1716), p. 276.

  767 Euseb. _Præp. Evang._ iv. 1. Fontenelle says very truly, “Il y a
      lieu de croire que chez les payens la religion n’estoit qu’une
      pratique, dont la spéculation estoit indifférente. Faites comme les
      autres et croyez ce qu’il vous plaira.”—_Hist. des Oracles_, p. 95.
      It was a saying of Tiberius, that it is for the gods to care for the
      injuries done to them: “Deorum injurias diis curæ.”—Tacit. _Annal._
      i. 73.

  768 The most melancholy modern instance I remember is a letter of Hume
      to a young man who was thinking of taking orders, but who, in the
      course of his studies, became a complete sceptic. Hume strongly
      advised him not to allow this consideration to interfere with his
      career (Burton, _Life of Hume_, vol. ii. pp. 187, 188.) The
      utilitarian principles of the philosopher were doubtless at the root
      of his judgment.

_  769 De Divinat._ ii. 33; _De Nat. Deor._ ii. 3.

  770 “Quæ omnia sapiens servabit tanquam legibus jussa non tanquam diis
      grata.... Meminerimus cultum ejus magis ad morem quam ad rem
      pertinere.”—St. Aug. _De Civ. Dei_, vi. 10. St. Augustine denounces
      this view with great power. See, too, Lactantius. _Inst. Div._ ii.

_  771 Enchirid._ xxxi.

  772 This is noticed by Philo.

  773 The ship in which the atheist Diagoras sailed was once nearly
      wrecked by a tempest, and the sailors declared that it was a just
      retribution from the gods because they had received the philosopher
      into their vessel. Diagoras, pointing to the other ships that were
      tossed by the same storm, asked whether they imagined there was a
      Diagoras in each. (_Cic. De Nat. Deor._ iii. 37.)

  774 The vestal Oppia was put to death because the diviners attributed to
      her unchastity certain “prodigies in the heavens,” that had alarmed
      the people at the beginning of the war with Veii. (Livy, ii. 42.)
      The vestal Urbinia was buried alive on account of a plague that had
      fallen upon the Roman women, which was attributed to her
      incontinence, and which is said to have ceased suddenly upon her
      execution. (Dion. Halicar. ix.)

  775 Pliny, in his famous letter to Trajan about the Christians, notices
      that this had been the case in Bithynia.

  776 Tert. _Apol._ xl. See, too, Cyprian, _contra Demetrian._, and
      Arnobius, _Apol._ lib. i.

  777 St. Aug. _De Civ. Dei_, ii. 3.

  778 Instances of this kind are given by Tertullian _Ad Scapulam_, and
      the whole treatise _On the Deaths of the Persecutors_, attributed to
      Lactantius, is a development of the same theory. St. Cyprian’s
      treatise against Demetrianus throws much light on the mode of
      thought of the Christians of his time. In the later historians,
      anecdotes of adversaries of the Church dying horrible deaths became
      very numerous. They were said especially to have been eaten by
      worms. Many examples of this kind are collected by Jortin. (_Remarks
      on Eccles. Hist._ vol. i. p. 432.)

  779 “It is remarkable, in all the proclamations and documents which
      Eusebius assigns to Constantine, some even written by his own hand,
      how, almost exclusively, he dwells on this worldly superiority of
      the God adored by the Christians over those of the heathens, and the
      visible temporal advantages which attend on the worship of
      Christianity. His own victory, and the disasters of his enemies, are
      his conclusive evidences of Christianity.”—Milman, _Hist. of Early
      Christianity_ (ed. 1867), vol. ii. p. 327. “It was a standing
      argument of Athanasius, that the death of Arius was a sufficient
      refutation of his heresy.”—Ibid. p. 382.

  780 Socrates, _Eccl. Hist._, vii. 30.

  781 Greg. Tur. ii. 30, 31. Clovis wrote to St. Avitus, “Your faith is
      our victory.”

  782 Milman’s _Latin Christianity_ (ed. 1867), vol. ii. pp. 236-245.

  783 Ibid. vol. iii. p. 248.

_  784 Ep._ xl.

  785 “An diutius perferimus mutari temporum vices, irata cœli temperie?
      Quæ Paganorum exacerbata perfidia nescit naturæ libramenta servare.
      Unde enim ver solitam gratiam abjuravit? unde æstas, messe jejuna,
      laboriosum agricolam in spe destituit aristarum? unde hyemis
      intemperata ferocitas uberitatem terrarum penetrabili frigore
      sterilitatis læsione damnavit? nisi quod ad impietatis vindictam
      transit lege sua naturæ decretum.”—Novell. lii. Theodos. _De Judæis,
      Samaritanis, et Hæreticis_.

  786 Milman’s _Latin Christianity_ vol. ii. p. 354.

_  787 Démonomanie des Sorciers_, p. 152.

  788 See a curious instance in Bayle’s _Dictionary_, art. “Vergerius.”

  789 Pliny, Ep. x. 43. Trajan noticed that Nicomedia was peculiarly
      turbulent. On the edict against the hetæriæ, or associations, see
      _Ep._ x. 97.

  790 All the apologists are full of these charges. The chief passages
      have been collected in that very useful and learned work, Kortholt,
      _De Calumniis contra Christianos_. (Cologne, 1683.)

  791 Justin Martyr tells us it was the brave deaths of the Christians
      that converted him. (_Apol._ ii. 12.)

  792 Peregrinus.

_  793 Ep._ x. 97.

_  794 Ep._ ii.

  795 Juvenal describes the popular estimate of the Jews:—

      “Tradidit arcano quodcunque volumine Moses;
      Non monstrare vias, eadem nisi sacra colenti,
      Quæsitum ad fontem solos deducere verpos.”

      _Sat._ xix. 102-105.

      It is not true that the Mosaic law contains these precepts.

  796 See Merivale’s _Hist. of Rome_, vol. viii. p. 176.

  797 See Justin Martyr, _Trypho_, xvii.

  798 Justin Martyr, _Apol._ i. 26.

  799 Eusebius expressly notices that the licentiousness of the sect of
      Carpocrates occasioned calumnies against the whole of the Christian
      body. (iv. 7.) A number of passages from the Fathers describing the
      immorality of these heretics are referred to by Cave, _Primitive
      Christianity_, part ii. ch. v.

  800 Epiphanius, _Adv. Hær._ lib. i. Hær. 26. The charge of murdering
      children, and especially infants, occupies a very prominent place
      among the recriminations of religionists. The Pagans, as we have
      seen, brought it against the Christians, and the orthodox against
      some of the early heretics. The Christians accused Julian of
      murdering infants for magical purposes, and the bed of the Orontes
      was said to have been choked with their bodies. The accusation was
      then commonly directed against the Jews, against the witches, and
      against the mid-wives, who were supposed to be in confederation with
      the witches.

  801 See an example in Eusebius, iii. 32. After the triumph of
      Christianity the Arian heretics appear to have been accustomed to
      bring accusations of immorality against the Catholics. They procured
      the deposition of St. Eustathius, Bishop of Antioch, by suborning a
      prostitute to accuse him of being the father of her child. The woman
      afterwards, on her death-bed, confessed the imposture. (Theodor.
      _Hist._ i. 21-22.) They also accused St. Athanasius of murder and
      unchastity, both of which charges he most triumphantly repelled.
      (Ibid. i. 30.)

  802 The great exertions and success of the Christians in making female
      converts is indignantly noticed by Celsus (_Origen_) and by the
      Pagan interlocutor in Minucius Felix (_Octavius_), and a more minute
      examination of ecclesiastical history amply confirms their
      statements. I shall have in a future chapter to revert to this
      matter. Tertullian graphically describes the anger of a man he knew,
      at the conversion of his wife, and declares he would rather have had
      her “a prostitute than a Christian.” (_Ad Nationes_, i. 4.) He also
      mentions a governor of Cappadocia, named Herminianus, whose motive
      for persecuting the Christians was his anger at the conversion of
      his wife, and who, in consequence of his having persecuted, was
      devoured by worms. (_Ad Scapul._ 3.)

  803 “Matronarum Auriscalpius.” The title was given to Pope St. Damasus.
      See Jortin’s _Remarks on Ecclesiastical History_, vol. ii. p. 27.
      Ammianus Marcellinus notices (xxvii. 3) the great wealth the Roman
      bishops of his time had acquired through the gifts of women.
      Theodoret (_Hist. Eccl._ ii. 17) gives a curious account of the
      energetic proceedings of the Roman ladies upon the exile of Pope

_  804 Conj. Præcept._ This passage has been thought to refer to the
      Christians; if so, it is the single example of its kind in the
      writings of Plutarch.

  805 Pliny, in his letter on the Christians, notices that their
      assemblies were before daybreak. Tertullian and Minucius Felix speak
      frequently of the “nocturnes convocationes,” or “nocturnes
      congregationes” of the Christians. The following passage, which the
      last of these writers puts into the mouth of a Pagan, describes
      forcibly the popular feeling about the Christians: “Qui de ultima
      fæce collectis imperitioribus et mulieribus credulis sexus sui
      facilitate labentibus, plebem profanæ conjurationis instituunt: quæ
      nocturnis congregationibus et jejuniis solennibus et inhumanis cibis
      non sacro quodam sed piaculo fœderantur, latebrosa et lucifugax
      natio, in publico muta, in angulis garrula; templa ut busta
      despiciunt, deos despuunt, rident sacra.”—_Octavius._ Tertullian, in
      exhorting the Christian women not to intermarry with Pagans, gives
      as one reason that they would not permit them to attend this
      “nightly convocation.” (_Ad Uxorem_, ii. 4.) This whole chapter is a
      graphic but deeply painful picture of the utter impossibility of a
      Christian woman having any real community of feeling with a “servant
      of the devil.”

_  806 De Civ. Dei_, xix. 23.

  807 The policy of the Romans with reference to magic has been minutely
      traced by Maury, _Hist. de la Magie_. Dr. Jeremie conjectures that
      the exorcisms of the Christians may have excited the antipathy of
      Marcus Aurelius, he, as I have already noticed, being a disbeliever
      on this subject. (Jeremie, _Hist. of Church in the Second and Third
      Cent._ p. 26.) But this is mere conjecture.

  808 See the picture of the sentiments of the Pagans on this matter, in
      Plutarch’s noble _Treatise on Superstition_.

  809 Thus Justin Martyr: “Since sensation remains in all men who have
      been in existence, and everlasting punishment is in store, do not
      hesitate to believe, and be convinced that what I say is true....
      This Gehenna is a place where all will be punished who live
      unrighteously, and who believe not that what God has taught through
      Christ will come to pass.”—_Apol._ 1. 18-19. Arnobius has stated
      very forcibly the favourite argument of many later theologians: “Cum
      ergo hæc sit conditio futurorum ut teneri et comprehendi nullius
      possint anticipationis attactu: nonne purior ratio est, ex duobus
      incertis et in ambigua expectatione pendentibus, id potius credere
      quod aliquas spes ferat, quam omnino quod nullas? In illo enim
      periculi nihil est, si quod dicitur imminere cassum fiat et vacuum.
      In hoc damnum est maximum.”—_Adv. Gentes_, lib. i

  810 The continual enforcement of the duty of belief, and the credulity
      of the Christians, were perpetually dwelt on by Celsus and Julian.
      According to the first, it was usual for them to say, “Do not
      examine, but believe only.” According to the latter, “the sum of
      their wisdom was comprised in this single precept, believe.” The
      apologists frequently notice this charge of credulity as brought
      against the Christians, and some famous sentences of Tertullian go
      far to justify it. See Middleton’s _Free Enquiry_, Introd. pp. xcii,

  811 See the graphic picture of the agony of terror manifested by the
      apostates as they tottered to the altar at Alexandria, in the Decian
      persecution, in Dionysius apud Eusebius, vi. 41. Miraculous
      judgments (often, perhaps, the natural consequence of this extreme
      fear) were said to have frequently fallen upon the apostates. St.
      Cyprian has preserved a number of these in his treatise _De Lapsis_.
      Persons, when excommunic